All the nieces and nephews on my side of the family — Nico, Ava, Lydia, Leigh, Jasmine, Jamal, and Molly

Summer in New York gets hot and muggy. So it was nice that we had planned a 3-week summer “vacation” in Greece nearly a year ago. We planned the trip around a week-long family get together for my immediate family — my parents, their four kids, their spouses, and all seven grandchildren. Jim and I added a week onto each end on our own.

For many years we’ve said that our favorite country to travel in is Italy. But during this sojourn in Greece, we seriously discussed whether Greece has overtaken Italy as our favorite. Greek islands are about as close to heaven as it gets. Who needs anything more than a perfect taverna on a bright blue stretch of Mediterranean beach?

And every Greek island has its own personality. We made it to four islands in the Cyclades on this trip, and we loved every one of them.


Our first stop was the island of Paros, where we stayed in the lovely town of Naoussa at the northern tip of the island. The town just reeked with charm. We’d easily get lost in the narrow streets full of great restaurants, elegant outdoor bars, and appealing shops.

One of many amazing bars in the charming town of Naoussa

From Naoussa, you could hop a water taxi to a handful of beaches across the bay

Arriving at a beach by water taxi. Oh that water!

Did I mention the water?

I am very happy in Greece

Approaching the town again by water ferry after a morning at the beach

A seaside lunch spot on Naoussa town


Mykonos (and Santorini) are different from the other Cycladic islands. Each is incredible in its own way, but they are both considerably more touristy, crowded, and expensive than all the other islands. But it was a good choice for our family get together for a few reasons.

First, it’s hard to find a really nice rental house that can accommodate 17 people without anybody being stuck in a crappy room. I scored by finding a pair of houses with common outdoor spaces and two beautiful pools in a very nice part of Mykonos. Second, Mykonos is relatively easy to get to, with direct flights coming from various parts of Europe. And finally, there are so many beaches to visit for all flavors of tourists. Nobody is going to be bored here.

The place worked out well, and I’m confident everyone had a great week here. It’s the second year in a row that we got all 17 of us together (Tuscany last summer). And I consider myself quite fortunate because I really like every one of these wonderful people. I know that Jim and I had a great time this week, and I’m pretty confident we all did.

Me and the glorious views from our villa

There was lots of fun to be had on the day we discovered that you could sip Metaxa in the pool.

With my fabulous sisters-in-law, Jenny and Alma

Lunch with my parents at a taverna on a beautiful beach in a remote corner of Mykonos

With my sister Jeanne

The Ann Arbor Sullivans — Molly, Jenny, Pat, and Lydia

One day most of us drove to a beach a half hour away. But Jim and Jenny decided to hike there. It was apparently somewhat treacherous.

Nico and I and our very Greeky shirts

Dinner at the villa was a fine affair every evening

Our chef displays the evening’s catch

Leigh and I trying to lure a sweet little kitten onto our patio

Lydia at an elegant lunch spot over the beach close to our villa

The San Francisco Sullivans — Nico, Jasmine, John, Alma, and Ava

A hug from my mother!


A short ferry hop from Mykonos took us to the island of Tinos. Here we stayed at hotel up in the mountains near a tiny little town called Triantaros. The town only had a couple restaurants, but they were truly gems. During the day, we hiked about an hour to get from the town down to a beach. It was a really beautiful hike, if you can overlook the part where Jim got stung by a wasp.

At a charming, but unassuming little restaurant in little Triantaros village…

…where we were amazed by the quality of the food.

And this was my seat mate at that place!

The view from the restaurant out toward the sea

Charming decor

Oh. My. God.


Yet another short ferry ride took us to the glorious island of Syros. Here we stayed in the main port town called Ermoupoli. This elegant town serves as the capital of the Cyclades, and perhaps for that reason seemed less touristy and more like a real city than most Greek island cities.

On our first full day here we decided to take a taxi to a particular beach a half hour away. We rode out of town and up, up, up a mountain, with beautiful views, and then descended down, down, down to a tiny beach town. The beach was calm and lovely. And nearby was a restaurant with great reviews — though some reviewers criticized the place as awfully expensive. With some reluctance we decided to try it anyway.

We love Greek food in general, but the food here was extraordinary — way beyond what you expect at a seaside taverna in a little town. And not that expensive really — cheaper than anything in Mykonos!

What did we do on days two, three, four, and five here in Syros? Made the same drive over the mountain, to the same postcard-perfect little beach, and ate at the same incredible restaurant. When you find perfection, why mess with it?

For some reason we have very few photos from Syros, but this shot of a calamari dish we ordered at our lunch spot pretty well sums it up

And let’s close out with one more shot of that kitten from Tinos

The Acropolis from the breakfast area on top of our hotel

We’ve been to Athens quite a few times. Whenever you come to Greece you are very likely to fly into or out of Athens — or both. Because it is the epicenter of one of the world’s great historical civilizations, you usually spend a couple days doing the obligatory sights. Those would include the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the museum of archeology, and a few other good ruins.

Jim glows at a great rooftop restaurant with fantastic food that we’ve been to several times

But we’ve done all of those things multiple times, and this time we just didn’t feel like doing any of them. So we were very bad, very lazy tourists.

I think Athens gets kind of a bad rap. Many people do make their one- or two-day stops here, including those obligatory visits to the top sites. And then they kind of dismiss it as a destination unto itself. But since I first came here 34 years ago, I have always really liked this city. It has a gritty kind of beauty. It has great food (but beware the many tourist traps; do your research). And it has a very cool nightlife scene. It’s a city that just has a ton of cool spots to have a drink or linger for hours over an espresso.

