Syros and Athens
From Mykonos, which we found touristy, arrogant, and over-priced, we sailed to what we both now call our favourite island of the cruise -- Syros. It's a small, old-fashioned kind of place. As we walked straight off the ship and onto the port, we noticed many older Greeks sitting all along the homey cafes having coffee or sharing food they had ordered. We immediately felt at home. We bumped into a book shop with an English stand and bought another of Ian McEwen, who we both like, as we have almost run out of novels on this trip. We found a cafe playing soft Greek music and eventually bought a CD of the female singer, whose name I will have to tell you next blog.
We visited the Apollan Theatre, a small replica La Scala in Milan, a cosy site that represents the town, which is on a hill. The streets are so scenic as is the harbour, that I had to click away every few minutes. For lunch we found a women's collective self-serve, run by 28 women from the district. The food definitely tasted like it came straight from their kitchens. I had eggplant stuffed with feta. They do a lot of feta stuffing here.
We took a local bus to the nearest beach, which was clean and reasonably quiet and had a wonderful and relaxing time cooling off. We had Greek coffees, rather like Turkish coffee, played game or two of chess overlooking the beach area and made our way back in a crowded bus to the town, where we reluctantly boarded the ship for our last night on board.
We are now in Athens in an area called Plaka, which has pedestrian streets filled with market-like shops and pricey cafes. We found, with the help of the young woman who manages this internet spot, a reasonably priced Greek restaurant filled with locals. How to describe it? A cross between Shwartz's Deli on St. Laurent, though 10 times the size, and a typical Montreal Greek eatery. There was little for vegetarians. Irwin had an excellent order of Kebab and shared my spicy cheese, hot green grilled chili peppers,and tomato and cucumber salad. The name of the place is Thanassis. It seems to go on for blocks and is very popular. Right next to it is an equally popular but slightly higher priced Bairaktaris, also recommended by our internet manager. We had lunch there today and they had more to offer a vegetarian. We shared a Greek salad, zucchini croquettes, and sweet red peppers, grilled and stuffed with feta. I have to try those when I get home, but will they taste as good?
It's hot, very hot and hard to get away from it. July is definitely not the time to visit Greece. And now, I've left the most important for the end. As soon as our ship docked in Piraeus, we dropped off our bags at our hotel, which we had reserved the day before our cruise departed, the Phidias (50 euro a night for a lovely and spacious double) and made our way, with the same friendly taxi driver to the Acropolis. We wanted to get there before 9 because we had heard it would be teeming with tourists. And it was! Alas, they don't take VISA and we had to walk all around until we found a taxi driver who would change our dollars. US dollars are quite unpopular here. Finally we managed to buy tickets and were soon climbing (and I mean climbing) the steps leading to the Parthenon. It was my third visit. I was 18 the first time, 22, the second time and now, well it's certainly changed. The first time, in 1968, I remember touching those famed columns. Now, you can hardly get close enough to take pictures without heads in your way. It was Irwin's first time and for him it was "dramatic."
We are spending our day in Plaka since it's Sunday and little else is open. It's a lovely place to relax if you don't mind spending over $5-6 for a latte and the same for ice cream. It seems that since the euro has become part of the Greek scene, we Canadians are at a bit of a disadvantage, financially. But all in all, Greece is a place we are growing to love, and we will be back!
We've already decided to book a cruise next summer with Easy Cruise Life and see four or five more islands. What a comfortable, low-key and interesting way to travel!