Thursday, December 19, 2013

Vacation Ruined?

Parikia Old Town
Paros can be driven around in half a day but is filled with little beaches for stops. In addition to a few tiny, scattered villages, the two main options for lodging are the main town of Parikia, where the ferry from Athens comes in, and the tinier, fishing village of Naoussa. Pre-trip, I spent hours upon hours trying to figure out which town and which hotel. Finally, with the ferry in mind, I booked us into a hotel in Parikia. Few of the Parikia hotels had a pool, so we settled on one that had good reviews but was a short walk into town, which reviewers said was not a problem. Our hotel host picked us up from the airport, and while she was nice enough, we didn't get the best feeling. Then we seemed to drive down a really busy road out of town to get to the hotel. Upon check in, the hotel public spaces were beautiful - stone walls, pool with a waterfall, view over the water, comfy lounge. Then we got to our room, and oh my goodness, it was so horrible. Out of date, cramped, the crib provided by request was about 50 years old with slats wide enough for Nora to get her head stuck, broken shower, the list just went on and on. After I had some teary moments and a long nap, we tried to salvage the day with a walk around town for the afternoon before dinner out.
Church in Parikia
Our hotel turned out to be an incredibly ugly walk to the beach, which was also pretty blah. The town itself was lovely to walk around, so things were kind of, sort of (not really) looking up...until dinnertime. Restaurants on offer were ugly, touristy, and nothing special...and we had seven nights on this island! We picked what seemed to be the best of the bunch, paid a huge amount for really bad food, even worse wine (I asked for the rose, got red, asked for the rose again and got my original red watered down with some white), and contemplated how we could turn this vacation around. Then things went from bad to worse. The walk back to the hotel in the dark was on what seemed like the island expressway - no sidewalk, no shoulder of the road to walk on, no streetlights. It was terrifying. We miraculously made it back without getting hit, and after a sleepless night in the room, Nathan told me to pack my bags because we were leaving. Except we didn't know where to go since we'd not seen any other appealing hotels in Parikia. The vacation was headed for disaster.

We eventually decided to first get a taxi and have the driver take us to the other village, Naoussa, so we could see if there was anything better over there. I spent the 15 minute drive to Naoussa quizzing our driver about various hotels we found on the TripAdvisor app I was frantically searching, and the driver took us to one of the options we discussed with him that he thought we'd like best (after he found out why we were unhappy in Parikia). As an aside, our taxi driver was such a gem. Nathan was so disgusted with our hotel and so set that my 40th birthday and our anniversary be a great memory, that he told the driver to take us to the nicest hotel in Naoussa. Period. (Note: I forgot to mention in the previous post that in addition to this trip happening over my 40th birthday, we would also be celebrating 17 years of marriage!). Our driver was great at taking the three hotels we suggested (via Trip Advisor recommendations) and selecting the one he thought we'd like best.

Our room is the top left - I wish I were there right now.
First stop, Stelia Mare Hotel, also now known as Heaven on Earth. You know how you carry around a Happy Place in your head, so when you are feeling rushed or overwhelmed or anxious, you can just take a minute and think of this place to relax. Stelia Mare is it. My Happy Place. It was gorgeous - whitewashed walls like all of Naoussa, red trim, gorgeous and fun artwork, and hands down the best staff of any hotel we've ever visited. Two clerks switched off the day and evening shifts, and they were very hands on involved in checking in with us, arranging anything we needed, even to the point that if we were at the pool deck located one level above the lobby, they would bring up the hotel's cordless phone and stay by the pool...just in case we needed anything - drinks, snacks, fresh towels, random questions, anything. Plus, the beach was just yards away out the front door, complete with clear water, comfy lounge chairs, and thatch umbrellas.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We must have looked so pitiful to Georgia, the day clerk. She showed us a few rooms in a variety of price ranges, but because we were visiting in the weeks just before full season, the hotel was mostly empty. After consulting the manager, she offered us the nicest room in the hotel for a wonderful rate. I just about died when I saw it. Coming from our total pit of a hotel in Parikia, I seriously wanted to kiss that gorgeous, tile floor and hug the beautiful painting sitting above the sofa, then drink an entire bottle of wine on the large, covered terrace that looked out over the pool below and the sea beyond. I never wanted to leave. Except we had to go back to the Pit to pick up our luggage. But that made our return to Stelia Mare all the sweeter, like coming home...except in my home, no one ever sets out a plate of cookies and decanter of raki. Or stands around awaiting to fulfill my every wish.
This delightful tray was restocked each and every day. Happy Place.

1 comment:

  1. I somehow missed this story back in May when it actually happened. I knew you were on a trip for your birthday, but I wasn't aware, or don't remember, all of these details. Glad Nathan saved the vacation!