curious to note how we, a group representing a smattering ofreligious beliefs—Jewish, Catholic, agnostic—approach thesespiritual sites. Consuelo lights a candle and says a prayer ateach. Dorothy isn’t a believer but wants to stop at everychurch along the way—the older, the better. The rest of usstumble along (sometimes grudgingly) with the attitude, “Ifyou’ve seen one church, you’ve seen them all.”On Patmos, the Monastery of St. John the Divine (builtnear the site where, as legend has it, St. John wrote the Bookof Revelations) is the main attraction, but spirituality is allaround—and today, so apparently, is serendipity. Browsing ina marketplace, we run into Stelios and Anne, friends who liveTile border: From the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.Photos, from left: A monastery/chapel in Kalymnos;Adrienne, a crew member, Alain and Dorothy bundled up forour gusty sail to Patmos; a protected harbor of Kalymnos;John and Consuelo relaxing in the cockpit of the Apothéosetaverna called Zorbas and start poking around. After visitingthe requisite number of churches and stopping in a local caféfor a drink, we attempt to make our way to the island’s kastro,the rough-hewn protective castle that, in the Byzantine era,was built on the highest part of most islands in this part of theworld—and they seem all to have had the same architect. Atoothless old woman surprises me when she gives directionsto the fortress in Italian, a language I actually speak. I learnlater that, for a time, Italians occupied Leros and that Mussolinihad a summer mansion on the island. We taxi up to thecastle. It’s unbelievably windy at the summit, but the expansiveview of the ocean below is amazing. As we mosey downthe winding steps back to the village, we pass the old woman,who cautions, “Piano, piano” (slowly, slowly).Eager to practice what I now know as custom, I wander intoZorbas’ kitchen to introduce myself to its owner. We becomefast friends, and, together, root through his refrigerator,ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF LOUISA KASDON SIDELL.blocks from us in Cambridge. We had no idea they were inGreece; back home, busy schedules rarely afford us the chanceto get together. They tell us that they’re staying with a friendnearby and invite us all to a local taverna for dinner.Stelios arranges a special meal with the taverna’s owner, thengoes down to the town to buy the octopus and the meat forthe grill: He informs us that in rural Greece, it’s customary forguests to discuss the menu and inspect its ingredients with thechef. It’s a fabulously memorable meal—lots of red wine and abarbecued feast consumed in merry company—and it serves asa kind of grand finale to our luxurious layover. By morning, theweather has improved enough that we can sail out of Patmos.DAY 7 As we make our way to Leros, the winds are still high,but the waves break as symmetrically as a second-grader’sdrawing of a day at the beach. Adrienne and Consuelo areasleep below deck. Dorothy and John quiz each other onGreek and Turkish history. Mitch and Gerry revisit the HMOcrisis. And Jack is at the helm: supremely happy.When we arrive on the island, it’s still blowing like hell. Wetake the dinghy to the dock, make a dinner reservation at acheck out his wood-burning oven. We nudge the octopus,thumb the whole fresh snapper—and finally decide we’ll havea little of everything. Once again, we have the kind of longleisurely meal that I love.DAY 8 We’re sailing for Kalymnos and we’re low on freshwater: Too many Americans taking too many long showers. Asa group, we decide that there’ll be no more until we hit thenext full-service harbor.We stop in a fjord off the edge of Kalymnos for lunch.Dorothy and I lounge on the stern, our feet dangling over theedge, and watch mountain goats rove along the craggy landscape.The fishermen who live in the ten or twelve dwellingson this part of the island are out; we enjoy the peaceful quiet.When the sun peeks through the clouds, we flirt withthe idea of a salt-water swim—then remember the noshowerrule. But we’re content just to imagine swimminghere, off the coast of this scarcely populated Greek village.As we sip white wine from our delicate blue-stemmed glassesand breathe in the aroma of the lamb chops Alain isgrilling, I think, “I must have done (continued on page 134)MAY 2001 • more 113
going greekcontinued from page 113something very good in this life to deservesuch a day.”We anchor at the ferry dock at Vathi,a secondary harbor. Vathi is tiny: a fewtavernas, a couple of “supermarkets” (thatseem to sell only tampons and batteries)and a taxi stand. Theos, a fast-talkingcabbie on a cell phone, offers us the“Complete Island Tour.” We accept, andhe races up the steep hillside, explainingthat the island is known for oranges, eucalyptusand olives. Crossing the mountain’screst, we enter another world:Nearly the entire island and its hugetanker- and ferry-filled harbor is spreadbefore us. To the right, we can see theGreek island of Kos; to the left, Turkey.SETTING SAILFrom the first minute wediscussed sailing the GreekIslands, we knew we wanted tocharter a boat with a captain whoknew the islands, the waters andthe language. So we went directlyto Julie Nicholson of NicholsonYacht Charters, Inc., inCambridge, Massachusetts.Nicholson, who’d helped us bookcharters for our own boat, has astellar reputation for findingsuperb yachts all over the worldand represents more than 50sailboats in the Greek Islands—ranging from 50 to 150 feet.Jack described our plans, andJulie overnighted us brochures forfive or six boats in our pricerange, which were available forthe dates we’d chosen. Since wewanted to see a number ofislands in a week, we’d asked forat least a 70-footer with enoughsail to keep up to speed—and abathroom in every stateroom, soeach couple would have a littleprivacy. Jack narrowed ourchoices to two, and then thegroup decided on the Apothéosefor her layout, her specs, ouritinerary—but, most important,for the crew.In the close quarters of a boat,a grumpy or unwilling captain orfirst