DAY SEVEN: ARTFUL ADIEUS
Having come thus far,
I must soon turn eyes ahead,
My heart, head & hand resist,
Spirit weeps, rebels
Decession, Nana Coupeau – Hydra, 2016
ONE-EYED JACK AND JAMES
It is my last day, so I decide to do absolutely nothing except while the afternoon away at my favorite café, The Pirate Bar. There, Jack – a one-eyed black cat of dubitable origin, but loving heart – James, the resident storyteller, Zara of the long legs and beautiful eyes and the Pirate Bar’s joyful manager Wendy, joins me.
What happens after is absolutely nothing. From 12 until 8 p.m., I eat and drink and relax, passing the day as if I had lived there forever with Jack to warm my lap against the wind, James to bedazzle me with laughter and Wendy and Zara to ensure that I am well-fed and never thirsty.
I foolishly fall in love with Jack only to be told, to my disappointment, that he is a bit of a Romeo who makes eyes at all the ladies. Still, I spend an hour trying to figure out how to bring him home with me and, although impossible now seeing as I other places still yet to go and people to see, I promise myself to come back for him.
That evening, I return to Beautiful Hydra for my favorite meal, where I meet the owners of Turquoise, the one shop that I sadly did not have time to visit despite my best intentions, and end up making even more new friends. Then, it is off to Isalos for one last drink with James. At midnight the bell rings and, like Cinderella, it is time to say my goodbyes.
I embrace James warmly for one final hug and leave, though a part of me yet still on remains on Hydra and always will. And in the morning, I do not look back as I go, knowing that I am set to see it soon once again .
WHAT TO DO
As Hydra is car free the best way to get a look around the island is by foot, water taxi or donkey.
· Armonia: Pamper yourself with a beauty treatment or massage at Armonia. They also offer Pilates, yoga and mediation for the tired body and mind.
· Horse-back riding: Or if you would like to go on a sight-seeing and explore the hills above town, you can take a trek with Argyris Kalamatianakis, who begin working with horses at the age of eight, following in his father’s footsteps. His trips include Saint Matrona Monastery, the Panagia Zourva Monastery, Plamidas- Agia Marina and Kala Pigadia (www.hydra-horses.com)
· Mule-rides: If renting a place further up the hill after a night out at the port, then taking a donkey ride is probably the easiest and safest way to get home.
· Water taxis: can be hired directly at the port in front of the Hydra restaurant. They wil take you to beaches on the South side of Hydra such as Bisti, Mandraka or Agios Nikolaos and cost around and cost between 18E (for Platkes) to 60E for Bisti Beach each way
· Historical Archives Museum (HAMH): established in 1918, the museum harbors an impressive display of documents, manuscripts, ledgers and heirlooms donated from agencies as well as private individuals. HAMH is divided into three section – the Archives, the Museum and the Library – and there offers something to everyone’s taste. In addition, they usually have exhibitions of contemporary artists such as work by Greek artist Leonardo Camininino
· Historical Museum of Lazaros Kountouriotis: A tribute to the naval power of Hydra and Kountouriotis himself, the house is kept much as it was when the last descendant Panterlis Kountouriotis lived there. Filled with traditional Greek paintings, sculptures, furnishings and antiques, it provides a unique bird’s eye view of what life on Hydra once was like. In addition, on the ground floor, there are examples of the works friends of Kountouriotis, the famous Greek painter Periklis Byzantinos and his son Kostantinos, which are worth a visit.
· The Cohen House: you will need to ask directions to get there, but it is something not to be missed if you are a fan of his music and poetry and make a trip the island.
· The Cathedral: located in the center of town, this 17th century church is the eternal home of rest for Lazaros Kountouriotis, a local hero and benefactor, as well as the ecclesiastic museum filled with ancient heirlooms and sepulchers.
WHAT TO SEE
· Hydronetta: a rocky cove located only a short distance from town for sunbathing and crystal blue waters.
· The Bastion: The canons and bastions above the port that once served to protect Athens and Hydra.
· The famous rocks of Spilia: a beautiful rocky cove close to the port where you can sunbathe, dine and watch the sunset over the horizon.
· The Monasteries One of the many interesting and beautiful monasteries, such as Profitis Ilias, which lay scattered around the island.
· The statue of Andreas Mialoulis: a local hero, whose statue tonce again, perched behind the canons, acts as a tribute whilst allowing him to keep a watchful eye over the town.
WHERE TO SHOP
· Carolina’s Arts and Craft: exclusive Greek souvenirs, jewels and original paintings.
· Dimitra: a jewelry and art shop featuring Greek sculptures, antiques and beautifully hand-woven belts, bracelets and necklaces made by the owner herself, Chrysanthi Trapali.
