Gorgeous Greece

Hi friends,

I’m offering a little eye candy to start the week off right.

Akrotiri, Exterior Couple Shot
As some of you know, one of my family’s best (newish) traditions is planning reunions in foreign countries. I don’t get back to visit my folks nearly as much as I’d like, but meeting up in intriguing destinations adds a whole other level of magic to seeing each other again. We recently got a chance to create some more memories.

First evening's view

First evening’s view

Since living in Paris, I’ve met my parents in Prague, Portugal, and Istanbul (all of which were fantastic, the latter two particularly a dream). My favorite trip category is fit to overflowing now, because I’m adding a new one to the list.

We recently took an unescorted package tour to Greece, meaning a travel company booked all the logistics – hotels, transfers, ferry tickets – but we were on our own to explore each place as we wanted. It’s not how I usually travel, but gosh it’s nice to have someone else take care of all the details sometimes. With 3 stops in 8 days, though, we agreed we didn’t have nearly enough time to bask in our surroundings.

Oia landscape

I have never seen water the color of the Aegean Sea and the whitewashed houses against that sparkling blue really does look like a perfect postcard (souvenirs which I bought because my dinky camera would in no way capture what I was seeing).

But the camera did capture my pure joy at being there.

But the camera did capture my pure joy at being there.

At the tip of Santorini is a town called Oia where we watched a stunning sunset, along with thousands of other tourists.

Oia landscape castle

Packed in tight.

Packed in tight.

At first feeling cheesy for crowding in with the masses to wait around for an event that happens each day, any doubts were dispelled when the sun began to descend.

Blurry photo, but you see what I mean?

Blurry photo, but you see what I mean?

The glowing orb disappeared directly into a gap between 2 mountain peaks rising from the ocean. It was like the valley cradled, then swallowed, the sun.

Everyone began to applaud spontaneously. It was strangely moving. Indeed, the miracle is that the sun does set every day. The act of slowing down and witnessing with full attention, giving nature its due – well, it was a highlight.

Other highlights included a terrific tour through the prehistoric settlement/excavations of Akrotiri and stuffing ourselves with delicious food.


Akrotiri wall

Up next was Mykonos, but not before a rough ferry ride to get there. I get terribly seasick, even when I down Dramamine. The crossing was a nightmare, where all I could do was sit as still as possible for three hours while my mom held my hand (how wonderful to have mama close when I’m sick! A rarity in adulthood!)

I do my own form of silent prayer when ill.

I do my own form of silent prayer when ill.

It speaks to my newfound love of the Greek islands that I will risk similar voyages in the future. The waves of nausea, like many things in life, were awful, but temporary; rewards are often greater than the negative experiences we endure along the way.

Small Mykonos street

We were appalled when we first stepped foot on Mykonos, though. Known as “the windy island,” the name is no joke. Gale force winds (responsible for those choppy waters that did me in, I’m sure) blew us around as soon as we landed – and it was freezing! From skimping around in little sundresses in Santorini to bundling up again and steeling our bodies against the wind, it was quite a shock.

Don’t sit too close to the edge! A wave will come up and slap you!

Don’t sit too close to the edge! A wave will come up and slap you!

Yes, windmills make sense here.

Yes, windmills make sense here.

Impossible to take a respectable selfie under these conditions!

Impossible to take a respectable selfie under these conditions!

Mykonos is also known for its nightlife and let’s just say my parents and I aren’t crazy party animals.

But we wandered the town and discovered a lovely beach, Platys Gialos (which we picked for the promise that it was less windy). Suddenly, paradise was at hand again. We also found another fantastic restaurant (my god, the food. I might happily live the rest of my life on a Greek diet).

Palm tree Mykonos

Square in Mykonos

I recognize that name.

I recognize that name.

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

We also took another (hellacious) ferry ride to Delos, one of the most important historical, mythological, and archaeological sites in Greece.

Terrace of the Lions on Delos.

Terrace of the Lions on Delos.

(Can we just pause a moment and read some history books now? A quick blog recap of visiting Greece is hard! Ok, but let’s continue…)

One last ferry (5 hours! But the smoothest of all the rides) brought us to Athens. Just one full day in the capital, which is nowhere close to what’s needed to do the city justice. But we happily did what we could. With such a rich history, ruins are all around – and everywhere you dig. (The current metro system took decades to construct because they kept finding valuable archaeological sites underground).

