Day 2 / Sunday August 21st / Mykonos Greece
Sunday was the first real full day for my mother and me on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer cruise ship! Hurrah! As expected, despite the exhaustion, neither of us slept well the first night. We had breakfast, me with my traditional fresh fruit plate. We rested a while more and then had a light lunch. I had my usual salad. Then we walked down to the pier for 12:40pm where we met up with our group for our tour of the island of Mykonos, Greece. Today’s tour was specifically of a monastery, then an ouzo tasting, then a short walk through the main town of Mykonos.
There were enough people for this tour that they split us into several busses. We got our bus assignment and walked a short distance to board.
The bus drove out through quiet rural countryside with abandoned farmland marked by low stone walls. Apparently the farm families have mostly gone into tourism instead which is much more profitable. Mykonos receives millions of tourists a year and in comparison has very few locals to manage them. We heard about this imbalance several times during the tour.
Due to the multiple busses, our group ended up going to the ouzo tasting first. It was in a quite small village. We parked in a tiny parking lot then walked up a steep street to a small stone plaza. There were a few little shops around the square. One had a ton of cat sculptures and gifts. I hoped I could shop there, but we never had time.
We were led into a quiet open-air cafe. The one table of locals there fled as we approached. We were told which tables to sit at. Each person was provided a plate of a few olives, tomatoes, and such. We each got a small glass of ouzo – a liqueur with an anise flavor. They put on loud Greek wedding music.
Once we had all drunk our ouzo, it was a short walk around the corner to the Monstery of Panagia Tourliani. In essence this was a small marble church with a lovely belltower and a few side buildings.
We stood in the courtyard for perhaps ten minutes while the previous group finished inside. Our guide told us the history of the monastery. Once the other group left, we went into the church. It had a lovely engraved wood inner wall. We learned that visitors who were healed would then donate jewelry, which was put on display.
Around the monastery area, there were many cats. We were told Mykonos is overrun with cats, and indeed we saw quite a lot of them. The cats all seemed well cared for. People here love their cats.
We walked back to the bus and we drove back down toward the dock / main town of Mykonos. The boat dock is only a short 10-minute shuttle ride away from the downtown parking area. That parking lot is then a five-minute walk from downtown itself. Our tour bus took us to the parking lot.
At this point my mom was tired. She went right from our tour bus over to the ship shuttle bus. Several other people did as well. The rest of us – about fifteen people – followed the tour guide.
The tour guide set out at a fast pace along the waterfront until we got to the town plaza. We stopped her briefly while she told us about the statue of a heroic woman, Manto Mavrogenous, who in the early 1800s fought for Greece against the Turks.
Then we delved into the town itself.
Mykonos deliberately designed its town to have hundreds of tiny, narrow, twisting alleys specifically to confuse and slow down pirates when pirates attack. The alleys are all slender, go up and down and around, and are easy to get lost in. Nowadays they’re lined with gift shops rather than residences. The alleys are all quite pretty, painted in white, with colorful doors and shutters. The tour guide kept us going through that maze at a fast pace to get to our next stop – the windmills.
One couple, exhausted, asked her please if they could wait and just have her get them when she came back. She said no, she goes back on a different route so people could see different things. She told them to just keep up. In essence she said they’d never find their way out on their own so they had to stay with the group.
We finally got to the famous windmills. These are a line of six no-longer-functioning no-sails-in-place historic buildings. Most people in the group were very tired by now. But now we had to walk all the way back out again. The alleys were twisty, with protuberances to catch at the feet. It was definitely hard on many of the tour people. The tour guide told the group to just take photos of shop names they liked along the way, that way they would know where to come back later to shop there. However, it was clear that nobody was going to try that.
We finally made it back to the main plaza.
The tour guide asked if anyone wanted to remain to do some shopping. Everybody looked at her as if she were crazy. At last I tentatively spoke up. I said I’d stay. I wanted to look for those cat statues I’d seen near the monastery.
The tour guide began telling me how to look for specific, complicated landmarks so when I got lost I’d find my way out. I said I’d be fine. I’ll mention that this entire maze shopping area is a “jut out” into the ocean. That is, there is water on three sides. It’s not as if you can go very far until you run into water, and then you just follow that coast clockwise to get back to the main plaza. There is literally no way to get “really” lost in a grand sense of things.
She kept listing ways for me to find my way out.
I didn’t want to hold up the entire group for this, so I held up my phone and mentioned I had google maps as a backup.
I now got a lecture about how google maps never worked and I’d be lost forever. I reassured her I’d be fine.
The people around me expressed their faith in my ability to get out of a tourist town that was, after all, surrounded on water on three sides. I couldn’t get THAT lost.
Off they all went, back to the parking lot.
I headed into the maze of twisty white passages, all alike.
Bizarrely, even though I went down alley after alley, looking through a variety of different shops, NONE of them had the cute cat sculptures that I’d seen near the monastery. That shop must have featured a particular artist who only sold near the monastery. So I was even more sad that I wasn’t given time back then to do some shopping. Still, I found lots of contentedly sleeping cats to take photos of. I went back to explore the windmills. I walked along the water.
Finally, I wanted a direct route back to the main plaza. I popped up Google Maps and, you know what, it works just fine. I wriggled my way back out of the maze and down to the main plaza. Then it was easy enough to go along the water back to the parking lot. I then took the shuttle bus back to the ship.
Shower time!! This time I paid attention to why water was appearing in the toilet area. I realized that the water wasn’t overflowing the shower area or getting past the sliding glass door somehow. Instead, it was bubbling up from the floor drain near the toilet. I.e. something in the under-floor plumbing was backing up. I made a note to tell the reception desk.
Normally this would be the time where my mom and I would go and listen to the string quartet. Sadly, though, there was no string quartet on the schedule. Instead, we went to dinner out on the Veranda. It was an Italian theme.
The Veranda is the ‘casual’ dining area on the back of the ship. It has both an inside and outside area. At lunch it’s a buffet. We chose to eat outside. It was fairly windy but nice. I had veal piccata. There were two pieces given, and for some reason one was very salty while the other was normal. This was the only real food issue I had during the cruise, besides some of the meat being tough.
My mom went back to the room. I walked around the ship to photograph the art. The art here wasn’t nearly as nice as on the Oceania. Yes there was the occasional piece from Picasso or another known artist, but overall there were many blank walls and many similar pieces.
Time to sleep!
Step count: 11,540 steps