Making the most of our 10 days in Greece was everything we needed it to be this summer. It’s been a big year: with me changing job, G becoming a teenager, M taking SATs and the move to having 2 children at secondary school; and we all appreciated the chance to escape from the day-to-day and spend some precious family time together relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. From the ancient monuments in Athens to the beauty of Syros, Greece was an amazing holiday destination and one place we would love to return to again.
What better to do after a busy few days walking thousands of steps to explore all that Athens has to offer, than escape the city and head to one of the many Greek islands for a change of scenery and of pace? Mike and I were keen to avoid the busier tourist destinations such as Crete and Rhodes and M expressed a desire to visit a smaller island which still gave him and G plenty to do whilst we were there. Once again our choice was somewhat dictated by the decision to stay somewhere with self-catering facilities and a few hours of careful internet research led us to the idyllic island of Syros, capital of the Cyclades islands.
It is possible to fly to Syros from Athens, but we decided to take the more scenic travel option and something that would feel like more of a new experience to G and M. The last time we travelled by ferry was when we holidayed in Ireland about 8 years ago and M has no memories of that trip at all. This time we went as foot passengers, which would perhaps not suit those who prefer a more organised and less Greek approach to boarding than was offered, but it more than met our needs. I had taken the precaution of booking seats for both our outward and return journeys, which proved to have been a sensible decision as the Blue Star ferry was incredibly busy and filled to the gills with people making the 3.5 hour trip. M was, for some unknown reason, particularly delighted to find that I could have a coffee whilst we were sailing and insisted on taking the photo below for my blog to show that, for me, it apparently really is “all about the coffee”!
We were lucky to find, and be able to book, what turned out to be a truly spectacular villa for the duration of our stay on Syros. The Good Life Greece is located in Poseidonia on the west coast of the island, just a short drive away from the main port and island capital of Ermoupoli. Although we toyed with the idea of renting a car for part of our stay, we decided in the end to spend the week vehicle-free and instead arranged with our host, the charming Nick, that he would meet us at the port and take us, and all our luggage, to our final destination. There are just so many great things to say about the wonderful villa that became our Syros home that it would be impossible to do it the justice it deserves in just a few words, so my review of our accommodation will follow in a separate blog post.
However, what I can talk about are the peaceful beaches, glorious weather, incredibly blue sea and delicious food that filled the remainder of our holiday and really rejuvenated us all. We were able to walk to 2 nearby beaches at Voulgari and Finikas and one day hopped on the local bus to journey less than 15 minutes along the coast to another sandy gem at Megas Gialos. Having spent the last couple of summers near Alvor in Portugal, these Greek beaches were a complete revelation to us and one that I think might be hard to give up in the future. My favourite beach destination on the Algarve is the beautiful Burgau, which I love because it tends to not be too crowded and the distance between sun-lounger and sea just about allows me to watch G and M without having to venture in, and out, of the sea myself. The 3 Greek beaches we discovered on Syros were just like Burgau, but even better!
Not only were all 3 far closer to our villa than we imagined possible, but even in mid-August, there was always space for us to set up camp and find enough shade to shelter in during the hottest part of the day. No matter what time we arrived at the beach, from mid-morning to early evening, we almost always were able to find either one of the fixed sun umbrellas or a tree to set up camp under and even if that wasn’t immediately possible, a space would open up within the hour. This part of Syros was welcoming and friendly and so we felt perfectly comfortable leaving our belongings – though nothing more important than beach towels, sand toys and books – on the beach to save our spot whilst we disappeared off to the nearby taverna for some lunch or a cold drink or both.
For anyone thinking of a holiday in Greece, we would all highly recommend Syros as we had a fantastic time just relaxing and enjoying what was on offer. We chose to not spend too much time on the go as we felt we had done that in Athens, but both children were able to try their hands at paddle-boarding at our local beach and I understand sailing and windsurfing lessons are also available in the area. Syros really did feel like a home from home and we would go back in a heartbeat.
One of the most wonderful things about our Greek holiday was to experience the absolute delight of both G and M as we trekked our way around Athens, visiting those ancient sites that they both associate with the fantastic Greek myths that they love to read. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when we introduced the children to the Greek myths, but they both love to listen to the audio-book of “Atticus the Storyteller” and M has been known to spend hours at bedtime absorbed in re-reading his favourite tales. There are just so many places to go and sights to see in Athens that we had to carefully pick out those we wanted to visit during our limited time in the city.
You just can’t visit Athens and even consider not wending your way to the top of the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and other monuments. Climbing up in 34°+ heat is not easy, but the views from the top were definitely worth the effort, and all the water we drank. Mike’s must-see destination was the Acropolis museum and whilst neither children was initially that keen to go, the lure of the air-conditioned inside, the wide array of artefacts on display and the brimming bookshelves they discovered in the shop soon overcame their reluctance. Our hostel for the duration was less than 5 minutes walk away from the museum, which made it the ideal place to head back to for a much-needed late lunch and a little downtime after our busy morning.
As well as his yearning to find a city playground to spend time in, M chose to take us to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We visited these incredible remains in the early evening and were fortunate that there were very few other visitors to the site whilst we were there. The remaining columns were simply awe-inspiring and we were fascinated to spot the individual pieces that were so carefully used to construct each column. The ancient engineering skills that created this spectacular monument left the children speechless as we contemplated just how the Greeks managed to build it in a time before modern machinery existed.
Poor G had to wait to the end of our holiday to get to her location of choice, but it was definitely worth the wait. She would have loved to go to see the Temple of Poseidon, but the 2 hour journey there was just too much for us to squeeze into our already time-pressured holiday schedule. Instead, G decided she wanted to see the Temple of Hephaestus and it proved to be a great choice for our last day in Greece. It is found in the ancient Agora, which has so many wonderful ruins to explore as well as the impressive temple itself. The Temple of Hephaestus is the most complete temple in Athens and gives just a small insight into what it must have been like to live in the city over 2 thousand years ago.
By the time our first 3 days in Athens drew to an end, we were all ready to embark on the next part of our Greek adventures, which began with yet another early morning start, a cross-city taxi journey to the port and a passenger ferry trip to the beautiful Greek island that would be home for the next few days.