Daytrip to Paros

July 11, 2018 - Náxos, Greece

I had forgotten when I recorded what we did yesterday that on our walk along the waterfront we had called in to one of the many, many tourist offices and bought tickets on the Blue Star Ferry to Paros for 9.30 today. So we had to be up and out reasonably early, which, as usual, Lucie and I found harder to achieve than the others did.

We are now pretty much locals on Naxos and found our way like homing pigeons  to the ferry terminal at the end of the promenade. The ferry is HUGE - 8 storeys including the lower one for cars and trucks which is so high you can barely make out the ceiling in the gloomy distance. After two flights of escalators, and more flights of stairs, we wandered about for a bit before finding a table and chairs on a covered and glassed in part of Deck 7. We took photos over the back railing, checked out the coffee bar, then settled back to enjoy the stunning hour-long trip through the islands. (You can skip the rest of the para if you don't want a mini lecture.) Naxos is the largest of the islands in the Cyclades group which centres on the uninhabited but historic island of Delos which is said to be the birthplace of Apollo. We had been asking each other about Apollo when we went up to the Temple yesterday, and Jackie and I were ashamed of ourselves for not being able to remember all we had learnt at school about Greek and Roman mythology. I have since looked him up, and found that he was the son of Zeus and Lete (whoever) and had a twin sister Artemis. He was the god of wisdom, poetry, the sun, healing ..... You name it, Apollo was IT.

Paros seems to be a transport hub for the Cyclades although it is quite a bit smaller than Naxos. When the ferry arrived at Parikia we were barely able to move for the people coming and going and milling around in the terminal area, which is right in the centre of the town. We were proud of Sarah for having made the choice to stay on Naxos with its lovely promenade and waterfront restaurants.

After looking at ferry timetables and discussing the options we bought tickets to return to Naxos at 2.25 as the later ferry didn't leave until after 6.

We had decided that our first visit would be to the Panagia Ekatontapiliani, the beautiful Byzantine Church the building of which was begun in 325 AD supposedly by Saint Helen, the Mother of the Emperor Constantine, when she was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Obviously its construction took a while, and so did its restoration after an earthquake in the 18th Century. The name means, apparently, 'Church of the Hundred Gates', which it doesn't have, and there is some uncertainty about why it is called that.

Although it is only a block away from the busy waterfront, the cloistered courtyard into which you enter under an archway is beautiful and tranquil. The church itself is not huge, but the ceiling, brightly painted with scenes from the life of Christ, is very high and quite gorgeous. The domes over the transept look as if they are older, being vaulted stone; I will have to do some research before I forget what it looked like as taking photographs was forbidden. The others were very law-abiding but I managed to sneak a picture of the huge metal chandelier with a fair bit of the church as background. Through one of the side doors is a little courtyard, dominated by white walls, a bell tower and a cross, and leading into a tiny chapel and what appears to have been a monk's cell. There was a red bedspread covering a stone bed built against one wall, complete with stone pillow. We thought it was probably just as well there wasn't an inner spring mattress and foam pillow which would have made it harder for the monk to get up for his five-times-a- night prayers, or whatever it was.

Back at the waterfront we looked for taxis to take us to Lefkes, the village in the centre of the island which we had been told was one of the most picturesque. The only taxis we could see were already booked, and the queue was steadily growing so we had almost abandoned our plan until I noticed a bus with a Lefkes sign on it. I asked the driver how often it went, and he said 'ten minutes', and pointed to the kiosk where we could buy tickets. As the bus filled up - all the seats and most of the aisle - David and I decided that 'ten minutes' meant 'when completely full', but I actually think the driver misunderstood me and meant 'leaving in ten minutes'. In fact the buses were only about hourly.

The drive up to the village was lovely, winding up between steep terraced hillsides which looked as if they could never have grown anything at all, let alone have provided a living for the people who have obviously lived here over the centuries.

As soon as we arrived high up in Lefkes, we booked return tickets on the 1.30 bus, the only one which would get us back to Parikia in time for the ferry. We tried  a lovely little restaurant perched on the edge of a steep hill, but they didn't start serving lunch until 1pm. So we walked down a narrow street lined with white houses with blue doors and windows, and walls hung with scarlet bouganvillea. A few kittens loafed about on the stone steps, drawing the attention of passing tourists (not many of us, luckily - it was quite peaceful). Up a steep hill to the church square of Hagia Triada, the Byzantine church of The Holy Trinity. We decided to have something to eat at the little cafe/bar where, if you ordered two drinks, you could get a meze tasting plate. Sarah and David nobly sacrificed themselves to a white wine and a beer respectively, and the rest of us had lemonade. We shared toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, and the olives, tatsziki (sp?), dolmades and tomatoes on the meze plate. Needless to say we wandered in and around the church, some while waiting for food, some after, taking photos, and enjoying the peace and beauty.

The church was beautiful but we didn't stroll about inside as the custodian looked rather fierce, as if he knew we were just looking for an opportunity to steal the treasures. I was particularly struck by the unusual stained glass windows. The windows themselves were quite small, and sunk into arches in the thick stone walls, and the glass was in the form of three separate circles of different primary colours.

We didn't have much time to explore, so we walked back the way we had come and then of course the bus was late. This caused David and me some angst as we didn't have much time between bus arrival and ferry departure - what does one do in Paros for four hours? We arrived in time, of course. But the ferry didn't. And didn't. This gave us time to cross the road to a cafe rather than stand in a queue in the sun (about 32 degrees) and have drinks, a baklava and ice creams.

When the ferry did arrive, about 3 quarters of an hour late, it was a jet, and indeed the inside seating was laid out like an aircraft, same seats with pockets full of safety information and emergency paper bags. We were back in Naxos in about half an hour, but no decks, except one small area at the back, so no photos.

Lucie wanted a taxi home, so Jackie and Sarah went with her while David, Sue and I walked the length of the promenade back to Bossa for a drink. Sue introduced me to a Radler - beer and lemon, bit like a shandy but more lemony. Then we walked around a little headland, the path being protected by a low narrow seawall on parts of which somebody had sprinkled cat food. We have been surprised by how many stray cats there are on the island - skinny, suspicious looking little things - but very few dogs, and no strays. The dogs are mostly 'rats on strings' with the occasional larger one. As in other parts of Europe we have been, dogs are welcome in cafes. The cats seem to stay away.

We walked along St George's Beach then up the familiar path and home again. We had a swim then walked a little way up the road to To Elleniki, an outdoor family-run restaurant, very pretty, and with lovely Greek food. Between us we had Greek zucchini pie, lasagne, pork cooked in a pot with tomato, veal, lamb, and baby goat- the latter being Sarah's choice. She said she had had goat before, but never as nice as this.

After dinner we walked up the hill to the main square to find a TV screen on which to watch the semi-final between England and Croatia. Jackie and David were very tense of course, and Jackie promised to excommunicate Lucie from the family when she threatened to barrack for Croatia.  We couldn't find seats in any of the resturants, but found enough in the bakery where David ordered the obligatory beer (I doubt anyone could seriously watch such an important event with a coffee, except those of us who were not totally committed either way. Oh, not counting Jackie who is both committed and a coffee drinker.)

Lucie's threat was an idle one, and she was just as excited as the other Anglophiles when England scored that first early goal. We all became caught up in the spirit of the thing, especially as the cheers or groans of hundreds supporters echoed around the square.

When the game went into extra time after one-all at the end, David and Jackie stayed but the rest of us went home and watched the sad ending on the screens in our rooms. Ah well. At least the Croatians were excited.

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