I had been having worse and worse sore throats and then finally it got intolerable. My voice was two octaves lower than normal, and while the Lauren Bacall effect had its charms, pain in swallowing and being unable to sleep did not. So early in the morning I went to the ship’s doctor, with, I have to admit, a little bit of attitude.
I don’t know why I expected the ship’s doctor to be primarily a “say ah, and take an aspirin“ kind of person—but I did. I am happy to say, I was very wrong. He gave me a thorough physical and did a blood test which he analyzed while I was still in the office. I left loaded with effective medicines—and a new respect for the Azamara’s medical program.
Then I was off to Mykonos—an island I had not visited before. The small island has become popular for its beaches and its liberal attitudes. I was surprised, for example, when the first postcard place we went into after getting off the tender had erotic gay and heterosexual postcards. Shows you how out of touch I can be. Everyone else knew that Mykonos is gay and sex friendly, and we found adequate proof of that when we went on a bus ride, and then a boat ride to Paradise Beach and several beaches past that.
We went to Ileo, a beach two stops beyond because one woman said there was Techno music at Paradise and that the beaches beyond Super Paradise (also a beach!) were quiet. What was she smoking? The last beach drop off was a hub of activity—nude men embracing, heavy-set nudists congregating at waterside and topless women of all sizes strutting their stuff up and down the beach.
Fascinating as all this was, it was a little too hectic and fleshy to be romantic, and the cold water was an added romance quasher, at least for me. I think if we’d stayed at Paradise we would have done better even with the Techno music.
The town of Mykonos has all the requisite parts for romance. The doors and windows of the white houses are painted with primary bright colors and there is bougainvillea crawling over a lot of houses and restaurants. There are the winding streets, some of them so narrow that only an average size person can walk through them, and there are countless shops, heavily dominated by jewelry and clothes—some inexpensive (the islands produce some of the most whimsical and well priced jewelry of any place I’ve been), but also some serious investment gems and 18 and 24 carat gold pieces. In fact, the harbor is dotted with outrageously big yachts and it’s not hard to imagine that the owners of these floating palaces need some seriously over-the-top trinkets to make a stop in a shop worth their while.
The sun beat down on us as we explored the town and I have to say I started to visit shops according to how much shade there was and whether they had air conditioning. We got lost a few times, but we were supposed to: the maze of streets was constructed to undermine pirate attempts by allowing locals to get the upper hand on attackers. These days the configuration just makes exploring more interesting.
If churches interest you—this is your city. There are more than 400 of them although some of them are about as big as your garage. The most impressive is the gorgeous and commonly photographed Byzantine Panagia Paraportiani. One of the chapels is open to visitors all day. There is also a good archaeological museum with a number of artifacts from Delos and Rhenia. In fact, you could do worse than take a boat ride to nearby Delos. The island is uninhabited and preserved as much as possible (over the centuries all the historic sites have been ravaged by vandals, conquerors, thieves, and amateur and professional archaeologists). Greeks in the 3rd century used it to celebrate it as the birthplace of Apollo. It has some awesome ruins and a tour puts history into perspective: a good balance to the sybaritic mood of Mykonos.
We went back to the boat to eat dinner and then some of us went to the famed “Little Venice” area to watch the sun set. It should have been superb—we were on the beach just below the Windmills, which the ship’s lecturer on the islands had assured us that we would all photograph (we did) and looking across the water to the setting sun. The problem: Little Venice smelled a lot like the real Venice. A mild, but anti-romantic stench rose up from the water’s edge—and I would advise that just in case this is a common occurrence, you sit back a few rows from the water. Or, just skip that area and look for nightlife in the center of town. Mykonos seems to be the party capital of the Cyclades, so you won’t have trouble finding music, dancing or serious drinking.
The feel of Mykonos by day or night is young, carefree and sensual. There are elegant places to stay, and then rooms for rent that are, to say the least, modest. I gather that the famous windmills are now habitable and can be had for a small fortune. They might be worth it—the view from there is stunning.