There is something special about Greece. I can say emphatically that I find the country absolutely spellbinding.
Sadly, Athens is the only place we have been able to visit on the mainland, but this is a mistake I hope to remedy soon. Every time there is a sale fare to Athens, I research various routes throughout the Peloponnese Peninsula, but unfortunately, the timing of the sale fares has never been right for us. Rob and I are embarking on our fourth trip and the boys their second trip to the Greek Islands in May 2019. Our last trip was four years ago, and we have been longing to return ever since.
Our original itinerary for our Mediterranean Adventure in Spring 2015 did not even include Greece. The best flight deal I could find to Italy was for a 12-day itinerary, and I thought that trying to squeeze in time in Greece with only twelve days would be too difficult with our young boys. It was a fateful trip to a Greek restaurant near Charlotte, NC while visiting my sister in early 2015 that altered the course of our Mediterranean Adventure. We were not even eating Greek food, the restaurant had a really good breakfast so as we ate our American breakfast, I noticed that they had televisions projecting a slide show of their trip to Greece. I watched longingly at the photos and sighed “I wish we were going to Greece during our Italy trip” to which my sister replied, “Is it too late?”. She got my wheels turning, and soon my mind was in overdrive. I thought about the fact that I booked our flights so early that the airline kept changing the flight schedule and we ended up with some less than favorable connections. I called the airlines to see about pushing back our return flight a few days since they had altered our plans. The first airline representative I spoke to said no, but I was not going to take that for an answer! I called back and this time a representative informed me that the price to make these changes would be $250, but I thought I could do better. The next time I called I reached a representative who felt like the changes made to our original itinerary warranted changing our tickets at no charge. We were going to Greece!
My next task was finding an affordable flight from Milan to a Greek Island, but we were traveling in early May which is the beginning of the shoulder season. Many islands are not even “open for business” this early, so the airlines do not fly to many islands in early May. We really had one island choice for our available dates and it was Mykonos. I had no desire to go to Mykonos, I had always heard it was a party island, and I did not think that would be a good fit for us, even before we had kids. I could not have been more wrong. Yiannaki Hotel made our stay so very special.
As soon as we arrived, I knew we belonged there. We had flown on an early morning flight out of Milan, so when we arrived at the hotel, they still were serving breakfast. They told us to sit and eat while they tended to our room. The breakfast buffet had everything you could possibly want to eat: eggs, meats, cheese, pastries, fruit, and of course Greek yogurt and honey. It was not just the food that was enjoyable, but the staff. They were so gracious the entire stay. Every time our boys would drop a piece of food, utensil, or toy, they were picking it up before I could even get out of my chair and delivering it with a smile on their face. This stellar service continued throughout our stay. As we dined poolside, I was hypnotized by the combination of the crisp air, stark white building, bright blue shutters, and gleaming pool water. I was already in love with this place, and I had not even seen our room.
The pre-dawn start to our day was starting to take a toll on us. Once our family room was ready, we decided a late morning nap was in order. The set up of the room was perfect for us, there was a large bathroom with a tub and a sitting area where a sofa bed and television were located, which is where our baby cots were set up. The extra space was very nice to have, but the terrace outside our door was even better to have! It was two steps up from the pool and allowed us to enjoy the sun and pool on the other days when the boys napped and we did not. The bright blue shutters were not just for show, they blocked out the unyielding sunlight and allowed us all to peacefully nap for a couple of hours. We were now well rested to do a lot of nothing!
Doing nothing was exactly what we needed after our tiring, yet fulfilling, trip through northern Italy. Greece provided us with much-needed rest and relaxation. One of the most important travel tips for traveling with kids is to make sure that you arrange for some sort of beach or pool fun as often as possible. Children need to be given the opportunity to act like children and not forced to sit in a stroller for an entire trip. We can not expect them to be well behaved when we are not considering their needs as well. My boys were not even two years old during this trip, so as long as we allowed them to run around every so often, they were fine. Not only did Yiannaki Hotel provide the perfect pool area, but also a playground where the boys could run around and have fun which made it easier for us to relax.
