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Poros 2007 -
Our September Fortnight in Greece

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Home from Home in Poros -
13th September 2007


  • Athens Airport and a Long Wait.
  • Buses, tavernas and ferries.
  • Dennis & Frances in Poros again.
  • Saga Hotel, Zefi and changes.
  • Miklo Neorio and the Vassilis Taverna.

Jenny, The Tickets and the Orange Box
Jenny, The Tickets and the Orange Box

13th September : Athens Airport and the X96 Bus :

Athens Airport had not changed, with the Long Walk down the stainless steel passage and travelators from the island to the main terminal building. We left the plane at 12:11 am, got to Baggage Claim at 12:40 am, then had to wait till 1:00 am for our bags, watching one similar bag travel along at least six circuits before we got to see our own. Into the main concourse thereafter, without anybody waiting for us, deciding where to go and what to do. I have to admit that I was fairly nearly spent by then. Most of the airport shops and cafes were shut, but we found the 'Kafeneio' near Exit 2 and I am afraid I sat down to fill up. I spent 11.15 Euro on two hot chocolates, a large iced bun and a salami panini, to Jen's dismay. Unfortunately, food replaces sleep, and I had to make sure that I kept alert and took some medication I have to take regularly.

Deciding that sitting around in the concourse was no fun, we took our bags back up the concourse to Exit 5 and the bus stop for the X96. The ticket-office was right beside it, so we got tickets for the service to Piraeus and return tickets for the journey back. Four tickets at 3.20 Euros each - not too bad, considering, and we managed to sit right beside our luggage and the orange ticket validation machine. I got a good picture of that, with Jenny gaily waving the validated tickets.

The friendly Filoxenia
The Friendly Filoxenia
Ferry 'Nefeli' at night
Ferry 'Nefeli' at night
Frances's recommended cafe - the intended stop
The cafe suggested by Frances

The bus runs every twenty minutes, even in the wee small hours, an interesting and quiet experience at night. This is possibly the only time when the streets of Athens and Piraeus are not awash with traffic, the bus itself fairly empty. There was the usual culture shock of not being able to easily read the signs of the shops and so on, then we just settled down to enjoy it. The most amusing aspect was that the town was plastered with posters of the current Greek Prime Minister (Karamanlis) who was seeking re-election. We must have counted at least sixty posters, puzzling out his name and that of the 'New Democrat Party', one of the three main parties in modern Greek politics. A retired Greek seaman behind us explained that there was an election that Sunday, with the real contest between the NDP and Papandreou's PASOK party. We then had a rather cynical discussion of the unreliability of politicians and the need to make sure they honoured at least some of their electoral promises.

Filoxenia and the Ferry Tickets :

Got off the X96 opposite the Blue Star and Lanes building, a short walk past a horseman's statue from Piraeus Docks Gate E8. A loiterer told us the cafes and gates were shut, offering to show us to a hotel for the night "Only 60 Euros each for the night." We ignored his huckstering, but later in the holiday I wondered whether we were being set up for a bit of alleyway mugging. Instead we stuck to Plan A, which was to find an open cafe near E8 that Frances and Dennis had told us about, then sit out the rest of the time till the ferry set sail for Poros. In the circumstances, it was the right thing to do; we arrived at the 'Filoxenia' kafeneion beside the open part of gate E8, where we were given a kind and reassuring welcome. The staff spoke English, were careful to place our cases safely in eyesight and offered refreshments. I bought two more hot chocolates, a lemon tea, a bun and peace of mind, for the reasonable price of 7.50 Euros. We were able to chat to a Colin Douglas and his wife Helen who had been on the same flight from Glasgow and who were waiting for their own ferry to Paros.

Getting the ferry tickets was a little complex. There was an agent's office next to Filoxenia, where the Douglases went to buy their tickets. The main ticket offices turned out to be open at 6:30 am, through the open E8 gate and sharp left back along the fence opposite where the ferries were moored, stern-first to the quayside. The tickets were 11.10 Euros each. At first I thought we would be going aboard the 'Artemis', but the 7:30 am sailing for Aegina and Poros turned out to be the 'Nefeli', so we went to sit under a 'bikeshed' waiting area with our cases. We were promptly approached by a beggar with a hospital crutch, who - suspiciously - only limped when panhandling; the word "Ochi !" (No) sent him on his way, but he came back a second time and only departed after a glare from me on his third attempt. The McCallums had warned us under no circumstances to give in to such begging, however hard-hearted it may seem. We boarded the 'Nefeli' at about 7 am, I lugged the cases up an escalator to the main deck saloon and we settled in. Both of us were deathly tired by then, but it was reassuring to be on our last leg to Poros.

