Saturday, March 9, 2013

Greece: the island of Skiathos, Part II

I have to start off by saying that the only 2 factors governing our choice of the island to stay on were:
1) availability or timeshare resorts through RCI
2) ease of transportation to and from the mainland

Based on this, we chose Skiathos-the resort photos were phenomenal, the previous visitors seemed quite content in their reviews, the ferry to and from was 15 euro when booked in advance and only 2 hrs, leaving from a tiny port town of Aghios Konstantinos, where we were required to spend a night each time-the ferry boat only leaves in the morning, and brings you back mid-afternoon, where there are no more connecting buses. Again, if you book a tour, then they have a joint boat/bus schedule, so you step off the ferry and onto the bus-for quadruple the price. I liked the fact that we'd get to see a tiny seaside town on our way and perhaps discover something interesting, instead of being rushed to return back to Athens.

Thus, upon arriving into Aghios Konstantinos in late afternoon, we simply stepped off the bus and asked the first person we saw "hey, any cheap hotels out here?" and he sent us to a nearby hotel/converted apartments, 2 mins walk from the bus station. Yes, it was cheap- that's all I can say. Actually, i was blown away when the old lady said "25 euro, please",-to which I replied "per person?". She just laughed and showed us the room (I wish I had picture of it, but I must have been too shocked to take some)-but money was already paid, the deal was made-imagine my shock when later that evening we found out that a whole stretch of seafront boutique hotels were only 35 euro a night? yes, I guess we got what we asked for- "cheap"-to Greeks, 10 euro difference is a big deal, or maybe the old lady just took advantage of her only customers that month? Needless to say, she was much more ecstatic than us that by some will of nature we went sent her way- oh well, it was 1 night of sleep and we were out of there bring and early, making sure to check all our options next time before getting the wallet out.
Skiathos island at last!
Upon arriving onshore, a cue of lazy cab drivers were waiting for their next victims-only, as it turned out, we had to chase after them! Only in Greece :)

A short cab ride later, we were checked into and delivered into out new digs. First impression? This definitely isn’t what one would expect out of a normal, 4-star RCI resort. However, this is 4 “greek stars”, meaning… well, I don’t even want to imagine what a 2-star accommodation would look like. Considering we had a chance to compare 3 units (yes, we were that picky and no, I did not think of all those stairs i'd have to climb on a daily basis), here’s the details:

None of them are equipped or look alike. The first one had a musty, damp smell and was quite poorly lit. Granted, it was only 100 steps to the beach, thus saving us a huge walk, but it didn’t have its own patio or anything that really screamed that I wanted to stay there, other than the rustic design, which makes you feel like you are in a real greek village home.
quite a bare kitchen but good enough for occasional cooking

Bedroom view, opening onto private balcony

 The next one we tried was a very small unit. In comparison with the previous one, this one seemed a teeny tiny bit better (they all were supposed to be studios accommodating 2 persons), where the dining table was right in the same room as the bed, although it did have a nice, renovated bathroom, which none of the others had. The last (as the reception warned us, the absolutely last room they were going to let us look at) was a winner: same arch design, alright bathroom, separate eating area and a great patio with a nice view over the little olive treed court yard and the pine-covered hills. The balconies are arranged in a  staggered fashion, so as to avoid the neighbors peering into each other’s dinner plates. We happened to travel in what seemed to be the end of tourist season (late august) and lucked out by not having any neighbours  thus any noise or complaints from either side. Overall, the apartments aren't much, but are kept clean enough with the bare essentials to keep you satisfied. We were missing even the basics in the kitchen (we like to make a few snacks here and there, thus we purposefully paid in cash and not in timeshare points to avoid the mandatory half board menu pushed on you otherwise). Believe me, the half board is NOT worth it! We ate at different restaurants, tavernas, etc, never spending more than 25 euro for 2 people with wine, 3 meals, snacks and stuffing our faces with whatever we wanted. There is such a huge variety of great tavernas on the island and it’s a shame that the resort’s one (Nafiska) is a very poor imitation of what is known otherwise as amazing, fresh greek food. We had a misfortune of going there once, and I sincerely hope I can warn people against making these choices. The "greek potatoes" were french fries, my "greek salad" consisted of tomato and cucumber only. But the worst part was the service- they are confident that you will tip them regardless, so they don't even try to accommodate you by any means. We only went there because we were starving and too tired to figure out where the bus was and where we should go.
central cafe next to the ferry station-effortless chic!

For the rest of the week, it was simple: the bus stop was right next to the resort, once you descend down to the main road, it comes every 15 mins or so, thus never having to wait too long, the price was 2 euro pp regardless of the length of  the trip, which I found a bit bizarre  So, if we only wanted to go to the beach that day (the resort's one wasn't really much to look at, although we did use it some evenings if we were too tired to go somewhere else), we ended up walking alongside the road- and no, they don't bother with pedestrian areas-for about 15-20 mins and we were there. Yes, I know it's not ideal to walk alongside traffic and exhaust, but there are virtually no other ways to get from one beach to the next, plus you get to hit up a few convenience stores on the way, pick up some water, refreshments for the day on the beach-and you're set. At lunch time, when the sun was scorching, we'd leave our towels on the beach and head on out to the taverna 2 mins back towards the main road, where the friendly waiters were already smiling and waiting to surprise us with yet another mouth watering creation. This place had hands down the best greek food I've had in the entire 2 weeks: lamb, grilled eggplant with dip, endless seafood options,everything was so tasty that we washed it down with half litre of homemade wine each time! And the prices! appetizers under 6 euro, entrees under 10! Like I mentioned earlier, try as we might, we never managed to spend more than 25-28 euro for a 2-person meal, while leaving this place completely stuffed and content. If this isn't enough of a reason to go to Greece, i don't know what is. Next time I'm in Europe, looking for a vacation destination, I'd head down to Greece just for the sake of gastrotourism alone, never mind the amazing scenery. 
See you soon, Gorgeous!

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