Friday, October 11, 2013


Friday. October 4. Our long-anticipated return to Spetses, southernmost of the Saronic islands, was finally imminent. Members of my Greek-American family had been coming here on vacation since the early 1960s; Marti and I first visited this beautiful pine-covered isle on a day trip from the Peloponnese town of Porto Heli in October 2001. A key segment of my bride’s extended milestone birthday celebration would be a two-week stay in a huge apartment overlooking Agios Mamas Beach, adjacent to the picturesque port.

After an easy check-in at Charles de Gaulle Terminal One, we watched the latest episode of Law & Order SVU in the Aegean Airways waiting area.

A three-hour flight to Athens, quick taxi ride to our Syntagma-quarter hotel, then we hit the ground running. Marti and I would only be in the city overnight, so we headed to our favorite café in nearby Kolonaki Square for late-afternoon apéritifs: tsipouro liqueur and ouzo, accompanied by melitzanosalata (eggplant purée) and Graviera cheese. Ahhhh.

Next we cabbed over to a new bar and restaurant I’d heard about called Makalo, in a newly-gentrifying street north of the touristy Plaka district. It’s only a block or two from our hotel. Marti and I had plans to collect our Athens krew there for a hang on the evening before our return to Paris, so we wanted to check it out beforehand.

The place was low-key, welcoming and the food was excellent. I contacted our Florida-based Italian friend Marco, in town for a conference, who joined us for a drink after dinner. Marco is a highly-regarded professor of International Studies and gave the little Greek bistro his seal of approval.

The next morning, before heading down to the port of Piraeus to catch the Flying Dolphin hydrofoil to Spetses, we enjoyed our first frappés (thick creamy iced coffees) of the trip at a sidewalk café in busy Ermou street. The Saturday crowd was already beginning to fill the popular pedestrian shopping mecca.

Riding the Dolphin. Two-hour, fifteen-minute commute to the island.

The Birthday Girl. Pretty in pink and hydrating aboard the hydrofoil. Note the faux Prada bag, acquired in Florence from a street representative of the Comorra (Naples Mafia).

Our Spetses musician friend Giorgos had found a beautiful top-floor apartment for us. He met Marti and me at the dock and handed us off to the co-owner, his uncle Christopher. Also present to welcome us was Christopher’s sister-in-law Nike, who lives next door and would be available to help with any questions we had during our residence. She was delighted to hear me kick down my limited Greek, acquired by osmosis as a child from my yiayia (grandmother) and other native-born relatives. In a typically generous gesture of Greek hospitality, Nike had stocked the kitchen with essentials and more: fresh-picked fruit, bottled water, cookies, cakes, bread, salad veggies. Christopher said, “Please make this your home. Help yourself to anything you find.”

The view from our balcony. This was gonna work out just fine.

The house has four bedrooms and an equal number of places to eat. Marti and I feel like Goldilocks on acid.

More bedrooms.

A corner of the big living room. This island was traditionally a home to boat-builders and many sea captains built mansions at our end of town. The shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos developed a private island called Spetsopoula just off the southern coast of Spetses. It remains in his family and has a permanent population of 65 or so.

The antique Singer immediately caught the eye of the former theatrical costume designer I sleep with. The large fully-equipped kitchen quickly drew the attention of her personal chef.

Marti and I unpacked and settled in, later got ready for Saturday night on the town. You didn’t really think we were going to abandon the nightlife just because we had relocated to a tranquil island, did you? Taxideftes -- Giorgos’ band – was playing at midnight at La Luz, a gorgeous venue overlooking the Palio Limani (Old Harbor).

Entrance to La Luz. After dinner in town we cabbed to the gig. Only a very few private automobiles are scattered around the island. Most Spetsiotes travel by motorbike, acoustic bike, taxi or horse-and-buggy.

Midnight live on Spetses. Our friends Perikles Palmos (at left) and Giorgos Tompaziadis (center) in the band Taxideftes. That’s Giannis Promponas on bass and Grigoris Mathioudakis at the drum kit. They played Greek pop and rock favorites, plus covers by everyone from The Beatles to Britney Spears. Loved it. We sat with Giorgos’ folks Margarita and Giorgos. The warmest people ever!

