Grab your Group and Go to Paros

As a person who likes to grab her group and go, it should not be surprising to learn that I am a GIANT fan of the destination wedding.  The destination wedding is the ULTIMATE expression of grabbing one’s group and going.  Going to celebrate, going to be together,  going to experience new things, and going in as individuals and going out as a self selected group of two.  There are meals to be enjoyed, often in breathtaking locations, and lots of opportunity for clinking of glasses and general merriment.

Last summer we were invited to the lovely island of Paros, Greece to celebrate the union of our friends Penelope and Rob.  The happy couple visited us in Montauk last week, along with fellow wedding attendees Stacie and Michael.  Their visit gave us all a chance to reflect back on how special the experience was.

IMG_4944About 100 of us gathered to transition Rob and Penelope from engaged to married.  We arrived to our seaside hotel, the Astir of Paros, complete with an idyllic chapel with a view.  On the first afternoon we gathered by the pool and beamed at each other as we reunited with old friends and quickly began to forge new friendships in this, everything you’d imagine about Greece, setting.

The couple thoughtfully kept our schedules during the day delightfully free.  This enabled everyone to explore the island at their own leisure.  Not being super leisurely minded my husband and I rented road bikes to conquer the many hills of Paros.  Don biked to train for a race we had in the fall.  I biked, allegedly to train, but really to see the sights, scout out lunch destinations, and snap photos of the ubiquitous blue doors.

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My bicycle was a most excellent sight seeing companion, very agreeable and allowed me to see some pretty spectacular vistas and secret corners of this magical island.  I have it to thank for helping us stumble on some home run lunch spots.

On my first bike ride, I made way up some hills to the village of Lefkes.  One particularly charming restaurant sign caught my eye and I captured it on my iPhone.  I returned to the hotel to gather the troops and head back (by car) to grab lunch.  Meanwhile Stacie, my GYGG Editor in Chief, had researched a hike on the 1,000 year old Byzantine Road (a 3km path through olive groves and vineyards) that lead straight back to Lefkes on foot.  Quickly our plans merged.  I changed out of my biking shoes into my hiking shoes and off we went….

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img_0662-e1501981929214.jpgTurns out the name of the restaurant I spied translated to: Good Food for a Group.  What!!!???  Of course we needed to experience this place.  True to it’s promise, it was good food for our group.  Actually way better then good – it was one of our favorite meals of the journey.  We had a terrace to ourselves that that offered views of the olive gardens and vineyards we had just hiked through and the sea beyond.  The merger of our two ideas resulted in a pretty darn spectacular travel day.

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This was a small family owned restaurant.  Our waitress was the daughter, her father manned the door and her mother and grandmother were in the kitchen cooking our food.  We had our first taste of chick pea stew which promptly became the signature dish of the journey.  Before leaving the restaurant we asked for the recipe.  To our surprise the grandmother started to explain (in greek), the daughter did her best to translate for us.  We made our first attempt at recreating the dish this past weekend with Rob and Penelope.  It was delicious, not quite the same, but still really good. *Our best guess at the recipe follows this post.   

IMG_0707After our lunch, we decided to explore the town. We had zero expectations of what we were going to see, and were amazed to stumble upon the most well tended to, perfectly turned out, cobbled, narrow and curving paths, lined with blue doors.  I could not walk 4 feet without pausing to swoon and snap a photo.  Oddly the village was completely empty of people.

It was a slightly bizarre and welcome discovery that I am not doing justice to.  If you make the trip to Paros, I recommend a wander through the dream like streets of Lefkes.  It was unlike anywhere I have ever been.  I took another group the next day and my bicycle toured the town with me twice more after that – I walked, the bike rolled.  It was the type of place that restores ones faith in humanity.  If humans can create such beauty they must be at their core good, right?

We had many memorable meals while on Paros.  My most favorite place was also discovered by bicycle by way of a super small, charming sign near the village Glyfa that caught my eye as I pedaled into the fierce Greek August wind.  Based on this teensy tiny marketing effort, I grabbed my group and went there.  It can be a little risky to suggest a lunch spot that is nearly an hour away based on a hunch from seeing a sign, but thank goodness we did.  Upon arrival to the Restaurant Glyfa (not as creative of a name) we knew we had made a special discovery.  We walked through the well tended garden in front onto the terrace with views of the water beyond that beckoned for a swim.

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The owner greeted us like we were family and treated us to the family style meal of our dreams sharing her very best greek delectables.

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We went back the next day.  The next time I am back on Paros it will be my very first destination.  I might just try to stay near it and have all of my meals there.  If you go to Paros you have to go to this restaurant.   Heck… plan a trip to Paros just SO you can go to this restaurant.

IMG_5347On the last night, we gathered for the wedding celebration of Rob and Penelope outside the chapel on the hotel property.  The blues of the sky blended into the sea, the wind kicked up to show it’s appreciation for this union, and we all beamed as Rob and Penelope were joined together at the ceremony.  It was such a special setting that I commissioned a painting by my friend Suzanne Cadden to capture the perfection.

We gave the painting to the happy couple this weekend when they visited.  They were astonished, moved, and beyond happy to receive this gift.  It might be the most meaningful gift we’ve ever given.  We were so grateful to have this experience with them and everyone on this special island.  The gift was a medium sized token… the memories we created… priceless.

IMG_5083On the last day we had time to explore the village of Parikia….  Blue doors, cute shops and a venetian castle built with the remains of an ancient temple.  We were tempted to go back to Glyfa for one more meal.  We refrained, but are already studying the calendar to find the perfect date for our reunion tour.  Grab your Group and Go to Paros.

Recipe for the Paros Chick Peas

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1lb chick peas/garbanzo beans, soak for 12-24 hours, then rinse 2-3 times

2 large yellow onions, finely chopped

2-3 Rosemary Sprigs,

Chicken Stock

Lemon Juice

Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil

Place the chick peas, olive oil and chicken stock in a large pot, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and move to a slow cooker.  Add onions and stir. Cook in slow cooker on low for 8 hours, stir periodically.  After 6 hours, add rosemary.  At 8 hours, move back to the stove to reduce liquid, add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

 

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