Saturday, July 14, 2007

Paros, part 1: Parikia

A last minute change of plans (see Hydra, Isle of (Ugly) Cats) and suddenly we had 5 days on Paros and no reservations. Tripadvisor wasn't much help, except to warn us away from the Hotel Apollon. Google gave us the Pension Sofia, a lovely place run by Sofia and Manolis. Arriving at 1:30am we weren't aware of much except that the garden seemed very large and the room seemed a little small. The bed, however, was a real double bed, not two twins shoved together, and very comfortable.

The next morning we looked out over the garden from our second floor balcony and were overwhelmed by both the size of the garden and the number of decorations: artfully tilted amphorae, sculptures, bas reliefs, fountains. Shaded by a grove of olive trees that bear almost as many olives as leaves, it's a cool breezy sanctuary. Grape vines cover arbors, pergolas, and fences, laden with huge clusters of still-green grapes. Roses, a little burnt from the previous weeks' heat wave, but covered with fat blossoms, keep company with oleander, bougainvillea, jasmine, tomatoes, squash, dill, basil, and geraniums the size of small shrubs. Every inch of the garden has been touched by loving hands -- even the stones in the paths have been primped: a white painted outline sets off each one. (Later we discover that this is a Parian thing - it's done throughout both Parikia and Naoussa in private spaces and public. Even some concrete sidewalks are painted with white lines to imitate the stone paths.)

Breakfast was simple and wonderful: coffee, incredible fresh oj, pound cake, and two kinds of fresh local bread with butter and delicious jams. The breads are great. One is a kind of semolina bread with a sesame seed covered crust. The other is whole wheat with sesame seeds and fennel seeds on the crust - delicious. The oj is squeezed to order by an ingenious machine we saw in several sizes at various hotels and cafes wherever we went in Greece. This Rube Goldberg contraption takes whole oranges in, slices them in half and squeezes them between rotating ferris wheel ball and socket thingies. At the bottom is a spigot that dispenses divine nectar - I never saw what happened to the spent orange shells. No doubt the deliciousness of the oj has to do more with the incredible Greek oranges than the machine, but the combination of the two adds up to an impressive sensory experience, especially first thing in the morning.

What really makes the Pension Sofia special are the owners, Sofia and Manolis, and their daughter, Evita. They are warm and friendly - always helpful and attentive, never intrusive. Sofia, who runs the business end of things, is exotically beautiful and quietly efficient. Manolis, a native Parian, former plumber, and the creator of the garden, made breakfast most days and does many other things that aren't apparent to guests. He also picked us up at the ferry at 1:30am when we arrived and drove us to our hotel in Naoussa when we left for the second part of our Parian vacation. On the way he told us the brief charming story of how he and Sofia met: "Her family lived in Athens but had a small house on Paros. In the small house was a small bathroom. One day, they needed a plumber for the small bathroom." (He smiled.)

The pension is across the street from the Cine Paros, an outdoor movie theatre. Walk down the street past the cinema and in two minutes you're at the corniche and a nice beach. The main part of the town is to your left, including a shopping area of winding streets, jewelry and clothing shops, and cafes. Parikia has at least five internet cafes. My favorite was Cyber Cookies - it has only three machines, but the connection is fast, the prices are good (first 20 minutes free), the iced coffee is excellent, and no one was ever smoking while I was there. Avoid Memphis.net: they make you pre-purchase access time in blocks - no refund if you don't use it all. Also, I found the connection to be quite slow - possibly a side effect of their many machines.

If you turn right at the corniche, away from the center of town and towards Livadia Beach, you'll quickly come to our favorite restaurant in Paros, Taverna Akrogiali, which is next to the Hotel Paros. Iannis, the son of the owner, proudly told us that their taverna is a real Greek taverna, not a tourist taverna. How can you tell the difference, we asked? At a real Greek taverna the food is good and they bring you something sweet at the end of the meal for free. At a tourist taverna, the food is blah, you have to pay for dessert, and they only care about taking your money. He told us all this as he brought us a lovely cream pastry that we hadn't ordered as an end to a delicious meal. We were so charmed by the good food and good people that we ate there twice more before we left and are setting out from Naoussa tonight for another meal there.

1 comment:

knitsteel said...

Oh that looks charming and delightful. What a pleasant place to go, and with last minute arrangements too.