Chapter 41: Island Bois
Athens and some islands with a couple of good friends!
Hello from Athens, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to follow this weird trip around the world, add your email below:
Boy oh boy what a week!
- We saw the Parthenon, AKA the world's first fraternity house, (this is a horrible play on words about Greek life)
- Devin and I have eaten 31 combined gyros in six days
- I am mildly sunburnt
- We violated no less than 17 traffic laws on a 4-wheeler and buggy
- Devin and Sachin found love
- I found a lot of things, none of which were love (most of which were gyros)
- We went to every chick's favorite instagram post spot in Santorini (IsLaNd LiFe No PhOnE cAlL lAtEr)
- And we ate more gyros
Very cool. Let's get started.
Sunday, June 12th
I woke up at 7:30 for my 10 AM flight and tried to hit snooze for 15 minutes. But that wasn't going to happen! Mike, in a half-drunken still-sort-of-asleep trance, turned on the TV's speaker and blared Spanish music at full volume, before trying to bodyslam into me on the pull out couch. I promptly threw him on the ground, told him to "**** off," and grabbed my bag and left.
He didn't remember any of this when I called him from Athens that afternoon.
I caught a cab to the airport, and three hours later I was descending into Athens. The approach to Athens is awesome. A ton of islands, mountains, and scattered clouds makes it look like a scene from a movie.
I made it to the hostel in the middle of the afternoon.
This hostel, Athens Hawks Hostel, was highly rated, and the place was nice! But it was located in the worst-possible part of town. Super rundown, skid row-ish with dilapidated buildings everywhere. Buttt the hostel itself was great. Plus there was a rooftop bar with a good view of the Parthenon. And it was only a 10 minute walk or so to get to the touristy-old ruins part of town. So as long as I could make in 10 minutes without getting robbed, I was fine.
Devin was arriving on Monday, and Sachin (another friend from NYC traveling before he starts a new job) was arriving on Tuesday. I had gotten us a private room for three nights, so it was party of 1 tonight.
One of my friends, Connor Codone, was studying abroad in Athens in May and June.
Connor (who will now be referred to by his last name going forward) was a freshman in my fraternity when I was playing my fifth year of football (read: I was old af), but he had lived with my former roommates one year so we knew each other pretty well. I met up with him that night, and he took me by the best gyro spot in town (Gyro tracker: 2 for Jack).
Codone had geeked out hard on Greek history, so he hit me with a wikipedia article full of info about ancient Greece, covering everything from the Parthenon to more niche stuff like the Eleusinian Mysteries. We grabbed a couple of beers and posted up on a rock next to the Parthenon.
Did not know this beforehand, but the Parthenon is on a hill in the middle of the city, so you can see it from anywhere. It looks super cool lit up at night. The integration of new city amongst ancient ruins is wild.
Codone took me to see a few more of the sites and pointed out the stadium where they held the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. There was an outdoor gym (read: 3 pullup and dip bars) behind the stadium, so I planned to go there in the AM.
Monday, June 13th
I slept in, grabbed a meat-and-cheese filled breakfast crepe from around the corner, and headed to the outdoor gym. 30 minutes into working out with some hairy Greek fellas, Devin texted me, "Eagle has landed."
He would be at the hostel in an hour.
I headed home, showered, and let him in our hostel room. Devin has officially become my most frequent Europe travel partner (this excludes Mike and I living in Argentina for two months).
We met up with Codone and climbed to the top of the Parthenon. We took lots of touristy pics, and Dr. Codone (our new name for him as he shared his breadth of ancient Greece knowledge) gave us a 30 minute lesson on the different architectural styles of Greek columns.
I left to go work on some stuff while Codone and Devin explored the city some more, and we met back up at another hostel near Codone's place for happy hour.
Codone, a senior, was one of the oldest kids on his study abroad. Most of them were like 18-19, so it was a welcome change for him to have some older guys to kick it with.
His classmates thought it was the most insane thing ever that he rolled his own cigs. His professors thought it was cool, as they partook in the cultural immersion known as smoking cigs while in Europe. Best part of studying abroad is chilling with your professors outside of school. Not really the best, or even top 3, but it is cool.
We hung out at the happy hour for a while, before Devin and I headed home. We popped up to our hostel's rooftop bar to see the view, and it was popping. We met a few Americans, and a Canadian girl named Gabrielle who wanted to see some museums with us in the AM.
