Greece

Athens – Last night

L and I departed Naxos to Athens for our last day before heading back to Calgary. I love Naxos, but I also enjoyed my time in Athens. The mix of different architectural styles amongst ancient ruins creates an incredible backdrop to explore. For this post, let’s listen to Billy Joel’s “Longest Time.”

We checked into our hotel and then walked around the neighbourhood. I noticed several permanently closed stores with Asian names. The buildings themselves looked old and historic, reminding me a little of Hastings Street in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. We grabbed a gyro and cold glass of beer for lunch, then ducked back into our hotel to cool off. It felt like such a shame to stay in our hotel room due to the overbearing heat.

I looked up restaurants in Athens, and one in particular stood out – Atlantikos. I almost exploded with unbridled delight when I found out we were within walking distance of this seafood restaurant. I told L I had to eat here.

Psiri is an offbeat, bohemian neighbourhood. We enjoyed walking around, admiring the quaint-looking streets. L picked a place for a pint of beer and a glass of wine for me. Then, after the evening cooled down, we made our way over to Atlantikos. Located in an alley, customers lined up to the busy restaurant all night. Oh my Cod, the food here is my idea of perfection. The seafood is fresh, simple and inexpensive.

We shared a Greek Salad (€6.50), Fried Calamari (€7.50), Mussels Saganaki (€6), and Grilled Shrimp (€11). The salad was huge. The feta was creamy and smooth. I noticed the tomatoes were bright red and juicy.

I just learned that calamari is a type of squid, and the “calamari” I’ve always eaten before is squid. The difference in texture is calamari is thinner, and there’s a delightful bulb-like air bubble that makes for satisfying munching.

The mussels were tasty morsels – fat and fresh. Perfectly cooked – each mussel was soft and hot. I would use the crusty pieces of bread to mop up the rich, tomatoey sauce.

The meat in the shrimp was delicately crunchy, sweet and juicy. The shrimp shells were so blisteringly hot that I burnt the tips of my impatient fingers.


I told L that one day, we have to return to Greece. I would go back to Naxos and Athens in a heartbeat as they are both on the top of my list of favourite places to visit.

Greece · Restaurants

Naxos – Day three

L informed me that he didn’t enjoy where we ate the previous morning. I wanted to say that’s what you get when you want to be spontaneous. However, I held back and suggested Λαγογιάννης Bakery. Since the weather has been extra hot, particularly in Greece, let’s listen to Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime.”

We ordered lattes (€3), a spinach pie (€3) and a sweet vanilla pastry (€3). The espresso was rich and robust, and the foam so dreamy that I would close my eyes with each sip.

The spinach filling was thick, infused with dill and lemon. L’s cake was light, flaky and sweet from the vanilla custard. When L told me how much he enjoyed his breakfast, I said he could thank Google reviews for finding this gem.

We spent the morning sightseeing. I was intrigued with the Melanes Kouros Statue because I was surprised that such a large marble project was abandoned all these years. Who pulled the plug? Why didn’t anyone else want to resurrect the statue? One would think if the City of Calgary could manage to fix the Wishing Well, Naxos benefactor would try to salvage the statute.

For lunch, L picked another beach destination. Most restaurants were hustling for customers. We picked the busiest restaurant along the beach. Our shaded patio table was inches from the water, and occasionally, the breeze would come and cool us off.

We ordered calamari (€14), saganaki (€6) and fresh fish (€15). Typically when we order fried calamari, we get the rings (mantle) or rings and tentacles. This was the first time we got baby squid. The texture of the squid was thinner than the rings, with a bouncier, lighter mouthfeel.

Our server recommended fried barbounia (striped red mullet). The flesh is rich and firm, and the fishy flavour reminded me of mackerel.

While we ate, several cats surrounded us. I noticed one cat was injured, as parts of its skull were either missing or burned off. I fed the cats bits and pieces of my fish, and once my plate was empty, they vamoosed.

On the way home, we stopped by the Olive Museum. I was expecting an experience like a tasting at a winery, but for olives. Instead, we saw a few pieces of equipment and a gift room with overpriced olives and lotions. However, the olives were so good that I bought home two packs.

For dinner, I wanted to check out a restaurant near our hotel, Maros. I read the online reviews, and it appeared to be a legit restaurant for simple Greek food. We sat outside next to two young women from Montreal. I know this information because all the male servers kept coming to their table to make small talk. They wore halter tops so I could see their washboard stomachs. I watched with awe and jealousy as they easily polished off two entrees and three large appetizers.

