Monday, September 26, 2011

May 2011 Trip Part 2 - Mykonos, Greece

Note: So, this blog entry is several months late.  I don't have a good excuse.  Hopefully, I'll be better about getting posts up quicker after a trip.  I'm breaking the Greece trip into two posts, one for Mykonos and one for Santorini.  I'll work on getting the Santorini post up in the next week or so.  Enjoy...

After two awesome days in Rome, we headed off to Greece for five nights in Myknonos and five nights in Santorini. A trip to the Greek Islands has been high on our list of things to do for a long time. Needless to say, we were very excited about this part of the trip. To add to the excitement, we flew to Mykonos on my birthday! Before checking out of the Cavalieri in Rome, we celebrated with an awesome room service breakfast. After breakfast, we had an uneventful trip to the airport in Rome. The flight to Athens went off without a hitch. We had a long five hour layover in Athens, but thanks to Ashley's status with US Airways, we were able to pass the time in the Aegean Airlines lounge. We then had a short flight to Mykonos with some great views of the Greek Islands.

On arrival in Mykonos, we were picked up by a shuttle from our hotel and set off for the 15 minute drive to the hotel. We would be staying at the Mykonos Grand Hotel for 5 nights. We’ve been fortunate to stay at some really nice places over the last few years. Our experience at the Mykonos Grand is one of the best we’ve had (just behind our honeymoon in Bora Bora, possible subject for a future post). The service we had at the Mykonos Grand was probably the best I’ve experienced at a hotel. The hotel is set on a cove on the southwestern corner of Mykonos, and it has an amazing view of the island of Delos. Upon arrival at the hotel, we were given a personal check-in by Georgia who gave us lots of great recommendations on things to do and places to eat (very important!) on Mykonos. She also gave us a personal tour of the hotel and ended it by showing us our upgraded room (because of my birthday!). She also arranged for a free birthday dessert at the hotel restaurant later that night. This type of service was common throughout our stay at the hotel. During breakfast, Georgia and Theodore, the hotel manager, made a point of going around and chatting with each table of guests to see how they were enjoying their stay and help with suggestions of things to do. I would highly recommend this place to anyone traveling to Mykonos. I will say that it’s located in a pretty quiet area of the island. If you want to be in the middle of the action and partying, this may not be the place for you. There were a couple of restaurants a short walk down the beach, but otherwise, you have to go into town (10 minute drive) for more dining/shopping/partying options.

Not a bad place to spend my birthday
Overall, we had an amazing time in Mykonos. It’s a beautiful island with several great beaches and some excellent food. We couldn’t get enough of the fresh seafood and the awesome greek salads with juicy local cherry tomatoes and decadent local goat cheese.



Here are the highlights from our time in Mykonos:

