Just back from…Paros and Antiparos, a few hacks for preventing (or retrieving) lost luggage, and a concierge service that will help you cut the airport lines
JUST BACK FROM….Antiparos and Paros
By Alex Postman
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I went to Greece to attend a close friend’s wedding on Crete (more on that wild, soulful island another time). Once in the Aegean, we figured we’d keep exploring, and so booked tickets on a ferry heading first to Santorini, where my (grown) kids got off the boat to go worship Dionysus, while my husband and I continued on to Antiparos (a little more Demeter?) before all meeting up on Paros.
So, part of my premise for choosing these islands was to check out two new(ish) properties I’d had my eye on. On the tiny island of Antiparos, reached via a 9-minute ferry from Paros, my husband and I headed to The Rooster, a wellness hotel and resort that opened during the pandemic. The site is beautiful and rugged: 16 stone villas scattered beneath an apron of rocky land leading down to an unspoiled beach, and a main lounge/restaurant at the top of the hill, with the most incredible, drippy egg-yolk sunsets. Privacy and calm prevail here, a relief after late-night carousing in Chania. Each villa, with its textured walls, handmade fabrics and driftwood beds, has its own small pool that is so ensconced by fragrant lavender, rosemary and bougainvillea that even the most self-conscious person can skinny dip! ;)
The Rooster is the creation of Athanasia Comninos, a Greek former magazine editor and designer who, in the wake of a couple major life changes, traveled to Thailand, Brazil, and beyond, exploring wellness culture and community, and resolved to create something like it in Greece. The centerpiece of The Rooster is The House of Healing. More than just a spa, it includes a yoga shala, sound meditation room, treatment rooms, and a round structure for full moon and other spiritual ceremonies. Abhi, an Ayurvedic healer from Kerala, designed a treatment intended to boost my yin energy by sitting on a “smoking box” (IYKYK) and a Shirodhara treatment in which he drizzled a stream of oil onto my forehead while working to open my third eye. All I know is that when it was over, I felt like light was beaming out of my skull.
I tried to keep that buzz as we traveled around the island, only 13 square miles in all. We didn’t have a car (there are only three taxis on Antiparos), though in hindsight I wish we had rented one instead of the toy-like ATV that lost its steering and crashed us into a wall (so much for my halo of relaxation). But not before we’d driven to the southwest side of the island, where we took a small boat to the island of Despotikó, where a team of archeologists are in the midst of excavating a 6th century BC temple to Apollo, which you can walk around. We had an amazing lunch on the water at Captain Pipino’s of fresh sardines and snapper, grilled shrimp and wild horta greens—everyone says it’s the place for sunset. On the southeast side of the island, there’s the remote Faneromeni beach, which you can access with off-road (or ATV) wheels, and where the water is clear and shallow. Unfortunately because of our crash we didn’t get to make it to “The Cave,” a neolithic site that later was dedicated to Artemis, but left time to explore the main town of Chora on the port, which has a few restaurants and small shopping alleys built around a Venetian castle.
We had most of our meals at the hotel, mainly Greek-inspired healthy comfort food (a new chef was starting just after we left, on July 1). But we loved biking to The Farmhouse, where much of the produce for the hotel is grown in bushy green rows and Despina Bitzaraki, a self-taught baker, takes a punk rock approach to her experimentation with homemade loaves: sourdough, barley rusks, durum wheat bread, rye, bread with black cheese and herbs, you name it. Overall, we loved the hotel, one of those places where you can feel the owner’s heart and intention behind every detail.
From there, we took the little ferry back to Paros and met the kids arriving on their ferry (they loved the legendary views from Oia, but were bummed by the crowds and prices of Santorini).
I have to interrupt this travelogue for a quick shout out to Magna Travel, an agency recommended to me by Ileana Von Hirsch at Five Star Greece—they took over the complicated bookings for 6 people across several ferry lines and timetables and were super tactical and affordable, even setting up car transfers on islands that have severe taxi shortages this summer. They would send our e-tickets the night before each ferry, so we didn’t have to dig for them. I’m not sure I could have juggled the connections without them!
Our next stop was the new Cosme, a Luxury Collection resort, which had just opened 10 days earlier on a beach outside of Naoussa, the whitewashed hub of the island’s north side. I’d been eager to see it because it was designed by Kalia Konstantinidou, who with her husband and cofounder of Kavana Hotels & Resorts had created Parilio, a boutique property beloved by several people I know who’ve been to Paros in recent years. In design, Cosme (with 40 rooms) shares some of the same touches—white-cube buildings, light and tasteful interiors and cheerfully painted Cycladic-themed ceramics. I think I personally prefer the more intimate Parilio, but the kids loved the pool and beach area at Cosme–it can be a scramble for cabanas and chaises at “organized” beaches, so it was great knowing we always had a spot right on the water. (The boys also were glad to finally have a gym.) And the modern Greek food was surprisingly strong for those times we didn’t want to leave the premises. Also, it was so convenient that we could walk 10 minutes into Naoussa if we wanted, or be lazy and use the hotel’s transfer vans.
I mainly used our Greece Travel Planner to schedule our time on Paros, so I don’t have much to add to that very fleshed out list, which subscribers can access here. But I’ll say that a trip to the historical village of Lefkes in the mountains is well worth it for the view, the sweet little alleys with painted doors, and a heaping plate of souvlaki. Then in Naoussa, the list of shopping and restaurants that Kalia had given us for our Planner were all great, especially Mario, a seafood spot on Naoussa’s little harbor, where, between the boats bobbing back and forth in the wind and the puddle of fishermen’s nets drying in the sun, you really feel like you’re in Greece of your dreams.
In Europe, it’s the summer of lost luggage. I can’t count how many of my friends have lost theirs–it’s usually on a connecting flight, but it also happens on nonstops. It seems the airlines and airports are overwhelmed and understaffed–besides baggage nightmares, there are so many canceled flights. (I just had my nonstop to Rome canceled and barely found another flight.) One of my friends discovered this great service called Best of Europe, who will take care of lost bags–they have direct contact with the baggage departments and can track them down fast–for $250. They also have a service where they’ll arrange your car service and have an expediter at the airport who gets you to the front of the line, or upon arrival, have someone who meets you at the gate and walks you through customs, cutting any line. I know the line cutting isn’t for everyone, and neither is spending $250-350 per couple to do so, but for those of you who want this, it’s a great contact to have.
Given the above baggage problems, remember to photograph your luggage before you check it. While you’re waiting in line, just snap a photo of everything you’re checking. This helps if you’re using someone like Best of Europe, or just communicating with the baggage department yourself. Besides the obviously mandatory name tags, buy Apple tags and put one in each of your checked luggage, and bring an extra in case a bag is overweight on the way back and you’re asked to check it. Alex’s friend had a gnarly connecting flight and had to check his bag as he was heading to that wedding in Chania. His luggage didn’t show up, but since he had the Apple tag, he was able to contact the airport where it was, and get them to send it to Crete.
Our friend and Roar Africa Founder Deborah Calmeyer reached out to let us know about a retreat she’s hosting in Kenya, “Into the Wild” with philosopher-poet David Whyte, next February 22-28. (FTR: I love David Whyte – his book The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship is basically my Rosetta Stone of happiness. – Alex) Deb has previously held immersive “rewilding” retreats at Segera, a lodge in northern Kenya, that friends have attended and loved. We imagine this one will be likewise amazing. You can find out more here.
And we’ll aim to update our Wellness Blackbook with upcoming retreats as we hear about them. (If you know of any good ones, leave us a note in the Comments!)
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