The second set featured bouzouki favorites. Perikles switched to bass; Giannis played the traditional rebetika instrument. Great. This was a long Grateful Dead-like set. Margarita and Giorgos departed at two a.m. The guys were still going strong when Marti and I gave up the ghost a little after four.

On our May 2011 visit we had discovered Margarita’s lingerie shop and, after she introduced herself as Giorgos’ mom, had partied with her and her charming husband during a Taxideftes performance at La Luz. This past Sunday afternoon we dropped by her new shop. Spetses was going through a temporary cold spell and Marti had noticed a warm glitter-trimmed hoodie in the window. It fit perfectly and sales clerk Mimi rang it up. When Margarita arrived at the shop and found that we had already paid, she insisted that Marti pick out a bra, panties and a pair of shiny club-worthy pantyhose as gifts! Did I already mention that thing about gracious Greek hospitality?

Marti models her recent acquisition. Stylin’.

There’s no Internet access at the house, so I’ve been grabbing free WiFi at Delfinia’s, a café two minutes away run by Giorgos’ homeboys, the brothers Vagelis and Dánees. Super place to hang.

Monday morning after a latte and web-surfing session, I went grocery shopping, stopping by the island newsstand to pick up a cooking mag, as I customarily do here, in Spain and in Italy. Always looking for interesting new recipes to take for a ride. Imagine my surprise when I arrived back at the house, flipped over my copy of New Real Food to discover that the featured cuisine for October was from . . . Brooklyn!

I didn’t need a recipe for my first outing at the stove: chicken drumsticks in a tomato-green pepper-onion sauce with wholewheat hilopetes pasta squares topped with Mizithra cheese.

Parisian sidewalk café denizens that we are, Marti and I wasted no time slipping into the island groove.

Chillin’ at Dapia, the main port of Spetses town.

Call it the Red Sox Planet Imperative. I’ve been racking up my 3G roaming charges in the middle of the night, following along as my bearded Bosox clinched the ALDS.

We’re totally plugged in. I downloaded SNL so we could take in Miley Cyrus’ host-musical guest performance last weekend. Girl killed. She’s an actress and acquitted herself admirably in all the skits. And to Sinead O'Connor and all the other fat, middle-aged tsk-tskers, I say leave Miley the fuck alone. She’s 20, OK? So Miley’s rocking her sexuality at the moment and referencing “Molly” in her song. Remember that hippie band that was “riding that train high on cocaine” way back in 1970? How about “Reefer Man” (Cab Calloway) in 1932? Get over yourselves. And if you think Miley Cyrus has no talent underneath all that, check out this performance from the Amnesty International 50th Anniversary CD:

Of course it’s not all bouzoukis and teen-pop for me on this beautiful Greek island. Here’s my favorite new country tune, which has been spinning repeatedly at the vacation house:

"Redneck Crazy"
Gonna drive like hell through your neighbourhood
Park this Silverado on your front lawn
Crank up a little Hank, sit on the hood and drink
I'm about to get my pissed off on

I'm gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom windows
Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows
I didn't come here to start a fight, but I'm up for anything tonight
You know you broke the wrong heart baby, and drove me redneck crazy

Wish I knew how long it's been going on
How long you've been getting some on the side
Nah, he can't amount to much by the look of that little truck
Well he wont be getting any sleep tonight

I'm gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom windows
Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows
I didn't come here to start a fight, but I'm up for anything tonight
You know you broke the wrong heart baby, and drove me redneck crazy
Redneck crazy

Did you think I'd wish you both the best, endless love and happiness
You know that's just not the kind of man I am
I'm the kind that shows up at your house at 3am

I'm gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom windows
Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows
I didn't come here to start a fight, but I'm up for anything tonight
You gone and broke the wrong heart baby, and drove me redneck crazy
You drove me redneck crazy, oh

Tonight Marti and I are going to La Luz to hear our fílous in Taxideftes again.

Here’s a fun medley by Taxideftes featuring vocalist Georgia Konstantinou:


1 comment :

  1. Just so you know, I often feel like Goldilocks on acid...and it's been awhile:) Love you both, and keep having fun! I am also in the middle of a 2 week (maybe more) birthday celebration-10/4 good buddy-So, Enjoy life, 'cause I'm going to. jimbull