I needed a holiday.
A combination of the worldwide plague and Grace’s work schedule had meant that we hadn’t had a proper holiday in a long time. Sure, we went to Edinburgh for a weekend, but that doesn’t really count. I was craving foreign shores; blue waters; translation problems. Sun.
Mykonos wasn’t exactly high on my list of places to visit. I love Greece, and if I had to pick, Athens would probably come out on top as my favourite city in the world. However, Mykonos is a party island; a tourist destination. It’s somewhere that Salt Bae and Lindsay Lohan have extravagantly expensive businesses; somewhere for Instagram influencers to go and dance and pay exorbitant figures for a vodka and soda water. In contrast, I like the dirty, graffiti filled backstreets of Psiri and Exarchia.
When it came time to book somewhere to jet off to on a short Autumnal break, it turned out that my accrued air miles would provide return flights to Mykonos for a grand total of £2, including a stop-over in London to let us go to our friends’ wedding (blog to follow). The alternative was going to Malaga, but if I ever have the choice between Greece and Spain, Greece will always win. Sorry. That’s just how it goes.
So, Mykonos it was to be. I guess we would just have to play tourists for the week.
Well, maybe not actually, as Mykonos isn’t actually that big of an island. We stayed in the main part of Mykonos town, and couldn’t be bothered figuring out the transport to visit the smaller, beach-side destinations that party-goers traditionally flock to.
Since we had essentially spent almost nothing on the flights, we paid a bit more than we usually might have for an apartment that had both a hot-tub, and a rather striking view. We were located just underneath one of the famous windmills that you can see below (though not the row of famous windmills that you are probably thinking of).
Truth be told, we had deliberately intended to have a ‘proper’ break. Rather than feeling the need to see and do as much as possible in a short space of time as we usually might, the opportunity to stay in the same place and let life slow down a bit seemed especially desirable after years of chaos.
Truth be told, relaxation is not my natural or most comfortable state, but I was determined to make some kind of attempt to achieve it damnit.
We spent the days wandering around, exploring the warren of streets that make up Mykonos Town. Despite the relatively tiny size of the place, its labrynthian nature meant that it was not only easy to get lost, but that we were still finding new nooks and crannies in the last few days.
It was down one of these winding streets that we came across a pelican.
I shit you not. A real life, giant, pink pelican that was just wandering about on its own.
At first I thought it was some kind of rather sad situation, where somebody had taken a pelican as a pet, but apparently not. As to be expected from Greece, the island has some strange mythology around the pelicans, and there are currently three on the island that meander about. Petros. Petros the pelican.
We were lucky enough to see Petros (or one of the others) a few days later, in another part of the town, and grabbed a picture. It doesn’t do justice to the size or magnificence of the creature. After that, they seemed to disappear. I have a lot of questions, but I’m not sure I necessarily want to know the answers.
Along with pelicans, there were cats.
Lots, and lots of cats.
There was a dedicated cat shrine.
and we even ended up with an adopted cat that kept appearing at the apartment we had hired. It sounds stupid to say, but I like animals. Having it around was nice, especially since we couldn’t bring our trusty hound BMO along.
The weather wasn’t quite as sunny or hot as I would have liked, and at night it could get pretty chilly, but the water was brilliantly blue, and it was fun to sit and watch the waves crash onto the edge of the bars and restaurants lining the edge.
It wasn’t completely dreary mind you, and with a steady stream of cruise ships bringing visitors in every other day, there were some maniacs who decided that they would make the most of it – something that I found a bit mental, even as a Scotsman.
In all honesty, the vast majority of our time on Mykonos was spent trying out different places to eat and drink, finding old favourites that you can’t really get as readily in Scotland: fresh fruit and vegetables, proper feta, souvlaki, and a bunch of other delicious things.
“It’s fucking expensive and not as good as Athens.” was my Greek family’s unanimous reaction when they heard we were going to Mykonos, and to be fair they were right. Nothing that we had there was as tasty or as cheap as it would be on the mainland, but then again we didn’t really expect it to be. Being able to sit somewhere far away from the stresses of everyday life and just enjoy the moment was what was important.
That said, as we were sitting drinking the above and enjoying the beautiful views, I got word that my bands were being evicted from the studio we rent, and that we only had what would effectively be a week to deal with all of the practicalities of that when I was back in the country. So that was great. Very relaxing.
Personal dramas aside, we found a really cool bar nestled away down one of the back streets called ‘Notorious’. In stark contrast to a lot of the other places on the island, it felt like a secret hangout for artists and creative types. As we found ourselves drawn back almost every night, we struck up conversations and got friendly with a number of the visitors, regulars, and staff – which – as it turned out – actually did include well-known painters and musicians. A genuine, friendly place, we discovered a community of folks there who had been coming to the island for decades, and who warmly welcomed us in. I was sad to say goodbye when the time came.
One thing that I have always wanted to be able to do, but never quite managed to achieve, is to be able to speak another language fluently. Out of all of my attempts, the closest I have come has been with Greek. Ever since I was a wee boy, I wanted to understand what my cousins were saying, and I tried my hardest to pick things up from what little resources I was able to find at the time (Modern Greek was not exactly the most popular of languages, and back then there wasn’t really anything good online). When we spent three months in Athens back in 2014 I got pretty good… and if I had spent a bit longer there I am sure I would have reached fluency, but I’ve found it extremely difficult to maintain any level of proficiency if I’m not physically in the country.
On this trip, I wanted to try and speak some Greek again, partly because there are certain kinds of food and drink that I don’t really understand when they are translated to English, but also because the Greeks can be… well, nepotistic. Okay, okay I’m joking (a bit). Either way, I wanted to get stuck back in, but was concerned that I would remember almost literally nothing, or be too scared to try.
As it turns out, once we got settled in, it felt like a lot of what I knew from before came back pretty quickly, and people were generally pretty friendly and receptive. In Greece the reaction to folks speaking in their language tends to either be total rejection of it, or an assumption of total fluency, so it can be a bit of a strange experience. It gave me a real desire to improve for the next time, though of course I’ll need to find a way to battle the loss in motivation that comes with a return to normalcy. If anybody has any tips for that, do let me know.
and with that, the end of the blog. I didn’t get a huge number of pictures, because… well… everything tended to look the same shade of white and blue, but I guess that’s not something I should really complain about.
In conclusion: Mykonos was fun. Would I rush back? Probably not. Would I go during peak season? Definitely not. Did I enjoy my time and have fond memories of the place and people? Yes. Was it worth the £2 flights? Undoubtedly.