A TRIP TO AN ISLAND.....
Trip Start May 13, 2010
25Trip End Jul 05, 2010
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Breakfast was the usual time at the Hotel, and again on the sunny patio with the wonderful view of the city. Our group was instructed to have our main luggage (not the smaller items like Daypacks) outside the rooms at 08:30 for the brothers to transport to the Bus. During breakfast I spoke with five women from B.C. (Lake Country, Vancouver, Rossland), which was quite a coincidence.
We met Constantina ("Dina"), our local Guide at bottom of the hill below the Hotel, and the trip to Epidavros took about 45 minutes. She was a replacement Guide, as the one that had originally been booked had a family medical emergency. We toured main site first and then after a bathroom break toured the Museum and large Amphitheater
After the official tour ended, we had about an hour to look around site. Many of our group hiked to top of Amphitheatre, especially to get photos and I did the same. As I approached the top, I had a short visit with a girl from Brazil that was travelling with her father. From the top, I noticed that Dina was busy with another group shortly after leaving our group.
Leaving Epidavros we drove to the village of Ermioni, which is one of the most beautiful villages on the Argosaronic Gulf. The port area was beautiful, with fishing boats and small sailing boats bearing a variety of flags. We had a wait of several hours before the Hydrofoil arrived, so there was time for a lunch break. This was the last time we'd be using our familiar purple Bus, so the group said 'goodbye' to George, our exceptional Driver. He provided us with a safe and comfortable trip, and was a true professional. He'd become part of the group, so it was sad to see him drive off into the distance.
Our group dispersed to several different restaurants in the harbour area. I and a few of the others decided to stop at a Fish Restaurant, which had a covered patio dining area right next to the water. The restaurant has apparently been in business for over 40 years, and is owned by four brothers. The Waiter took the order fairly promptly, but the food took a long time to arrive (I was getting concerned that we’d have to leave the meal when the boat arrived). Unfortunately, Colin (our Guide) had a picnic lunch at the dock, as he was "guarding" our luggage.
While we were waiting for lunch to arrive, some of the local dogs wandered by looking for "handouts", and one in particular was in very bad condition (we tried to give him some water and a bit of food, but he didn’t respond).
After lunch I had a bit of time to explore the harbour and take photos. The Hydrofoil arrived at the expected time and we boarded and stowed our gear in the luggage section quickly. Colin had given us information on the quickest way to board (the Hydrofoil crews like to have a short turn-around time). He had tied blue ribbons to all the luggage from our group so the bags would be easily identifiable
Hydra is one of the Saronic Islands and the name is derived from Hydrae, a reference to water. At one time there used to be springs on the island but now all water is brought in by Barge. The tap water has quite an unpleasant taste, making it undesirable for drinking. Hydra is a relatively close 40 nautical miles from Athens, making it a popular weekend stop for Athenians. The principal source of revenue is tourism, and there are a variety of accommodations on the island, mostly near the Port area. Except for a garbage truck and one other vehicle, no cars or motor bikes are allowed on the island. All goods come in by sea, with the heavier items transported on a "landing craft" with a ramp in the bow that is lowered onto the docks. A Forklift transfers pallets of supplies on the dock, and they’re transported to destination mostly by donkeys.
Our Hotel this time was Hotel Leto and it is one of the best Hotels of the tour
After getting settled in the Hotel, I explored a bit. We were on our own for dinner, so I decided to try The Veranda, which is one of the restaurants listed in the Guidebook. Access is via a stone stairway that leads up the hill from the harbour. I found the restaurant wasn’t well marked by signs, but the map in the book got me close enough that I could find it. There was only one other couple there when I arrived, along with the Waitress who was from Belgium. However, two other couples from the tour showed up so the five of us had dinner together. We all ordered different Pasta dishes, and although the order took awhile to arrive but the food was great. At the end of the meal, the owner provided an ample bottle of Mastika for the group to share (a liqueur made from tree resin, originating on the Island of Chios). This was the first time most of us had tried it.
