After taking the bus into Naxos town we walked to the top of the town to find the Venetian Cathedral tour that was highly recommended in the Island hopping guidebook. We waited around in the courtyard outside the Cathedral and not a lot seemed to be happening and we wondered if we were going to be disappointed.
Eventually an old lady in an extravagant floral blouse and with a worn out old dog for a companion ghosted in from a secret door in an adjacent room and enquired if we were there for the tour and we told her that yes we were.
She went to a great deal of trouble to explain that her English was quite poor and clutching her stomach she told us that her doctor had advised her against speaking in English because this made her ill. I’m not a medical person you understand but this seemed highly unlikely to me and she had no credible explanation for a diagnosis of stomach cramps just through speaking English and as we set off she proceeded to speak perfectly even though it was in a hushed and croaky voice.
This was really excellent, we were the only people on the tour and we received an exceptional commentary all around the interior and the exterior of the Cathedral. But then disaster struck as a group of French people gate crashed the party and after a short debate about language preferences with these unwelcome latecomers she continued for the rest of the tour in about 75% French. She apologised to us for that and lamented that “English people cannot speak French and French people will not speak English!” This shouldn’t have surprised us of course, we know how precious they can be about their secondary World language so we just had to accept the inevitable and struggle to make sense of the French and be grateful for the few snippets of English that infrequently came our way.
There is no good reason for the French to be so stuck-up about their language, after all it is only the eighteenth most used in the World, Chinese is first, followed by Spanish and then English. More people even speak Portuguese (sixth) and worst of all German (tenth). The French, it seems, need to come to terms with the balance of linguistic power.
Actually, even in a foreign language, this was an excellent tour and the language difficulty didn’t spoil it one little bit. Our guide swept us through a museum, a monastery and a simple basilica as we visited buildings and rooms that would simply not be accessible to tourists who did not join the tour.
In one room there was a pot-pourri of treasures that really deserved to be in a proper museum where they could be looked after properly. She dragged them out of boxes and held them in her frail hands and in a rhapsodical way accompanied by extravagant arm gestures as though she were conducting an orchestra kept imploring us to “look at this, look at this!”
At one point she opened an illuminated manuscript and declared it to be five hundred years old but she turned the pages over as though it was a copy of last week’s Radio Times. That sort of thing would never be allowed at the British Museum. No wonder Lord Elgin took the marbles back to London so they could be looked after!
This was a brilliant tour that allowed us to see something that we would not ordinarily have seen. It lasted about ninety minutes and then she asked for just €2 each.
Now, I am not usually prone to acts of extravagance but this had been so really, really good that we gave her €5 each and still walked away thinking that we had had an exceptional bargain.
I like sunsets and wanted to see the town from the ancient monument so we went once more to the islet of Palatia and joined all of the other sun worshippers who were gathering here to see the end of the day and another glorious sunset. It was a very fine sunset indeed. The sun slipped elegantly into the sea and as its golden energy was slowly extinguished and transformed into a solar slick on the surface of the Aegean what left over light remained illuminated the town with a satisfyingly warm orange glow like the dying embers of a really good fire.
The edifice is said to be the unfinished Temple of Apollo and the famous Portara, the temple’s gate and Naxos’ trademark, doubles as a sun worshipping monument and it certainly looked spectacular tonight framed against the burning sky. We stayed until it was dark and the orange flame of the sunset had been replaced by an inky blue sky that provided a dramatic backdrop to the sparkling lights of Naxos town.
Later we walked back out of the town and had another excellent meal at Nico’s restaurant where we ordered far more than we could comfortably eat and feeling good after an excellent day and having consumed more alcohol than was sensible we hired a vehicle for sightseeing on the following day.
But that’s another story… Read it here…