L and I shared zucchini balls (€5), lamb (€10), a Greek Salad (€6), chicken souvlaki (€10), and yogurt (€4). L ordered a beer (€3) while I stuck with a copper pint of house white wine (€5).

When I first saw the zucchini fritters, I wasn’t impressed. In this case, looks are deceiving. The interior was soft and fluffy, creamy with feta, dill and mint. The outside was crispy, and the filling just melted in your mouth. Each bite was bursting full of flavour. I would get this again.

The lamb was tasty. The texture of the meat wasn’t fatty or gamey. However, I didn’t like the copious amount of bones and the fact it was served at room temperature. I was tempted to ask our server to pop my dish back in the microwave. The lemon potatoes were also underdone.

I was too full to try L’s chicken souvlaki, which he enjoyed. Other people who looked like locals ordered generously stacked plates of creamy pasta and fries. I wondered if we ordered the wrong dishes, but L said we didn’t come to Greece to eat carbonara.

For dessert, L and I shared yogurt with honey. Yogurt in Greece is unreal – the texture is like a cross between custard and whipping cream, but with a zip to it.

After dinner, we wandered around the castle to work off our heavy dinner. The restaurants at the castle looked so enchanting, with the sparkling lights set against the white walls and music twinkling out onto the corridor. But I had already booked our last supper in Naxos, and I knew the next restaurant was a real winner. To be continued.

Restaurants

Santorini – Day three

I suggested to L that we check out Svoronos Bakery for breakfast. I read Google reviews about the poor service, so I was interested to experience the outcome. I’m always curious about rudeness. Let’s listen to “Full Catastrophe” by Mikis Theodorakis for this post. 

When we entered the bakery, an employee instantly greeted us in English. She was friendly enough and offered to explain any items to us. However, I saw another older employee give us a dirty look. I heard about the evil eye, but this was the first time I experienced it in Greece. I felt like telling her don’t hate the player, hate the game, but I figured the meaning would be lost in translation.

We asked for two iced lattes (€2), spanakopita (€2) and a random pastry for L (€2). The iced latte was so good. The espresso was rich and thick that no sugar or additional flavouring was needed. L told me that he was informed places like Starbucks and McDonald’s aren’t popular in Greece. I can taste why this is true.

The spanakopita was crunchy on the outside and loaded with warm, creamy spinach filling. I could taste a little dill and feta. Our breakfast was only €8, so I figured it was worth the stink-eye from the matron of the bakery.

 For lunch, we checked out Yogi’s. The pork gyro (€3.60) overflowed with fries, tzatziki, tomatoes and onions. Compared to Nick’s, Yogi’s was more filling and cheaper. However, the flavour of the meat at Nick’s was superior, while Yogi’s had the fluffier, fresher pita. 

I wanted to give L a break from all the organizing and planning, so I booked a Santorini Highlights Tour. Usually, these excursions aren’t his style, but I knew he would enjoy turning his mind off and enjoying the ride. 

Our tour guide Will was spectacular. He livened up our experience by making us comfortable and entertained. He even took cheesy photos of each of us at all the landmarks. I felt like a happy teenager. It always impresses me when I meet someone who excels at their profession. I noticed that everyone left him a well-deserved tip.

Will mentioned to us that one restaurant he recommends is Meraki. So I told him we went there the previous night. He asked how I discovered it, as it is a hidden gem. I didn’t want to bother explaining how I live to eat and hate overpaying, so I changed the subject.

After our excursion, L wanted to go back to Meraki. We ordered a Greek salad (€7), calamari (€10.50), fava (€7), eggplant saganaki (€8.00), Alfa beer (€4.00) and white wine (€4.00, half a litre).

The vegetables in the Greek salad were crunchy and fresh. The feta arrived in a thick slab. The cheese was soft enough to break apart with a gentle poke of my fork and generous enough to be eaten with every ripe piece of tomato. 

The calamari arrived hot and crispy. We both thought the squid was over-salted, but we enjoyed it almost as much as the previous night. 

The eggplant was unique because I wasn’t expecting the overpowering flavour of nutmeg. The eggplant was soft and blended with feta cheese and tomato sauce. I think this dish was overcooked in the oven. The sauce was far too dry.

Our tour guide recommended the fava, which is a famous local product. The texture was soft and wet. I can’t describe what I tasted, as the flavour profile was so unique. 

We were stuffed, and I barely even touched my wine. Still, we left giddy and exhausted from the festivities of the day. If you go to Santorini, I highly recommend booking with Will.