The only Greece I knew was the one I've seen in photos and films. The one that is strictly white and blue, and exists only on an island. I didn't imagine green leafy trees, mountains or even lakes. (Naive, I know).
If you're an avid reader of Not A Model, you may remember Maria from my travel posts on Florence. She was my roommate last summer, while I was taking amateur cooking classes, and trying to speak Italian.
We talked about me booking a trip to visit for some time, but I never thought I'd actually do it. I remember talking to my mother who said, "Amanda, I know you. If you don't go, you will regret it. When will you have the chance to visit Greece through the eyes of someone who lives there?"
Moms are always right.
So in exactly 14 hours, and two connecting flights, I made it to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece next to Athens. Maria kindly met me at the airport, all smiles in her Smart car. When we got to her house, her family warmly greeted me at the door like I was a long lost cousin they've been waiting for.
We stayed in Thessaloniki for one night, and the next morning we were off to Agrinio, to pick up Maria's boyfriend Kostas.
It was a five-hour drive to Agrinio, and I was sitting in a car without a To-Do list, Wi-Fi, or emails to respond to. I stared into vast stretches of highway, and tunnels that darkened the sky. We made one stop in Ioannina, a small city that means "Town of John." We sat by the town's lake for an espresso break, and then went to see the local castle.
When we arrived in Agrinio, I met Kostas and his family (including his adorable dog Evy). In the afternoon, we went to visit Kostas' brother Nikos' perfume shop, where he gave me my new scent, Lolita. At night, we had dinner at a local restaurant by the lake. I mentioned that I needed a recommendation for olive oil as my Dad asked me to buy him some. When we got home, Kostas had prepared a large tub for me, fresh from his family's olive trees. The next morning, we got back in the car and began our journey to Lefkada.
I could almost taste the ocean...