Isles and isles of Greece
September 17, 2006
Whether you crave the serenity of Syros or the merriment of Mykonos, there's a Greek island – with fabulous food and views – waiting for you.
By Joe Nick Patoski
SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Sunday, September 10, 2006
There are more than 2,000 islands off mainland Greece — 170 of them inhabited, and no two alike.
That was my conclusion 36 years ago when I visited my relatives in Greece for the first time since I was a baby. But earlier this summer, when I returned to my mother's country for the first time since her death, bringing along my wife, two sons, sister and brother-in-law, that truth rang louder than ever.
Take the islands of Mykonos and Syros, the scenes of this year's adventure.
Both are about 70 miles east and south of Athens. Both are dreamy slices of island paradise with the delicious contrast of dry, hilly terrain that looks a whole lot like high Big Bend country, only instead of being surrounded by endless desert, these bare mountains are surrounded by the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea, as clear as the Caribbean.
We already had planned to visit my Theo Christos and Thea Roussa on the island of Syros. Our family had stayed at the eight-bedroom spread that became their permanent residence 10 years ago, traveling with my mother, and found it to our liking. As far as we were concerned, we didn't have to leave Villa Roussa to have a great vacation. With a cushy hilltop perch between two beaches, with a sunset view overlooking placid waters that Homer once wrote about, why go somewhere else? No wonder Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt and their families tried to rent the place last year (Uncle Chris turned them down because it would have conflicted with their granddaughter's christening).
But before we left Texas, Theo Christos informed us we'd be spending a few days on Mykonos, too, at my cousin Loula's place. Just as some Austin people have lake places and vacation ranches and farms, Athenians have island places, it seems. Seeing both with kinfolk was an opportunity to compare and contrast, especially since the islands were so close you could see one from the other's port.
I'd visited Mykonos a long time ago, when I was a card-carrying member of the international backpack set and camped out in caves near Paradise Beach, when there wasn't much to the sleepy little island. Since then, Mykonos has evolved into a jet-set destination, and Paradise Beach is a 24/7 party.
Syros, my uncle kept telling me, was not like Mykonos.
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Joe Nick Patoski