For the last however many years I have wanted to hop around some Greek islands. The allure makes sense- azure waters, a laid-back ambiance and a nostalgia for holidays spent as a child splashing around Europe in a state of pure bliss. In a world where we read magazines detailing the most far-flung corners of the world and trawl through Instagram pictures of tanned friends kicking back in Bali it can sometimes be easy to let our wanderlust become overzealous and forget that paradise can indeed be found on a short-haul Easyjet flight.
Without the luxury of a lengthy gap year or a well-negotiated sabbatical to hand, the gloomy reality sunk in that I only had a week and a bit for which to tour around a sufficient number of Greek islands for it to qualify as island hopping (just doing one or two really doesn’t cut the mustard). It is a tricky balance to strike- ticking off a reasonable selection of islands in the allotted time (each adequately different) without jeopardising the ultimate accomplishment –a feeling of European nonchalance and adopting the slow local pace. With this in mind, and after a considerable number of weeks spent agonising over guidebooks and blogs, a route was decided upon- Mykonos, Milos and Santorini.
Mykonos promised parties, Milos looked to be in possession of some of the most idyllic beaches, and Santorini would finish off the trip with picture-perfect views and an air of sophistication. As a pearl of wisdom for anyone who is looking to embark on a similar adventure without any intention of stepping into a grotty hostel should take note- hotels proved to be the hardest task of all- sold out, extortionate or unbearably shabby seemed to be the general consensus and my real regret was not getting in there quicker and booking in advance. We will come to this later, but for now it is time to dive into the rosé-tinted haze that is life on Mykonos.
Mykonos has long been dubbed the ‘new Ibiza’- it became the celebrity party scene and hotspot for anyone worth knowing- from Jackie O to Mick Jagger. With this gilded reputation yet to have wained, Mykonos has maintained this reputation and is the destination of choice for devoted party-lovers and a trendy fashion pack, some of which will still remember the golden years of unparalleled hedonism, balmy nights and lashings of gloss.
On the western coast lies Mykonos Town, the heart of the island, and the destination for hundreds and thousands of tourists who flock with eyes gleaming like magpies on the hunt for jewelled kaftans and faux Hermes tan mules, as well as traditional Greek architecture and charm. The town is a complete maze but this is where the fun lies- stroll without a sense of time down all the winding paths and roads. At every turn of a corner you will find yourself in front of yet another upmarket boutique, a contemporary gallery or a sleek bar.
At the tacky end of the town are rows of shops selling neon vests with slogans most suited to exposé-holiday programmes on telly, fake sunglasses, and fridge magnets that double up as bottle-openers. If you arrived at Mykonos Town doing a wheelie on a yellow quad bike with beer in hand then maybe this is the end for you. If not, then delve a little further into the white-washed streets to find boutiques filled with wafting white sun-dresses, beaded sandals, Sophie Anderson pom-pom bags, raffia baskets, chic sun visors and hammered gold bangles. Looking for the ultimate luxury holiday purchase then look no further than Louis Vuitton, which, since arriving on the island (partly as a nod to the glitzy and extravagant heritage, and partly, I can only assume, as an economic move to appeal to the hoards of Chinese tourists who arrive in head to toe Chanel, Gucci and kitten heels) has raised the bar considerably when it comes to finding something to carry soggy towels.
It can be easy to forget, however, that Mykonos Town is not just Mecca for the sartorial set, but is also people’s home. When visiting early on a Sunday (something I would recommend if you want to browse and explore without quite so many cruise-liner passengers pacing round) you get a precious snapshot of life as a local. A minister shakes hands with his congregation who emerge into the dazzling light of mid-morning in perfectly pressed slate grey flannel trousers, cream cotton shirts and crisp sundresses. Cats and dogs look on from their weary states, basking in open doorways or perched in front of blue-shuttered windows framed by pink blossom.
Walk to the southern coastal part of Mykonos Town and you will find the windmills, which have graced almost as many postcards as they have been the subject of a camera shutter. Iconic but surrounded by rubble and litter they make for a lovely photo but little else. From this spot you do, however, get a fantastic view all the way up to Little Venice. Named after its Italian counterpart, houses stand tall letting baying waves crash into their foundations, the same waves which splash tourists unawares when negotiating their way across the narrow path towards it.
Slip back to your hotel as the tourists start to swarm in for the day and come back in the evening to experience the nighttime buzz. Dinner at Nikos Tavern will get you stuck into Greek cuisine and is worth hanging around waiting for a table to come free. Waiters dish out plates piled high with the most delicious friend anchovies and the plates of creamy hummus are just irresistible. Abandon your watch to avoid sloping home too prematurely and instead stay out late to soak up the most laid-back of vibes.
Next up…the Mykonos beach scene, and the new kid on the block, Scorpios. Subscribe to http://www.astylishreview.com or follow on Facebook to stay in the know.