I couldn’t come back from my yoga retreat in Greece without a bunch of stories, and here is one I’d like to share about a restaurant owner on the island of Naxos. It is a story about trust, kindness, selfless service – and has an added bonus of a helpful little mantra to guide you through life.
After the Santorini retreat was over, I got to take a few days’ vacation, ferrying to Naxos with several of the women who attended the retreat. We all went out to dinner one night in the port town of the island at a restaurant called Meze Meze (or Meze2), which was recommended to us by the owner of the villa we stayed at. Unbeknownst to us, after dropping us off at the restaurant, our taxi driver Petros ran into the restaurant, found the owner, and told him he better take good care of us.
When it came time to order, a man who was not our waiter approached the table and told us his name was Panagioti, the owner of the restaurant, and that he had promised Petros that if we didn’t like our meal, he would not charge us for it. I need to tell you that Panagioti (who I later found out is nicknamed The Boss), was a big man and had quite a presence about him. He explained that his restaurant was unique because they offer small plates that are perfect for sharing. The menu is full of seafood and local specialties that we may not be familiar with, and because of this he proceeded to say, “I’d like you to trust me to order for you, so you can sample all the best we have to offer.”
so you don’t have to ask if the fish is fresh!
I looked around the table at the women who were with me and the looks on their faces told me they were in no mood to trust this man. I turned back to look at Panagioti, and his face held the same proud and friendly expression that he brought to the table, which I’m sure was a difficult task after seeing the expression on my group’s faces. I really felt for him because here it was late September, the end of a long season of tourists, and if I were him my patience for finicky tourists would be about as thin as the octopus tentacles hanging out to dry as we walked along the marina to the restaurant.
Listening to my gut, I had to break the awkward gap of silence and blurted out, “Panagioti, I trust you. I’m adventurous, and I would love to try whatever you want to order us. Bring it on!” And then, I looked at the rest of the table with a pleading look to get them all on board.
Aahhh that word TRUST, it can be a very tricky thing, but I have to tell you that by far, the dinner that Panagioti and his staff served us that night was my favorite meal the whole time I was in Greece and also one of the most reasonably priced. I know it isn’t always easy to open your heart to trust, but sometimes you have to let go of things like attachment, control, and expectations to simply open your heart to trust. We did, and got rewarded with a delightfully unexpected culinary adventure of all the best seafood, cheeses, greek salad, olives, pasta, and fresh vegetables that Naxos has to offer.
I wish I had more pictures of the awesome dishes we had. If you want to see pictures of the Meza2 food go to this page on Trip Advisor…and get ready to drool!
One of the things that I will always remember about Greece is the kindness of the people. I found out while I was in Santorini that most of the people working there come to the island in early May and don’t leave until the end of October. They work in the service industry, seven days a week, with no time off. My group was there in mid-September, so very near to the end of the season, when I have to admit if I were in their shoes I would not be real pleasant, especially to strangers who don’t speak my language. The people who work at the hotels, restaurants, and as tour operators had every right to be fried, but every single person I met was not only kind and helpful, but pleasant and truly interested in making sure we enjoyed all that Greece had to offer.
Our waiter kept us smiling all night!!
After dinner I sought out Panagioti, because I wanted to thank him and let him know how much I enjoyed the meal. When I found him I started to gush about how delicious all the dishes were and thanked him for being so assertive in ordering for us. In a totally self-effacing manner, this huge guy thanked me for coming and told me that it was his pleasure, that he loves what he does and sharing the food from his country, and then he looked up from what he was doing, looked me right in the eye and said, “Enjoy your life.”
“Wow,” I thought, what a simple, yet profound message to share.
At the Gate of Apollo on Naxos Island, Greece.
Over the next few days after we had dinner, on two separate occasions members of my group stopped back into Meze Meze to buy a bottle of water while sightseeing in town. In both cases, Panagioti greeted them, gave them the bottle of water for free, told them if they were looking for a nice place for dinner that night to stop back and visit him, and then offered up his mantra, “Enjoy Your Life!” As Panagioti gave away those free bottles of water, I don’t believe he attached any expectation on the gift, but rather was offering a selfless act of service.
As I was flying home and thinking about all the incredible adventures I had in Greece, I kept thinking about Panagioti. I wondered how many free bottles of water he gave away this summer. I wondered how many people he inspired with his kind words and reminder to enjoy life. I wondered if Panagioti practiced yoga. The only thing I didn’t wonder about is the fact that Panagioti is a man who is fully present, loving what he does, and enjoying the gift of each and every day of life. It doesn’t matter if he ever pulls out a yoga mat and practices his downward dog or meditates for five minutes every morning, because he practices yoga every day in the way he lives his life.
I did enjoy every moment I was in Greece, even when my luggage didn’t show up in Santorini, but that’s a story for another time, so stay tuned I’ve got lots more Santorini stories, inspiration, and 2016 retreat announcements to share here on The Daily Downward Dog.