Our Private Pool – By Ryan Lau –

Naxos is our longest stop on this trip, we are staying for ten nights! We met with some of our cousins who were visiting Greece and watched a beautiful sunset with them from our dinner table. Naxos is our relaxing stop for we have our own private pool. Our favourite beach has comfy hammocks and massive waves which are fun to play in.

I enjoy reading books together out loud as a family and our most recent book was about an ancient Korean potter, so we thought it only fitting to visit a pottery shop and see actual pieces being made. It was amazing to see the clay transforming from a grey lump into a beautiful vase shape. There were hundreds of sculpted pieces, molded and painted beautifully. In the same small village we saw a traditional olive oil press that was in use till the 1900’s.

We visited an ancient marble quarry where they would carve out the general shape of the sculpture then drag them down the mountain. Sometimes parts of the statues broke in transport so they were left where they fell and new pieces had to be cut.

While exploring the island, we found part of the ancient Roman aqueducts that led from the natural spring to the main town. An eighty meter section of the aqueduct was partially restored along with other sections in the snaking route it took. The aqueduct was 11 kilometres long running through small villages along the way.

On our second to last day in Naxos we visited Chalki (pronounced Halki), the main town on Naxos. We saw beautiful orange trees with the fruit hanging from the branches and an abandoned house with a massive rose bush blooming from it. Naxos is another island we’ve returned to and I am very glad we did.

Naxos, a Wonderful Greek Paradise!

Next port of call: Naxos. We have been to this island before, and we loved it so much we had to come back. As our longest stop, we got a small villa which features a private pool with stunning views as the main attraction. It is here where we spent the majority of the first few days.

Once we were finally able to pull ourselves away from the poolside, we discovered a unique way to enjoy the beach, in hammocks! The taverna just opposite the beach put out 10-15 hammocks in sets of two with umbrellas, in addition to a few rows of regular loungers. I love the hammocks, the only downside being the amount of sand that ends up in the hammock by way of your feet. They are very soft and comfy, and I enjoyed reading in them, it was a very unique experience. The beach itself was situated in line with the ferry lanes, causing large waves to crash to shore in short bursts every 20 minutes or so. I thoroughly enjoyed playing in these large waves, and at the end of the day, I had perfected the art of getting into the water as fast as possible since the waves never lasted very long!

We did more then just relax however, and hiked up a small hill to where, in ancient days, marble was mined. It was then cut out into the approximate shape before being transported to the more artistic metropolises in Europe to be crafted into fine statues. These were often built for people of significant wealth or stature.

The crude rock statues that remain are here because a leg broke, or there was an accident while transporting. It is amazing to see the sheer size of this carving, with no power tools or any heavy machinery used. The stone masons who worked here carried the statues out by hand, before it was placed in a cart for transport to the port.

I personally loved Naxos, for the stunning sunset views, as well as the great beaches. With this as our rest stop, we will soon be going on to the island of Paros as this adventure continues!


There Is A First Time For Everything! – By Ryan Lau –

In Folegandros we disembarked from the fast ferry and walked across the small port town to our hotel.  Folegandros is a beautiful island with crystal clear waters. The port city was much smaller than I expected, taking only ten minutes to walk from one side to the other and had only a bus stop, a harbour and a cafe with a cluster of hotels scattered around the bay.

We took the bus to the medieval main town of Chora where we found a delicious restaurant in a beautiful square with shade provided by trees. The city’s streets are narrow and hardly wide enough for a car to pass through, snaking around buildings creating squares and changing abruptly from cobbles to gravel and dirt. On one of these many winding streets we rented a car and drove to a tiny beach that hd many caves and shallow inlets heated by the blazing sun.

On our last full day in Folegandros we took a boat to Katergo beach which was said to be the best beach on the island by two of the locals we talked to. It is only accessible by boat or by hiking forty minutes in. The beach was definitely the most beautiful with the clearest water I have ever seen. When I was swimming out to a large rock about 100m from shore with Brandon, I got stung by a jelly fish, happily the stings healed within a few hours. I got stung 13 times on my arm, hand and ankle when I was almost at the rock.

On our last night we drove to Chora and I ate goat for the first time. It tasted a little like beef but it was very tender and juicy. I got a delicious espresso freddo (coffee with milk and ice) while waiting for our fast ferry bound for Naxos!

Folegandros – The Island of Crystal Clear Waters

The first ferry of our trip headed to the island of Folegandros from Milos. This island is home to the clearest, most beautiful water I have ever seen. From the dock we could see all the way to the bottom of the inlet with ease, and spotted brightly coloured fish swimming all around. We rented a car from the main city and drove to a very remote beach. Therefore it was no surprise that the beach was empty when we arrived. The water was crystal clear, with tiny caves and small coves all around the rocky shore.

