Beginning this final blog post from the Athens airport en route to Paris for the last legs of the journey. Finishing it en route from Reykyavik to Boston.
Yesterday we blew down out of the mountains of northern Naxos, saying Yassas to Stamatis and his mother and to the little village which was now being battered with waves that were more than just whitecaps – the whole sea was roiling and white – and that crashed over the jetties and seawalls flooding the end of the main street.
Despite the blustery conditions we headed south of the port again to see if we could find Demeter’s Temple, the best ruin on Naxos. By the time we finally got there, the skies had opened up and just the short five minute walk up to the site and back in driving wind and rain was enough to soak us through even in raingear. I stayed just long enough to get the shot. Checked back into Pension Sofi and spent the rest of the day rambling around the twisty streets of old town, where the arches, high walls and narrow paths protected us from the worst of the winds. Found new picturesque neighborhoods and shops and actually got somewhat of a handle on the layout of the labyrinth – it is hard to imagine how a town could build itself in such a manner! By evening the only place we wanted to eat was the one with the wood-burning stove on the waterfront; a good choice with fresh grilled fish and potatoes. Wandering back up through the old town at night we discovered that many shops were open which we had never seen before, as were cafes and bistros that always were deserted in the day. The alluring lights of the shops in the darkness drew us in and made us spend Euros we hadn’t intended to, and in the heat of the moment and the cool of the night I bought a heavy Greek cotton hooded sweater which I haven’t taken off since! We topped it off with a nightcap at La Vigne, a French wine bar hidden in the maze of streets and tucked cozily into two cave-like rooms with a lively little local crowd.
On Wednesday, Pat went off on the ferry to Santorini and I headed out to the Naxos airport, my favorite kind of airport. Basically a one room affair, with a check-in counter that might be 2 feet square. The day I flew my plane was the only plane of the day; sometimes there are two planes a day. One woman runs the whole event with a guy to help her with the baggage handling- after we went through security to the loading waiting room (which seemed to be a entranceway with a stone floor) she literally locked us in so she could go out to the plane, a twin prop with 36 seats.
I vaguely remembered carefully choosing my overnight accommodation because I wanted to be in a village rather in the city but I was delighted when I woke up in the morning in my fairly fancy standard business-style hotel to be able to actually open the window to a spring day and see the roofs of the nearby town. A beautiful walking path lined with trees about to bloom led from the side of the hotel through a park into a perfect little French village with a bakery, market, cafes and even an open fish market. It was the quintessential quick trip to France.
Today I have been in Iceland Air hell – with all that European economy airlines have to offer, which is essentially nothing – no food except some crappy stuff for purchase, no amenities, barely even food at the airport. Oh, I have been spoiled by the hospitality and service of so many countries around the world…
So now I am on the last leg of the tour – Rekyavik to Boston. Full circle. Back to where I have come from. So what have I learned, how have I changed?
On the most purely basic level, I left feeling limited and disabled because of my lower back pain – I am returning strong and healed, sometimes feeling as nimble as a mountain goat, climbing rocky paths and steep hills that I never would have thought were a possibility for me any longer. I have visited exotic and exciting cultures, eaten foods I have never encountered and been the recipient of kindness and sharing all around the world. I have had almost no bad experiences – in villages everywhere, people have been welcoming and good to me.
Although I have nearly completely avoided media news, I have kept up with the news of my own village through the miracle of Facebook – births and deaths, illnesses and recoveries, joys and sadnesses, trivialities and events of significance – and I have never felt alone or out of touch.
Traveling is still like breathing to me – it is easy and natural and calms me down as much as it excites me. There are still so many places I haven’t gone yet, things I still haven’t done. As long as I can still pack a suitcase and walk those mile-long airports, I will travel. For me, it never gets old.
And my next stop – well, I am headed toward a little village in the White Mountains, a small, remote place where at this time of year many of the businesses are closed and the villagers have to make their own entertainment. And I am hoping that I will be able to see this village from a world traveler’s point of view with new eyes and a fresh perspective. To get there you have to drive on a windy road through a dramatic notch between steep mountain slopes and the view as you come down into the valley is awesomely beautiful…