With a mix of relief and sadness I report that I’ve taken my last Greek ferry for a while. I sailed back to Athens on Thursday, giving myself a little time to prepare for my flight to New Delhi tomorrow. It was a lovely, sunny, salt-misted 4-hour trip from the island of Paros back to the port of Piraeus. Exactly how I want to remember my island-hopping mode of transportation. Paros!! What heaven, what peace, what beauty, splendour and quiet after glitzy, busy Santorini. I didn’t report much on Milos and Folegandros, but they were rather deserted islands, with a good chunk of the tourist-driven businesses already shut down for the “winter” (I love that 20 degrees celcius and sunny is considered winter). There were very few tourists and a calm, relaxed quiet blanketing the streets, restaurants and hotels. It was delightful. Paros was the same, but even more beautiful (albeit more expensive than Milos and Folegandros). I stayed in the village of Naoussa, away from the busy port town of Parikia. There was a collective intaking of breath as Bruno and Celine (a couple from France I befriended on the bus ride from the port) and I rounded a corner near the main square and found ourselves standing at a tiny little fishing port, complete with tiny traditional fishing boats and lined around its edge with homey Greek ouzeris. This felt like how I had imagined Greece was supposed to feel. It’s as though the entire island was designed with postcards and photographers in mind: narrow alleys with white and blue cube buildings draped with shocks of fuchsia bougainvailla; restaurants decorated with simple wooden chairs and tables in cheerful colours; cats lazing in the sun in every available hidey-space. I was kind of happy to feel inspired again to take photographs. The next day we rented scooters and explored the entire island. We meandered from one small village to the next, delighting in making wrong turns now and then. Our favourite stop by far was in a tiny little place named Kostos. There was nothing in particular that made it stand out – maybe the fact that there was no tourist-driven commerce visible at all. I don’t think we even found a restaurant there. In fact, in the entire time we wandered the streets of Kostos, we never even saw another person. Not one. It was absolutely splendid. The evening found us in another tiny village somewhere, the only customers of a restaurant that had been recommended to us by a local. They were clearly planning to close for the season, but the polite owner said, “If you want us to be open – we’re open.” (We did, and so they were). (Besides, if three foreigners were crazy enough to ride scooters in the pitch black and cold over to their little village, how could they say no?) The menu was somewhat limited of course, but we went with whatever the adorable waitress suggested (a plate of assorted dips and bread – she had several good giggles as we attempted to eat the VERY spicy cheese dip (can’t remember the name…ask one of your Greek friends), followed by meatballs with rice and tomato sauce. Delicious. She somewhat insisted we finish it all off with a traditional Greek dessert…kind of like a custard, with apples and pastry. Yum. I think the whole dinner, including wine, coffee, and dessert, came to about 12 euro each. One more cold, dark scooter ride (I was so completely joyous when on the scooter! It felt like freedom); one more sleep in my stunning sea-view room, and just like that, I was on the boat back to busy Athens. Next visit to Greece = more time on less islands. And always with a scooter. No regrets, though. Well, maybe just one: something all of the islands have in common is that they are very romantic. Charming restaurants, cute little villages, stunning sunsets. Really tailor-made for couples….not the most interesting place for a woman backpacking alone. Bruno and Celine have been together for 15 years, married for 8, and yet seem like they’re on their honeymoon. They are happy together. They are the lucky ones, and they know it. They gave me hope that I, too, might one day find someone of my own to come back and share all this beauty with. I am off to India tomorrow, so may be out of touch for a few days.