Monday, June 18, 2018

A Summer’s Day ~ And a Greek Island Getaway

The boat was cutting through a liquid sapphire as it sped towards the island of Hydra.
The sky above us, cloudless.
The Mediterranean sun, intense.
It is summer in Greece.
And we were heading to a Greek island.
The Sapphire Sea
We’d dropped our houseguests at the Athens airport and were returning to The Mani, the place we call home these days. With plans for an overnight stay somewhere along our route, The Scout veered us a bit to the south of the main highway that links us to Athens and aimed our trusty Hi Ho Silver towards Hydra, one of the Saronic Islands off the east coast of the Peloponnese.

Leaving Metochi for Hydra
The Saronic islands are some of the closest to Athens; a quick ferry or catamaran trip away from Piraeus,where the Athens port is located. We opted for the ‘road trip’ way of getting there: driving along the coastline of the ‘first finger’ of the Peloponnese to Metochi where we left our car and took a small passenger-only boat to Hydra. It was an even quicker ferry trip: 25 minutes. (Cost was 6.50-euro per person each way and parking 5 euro for each calendar day).

The coastal road to Metochi; guardrails festooned in oleander
These spontaneous, without set destination, outings are the kind during which one of us will  say, “This! . . . This, is why we moved here.”

This is why we sold our home of 30 years put our old life in a storage unit in the far away U.S. Pacific Northwest and moved to a full-time life in Greece.

A road trip that takes you to a Greek island. No bottom-numbing airplane journeys. No huge suitcases.

Simply a whim and and overnight bag.

Ferry from Metochi arrives at Hydra harbor
Hydra (hee-draw) is one of our favorite island destinations. This time of year, there are plenty of  ‘beautiful people’ strutting along and enough mega yachts arriving at its compact crescent-shaped harbor to give it that feel of Santorini or Mykonos. But it has managed to balance tourism with its small island charm that continues to make it warm and inviting.

The last time we stayed here was on a blustery night in late October a few years ago. That time of year, fFew commercial establishments were open. We followed a local man who greeted the ferry with a sign ‘rooms for rent’ to his hotel.  The sheets were thin; the room clean. The island, simply magical. We vowed to return one day.

We were charmed then by the fact that no motorized vehicles (except a tiny garbage truck) are allowed on the island.  You walk or hire a donkey, horse or water taxi to get around. The harbor area is so compact it is easy to get around on foot.

Aperol Spritz break for harbor-watching

This time of year bars, restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlors ring the harbor with outside seating. . .perfect places to sit and soak up the ambiance of Greek island life. Mega yachts share the harbor with the village fishing fleet (fishing and sponge gathering were once major industries here but now tourism takes top billing.)  Ferries and water taxis buzz in and out like busy bees.

Name your destination and these fellows will get you there 
Some of you may know of Hydra because Canadian song-writer Leonard Cohen lived there for many years and penned several tunes there. The island is included in Henry Miller’s 1941 impressionist travelogue, The Colossus of Marousi. 

Mega yachts always add a touch of class to a harbor
This trip we arrived without reservations – on a late Thursday afternoon – we wouldn’t recommend arriving without them this time of year on a weekend or anytime in July and August.  We found accommodations at a charming hotel – Hotel Sophia  - on the waterfront. Opened in 1934, it was the first hotel, they say, in Hydra. Our modern, air conditioned room with en suite, was 90 euros a night and included a full breakfast. (The sheets were thick and wonderful).

Hyrdra Harbor at night
As day tourists headed out, Hydra turned up the charm. The harbor quieted for the night and cafes that had been bursting with diners and drinkers hours earlier emptied. The night’s stillness was broken only by the clanking rhythms of riggings on the ships.

Nighttime scenes and sounds are only surpassed by early morning when the pack horses arrive to take loads from supply ships.

Heading to the harbor in Hydra
The work crew paraded past the entry to our hotel so with steaming cups of coffee in hand we followed them around the corner to the harbor to watch the show; rituals of daily Greek island life that has continued through the decades.

Just one more for balance. . .
If you are planning a Greek island getaway, do put the Saronic Islands on your list. We don’t think you will be disappointed! We plan to return to Hydra—then hop through the chain of island by ferry.

Just a bit more . . .
That’s it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill.  We hope you’ll be back next week for another installment of life in  Greece. We thank you for the time you’ve spent with us on this little road trip. Until we are together again, good wishes for healthy and happy travels ~

We are linking up with a fine bunch of bloggers this week at:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend


  1. Lovely little life on the Greek Pelopponese. Would love to take such road trips to those charming islands! And then return to a Stome House on the Hill!

    1. It is proving itself to be all that we thought it would be and more!

  2. Oh how lovely to be able to drop by to a Greek Island so easily. I love the look of HeeDraw. I'm so happy you told us how to say the name properly. I've always thought of it as HiDra!

    1. We still shake our heads in wonder. . .there they are, so close that it is still amazing to us!

  3. I didn't realize one of our native sons (Leonard Cohen) lived on Hydra. Interesting little factoid for anyone who needs a reason to visit - beyond it being a GREEK ISLE of course!!!

    1. Yes, his being there is certainly talked of a lot around here; just like Nikos Kazantzakis, living in our village of Stoupa when he was inspired to write Zorba, the Greek.

    2. Wow, it is soooo much fun to travel with you and I am loving life in Greece! Hydra is just charming.
      Farm Gal in VA

    3. Oh Farm Gal, so love seeing comments from you! Please keep traveling with us! Jackie

  4. I have not previously heard of Hydra or the Saronic Islands, and certainly didn't know that fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen had lived there! Thx for this insightful post.

    1. They are an insanely popular chain of islands that are among our favorites - easy to reach and wonderfully welcoming.

  5. Nice tour. Looks like a place I would enjoy because I like walking around places to get a better feel for the location. And any place with water nearby suits me. - Margy

    1. It is a fabulous place, Margy. Next time we do plan to do some exploring beyond the harbor area which in itself you could spend a day just 'sittin' and watchin' the world go by.

  6. Want another houseguest? I've never been to the Greek Islands and find your posts so enticing!

  7. Sounds like a place I need to add this to my ever-growing bucket list! Maybe someday, when we rent a place in Europe for a few months, we'll actually get to do it!

    1. You will be like a kid in a candy shop with all the destinations available for cheap airfare and short distance flights from which to choose!

  8. With the lack of cars and the donkeys working, it looks like in the early morning or off season, you could close your eyes and feel transported to an earlier time. I enjoy your capacity for serendipity.

    1. Especially in the early morning and late evening when the day tourists have left the island, it does feel like you've stepped back into yesteryear.

  9. I love reading about your adventures living in Greece! There are so many Greek islands to explore! Hydra sounds like one I would enjoy and it is nice that it's so close to Athens!

  10. Oh yes, of all people, you would love exploring this and its neighboring Saronic Islands.

  11. is sooo beautiful there. It all seems so magical. I notice how clean the streets are...with all the donkeys, that surprises me.
    I know you and your sweetie are having the time of your lives.....

    1. We are definitely working at it, that's for sure, BJ. Thanks for the visit!

  12. That looks like a lot of fun. Your travel pictures are beautiful!

  13. Hydra is charm personified and I know exactly what you mean by "“This! . . . This, is why we moved here.” We see the very wealthy vacationing here too in the Algarve but really, except for a little daydreaming occasionally about going first class, I really don't think you could improve much on either your life-style or ours. I think we've both found our 'happy places!'

    1. Yes, so agreed! It is a happy place, isn't it?? Mentally, emotionally, and physically.


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