Sunday, May 28, 2017
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
When I last visited my family’s island 16 years ago, I can’t remember a single café. I'm sure one existed, but coffee didn’t interest me back then, neither did sitting outside in the shade and hanging out with my family.
But on this trip I couldn’t wait to sample all the new hip cafes tourists money helped build. In two weeks I thought I would surely have enough time to sample them all, but time moves slowly on Ikaria, and most days I couldn’t even go two blocks from the house because of so many appointments with relatives nearby. When I did go to a café, it was kind of a hassle. The ones on my side of the island are all in downtown Agio Kyrikos, which is a 30-minute walk away. Being gone for a few hours from family was hard to schedule, and often I didn’t get to go until late at night. Thankfully, Greek cafes are open late, so the hours were not an issue.
As with all cafes on the island, outdoor seating is the ambiance, and most cafes barely had any indoor seating at all – a nice escape from usually rainy Portland.
Alecafe, Agios Kyrikos
The first café I visited on the island and the only one I went to twice! The first times my father ordered filtered coffee that came with a creamer that looked like buttermilk, and I got an iced cappuccino. But the pistatio milkshake on the menu was too much to resist so I came back a second time and got that too, along with a Greek-style coffee.
Senso, Agios Kyrikos
Senso is located right beside Alecafe which just has much seating and a slightly more robust menu. I enjoyed by iced latte and iced mocha (notice a theme here – not much reason to drink hot drinks under the Mediterranean sun).
Mikro Café, Armenistis
I insisted we stop here after our long and arduous road trip around the island and I am so glad we did. Located on the other side of the island, this posh cafes feels worlds away from the standard shops in Agios. They had a small but decadent menu featuring an iced chocolate, ice cream espresso, and a honey bread snack.
Celeste Café, Evdilos
Another pleasant iced latte by the edge of the ocean on the north side of the island. A relative small place with coffee tables and lot of ashtrays, but still decent.
Taza Café, Agio Kyrikos
A second café on the strip in the capital, and it had the coolest menu of all. We were there late at night and ordered a club sandwich and amazing red velvet latte.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Two decades ago, my uncle built a small two bedroom house on some land that my family owns on the island of Ikaria. My grandparents had four children: the oldest lived on the other side of the island in a house her husband built, the second oldest-my dad-moved to the United States, the third oldest lived in Athens where he worked as a professor, and the youngest lived in the house my grandparents built.
My uncle, the third oldest, built this small house on the island so he would have a place to stay when he visited from Athens. At the time his children were teenagers, so one bedroom had bunkbeds for them. The bedrooms were only large enough to hold beds, but in the small houses there was a bathroom, a shower, a small basic kitchen, and a living-dining room combo. It also overlooked the ocean, which was just minutes away on foot down a rocky hill.
Although the house was built to be a family get-a-way, when I arrived in September of 2016, it had no been used in sixteen years. The first few days were spent cleaning the interior, trimming the wild thorny bushes that had consumed the outside, and draining and re-filling the water tank. It was backbreaking work, but once it was done the house was finally livable.
We spent several weeks here on our vacation. There were some odd quirks, no doors on the bedrooms or bathrooms, sand mysteriously creeping in no matter how much we swept, a few bug critters every now and then, but there was so much to love.
Friday, May 12, 2017
My family’s island is only accessible two ways: by a 10-hour ferry ride, or by a 45-minute flight. When I was a kid, we only ever took the ferry. Back then there was a faster boat that could get us there in four hours, but the company went under and now there is only the slow boat. Even that way can be unreliable. The ferry workers strike often. The ships are frequently delayed, sometimes for days.
Of course since I planned my trip so far in advance, I chose to take the plane. Most Greeks travel by ship because it’s cheaper (about 40-50 euros), compared to the plane (about 90-110 euros) and because they often travel at the last minute, not wanting to plan so far in advance. Both the plane and the ship only come once a day, and in the low season, every other day.
I was excited not to have to spend 10 hours on a swaying ferry. Having traveled often from Portland to Seattle by plane, I was already accustomed to the small propeller jets used to fly short low distances.
We were lucky on this flight because the wind was so mild. Sometimes the Ikarian wild, known as the Maltami, can be so ferocious that planes have to abort landing. Fortunately for us it was smooth sailing with not a single bump either way.
My review of Olympic Airlines is biased because I feel a lot of pride in Greek companies. Of course the stewardesses were gorgeous and the small sesame-honey snack they serve is delicious, and the view from the plane is fantastic.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Last time I was in Taipei, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cafes present on every street corner, I didn't ev...