mate can ruin the entireThere are 365 churches in Kalymnos,one for every day of the year, Theos tellsus. Thankfully, we’ll only visit a weekend’sworth. But those of us who havetired of chapel-hopping have—for betteror for worse—learned to find the humorin our relentless touring.We laugh in surprise when, near aconvent, we run into a group of blackveiledfigures bouncing out of a brandnewwhite Toyota pickup truck. One nunis jouncing alongside on a motorbike.But at another holy place, when thewomen among us are asked to slip onmodest full-length skirts over our sailingpants, the sight of us pretending not tofeel ridiculous in such getups (I’m wearinga brown kilt; Consuelo, an outdatedsunflower print; and Adrienne, a blueand-white-stripednumber) inspires anadventure—and we’d heard horrorstories from friends. But Alainand Cristina seemed to be aterrific combination of sailing skilland hospitality, and when wecalled their references, they gotrave reviews.“All captains can sail and sailsafely, but you want to read thereference letters from priorcharter guests, and even call afew, before you book the boat,”counsels Nicholson.On a boat like the Apothéose,you can expect to spend $1,500and up per person per week. Ourtrip, which included seven nightson board, cost $18,000 (plus alittle extra for wine, alcohol andtips), divided among four couples.Nicholson Yacht Charters can bereached at 800-662-6066 orwww.yachtvacations.com.Another highly recommendedcharter company we uncoveredin our research is Camper &Nicholsons International (notrelated to Nicholson YachtCharters). This businessspecializes in large boats (mostare 70 feet and longer). Its PalmBeach branch handlesMediterranean excursions. Log onto its site, www.cnconnect.com,or contact CNI’s Palm Beachoffice, 561-655-2121 —L.K.S.uncontrollable fit of the giggles. I escapeinto a garden rather than shame myselfwith sacrilege in front of the nuns.Our tour ends with what Theosdescribes as the main attraction ofKalymnos—a busy beach with fancy villasset high on scenic bluffs. I’m glad we’llreturn to sleepy Vathi for the night. It’schilly and we’ll be dining alfresco, so welayer on practically our entire wardrobes.Gerry has on a pair of Orvis gardeninggloves which, I guess, he brought for sailing.What can we say? We expectedbathing suits and searing sun.DAY 9 Today, coincidentally, is Jack’sbirthday. Cristina’s baked a cake, andAlain’s given him a nautical chart of theislands and, for part of the sail, control ofthe yacht. Jack is so pleased that his facesunburns in creases. The sea, uneven androlling, isn’t so different from the quixoticwaters of New England he’s used to.But the harbor of Kos, our next stop, istricky. Back in command, Alain maneuversin and out of our dockside slip fiveor six times. I admire his precision.Kos is warm (for the first time, we’rewearing shorts) and very touristy. Anopen-air bazaar seems to go on formiles: rows of T-shirts, beach towels andknickknacks. You can stop by the treewhere Hippocrates supposedly wrote (ordeclaimed) his oath. Discos and surfshops line the streets: It’s a young person’ssummer magnet. And it’s a delightfulday—until I make the mistake ofcalling home from a pay phone to discoverthat my 16-year-old daughter hascrashed the car. She is okay, but it is asudden dose of reality.It’s our last night in Greece, and, as theminutes on these idyllic islands tick away,reminders of the real world trickle in.Hints of the tension that I feared from thestart (and which, for the most part, wemanaged to brush off) surface. Mitch andAdrienne are to fly back to Athens—theyaren’t coming with us to Istanbul—andGerry, who’s obsessing about visas forTurkey, wonders aloud if we should askthem to stay in a hotel so we can leavetonight and have time in the morning topurchase the visas from the harbormasterin Bodrum. Offended, Mitch offers tosleep on the dock, using his sweatshirt as apillow. For a moment, it’s uncomfortable.Food often lightens the mood, so we134 more • MAY 2001
move our conversation to a local restaurant,well reviewed in all of our 26guidebooks—but not yet open for theseason, we discover when we arrive. Weend up in the garden terrace of an Italianrestaurant—thanks to Jack’s loudannouncement that he’s had his fill oflamb and green beans. Now I’m miffed:I’d been hoping for one last moussaka.Much as I’ll be sorry to leave theApothéose, I’m looking forward to a privatehotel room. Ten days of togetherness:I think we all need a break.DAYS 10–12 The much-discussedvisas are in our hot little hands, andwe’re in a small Muslim village, 45 minutesoutside of Bodrum, Turkey. Theentire population is engaged in rugweaving. We watch as one woman worksthe loom and, every few rows, compressesthe dyed wool with a razor. A designemerges, and I understand why “Oriental”carpets are so expensive. But evenhere, a village with no running water,the “mayor” takes American Express.Istanbul, the only city in the worldto straddle two continents (Asia andEurope)—is as exotic as I’d imagined.Faces in the crowd attest to the historicalimmigration of people from all over:Africa, Russia, Arabia. Silhouettes of ancientmosques loom over the beautifulwaters of the Bosporus.With more than 10 million residents,the city is hugely crowded, and the traffic,unreal. I fall in love with the clamor—and the shopping. Istanbul is home to agiant covered bazaar, and I spend my afternoonsjoyously cruising the 4,000stalls. Three days is not enough forTurkey; I can’t wait to come back.Overall, the trip was a thrill, even ifnot exactly as I’d imagined it. I’ll admitthat, after ten days of intimacy, I neededspace, but with four couples sharingclose quarters, what can you expect? WillI do it over again? Maybe with family,where divergent opinions are par for thecourse. But with family, when one startscomplaining too loudly, another can tellhim to put a sock in it and be grateful foran exhilarating experience—and no permanentdamage will have been done. ■Louisa Kasdon Sidell, a frequent contributorto more, often writes about travel, healthand lifestyle.