Darren CarrollComment

GREECE

Darren CarrollComment
GREECE

In what's become a biennial Thanksgiving week excursion, Jessica and I were on the road again to someplace far away. This time it was Greece, with stops in Athens and Santorini.

 
  Parliament building from the King George hotel, Syntagma Square, Athens.  Sony A9,Leica 35mm f 1.4 Summilux

Parliament building from the King George hotel, Syntagma Square, Athens. Sony A9,Leica 35mm f 1.4 Summilux

We began our stay in Athens with a couple of nights at the magnificent King George Hotel--a perfect use of Starwood's points-plus-cash option if there ever was one--on Syntagma Square. This afforded us a great balcony view of the Greek Parliament building and an opportunity to observe the hustle and bustle of Athens. It also afforded one of the greatest hotel breakfasts I have ever seen in all my travels, but that's another story...

We spent a couple of beautiful days--our cab driver told us that the region had just come out of the storm of the century-- strolling, eating, and seeing; taking in the touristy sites (definitely go to the Acropolis museum, it's well worth it). Of course we also did the requisite visits to what we took to calling  "piles of rocks" which, while awe-inspiring and intimidating, were a disappointment photographically because of all the modern conveniences (and construction equipment) around them. Landscapes of The Parthenon kind of lose something when there's a 200-foot crane rising up out of it...

 
  Athens as seen from Lycobettus Hill at sunset.  Sony A9,Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Athens as seen from Lycobettus Hill at sunset. Sony A9,Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

The room also gave us a good view of the Evzones, the elite group of costumed Greek soldiers who, among other things, guard the Tomb of the Unknowns around the clock. For an early riser like myself, the proximity to the landmark that enabled me to hustle out the door and make a picture that I noticed/thought/hoped might be about to happen as I casually sipped a cup of morning coffee and looked out the window.

  Changing of the guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, 5 a.m.  Sony A9, Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux

Changing of the guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, 5 a.m. Sony A9, Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux

From there is was off to Santorini, a quick half-hour flight to an island that, while teeming with tourists in the summer months, was mercifully empty in November. Now, the off-season might not seem like a great time to to travel to a Mediterranean island renowned for its beaches and warm weather, with many restaurants and shops shuttered, but the trade-off of peace and quiet, as well as the ability to see the island as the locals mainly see it, and eat, drink and visit the places that are still open to--and for--them, made it well worth leaving our bathing suits and sunscreen behind.

  Sunset over Oia, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 90mm f2 Summicron

Sunset over Oia, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 90mm f2 Summicron

  Street scene, Oia, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

Street scene, Oia, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  On the road to Fira.  Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

On the road to Fira. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  Fira, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

Fira, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  Donkey driver, Fira, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 90mm f1.4 Summicron

Donkey driver, Fira, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 90mm f1.4 Summicron

  Tourists at Nea Kameni volcano, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

Tourists at Nea Kameni volcano, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  Fisherman, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux

Fisherman, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux

  Watching the sun set, Oia, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Watching the sun set, Oia, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

A brief pause here before heading back to Athens, to mention something about a place called Atlantis Books. This is what makes travel so great--the pleasure of discovering something truly unique when, and where, you least expect it. It's a little bookshop in Oia, which is a little town at the very tip of Santorini known primarily as a great place to watch the sun set (see above). But descend down a sharp, winding set of stairs off the main walking path and you're in another world. Founded and run by a couple of expats who just up and decided that it would be great to open a bookstore (that's the short version of it; you can find the long version on their website, atlantisbooks.org), it's a one-of-a-kind place you can get lost for hours in, even though it's about as big as your average studio apartment. And apparently, you can even rent a cat...

  Atlantis Books, Oia, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

Atlantis Books, Oia, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  Atlantis Books, Oia, Santorini.  Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Atlantis Books, Oia, Santorini. Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Jess had to leave a day early to get back to work. Her departure gave me a Sunday in Athens to myself, which I spent strolling the markets of Monastiraki and the surrounding sides streets off of the Ermou, seeking nothing but some good Greek coffee, street food, and maybe a picture or two..

  Flea market, Monastiraki, Athens.  Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

Flea market, Monastiraki, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  Strolling musicians, Monastiraki, Athens.  Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Strolling musicians, Monastiraki, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

  Flea market vendor, Monastiraki, Athens.  Sony A9, Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux

Flea market vendor, Monastiraki, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 75mm f1.4 Summilux

  Salepi vendor, Monastiraki,   Athens . Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

Salepi vendor, Monastiraki, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux

  Sandal maker, Psirri, Athens.  Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Sandal maker, Psirri, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Before we left for Athens, some local friends of ours told us about a bar there that they insisted we had to visit. It's called the Gin Joint, they said, and they--and just about everyone else you could find with something to say about it--said it was one of the most amazing bars they ever been to or heard of. Tucked into a small, unassuming space--there's only room for 3 stools at the actual bar itself--the bartenders here spend their evenings crafting gin cocktails that would make even a non-gin lover like myself come back for more. And come back we did. Jess and I resolved after our first visit that we would return every night we were in town. And so, after she'd left and I had one more night to myself in Athens, I figured it just wouldn't be right if I didn't stop in for one last drink. It turns out the bartender, Alex, was a bit of a camera buff and he noticed the oddly-configured camera over my shoulder. I told him it was a Sony A9 with an adapted Leica M lens (a 35mm Summilux, my favorite), and our conversation took off from there.

After a while his look turned slightly conspiratorial and he asked if I would like to try a new drink he and the other bartenders were working on. They were trying to come up with a drink for the holidays, and so he mixed together a negroni-esque concoction redolent of citrus, pine, and herbs. Absolutely delicious. I expressed my admiration for it, and asked what it was called. He told me it didn't have a name yet as they were still perfecting it, and I replied that not only did I feel they had perfected it, but that all I could think of was that it tasted like “Christmas in a glass.” He nodded his head thoughtfully, as if to consider that for a moment. I wonder if that’s what it would up on the menu as…

  Alex the bartender whips up a special concoction at The Gin Joint, Athens.  Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Alex the bartender whips up a special concoction at The Gin Joint, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

  Christmas in a glass. The Gin Joint, Athens.  Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux

Christmas in a glass. The Gin Joint, Athens. Sony A9, Leica 35mm f1.4 Summilux