Travel Tales Home Page

Previous Page      Eastern Europe Plus Home Page      Next Page

     
Islands of Paros and Antiparos
  

   

May 2

We waited out front for Bobby and noticed there was no sign on his premises. "No need to advertise it to everyone," he said as he drove us to the dockside ticket office to catch our 9:30 boat. Hmmmm !

From some distance away, we could see the catamaran quickly approaching with a rooster tail streaming behind it. It unloaded its passengers and quickly loaded those of us waiting. We arrived at the dock on Paros before we could finish our first game of Skip-Bo.

Boat from Samos to Paros
Island of Paros - Argonauta Hotel

We checked into the Argonauta Hotel by the central square, very clean with a balcony overlooking a pedestrian way. It wasnít long before we were walking another seawall and up into the winding back streets and alleyways.

Island of Paros Island of Paros Island of Paros

Island of Paros

Island of Paros

Brilliant white homes and shops are punctuated by blue doors and shutters providing a wonderful backdrop to pots of colourful spring flowers and hanging laundry. Grape vines, looking more like tree trucks than vines, climb up the white stucco to wooden trellises and second storey roof tops then burst into a canopy of bright new green leaves. Itís easy to get lost as the laneways wind and climb and connect in Y shapes and circle around buildings. But it is fun to be lost in such places because you eventually emerge by the water or somewhere where you have been before; in the meantime you meet people, like the Italian couple on their honeymoon who asked if we might take a picture of them together in front of one of the many little churches scattered within the community; or the lady out walking her little cream coloured puppy who itself was newly discovering what was around the next corner; or young girls who, glad to be out of school, were viewing the world in a different way by hanging upside down from a low tree branch.

There are not many large trees on the Greek Islands. Some time back, in an attempt to get in on the olive and olive oil boom island dwellers cut down their indigenous trees to plant olives without first appreciating that olive trees have a tap root and their indigenous trees had roots that spread over the surface and held the ground in place. Without this root structure rain soon washed away the fertile soil leaving gravel and rock behind. We did, however, discover around one of the bends a very large tree creating a sun umbrella over a square and in its shadow were bright yellow director-style chairs and round tables inviting us to sit a spell. So we did.

Island of Paros Island of Paros
Island of Paros Island of Paros Island of Paros

Our walking continued to a church which is really three churches in one and then back down to the water and the boat docks having short chats with people along the way. Before we knew it, it was time for some dinner and sunset.

Our first impressions of Paros are very favourable ones. It feels comfortable. There is a sense of history and of community. Here it seems they have accepted tourism as a way of sharing the pride they have of their home rather than abandoning their sense of home for the sake of tourism. We hope they continue to be successful with that balancing act.

   

    

Island of Paros Island of Paros

May 3

Breakfast was not included with our room rate which gave us an opportunity to go shopping for breakfast with plans to eat it on our balcony.

Weaving through the back streets we came to a grocer displaying fruits and vegetables outside. During our previous European travels we had learned the customer does not touch the fresh stuff. Point and the grocer picks. We pointed to the bananas and indicated two. Inside where food is packaged itís okay for the purchaser to touch and we selected a carton of orange juice, a container of peach yogurt and a bottle of water.

"From England or the US?" the grocer asked in English with a Greek accent.

"Canada", we responded.

"Canada," he repeated, "Where? Toronto, Quebec, Vancouver?"

"Vancouver?"

"How are the Canucks doing?"

We were flabbergasted. " Well actually, they are in the playoffs. If they donít win tonight it may be all over for the season."

"I lived in Montreal, Quebec," the grocer told us, "when Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were playing."

"And Ken Dryden in goal?" Terry asked.

"Yes, Ken Dryden. But it was too cold. Didnít like all the cold."

"Vancouver is not as cold."

"I moved to St John, New Brunswick, but it was cold there too. In Montreal I bought a house for $55,000. When I sold it I lost $5,000. Two years later it was double the price. I came back to Greece. Not so cold."

At the busy bakery (in business since 1912) across the street from our roomís balcony, we pointed at two items not really knowing what we were getting.

   
Island of Paros, Greece
Island of Paros
Island of Paros
Island of Paros Island of Paros

Back at the hotel, we borrowed a little round table with cast iron base and marble top from the inside courtyard and hefted it through the room and out onto the balcony. Chairs, glasses and flowers from the room completed the scene. One of the mystery pastries held ham and cheese while the other had a bit of apple filling. The orange juice was mild and delicious while the zero fat yogurt surprised us with its smooth heavy texture.

After breakfast, Sherrie went down to the lobby in hopes of getting online through the hotelís WiFi which was not working in our room. Not having any luck the lady owner, Chryssoula, took Sherrie next door and up stairs to meet the townís computer guy. Our new computer had made a diagnosis of the problems and had suggested the steps to take. The computer guy suggested the same. Sherrie went back to the hotel and reset the system. It worked! Well, at least in the lobby it worked for awhile.

