John Saltas' Summer Vacation 

Join the City Weekly founder on a trip to Greece.

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Writing about how unattractive the city of Athens is in my May 27 column had a strange effect on me—it made me want to visit. Thus, I plan to do so, and if you’re up for it, I’m inviting you to come along. If you don’t like the fact I often write about Greece, turn the page (or, do something really effective—call me names online anonymously!). If you survive the next few minutes about Greece, though, you might indeed want to accept my invite.

You can read most of the details there. For more information, call Murielle Blanchard at Black Pearl Luxury Services and she can give you the nitty-gritty regarding international travel. Meanwhile, I can fill you in somewhat, as I will be the host and unofficial tour guide. Yep, humble me. People always tell me they want to go to Greece, but they never go. So here’s your chance while taking advantage of the falling euro, to boot.

If all goes according to plan, we will meet in Athens on Sept. 19, 2010, the first day of the tour (with individuals having made their own airfare arrangements). We will not travel as a group from the USA, nor on the return, since some people will want to travel on different airlines, or to extend their trip on the front end or back. If you’re doing the latter, try leaving Athens for Paris for a couple days, then taking the direct flight back to Salt Lake City from Paris—less jet lag. We’ll limit the group to between 12 and 20 people—the near-perfect size for squeezing into the little taverns and eateries I’ll take you to that don’t show up on most tourist agendas.

In Athens, we’ll hit the major historic attractions like the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We’ll visit museums. We’ll walk all through the Plaka area (where our hotel is located) and nearby neighborhoods, too, like Monastiraki, Psiri and Kolonaki. I’ll show you where to shop. I don’t shop. I look, but we’ll all look at whatever you want, from fake watches to the real things. We’ll eat well, for sure, starting on the first day with plates of souvlaki and gyros from either Thannasis or Savvas near Monastiraki Square. Octopus and horta will come later.

The ouzo will come later, too—as in later that night, but we’ll be careful. I know the good joints and I can keep you from getting ripped off. That’s because I’ve been ripped off myself, and now I know what to look for. I was walking alone in Athens one night when a guy came up and gave me some kind of sob story about his failing bar. Next thing I know, I’m inside either a bar or a whorehouse, or maybe both. I had one beer and bought two drinks for the only other customers in the place. When I pulled out a 20 euro note to pay, the guy got huffy and asked why I was trying to skip out on the bill. I asked to see the bill. It was 96 euros. Lesson learned—don’t trust a one-eyed Greek on Ermou Street.

Besides the good vibes created by getting ripped off by a countryman, Greece has much more to offer. We have a free day planned in Athens when travelers can either stay close to the fort or take a day trip to ancient Delphi, where the oracles once imparted their wisdom. You could instead opt for the spectacular amphitheater of Epidaurus and the nearby ruins of Mycenae from where Achilles left for Troy. Others may want to visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, or to ferry off to the island of Aegina, less than an hour from Athens, but a world away. Aegina is the pistachio capital of Greece, by the way.

After Athens, we’ll go to the island of Paros, famous for its Parian marble—the same marble from which the statue Venus de Milo was carved. Paros also is noted for its beautiful beaches and for being a great place to windsurf. From Paros, one can easily visit the nearby island of Antiparos (where Tom Hanks has a home) or take a day trip to exciting Mykonos, sacred Delos or to the island of Naxos. Sunsets on Paros rival those of Santorini ... but not quite.

The final two days will be spent on Santorini, one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Not only do you get picture-perfect sunsets casting long shadows over colorful clifftop villages, your view from those villages looks down into the cauldron of an ancient volcano. Never mind that the volcano is still active. Around 4,000 years ago, the Thera eruption was forceful enough to make it the largest such explosion ever recorded, vaporizing most of what was once a decent-size island. On the south of the island, you can explore the ruins of the city of Akrotiri, which was evacuated just prior to the eruption. Some scholars believe Santorini is where the lost city of Atlantis once thrived. Could be.

I honestly didn’t mean to stay on the Greece thing so long this week. But since I’m about out of room, I might as well stick to that theme and mention that Greece is playing South Korea in the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa on June 12. According to the time-counter on my Greece World Cup Website, that’s only 10 days, 21 hours, 28 minutes and 52 seconds from the time I am writing this. See you in Athens in 110 days.

John Saltas:


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