If you are reading this, hopefully you have read Part 1, so I will spare the background. This one is a wee bit long… but fun, I promise, so bear with me.
The ferry to Mykonos was fairly uneventful – other than – oh I left my phone in the Taxi. So let me start with a tip that’s useful for every time you step out of the house with baby. [Tip: If you are carrying a baby do not carry phone in your hand – put it right back in the purse or diaper bag after using it. Because when you get up from the table or leave the taxi in a hurry your mindspace will be more occupied with the baby and you will not remember to pick up your phone. OK, but I really had no excuse for leaving the phone everywhere before Arya was born ;-)]
Luckily we had the Taxi driver’s number – we called him and he promptly came back to the port with it – just in time for the ferry to depart. Phew!
First Night in Mykonos – Mommy’s Night Out
We arrived in Mykonos at around 5pm and were received by Marietta – the owner of our Hotel – Marietta’s. It was a quaint little place with only five rooms – of which we had three. It is the ancestral home of the owner, and located right by the Windmills. We hauled our luggage and stroller up two flights of stairs and settled in (annoying part was hauling the stroller up and down each time – but Saurabh and my Father-in-law managed). But the view from our balcony was worth a million bucks! Pristine blue waters, white houses with blue windows, and the windmills lining the back. This was not the most baby friendly room with its metal bed and sharp moldings on furniture (yes, that is how detailed your research needs to be with a baby) – but sometimes that is the price you pay for the view. One of us was always carefully watching Arya who had just discovered her mobility and was testing it in every which way! [Tip: Consider the tradeoff of practicality and the location. If I had to do it over I would probably still pick a great location over baby friendliness in Mykonos… it was only 2 nights!]
We sheepishly requested my mother-in-law to watch Arya for the night so Saurabh and I could enjoy a night out in Mykonos, and yippee! She agreed (or I would haul poor sleeping Arya to restaurants and bars with me)! Excited by the prospect of real partying with great cocktails and grown up music (no Wheels on the Bus!) – I switched off from mommy-mode and pulled out the sexiest dress I fit into without the baby fat oozing, slapped on some makeup, gave my hair a blow dryer and hair spray lift, and set out to paint the town red with Saurabh. Except… everyone outside was wearing jackets and jeans because it was 13 degrees and drizzling. Adamant on making my night out count, I refused to go back to change. Three bars, two frozen legs, and only an hour and half later I was ready to go back and snuggle in my bed. [Tip: Ok… I wont even bother spelling this one out. But lesson learned]
The next morning, Saurabh went on a coffee run while I played with Arya, who was awake way earlier than I was ready for her. Some days I really wish babies came with a snooze button! We dragged our feet and performed her morning massage and bath rituals and set out for breakfast at an artisanal bakery – Il forno di Gerasimo. If you are breadaholic like me, bring your sponsor – because you die and go to bread heaven as soon as you enter the bakery. I wanted to pounce at every croissant, patty, and bun in sight (then I saw the love handles on top of the waist of my jeans…). Arya had some fresh orange juice and spinach bread for breakfast and Saurabh and I had our favorite – sausage rolls and coffee.
We were walking towards the taxi stands at the center of town to head to Paradise beach when we ran into Marietta, who suggested that we go to Paraga beach instead, which she said was more “family friendly” (read: fewer nude people). So we took two taxis and headed to the beach. Paraga beach was definitely a vision! The sun glistening against the beautiful blue water was so inviting – but I wasn’t going to fall for it this time. Arya and I enjoyed the view and the beach from the sun bed. We loitered there for a bit, had some coffee and Prosecco, and started to making our way towards the famous Nikola’s Tarverna, that everyone on Tripadvisor raved about. Nikola’s was awesome! Even the vegetarians loved the food there. And they are extremely baby friendly – have all the baby
equipment and will modify recipes to suit babies. Well fed and sun soaked, we headed back to Mykonos city for some street shopping. We walked around in our neighborhood with Little Venice and Old Port within walking distance, went in and out of art galleries and boutique shops. Saurabh and I took turns carrying Arya in the sling – which is better when you are in crowded areas – strollers are bit harder to maneuver through crowds. [Tip: I know I mentioned this at the end of my last post – keep talking to the baby about how beautiful everything is – I really do believe it calms them down. Each time I felt Arya was getting a bit restless I would start describing things around me and ask her if she liked them – I probably sounded insane to passers by – but it helped keep Arya calm.]