Chryssoula explained that her husband had had an operation recently and she would like to go home for a few minutes to check on him and fix him something to eat and drink. "Will you take care of the hotel while I am gone?" she asked pointing to the reception area.

"Yes."

And she was gone. The only thing that could be done if someone needed assistance was to ask them to wait. That did happen and they did wait. A neighbouring shop owner came in, assessed the situation and phoned Chryssoula to return as soon as possible.

Once she returned we left the hotel and caught a bus which took us to Pounta on the west side of the island. The bus timed it just right and we walked immediately onto the little car ferry for the fifteen minute crossing to Antiparos. The buildings looked the same as on Paros although not as many high end shops. The people looked the same as those on Paros except not as busy, not as eager for business and not as numerous ... but donít attempt to think of Antiparos as an extension of its big neighbour for they are proudly independent.

wind surfing between Paros and Antiparos
Boat from Paros to Antiparos

Even wandering slowly through the not so many back streets and stopping for an ice cream, we were ready to return to Paros in an hour and a half. Caught the frequent ferry back to Pounta not knowing if the bus would be there. It wasnít and we milled around for two more ferry arrivals before getting on the first bus which showed up. It was also acting as a school bus and rather than returning along the road on which we came, it did a large loop making stops at country roads and driveways.

Island of Antiparos Island of Antiparos Island of Antiparos

One clean cut school boy, about fourteen, with a hairdo which was a combination of a double mohawk and a 1950's duck tail, became the ticket master once all the school kids were off and only adults remained. After collecting the money and passing out tickets he too got off the bus.

 
Island of Antiparos Island of Antiparos 
Island of Antiparos On  the way back through the upper part of town we noticed a building which had a sign across its width just below the roof line. "British Columbia", it said with a Canadian flag at one end and a British Columbia flag at the other. Curious, we got off at the next stop and doubled back. On closer inspection it appeared to be a language school; but why British Columbia? We met Linda. She spared a couple of minutes from teaching her class of two teens. She is from Victoria. When we told her we were leaving tomorrow, we were a little stunned by her response, "Good. Get out while you can." Perhaps after twenty-five years she would like to be back where her children are now going to school ... Victoria. Sometimes even a warm climate and palm trees canít replace "home" ... wherever that may be. Or perhaps she was saying that if you stay any longer this island will begin to seduce you.  

We took an unknown route back towards our hotel and got "lost" again in the tangle of narrow laneways. Every so often a sea view would let us know in which direction we were travelling. Down one such lane we saw an older gentleman being lead by a little toddler. He is a retired Italian sea captain and the toddler is his granddaughter. He is here visiting his daughter as he likes to do once a year. She too lives in Italy but keeps a summer home here. He told us he remembers Vancouver with fondness. We complimented him on his English and asked if he spoke Greek. "No. I speak Italian, English, French, Spanish and German. I am an old man, that is enough." He proudly showed us the room in which he was staying. "I wake up in the morning and still lying in bed I can see the sea." An ideal situation for an "old salty".

Island of Paros  Island of Paros  Island of Paros 
 Island of Paros Island of Paros  Island of Paros 

For dinner we decided to have a Greek favourite - Gyro (similar to Turkeyís doner). "The works?" asked the fellow behind the counter.

"Sure, why not."

Two thick round pita bread went on to the grill. Fifteen seconds later they got a flip. Then, with a piece of paper in the palm of his hand, he laid the pita on top, put on some meat from a large vertical revolving spit, then added tomato, onion, french fries (yes, french fries!) and yogurt sauce and then with some slight of hand and a twist of his wrist, he handed us dinner in a pita cone. Street food extra-ordinaire. Perhaps the next one, another day ... and there will be another one another day ... weíll say "hold the fries".

We watched the sunset by the windmill and strolled home saying "Good night" to familiar faces and shop owners who were just opening up for the evenings business.

 
Island of Paros  Island of Paros 
Island of Paros Island of Paros

May 4

Our ferry from Paros to Santorini did not depart until 11:30, so we had a leisurely breakfast on the balcony. Other than the in-room WiFi not working, the Argonauta Hotel wins high marks for itís location, cleanliness and pleasant helpful staff.

The day was well underway when we made our way to the port and bumped into a charming little fellow, well into his eighties, leading a small burro. The nearly empty crates on the burroís back indicated that he may have sold most of the vegetables he had brought into town.

The waters were calm and the ferry a pleasant and comfortable one with large windows and wide airline style seating.

Previous Page      Eastern Europe Plus Home Page      Next Page

Travel Tales Home Page