Hook, Line and Sinker, We Caught the Best Dinner in Athens!

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Have you ever fell for something “hook, line and sinker” and then afterwards thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ C’mon, be honest.

 

On a recent trip to Greece, a gregarious taxi driver, George, who we luckily just happened upon, offered to take the four of us to the best restaurant he knew the following night, and if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to pay for the taxi ride home! Not a bad deal, all in all. We didn’t have a restaurant in mind for the next evening, and he seemed so enthusiastic about it. It was about a 20 minute drive to Piraeus, the port town just outside of Athens to Captain John’s.

 

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We arrived at the location and found an empty restaurant. Mind you, we’re Americans who eat earlier than most Europeans, but we had still gone later in the evening, and expected a relatively full house on a weekend night.

 

They seated us at a table next to the windows that they opened completely for us, giving the impression that we were outdoors, sitting right at the water’s edge. Boats were in the surrounding waters, beautifully lit up in their anchored state. A cool September breeze filled the room. Scruffy looking cats gathered outside, waiting hopefully for a fishy morsel to be tossed their way.

 

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Seated at the table, our waiter arrived and introduced himself. Dimitrius, an energetic, charming gentleman, probably older than me, who exuded friendliness and warmth. He began by asking us what we liked and making suggestions as to what we should order. ‘How about a little of this, I’ll bring you some of that, sound good? And what about wine?’ He recommended a particular bottle off the menu as well as the Sea Bass. It all sounded great and we readily agreed upon all his recommendations. Away he went, leaving us excited about the dishes coming our way shortly!

 

Moments later, we realized we never even looked at the menu and didn’t have a clue what the prices were, or what to expect! How could we have been so mesmerized by his suggestions, his charisma, his passion? Next time he came by, we asked what we were in for. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine!” he told us.

 

Starters began arriving. The first was a plate of octopus, in a light lemon and olive oil dressing. I’d never had octopus before and was a bit leery. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, not rubbery at all as I had expected and tasted somewhat of chicken to me, only far better. Next: fried calamari with a spicy dipping sauce, followed by crispy fried whole shrimp and an amazing Greek salad, all accompanied by crusty bread, perfect for dipping in all the sauces! I willingly joined the “clean plate” club!

 

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Wondering where our Sea Bass was being cooked, Dimitri took us across the street to the kitchen. Just like hot dogs cooking over the campfire, the whole fish was sandwiched in a metal grate that the chef could flip from one side to the other over the heat. When perfectly done, it was wheeled on a cart to our table where Dimitri filleted the fish for us with expert precision. Seasoned to perfection, I’ve never eaten so much sea bass in my life!

 

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Certain we couldn’t eat another bite, we were once again tempted us to share a slice of hot chocolate pie and orange pie with ice cream. How can you pass up chocolate pie, I thought, when really it was the orange pie, both more like cake, that was fabulous! Light and tasty, with just a hint of orange. Rounding out the night, we were presented with Greek coffee (much like famous Turkish coffee) and a complimentary round of Mastixa, which I had never heard of: a light, sweet after-dinner drink, and a wonderful way to end the evening.

 

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Best of all was when he presented the bill. I couldn’t read a word of it, except the euro amount at the bottom: 217 euros! Such a fabulous meal for the four of us, that we could literally never reproduce anywhere else in the world! Dimitri was right: all was fine! Actually, more than fine. It was one of the best dinners of our entire ten-day Greek trip!

 

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One note: whole fish in Greece (as well as other areas) is sold by kilo weight. We had one fish for four of us, so we couldn’t really know the price before they weighed the fish; one reason he couldn’t tell us exactly what the bill was going to be.

 

Find Captain John’s: 16 Alexandrou Koumoundourou Street. 185 33 Microlimano Piraeus, Greece.  www.captainjohns.gr

Maybe it’s best to just tell the cab where to go. It should cost about 15 Euros from Athens.

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Any Reason to Get to Santorini Will Do!

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When asked for suggestions recently about where this bride-to-be should hold her destination wedding, naturally I responded with “Santorini!!,” having just returned from this stunning island. Afterall, with one incredible view after another, ‘why would you choose anywhere else?’ I thought. In the two or three days there, we must have seen at least five or six weddings!

