Wanderlust in the age of COVID

My fave locals part 1

Wanderlust – it’s a delicious word. A thirst, or desire to wander. For those who love to travel it conjures up a yearning sensation to be someplace other than where you currently are. This is more poignant than ever while on Earth in the year 2020. With COVID continuing to ravage not just the US but large swaths of the world, it feels like travel as we know it is over. In fact, this polar shift from cheap and accessible travel with low risk to today has created a new term: revenge travel. I’ve linked to a good article in The Washington Post on it if you want to learn more. It’s an interesting concept and certainly one that I can see myself emphatically agreeing to join in on after a few glasses of wine.

But before the wine has a chance to kick in, I am going to talk about my favorite places. And the place that consistently takes my top spot is Greece.

I was fortunate enough to visit Greece for the first time while living in the United Kingdom for work in 2014. It’s a quick jump across the Channel and over the continent taking approximately 4 hours to get to. So, in the same time you can fly from San Francisco to Chicago, you can go from London to Greece (well, Athens specifically). Pretty cool, huh? Since that first trip, I have been blessed enough to be able to visit Greece 3 times. 2020 would have made it 4 but I’ll plan something grand for my revenge travel in the Hellenistic Region.

Greece, to me, is magical. It’s the combination of history, geography, climate, people and culture that make it a place steeped in tradition but one that welcomes outsiders to experience it. Yes, yes, the country is extremely dependent on tourists to run, but there is a warmness and welcoming attitude that Greeks have which make the country extremely accessible. But enough generalizations. For my first spotlight, I am going to focus on the island of Ios.

Ios

The island of Ios, which is part of Greece’s Cyclades Islands, lies in Aegean Sea almost smack dab between the islands of Paros and Santorini. The island, like everything else in Greece, has a rich history that dates back thousands upon thousands of years. There is some evidence that the name Ios derives from the Ionian tribe; one of the four major tribes that made up the ancient Greek world. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that Ionian columns come from this island but I have no claim to back this up…hmm…the wine is starting to kick in.

While you may not have heard of Ios (everyone just assumes Santorini when they think “Greek islands”), I can guarantee you that every university student in Europe has. While the neighboring island of Mykonos may have been the original hotbed of young beach life in Greece in the 1960s and 1970s, progressive development and a good dose of bougie homosexual glitter have lead to young people to flock to cheaper pastures. And they find it on Ios. Between late May into early September, young folks flock to the island like a gaggle of Canadian Geese. They do the traditional things like party all night and sleep on the beach all day. But they can also experience less orthodox things like partaking in the Slammer Hammer. Yes, there is a bar inventively names “Slammer Bar” where you can wear a helmet and get smacked on the head with a hammer. If you look this up in Google Images you’ll see several other objects being used. FUN!

But I digress….

When I visited Ios, it was at the end of the season. I was there at the end of September after all the Geese had decided to reverse migrate back north to their dreary dorms. Most of the bars including “Slammer Bar” had closed for the season. But I was by no means alone! On this trip I was accompanied by my partner and one of my best friends. We spent four wonderful and stormy days on the island.

We arrived, as one does in this part of the world, via ferry. The air was thick with smoke from the diesel engines…the paper plates had — luckily — never been used. Our ferry was not The Ship of Dreams… and thank god for that because whoever would dream something like that up should be committed. The ferry docked in the main port, in fact I think it was the only port and we were able to find a taxi to take us to our hotel: Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel.

The view of the valley and ocean from Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel from the hotel pool

We got to Levantes in the mid afternoon and were immediately taken with the property. Nestled on the edge of a hill, we were greeted with expansive views of a valley dotted with small white farms and houses. The valley gently slopes down to the right to touch the Aegean Sea at Mylopotas Beach. The hotel is exactly what you would expect in a boutique hotel catering to international clientele. It’s modern and clean while all the while wrapped in a rustic chic charm that works really well. Our room was gorgeous and elicited a sense of tranquility which is exactly what we were looking for. The sun sets on us while we have a drink at the pool and we are treated to a gorgeous view.

Don’t mind that I didn’t get the ocean in this pic. Just look at the pretty sunset.

After watching the sunset, we decided to go down the hill to get some dinner. We came across a restaurant – Salt – which became a staple for us during lunch and dinner while we were there. The food was incredible but the service and the views were even more magical. After several bottles of wine, appetizers, entrees and desserts, we were ready to quit our jobs and move there. That happens to us a lot so that will become a common thread in these posts. We make it back to the hotel at some point and are greeted to this incredible image. Little did we know that this would be the most peaceful night of our time on the island.

A peaceful evening before we got whacked by a Medicane the next day…

The next day the weather progressively got worse. The wind picked up to insane speeds and clouds kept flying over the mountains of the valley. We spent the rest of our time trying to stay warm on the beach and keep the sand out of our eyes. During our second evening, we were just hanging out in the hotel’s common area and we saw on the TV that a hurricane was passing the island! Well, this wasn’t a hurricane. It was a Medicane. Yes, a Medicane. It is literally a portmanteau of Mediterranean and Hurricane. And Ios got smacked by winds, rain and clouds as the storm passed close by us. I had no idea that the Mediterranean could produce hurricanes but as an American, I am going to give myself a pass on this. It’s a miracle that I don’t think of Europe as a country.

This image doesn’t do it justice. But the wind was crazy and we didn’t see the sun for two days during the storm.

If you have any questions on Ios or the Cyclades islands, let me know! I cannot wait to get back there at some point. The wine has moved in so it’s probably a good time to end. You all take care of yourselves. Stay safe and healthy my friends!

Wine of the evening: Pichetti Granache.

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