June 15, 2019
It’s our third day in Paros but even more special because it is Dimitra’s birthday. How lucky are we to spend this day with her! She is such an inspiration with her vibrant personality, and her ease with everyone we meet. She has friends everywhere and if you are not her friend now, you will be after you speak to her. I promise.
She zooms around the island of Paros in our rental car stopping the locals as they walk or ride asking for directions at every turn. It’s like she has a human network of information. Who needs Google maps? Everyone we stop explains kindly and warmly pointing this way and that as we move along the island.
We travel to a beach on the north side of Paros but the wind is too strong, the surfers are preparing to go out on the water, so we decide to head to a different area, a little more crowded perhaps, a little louder most definitely but with beautiful water and energetic music to invigorate our souls.
The water is the same lovely turquoise here, but the wind is calmer, the drinks are stronger and the people more beautiful. We decide to swim to a little cove further up the beach to get away and get our blood moving. We swim slowly because I promised Dimitra I would not swim too fast and Liz fake swims (she’s basically walking along the sandy bottom😂😂) to the magnificent stony cove on the side of the beach bar. Today is just as beautiful and we see in the distance a couple doing incredible yoga balances on the beach.
The couple sets their timers on their cell phones to take photos, and he lies on the beach and she perches on his arms doing all types of balancing poses. The scenery is beautiful, but with this added feature, it is truly a gift. They finish and we yell “Bravo!“ and soon Dimitra is speaking to them and offering for us to take their photos.
The young woman is incredibly beautiful; the young gentleman is not only handsome but very charming. Dimitra speaks in her easy way because she has never met someone who is not a friend, and all of a sudden we are learning the couple is from France. His name is Yuri like Yuri Gagarin. The famous Russian cosmonaut. No, he says, he’s not Russian, but born in France.
We practice our tiny French vocabulary with him and he plays along. C’est la vie, you know and things like that. Yuri flirts playfully with us 50- and 60- year olds and we feel younger. Soon Dimitra says we have to go, but she jokes that we’ll meet him later for dinner. He says sure, just call him, making his hand into a phone. All three of us, he says and lifts his eyebrows a few times. We laugh and laugh, and make our way back slowly to the noisy beach bar with a new appreciation for the French.
We look out over the beautiful turquoise waters and feel thankful for another day in Paros.
The Incredible Gift of Hospitality
This is the way the days have gone. Dimitra takes us around day and night introducing us to her friends and to strangers who become friends. She shows us one beautiful island view after another. We follow her around like little ducklings trying to keep up with her. She calls us her babies and laughs.
“Come on, my babies!” “Ella, ella,”‘(That’s Greek for “Come on, let’s go!” She says this and we quicken our paces. We feel as if we are sleepwalking in paradise.
She knows the man who owns the vacation rental place we are staying in in Paros. His son is a friend of her son. Mihail (Greek for Michael) brings us food when we arrive, food for breakfast, and even grills us lunch one day. The tomatoes are fresh, he pulls the lemons off the tree in his garden and we squeeze them on the fish he brings us. The capers that cover our fish soaked in olive oil are grown on Paros. They are bigger than the ones I have had in the past, and they are delicious!
There is a bowl of fresh fruit in our room. He brings us fresh anise bread from the local bakery, which is so delicious we can’t get enough. Like Dimitra, his hospitality knows no bounds. He speaks some English, but we communicate mostly through Dimitra. His easy manner and sense of humor are just another reason to love this island.
We are constantly floored by the generosity and kindness of the Greek people. When we move from Paros to Mykonos, again we are welcomed with open arms by the people who own the property where we stay. It’s on a side of the bustling island of Mykonos that is calm and relaxing with sweeping views of the Island and the Aegean. This place is swankier, newer and more luxurious than our accommodations in Paros, but the hospitality is just as warm and we are served Greek wine and snacks by Manoli and his wife while we wait for our room to be ready.
Here is a link to the Niriides Homes and Villas in Mykonos in case you are wanting to stay at this beautiful place:
Tomorrow I must leave Mykonos and Dimitra, Suzan and Liz and return to Athens because I have to head back to Pula the following day. They will continue on to Santorini. Manoli has arranged a driver for me at 5 am in the morning which I am extremely thankful for.
But what I am most thankful for have been the people that I have met, the sights I have seen and the graciousness of all of the Greek people who have been stopped and taken time out of their lives to show us that they want to show you the best of their culture.
It is something that those of us from Louisiana know about, the ubiquitous Southern hospitality, but I think we could learn more and do more for foreign visitors to our homeland by following the Greek tradition and the Croatian one as well. This gift of this hospitality is one I will treasure always.
Just one more thing about this hospitality. Liz and I went on and on about the anise bread Mihail brought to us in Paros for our breakfast that he had picked up from the local bakery. The morning we were leaving Paros we went to the bakery to buy some but they were out of it. We were disappointed because we were going to take some with us to have at another point on our trip.
Imagine my surprise when I found a loaf of the bread sitting on the table in Athens when I was leaving to head back to Croatia. Dimitra had asked her son’s friend to bring some back from the island for me to take back with me. It amazed me that someone who didn’t even know me took the time to head to a bakery on an island he was visiting and pick up a loaf of bread, carry it back by ferry or boat, then bring it to Dimitra’s home in Athens for me to take home. And it was not the only gesture of hospitality I received in Greece, but just one of many.
How have you gone out of your way for guests that visit you from another city or country? The Greek people have truly made hospitality into an art form. It has inspired me in countless ways and will be something that I always treasure. Efcharistó, Dimitra, Yiannis, Adonis, Eleni, Mihail, Manoli!
“Hospitality is love in action. Hospitality is the flesh and muscle on bones of love.” Alexander Strauch