Hello, Athens!

Hello, Athens!

The Acropolis Museum was the most well-thought out museum I’d ever encountered. As you approach, glass panels on the ground allow you to peek the excavations underfoot. On the top floor, the display of the Parthenon’s frieze has the exact dimensions of the central structure of the Parthenon itself.

My favorite figures in the museum’s collection were the Caryatids, female sculptures used as architectural supports. Our tour guide endearingly called them “the girls.”

Caryatids, Acropolis Museum

They're stunning from the back, too.

They’re stunning from the back, too.

Afterward, my dad and I scaled the steep hill to the actual Parthenon. My mom has bad knees which make walking painful. She insisted we go up to see the classical temple without her. We made quick work of it as we didn’t want to leave her alone for long, though we had her blessing to linger as long as we liked.

And this is really it, in fact. We saw wondrous things during our vacation. But it was spending precious time with each other that was of utmost importance.

It should be noted that Greece has been suffering a severe economic crisis for years and a new stage of the crisis is developing even now, as the G7 summit opens today. The country is at risk of defaulting on loans, their place in the EU in real jeopardy. I wish we’d had more time to tune into the stories on the ground. I should know more.

Ancient amphitheater in Athens
But this trip was about listening to each other’s stories. We are so rarely, the 3 of us, all present in the same space. My parents reflected on their relationship in ways I had never heard before, revelations and telling moments spooling forth.

Small church in front of water in Mykonos
On the fourth day, my father woke in the middle of the night with serious chest pain. Only on this trip did I learn that he’s already had two operations for clogged arteries. I worried over his heart. And everywhere we went I looked for places for my mom to rest; her legs could only take her so far. The body can age quicker than the mind or the spirit. I am so grateful for each present moment; the time we have must never be taken for granted.

*   *    *    *    *    *    *

Photo of mom on Crete

A couple enlarged black and white photos hung in the hallway of my childhood home, the only two prominent pictures that were framed. They featured four beautiful women in a setting of rough exterior walls and leaves. Each woman eyed the camera with a different expression. My mother was one of them, a snapshot from one soulful summer she’d spent in Crete.

I always loved how alive and glamorous everyone looked, my mom so familiar and mysterious at the same time. I’ve carried a smaller version of one of these images with me wherever I’ve lived.

The photos come from my mom’s first trip to Greece 44 years ago. She hadn’t been back since. As soon as we arrived in Santorini (which she’d also visited in 1971; we had a poster of a blue domed church and the sea tacked in our kitchen), she was reminded of how much she’d liked the island. But I always associate her with Crete.

On this trip, I learned more details about that summer she’d taken off for Europe with my oldest sister, then 6. In a serendipitous turn, she’d run into a couple she knew from New York. All of them had ended up in the same European port city without ever planning it. The couple were boarding a ferry to Crete and so my mom joined them. She told me the experience changed how she viewed life.

I’ve always said that I ended up in Paris on a romantic whim, and it’s not to be blithe. It’s true. I’ve always felt so strongly the many gifts my mother has given me, but it only occurs to me now how I owe my openness to her.


I’ve been in one of those see-saw periods again, questioning everything from work to love, writing to purpose. For a couple weeks, I was literally breaking down crying every day, though I couldn’t completely articulate why. We often only see the highlights reel of other people’s lives through social media, and I know posting gorgeous photos from Greece might fit that category, too. But the full story is that I struggle and fight the blues, too. But I know these intense periods are times of transformation. I am emerging again with more light and energy, the glow from Greece still in my skin.

I wonder, when you look at that nearly half-century old photo, if you can guess which one is my mother. I wonder if you can see in me the woman I am because of her. She conveyed to me, in subtle and quiet ways, the simple and essential lessons: acknowledge joy. Ride through the hard times; they pass. Board the boat. Stay awake to the beauty of life.

23 Responses to “Gorgeous Greece”

  1. 1 Aurelia June 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I’m so moved by this beautifully written travelogue–especially the penultimate paragraph. Thank you for sharing, and for the reminder that difficult times can herald wonderful new beginnings.

    Also, I really, really want to visit Greece now. And is that your mother on the bottom right?