Unfortunately, our lazy visit ended on a negative note. After a nice lunch at an Indian restaurant, Jim’s wallet sort of inexplicably disappeared. He had used it to pay the lunch bill. And then we walked a short 10 minutes back to the hotel, at which point he noticed it was gone. Only two things could have possibly happened in that short window of time. He might have left it in the restaurant — but they claim they never saw it. Or he got pickpocketed — though the streets weren’t remotely crowded, so that seems so unlikely. We have a bad feeling that someone in the Indian restaurant kept it for the cash. Nobody has made any attempt to use the credit card or ATM card, so it doesn’t seem like a professional job. Ugh! So much hassle to deal with those things now!

Our hotel had a great rooftop bar with views of the Acropolis, so we encountered culture from a distance

On our other evening out we stopped at one of the cool bars in one of the cool neighborhoods that makes me love Athens

This is the kind of grittiness that makes Athens tick

After a month in Cyprus and Greece we were actually getting a little tired of Greek food, so we had our last lunch at an Indian restaurant. At this moment we are happy because the food was great. Too bad a lost wallet was in our immediate future.

Rhodes – an amazing medieval town made even more atmospheric in a rainstorm

Three years ago Mark & I spent a week on the island of Rhodes and fell in love with it. So when Bart & Ann suggested they wanted to experience one island in addition to Crete we leapt at the chance to go back. The bad news was that because of scheduling issues we only had three days to enjoy it; the good news it was at least as beautiful as we remembered it.

Of course one of the reasons we love Rhodes is because there are cats everywhere

There were definitely a few bumps in the road (bumps in the Rhodes??) for us. First, when making the reservations for two rooms a couple months ago Mark made a mistake. He booked the first room (at Spirits of the Knight, a hotel we loved three years ago) just fine but then somehow booked the other room for a week earlier. They graciously canceled that early/erroneous reservation but didn’t have any rooms at all our first night. Instead we had to stay one night at a different hotel before moving to Spirits of the Knight the next day.

And then our arrival was all messed up. We’d arranged with our hotel to pick us up at the airport but they didn’t show up. Traffic, they said. So we took a taxi to the town gates where they were supposed to meet us because ordinary taxis can’t come into the old town. They didn’t show up there either. Very frustrating.

And then as though those annoyances weren’t enough we had more rain our first days than we’ve ever seen in Greece. OK, it seems as though it never rains at all in Greece though apparently the weather saves it all up for one huge burst. Over several hours it just poured, water running like a river down the cobbled streets as we tried in vain to avoid getting our feet soaked.

In other words Rhodes wasn’t perfect. It was damned good, though. The hotel we spent our first night – the oddly named In Camera Art Boutique Hotel – turned out to be even better than the Spirits of the Knight that we’d loved three years ago. They weren’t great at that whole “transfer from the airport” thing but we had a beautiful room. And even in the pouring rain the old town is simply beautiful, one of the best preserved medieval towns you’ll find anywhere in the world. In breaks in the weather we had opportunities to just wander, to walk at length in what was once something like a moat separating the town from the exterior walls, and to walk on top of the historic walls themselves.

There are some serious medieval remains here

Then there are two of the things we loved the most from three years ago. On our first visit we stumbled onto a dentist office just as it was time to get our teeth cleaned and thought he was really good. So this time we went back. The dentist, one Victor Panagiotakopoulos if you can believe that name, lived and studied for a while in the U.S. and just does a great job. I wonder if there are any other tourists in the world who look forward to going to Rhodes so we can get our teeth cleaned.

Mark and Victor Panagiotakopoulos, with Mark’s newly cleaned teeth

And finally there was one day at the beach. After some pretty intense thunderstorms the weather cleared for our last day so Mark & I headed to our favorite beach from our earlier visit and enjoyed it – and the little Greek taverna at one end of the beach – just as much as we remembered it. Bart & Ann wanted to go to something more remote (and they did) but we had such great memories of that urban pebbly beach with the diving platform that there was no way we would miss it on our one day of beach weather.

The diving platform anchored well offshore from our favorite beach. And just in case you don’t recognize me, yes that’s me mid-jump.

The three days went fast and then Bart & Ann were headed back to the States. This was our third stay with them during this adventure and they are just so easy and fun to travel with. It’s good enough that we ended it considering trying to schedule a bike trip next spring in Bart’s native Netherlands during tulip season. We’ll see.

Meanwhile Mark & I are off for a short stop in Athens before continuing on to Azerbaijan. I mean, who hasn’t always wanted to go to Baku?

One of the entryways into the old town

The narrow streets of the Rhodes

A view across the rooftops from the city walls

The main square during a downpour

Cats love Rhodes too

At the airport in Rhodes we saw this sign telling tourists that establishments are required to accept credit and debit cards and they don’t have to pay if they don’t get a receipt. Bart observed that this is probably a requirement of the European bailout of Greek debt, caused in no small part because of tax avoidance. Mark and I are always annoyed when restaurants claim their credit card system isn’t working, since we figure it’s just a way of avoiding the fees and/or taxes, so we liked this sign.

More beauty in the old town

Mark walked a long time in this area between the exterior walls and the old town. I was being lazy.

Eventually, yes, the sun came out

Feels very olde-fashioned, no?

The old town is chock-filled with great sights like this

And yes, cats