· Greco Gold by A & S Kermaides: One of the oldest jewelry stores on the island, made by hand by father, sister and their son Alkis. The baroque pearls and aluminum jewellery collection “Fibonacci Fisherman” by Dimitrios Antonitsis, the owner of the Artist’s Villa, is also on exhibition and available for purchase Greco Gold Hydra.
· Neried: Another must address for unique jewelry and exceptional designs that is small, intimate and unpretentious.
· Mata’s: The only shop in town with K & Ps Ancient Greek Sandals, hand-painted or decorated with coral, feathers, sea-shells, multi-colored yarns and crystals. A must buy.
· Peter’s Collection: for handmade Nature Eye-ware sunglasses crafted from bamboo and olive wood, as well as Venus Secret’s Donkey Milk and Argan oil facial cream, shower gel, body scrub and soaps. Peter’s Collection
· Turquoise: A small, family run business specializing in hand-made products from India that include elegant scarves, kaftans, dresses and beachwear. A one-stop must for your vacation there. Turquoise Hydra
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
· Amalour: A charming bar just behind the port with paper-mâché ceiling sculptures, great music and a funky vibe.
· Beautiful Hydra: Although only open since May, Beautiful Hydra a traditional Greek restaurant run by Giasemi and the chef Kosmas, has become known as one of the best restaurants on the island. Open from 12:0, their menu includes such delights as freshly smoked mackerel served with parsley salad, Mastelo cheese from Chios, cooked in an almond crust and served with spicy tomato jam and marinated figs, beetroot salad topped with green apple, yogurt and walnuts, mussel and prawn Saganaki, grilled meat-balls atop Cypriot pita-bread and a bio chicken shish-kebab with sweet-potato purée and yogurt sauce.
Served by the wondrous Anastasia, it is truly a gourmand experience and sets a new culinary standard on the island. The fish is fresh, the cuisine beautifully presented and prepared from ingredients of the highest quality.
I was there almost every night and everything was exceptional. However, my favorites were the beetroot salad and the Mastelo cheese from Chios: from the heavens produced and the earth conceived.
Tip: Beautiful Hydra is one of the few restaurants that will remain open throughout the winter months. If there whatever the season, a must try is thee wine from their vineyard on Peloponisos, home of the Spartans, as is rich, full-bodied flavor accompanies prepares the palate for the perfection of the delights to come and accompanies well almost every meal.
· Isalos: bar, restaurant and café directly by the port and a favorite local hangout (www.isalos.com)
· Kai Krimidi: One of my favorite places for lunch or dinner as it serves the best gyros and pork souvlakis in town. Another must try is their home-made
Tip: Save room for their Falafala, a traditional Greek cheese pie made with honey and sesame and something one can simply not leave Hydra without trying.
· Karamela: for homemade sorbet and desserts
· The Bakery: the best for fresh bread and traditional Greek sweets
· The Pirate Bar: run by Wendy Bouchlas, the Pirate Café and Bar is one of the best places to meet / wile away one’s time when on Hydra. The restaurant is well-known for its delicious, freshly made Pastitsio, Kokkinisto, Soulvakis, Soutzoukakia, Moussaka, Papoutsakia, Fasolakia, Spanakopizo, traditional Greek Fakes and Bean soup, sandwiches and quiche. In addition, it offers an all-day breakfast with toasties and omelets, as well as an array of fresh salads. Food service stops a 17:00 however, when cocktail time arrives and Zeus takes his place of honor at the bar. Tip: Ask for the beautiful Zara or Wendy herself if you need help getting around or advice on things to do or see on Hydra.
Tip: Check that you are sitting at the tables which belong to the Pirate Café and Bar and not another restaurant, as it is sometimes quite difficult to tell it from the others and there have been several reviews written about the quality of food and service which concerned different establishments.
WHAT TO KNOW
· Many of the beaches are closed if visiting outside the summer season. Spilia, however, is not and is a great place to enjoy the sunset over Hydra.
· Bring or buy a flashlight for the walk home, as there are not many streetlights
· Pack a sturdy pair of jeans, a windbreaker and light sweater, as it gets quite chilly on windy days and autumn evenings.
· Go barefoot if warm, for there is a restorative energy to the island that comes from its soil and can be felt if one dares to forego wearing shoes.
· Water taxis and mules can be expensive depending on the destination, so choose to walk if not going far.
· Timidity should be left at home as the Hydriots, both people come from Hydra as well as those who have made it theirs, are welcoming and warm-hearted. Do not be afraid therefore to engage in conversation with a stranger or invite them for dinner or a drink, which will immediately be repaid by the start of a new friendship and in kind.
· Come without expectations, as being open-minded always leads to unusual adventures and chance meetings.