We had a relaxed half day next day – I went for a walk through the farmers market while Saurabh massaged and bathed Arya. [Tip1: Daddies have their own method of massaging and bathing baby – let them do their thing. I feel like if I issue too many instructions Saurabh wouldn’t enjoy this chore as much… so what if their method involves “dunking baby in bucket like an Oreo in milk” in his words] [Tip2: It’s ok to spend some time alone on vacation – Saurabh doesn’t care much about farmer’s markets anyway – so why drag him through it?] When I came back I found them playing in the room. We walked to the restaurants at the Old Port for some breakfast with Arya in stroller. We had some breakfast while Arya slept in the stroller – perfectly timed that one. We took a long walk to the New Port from there passing street performers, vendors, and art galleries on the way. By the time we got back to the hotel it was time to pack up leave for the port for our ferry to Athens.
Athens and the Charming Neighborhood of Petralona
We docked in Athens at about 7pm, where we had taxis waiting for us (Thank God for that because it was raining and the taxi line was about a hundred people long). We made our way from the Piraeus port to the neighborhood of Petralona where I had booked a three-bedroom house on Airbnb.
This was possibly my best Airbnb experience! The host Clio was the most charming lady who warmly welcomed each one of us with warm hugs and kisses on each cheek – now (for those of you who are in traditional Indian families) imagine my Father-in-law getting kissed by some strange lady in front of all of us – awk-warrd!. These cultural mismatch situations always crack me up! Clio had so thoughtfully made us a huge bowl of Greek salad, a jug of fresh orange juice, and some spinach and cheese pie. She even stocked the pantry with milk, eggs, bread, butter, and jams so we wouldn’t have to run to the grocery store in the morning. What a sweetheart! No hotel can ever match the warmth and welcome of an actual person letting you in their home (and their lives)… So thank you – Brain, Joe, and Nathan for founding Airbnb! Clio gave us a grand tour of her house, which was decorated with artifacts and paintings collected over decades. We promised to keep the children careful around her precious crockery and curios. Arya was just happy to have a huge space to crawl in after that restrictive room in Mykonos. I think Clio and Arya were instantly in love with each other – each time Clio spoke to her Arya chirped as though she found a long lost friend! [Tip: I think Airbnb’s work better with babies. See if there is an option to get one instead of a hotel. Having a kitchen and free space for the baby to crawl/run around in definitely makes is more comfortable for both parents and babies.]
Clio gave us a tour of that enchanted neighborhood – it’s like time had come to a halt there. Tavern and restaurant owners, who all knew and greeted Clio as we walked by, sat in front of their establishments – smoking and chatting. The most charming part was an open-air movie theatre on the next block from us – it was like from those 60’s Hollywood movies. The owner knew Clio and let us in for a peak. It was a big screen in front a lawn with wrought iron chair chairs and bougainvillea lined walls. There was a French movie playing in the background – I felt as though I had been transported to another decade! After the tour Clio left for the night, and we explored the house and neighborhood on our own.
I could have sworn that house was haunted!
Ok, I will tell you more about Athens later – but I could have sworn that house we stayed in was haunted. So – I am the last one to believe in ghosts – but when things are this creepy even I get creeped out! I could write five more pages about all the things that made the house appear haunted at night. But I will list the top three. First, when we went up from the ground floor to the first there was painting of a woman in the landing between staircases that seemed to creepily follow you. And all of us independently noticed that. Second, right as you arrive at the first floor you see these creepy old dolls (one with a broken arm) sitting in a rocking chair. My mother-in-law put them in the closet for the duration of our stay. Third, for our first two nights, Arya was super restless as soon as we entered the bedroom. Each night she would randomly wake up in the middle of the night and cry uncontrollably while looking at the painting in front of our bed. And I don’t know if it was to scare me even more, but Saurabh pointed out that Arya cried at the same time as when the cats in the streets start meowing. Ok, I am creeped out just writing about this… I don’t even want to think about it. But while we were there it was scary and funny all at once – funny because grown-ups were afraid to go down alone to get water from the kitchen at night, and we traveled around the house in twos! ☺
Now… About Athens
So I don’t want to ruin Athens for those of you haven’t been there yet – but I was a bit underwhelmed by the sightseeing. Possibly because Saurabh and I had gone to Jordan less than two years ago, and thought the ruins, and the architecture was a lot more impressive there. We were within walking distance from the Acropolis and the Museum. We spent pretty much all of the first day sightseeing. Since we had a fully equipped kitchen at our disposal we decided to eat in – which was a relief especially for Saurabh’s parents because their traditional Indian palates were tired of eating bland food for the last week. We cooked up some Maggi noodles that we had packed.
