come to the edge

Some of the most interesting and inspiring people, I’ve met along the path of travel. Through our shared affinity for culture and adventure, our lives converge, in a place often unexpected. This was the case with Christina Haag during our recent journey to Serifos, Greece. Via my latest fascination with instagram (obsession is a strong word) I discovered another New Yorker on the island and we met for a local rakomelo. I immediately took a liking to this warm and engaging woman who had in the weeks preceding our visit, made this island her temporary home. Most of the tourists had left for Athens or their respective cities, leaving us time to enjoy what often felt like a private island.

Christina 1

One of the most memorable days in Serifos was spent with Christina and my Italian, light and happy, dining in a taverna overlooking a serene beach. It was there, along the banks of Platys Gialos that Christina shared her stories with me, and I with her. We spoke freely about life and love, our shared passion for Greece, New York, the Hamptons, travel. We spent the early evening driving along the scenic roads, often stopping to admire a view, with Christina as our guide. A few dinners and many conversations followed, we even joined her for a Panagyria festival with the locals.

Christina 2

Christina’s life read much like a book, and I was pleased to learn that she had recently written a memoir. Come to the Edge reminisces on a life of privilege in old New York City, her successes and trials as an actress, and a five year long love affair with John F. Kennedy Jr. A life lived with passion.

Christina's book

From Serifos to Paris, Christina’s stories continued as I lost myself in the soulful words of her memoir. I felt as though I were living these experiences myself, and could not stop reading. I was reminded of our conversations, of how she felt compelled to tell her story, rightfully so, spending months writing in the Hamptons, long after her dear friend and great love’s life had tragically ended.

Christina & John

Christina lives by her heart. For this, I admire her, and feel grateful to have shared our own chapter.

Christina Haag-profileChristina is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky reader. To enter, follow Christina Haag on Facebook and tell us your favorite quote on love or life, below. (Random winner will be announced on November 15th, good luck!) You can also follow Christina on Twitter and Instagram. Incidentally, for those in Paris, there’s an exhibition about the Kennedy family going on until November 30th.

Within you, your years are growing. – Pablo Neruda

 

island hopping in Greece: Milos

Our last stop on this grand island hopping adventure, was Milos. I knew little about this island other than it possessed gorgeous beaches and dramatic landscapes, soon to be discovered. We decided to settle in the small yet lively village of Polonia, not only charming but quite the foodie haven!

IMG_0656 Our first stop, a place my Italian knew from a previous visit and was eager to show me, was a lunar landscape called Sarakiniko. Here began my love affair with Milos.

IMG_0539 IMG_0604

One of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, volcanic rocks shaped by wind and waves.

IMG_0577

The next day we decided to be proper tourists and see it all by taking a catamaran around the island.

IMG_0696

The journey began with the vibrantly colored village of Klima, only reachable by boat.

IMG_0750

At many a hidden beach we would stop and swim, snorkel, take in the island’s unique beauty.

IMG_0797

Never before had I swam in such crystal clear waters! This was the uninhabited island of Poliegos.

IMG_0857

The ever changing colors were reminiscent of paintings by artists like Cy Twombly.

IMG_0870

We left one paradise and discovered another. Each more spectacular than the last.

IMG_0914

And to swim within these landscapes, in and out of the caves… a surreal experience!

IMG_1008

We both agreed this was one of the most memorable day we spent in Greece. And there were many.

IMG_0632

Our last sunset, from a scenic spot appropriately named Utopia, with a promise to return.

island hopping in Greece: Serifos

As anyone who has traveled around the Greek islands knows, you must plan your island hopping well, as boats tend to be infrequent. Years ago in Fourni, no boat arrived or left for three days due to rough seas. All part of the adventure! In order to make our way to Serifos in the western Cyclades, we had to stop at Paros, but decided to explore the smaller island of Antiparos instead.

IMG_9612

After discovering what proved to be a charming village with chic boutiques, (ideal for my bags), we boarded an early morning boat for Serifos, less touristic and more off the beaten path. Perfect.

IMG_9737

 What’s most unique and spectacular about Serifos (though each island possesses it’s own unique charm) it that the Hora (main village) sits high above the island, at once dramatic and regal.

IMG_0059

IMG_9765

With a car in tow, we began to explore the island, enjoying the views from the Hora to the port.

IMG_9863

IMG_0017

IMG_0166

And what did we find when we drove down the long windy roads with barely a sign or soul around?

IMG_9896

Remote beaches boasting crystal clear waters, surrounded by natural cliffs. Truly a paradise found!

IMG_0009

IMG_0208

It was at this church at Agios Sostis, that we joined the locals for a religious festival, a Panageria.

IMG_9988

IMG_0198

What greatly adds to the feeling of Greece are the tavernas serving fresh seafood. Simple pleasures.

