Posts/May, 2015/

Relaxing Days in Folegandros, Greece

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Most of Monday, we waited in the lounge area of our Santorini AirBnB. While relaxing for us, it caused stress for the mother sparrow that had foolishly built her nest into the wall near the chairs.

In the afternoon, our van arrived and down the narrow roads to the steep, switchbacking entry to Thira Port. Our ferry left at six and speedily crossed the dolphin-free sea.

After forty-five minutes, we arrived in Folegangros, Greece.

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At Thira port at the bottom of the cliffs.
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Looking up at the steep, switchbacking road.
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On the open water, zooming to Folegrandros on our speedy SeaJet ferry.

Our host from the Fata Morgana Studios Hotel met us at the port. As we drove out of the town and into the rocky hills, he happily explained the geography of the island. One of the key points is how small it is. The main town of Chora is only three kilometers from the port. The whole island is only twelve kilometers long. The town of Chora only takes a few minutes to walk across. Etc.

Immediately I could tell that this island felt different from the hustle and bustle of Santorini. The evening air felt calm and friendly, and there were no other cars on the road.

We dropped our bags in the room and walked into Chora during the fleeting daylight. The town was a charming collection of whitewashed buildings separated by narrow pedestrian streets and patrolled by an unusually large amount of stray cats.

We decided to rush up the path to the monastery to watch the sunset. The only tourists in town all seemed to be French, and they shared the view with us.

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Sunset falls over the hotel pool.
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Our balcony.
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Looking up to our sunset destination: the monastery overlooking Chora.
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Out of commission amongst the flowers.
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The first cats of the evening.
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Wall cat.
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A storefront that cats seemed to gravitate towards. There were three more behind me, and two hiding out of view.
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Tables ready and waiting for the high season.
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Orthodoor.
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Sunset canopy by the bird building.
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Sunset cat.
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Blushing bust.
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Chora on the cliffs.
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Autumn in spring.
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Our first sunset over Folegandros.

For dinner, we ate at the mostly empty Chic Restaurant. We ordered beet salad with quinoa, tabouleh, red lentil stuffed eggplant, and slow-cooked lamb shank with prunes and rice. To drink: house white wine, sparkling water, and beer. It was all tasty.

Our table on the street offered an intimate view of the locals greeting and gossiping with each other. Everyone knew each other, and everyone smiled.

On the way back from dinner, I tried my best to lure the numerous cats to my patting hand. There were a few takers, but all of them hoped I had food.

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Eating outside on a quiet street.
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Beet salad with quinoa.

Tuesday morning, I walked five minutes down the road to rent a 125cc scooter. The atmosphere was casual. I left my driver’s license as a deposit, grabbed two crusty open-face helmets, and drove the newest scooter they had next door to fuel up.

I picked up J and we set off on our ride along the main road to the other side of the island. Since the road generally followed the highest point of the island, there were panoramic sea views on both sides. We passed small villages, terraced hillsides, sheep, goats, and stone walls.

We scoped out most of the major beaches and even tried to drive down a steep gravel road. But halfway down, the road was getting leveled by heavy machinery and we had to turn back.

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Bouquet.
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Unclaimed artichoke.
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The old soccer field.
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The flowers claim another car in sacrifice.
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Nearing the end of the road on the north tip of the island.
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Stone pens and animal shelters.
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Mossy rock.
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Terraced hills and isolated chapel.
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Church with firework casings around it.
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Donkey path.
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Old stone pens on the roadside.
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Everything was still closed at Angali Beach.
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The lone fisherman.
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Beautiful view below the road.
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Blue detail.
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Chapel on the way to town.
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The entrance to Karavostasis Port.
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The astronaut explores Livadi Beach.
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The flattest and most narrow stretch of road of the island.
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Looking at Chora from the helipad/goat/antenna hill.
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Mechanical mother sheep guards her flock.

That afternoon, we swam in the cold waters of the hotel pool. After a rest, we went into town to get dinner.

Our meal was both less healthy and less delicious. I had an assortment of grilled meat bits that I saved in a napkin. On the walk home, I stopped to feed some cats and was instantly swarmed by at least twenty hungry and meowing cohorts.

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Driveway.
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Blocks.
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The yellow rose.
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An empty corner of town.
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Jaw bone’s new headset.
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Pinky.
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Now that’s what I call terraces volume II.
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Dirt path.
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Hidden chickens.
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Cat parade.
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Looking into the Kastro.
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One block of homes lining the protected neighborhood.
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Two story house.
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The circular meeting place.
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Figs everywhere and not a ripe one in the bunch.
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Only the skinniest plumbers can go down these pipes.
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A tired and grumpy hand target.
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Habitrail inhabitant.

The next morning, we drove back to Angali Beach. We walked up the hill to scope our two other beaches, then walked back down and up another hill to scope out two more. We settled on Angali proper, through we waded through the water to get to a more secluded cove. For an hour, we had the cove to ourselves until two topless middle-aged Germans and their dog arrived.

The sea water was as heart-stoppingly cold as the swimming pool. After tentatively wading, J and I dipped all the way and began swimming. The water was crystal clear and still. A few small fish were near the shore, but the bottom was mostly barren.

In the afternoon, we went for one last scooter ride to the end of the island and back. I returned the vehicle, paid the thirty euro, and collected my collateral.

We sat on the bean bag balcony and played rummy and double solitaire on a rustic wooden table.

Dinner, again, was at Chic: moussaka, spinach roll, tabouleh, hummus, and all the shades of wine.

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The day before, we saw the sheep getting sheared.
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Our swimming spot: Angali Beach.
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Me in the cold water.
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A good day for no helmets.
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The scenic descent.
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Tabouleh.
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Moussaka.
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The nougat of stone walls.
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The town square’s tree.
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Sunset from our main balcony.
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Cheers to another great day.

The next morning our host let us keep the room for free until our ferry departed that night. It was very generous of the hotel and an unexpected benefit of traveling before high season.

We hiked up the hill to the monastery to get one last overview of the island. The air was hot and a group of six goats hid on the shady ledges of the church.

Only one restaurant was open for lunch, and we sat beside a table of locals. They had friendly conversations with passing townspeople. A food market owner played catch with her little dog with big labia.

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Cross and wildflowers.
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The cross from the monastery roof.
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The goats have taken over the place.
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Slinking along a narrow ledge.
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Rock walls.
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One last view of Chora before heading back to the hotel to rest and wait for the ferry.

In the evening, we had a few minutes to watch the fish in the clear blue water of the port. A variety of sickly cats lived in the boulders of the jetty.

We boarded our ferry and zoomed off into the sunset on a four hour ride to Athens.

Despite the short visit, our time on Folegandros felt long and relaxing. For all but the few people riding around on donkeys, it’s just as tourism dependent as Santorini. But it feels more real, somehow. The people are friendlier, and they feel like they actually enjoy living there. On such a small island, the island itself is the attraction: crystal clear water, quiet beaches, quaint roads, small chapels perched everywhere, goats, sheep, lizards, and an unusual amount of stray cats.

I hope to return with pockets full of cat food.

Archives for May, 2015
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