On the second day, after a breakfast with a view of the Acropolis, Saurabh and I decided to explore Athens on foot. We enjoyed the day walking through the National Gardens to the neighborhood of Kolonaki – which is supposedly (according to the all-knowing Wikipedia) like Soho in New York. The National Gardens, of course, was a relaxing walk through tree lines streets and trails – reminded of lazy Sunday afternoon in Central Park in New York. Kolonaki was just as charming as I had imagined it to be – we stopped at cute little bakeries to taste their wares and finally settled on the Chef and the Dog for lunch. They had an incredible menu of modern fusion hotdogs. I got a lobster roll, and Saurabh got a wasabi dressed Japanese hot dog. Both of us were immensely satisfied with us lunch. [Tip: if you know you are going to travel a lot I would invest in a heavy duty stroller. We bought the Graco Click-Connect Jogging Stroller and it has survived a lot of terrains – beach, pebbles, cobble-stones, and what not. Its large wheels help absorb shocks and keep the baby stable and safe. I also use it to jog in KBR Park]
After some quick shopping in the streets and we Googled “bars with a view in Athens” on the phone, and the first one that shows up is a bar called “A for Athens”. Google maps said we were just 1.5Kms from the bar. So we decided to go for it – walked through the narrow streets to the neighborhood of Monastiraki. The bar staff looked at us all weird because – who brings a sleeping baby to a loud bar?! But here is my take – why care about what random people you will most likely never meet again, think? You know best what makes your baby uncomfortable and you wont do it. Luckily for us, Arya can sleep through a rock concert once she is asleep (just not to the sound of other babies). We parked the stroller next to our table and enjoyed the fabulous view of the Acropolis and the Monastiraki Square with some cocktails. [Tip: I know this is the age of Helicopter Parenting, and we strive to do everything that is right for the baby everyday. But I think we have to cut ourselves some slack every now and then and do the little things that make us happy too. I think that can only help us sustain a great relationship with our babies in the long term]
The next day was our last in Athens, and we had to leave for our flight at noon. Clio was back to check us out and help us to the cabs. Clio and Arya enjoyed their last moments together. In our Airbnb review Clio wrote more about Arya than she did about us – calling her a “joie de vivre.” It was Mothers Day so Saurabh used his miles to upgrade me to business class as a gift! Arya and I enjoyed the style and comfort of the Emirates hospitality on journey back to Hyderabad, India.
To Summarize My Learnings from the Trip to Greece…
- Traveling in a group helps – even if it is in-laws. You have the option to have other people watch the baby for a bit when you need it. But even if you don’t have that option – don’t fret – just tackle all baby chores as a team. Or if you are a single mom traveling alone with baby – reduce the chores as much as possible – not massaging or bathing the baby for one day won’t affect their health or future athletic career!
- You become more confident as the trip goes on. While I was nervously unpacking on my day 1 in Santorini wondering what clothing and gadgets I will need that day, I was a pro by the time we go to Athens – knew exactly what was needed for each day. So, give yourself some time to figure it out.
- If daddies are not regularly bathing or changing babies at home, make them practice a few times so that they are up for it during vacation. And, I will say it again, let them do it their way. Don’t issue too many instructions.
- Do a little of research about where you are staying and consider the pro and cons of the features offered by the accommodations. Keep a good mix of features that make you happy and those that make baby happy. If you can find both in one (like our Airbnb) then Bob’s your uncle.
- Most of all: cheesy and cliche as it sounds – stay positive. Tell yourself loudly that you can do this (if you need that affirmation) or just talk out loud about how much fun you are having and baby will latch-on to that sentiment too.
So, my dear mommies (and daddies and anyone else reading)…
Tell me about your travels with your baby. Do you have any tips for me before I plan my next vacation?
Well… I have the next one planned already – I am off to Sri Lanka in two days. Look forward to telling you all about it!