  2. 7 Nina Lorch June 8, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    What a beautiful love poem to both of your parents; it brought tears to my eyes. I love that you got to see Greece with them, and that from that visit arose such wonderful epiphanies (from the Greek “epiphainein ‘reveal.'”) Efharisto para poli!

    And I recall seeing that photo in your house!


  3. 9 Lee Isbell June 8, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Sion, do try Sea Bands. They’ve saved my life and allowed me to do the travel I do. http://www.sea-band.com/ also available thru Amazon, or I’ll even send a pair to you if you can’t get them online.


    • 10 paris (im)perfect June 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      Oh, Lee. I’ve never heard of this before, but sounds great! Thanks so much for alerting me to this. I love the idea of using natural acupressure! And thank you for your generous offer! I’ll see if I can find them over here!


  4. 11 hmunro June 8, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    This is amazing and beautiful, Sion! Your writing is so compelling that I feel as if I came along for the (occasionally bumpy) ride — and your photos are beautiful. But what most elevated this post for me was your evident love for your parents. How marvelous that you were able to share this journey with them, and how grateful I am that you shared it with *us,* your readers, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 13 wonky73 (@wonky73) June 9, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    What beautiful words and pictures. And what a great way to spend time with your parents. Cherishing time with loved ones who are getting older is very important.


  6. 15 Shelagh June 9, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    We went to Crete about six or seven years ago, my husband was very much moved by the experience of the island. It changed him in a good way. We met a couple from the Netherlands on that trip who decided to make the island their home and still live there. We stay in touch, so noce to still hear about the island. Your mother is lovely.


  7. 17 cynthia June 10, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Oh this makes me want to go to Greece–that sunset, the waves crashing onto the tiled patio, the light flecks of color in the prayer-flag photo. I’m a little light-sensitive so had always thought the brilliant white buildings would be too much, but now I want to give it a go.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 19 buffyschilling June 13, 2015 at 5:02 am

    Sion, I hope you are feeling better, as well as both your parents. It is great you were able to have that time in Greece with them. Thank you for sharing your story; your life.

    I think we all qeaution at times the direction our lives have taken. Sometimes I want to change the direction, and I will once I retire. So less than 8 yrs to go. I think we question life’s choices more when burned out. I have worked so much, I have become just that. Enjoy this summer, and enjoy what you do have. You are a good person, talented writer, who lives in a wonderful place. I wish you and your family health and happiness. May sound sappy, but isn’t that what most of us want?


    • 20 paris (im)perfect June 16, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Buffy, thanks so much for your kind words. I am feeling better – thank you! I think you’re totally right about questioning and burn-out. (Elizabeth Gilbert recently wrote a great post called “depression is a stop sign” about how the low feeling is an indicator to stop and evaluate what must change in our lives. Then go about changing it).

      Over the weekend, a wonderful woman from my writing program passed away from an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was so young – in her mid-40s! It’s another one of those huge reminders that we simply have no idea how long we have on this earth and we must revel in the moments we have here. Indeed, health and happiness – we could not ask for anything more. Nothing sappy about it!

      Less than 8 years until your retirement – woo-hoo! I hope for you many, many moments of happiness even before that liberating day.


  9. 21 Lynn June 21, 2015 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for your beautiful story,Sion, which particularly resonated with me as I have just returned from a trip to Greece myself. I agree with your impressions of its beauty, good food and all the rewards for enduring seasickness! We visited the islands of Chios and Lesbos, which were not touristy at all (well, most of the tourists were Greek), and every bit as beautiful as the ones you describe – highly recommended for your next trip.

    I was also touched by your thoughts on appreciating time with loved ones and the unknowability of what life has in store. My first trip to Greece was with my own parents (also around 44 years ago),and my father died a few years afterwards, so that memory of our travels together is all the sweeter.


    • 22 paris (im)perfect June 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks so much for your beautiful comment, Lynn. I want to visit much more of Greece and many more islands – I will put Chios and Lesbos on the list! What a special place the country must mean to you. I’m so glad you had the chance to travel there with your father before he passed away. Memories are precious. Thank you for sharing.


  1. 1 My Paris Decade | paris (im)perfect Trackback on November 4, 2016 at 7:38 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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