Travelogue:: Koufonisia, Cyclades, Greece

Travelogue:: Koufonisia, Cyclades, Greece

There are so many Greek Islands to choose from, why Koufonisia?

[Maybe that question will be easily answered through the photos or perhaps I might do a decent job of writing.]

When researching our 3 week trip to the Greece we decided in addition to Athens, we wanted to visit three islands. Santorini for a couple of nights and then we wanted to choose two other islands that we could get to from Thira (by boat) with relative ease. One of the islands needed to be off the beaten path (especially after Santorini where we knew there would be crowds) and the other could be a hybrid.

We wanted a more unique experience, less tourists, nothing overly commercial, not a party island, we wanted a more authentic Greek experience.

We narrowed it down to Folegandros, Amorgos and Koufonisia. We were going to close out with either Paros or Naxos (and decided on Paros, more on that in a later post) because we wanted to be able to fly back to Athens.

After reading an article about Koufonisia in Conde Nast Traveler, the decision was made.


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Check in at Portes Houses, Koufonisia

Check in at Portes Houses, Koufonisia

 

The water was smooth as silk crossing from Naxos to Koufonisia. The kids took dramamine as a precaution. We had read a bit about how rough this route can be with high winds and considering Seajets uses a smaller boat for this route, the kids will err on the side of caution whenever there is potential for getting seasick. Can’t blame them!

The handful of guests that disembarked were met by a driver from their hotel. Our driver from Portes Houses picked us up in an air conditioned van. We had no idea how short the drive was going to be and I personally wasn’t overly impressed as we drove away from the dock. (imagine, a dock area not being inspiring, I must have been tired!)

One glance at the stunning blue water and I was transported.

Our sweet driver who knew barely a word or two of English couldn’t have been more hospitable - along the way he showed us some beaches and gave us an idea as to what we could easily walk to from the hotel. Practically the entire island.

The check in process at the hotel was a treat. A little slow but who’s in a hurry when you are on a Greek Island? The sweet receptionist met us with a tall glass of chilled water and a powered sugar covered treat (my guess, a piece of candied honey). Exactly what we needed after a long day of travel.

The receptionist walked us to our room answering questions and suggesting restaurants. Magically our bags were neatly in place. The two bedroom “house” with a crisp island white interior contrasted perfectly with the hot pink bougainvillea wrapped terrace overlooking the calmest, bluest water off in the distance.

Immediately, we changed into our bathing suits and went by the pool, grabbed an ice cold Mythos, and jumped in. So refreshing.

Gabby yelled out to Keith and I “Do you want to see a trick?” followed by “Daddy can I have a ride?” (you can’t see the smile but it was ear to ear, how much we love this!)

Keith and I later wondered if this would be the last summer she is still a kid, wanting to splash around, do tricks and play with us in the pool. It was one of those moments that reminded us how fleeting childhood is and how much we treasure these moments with the girls.

A quick walk from the hotel into town and we stopped at the restaurant just steps from the beach in the center of town, Lefteris (Keros) Seafood Restaurant . A table was waiting with views towards the water. A carafe of Greek wine and some appetizers were immediately served. We were content.

After dinner we stopped for an adult beverage at Sorokos Bar., the oldest bar in Koufonisia.

Not hard to guess why this bar, perched on the edge of the water is one of the most popular spots on the island. Grab a comfy cushion set up on water’s edge and watch the sun set, step inside to hear the DJs beats a little closer or head upstairs for the view. Great cocktails (and since this spot is open from 10am on, you can swing by and grab a coffee and breakfast in the morning, take a swim and enjoy the same gorgeous view!)

Portes Houses is a family run boutique hotel and it really shows in the service. There are probably just a handful of people working at the hotel but you would never know that. Everything is taken care of. Especially breakfast. You preorder the evening before, make your selections and choose a time. The staff comes in and sets it up for you. Enjoying such a lovely breakfast with these views is an ideal way to start the day.

 

 


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There is no shortage of small beaches with crystal clear blue water.

A short walk in the other direction, away from town heading towards the more popular beaches and you have to stop for lunch at Finikas. Every meal ends with watermelon. Such a treat.

February 11, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia

Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia

 


Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia, stopping in Naxos (pictured)

Ferry from Santorini to Koufonisia, stopping in Naxos (pictured below)

When we decided that the Greek Islands were our summer destination, we all agreed that Santorini was a must. But what other islands to visit?

We had almost 2 weeks in Greece and wanted to spend about 4 days in each spot (Athens was short changed, we only had 2 days as we departed).

After some research, we kept hearing about Paros and Naxos and this lesser known island of the Cyclades called Koufonisia. We loved the idea of spending some time on a small island that barely had any tourists, cars and had only one ATM in town.

Koufonisia was officially part of the itinerary. (Koufonissi in Greek)

After our few days in Santorini, we were headed from the port to Koufonisia and then onto Paros.

 

 


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We had purchased our ferry tickets online from Seajets.gr before heading to Greece.

We had been cautioned by the hotel in Koufonisia that with only one ferry per day, make sure you have tickets and whatever you do, don’t miss that ferry.

Once we survived the Santorini port and found our tiny (in comparison) ferry tucked away behind the much larger ferries, the on board porter asked us as we get on if we are traveling to Naxos, Mykonos or Koufonisia (and maybe Amorgos as well).

They put your luggage in an area labeled for your island destination. Which is helpful because at this point, we didn’t realize that we would be stopping in Naxos while the boat continued on to Mykonos.

What first seemed like an inconvenience was actually a pleasant stop. When we arrived in Naxos, we were asked to get off for about 1.5 hours (a little bit of confusion here since we had no idea when we bought the tickets that we would be getting off) while the boat made the Mykonos round trip. (as you an see looking at the sample reservation above, it says 2.25 hours but makes no mention of a stop). 


