We escaped from Athens for five days to the island of Naxos. Suzanne found us a wonderful place to relax and we looked forward to a week of beach time and focus on road-school work. After taking possession of a small rental car at the ferry terminal, we were immediately lost in the twisting, turning, unlabeled roads. Fortunately the GPS on my phone was working; unfortunately the out-of-gas light on the dash lit up. The woman who rented us the car had left enough gas in the tank to drive it to the nearest gas station but neglected to inform us of this before she walked off. Luckily we rolled into a gas station on fumes and made it to the pump before the engine stalled.
Our apartment was a one room apartment in a building called Blue Harmony at the end of Plaka Beach – a beautiful clean white sandy beach. Our initial exploration of the area revealed that Plaka Beach is a favorite for nude bathers. The kids were a little upset at first, but after a couple of hours they were just grossed out because all the nude bathers were “old fat grown ups”. In reality, we had the entire beach to ourselves most of the time and people polite and discrete when the children were around. The tourist season was at an end so there were very few visitors besides ourselves. The up side was the lack of crowds, the down side was the restaurants and stores that cater to visitors were closed or had very limited offerings (like no food). Fortunately we met a friendly and helpful English couple in the apartment next to ours. They have made Naxos their Greek get-away for many years, and they guided us to a grocery store, pointed out the best local restaurants, and told us where to buy a useful road map. (most of the road maps in circulations are incomplete and confusing) The friendly staff at the Blue Harmony greeted us with juice and cookies and stopped by each day with a different homemade treat; cake, jam and farm fresh eggs. What a welcome surprise. The days flew by quickly. Patrick and I listened to a reading of the Odyssey and discussed the different trials that Odysseus overcame to come home to his family after the Trojan war. Alex completed the required literature reading for 5th grade and began a program on pencil sketching. They both made good progress on their math goals on Khan Academy. I completed a couple blog posts and Suzanne put the finishing touches on logistics for the next leg of our trip (Turkey, Africa, India). And we rewarded ourselves with time playing at the beach and relaxed meals at local restaurants. We reserved one day to explore the island by car. The road map was useful with street names and everything. Unfortunately the actual roads are not labeled with street signs. I guess the locals don’t need street signs, and tourists are not motivated to put the signs up themselves. Navigation required the map, the GPS, and a bit of dead reckoning over the countryside. We ended up in a farmer’s field a couple of times, but we were in no hurry and everything moved at a relaxed pace, until we decided to follow a sign that read “Ancient Parthenon”. (queue ominous the music: “dant dant daaaaa”)
Next thing I knew we were on a narrow road that wound its way down a steep hill-side – more like a cliff. Massive trucks full of gravel sped down the switch-backs and blind curves. Once we started down the mountain there was no place to stop or turn around, so we were committed. The family enjoyed wonderful views of the Agean Sea and neighboring islands, while I sweated, and cursed, and mumbled all the way down to the sea-side. (Editors note, Alex is working on a post called “My Dad’s Driving Curse” which will give the backseat opinion of my exclamations while driving abroad) We never found another sign for the “Ancient Parthenon”, so it was back up the cliff face – praying as I turned every corner that I would not need to make a decision between colliding with a dump truck and swerving off the edge of the road. As we finished the climb to the top of the cliff face everyone in the car (especially me) took a deep breath and thanked Hermes, the Greek god of travelers, for looking after us.