The Ferry Nefeli and the Voyage to Poros :

We were too tired to do much more than doze in our seats for a time, but later on went on deck to look out over the Saronic Gulf into (of all things !) a shower of rain. Went below again to look at our fellow-passengers. These included three varieties - the dark red-haired type, like Frances and Zefi, a more common very dark haired type and a very few ash-blonde or sandy haired types. One plump lass with long dark tresses I later met ondeck near Methana and she turned out to be from Cyprus. Another, rather leonine figure, was a man carrying a staff with arrays of some kind of tickets on it; I later realised that he was selling 'Rotaria' lottery tickets, slightly more flamboyantly than Britain's lottery machines. Feeling hungry (again !) I went for yet more lemon tea and a bun, then up to watch the 'Nefeli' backing in to the end of the pier at Aegina port and across to Methana in drizzle to watch the docking, take pictures and look for the spa buildings housing the hot spring. Excitement was rising in both of us, so we took turns watching the cases to let each other look out at the approaching island of Poros. I did get some good pictures of the lighthouse at the west end of Kalavria and some pictures of Daskalio, before the 'Nefeli' turned off Galatas to back onto the wharf beside Poros town. Down the stairs again, not letting Jenny carry the cases because of pains in her left arm, then standing behind the ramp as it groaned down onto the quayside. Time about 9:45 am, but at that point time effectively ended.

Salamis and the Bay
Salamis and the Bay
Flying Dolphin and Gulf of Corinth
Flying Dolphin and Gulf of Corinth
Naval vessel in the drizzle
Naval vessel in the drizzle

"Richard - Dennis is there !" A yell from Jenny as we rolled our cases down the ramp, then thew cheerful figure of Dennis, in shorts and shirt, standing in the sun. I was more concerned about making sure my sunhat was on my head, for the cool and unpromising morning had turned bright and hot. Frances turned up soon after, looking cheerful and with some shopping in hand, before they loaded us into a taxi (4 Euros, by the way) and headed down the street towards the Naval Academy and Askeli - and the Saga Hotel.

Aegina Harbour at Dawn
Aegina Harbour at Dawn
Methana Harbour and the Spa
Methana Harbour and the Spa
Daskalio Island at Dawn
Daskalio Island at Dawn

Saga Hotel, Refreshment, Rest and Freddy :

Zefi was at the Poolside Bar when we arrived and took us to a choicew of rooms. Number 24 had a double bed and a view west along Kanali suburb over the harbour towards Trizina, but Number 15 had its view across the pool and the garden towards the Naval Academy, so we stuck with that. Later I realised that Frances must have rung Zefi to keep us out of the way, for Frances had stocked the Number 15 kitchenette fridge with fruit (notably grapes and fresh figs), water, a large pot of Greek Yogurt (yum !) and a pot of thyme honey. Zefi told us that the hotel had bought the garden from the relatives of the previous owner just two weeks before. The overflow from the pool and the wash water from the bar were now collected in a tank and used to irrigate the garden. Very ecological. There was also a fine new sun-deck on the far side of the pool, so people could sun without being splashed from the pool, and the plumbing and electrics had been sorted out in Number 15 - big tick and a star for Zefi and Takis.

