Sunday, May 31, 2015

MENU's Aegean Odyssey. Day 6: Piraeus to Santorini

The ferry left at 07h15. We needed tickets, a Greek SIM card and some breakfast. Piraeus is fast and furious, even at that time of the morning, as the ferry business is booming. It is a relatively cheap way to travel (€37.50 pp), given the time and distance, but it was a long time since Lynne had been on an Aegean ferry. In the late '70's they were creaky and broke down a lot. She once was nearly stranded on Santorini, which was why we were going to the farthest island first. We were in for a nice surprise
Boarding can be a bit of scrum as everyone rushes to get on board and get the best seats. The Chinese proved past masters at this
It’s a nice modern ferry with lots of floor to ceiling windows for the views. These people had obviously boarded at dawn
Breakfast was a cheese, tomato and ham roll, soft and with little flavour
and a coffee, Nescafe, weak. There is a consistency here and you learn quickly what to avoid
Most of the ferries leave early morning or mid afternoon
And they vie for 'parking' with lots of cruise ships. We saw lots of them while in the islands
We are 'OFF" on a cloudy, misty but warm morning
This one was off to another of the islands
We were told not to take the expensive 'Fast' ferries as they often get in at the same time as the Blue Star Line. And many of them are twin hulled; the 'ride' is not very comfortable in Lynne's experience and, often, you are restricted in movement
The Greek flag waving the island colours
We crossed paths with many, many freight ships and tankers, it's a busy seaway...
... and Lynne was lucky enough to see dolphins riding our wake. But they had gone by the time John with camera ventured on deck
You pass many of the Aegean islands , some populated, others not
Rising from the sea like an iceberg, this island was formed by continental shift
We sat in the front lounge (no smoking) and very comfortable it was. Later, we managed to get window seats which were better and John found a socket to charge his laptop
The queue at the bar for drinks and snacks
Wind and solar power are everywhere in Greece
Not habitable, except for a warning light and birds
We stopped briefly at three other islands before we got to Santorini. The turnaround of passengers and vehicles is very fast and efficient. This little fishing boat was nearly swamped by our wake
Seaside villas in the classic white and blue. The Greeks understand about white being a cooling, reflective colour. We never can understand why people in SA paint their seaside houses dark grey or khaki. Not only unattractive, but hot
Lots of people charter yachts and sail around the islands for a couple of weeks
Ah, the sun is out and the blue Aegean is showing its colours
We arrive at Naxos and are interested to see it, as this will be our stop after Santorini
The classic Naxos gate – the remains of a temple to Apollo
A home or monastery high in the hills above Naxos
A classic Greek Island church on Ios
built right on the headland
It is a long way from the houses. Must have dedicated parishioners. We met some British people who had come to this island (Ios) to get married
Then we rounded a corner and there was the magnificent caldera of Santorini, and the bay filled with cruise liners disgorging their passengers into smaller boats as they are too large to dock. The cliffs are so steep here. All the towns run along the top of the caldera
Queuing to disembark
Our bus was there to collect us to take us to our hotel, or so we thought
The road up from the new harbour is very steep, with lots of hairpin bends and you drive in a procession when a ferry has arrived
Our view of the ferry port from the top of the vertiginous cliffs
All the good hotels and accommodation people do transfers to the port. Some are free
And we arrive, not in our hotel, but in a dingy small bed and breakfast place called Blue Sky Hotel owned by the same people. Nice view of the cement mixers, electric power lines and the wrong side of the island, and a very long walk indeed from restaurants and shops. They told us we could not stay the first night in the accommodation we’d booked, as there had been an "Accident". Unfortunately for them, we spoke to the other guests and it seems that the accident was a regular occurrence. We also checked on the net and the other hotel still had rooms available for an exorbitant and laughable €4000 a night, nothing like the price we had paid. They would never get that ridiculous rate, the accommodation is just not that good. We paid €120 for three nights. It is a scam which we heard about all over the island; they are known for it. They overbook and then you get put in this place they can't sell. We protested very loudly, reported them to Bookings.com (we are still waiting a response from them) and discovered lots of previous complaints about them on the site. We were moved the next morning and were given a free boat tour to the hot springs and the volcano. We discovered they tell lies about lots of things
There was just enough space to sit down on the balcony 
with the 'view' of the construction equipment
Compensation on our long walk to dinner, a friendly and well cared for cat
We began the hunt for a restaurant
We found the main 'take away' street where everyone was queuing for souvlaki, kebabs or Chinese food (at double the price). But we decided, after such a long two days, that we needed spoiling and a proper restaurant meal
We found this gem called Ouzeri, above the streets with its own terrace. We see that it gets 4.5 stars on Trip Adviser
Our waiter, George, was great fun, spoke very good English and is a professional waiter
He has worked in England and in Australia and is full of information on the food and the wine. His Australian wife had started work in the restaurant that evening
Not a typical Taverna in decor, more modern and light
The menu of the day on the blackboard is in English
We took George’s advice on the wine and had this bottle of Hatzidakis 2013; a deservedly popular white wine, made from Assyrtiko grapes, at €24 a bottle. The winery was founded in 1997 by experienced winemaker/oenologist Haridimos Hatzidakis . The land had been in his wife, Konstantina Hatzidakis' family, but had not been cultivated since the 1956 earthquake. It has an almost dusty riesling nose, without the terpenes, it is crisp and dry, full of limes and lemons; a good refreshing food wine, with a slight spritz
Lynne chose one of the dishes of the day, the octopus with fava bean puree. The octopus had been cooked on an open fire and had a lovely smoky note. It was rather tough though. The bean puree is rich and flavoursome but rather overwhelmed the dish. It needed something green on the plate
John wanted the lamb shanks but they had sold out, so he had the chicken with red peppers and feta sauce served with rice. The chicken was beautifully moist and the red peppers gave the dish the right degree of piquancy
Our bill includes €1 for bread and €1.50 for 2 litres of water. If you eat the bread, you are charged for it, all over Greece and Turkey. And you need the water. Sadly the same bottle of water costs 38c in the supermarkets
The bill worked out at approximately R746, not too bad for a better than average Greek meal. They did bring us a free dessert - a plate of yoghurt and syrupy cherries to share
The Santorini street cafe nightlife was just beginning as we headed home to bed
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© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015
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