Activities
  • Renting a car - We rented a car for two days, and this allowed us to really get out and experience the island. We went to several beaches, drove into Mykonos Town for dinner, checked out one of the local grocery stores (great for getting olives and wine for pre-dinner snacks and drink) and hit up a local bakery for baklava.  One note on going into town is that the parking can be a little difficult.  We tried one night to park in a lot by the famous Windmills which were convenient to the center of Town, but that was a terrible idea.  We found the best place to park to be the large lot by the old port, though the walk into town is longer from there.  During our stay, Mykonos Grand started offering an hourly shuttle into town which I would recommend taking advantage of.  On the one night we used the shuttle, we somehow missed the last return shuttle back to the hotel even though we were early to the pickup spot.  We got a taxi back to the hotel pretty easily, though.
Nice ride!
  • Beaches - Mykonos is known for its many beaches, and we made it to quite a few. We were concerned before the trip that the temperature would not be warm enough to enjoy the beaches, but it ended up being perfect as long as the sun was out.  The beaches we went to were Elia Beach, Kalo Livadi Beach, Panormos Beach and Agia Sostis Beach.  They each had unique characteristics that made them enjoyable.  Overall, I would say that my favorite was Kalo Livadi beach with it's long stretch of powdery sand set in a beautiful bay.
Agia Sostis Beach
  • Mykonos Town - The main town of Mykonos is one of the neatest places that I've been to.  There is an area of a couple of square miles in the center of town that is closed to motorized vehicles.  You can spend hours wandering through the labyrinth of alleys filled with shops and restaurants.  Most of the shops have locally made goods that reflect the artistic nature of the island.  There are a couple of picturesque waterfront areas, one with a beach backed by a square lined with restaurants and one called Little Venice with several buildings in a row right on the water.  You can also look for Petros the Pelican (the town mascot) who can be found walking around some of the main areas.  Ashley had fun following him around to try and get his picture.
Typical alley in Mykonos Town
Petros the Pelican
  • Mykonos Grand pool and beach - We spent a couple of days hanging out at the Mykonos Grand pool and the small beach next to the hotel.  The pool was very nice with an amazing view over to Delos.  The beach was decent.  It was nice enough if you're just hanging out at the hotel, but it's not nearly as nice as some of the other beaches that we went to.
Mykonos Grand pool
  • Walk to Ornos - On our last full day on Mykonos, we decided to make the ~1 mile walk from our hotel to the nearby town of Ornos.  It was a nice walk with some great views of the island along the way, though the roads on Mykonos aren't exactly pedestrian friendly.  Ornos is a neat little village with several restaurants on a beach.  There wasn't much going on there at the time we went, but it seemed like all the businesses were getting ready for a rush of visitors in the next few months.

