Wednesday, September 23, 2009

goodbye greece

On the ferry crossing the Saronic Gulf back to the port of Piraeus and Athens, I tried to read but I was anxious. You know that feeling when you're dreaming and you just don't want it to end? I had less than 24 hours left in Greece and the thought made me feel like my heart was in my throat.

When we stepped into the lobby at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, calm settled over me. I felt like I was back home. This is where we'd spent the first night of our honeymoon and here we were again spending the last. A lot had happened and yet so little had taken place.

What a hotel! It ranks right up there with my favorite hotels in the world like La Mamounia in Marrakech, Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco, Peru and The London in New York. We settled into our suite complete with fragrant red roses and an exquisite bottle of red, compliments of the hotel.

We still had a few hours left of the day so we made a mad dash for the Acropolis (last time I was in Athens it was closed) and the New Acropolis Museum. As soon as you enter the museum, you are drawn up towards the monumental glass staircase at the end of the glass floored ramp by really large architectural sculptures of the Hekatompedon, the first large temple of the Goddess Athena on the Acropolis. It took my breath away.

After the museum, we walked and walked through Athens late into the afternoon and early evening, through Plaka, Monastiraki (grabbing the most delicious juicy souvlaki along the way) and Kolonaki ending up back at our hotel in Syntagna Square.

We planned it so we'd have enough time for a late night drink at the GB Roof Garden on the very top of the Hotel Grande Bretagne. This is reason enough to stay here! (The restaurant is excellent too!) The bar is open to the out of doors so the warm breeze of Athens refreshes the evening and the Acropolis lights the night. I'll never forget that night!

The next morning we packed and hurried to the airport for our long flight. What did I bring home from such a fantastic trip? A big bag of Santorini split peas to make their famous dish called fava, a jar of brined caper leaves also from Santorini, some absolutely wonderful memories and lots of love. Thanks for being a part of the journey!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tales from Hydra Island in Greece

Next stop... The island of Hydra.

If you're planning a trip to Greece, make sure to put it on your itinerary. Only an hour and a half from Athens by hydrafoil but a million dreams away.

This place may very well be Greece's little secret. One moment you feel like you've stepped back in time and the next moment you could think you're in Carmel or the Hamptons.

Joe and I are thanking our good friends, Emmanuel and Tracy, who told us not to miss this place. They come here often staying at the elegant little hotel, Porta del Mare, in a quaint alley just a few short steps from where the ferry drops you in the port.

Petros (photo above) owns Porta del Mare along with a few stores and I'm sure countless other ventures. As soon as we met him, we had an instant friend who gave us the names of the best tavernas, told us not to take the expensive red water taxis, which beaches were best, and pointed us towards his favorite store for fruit and yogurt. You can't miss Petros, look for the red door right on the harbour. It says Peter's over the door. He'll either be inside the store or at the cafe next door.

The port is a hub of activity 27/7 where cafe after cafe rim the edge. People-watching is a favorite pastime and the locals view it as kind of a sport right up there with swimming and hiking the beautiful mountain trails.

Order a coffee at Sinialo or Isalos and sit for hours watching the yachts tie up and the ferries delivering the "three islands-in-a-day" trippers. Just a little FYI, we think the whipped ice coffee at Isalos is miles ahead of anyone else.

But I haven't even mentioned the very best part of Hydra.... There aren't any cars or scooters, only mule. No joke! And those mules come in handy for getting luggage to your hotel over the rough cobblestones or taking you by horseback over the mountain.

The first day when we arrived by ferry, there was a flurry of activity at the port. There weren't enough mules and the scene wasn't that different than fighting for a taxi in NYC.

Did I mention the food yet? The freshest fish is caught in the clean very salty waters off the coast of Hydra. Make sure you order some tarama. If you're lucky, it's made from fresh roe. We had the best stuffed tomatoes and peppers at Barba Dimas Taverna and exquisite grilled octopus and large calamari in the little village of Kaminia at Taverna Kodylenia just over the hill from the port.

It's difficult to imagine a place more picturesque, romantic, and sensuous in the Mediterranean. If Greece (or the Mediterranean) is on your itinerary, be sure to set at least a few days aside for Hydra. And did I mention it is the perfect place to spend your honeymoon?!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Honeymoon in Greece

We arrived exhausted after a long flight from San Francisco and just 3 hours of sleep the first night at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. Were we crazy to wake up so early to catch an 8-hour ferry to Santorini?

I realized we were not crazy the moment we stepped onto the island. White villages perched hundreds of meters above the Aegean on the huge horseshoe-shaped remnants of a volcanic island. We're in the exquisite village of Oia at the northern point of Santorini as close to Crete and Egypt as we are the mainland.

Pomegranates, oleander, fig trees and bouganvilla everywhere. Gentle breezes blow.

Joe and I are having an absolutely amazing time. Just ate a delicious salad, Greek-style, outside in candlelight looking at the stars and caldera. Love the Santorini white wines (Sigalas and Boutari), olives, oil, fave, cheeses, and the freshest fish..... Our little village and our villa sits on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the caldera. We ate at 1800 Restaurant last night. It's an old sea captain's house. It is also a Slow Food restaurant. Fantastic! We hiked 10 km. today from our village of Oia to Imerovigli. Here a few more days then to the island of Hydra. I'm just waking up to the fact that I have two dreamy weeks ahead of me in Greece!

Already thinking about the breakfast I'm going to make tomorrow. Maybe a little thick creamy Greek (of course) yogurt drizzled with Greek (of course) honey.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Official: I'm Married!!

I have never in my life had a more wonderful evening. And so many of our guests said the same! Enchanting, magical, and romantic were just a few of the adjectives we all used.

It started with a cocktail reception where Joe and I mingled with everyone for an Orange Aperol Sun as the sun was just settling in the western sky over Mt. Tamalpais. I was so nervous until a dear friend Carla reminded me that I needed to breathe. She was right, I'd forgotten.

The ceremony began with me circling Joe 3 times and continued from there with a very special tribute and blessing from my Mom who couldn't be with us. It was delivered by my 9 year old great niece. She did brillant job. The ceremony was performed by our close friend, the Reverend Tim McDonald. AKA my best wine pal. Joe had a continuous tear. I was either crying or smiling. Joe's daughters, now my stepdaughters, were very much a part of the ceremony with a prayer, a love poem by Pablo Neruda (my favorite poet) and blessing of the wine. Our vows and then mazel tov! Husband and wife as Joe smashed the glass!

Seal's "Love's Divine" played and I was walking on clouds holding my glass of rosé champagne!

Dinner was so my style. Tasha from Olive Green Catering who does all the cooking for Alice and Chez Panisse catered the dinner. Jared from Picco was on hand to slice salumi for all the tables.

I have never heard so many toasts. So heartfelt, so emotional, so joyous. And I was still either crying or smiling or a combination of both.

And my idea for the cake.... Good friend and Delfina pastry chef, Koa Duncan, made a lovely almond wedding cake layered with roasted peaches and dreamy buttercream, one for each table. We all cut the cake together.

Hours of dancing to the sounds of DJ Lamont. We danced to the stars, the moon and the smiles Joe and I were still wearing long after.

When I went to bed that night in our suite at the Four Seasons, my cheeks ached from smiling so much!

Words cannot express the happiness and love I am feeling. Off to Greece for our honeymoon!