As it is on other Greek islands, Paros’ brilliant white houses and shops are punctuated by blue doors and shutters providing a wonderful backdrop to pots of colourful spring flowers and hanging laundry. Grapevines, looking more like tree trucks than vines, climb up white stucco walls and wooden trellises to second storey roof tops where they spread into canopies of bright new green leaves. Just one of the many stunning vistas that await you on Paros.
Breakfast was not included with our room rate which gave us an opportunity to go shopping for breakfast with plans to eat on our balcony. Weaving through the back streets we came to a grocer displaying fruits and vegetables. During our previous European travels we had learned the customer does not touch the fresh produce. Point and the grocer picks. We pointed to bananas and indicated two. Inside where food is packaged it’s okay to touch and we selected a carton of orange juice, a container of peach yogurt and a bottle of water.
“From England or the US?” the grocer asked in English.
“Canada”, we responded.
“Canada,” he repeated, “Where? Toronto, Quebec, Vancouver?”
“How are the Canucks doing?” he asked.
We were flabbergasted. “Well, actually, they are in the playoffs. If they don’t win tonight it’s all over for the season.”
“I lived in Montreal, Quebec,” the grocer told us, “when Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were playing.”
“And Ken Dryden in goal?” Terry asked.
“Yes, Ken Dryden. But it was too cold. Didn’t like all the cold.”
“Vancouver is not as cold”, we responded.
“I moved to St John, New Brunswick, but it was cold there too. In Montreal I bought a house for $55,000. When I sold it I lost $5,000. Two years later it was double the price. I came back to Greece. Not so cold.”
At the busy Paros bakery (in business since 1912) across the street from our room’s little balcony, we pointed at two items not really knowing what we were getting. Back at the hotel, we borrowed a little round table with cast iron base and marble top from the inside courtyard put it on the our room’s balcony. Chairs, glasses and flowers from the room completed the scene.
One of the mystery pastries held ham and cheese while the other had a bit of apple filling. The orange juice was mild and delicious while the yogurt was flavourful with a smooth heavy texture.
After breakfast, Sherrie went down to the lobby in hopes of getting online through the hotel’s WiFi which was not working in our room. Not having any luck the lady owner, Chryssoula, took Sherrie next door and up the stairs to meet the town’s computer guy. Our new computer had made a diagnosis of the problems and had suggested the steps to take. The computer guy suggested the same. Sherrie went back to the hotel and reset the system. It worked! Well, at least in the lobby it was working; for awhile.
The easy-going trusting Chryssoula explained her husband had had an operation recently and she would like to go home to check on him and fix him something to eat and drink. “Will you take care of the hotel while I am gone?” she asked pointing to the reception area. “Yes. Sure.” And she was gone. The only thing to do if someone needed assistance was to ask them to wait. It did happen and they did wait. A neighbouring shop owner came in, assessed the situation and phoned Chryssoula to return.
It’s easy to get lost as Paros’ laneways twist, climb and connect in Y shapes then circle around buildings. But it’s fun to be lost in such places because eventually you emerge beside the ocean or somewhere you’ve seen before; in the meantime you meet people, like the Italian couple on their honeymoon who asked if we would take a picture of them together in front of one of the many little churches scattered within the community; or the lady out walking her little cream coloured puppy who itself was discovering what was around the next corner; or young girls who, glad to be out of school, were viewing the world in a different way by hanging upside down from a low tree branch.
There are not many large trees on the Greek Islands. Some time back, in an attempt to get in on the olive and olive oil boom, island dwellers cut down their indigenous trees to plant olives without first appreciating that olive trees have a tap root and their indigenous trees had roots that spread over the surface and held the ground in place. Without this root structure rain soon washed away the fertile soil leaving gravel and rock behind. We did, however, discover around one of the bends a very large tree creating a sun umbrella over a square and in its shadow were bright yellow director-style chairs and round tables inviting us to sit a spell. So we did.
Our first impressions of Paros are favourable ones. It feels comfortable. There is a sense of history and of community. Here it seems they have accepted tourism as a way of sharing the pride they hold for their home rather than abandoning their sense of home for the sake of tourism. We hope they continue to be successful in this balancing act.
The bus to Pounta on the west side of Paros timed it just right to board the car ferry for a fifteen minute ride to Antiparos. Buildings looked the same as on Paros although not as many high end shops. People looked the same as those on Paros except not as busy, not as eager for business and not as numerous. Don’t attempt to think of Antiparos as an extension of its big neighbour for they are proudly independent.
Even wandering slowly through the not so many back streets and stopping for ice cream, we were ready to return to Paros in an hour and a half. We caught the frequent ferry back to Pounta not knowing if the bus would be there.
It wasn’t and we milled around for two more ferry arrivals before getting on the next bus heading towards town on a rather circuitous route. It was also the local school bus with numerous stops at country lanes and driveways. One clean cut school boy, about fourteen, sporting a hairdo looking like a combination of a double mohawk and a 1950’s duck tail, became the ticket master once all the school kids were off and only adults remained. After collecting money and passing out tickets he too got off the bus.
Leaving the bus we took an unknown route back towards our hotel and found ourselves ‘lost’ again in the tangle of narrow laneways. Every so often a sea view would let us know in which direction we were traveling. Down one such lane an older gentleman was being led by a little toddler.
He’s a retired Italian sea captain and the toddler is his granddaughter. He is here visiting his daughter as he likes to do once a year. She too lives in Italy but keeps a summer home on Paros. He remembers Vancouver with fondness. We complimented him on his English and asked if he spoke Greek. “No; I speak Italian, English, French, Spanish and German. I am an old man, that is enough.” He proudly showed us the room in which he is staying. “I wake up in the morning and still lying in bed I can see the sea.” An ideal situation for an ‘old salty’.
For dinner we decided to have a Greek favourite, Gyro (similar to Turkey’s döner). “The works?” asked the fellow behind the counter.
“Sure, why not.”
Two thick round pita bread went onto the gill. Fifteen seconds later they got a flip. Then, with a piece of paper in the palm of his hand, he laid the pita on top, put on some meat from a large vertical revolving spit, added tomato, onion, french fries (yes, french fries!) and yogurt sauce and then with some slight-of-hand and a twist of his wrist, he handed us dinner in a pita cone. Street food extraordinaire. Perhaps the next one, another day … and there will be another one, another day … we’ll say “hold the fries”.
The Paros sun set behind the silhouetted windmill as we strolled back to the hotel saying good night to now familiar faces and shop owners who were just opening up for the evening’s business.
Share with us your own wonderful experience on Paros. Leave us a comment.
You can also enjoy our own recipe for Homemade Greek Gyros.
This article is written by Travel Tales. Visit their website to enjoy more of their adventures abroad.