Tag Archives: Backpacking

Island Hopping 2006, Santorini, Oia and Thira

Oia Santorini Greece

I had a great nights sleep and woke early as usual. I carried out the early morning weather check and satisfied that the sun was shining already I made everyone a cup of tea and I then went to the village to buy some fruit for breakfast.

There was a mini-market with a good selection of  curiously shaped fruits. Although ugly they looked interesting and I bought plums, peaches, grapes and oranges none of which would have made it through fruit police quality control at Tesco. Having selected my breakfast purchases I encountered a problem. It is difficult to buy €5 euros worth of groceries with a €50 note so early in the morning. The till was already almost empty and after scratching around for my change it looking as though Dick Turpin had paid a visit and left his calling card!

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Island Hopping 2006, Fiftieth Birthday and the Boss Bar Santorini

Santorini

On arrival first impressions were disappointing. It was noisy and busy and I couldn’t find our transport.  The place was full of pushy, impatient taxi drivers who all wanted to take us to the town.  It was clear to me already that we are now on an island with an airport and the ambiance was quite different.

One driver even nearly convinced me that he was our lift but he wanted 10 euros so I knew that it wasn’t right.  Sally and Charlotte climbed aboard a taxi van full of beefy Australians and were disappointed when I eventually found our arranged transport and they had to pick up their packs and get off again. I think the beefy Australians were disappointed too!  Now that we had our lift things were looking up.

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Island Hopping 2006, Leaving Ios

Ios Greece Cyclades

I woke early and checked the weather.  It was good again so I slipped out without waking the others, which was difficult because the door locking mechanism was clunky and made a lot of noise and then I sat around the pool reading again.

There you go I had established a routine again in only two days.  Later when everyone was awake and I had taken food orders I slipped down to the harbour to a busy bakery to buy breakfast.  Croissants and donuts on the balcony and I had a beer to wash it down.  Then during the morning I had two more beers while Sally and Charlotte went to the pool and I sat in the sun with Bill Bryson.

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Island Hopping 2006, Ios

Ios Greece Cyclades

Routinely I woke early but the girls were still asleep so I dressed quietly and left the room and didn’t disturb them.  I planned to walk and find the old town but I managed to miss the footpath that was the direct course to the top of the hill and the route via the energy sapping hairpin bending road seemed, after only a short time a bit long and arduous, and it took me past a warehouse site with a big growling guard dog.

It was chained up but I decided not to push my luck and I returned to the hotel where I sat by the pool, had a conversation with the owner and did some reading.  The wind had dropped and the weather prospects were very promising.

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Island Hopping 2006, Naxos

Arriving in Naxos

I did my only important job of the day and got up early as usual, checked the sky and satisfied that the sun was shining sat on the balcony waiting for the others to join me.  I didn’t have to wait long and we had a breakfast in the hotel that was substantial and very good value at only €3 each. Joining us for breakfast this morning was the loudest cat in the world with a really shouting mew.   It liked the ham that Sally insisted on feeding it but not the children from across the road who kept on chasing it around!

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Island Hopping 2006, Preparation

Greece Island Hopping Naxos

“Somewhere…I once found a list of diseases… and among these occurred the word Islomania, which was described as a rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit.  These are people…who somehow find islands irresistible.  A little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with indescribable intoxication.Lawrence Durrell – ‘Reflections on a Marine Venus’

Island hopping with a backpack was an immediately brilliant idea when Sally mentioned it in May 2006 and invited me to bring my credit cards along and join her for a week or two in the Greek islands.

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Greek Islands – Paros

With Sally and her friend Charlotte we arrived at the apartments in Parakia on Paros and things immediately went badly wrong!  What a DUMP! newly built the web site said.  Newly built, my arse!  The Parthenon Museum will be finished before this place!  There was also an intimidating huge dog and an owner with a severe b.o. problem.  This was the Greek equivalent of the Bates Motel and as we checked in I made a mental note to remember to sleep with one eye open tonight.

Oh, there was more.  The apartments were not just next to a building site, they were a building site! The room was adequate but nothing special, the shower didn’t work and neither did the fridge so I had to call the owner in to make repairs. It was one of those rooms that had electrical sockets in unusual places, some close to the ceiling and uselessly out of reach, and others with wires dangling alarmingly from the wall. The view from the balcony was not the sea as promised but a construction site with a mechanical digger moving rocks from one side to the other and then returning them back again to their original position again for no apparent reason!

I won’t be recommending the Capricorn Apartments to anyone! That’s the Capricorn Apartments on Paros!

The girls were good and tried to cheer me up and we went to the beach, which was a really very nice beach but it was very, very hot and I couldn’t settle down so I walked back to the apartment to get my snorkel and then went back to the beach for a bit of a swim and then I walked back to the apartment again to get my book and went back to the beach again for a bit of a read.

To keep going back was a big mistake because each time I just got more wound up about the place. Then I had a brilliant solution, there was a hotel just down the road on the way back to the beach so I’d book in there and move out of this substandard dump. I walked there and swept through the lush hotel gardens, past the fabulous Olympic sized swimming pool and the well stocked poolside bar and into the air-conditioned reception and enquired about the price of a room for three. One hundred euros, brilliant, this was a seriously nice hotel and my spirits were lifted immediately. “OK I’ll take one” I said and then my spirits were immediately dashed when the desk clerk said “sorry no availability”. What a jerk, why didn’t he say that in the first place? With no result I had to return to the beach defeated.

