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EXPLORING NAXOS
 
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EXPLORING NAXOS

I can't remember why we decided to visit Naxos because there are so many options in Greece, but in the end I have to say it is my favorite island so far. Naxos is a place for those of us who want to kick back, swim in turquoise waters, maybe laze on the beach until the heat becomes too much. When the beach scene becomes tiring the landscape of the island is astonishing with nooks and crannies to discover where even in summer there won't be a crowd. And, most of all, the people of the island are nice. It is a pleasure to be there, whatever you happen to be doing.

We spent our first night in Hora, the capital city of Naxos, in a small hotel we found when a fellow met our ferry. He seemed to be offering something just right for us and it was.

Late in the afternoon we went out and rented a car for the next day. The rental agent was a middle aged Greek woman who couldn't have made things easier; she even picked us up in the car in front of our hotel the next day. And we were off! The car was tiny, but perfect -- it fit us and our luggage, was comfortable and easy to drive.

Hora, the largest town in Naxos is not small. There are port side shops and restaurants with streets filled with hustle and bustle taxi and car traffic. Just behind this busy street are hotels and island residences with everyone coming and going at a frenetic pace. We made our way out of town heading north and within a very short while were on an almost entirely deserted road each of us delighted with every twist and turn.

 

On our first day we hoped to find a small town called Apollon, one I'd read about and thought perfect for our second night on Naxos. On the narrow two way country road we passed what seemed to be virgin territory -- a castle with no parking lot or ticket selling entrance booth, isolated beaches with no hotels, farm homes with no fruit stands and everywhere along the way there were wildflowers in bloom.

I fell in love with Naxos that first day.

This home and garden would come to typify Greece for me after being in the country just a few weeks. There is an exuberance about everything, even the gardens. I think there is something in Greek genes that makes them especially vibrant human beings with a great passion for living.

 

We passed this goat farm still relatively early in the morning and it seemed like all the girls were anxious for milking.

Feta cheese this fresh doesn't come too easily anywhere else in the world.

APOLLON
This little town is most attractive for its relatively low key tourist appeal. It is lovely with small hotels, lots of beach side restaurants and a wide beach with little surf, ideal for swimming or just getting wet to cool off from time in the hot sun.

The Hotel Adonis was just readying itself for the coming tourist season when we arrived, but they offered us every kindness and service they could think of.

We even got to pick lemons from their trees in the back yard on the second story walkway leading to our room.

 
Below are photographs of two of the May Day celebration wreaths hung on homes and businesses around Apollon.

 

In Naxos it is evident that there is a life for the islanders beyond serving tourism and that makes it something special for visitors because we get a glimpse of what life is like in these Mediterranean islands when we are not there to enjoy them. People live there year round and their lives go on quite well without us.
 
 

Leaving Apollon we headed north toward Moutsouna a small development at the northern tip of the island. Along the way we stopped in a few other little towns. In one, we met an older Greek woman on the beach also collecting shells. She told us it was her morning refresher to spend an hour on the beach every day collecting shells and whatever else she fancied, like beach glass. Seeing that we hadn't gotten too much yet, she handed over her morning's bounty to me with a big smile and then went on her way to have coffee with a friend.

Her gift meant a lot to us and it now enjoys a special place on a tiny plate on the bookcase.

 

APIRANTHOS

Apiranthos is a very old town in the more central spine of Naxos. It is not on the coast, but it is exquisite and should not be missed. I don't believe that the town was ever designated a UNESCO site, though it certainly deserved to be. Thank goodness it wasn't, as it remains a viable Greek town lived in and commercially owned by Greeks, not the international hoards of UNESCO investors that make people and culture-free zones of every historic site they buy.

Apiranthos still feels like a place where Naxos born families still live and there you will find the best baklava in all of the islands along with some very fine bread as my husband Stassi will attest.

 

 

 

Below are two of the treasures we found while wandering the town. The first is a Deux Cheveaux, a car I saw for the very first time when I had arrived by motorcycle at the French Le Mans race course. The Deux Cheveaux was ahead of us on the street course the day before the big race, when every fool and his brother or sister was out there in their vehicles having a go. Having been on the back of a motorcycle myself I can't think them silly, but we did come upon the car parked on the side of the road a little ways on. We stopped to take a look at my new love and found thousands of dollars of camera equipment sitting openly on the back seat. I was astonished, but the next morning we heard of the Ferrari owner who had turned over his car to an enthusiastic youth to race around the town square and said youth had trashed the car. The owner's response had been, "Better luck next time!" It was a wonderful experience that has stayed with me all these years. Maybe one day I'll buy a Deux Cheveaux as it still seems my perfect car.

Below on the right is a wonderful menu sign with a very special fish on the very bottom.

 

 

 

MOUTSOUNA

We got there after a long day of driving on May day and celebrated the opening of a restaurant with its young owners. The fellows were fishermen and the women the cooks. We were invited to select the fish we wished prepared for us and wine appeared almost immediately on our table. Stassi ordered a salad which arrived with almost a pound of fresh feta as a topping. Soon the perfectly cooked fish arrived and we were in heaven. Who would have thought that tuna would be caught in the Med?

 

 

 

It had been a long day and after dining so lavishly we were ready to settle in which proved a problem in pre-season Moutsouna. After much searching we found a little guest house where we fell instantly asleep.

 

The next day we headed back toward the capital city of Hora and along the way passed mountains of marble which you will see in these photographs. I imagined buying one of the huge chunks to the left and, like Michelangelo, begin "looking for what was inside."
 

 
Returning south driving toward the most popular summer beach resorts in Naxos we passed more of the isolated and exquisitely architecturally spare churches that populate the Greek islands. You will see just a few of those in Naxos in the photographs below.
 

 

 

BEACHES IN NAXOS
 

 

Somehow when we're traveling one of us always gets the real estate bug. In Naxos I was bitten and thought this house on the beach would be perfect!

 

 

 
When we made this trip to Greece we were living at our home in the Caribbean so lazing on the beach in Greece held little interest for us. Instead we were thrilled to be exploring this beautiful island almost as if we were the only visitors there. It was wonderful. We met the bread baker pictured below on the right and visited her daily. In stopping by her shop we passed by the tiny garden below on the left. One morning the owner, a woman in her 80's, came out and gave me lilies to take home. It seemed for us to be a perfect time to be there.

 
 
HORA
The town of Hora is not small and it has something for everyone. There are dock side bars and restaurants, chic hotels and modest guest houses. There is lots of shopping and a lively feel in this vibrant town. There is also the old town, an architectural jewel. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with a day or more in Hora. The historic center of Hora is exquisite as you can see in the photographs and much of it has yet to be restored. Nevertheless it was aging very gracefully.
 

 

 

 

Many of us build walls around our homes, but few of us put holes in the wall for plants. In Naxos this seemed as natural as breathing. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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