Selfies and travel

I was rather taken aback when I read the news that a girl tumbled off a cliff in Zakynthos trying to take the perfect selfie shot with a shipwreck in the background – she was the second death in the same circumstances this year. This isn’t just tragic a waste of a life, its beyond sad as it is symptomatic of a wider malaise – everywhere you go selfie sticks are at sights, museums, planes, beaches….even churches. I wonder if people often know what they are taking a pic in front of. Its the opposite of why we travel isn’t it? We all want to remember things with a photo, but that needs to be complemented with experience and getting a feel for another place and ‘seeing’ the sights.  This selfie-culture isn’t bad in itself, but it feeds an absolute obsession with the self, controlling your image on social media, filtered perfection, a projection of the ideal (often female) form.  I watched one girl try on several hats and glasses to get the perfect shot in Mykonos Harbour last week, I did wonder what this performance achieved.  Is it that we can all be the star of our own media channel or just another way to nihilism creates and curates the perfect online version of yourself? But I concluded there is probably no-real self in most of these posed selfies, authenticity can only come from a whole lived experience.  I can’t say I’ve never ‘selfied’ up but there is a whole generation growing up with this scary scrutiny over their appearance – and it worries me.

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We spent a few miserable hours in Mykonos last week, not miserable as we had fun, but just in the broadest sense it wasn’t a great place to hangout. We were there as G’s family had a flight back to the UK late that day so we decided to stay one night as a jumping off point for an island hop adventure. We arrived and took the boat bus to the old town, Mykonos Chora and it was just so busy on the tiny harbour. 4 gigantic cruise liners were docked in the bay…thousnads of people milling about taking selfies and shouting loudly. I didn’t hear any Greek being spoken at all.

Well here’s the deal – if you crave overcrowded streets, overpriced food and drink, fancy boutiques that will let you shop till your heart is content, please go, eat drink and be merry! I am totally sure the island is lovely – it gets millions of visitors so they can’t all be mad, maybe there are villages and goats and even smiley old ladies – but in my experience it was a strange Disney-esque version of a Cycladic town. Mykonos was once a hippie gay-friendly little place, and in the past 2 decades has embraced tourism and drank from the cup of exclusivity, letting such celebs Lindsey Lohan and the Kardashian clan be the island’s poster girls. It now has a rather wild party scene that means it attracts teenagers from around the world. Now it feels such a long way from Shirley Valentine sitting at that lonely taverna chair when it was filmed there in the late 80s. “The only thing I ever wanted to do was travel. I’d like to drink a glass of wine, sitting by the sea, watching the sun go down”.  My favourite line!

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Anyway we said goodbye to the family waving them off into an airport bound taxi, and survived a night in Mykonos. Mostly watching UK election coverage on the apartment TV – but hey…

Next morning at 8am we walked from the town to the new port to catch our boat, a pleasant enough walk but without any pedestrian friendly pavements (Greek town planners please note, people like to walk places, please build pavements when you build new roads). Apart from when an intoxicated young man swerved over on a quad bike and asked us the way to “Super Paradise” I thought he said “Parasite” which would have made sense..It then started to rain with a massive downpour at the port. No umbrella! But once we reached Paros on the new refurbished Superunner which has just joined the Golden Star fleet, the rain had cleared and we felt like we have arrived in an altogether different atmosphere. Less crowds, more space and less hustle!

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A quick hop on the Antiparos Star (5Euros) took us to the smaller island to the south. Antiparos really is a little gem, a small harbour with daytrip boats and regular connections to Parikia (Paros Town) and car ferries via Pounda. Its not a tiny island like say, Halki or Antipaxos, but it does feel immediately slower paced as you step off into the harbour lined with restaurants and shops. It’s fairly compact and has a wide main street where most other shops, taverna’s and bars are.

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The town and Castro (castle) area are beautiful and postcard perfect. Also, without the crowds when we were there – so if you seek those typical Greek scenes of taverna’s on squares and bourganvilla draped over doorways and tiny churches, Antiparos town fits the bill.

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The island is mostly flat so perfect for cycling, we hired bikes on day and drove the 9k to the Caves. I admit I got off my bike and pushed at the steepest last slog of the climb (190meters!)

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The caves were worth the effort, discovered in the 1700s (with graffiti to prove it!) and having held significance for both geological wonder and a place of shelter during wars and invasion, they remain the greatest and oldest example of natural cave chambers in the whole of Greece.  Read more here: http://www.antiparos.info/En/Cave.htm

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We really just chilled out for 3 long balmy days and nights on the island. It has fantastic beaches and good priced taverna’s, with very traditional Greek fare. We ate heartily, and were shown around the kitchen at Pavlo’s Place and talked through the menu. I had delicious goat stew with orzo pasta. We devoured every moment, minimised the selfies and treated the time as a fantastic holiday.

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Staying in Astera’s Apartments was perfect, tucked away from the main street in the Chora, but close to the beaches and peacefully quiet on a night. Pretty and quiet beaches shaded by tamerisk trees and only a few beach bars in sight…what’s not to love about Antiparos.

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Just don’t let too many people know about it, that’s the tricky thing – Tom Hanks and his Greek-American wife have a house there…there’s a smattering too many ’boutiques’ in the town…please don’t ruin it!

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