One vaporetto, one bus, and one soul-crushingly long check-in line later, I boarded a plane bound for Athens.  Upon arriving in Athens I was greeted outside baggage claim by a wiry old Greek man holding a hand-written sign that read “MR. LUCE WILLIAMS.” Naturally, I assumed this sign was meant for me. I was correct.  Kostas, the sign-holder, and I waited a few minutes before my long lost sista Kath emerged from behind two glass doors wearing *almost* the same outfit as me. Reunited at last.

Kostas drove wildly through the Athenian highways toward our hotel and all the while gave us tips, restaurant recs, and anecdotes for the road. He was borderline appalled when he learned Katherine and I had not seen each other since Christmas, as indicated by hand flailing and gasps.

Athens consisted of the best Greek yogurt of muh lyfe, exploring the city on foot, Greek salads, free white wine, tzatziki for dayyysssss, visiting the Acropolis, etc. Also included was a trip to the Athenian poet / sandal-maker, Stavros Melissinos, as well the discovery of a shop run by two lovely Greek women who make custom scents from organic oils for the price of a sandwich. Thanks to them, I now smell like a magical autumn morning full of happiness and sunshine, or something similar.

We made it to Chania, Crete via overnight ferry. Chania is where I have enjoyed one of my first pleasant beach days (save for the mad face-burn that thankfully has since faded). Usually I just get hot and annoyed that I have sand stuck to my face and in my swimsuit and bored after a couple hours. Not in Chania. The chatter of nearby beachers was surprisingly pleasant, largely because it was all in languages I could not understand and thus, had no inclination to eaves drop on. ALAS, I just lounged on a chair and read East of Eden and ate pita bread and splashed around in the ocean every now and then.
After nearly – but NOT – missing the bus to the trail head, Kath and I hiked the Samaria Gorge. 14km, saw a satisfactory amount of kir-kri (Cretan Mountain Goats), met one Canadian, no rockslides, finished strong. Spent the night in Agia Roumeli, and the next day took a ferry to Loutro.

LOUTRO. What a gem. Tucked away into a tiny inlet on a scrubby hillside in the south of Crete lies Loutro, a small, whitewashed fishing village. We spent our time in Loutro swimming along the coast, testing baklava, kayaking in the Algerian Sea – the bluest I have ever seen, paddling into shaded caves for snack breaks – caves like the ones where St. Paul was washed up in southern Crete. Maybe the same one… who’s to say? We also spent an impressive portion of our time sifting through the brilliantly colored and patterned rocks on the shore. We sprawled face-down, like beached toddlers, collecting these stones. This was also a great idea because we had overweight baggage to begin with, and everyone knows the best thing to do with overweight luggage is to add rocks!

Loutro to Sfakia, Sfakia to Rethymno, Rethymno to Heraklion. One night in the Heraklion Youth Hostel. Sometimes you just have to ignore Trip Advisor reviews and hope for the best. It worked! No trauma OR diseases. How’s that for beating all odds?
One ferry ride later, Santorini.

Santorini: See Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It was essentially the same, only with more legitimate sisterhood and fewer angry grandparents. Similar amounts of forbidden love and magic jeans.

Our host in Santorini was a bold, hospitable Greek woman named Maria who spoke broken English and often referred to herself in third person. “Maria make you coffee now.”
We took the island by storm. Said storming was made possible by our decision to rent an ATV for the few days. Our bright yellow steed of an ATV carried us across the island along stretches of open road where I continued to fall more and more in love with the desert landscape, and through villages like Megalochori where we stumbled upon what is apparently the oldest winery in Greece.  We walked the high trail from Imerovigli to Oia, spent the afternoon on a rocky beach, and got a ride back into town from a Serbian electro-pop DJ just in time for dinner and the sunset.

A note on sunsets: They’re a pretty big deal over there. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people all migrate to the hillside to watch the sun go down every night – as though the sun were a rare sight and had not had the same routine every day from the beginning of time. But nonetheless, the hot pink sun slowly sank until it dipped below the horizon into the glittery sea, without even the faintest hint of stage fright, and the spectators walked home, not one of them disappointed by the show.