At the time, I admit that I and Jenny were feeling travel-stained, exhausted, hungry and thirsty (again...). We went down to have breakfast before we went to sleep, at Zefi's suggestion. Jenny had her usual biscottes, orange jam and coffee, whilst I had a small bowl of muesli with Zefi's home-made Greek yogurt and honey, washed down with Lady Grey tea. I failed to see Freddy the Parrot and wondered if he had died or was elsewhere. A fatal mistake - he had been stowed away in the basement to keep him quiet, so Zefi popped him into the Poolside Bar. At the time I did not realise the magnitude of my error, for he is a noisy fellow. Up to shower and then to bed for five hours - only to be woken about 3 or 4 pm by the strident voice of Freddy. Ah, woe. Gave up, dressed and went down to look around. Jenny decided to walk into Poros and stretch her legs whilst I looked around the Hotel, including their roof terrace bar. Saw that Dennis and Frances's patio door was open, so went down to see them and thank them for their thoughtful gifts. Dennis was on the computer, Frances came in later; both were very amused by my gaffe with Freddy, Frances saying that there had been some nights when Freddy's voice had given her thoughts of wringing his neck, but her kind heart had prevailed. They introduced me to their two semi-feral cats, which adopt them when Frances and Dennis come and go elsewhere when they visit Britain. 'Thug' the dominant cat is the smaller one, with its tail tip bare of fur; the cat had suffered a car accident and Frances had paid the vet's bill, so Thug was duly grateful. They were amazed that Thug came to me, but I think he may have smelt echoes of Peppi's scent on me. Peppi, our lazy little female cat, cost us a grand total of 85 in cattery fees whilst we were in Greece.

On returning to the Hotel I heard Jenny's voice but failed to see her in the Poolside Bar, the reception or the room; at last I raised my eyes to the heavens, to find her smiling down at me from the roof terrace. If I recall correctly, I got her a fresh orange juice from the bar then went up to find her sunning in cheerful isolation on the very hot roof terrace sun deck. Relaxation thereafter the rule of the day until about 6 pm, when we went down to the Poolside Bar to wait for Frances and Dennis. Jen had a glass of white wine whilst I had my fix of canned lemon iced tea. Still warm, although falling dark (September, after all) but quite cosy by the Bar. Dennis and Frances got there at 6:20 pm and we set off in the pleasant darkness to walk the mile or so to Megalo Neorio and a mysterious meal at the Cafe Vassilis.

Megalo Neorio : The Fire and the Snails at Cafe Mouzourkos (Vassili's) :

Greece in 2007 had very little rain, a very hot summer and some horrific forest fires, the worst killing people in Olympia south and west across the Peloponnese from Poros. Unfortunately, Poros did not escape completely. A pole-mounted transformer at Megalo Neorio overheated and caught fire. The result in the tinder-dry pinewoods was a conflagration that burnt out a tremendous arc of brushwood and woodland behinbd the seafront at Megalo Neorio. Three houses were burnt out, a couple of hotels were scorched at the back and at one point the fires reached the sea between Megalo Neorio and Kanali. Considering that the Poros Fire Brigade consists of one small fire tender and a large portable pump on the back of a flatbed pickup, they were very lucky. Apparently the transformer and lines caused fireworks visible from Poros and Kanali. Water dumped from a fire-fighting aircraft (water bomber) eventually quenched the flames, but underlined the need to be careful. The smell of soot and ash from the pine-trees was still very strong when we were on the road to Megalo Neorio, but thankfully not by the cafe and the beach.

'George' at the Cafe Mouzourkos (Vassili's) is justly proud of his hot buffet, of Greek dishes well cooked and presented, and which we were invited to inspect. I chose lemon pork and potatoes, Dennis had lamb, Jen and Frances had some kind of meat pie with chips. However, Dennis is sometimes quietly mischievous and ordered a starter of snails (local) cooked in a tomato sauce. I had a dozen, finding that extraction is a problem and troubled by fragments of shells, but prepared to try them again. Apparently, the snails have to exist on some kind of starvation and purging diet involving oatmeal for a time before they are palatable. I regretted that the slugs infesting my salads and vegetables in Dalbeattie could not become a meat course. The main course was good, but I was overfaced and could not finish. Sweet was lemon and raspberry sorbets. I drank iced water, the others shared a carafe of wine. Definitely repeatable. Incidentally, Vassilis (Aghios Vassilis) is the Greek name for Father Christmas, so I think Christmas came early for us. We had a pleasant walk back to the Saga Hotel from Neorio, Dennis and myself chatting, the ladies wandering behind catching up on recent events.

As with 2006, so with 2007 - to bed, exhausted, after a very involved one and a half days.

The Vassilis Hot Buffet
The Vassilis Hot Buffet
Tucking In
Tucking In
Vassilis Taverna
Vassilis Taverna

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© 2007 and 2008 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.