Have you ever wanted to return to a place from your past? Perhaps rekindle childhood memories, reconnect with family and loved ones or reflect on who you’ve become since you went to wherever it was? Often taking that brave step to revisit a country that you’re very fond of or have a deep personal connection with, can be a magical soulful search into everything you’re seeking. It can strike sentimental and sensational chords deep within you, exhilarate and exhaust you all at the same time. For me, this place is Greece and all Her glorious beauties. From the time I was conceived in my mother’s womb, I’ve been a part of it, for it was because and through her that I inherited the “half-Greek” in me. I was fortunate to ride majestic jetliners onboard TWA and Pan Am into Athina since the early 60’s, when just the act of flying as a passenger was still considered in itself quite a luxury that few could afford or experience. I spent almost every summer of my life reuniting with my multitude of Greek ya-ya’s, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. We were the original “My Big Fat Greek Family” end every hour of every day in “My Big Fat Greek Life” was spent either planning what to cook, actually cooking, then eating it all, and spending hours visiting together while debating about everything imaginable under the Hellenic sun. Throughout my life, there was always so much passion shared for life and food, good company and story-telling. When we bored of being together, we would find our sparks again through venturing out over the mainland and its coastline. Riding along in the sidecar of my favorite uncle’s vintage motorcycle, we would traverse the olive grove hillsides seeking the best places to escape the heat while we nibbled on our souvlakis in the shade; afterwards we’d seek some solitude at a church or monastery to give thanks to Theotokos (The Virgin Mary). After nurturing our spirit-selves, we’d whisk away to the hidden coves within the scenic coastal towns to swim our troubles away in the warm waters of the Aegean beaches. Throughout the years, as I grew older, every visit became even more special because we were all getting older. Sadly, the day had come when Father Time had stopped its hand on our family’s Matriarch, and I found myself completing and utterly lost by the passing away of my mother. I felt frozen in time – unable to have any passionate feelings whatsoever for being Greek, much less having any desire to visit my Motherland of days past.
But then, a beautiful thing happened! With the old adage of “time heals all things” under my belt, I found myself being tempted….I heard Her calling me, beckoning me fiercely to return and be with Her. And so, I gave into the Siren’s song and I set off a couple of years ago with the love of my life to experience a renewed love affair back into the Land of the Greek Gods. The Aegean is famous for its magical soul-stirring azure waters and breathtaking scenery – nothing exudes this more than the romantic Greek Isles. Each one is uniquely captivating and no matter which one you choose, they all tempt you in the most amazing ways to come and be indulged while being immersed within their local charm. Like Homer and his Odyssey, you can easily become spell-bound and lured to the Siren’s calling – she eagerly teases you to experience Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Crete or one of the smaller lesser-trampled upon islands such as Foligandros, Naxos or Samos. Athens is certainly the heart of the country and where you can explore the ancient Acropolis and the perfectly built archaeological wonder of The Parthenon. Certainly if you get here on your Bucket List, take time to explore these ancient wonders, along with the historic and charming cobblestoned Plaka district filled with a plethora of trinkets and treasures. Accommodate yourself in this exciting metropolis within its beautiful properties, such as The Grande Bretagne (the stunning historically renovated Beaux Arts beauty), the King George Palace (the majestically prestigious hotel situated in the heart of the heart), or the Westin Astir Palace Beach Hotel (located along the chic seaside resort on the Athens Riviera). Greece’s grandeur of its culture might be throned in Athens, but it’s Her tiny isles and the spirited lifestyle of its people that have captivated my soul ever since I was a young child. And then there’s Her food – the simply scrumptious heart-healthy cuisine that has emerged with such a modern flair to become one of the most sought-after lifestyle diets in the world.
Consider immersing yourself into the Minoan civilization on Crete, which is the mythical birthplace of Zeus. Wander the legendary landscape of rugged mountain ranges and its sun-drenched beaches. Experience the quintessential Greek-isle architecture of the island’s Blue Palace Resort & Spa (this world-class resort offers 142 private pools, breathtaking sea views and stylish bungalows encased with luxurious suites). Escape into the tantalizing Cyclades Islands which is home to fashionista-haven Mykonos and sultry Santorini with her hypnotic sunsets. Here, you can frolick along picture-postcard beaches and acquire a Grecian-Goddess bronze glow, sip ouzo served-up alongside delicious culinary mezes at the local tavernas, and partake of endless merry-making in the open-air dance clubs under starry-filled skies. On the isle of Mykonos, indulge yourself with a stay at Kivotos (an elegant art-filled villa with individually decorated luxurious rooms with sea-view balconies), or perhaps wrap yourself around the heavenly boutique thalasso (sea)-spa resorts of the Myconian Ambassodar & Myconian Imperial (with rejuvenating from-the-sea body treatments and suites with private spa tubs). Fall in love again on the island of Santorini, with its other-worldly panoramic views, the winding paths along the caldera and the little heavenly white-washed villages all intertwined within its glorious myth of being home to the “Lost Atlantis”. It was here, that I became a Muse again, within the entrancing 5-star views that come free with almost every resort. Whether you opt to lounge like a Greek cat in the sacred sun or sip Boutari wine like Dionysius at Santorini Grace, Canavaes Oia Suites, Katikies, or The Mystique (all cliff-built dwellings are approximately 3000-feet above the sea), you will certainly feel you’ve died and gone to Heaven’s Gates. Or perhaps you might feel more inclined to live like the ancient islanders, in a cave – a luxuriously transformed oasis cliffside home that is – such as found within Perivolas or the exquisitely classical villa-art filled Tsitouras Collection of homes. If however, you prefer to journey like Odysseus did, then escape to remote far-away islands on-board a private yacht and charter on his historic course with a crew that will pamper you into an Aegean spell-bound ecstasy (or should I say odyssey)?!
I must admit, having returned back to Greece after a several-years hiatus, I experienced a renewed well-being with my soul mate through traveling back into time. I truly connect with the quote made famous by Lawrence Block, “sometimes our happiest moments as travelers happen when you stumble upon the pursuit of something else”. In my past I found something new in my present self…..I got smitten all over again with Greece and in the process, I emerged newly enlightened with my past. And yes, I was most certainly found sitting in a seat with a gyro in hand at the much anticipated return of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding II” when it debuted this past March.