Over the summer I went on a week long cruise around the Greek Islands on the Silver Whisper. One stop that I just loved was Paros, Greece. Paros is a fairly popular island for tourists and religious pilgrims. There is regular ferry service from Athens and neighboring islands, as well as a small airport, making Paros quite accessible. I wandered around the town of Parikia for a bit before visiting a famous church and the beach. The town is full of brightly colored flowers set against white washed houses and stone alleys.
In the town of Parikia, you will find the famous Church of 100 Doors. The church is just a two minute walk from the pier and easy to find. Like many things I saw in Greece, the builders chose a site that was already sacred-an ancient temple of Aphrodite or Demeter. The stone church and baptistry are surrounded by a whitewashed cloister, accented with blue trim and Mediterranean plants such as orange trees, lavender, and thyme. The baptistry, as often seen in Italy, has eight sides, referencing the importance of the number eight in Christian theology. I was interested to find out more about the large pots of basil at the church doors, but was not completely successful. They are perhaps used for the Holy water or have something to do with a nun who once survived there on water and wild basil. The name of the church derives from a legend that while only 99 doors are visible now, the 100th door will appear when the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is an Orthodox church again. Inside, there is a famous silvered Madonna and child icon, as well as other icons. It is a beautiful, peaceful spot that warrants a visit if you are on Paros. (Note-you will need to cover shoulders and knees to enter many Greek Orthodox churches. Proper dress was required to enter this one.)
While on Paros, I also made sure to check out one of the many, many beaches. Right at the same pier as the tender drop off was a water taxi boat to two beaches across the bay-Krios and Martselo beaches. The boat ride was 6 euro round trip, and the boat ran about every 30 minutes. We were dropped off a cafe with a pier, then walked along the road to access the longer beach. The water taxi also stopped at a pier closer to the "unorganized" end of the beach. The Silver Whisper crew was both helpful and practical in that they had a large cooler of water and piles of folded beach towels staged at the ship's exit. We could just grab what we needed on the way out!
There were several bars and restaurants renting chairs and umbrellas, so we found a spot we liked after just a few minutes. The water was clear and cool, and had a sandy entry. Some beaches in Europe have so many pebbles that I always want water shoes, but here I could walk right into the water without them. In Greece, the beaches with rental chairs and umbrellas and food available are called "organized" and beaches without services are "unorganized." This beach had areas of both, so you could also put a towel down and not have to pay for a chair. The beach was not crowded when we arrived, but it definitely got busier around lunchtime.