Model and creator, Genevieve Abell and her photographer beau, Eli Paul, are taking us to Greece with their stunning 35mm film and vibrant iPhone photos – capturing the magic of the country through their eyes.
Curious, and maybe a little bit jealous, we asked Genevieve to answer some of our questions to learn more about their trip – she certainly has a way with words, and after reading through her replies, we felt like we had been to Greece with her. Since we weren’t, guess we need to book a ticket now. ;)
Shop her Greece Wardrobe, here.
Follow more of her adventures on Instagram, here.
See Eli's photography and films, here.
Why did you want to travel to Greece? What attracted you to the country?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Greece before. It’s a country that, given its geography, can offer that “every time is the first time” mysticism, in the sense that there will always be another island to see, another ferry to take, and another shade of sapphire blue to discover. By the end of each of trip, I had already curated a list of islands to see next time that exceeded the number I was able to see that time. It’s nothing to be frustrated about. How many times have we said we wish we could experience something for the first time again? We wish we could take again that final step up the winding, precipitous climb to the highest church on the island of Skopelos to catch the sunset. We wish we could take that dive again from a cliff in Milos we happened upon that no one else had found yet. And you can – another version, another flavor of your most memorable Greek experiences are always a ferry ride away. That is the main attracting factor for me – to be able to explore a place I can simultaneously rediscover and uncover at the same time.
What was your favorite city in Greece? Why? Describe the scenery and energy you felt during your time there.
This is a difficult question as I haven’t yet found a city in Greece I’ve disliked (other than, unfortunately, Athens). If I was to name one in particular, I would say the port city of Paros island, Parikia. My boyfriend and I had spent the first two days on the island exploring beaches and taking a sailing trip to its nearby snorkeling spots, but on the final night, we went to find a good spot to catch the sunset. A large group of people were high up in a church yard, their legs hanging over the edges of its surrounding walls, curling up with their friends or partners. It looked like the place to be, so we found the nearest stairway up and followed it to the others. The joy of this little discovery was not, as it turned out, the sunset. I don’t even remember seeing it that night. Behind the church, we stumbling upon an entire network of small walking paths and cobbled roadways, completely hidden, leading to small houses and conjoining apartments. We spent the rest of that blue-gray daylight completely lost, taking unguided lefts and rights, walking under drying clothes, passing old women in open windows bent over steaming stoves, and stepping over dirt-spotted cats lounging besides motorcycles – a small but precious look into the lives of others, far from the mania of tourism.
Favorite views in Greece? What did you see, feel, and think in that moment?
1.) My first would be from the pier of Klima on Milos Island, looking back at the small fishing town. The small and tightly packed houses have been carved into the rock of the enormous cliff they’re nestled in and are painting such bright, saturated colors so the fishermen could easily pick out their home from sea back in the day. The two-story houses themselves have an attention-grabbing but practical design: the bottom floor acts as a kitchen and garage (for boats), while the top floor makes for a great living space.
2.) My second would be the sunset from the Apollo Temple on Naxos island. The temple, known as the Great Door, is essentially an enormous, marble doorway positioned at the end of a winding strip of land. When the sun sets, it sets through the archway, and the view is spectacular. I had the most peculiar feeling watching that sunset, knowing that I was sharing it with people from thousands of years ago. Some views never change, and with that comes the ability to connect with those who saw it before you and those who will see it after you.
3.) My last favorite view (because views aren’t necessarily vistas) is the Hyades Café in Athens. It overlooks a section of the expansive city, but the real view is inside. High up in a park you have to walk 20 minutes from the metro to get to, on the outskirts of the city, the restaurant holds zero tourists. Its customers are all local Greeks. Of all ages. And they are all talking, laughing, sharing, and being present. There is not a phone in sight – just espressos, cigarettes, and a lot of big hand gestures. The customers who get there before me always stay after me, deep into the late hours of the night, with their grandmothers, their boyfriends, wives, children, new friends, and old friends. The waiters don’t bring your bill until you ask for it, and the café stays open until 1 A.M. What a beautiful, cultural tradition – to go out not just to eat and drink, but to talk with each other. It filled me with jealousy, knowing that isn’t something I do in my own country. My phone is always placed right beside me on the table like silverware.
When traveling through Greece, what styles and clothing pieces did you gravitate towards?