Tuesday, June 14th
Devin and I grabbed breakfast at the hostel, met up with Gabrielle, and headed to the Acropolis Museum. Here we saw the old stuff that you see in museums: statues, relics, and descriptions of how everything in Athens probably was during the time period when these relics weren't just relics, but regular everyday things.
I went to a Starbucks to work for a few hours, while Devin and Gabrielle met up with Codone and walked around for a while.
Sachin, my NYC friend traveling Europe between jobs, arrived at 8, and I headed to the hostel to grab him.
We met up with the others at the same hostel as the night before, and the four of us plus a few others went back to the hill next to the Parthenon. We hit the gyro shop again (Devin and I are at combined 10? 12? gyros now), and I headed home afterwards.
But Devin, Sachin, and company hit some other bars.
At this point it was ~midnight, and we had a 7:30 ferry. Which meant we were waking up at 6. I was finishing up a newsletter at 2 AM-ish when they came in, and we got a solid 3 hours of sleep.
Wednesday, June 15th
A seven-hour ferry to Santorini awaits.
We booked regular seats, which meant it was a free-for-all to sit wherever. However, we discovered a cheat code. There was an area for reserved seats that had massive, reclining leather chairs. And a lot of the chairs were empty. And no one was checking tickets. So we casually claimed three of those seats near the back. Devin and Sachin passed out, and I joined them after finishing another article.
Four hours later, I woke up with two hours to go. We climbed on the deck to check out the views on the way in. For those who are curious, the Greek islands are beautiful.
Upon arrival to Santorini, we hopped in our shuttle (our Airbnb host had arranged a transfer) and headed to our home for the next two days. We were staying in Thira, the biggest town in Santorini. Our place was quaint, but sufficient. A queen bed and a twin bed/couch in a studio apartment with a kitchen and terrace. For the price we paid, it was solid.
We headed to an ATV rental place to see if we could rent some vehicles in the AM. They let us get a buggy (2 seater) and a 4-wheeler that afternoon, keep them overnight, and return them the following evening for $140 total. Two vehicles for two nights that cheap was a solid deal, we were sold.
We rode up to Oia, which is the world's most famous site for Instagram travel-clout posts, to take our own instagram travel-clout posts (we also stopped several times along the way.) We paid way too much for dinner with a view, before paying $0 to catch the sunset from another spot in town with a better view, then we headed back to the apartment.
We took a pitstop for Devin to do some donuts on the 4-wheeler (super crazy!), and we accidentally violated multiple traffic rules on the way home.
Wrong way down a one-way, headlights off, etc. etc.
Our apartment was right in the middle of town, so we walked uphill to check out the nightlife. Santorini does have some solid spots!
We walked in the first bar that looked poppin', and we met some American girls from the DC area: Sierra, Mimi ( a nickname I believe) and Faith. The first two were sisters, Faith was Sierra's friend. Sierra had a knack for flirting with bartenders to get us free drinks (very useful!), and we bar hopped around a bit with them afterwards. All three of them had been swimmers in high school/college, which Devin, a former champion 14 year-old swimmer, could relate to well.
My short arms make me a mediocre swimmer at best.
They were also more well-traveled than us, and the sisters had lived in like 4 different countries. Dad was a spy that killed people or something like that. Not really, but maybe.
Sachin stayed at the original bar, as he was making great conversation with a local.
We made plans to hit the beach with the Americanas in the morning, and we headed back at 3 (4? idk). For those curious, Devin and I shared the big bed while Sachin was in the little one. As a general rule, two dudes can sleep pole to pole or hole to hole, but never pole to hole.
Thursday, June 16th
Before we went to bed, Devin said, "Let's wake up at 9, cook some eggs, then head to the beach."
Devin proceeded to snooze three alarms from 9:30 to 10:30 without even realizing it (you know those 5 Gum commercials where the actors would take a super sharp, brisk, exorcism-like breath after chewing the gum? That's basically what he did everytime that alarm went *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP*. Except he wasn't really awake, so he didn't realize he was doing it).
Well I was awake, so I went for a run. When I got back, we grabbed our vehicles and headed to the beach. We found a spot where we could get chairs and umbrellas for free (though they strongly encouraged you to order food and drinks), and chilled for a while. The girls came down a couple of hours later.
Devin and Sachin left at like 4:00 to check out some castles or something, I stayed for a couple of hours because I was super engaged in Stephen King's On Writing. Plus I got to fill our DC friends in on what I do for a living (I really need to start making business cards with my elevator pitch.)
