Wandering souls can’t always explain exactly what it is that beckons them to a particular destination. It could be the glimpse of a photograph in a magazine, or a particularly memorable description in a book. Perhaps the location was the backdrop of a popular movie, or mentioned in the lyrics of a favorite song. But I can explain exactly what it was that drew me to Greece. My parents went there on a vacation when I was a girl–the first one I could ever recall them taking, and one of the very few trips they enjoyed without the kids.
My parents returned with tales of an exotic foreign land that left me wide-eyed and slack-jawed. As they recalled their experiences in the company of friends and family, I hung on to every word. I knew then that I would want to see it for myself someday. When I finally made the pilgrimage as an adult, Athens was an exciting mix of old and new, while Santorini was all about the dramatic views. But Nafplion is the Greek destination that most matched the romantic vision I had nurtured in my head as a child.
Nafplion is located in the Peloponnese region of Greece, which is a peninsula in the southern part of the country. It’s separated from the mainland by the Isthmus (a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land) and Canal of Corinth. It was considered an overlooked destination for a long time, but the Peloponnese has recently gained in popularity. It was at the top of Lonely Planet’s 2016 Best in Europe list, as well as Travel + Leisure’s 2018 50 Best Places to Travel list. Thanks to recently improved highways, Nafplion is only a 90-minute drive from Athens, making it the perfect site for a day trip.
Any devotee of Greek Mythology will find many stories based in the Peloponnese. Nafplion is named after its founder Nauplios, the son of Poseidon and Amymone. Poseidon, God of the Sea, is one of the twelve major deities in Greek Mythology. He is brother to Zeus, and fought alongside him in the war that overthrew their father Kronos and the other Titans. Amymone, daughter of King Danaus, was sent by her father to seek water during a drought. While on her quest, Amymone threw a spear at a deer and hit a sleeping Satyr, who woke and attempted to rape her. Poseidon appeared and the Satyr ran off; so Poseidon himself made love to her, after which he told her about the springs of Lerna and saved them from the drought.
Nafplion has played a key role in much of Greece’s history. Port cities have always been desired footholds, and Nafplion was no different. It was conquered by the Franks (Francia is the predecessor of the modern states of France and Germany), Venetians, Turks and Russians. It returned to Greek rule in 1822 when it was freed by General Kolokotronis, and became Greece’s capital in 1828. Greece became a monarchy four years later and Greece’s first king, 17-year-old Otto of Bavaria, resided in Nafplion. Two years later he moved the capital to Athens. You can see traces of these varied empires in the city today, it’s still often referred to as the Venice of Greece.
The Art of Doing Nothing
Two of the main attractions in Nafplion are remnants of its Venetian rule: Bourtzi, a small fortress on an islet, and Palamidi Castle. In the summer, Bourtzi can be reached by boat departing regularly from the port. Getting to Palamidi Castle requires a little more effort: climbing 999 steps. While both are worthy destinations, simply strolling around the old town is a wonderful way to spend the day here. Rid yourself of maps and itineraries, and simply meander around the scenic town. Wander into charming shops and down quiet alleys. Stop for a cup of coffee or a scoop of gelato.
Nafplion can be reached by car or by bus. KTEL buses depart regularly from the Kfissos bus station in Athens. Driving in Athens is not for the weak of heart, so if you’d prefer to travel by car, consider hiring a car service.
Pro Tip: There are numerous benefits to hiring a car service for your trip. Have your driver make a stop at Corinth Canal as well as the Epidaurus Theater, which are both on the way. Your driver could also take you to the top of Palamidi Castle, saving you the torturous 999-step climb. It’s well worth the expense if you’re in a larger party or if you have elderly adults or young children in your group. (Or if your idea of exercise is couch surfing and running Netflix marathons.)
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North Fork is New York’s answer to California’s Napa Valley, with over 50 wineries and an infamous Wine Trail where you can enjoy anything from an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc to a crisp rosé while being chauffeured around in a limo. We understand that wining is a serious business, but there’s so much more to do in North Fork. While calling it untouched would be quite a stretch, it’s still an easier, more charming alternative to The Hamptons. The local pride is tangible here, and they still serve up genuine hospitality everywhere you go. Here are some fun things to do:
Incredibly good coffee has become ubiquitous in New York City, and I regularly take full advantage of it. But I remember a time when it was not. I remember a time when you had to really hunt–and often suffer–for a cup that was merely passable. Nowadays, I’m rather spoiled. The dilemma is no longer about adequacy, it’s about choosing between degrees of excellence. We were recently in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I will admit to a fair bit of pre-trip anxiety. How humid will it be? What should I pack? What if I forget something? Dear Lord, what on earth am I going to do about my morning coffee?