I gravitated towards a lot of light, breathable materials. This summer, a weatherman compared the temperatures in Europe to those “in Hell” – if that gives you any idea about the weather we were traveling through. I didn’t pack any black clothing or anything tight fitted. I was looking for something a breeze could carry through. In terms of style, I think it’s important to mimic to a degree the cultural essence of the clothing of where you’re traveling to – not so much as a method of fitting in, but rather as an acknowledgment that you respect their style and are open and eager to fully emerging yourself. For Greece, I brought a lot of white or floral, flowing dresses, I brought a lot of loose-fitting pants, and I brought lots of off the shoulder shirts and slouchy sweaters (though the occasions the use them were few and far between). The style in Greece is not ostentatious or glitzy; it’s earthy, if that’s the right word to use. No one is rocking the Filas with biker shorts and Nike fanny packs. The style is timeless. Its simple. It’s unobtrusive. It’s meant to last.
How would you describe Greece after spending time there?
I would describe Greece just as I described it’s clothing - timeless! Its rocky, volcanic islands, azure blue waters, and sun-loving, vivid flowers all add to the everlasting environment, while the white-washed houses outlined in blue, the bold-colored fishing boats rocking in the docks after a long day on the sea, and the backlit outlines of crumbling and ancient monuments of the past add to the everlasting cultural feel of the place. There are always hints, of course, of what era you’re in: the cell phones, the cars, the high powered ferries blowing their horns as they expertly pull into the port. But when you turn an eye to that, or look further inward, you struggle to place yourself, and that is an insane feeling. How often, especially in our country, can you step back in time? My boyfriend and I stumbled across a small town in Naxos that truly felt like we were falling back into the 1930’s or 1940’s: vintage bikes lining the walls of houses, old watering cans beside brightly kept flower pots, lazy kittens laying in the shade, the faint ethereal voices of townspeople singing hymns in a small church. There are thousands of places on this earth that can illicit another time, but Greece is truly special to me – the closest place I’ve come to time traveling.
What tips would you share with someone looking to travel to Greece?
My first tip would be to not spend much time in the capital city of Athens. I’ve been to Greece on 3 separate occasions, and each time I have made this mistake. That is not to say I have not found hidden gems amongst the more historical streets, but in general, the city reminds me of any other. It’s not where I feel the timelessness of the country. It is extraordinarily crowded, it’s a hot spot for pick pocketing, and it’s more expensive than the islands.
My second tip would be to take the ferries! A lot of people prefer to fly (and I believe in some cases it can be less expensive) but the ferries are thrilling. Their system is so expansive and impressive, and it’s always so exhilarating watching how they maneuver these huge ships into such small ports. There’s nothing quite like being on the windy stern, the horn blaring, watching locals catch the ropes below, as people begin pouring out before the walkway even stops moving.
My third tip would be to figure out what experience you’re looking for. Like I said, each island has a different flavor. If you don’t like beach clubs and partying, maybe don’t go to Mykonos. If you don’t like places popular with tourists, maybe don’t go to Santorini. If you don’t like places with a slower energy, maybe don’t go to Sifnos. Don’t go to islands you’ve heard of because you’ve heard of them. Figure out what you enjoy and what you’re looking to get out of your trip and research islands from there!
My fourth tip would be to rent a car or ATV (etc.) on the islands. There are not good bus systems, and the taxis are expensive. You’re not going to want to spend hours of your day walking in the heat from one place to the next either. If you know how to drive a stick shift, rent a car. It’s very cheap and easy and you don’t need an international driver’s license. If you can’t drive stick, rent a motorcycle or an ATV. It’s gives you more opportunities to see farther into the island and around its coast. There are hardly any parking rules or police - if you pass a beautiful vista or you see an interesting place to swim, just pull over.
My last tip would be to take a boat tour on one of the islands. As the islands have their origins in volcanic activity, they are rocky and tough to always get around with a car in some spots. Some of the most beautiful places to see, you need a boat to get there. My boyfriend and I took a sailing trip off of Paros island and we got to enjoy a bunch of snorkeling spots, snacks and home cooked meals, and even some live music from the sailors.
I really don’t recommend lounging on a beach all day. You can do that in the U.S. Get out early in the morning and go cliff diving, or take a sailing trip, or go cafe hopping and get a Greek salad and Tzatziki at each one, or stumble upon a town none of the tourists have found, or visit the solitary church that’s on the highest peak of the mountain and watch the sunset. There’s so much to do and experience! Don’t spend your time in Greece with your eyes closed.