Mimi and Faith grabbed the bus back to Thira around 6, while I dropped Sierra off (because who wouldn't prefer a 4-wheeler over a bus?) I then grabbed a Domino's pizza (tastes better in Greece), threw it in my 4-wheeler storage thing, and headed home.
I met up with Sachin and Devin at our place, and Sachin had a dinner date lined up with his new lady friend from the night before 👀 He left at 9, and the American girls came over to pregame.
Sachin and his new friend came by to hang out after, then Devin and I went back out with the girls again. Over the course of the night, it became apparent that Devin and Faith were probably soulmates that would live happily-ever-after going on spontaneous camping trips in the western US together (or whatever version of happily-ever-after that develops when you immediately click with another American that you meet 7 time zones away from home). Very cool. I can't wait for their Big Fat Greek Wedding.
A note from Devin to his star-crossed lover:
If you're reading this, meet me in Paris for a few days in the world's most romantic city. Imagine a dinner cruise on the Seine River at sunset, with the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame in the background. Doesn't it sound perfect?
We *won't* be doing any of that, because dinner on a river cruise on the Seine would cost more than my flight back. But we can split a bottle of wine at the park in front of the Eiffel Tower (which is still romantic) and pretend to be impressed by the Mona Lisa.
^ A modern day Romeo (though I hope he hasn't read the tragic ending of Shakespeare's most famous story.) Also, Faith is subscribed to this so I am looking forward to reading her reply.
I certainly did not find any probable soul mates in Santorini, though the combination of my 4-wheeler services and Sierra's ability to procure beverages from bartenders for no cost was a mutually beneficial business partnership!
When Devin and I got back to the room, Sachin informed us that he would not be joining us in Ios the next day. He had extended his stay in Santorini by a night.
Considering that he was flying to London from Santorini on Saturday, it did make more sense logistically for him to stay one more night than go to Ios and back in a 24 hour period. Though I doubt his decision was solely based on transportation logistics.
Friday, June 17th
Devin and I (and not Sachin) caught the 11 AM bus to the port, and we met a honeymooning American couple (Anthony and Tess) in a cafe near the dock. Cool folks from Chicago, all the best on your trip amigos.
After a short 45 minute ferry, we arrived in Ios.
Santorini was awesome. Ios was more awesome. If you go to Ios, book a stay at Francesco's hostel. You're welcome.
We were greeted by Charlie, a British guy working at Francesco's who guided us to the hostel.
Charlie was cooler than the otherside of a pillow. Dude was 28-year-old British Robert Downey Junior lookalike out here consuming self-rolled cigs and Chardonnay at 3 PM.
Devin and I checked in, and realized immediately that we had made an excellent decision. We had a private room for 3 (now 2) on the top floor with a terrace facing the sunset. We dropped our stuff off and hit the pool for a bit. The hostel had a couple of puppies living there too, which was fantastic. Roxie was a particularly feisty pup.
We walked down to the beach, grabbed a bite to eat, and chilled there for a bit. Ios was much smaller and more walkable than Santorini; it took like 20 minutes to get to the main beach from our hostel. On the way back, we grabbed some gyros (probably at like 22 cumulative gyros now).
We hung out with a bunch of folks in the hostel common area (outdoor bar area with a view of the sunset) before going out that night. We also had a cat drop a duece on our terrace before we left. So many cats in Greece.
What we didn't realize at first was the sheer number of watering holes, clubs, restaurants, and just stuff tucked away in the winding stone streets and white buildings around the hostel. After a five minute walk, we were in the thick of it.
We were out and about for a while, before we found a bar where for $5, a bartender would give you a shot before slapping you on the face with a paint covered hand.
Devin said, "Jack lemme pay for you to get slapped." Which I obliged, then returned the favor.
I went home at 3 something, and Devin came in at 4 AM and handed me a skewer of chicken. Real sweetheart.
Saturday, June 18th
Rough morning, we slept in til almost lunch time lol. Devin and I headed to the beach with some British girls from the hostel, and we stayed there for like 4 hours before heading back. We grabbed gyros number 1023423 and 1023424, before chilling at the hostel pool for a while. A ton of Americans and Canadians checked in today, so we hung out with them for most of the afternoon/evening.
We had a relatively early night, coming home around 2 AM. First night with 8 hours of sleep in a while, and I plan on taking it very very easy for the next 4-5 days lol.
While Devin was tempted to be an island boy for the rest of the summer, we agreed that it was time to move on.
We're both headed to Madrid for 3 days, before I go to Porto for a week while he goes to Sevilla. Hope he enjoys my favorite Spanish sweatbox, Sevilla is fantastic.
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