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Her response was that it might be too difficult for their guests to get there, and reluctantly I had to agree, although Santorini has lately become a popular spot for destination weddings. Just google “Santorini weddings” and you’ll see what I mean!

There are three main ways to arrive in Santorini. By far the most common is by cruise ship. According to Conde Nast Traveler, around 10,000 tourists arrive per day in peak season this way! One can also take a ferry from Pireaus (the port near Athens), ranging from 5-10 hours travel time – not great. Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airways also fly into the tiny, highly chaotic airport.

Perhaps this would be a better honeymoon destination – just the two of you in this most romantic of settings. I’d recommend the “shoulder” seasons of spring or September/October. First, to avoid the oppressive heat of summer and second, to avoid the oppressive crowds that make every turn and photo opportunity a challenge.

Credit cards are widely accepted here and most people speak English, making your stay easy. Be sure to book your your restaurants and tours before you leave home, if possible, or immediately upon arrival.

With a destination so focused on tourism, you can imagine there is plenty to do!

1. Enjoy each other and your first sunset.  Be sure to take some time on your honeymoon to just lay around the pool and enjoy each other’s company! Santorini excels in beautiful hotels with pools that overlook the caldera, so you get the sun, water, and each other all in one! And don’t forget the romantic sunsets – what Santorini is known for! But, where everything I read said to go to Oia for the sunset, I found them to be viewed far better from Imerovigli, a town mid-way between Oia and Fira, the capital.  Even restaurants that boast a great sunset view in Oia may still have views obstructed by bars, rooftops and lots of people.

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2. Tour a Winery. Santorini is blessed with excellent grape growing climate and soil that produces exceptional wines: mostly whites, and some reds. We chose a tour at Venetsanos Winery – which also included a tour of Oia and Pyrgos village – largely because of the stunning setting and their ability to serve traditional Santorinian dishes, including tomato fritters, Santorini salad (amazing, and different from a traditional “Greek salad”) breads with a tomato sauce dip, olives and a surprisingly tasty fava dip, along with excellent wines!  This turned out to be one of the many highlights of our stay!                                          img_1989    img_1997

3. Visit Akrotiri. Towards the south part of the island, you’ll find the archaeological site of Akrotiri, once a flourishing town settled by the Minoans as early as 3000 BC and destroyed by volcanic eruption around 1450 BC. It is thought of as Santorini’s Pompeii, although no human remains have been found here.

4. Tour Oia.  Pronounced Ee-a (not oy-a). Unfortunately, you’ll be in good company here, as this tends to be where most tourists go. Therefore, there are plenty of restaurants, bars and hotels, but most importantly, stunning views with every turn! Be prepared to take a lot of pictures! Also be sure to tour other towns on the island, as they are all uniquely beautiful.

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5. Set sail on a catamaran cruise. Whether daytime or for sunset, be sure to include this in your itinerary! Even if you and boats are not friends, generally speaking the water is calm enough and the catamaran stable enough that you’ll be fine. Opt for a cruise like this one offered by Viator that was beyond amazing!! Whisked from our hotel to the departure point, we set sail past the Red Beach and White Beach, into the caldera and over to the hot springs by the volcano. A word of warning, the sulfurous hot springs will ruin any fabric that is white, so bring an old bathing suit, shorts/t-shirt or something you don’t mind being discolored.

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For lunch, we were treated to a mouth-watering spread of grilled shrimp, fish, chicken, salad, bread & dips, wine, beer, sodas, you name it! Heaven!

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We returned to our hotel late afternoon, tired and full, but ready for another cocktail at sunset.

Be sure to select a hotel with views of the caldera. I recommend the town of Imerovigli. It’s less populated (read: crowded), has great restaurants, and incredible sunset views! We  stayed in a boutique hotel at a high point of the island where one could enjoy both sunrises and sunsets! Keep in mind that once the sun starts to set, it can get quite chilly, so be sure to have a scarf or sweater along.

Santorini is a fabulous place to visit, whether for a wedding, honeymoon, anniversary or any other excuse you can dream up! The weather is great, the food is fabulous and the people are friendly and welcoming. You’ll fall in love all over again!

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honeymoons-in-santorini

 

 

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