IMG_0400

We happily spent one week in Serifos and were sorry when it came time to part. But Milos awaited…

island hopping in Greece: Koufonisia

It’s not easy to capture the feeling of Greece, but I will try my best to share these two magical weeks. Hence my absence, I was happily lost in the Greek Isles. As those who read my blog know, Greece is close to our hearts. It’s one of my Italian’s preferred destinations, (he has been to over 15 islands in the Cyclades, and I to 10.) This is also where he proposed, and where we spent our honeymoon.

IMG_9215

Our third island-hopping adventure landed us in Mykonos. We boarded the first boat to Koufonisia, part of the smaller Cyclades and what is becoming a hotspot among Greeks and foreigners alike.

IMG_9314

It is here we discovered gorgeous beaches, each with it’s own taverna, all within walking distance.

IMG_9311

And the views? This was our morning breakfast spot. Heaven!

IMG_9514

The island is small and we got to know it (and love it) in only three days. Unlike most of the islands, no car or motorbike is needed, and boats or buses transport you from port to beach, or to an uninhabited island which we also visited. The people of Koufonisia are known to be some of the most hospitable in Greece, and the food was a perfect mix of freshly caught seafood and fine dining.

IMG_9383

It was not easy to say goodbye, but the paradise called Serifos awaited…

the smallest island

Our Greek island-hopping adventures began in Santorini, the most touristic (and one of the most beautiful) islands in the Cyclades. From there a quick boat ride to Folegrandros, much less touristic, but not exactly undiscovered. Onwards to the more remote Fourni Islands. Our last stop on what became our gradual ‘escape from civilization’, was the smallest Greek Island. Upon hearing about this unknown island from a well traveled Italian couple, both my Italian and I were intrigued. Several days, three islands and four boats later, we arrived to Marathi.

Could there be a place more removed from the world than Marathi? I imagined not. The population consists of two families who own the three tavernas. We decided to stay in the more upscale of the three, it was our honeymoon after all. Meanwhile, I was determined to find out as much as I could about the life and history of the island. Did I succeed in our three day visit? Not so well. I learned the most from a Polish waitress who worked for the pirate. Yes, there did live a pirate on the island, one of the three inhabitants in the winter season. The secrets of Marathi will remain buried.

In what felt like the middle of nowhere, we were undoubtedly detached from all manners of distractions. Aside from an occasional imposing yacht, an island in itself, docking in the neighboring waters. And then there was one surprising night of Greek music and dancing in our taverna… who knew we were on a private party island? The greatest calm was found at the old settlement, high on a hill above the harbour, once home to a dozen or so inhabitants before WWII.

What went on in this space so many years ago?

Unfortunately the lonely wild goat did not prove a helpful tour guide.

Only the church stands proudly intact at it’s vantage point.

It was here that we watched our last Greek sunset. Perhaps the most magical of all.

Until the next time.

Islands undiscovered

My Italian was eager to explore the great unknown, while I would have been more than happy to remain in the Cyclades. I am not one to stifle anyone’s dreams, so we journeyed onwards. A very rough sea rocked us to Mykonos where we spent the afternoon wandering amidst the white maze, until our early morning boat to the little known archipelago called the Fourni Islands.

Upon reaching this former pirate’s lair we immediately noticed how removed it was from the world. There were only a handful of other tourists, (all of whom we soon met), and complete stillness. With a population of under 1,500, this is considered ‘real Greece’. Certainly life has not changed here in decades. Did this quietude provide the charm? Perhaps. Though I was not yet impressed. We settled into the only ‘luxury’ hotel on the island and soon set out to explore. By foot, taxi (though very often he was nowhere to be found) and motorbike. Car rentals had yet to make their way to the island. What did we find? A landscape so replete with natural beauty that it’s difficult even to describe. This is why the Fourni Islands are considered a gem hidden in the Aegean.

There was barely a soul on the road, the heavy winds, and goats being our only companions.

We made our way from one tranquil beach to another. Days were lost.

Perhaps not so high on the list of honeymoon destinations, Fourni turned out to be undeniably romantic. Secluded beaches, the best (and most inexpensive) seafood, often eaten beneath the shade of a single tree, cooked by a local woman named Maria. (Leave it to my Italian, for this romantic interlude I give him all the credit.)

After exploring as much as was possible, the rough seas subsided, we bid farewell to the locals and fellow pioneers, and set out to continue our journey. In search of islands still more remote

Island of Italians

We arrived to Folegandros and I was not immediately impressed. Like many islands in the Cyclades, the port was less than spectacular, revealing several boats and a lonely taverna. It’s what we discovered driving up to the Hora, the main village overlooking the sea, that confirmed why this island was such a favored destination, particularly among the Italians. Not to mention the views…

What we were surprised to discover upon reaching the Hora, other than one of the most charming villages in the Cyclades, was an Italian cafe/tourist office. Much like an oasis it greeted us with authentic cappuccino, freshly baked focaccia and many a ‘ciao’ from the neighborhood Italians who had for decades made this their summer retreat. We immediately felt at home.

