At around seven on Tuesday morning, I woke to sudden, complete stillness aboard the Celestyal Crystal. The engines had stopped, and any forward motion had dropped away from the ship. No shouting or sudden stampede of passengers running along the corridors disturbed the peace. One quick glance outside of my cabin window would soon reveal why.
We had already docked hard and fast alongside at Tourlos, the main harbour berth at Mykonos. Early morning sunshine glanced against a silver tinted seascape speckled with small excursion boats, crawling across it like so many exotic water bugs. On the fine, razor sharp line of the horizon, a faint wisp or two of funnel smoke betrayed the imminent arrival of an inbound, ferry, carrying another boatload of day trippers bound for sun and fun on the island that, for all it’s hype and flashiness, still remains very much the supermodel of the summertime Aegean cruise circuit.
Those people might well have been in a hurry but, with a full twenty four hours to play, relax and party on Mykonos, yours truly was well and truly not.
I had the priceless advantage of having been to Mykonos many times over the years so, for me, there was no indecent haste to get off the ship and try to cram in everything, like someone at an all you can eat buffet with a set time limit. Instead, I lingered over a long, lazy breakfast outdoors on the near deserted pool deck. Gorgeous fruit, piping hot coffee, freshly made croissants and some of the local ham set me up nicely for an intended, early morning shopping trip to pick up a few bits and pieces. And then I spied the empty hot tub…
There was not another soul in sight, save for a couple of crew members prepping the adjacent Thalassa bar for its imminent opening. So I sagged like some supine, harpooned hippo into that hot tub. With sunlight dancing across the open teak decks, i watched as hordes of passengers from the nearby MSC Poesia poured ashore in a vast, maddened swarm that put me in mind of the exodus. That sun was just beginning to climb in the sky and, this being late August, the heat was truly blistering.
I had no intention of following them into the random, hectic jungle of Mykonos’ bewildering warren of narrow, crowded streets. These were originally created back in the Middle Ages to confuse gangs of marauding pirates, but these days they constitute a raft of honey traps for today’s dollar crusaders. Each shop is full of ‘authentic’ Mykonos souvenirs, apparently.
When I did eventually drag myself ashore, it was just intended to be a quick, mid afternoon run to grab the bits and pieces that I needed. But the chance to pick at some of the fabulous local souvlaki, washed down with an ice cold Mythos beer, was simply too good to resist. Inevitably, I fell back through the rabbit hole, and succumbed to that siren, Mykonian vice of languid people watching in extremely pleasant surroundings. The sun was high in the sky and, by now, i was well and truly in full slouch mode. The late afternoon thus passed in a smiley kind of buzz; Mykonos induces a kind of trance like vibe and state in novice and regular visitor alike if you let it. Truth be told, it’s not the worst fate that you’ll ever encounter if you simply yield to it.
It’s late evening, and the crowds have now died down a little. Most of the small armada of cruise ships that poured torrents of visitors ashore has long since gone now. Lit up like a Christmas tree, the Celestyal Crystal sits quietly at rest. Seabirds soar and swoop in her wake as she tugs gently at her own mooring ropes. From on board, the sound of soft, sultry samba flirts with the twilight. Little pools of light dance on the shimmering waters that surround her. Birds and tree frogs chirp at a manic tempo on this muggy August night. There’s a buzz abroad in the ether that is well nigh hypnotic. It’s subtle, wonderful stuff that comes complete with a side order of Aegean starlight.
In Montparnasse, the piano player is tinkling gamely away at some old Cole Porter tune. Huge, louvred windows look out across the headland and down onto the tables of Little Venice, where hundreds are dining alfresco right at the water’s edge. The Chocolate martinis served at the bar are artworks in themselves, the welcome from owners and staff alike as intimate and fulsome as the place itself. This is quintessential, old style Mykonos nightlife in a nutshell.
Sure, there are clubs galore-both indoors and outside- to suit every mood, style and taste. You’ll hear everything from pounding techno and trance to rare, vintage Motown, by way of every other musical genre in between. Mykonos is a true smorgasbord of different musical options and, in the long summer nights, she rocks, rolls and shimmies through each night until the sun peeps it’s head above the horizon once again.
But Montparnasse is still something else. In a world full of Audis, it remains a sleek, streamlined Rolls Royce of a venue. It’s amenable rather than adaptable, fine fillet steak rather than nouvelle cuisine. Light, lush, and with an ambience that lingers, Montparnasse is elegant, effortless fun.
I called it a night at about 0130, by which time the place was still going strong. Back aboard the Celestyal Crystal, there was still time for a couple of languid, laid back night caps, sprawled in a wicker chair back outside at the Thalassa Bar.
Above my head, a pale full moon cast a wan, ghostly shadow on the ink black Aegean. In the distance, car headlights flickered and glared like scores of glow worms. On board, only the hum of the ventilators disturbed my reverie. Somewhere below me, a small motor boat spluttered into life, bumbling across the briny as I swigged the last of my champagne.
Life right then felt special, elevated; good. Sometimes you just have to savour the moment like fine wine and, right then, I was in full ‘life is good’ mode. A warm night, ice cold champagne and a beckoning, freshly made bed all made for a truly dreamy combination.
Best of all was the knowledge that days more of this unreal, totally artificial slice of good living lay just over the horizon. For the rest of the week, someone else would be doing the driving, the cooking, and the cleaning. All I really had to do was just rock up when ready, and dig in. Lovely stuff.