Jeweller Pranay Mehta 31, travelled to Greece for 10 days last August with his wife Neha and two friends. The feted beauty of Athens and the Aegean islands lived up to their expectations, but the selection of food was a disappointment for this all-vegetarian group
Why Greece? It’s not the most popular European destination among Indians.
We wanted to visit some place out of the ordinary. Also, we wanted a destination that had a little bit of everything—history, sightseeing, great beaches and relaxation opportunities. Greece seemed to be the perfect combination of all of these. The fact that not too many people go there from India was a major plus point.
The country is packed with things to see and do. How did you settle on Athens, Santorini and Mykonos?
Athens was a no-brainer: It’s the capital, boasts of so many historical sights and is the base for connections to other parts of Greece. We chose Santorini because of its idyllic beauty and relaxed pace. And Mykonos is supposed to be the party capital of Greece, so we just had to stop there. We wanted to visit Crete, but couldn’t fit it in.
Did you use a travel agent for your tickets and hotel bookings?
Nope, we did everything on the Internet. We googled Greece and read everything on the first two sites that came up. We flew to Athens via London and did the intra-Greece transfers through Olympic Airlines. We shopped for the hotels online, too. After checking out rates and photos, we chose Hotel Grand Bretagne in Athens, Villa Atlantis Beach in Santorini and the Santa Marina Resort in Mykonos. We spent three days at each place.
So, your first stop was Athens.
The main city is very modern, but there are also these quaint lanes that give it a unique flavour. Athens is dominated by the Acropolis and, on top of it, the Parthenon, the temple of Athena. It was under restoration during our visit, but still very well-maintained. One feels humbled just looking at the Parthenon.
After three days of soaking up the history and the sights, we flew to Santorini.
That’s a beach resort, isn’t it?
Not just any beach resort—it’s the most serene place I’ve ever visited. Santorini is located about 200km away from the mainland. The experience was accentuated by the gorgeous boutique hotel we stayed in—so much so, we didn’t even explore the famed beaches. The hotel is built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. Because it has very few rooms, the service is really personalized—not to mention charming. When we checked in, our luggage was carried to our rooms not by a bellboy but by a donkey.
Santorini is supposed to have the best sunsets in the world and we weren’t let down. At twilight, the sky would be bathed in myriad colours—they are some of our best memories of the holiday. We also sampled some interesting local wines.
After the beauty and serenity of Santorini, was Mykonos an anticlimax?
On the contrary, after the peace of Santorini, we were all ready for the madness of Mykonos. Though it’s also part of the Cyclades group of islands—similar to Santorini—the vibe is completely different. It’s got the best bars and nightlife in Greece. We loved Little Venice, which has bars lining the entire seafront and waves coming up to the sidewalk tables. People start gathering here around 5pm for the sunsets and move seamlessly into nights of hard-core partying. Our favourite was a bar called Caprice—amazing cocktails and interiors.
What was the food and drink like?
It was the only part of the holiday we would have liked to change. As vegetarians, we were very disappointed with the food. In fact, a large part of our days was spent hunting down likely restaurants. By the end of the trip, we had feta cheese coming out of our ears. A basic selection of bread, cheese and pasta was available everywhere, so we got by. Mykonos was the only place to offer a decent selection of multi-cuisine, so we made the most of it. My advice to vegetarians travelling to Greece: Carry plenty of packaged food.
(As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at email@example.com)