Sunday, March 28, 2010
Hello! My name is Shirley Valentine. HI SHIRLEY! Ok, my name isn’t Shirley and there is no 12-step program for people who have my particular kind of addiction. Travel is my poison, my vice, my love. Travel to Greece in particular seems to have become the drug of choice.
I’ve been indulging myself by going to Greece for over 25 years now. It started when I got a scholarship to go study archaeology there. I KNOW! How cool is THAT!?! Ever since then, I’ve been lured back – to work, to play, to explore – to live the Greek version of la dolce vita… er, I’m sure Zorba has a phrase for that, but it escapes me at the moment.
Of the 1400 or so of Greek islands, I’ve managed to visit about 50 so far. I track them in a diary, much like birders do when they spot rare purple-footed boobies. If I have to be a geek of some sort, I suppose there are worse ones to be.
In the pre-9/11 days, I’ve been known to take off to Greece with a day’s notice….. GIMME A TICKET TO ANYWHERE BUT HERE! Once there, I’ve been know to sashay down to the port and grab the first likely looking tub to the island de jour…. “This looks like a fine boat – Ooooo look, they serve ouzo for breakfast…. So where are we headed exactly?”
I swear to god, this is precisely how I found the island that has now been my spiritual home for over 20 years now. I found a ship that was leaving, settled my ratty hobo bag at my feet, pulled out my ever-present corkscrew and bottle of retsina and only after opening it and taking a long pull, inquired of the ship’s purser where the heck we were headed. “Naxos,” he said. It was a serendipitous discovery.
Naxos – the largest and greenest in the Cycladic group of islands…. a thriving bustling island with mountains, farmlands and the best beaches in Greece. Tourism is important here, but second to agriculture and the commerce of the islands. I found this place purely by accident. I honestly settled on a ferry one whimsical day and only then inquired where we were bound. I was captivated by the sail past tiny islands and by the endless azure sea. Once on the port in Naxos town I was captured by a determined granny who insisted she had the finest rooms in town. She did. And so the love affair lasting more than two decades began.