The next day, we took a small ferry boat to a different beach, only accessible by a 40 minute hike or by this ferry. From the first minute, this beach was very spectacular. There were large rocks dotting the shore, carved away by years of waves. The water itself was deep, you just had to swim 10 feet from shore for the depth to reach perhaps 40 feet! While deep, you could see all the way to the bottom, and observe fish darting in-between the large rocks.

Folegandros is also home to an ancient Venetian village. Situated high up on a cliff, the narrow streets and efficiently spaced buildings resemble Venice, especially with the turquoise coloured river stones that pave the roads. The views from the main square of the village are amazing, looking down hundreds of feet to the waves and shore, or looking up at the sunset, going down over the horizon.

I have enjoyed Folegandros, as it is our only new Greek island we are visiting on our trip. The people are friendly and helpful, and we managed to find a fantastic restaurant. The views and water are amazing, the best on the trip so far, and swimming on the last beach was an awe-inspiring experience.

Ryan Lau: Beaches and Seas

(Here is Ryan’s blog post of the week. I hope you enjoy it! – Brandon)

It all started in the beautiful city of Athens which, sadly, I couldn’t go out to see because I had caught a cold on the twenty hours of travel. That however did not stop me from eating three gyros before heading to the airport. It felt like our vacation had really begun when we stepped off the small nine row propeller plane onto the Greek island of Milos.

The beautiful Golden Beach (that is its real name) is our favourite on Milos because there are hardly any rocks in or around the golden sand. I was surprised by how few beaches are organized (a beach with sunbeds and umbrellas for rent), there are only three organized beaches on the whole island!

After staying three nights in Adamas, the main town, we drove to the northeast side of the island to our stop on the waterfront in Pollonia. The beach beside our hotel has many rock formations that are fun to explore. I always look for fish when I am swimming and I found a little school of beautiful yellow two inch fish that blend in surprisingly well to the golden sand.

I am writing this while hearing the waves lap the shore, one of the many stray cats comes up and begs for food, and I feel the warm breeze as it gets blown around looking for a place to call home.

Our Adventure Begins

20 hours of travel, 2 plane rides, and a long cab ride later (long, because there was an EU meeting about Greece’s debt crisis close to our hotel), we were at our hotel in Athens, Greece. Athens is a great city, but since we had been there before, we designated it as our “recovery stop”. As it turned out, this stop was much needed. After such a rough flight, Ryan got a cough, so we took it easy with gyros and greek salad as the bulk of our diet.

The plane to our next stop was tiny with only 9 rows of four seats. It was a little scary getting in the air, but the end destination was completely worth it. We landed in Milos, home to some of my favourite beaches. To get to some however, you must go on off-road paths in a jeep to secluded and quiet spots. Mostly shielded by sand bars and rocky outcrops, these small, sandy alcoves have smooth, calm, crystal clear waters, letting you watch fish swim under the water in between larger rocks. These inlets, so distant from any civilization, have waters ranging from light turquoise, to navy blue. In short, very beautiful.

We also went to another beach which was easier to access, but more open to the ocean. A light breeze gently came up off the water, and the sand was soft and plentiful, stretching from the beach 200 meters into the open ocean. This inviting shoreline has no rocks or coral, and the gentle waves and small tides makes it an ideal place to swim.

The hotel where we are staying has a fantastic view. While there are only a few patches of sand, there are many calm inlets shielded by small rocky islands mere steps from our room. The chairs that overlook the ocean boast wonderful sunsets in the evening, and mild but refreshing breezes throughout the day. Tomorrow we will be leaving this paradise in search of a new adventure, ferrying to the island of Folegandros.

Ryan Lau: The Preparation

(The first “Guest” blog post by my brother Ryan. We hope to have him write weekly and I will post his articles here on my blog. – Brandon Lau)

This is our third summer trip to Europe and it includes some of our favourite stops from past trips as well as some new exciting stops. We are traveling to five Greek islands. Then we are flying to Oxford where we are meeting with some family for a few nights. Our last part of our trip is a cruise around the Baltic Sea from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg stopping at ports in Germany, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway before heading back. I am most excited for the islands with their  golden sand beaches and beautiful water.

The cruise is 11 nights on the Eurodam which is one of the newest ships added to the Holland America line with an additional top deck/viewing space. The stop I am most looking forward to on the cruise is St. Petersburg in Russia because I am curious what the drastic change between the rich and poor will look like in the city.

I am packing in the perfect-sized, silver Heys clam-shell carry-on suitcase which I have packed in the last two trips. For me the plane ride is the most exciting for it marks the start of our trip when we do not have anything left to do. I can not wait to embark upon this exciting new adventure.
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