So we decided to go back to Parikia by the water taxi to try and cheer me up. Parikia it has to be said is not the most picturesque of Greek island towns, it has a very functional appearance and the first and lasting impression is a harbour front predominantly given over to ferry booking operators and car hire offices.  But the streets leading off the busy front were much nicer and we found an agreeable bar with twenty minutes Internet free with every drink so we bought three and the girls amused themselves for an hour.

Well, the situation did start to improve I have to confess, I had a Mythos or two and sort of got used to the room and when I reflected upon the state of affairs this place did have a very good beach and the snorkelling was the best yet. It wasn’t that bad after all and things always seem more cheerful viewed through the bottom of a beer bottle and this state of unfortunate affairs was no exception. We drove out of town, stopping to buy some supplies, and we found a beachfront taverna that looked very nice so we pulled in and went inside. It was a pizza restaurant with the compulsory cats for company. The food was very good; we had a substantial meal and free drinks to finish and then went back to the apartment.

The next day we took a drive to Noussea and dropped down into the village and into the bustling harbour. It was a lovely place, a genuine combination of tourism and local industry with fishermen mending their nets and preparing last nights catch next to their gaily painted fishing boats of assorted shapes and sizes that were laid up bobbing gently and resting against the harbour walls. This was a much nicer place than Parikia with lots of charming little streets and hidden nooks of interest.

Next we drove out of Noussea and found a beach on the northern tip of the island. The beach was wide and sandy and we found a spot in the sand dunes to put down our towels and sunbathe.  I went into the sea and when I was far enough out to be discreet I slipped off my swimming trunks and enjoyed swimming without them for a while.  After a drink at a beach side taverna we returned to our apartment stopping on the way back to buy some drinks.

We walked back to the beach, past the nice hotel with no vacancies, and spent a leisurely afternoon swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing and at one point I spent thirty minutes at the bar with a beer.  Back at the apartment Sally and Charlotte completed their post card diaries and gave them to me to post to boyfriends and families when I returned home.

Later we went back into town to return the hire car and to have our last evening meal together before I had to go back to Athens to return home.  We walked through the town and the girls used the Internet once more.  I checked the Easyjet site again, just in case, but the airfares remained stubbornly high and I was resigned to having to return home according to my original schedule and not enjoy the enticing two extra days that had been beckoning me.

We had dinner on the sea front in a friendly little taverna and I had my first and only moussaka of the holiday, the girls tried the vegetarian versions and then they shared mine with the cats.

Koufinisia Greece Ferry Terminal

My ferry was due to leave at 10.30 and against my better judgement I was talked into relying upon the water taxi that was scheduled to start its shuttle service at 10 o’clock. I was a bit nervous about this but went along with Sally’s arrangements. We walked to the taxi quay in good time and arrived with a lot of it to spare. I anxiously scanned the sea for any sign of the little boat crossing the bay but it stubbornly refused to appear. After a while, ok actually only a short while, I began to panic especially when the Blue Star steamed into port bang on time!

By ten past ten I was certain I would miss my boat and even when the ferry finally appeared at quarter past I remained deeply pessimistic.  Of course it was full of the slowest people in Greece who took ages to disembark and we finally set off for the ten-minute journey at eighteen minutes past. Sally was cool and tried to persuade me that my watch was fast but I was not convinced and it got very, very tight and I paced the deck nervously.  Finally the boat arrived and tied up and I made a dash for the ferry with the girls shouting encouragement from behind and imploring me to run faster.  I made it but I was disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye properly. And then the boat was ten minutes late leaving anyway so I needn’t have panicked after all. I waved goodbye to Sally, Charlotte and Paros and then settled down for the three and a half hour journey to Piraeus.

Greece 2009 – Athens, from Elgin to pickpockets, a city of thieves

The Acropolis Museum and the Acroplois

‘Marvellous things happen to one in Greece – marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth’  Henry Miller – The Colossus of Maroussi

But then, on the flip side…

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Greece 2009 – Blue Star to Piraeus

Blue Star Paros approaching Athens

The Blue Star Naxos arrived on time and there were a lot of passengers to get on board before it could leave again.  The Blue Star ferries can carry one thousand five hundred passengers and two hundred and fifty vehicles and the line of cars waiting to drive on board stretched all along the port and back to the town square.  When the gate was opened we pushed our way on board and made for the top deck where we had plans to find a seat in the sun and we found some at the back of the boat which we estimated would enjoy the sun all the way to the mainland and we settled down and after the boat had loaded up and left the port watched Naxos slipping away behind us.

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Greece 2009, Sifnos to Milos in a Force 7

Leaving Sifnos

In the morning it was clear that we should have taken notice of the weather forecast of doom because overnight the weather had changed just as predicted by all of those who knew better than us.  From the balcony all that could be seen were dark and threatening clouds scudding in from the north and obscuring the sun, which was struggling for some sort of recognition of its presence in the sky.  The weather forecast had got worse and the breakfast television weather map showed Greece with gloomy rain predictions for the mainland and the north and fierce force seven winds in the Cyclades.

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