Greece Is The Word
Bubbly, bustling Mykonos is blissfully free of crowds in the off-season, when this legendary party island finally slows to a more laid-back pace.
At the height of summer, the beaches of Mykonos resemble metropolises in miniature, teeming with distinct neighborhoods and subcultures, each governed by its own arcane customs. But as the last of the warm days disappears in the rearview mirror like so many tanned Lotharios on rented Vespas, something miraculous happens to the beaches of this storied party island: They become beaches again. Mykonos is renowned throughout the Cyclades for its sublime white sand.
Of the 220 islands that make up the Cyclades group, Mykonos is the most synonymous with partying and decadence, a reputation it has upheld since the 1970s, when the international jet set—including Aristotle and Jackie Onassis—put this granite speck in the ocean on the map.
If you’ve ever dreamed of fleeing the daily grind and hightailing it to some languid, idyllic island where the citizens are more devoted to sunsets than to plasma screens, be warned: The Greek Islands can be a bewitching place. Little Venice (left), a picturesque neighborhood of houses with colorful balconies dangling precariously over the water, makes for the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
The chora (or “town” in Greek) is situated on the island’s west coast. Like a film set depicting an idealized version of village life, the scene comes complete with quaint waterside cafes, winding cobblestone streets, and whitewashed buildings festooned with hot pink bougainvillea.
The café terraces are filled with locals chatting ebulliently in a mélange of Greek and English while the island’s famously photogenic cats weave around their legs. The ubiquitous street cats of Mykonos are photographed almost as often as the famous churches around town.
Port-side Babulas Taverna (left) is the place for a fresh seafood lunch. “Down by the harbor, the mornings are uniquely bright and pleasant because the winter light is very clean and clear. It’s wonderful being able to walk around for a long time solo and feel like the streets and village are all yours, like you’re on your own stage set,” says Jennifer Bier, a former music industry and events executive who divides her time between Mykonos and Paris.
A typical Greek lunch might include grape leaves stuffed with rice, currants, and pine nuts.
An excursion to Mykonos isn’t complete without a visit to the grain windmills. These 16th-century landmarks are among the most iconic images associated with the island, a small reminder of something few travelers know exist, the tranquil, thoughtful side of Mykonos.
(Published November 2011)