These looks of sheer joy show how much they appreciated their special little play area.
As Bryson and Connor have gotten older, I have realized that I can not fit them into a version of the trip I would take if they were not with us. I have to take them into account when planning a trip. Greece is a perfect destination for family travel. There are many family-friendly beach destinations throughout the United States, Carribean, and Mexico that are easier to get to, but Greece has its own vibe that just needs to be experienced to truly understand. The people, the food, the music, the architecture, and the sea are all part of the charm.
Ornos Beach was an easy five-minute walk from the hotel. It was a flat, calm beach perfect for small children.
Also a five-minute walk from the hotel was a taverna serving quick and affordable gyros which we ate every day of our stay, beginning this first day after naptime. I can not even find the name of the taverna now, but that is the thing about Greece, all the food is so good that even a restaurant that is not on any of the popular review sites is worthy of mentioning. My mouth is just watering thinking of it … I can not wait to return to the land of tzatziki later this spring!
There were plenty of markets and restaurants lining Ornos Beach. We purchased snacks, sunscreen, beach toys, and hats as we chose not to pack these items and cart around Italy.
The remainder of the day was a mixture of beach time and pool time ending with dinner at the same restaurant where we had started the day. Once again, the food was enjoyable and the staff was so patient with our little travelers. After putting the boys to bed, we found our way to our terrace which is where we would spend all of our evenings. The pool was lit up in the evening and complimented the moonlight perfectly.
The next two days were very similar to the first: breakfast, beach, gyros, pool, then dinner, but this time the boys napped during the afternoon while Rob and I enjoyed our terrace and pool.
Make sure you bring your monitor from home when traveling so you are not forced to remain in your room during the extra hours of sleep that small children require. The pool was closer to our hotel room than our master room was to the boys’ room at home, and the only entrance to the room was in plain sight so we were able to enjoy the pool area while they slept, checking on them often.
The only difference in our three days was dinner, we ventured into Mykonos Town for dinner on the middle night of our three-night stay. I was a little wary of the party town, but we were visiting before the partying season supposedly started. We knew the thing we had to do in Mykonos Town was watch the sunset at Little Venice, where the sea meets the edge of the buildings in Mykonos Town.
This is also the best time to visit the iconic windmills of Mykonos as they glow in the rays of the setting sun. The lower windmills called ‘Kato’ Myloi’ are only steps from Little Venice where the sunset is most spectacular.
We found our way to Pepper Mykonos which I had found on TripAdvisor. The restaurant was small and all the four-seat tables were taken, so we decided to sit in at a small bistro table with two chairs set out front along the street.
We enjoyed interacting with the twin brothers who ran the restaurant with their father. They kept laughing at us balancing the boys on our laps and made quite a production of setting our adult beverages far out of the boys reach so that they would not spill them!
Our chicken souvlaki was very enjoyable, but what our family with twin brothers enjoyed most that night was the interaction with the twin brothers of Pepper. We finished off our evening in town enjoying gelato as we were suffering withdrawals after our two weeks of nonstop gelato eating in Italy! We slowly walked through the town and enjoyed the culture that is felt simply by being in Greece’s presence – the people, the food, the music, the architecture, and the energy are truly like nothing else I have experienced in all my travels.
On our final night, we were meant to eat at a restaurant on Ornos Beach, but we just could not tear ourselves away from our hotel.
We ate our final meal at Aleka’s Restaurant and was once again impressed by our meals and the service. The girls who worked at the restaurant also worked the pool bar and made fantastic drinks as well. In fact, I dare say that the mojitos I enjoyed by the pool rivaled the ones I later tasted in Havana.
Aleka’s is open to the public, so I would recommend it if you ever find yourself in Ornos even if you do not stay at Yiannaki, although I do not know why you would not! Our stay was sublime, and I did not want to leave. It was the perfect ending to our Meditteranean holiday. As the lights of the hotel reflected in the pool on that final evening, I sat on our terrace and reflected on how grateful I was that a simple question posed by my sister had allowed for the magic of Greece to be back into our lives.