Meanwhile, the locals carried on in the manner they had for years. I grew most fond of the twin brother bus drivers who provided the transportation. (There was also one taxi, just in case.)

We made our way from one fine (wild goat included) Greek dining experience to another…

We explored the traditional settlement of Ano Meria where life has not progressed in decades.

The beaches proved an ideal sanctuary, revealing turquoise waters and the right amount of shade.

Must we leave this ‘paradise found’? Yes. It was time to journey onwards to islands undiscovered

Island of beauty

Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows how necessary it is to take a honeymoon. Directly afterwards, if possible. Where did we decide to escape to? The Greek islands of course. Beginning with Santorini, where just 9 months earlier my Italian proposed. Naturally, we booked the same room in the same hotel in Oia. (Can you say sentimental?) And from this perfect perch atop the cliffs, overlooking the caldera, our many days of Greek honey and nights of a (full) moon, began.

After 3 days of staring at the sea, indulging in local white wine and many a Greek salad, we decided to explore the island. Something we had not done much of on our last visit. (With a view like this, is there really a need to explore?) And so we rented a car and took to the open road. One view replaced another… each more spectacular than the last.

At the end of a long winding road, paradise was found in the form of a hidden beach.

Neighboring the famous ‘Red Beach’, which certainly merits it’s name.

One evening we caught sight of the most inspiring sunset, with the sun melting into the sea.

Followed by a full moon. Soon to turn into an eclipse. Time again to stare at the sea…

We inhaled the many scenes of serenity and continued our adventures to the Island of Italians

love affair with Greece: part two

Is there a more spectacular place on earth than Santorini? Perhaps. But I doubt it. This unique landscape was created thousands of years ago by the eruption of a volcano, sinking the centre of the island, revealing a caldera surrounded by multi-colored cliffs. Not to mention the surreal sunsets….

We drove directly to Oia, surely one of the loveliest villages in the Cyclades. With patience, resolve (and a little luck) we found a dwelling nestled into the volcanic rock with a perfect view of the caldera. That is where we chose to stay for three days. In peaceful bliss. Staring at the sea.

It was here that my Italian asked me to share his life with him. I said yes. Was there ever a question?

love affair with Greece: part one

Often during my year of travel I found it very difficult to leave one place in order to discover another. A common dilemma of the traveler. The appeal of the ‘paradise found’ was so strong, filling my senses so completely that I could barely say goodbye. Even knowing another unknown and uniquely beautiful place was waiting to be discovered.

This is exactly how I felt during our ‘island hopping’ in the Cyclades. Each place, one so different than the next, became home in a matter of days, and I could imagine no other place so magical and idyllic. Until the next island. 

Our adventure began in Mykonos, the island of hedonistic revelry. Or so it felt. Beginning in the early evening and ending perhaps at sunrise, this stylish island came to life. An endless array of restaurants, fashionable boutiques, bars and discos of Little Venice lining the Mediterranean, not to mention the hidden champagne bars. Time seemed to hold no relevance. Even the shops stayed open early into the morning, should you desire a little pre-dawn shopping spree. We managed to avoid the crowds and cruise ship contingent only during early afternoons spent happily lost in the maze of cobbled streets, while the sun seekers lined the beaches aptly titled ‘Paradise’.

I’m not a big fan of the ‘beach turned dance party’ concept and prefer to listen to the calm of the sea. A quick hitchhike or scooter ride from the town’s center and we found just this. I am privileged to say that I have walked the sands of many gorgeous beaches in my life. Agios Sostis is one of them. 

Equally exhausted from nights of  carousing and days spent beneath the formidable sun, we set sail for The Big Blue, the tranquil island of Amorgos. Here we found a home in the little port town of Aegiali. Hidden from the world. Mykonos hours away but long forgotten. 

In this far away land we were joined by my friend from NYC, photographer Konstantino Hatzisarros, a native of Greece and adopted resident of Amorgos. I can well understand why.

Amorgos holds many treasures, the most impressive being the iconic monastery Moni Hozoviotissis, set in a cliff high above the sea. Within these holy walls lies a miraculous icon said to be found in the waters below, guarded by the few hospitable monks still in residence.

At the heart of Amorgos lies the old capital Hora. This sophisticated village positioned 400m above sea level, boasting old windmills, trendy bars, and a view.

Driving the length of the island revealed it’s wildnerness. The shadows of surrounding islands in the distance. An old ship wreck to provoke the imagination….the natural beauty of Amorgos is unique. Perhaps it’s the light. Impossible to describe and difficult to capture.

After nearly one week of living in what I can accurately describe as an untamed paradise with just the right amount of class, it was time to say goodbye. One last sunset until Santorini….