Later on I went to the harbour area to get some night photos
June 4 - Friday
This will be a “free day” on the island and I’m really looking forward to sleeping in! The pace of the tour was fairly intense for the first week or so, and at this point I’m a bit “fatigued”. I had a late breakfast at 09:00 or so, and it seems some others also decided to sleep in a well, as there were still a few left in the breakfast room. By that time, some of the food items were getting a bit “sparse” and there was almost no coffee left.
After breakfast, I decided to explore at least part of the small town and of course take pictures. My first stop was a small bar in the harbour right at the edge of the water where I decided to enjoy another cup of coffee. Not all the restaurants offer “filter coffee” but fortunately this one did. The usual choices are Espresso, Cappucino and of course Greek Coffee (somewhat like Espresso but with a layer of coffee grounds on the bottom). It was great to sit and watch the parade of people passing by. The harbour area was relatively quiet but got a lot busier when boats came in and disgorged their cargo of tourists. It was nice to sit there as a “temporary local” watching the day trippers invade the island. While having coffee, I spoke with a father and son from Bombay who sat down next to me. They seemed quite interested in RS tours, so of course I did my best to promote them.
After a lengthy coffee break, I walked around the harbour to left, to have a look of Spilla beach. It wasn’t really a “beach” but rather just a rocky platform with a ladder leading down to the ocean. Two young Japanese tourists stopped next to me and tried to take photos of themselves by awkwardly holding the camera at arm’s length. I offered to help and they really appreciative that. They wanted photos taken with me as well. As I continued my walk, I passed by the stairs leading down to the swimming area and talked to young couple from Panama who were coming up the stairs (they said the water was nice, but cold). It was a very warm afternoon, so I’m sure it was refreshing. I continued around the corner for a short distance to have a look at the Windmill and then back towards harbour. By this time it was about lunch time, so I decided to stop at a small restaurant and had Gyro Pita for lunch, along with a Mythos (local beer). The pace has been hectic this morning, so I don’t want to wear myself out!
After lunch, I walked back to the other side of the harbour and ran into some of the group. I got a few photos of the harbour from an upper lookout patio, as it provided a good vantage point. Hydrofoils were arriving and departing every so often, so I waited for one to leave so I could get a video. I spent the latter part of the afternoon catching up on E-mail. The Hotel provided free Wi-Fi, although at times it was difficult to get a connection to the net.
At 18:45 the group gathered for a “social” in the Lounge and Patio. Red & white wines, Ouzo, chips, bread sticks and other goodies were served. Following that we departed for another group dinner dinner at Taverna Leonidas. The main course items had been pre-ordered a day or so previously, and we were given three choices – goooaat, rabbit or chicken (I went for the chicken). One of the appetizers served was Octopus (I tried a few pieces – somewhat like Kalamari and yet a bit different). During our meal, another couple came and sat down behind me. I got chatting with them (which was inevitable given the fact I’d had a few glasses of red wine). It turned out that the woman was the Ambassador to Sweden for one of the Commonwealth countries. We enjoyed an excellent hot meal, and of course many “beverages”.
After dinner I wandered down to the harbour for a quick look. For a Friday night, it seemed very quiet in the harbour and the Disco was closed (it had been open the previous night, but not many patrons). The largest of the yachts moored at the outer breakwater was named Inspiration (much larger and more luxurious than any of the other yachts in the harbour) and it was nicely lit up. I was surprised to find two very well dressed young ladies doing some “fishing” with long handled nets at the edge of the harbour. There were schools of small fish swimming close to the surface, and they were having some success at catching a few to feed the many Cats that seemed to inhabit the harbour area. Both girls were from London and were staying on one of the smaller yachts moored along “restaurant row”.
June 5 – Saturday
I got an unexpected surprise when I went for breakfast at about 08:45. Most of the group were sitting inside the dining room as it was raining outside. That was certainly an unexpected change in the weather from the previous day!
One of the group had a card for our Guide, which I signed. After breakfast I went back to the room to get cleaned up and organized. We had to be at the dock by 11:00 to board the Hydrofoil for Athens. I got to the dock a bit early and most of the group were already there. Just prior to boarding the boat, we had a “group photo” taken on dock. We enlisted the aid of a patron at one of the restaurants in the dock area (using my Camera), so that we could get all the group into the photo.