Spring has come and gone. The days of Summer are finally upon us. And that all too familiar feeling has crept into our bones: an overwhelming desire to be outdoors or, perhaps, just anywhere else on God’s green earth other than an office prison. Even businesses get it. They’ve increasingly come to accept the inevitable. Employees are going to become restless and unfocused. Productivity is going to slide. So why fight it? Someone–clearly a genius–decided the best use of that time was as a way of boosting morale. And that thinking is exactly what lead to the adult world finally being permitted to do the unthinkable: take recess. They called it Summer Fridays.
So now that the playground is open a little earlier than usual, the question is: what should you do with your head start? We recently wrote about why you should visit Asbury Park, New Jersey. And certainly that’s a great option to kick off your Summer Fridays. But it was only the first post in our summer series outlining day trips in close proximity to New York City. This post is a continuation of that series and offers yet another option to fill your newly extended weekends: Storm King Art Center.
Everyone loves the summer. Whether you’re a fan of scorching temperatures or not, you can find something about the season to fall in love with: vacations, rooftops, Summer Fridays, or our personal favorite, ice cream errrday. Summer pop-ups are an enduring tradition, from the lemonade stands of our innocent youth, to the trendy outdoor food markets of our fiscally irresponsible adulthood. We want to celebrate, and we want to do it all season long. Last year we commemorated the summer with a series of posts celebrating street art. This year we thought it would be fun to highlight fun day trips from New York City.
When you think of popular summer destinations, there’s generally a beach involved. But the combination of Justin’s lily-white skin and my inability to stay in one place for too long usually limits our time on the shore. We need more than just sand and surf, and that’s where Asbury Park comes in.
Every major city has a neighborhood both tourists and locals adore, and in Athens that neighborhood is Plaka. We met several locals who spoke reverently about it, and when we got there we immediately understood why. It’s impossible not to be captivated by the cobblestone streets and the brightly colored buildings juxtaposed against the vibrant bougainvillea plants. Plaka is Athens’ oldest neighborhood, and its classic beauty draws quite a crowd. There are innumerable restaurants and shops vying for your attention (and your dollar!), and it’s easy to miss the true gems. But fear not: here’s a walking tour to highlight the best this delightful neighborhood has to offer.
For the past couple years, we’ve found ourselves in Brooklyn in early June, just as the summer has begun in earnest. It’s no coincidence that it happens to be around the time of The Bushwick Collective’s Annual Block Party. Last year’s post kicked off our summer series on street art because The Bushwick Collective is still one of our favorite street art destinations in New York City. In last year’s post, we suggested that if our readers were more interested in art than a rowdy party atmosphere they should avoid visiting the area until shortly after the day of the event. And as it happens, we ended up taking that advice ourselves.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when our street art obsession began. But New York City has been the ultimate enabler, feeding our addiction from a well that never seems to run dry. Alas, junkies are never satisfied. Our appetites grew, and pretty soon we found ourselves down deserted alleys in foreign cities trying to get a fix. We’ve hunted down street art in ditches and mansions. And then in Athens, we nearly overdosed.
Do a quick search on Athens and the first thing you’ll see at the very top of the list, perched like the magnificent fortress itself on its rocky hilltop, is the Acropolis. It’s a one-of-a-kind archaeological treasure, deserving of all that prestige, and you should absolutely go and see it when you visit the ancient city for the first time. But too many people make Athens a stopover on the way to the one of the stunning 200-plus Greek Islands without giving it much thought. They squeeze in a visit to the Acropolis then hop back on a plane or ferry. But we’re going to let you in on a secret–Athens has so much more to offer than just ruins.
I recently read an article in Slate where Felix Salmon expressed concern that “blockbuster shows are ruining art museums”. Basically, he asserts that these big tent events are often a drag on sometimes woefully underfunded museum and gallery budgets or that they devour resources that would otherwise go to smaller installations and lesser known artists, all the while conditioning audiences to expect bigger and bigger spectacles. It’s a high that simply can’t be sustained. Lynn perfectly conveyed this sentiment when she talked about her underwhelming experience with Huma Bhabha’s Met Rooftop installation in a recent Mad Chatter post. It begs the question: in the age of blockbusters, is there still room for the museum and gallery equivalent of the shoestring budget indie film?