Dining
  • Dolphins of Delos (restaurant at the hotel) - We had dinner here on our first night, and the food was very good.  We had the first of many Greek salads on our trip.  Ashley's entree was a fish called John Dory that was very good.  I had an excellent roasted lamb dish.  We were surprised with a complementary chocolate torte for dessert to celebrate my birthday.  This was also the place that we had breakfast every morning.  There was a very nice selection of fresh fruit as well as some tasty Greek items such as stuffed grape leaves, salad of fresh tomatoes with capers, and Greek yogurt.  Breakfast also included the standard made to order eggs that I took advantage of every morning.
  • Hippie Fish - This restaurant is just a short walk down the beach from the Mykonos Grand.  We went here on our second night on Mykonos.  The restaurant has a really nice open air dining area right by the beach.  Hippie Fish was our first introduction to what we found was a common practice at restaurants in Greece of actually picking the specific fish you want to eat for dinner.  To place our order, the waiter took us to the back of the restaurant where the fish cook was, and we got to see what our options were.  We chose a nice looking sea bass.  For starters, we got a Greek salad and grilled squid.  The salad was a simple yet delicious mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and olives with an olive oil dressing.  The fresh grilled sea bass that we had for our main dish was very tasty.
The "menu" at Hippie Fish
  • Sol y Mar - This is an open-air restaurant on the beach at Kalo Livadi that was recommended to us by Georgia at Mykonos Grand.  We had a great lunch here consisting of yet another amazing Greek salad topped with local cheese, fried zucchini blossoms and a plate of grilled chicken with tzatziki.  The food here is excellent, and the beach setting really makes it a cool place.  I'm sure it's a great place during the summer (probably crowded though).
Greek salad at Sol y Mar, YUM!!!
  • Kounelas Tavern - This is a well-known seafood restaurant in Mykonos Town that we had seen recommended in a few places.  The restaurant is tucked back in the labyrinth of alleys in the town.  We were seated in an outside courtyard adjacent to the restaurant which was really neat.  This is another choose your fish place which is a concept that I really like.  After being seated, we were taken back to the kitchen by the waiter and shown a selection of fish that were arranged in refrigerated drawers.  Ashley chose red snapper (whole grilled fish), and I chose tuna (grilled steak).  We ordered an appetizer plate of fava bean puree (underwhelming), tzatziki (up to standards) and eggplant dip (really good).  Both of our fish entrees were great.  Ashley's red snapper won out over my meaty tuna, though.  Since the courtyard we were sitting in was open to the alleys, each table was approached throughout dinner by several girls selling flowers as well as a clown on stilts who somehow squeezed into the small courtyard.  The clown made a balloon animal for each table, and even though we didn't ask for one, we ended up giving him a couple of euros for his trouble (kind of annoying but we're on vacation so not that big of a deal).  At the end of dinner, the restaurant gave us some complimentary cinnamon liqueur in a weird phallic bottle.  We could have done without the liqueur and the bottle.  Overall, we had a great time, and I'd recommend the place though not ahead of Kalita.
Red Snapper at Kounelas
  • Kiki's - We were told by several of the staff at Mykonos Grand that if we did one thing in our time on Mykonos it had to be lunch at Kiki's.  Kiki's is set on a hill above Agia Sostis beach with amazing views of the island.  You pretty much have to know where it is to find it as it's at the end of a gravel road and hidden underneath densely branched trees.  The column of smoke from the grill is the only clue that it's there.  The restaurant is open-air like a lot of places on Mykonos, and one if it's quirks is that it has no electricity.  As a result of not having electricity, they are not able to stock a lot of food and thus close up when they run out.  During the high season, you have to show up early to have any chance of eating there.  We didn't have any trouble with this as we were there before the start of the high season.  Their specialty is fresh salads and grilled chicken.  We had a salad of artichokes and beans in olive oil that was excellent.  For our entree, we shared a grilled chicken breast stuffed with feta and sundried tomato.  We typically don't order chicken at restaurants as it's usually pretty boring and easy to cook at home.  This chicken was worth making an exception.  Given the beautiful views and the tasty food, I would highly recommend lunch at Kiki's.
Awesome setting at Kiki's
  • Katerinas - This place is in the "Little Venice" part of Mykonos Town where the buildings are right on the water.  This area is known as a great place to grab drinks and watch the sunset.  We chose Katerinas after walking by a couple of others.  It was nice place for a sunset drink (we could kind of see the sunset from the bar, but the best outside spots were already taken), but it had a bit of a touristy feel to it.  I'm not sure I would go back.
  • Kalita - We went here on the recommendation of Theodore from Mykonos Grand (can't say enough about how great the staff is there).  This restaurant is right in the middle of the maze of alleys in Mykonos Town, which made it a bit of a chore to find.  Once we found it, we were treated to one of our best meals on Mykonos.  Kalita had more of an upscale/modern feel to it than some of the other places that we ate at on Mykonos.  Their focus is a modern take on Mykonian cuisine, with particular attention to local products.  We started with what may have been the best Greek salad of the trip, a simple salad of local Mykonos tomatoes topped with local goat cheese.  It sounds simple, but the flavor was amazing.  Ashley got grouper over spinach for her entree which was amazing.  For my entree, I got lamb en papyote (baked in parchment paper) which was equally as amazing.  We decided to get the creme brulee for dessert (we usually skip dessert) which was another excellent choice.  I would highly recommend this place as the food is top notch and the service is excellent.
Simple but amazing Greek salad at Kalita
  • Avra - For our last dinner on Mykonos we decided to go to Avra in Mykonos Town after checking out menus from a few different places.  We had a great experience here.  We started with the standard Greek salad (good but not as good as some others we had).  Ashley had the moussaka which was recommended by the waitress, and it exceeded any moussaka we've ever tasted.  I had octopus sauteed in wine sauce which was very good but not as good as the moussaka.
At the end of our time in Mykonos, we were sad to leave, but we were excited to go to Santorini.  We decided to take a high speed ferry from Mykonos to Santorini.  For anyone that knows me well, this was a big deal as I have major problems with sea sickness.  As it turns out, everything went well.  It was a very smooth ride, and the two hours passed without incident.  I'll delve into our stay on Santorini in the next post.

2 comments:

  1. You can take me there for my birthday!

    ReplyDelete
  2. How did I miss that last comment about the seasickness! LOL

    ReplyDelete