Our view of Naxos as the ferry pulled into port

Our view of Naxos as the ferry pulled into port

This stop gave us time to explore the port area of Naxos (conveniently without our luggage).

As the ferry pulls into Naxos port, you can’t help but notice the Portrara or Apollo’s gate. It was a short, maybe 10 minute walk from where the ferry pulls in. A very, very sunny and hot walk but well worth it. Stunning blue water all around, kids jumping in, adults cooling down by wading out a bit.

As you approach the ruin, but before you start walking up to it, there is a perfectly placed outdoor cafe that offers some much needed shade as well as easy access to a clean bathroom, cold Mythos. A beer never tasted so good.

The view looking back at Naxos town was breathtaking.

We had just the right amount of time to visit the ruin, have a drink and refresh. We headed back to the harbor and waited for the ferry to come back.

On to Koufonisia.

 

 

February 10, 2021 — Keith Pitts
Don’t compare yourself to other creatives. Just be you.

Don’t compare yourself to other creatives. Just be you.

(written by Keith)

Everyone seems to compare themselves to something or someone.

That’s human nature and it’s not completely bad. The take away from that sentence is not completely bad. It is mostly bad though.

Using comparisons to measure progress is fine on occasion but let’s not do it all the time. It’s like trying to lose weight and stepping on the scale EVERY day. It seems like you are never going to loose weight because of how slow it goes. God forbid you see a gain on a given day.

How does this relate to photography and creative businesses? Well, I’m glad you asked (or was that just me talking to myself?)?

You are you and you enjoy (or at least want to enjoy) your creative business.

You are not Annie Leibowitz, Ansel Adams, me or any other photographer or creative you may admire (see what I did there?).

I am not any of those people either except for me.

Create what you want for whatever reason you want and enjoy it just for what it is.

Don’t look at other people create and compare it to yours. It will only make you feel bad.

I am not saying don’t look at other peoples work, quite the opposite. Look at as many as you can stand to look at. Appreciate them for what they are.

Maybe look at them and think about how they got the shot or the compositional elements they used. Appreciate the lighting. Just don’t look at them and say that they are better than you and you will never get that good. It takes away the best part of photography and that is the enjoyment of just doing it.

I have fallen in the comparison hole on more than one occasion over the years.

I started to look around for inspiration from my contemporaries and came away deflated instead of inspired. I kept thinking that I have fallen behind and that I am not creating good and relevant work.

Mini professional depression slips in and POW! I’m unhappy and unmotivated (depression does that shit).

Luckily, I decided to go back and look at my work again to see how much I suck in comparison and guess what? I like what I see! I feel good about my work.

It reflects my personal vision. I don’t shoot like a bunch of people whose work I appreciate but thats perfectly fine. I am not them. They in turn don’t shoot like me or many others and that’s because they are being true to themselves.

Once I realized that I can appreciate great work by other people and realize I just don’t see the world that way I had another rush of happiness and productivity.

Looking at a broad cross section of photography, not just the genre that you want to shoot will bring in new ideas and expand your vision without you being aware of it. You don’t have to try to copy, it will just sink in.

Having said that of course. Definitely try to copy something if you want to. It becomes a good exercise and you will likely add your own special sauce to it that will change it to yours. 

Here’s my best analogy using a very personal example.

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a rockstar guitarist (not unique in any way). I was tall, thin and had long hair. I looked like a rockstar. I hung out with a number of friends that were good to great musicians/guitarists.

I figured I could be too and I wanted to get there quickly of course. I saved up for a really nice guitar (based on my teenage earnings selling hot pretzels and hot dogs on the streets of Manhattan) and locked myself in my room for a year.

I got pointers and lessons from friends. I read magazines and bought the Mel Bay beginner guitar book (which I hated but was the only book for beginner guitarists back then).

I was determined.

Unfortunately it didn’t come as easy as I had wanted.

I kept looking ahead and not down. I got frustrated and kept wanting to play more complicated things without ever getting good at the fundamental things and the result was I was never happy.

I gave up in frustration a year later.

I was never going to be in a band and get all the dates and swag I assumed would just be heaped on me for being a rockstar.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I watched my daughter pick up the guitar (my old one) and take lessons. It looked like so much fun to me that I felt inspired to do it all again.

She dropped it in about two months for lack of interest. I kept going. I have no timeline.

I don’t want to get more dates, I don’t want to be a rockstar, I just really enjoy holding and playing (an even just looking at) my favorite instrument.

I am never going to be Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Steve Vai or any other incredible guitarists. I may never even be particularly good.

What I will be though is happy. I do it for me and no one else.

If anyone enjoys it then that’s cool (my youngest daughter is usually my only audience and number one fan).

It’s cathartic. I have no way to fail. I do it when I want and when I can.

Photography started for me that way too. I just liked cameras and photographs. Creating photos made me happy and people started liking what I was showing them.

It derailed me becoming a doctor (to the dismay of much of my family btw) because it became such a passion.

For the record, there are a lot of doctors that play guitar and or love photography. I know some personally. It helps unwind them from a stressful career.

You can’t lose if you do something you love just because you love it.

Wherever it takes you is a personal journey.

I ended up as a professional photographer and have never once regretted not becoming a doctor.

I still love photography and look for more ways to enjoy it.

If you love the feel of a camera in your hand and want to enjoy looking photos you have created whether you share them or not (you will of course) then just keep shooting.

Pay attention to the basics and you will get better which will make you happier. Thanks for reading.

I enjoy any part I can play in making you better and happier with your creative career choice (and life).

February 04, 2021 — Keith Pitts