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Wild parrots! In my yard!

Technically they’re rose-ringed parakeets (males have a black ring around their neck; females, as in the photos here, do not have the ring). And they’re not native to this region (shock), and apparently not very welcome, but I am thrilled to have them as my guest!

I noticed them flying around my community several months ago – three of them – and from that very moment I knew that I just had to have them in my yard (I fully believe that every outdoor experience is better with parrots, peacocks, nachos, and bellinis). So, I invested in various bird items to make my yard more enticing and I did attract a lot of birds (warblers, finches, hoopoes, mynas (aka screaming birds), red vented bulbuls)…but never the parakeets.  Continue reading

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OTT Mykonos, with a side of sacred Delos

The day we were scheduled to leave Naxos for Mykonos, we woke up to to pretty strong winds and an angry sea. Conditions were rough, and our ferry arrived two hours late to the port. Apparently it was waiting for the wind and sea to calm down, which I don’t think it ever did. Pretty frustrating when the journey from Naxos to Mykonos was only supposed to last 30 minutes, but at least it wasn’t canceled entirely. We were on Sea Jet 2, a high-speed catamaran that fit less than 400 people, so much smaller than the ferries we had previously taken, and more susceptible to the motion of the ocean. And once we departed it was almost immediately apparent why it was so late/hesitant to arrive. As the thing jetted straight through waves and massive swells, it flew into the air, falling heavily on one hull then the next, people yelling as we crashed back onto the water. It did not exactly feel like a safe trip. Before long, passengers were pulling out their sick bags for a bit of a vom, and this lasted for the vast majority of the trip. Thankfully, I didn’t get sick, but I was torn as to how I felt about the journey. On the one hand, it was a bit frightening, but on the other hand it was super fun like an amusement park ride; in the end, I enjoyed it more than I didn’t. I had hoped that this windy weather would be a one-off thing (if for no other reason, it was killing my ability to make my hair look nice), but not the case. Mykonos proved very windy until the day we left to return to Dubai, so I’m not sure if it was a seasonal thing, or if we just had a bit of bad luck with the wind at the end.

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Crisp white and blue streets of Little Venice.

I was actually arriving to Mykonos with a bit of hesitation. Continue reading

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Naxos, the peaceful retreat

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a caged beast more than I did while waiting in Santorini’s poorly-ventilated and overcrowded departures building in the ferry port. Hundreds (if not more) of people shoving themselves inside to escape the midday sun and wait for a ferry that would arrive to the port 15 minutes after we were scheduled to depart. It could be worse, I thought, as I figured we’d be hopping on to the ferry in a just a few minutes. Nope. We had to wait a further 45 minutes while the massive ferry heaved several hundred to a couple thousand people, and a long line of vehicles from its bowels. The ferry, the Blue Star Delos, was much larger than I was expecting (it fits 2,400 passengers and over 400 vehicles), but otherwise was more in line with what I was expecting from a ferry ride. Not a high speed catamaran as we’d previously taken, it would take about two hours to cover the less than 50 miles distance to Naxos. It was a much more enjoyable journey than the previous ferry however, as there was plenty of outdoor seating where you can relax and watch the neighboring islands pass by.

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Welcome to Naxos Chora!

Arrival in the ferry port deposits you directly in the island’s main town of Naxos Chora. The old town is watched over by the large 13th century Venetian Kastro (castle/fort) that sits at the apex of a small hill on which the old town district inhabits. Continue reading

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Santorini: a beautiful island to visit once

Our journey from Crete to Santorini was to be via ferry, and I was looking forward to it. As I would discover, each ferry ride would be quite different from the others. In this case, we were on a large (800 person) high-speed catamaran, the creatively-named “Highspeed 5″ from Hellenic Seaways. This high speed ferry would get us from Heraklion, Crete to Santorini in just under two hours. I was expecting to waltz around the boat and look outside, etc., but I was wrong. This was not terribly different from a plane ride in that we were basically stuck in our seats, away from windows, with no access to the outdoors (I was thinking/hoping there would be outdoor seating). So it was a pretty dull two hours, and there’s not much to be said for it. The people watching was OK.

Brown Santorini (and the town of Oia).

Brown Santorini (and the town of Oia).

Upon arrival in Santorini, I wasn’t sure what to think. Continue reading

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I’m down with Crete

Crete really took me by surprise. I’m ashamed to admit that if not for the boyfriend’s suggestion, I probably wouldn’t have put it on my list to visit. Thankfully, he was there to steer me in the right (and delicious – Cretan cuisine is second-to-none that I’ve tried anywhere else in Greece) direction. I am so glad that I visited Crete and hope that should you ever visit the Greek islands you heed my advice and not leave Crete off your travel itinerary.

First of all – it is a big island. If you want to explore it fully (particularly if you’re keen to hike around), you could easily spend a week or two or three there. Outside of the walks to be found in gorges and mountains, there are a slew of beaches to discover. Unfortunately, we spent only three nights there, in Central and Western Crete, but I left feeling I had a good taste for it, and a definite interest to return for more some day.

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Ruins with a view. And symphony of cicadas.

Continue reading