Wednesday, 20 January 2016
MORE FERRYING IN '15 Part 3
Wednesday 16th September 2015
I set my alarm for 5.20 a.m. here on board FESTOS PALACE. All passengers usually get a call from the tannoy in good time for arrival, but it was late this morning so we were on deck in darkness ready for our scheduled 6 a.m. arrival back in Piraeus. There were lots of ferries and cruise ships around us in the Piraeus Roads, waiting for us to arrive and enter the harbour
We were alongside at 6.35 and off quickly to get on the port bus waiting alongside. That took us immediately further round inside the port gates and we got off quickly ready for a very fast walk to board CHAMPION JET 2 at Gate 9. This is a High Speed biggie with a white hull, and we were on board her at 6.55, breathless! My friend had run to buy the tickets too, whilst I stood on the deck ramps telling the staff that there were two of us boarding! All was well as the staff cheerfully told us to slow down, we were on, the ramps came up, the engines roared and we were off and out of Piraeus Great Harbour all before sun up.
It was breezy going out of the harbour. My friend reminded me that CHAMPION JET 2 is ex-British - she was the former Channel Islands mainstay CONDOR EXPRESS for almost two decades before being replaced by the somewhat troubled CONDOR LIBERATION for 2015 so this was her first season in Greece. He guessed that a lot of people have enjoyed the 'God phone' on her over the years during winter English Channel gales!
My seat is number A38, on the lower deck. The upper deck on here is Distinguished Class, where seats cost more money, but we could see that it was empty. There were many non-Greeks on board, mostly tourists like us, which we discovered by going on deck just before sun-up.
Smoking was forbidden on board, understandably on this sort of vessel with its limited outside deck space, but of course there was a male standing by one of the signs outside and enjoying a smoke. I discovered we were sailing at 38 knots, and whilst it was very slightly rough between the islands, it was absolutely nothing compared with the Halunder Jet, which I shall not even put in capital letters, and whose memory still frightens three of us.
We are due at the beautiful island of Mykonos at 9.35 a.m. where we will disembark for a few hours until getting our next ferry at 1.00 p.m to the island of Andros.
Having said that it was only slightly rough between the islands, that all changed 45 minutes before we were due at Mykonos when the sea became really rough and our CHAMPION JET 2 vessel lurched all over the place. Everyone remained in their seats, people moaned or screamed, women and children rushed for the toilets, staff tried to keep people calm, and it was very uncomfortable for those 45 minutes. Hmm, was it the vessel or the weather I wondered...
It was such a relief to arrive and tie up at Mykonos. The port is always vulnerable to the wind and sea here as I well remember from the LOUIS AURA trip, but that ship and Captain dealt with it all very easily. Ah well, hundreds of us disembarked and many more embarked.
I remembered that there was a local small water taxi service just on the other side of the quay so we headed there and were soon ferried along to the Old Town port stop on the other side of the bay.
Although it was still extremely windy, we headed into the old back streets where it was much more sheltered and discovered the back entrance to a cafe. Inside all was calm and pleasant and a coffee break turned into an early snack lunch. This was partly because of the lovely staff and food, but also because of the pictures on the walls, which included one of an old Chandris ship (ROMANTICA) in the harbour many years ago.
We finally had to head out into the wind again and take the other water taxi back to the new port, ready to board our next ship of the day. We had bought tickets in a local travel agent (Delia Travel) in Mykonos old town so we were ready to board the FAST FERRIES ANDROS for our journey to, guess where, Andros! It all seemed so appropriate of course.
We checked in and walked up the car deck ramp, with its 'elephant' feet for tying down big vehicles, and up to the Distinguished Class Lounge to settle in for the next couple of hours.
We left at 1 p.m. and despite the wind in the bay were soon on our way to Tinos, before arriving at the nearby island of Andros. I haven't been here before but the little port town of Gavrio was in a very sheltered bay on the north-west of the island, but facing south. The ship hooted as we approached the bay and port, and the sound echoed round the hillsides and mountains.
We disembarked at 3.35 p.m. and were soon walking out of the little town and up the road on the headland to where we knew the Andros Holiday Hotel was located.
We checked in with the smiling Receptionist and she made us feel very welcome. Rooms were all air-conditioned, with terraces; there was a vast pool down nearer the sea, with terraced gardens, tennis courts, paths stretched down to the sea, and everywhere I could see blue colours. The sky was blue, the sea blue, the swimming pool blue, the terrace woodwork, and railings beside the paths.
I thought of trying the swimming pool and then walking to the sea through the trees below the pool. The barman sitting near the Pool and its Bar smiled a greeting and reminded me that there was no lifeguard or attendant. The pool water was deep and looked inviting but cold so I decided not to swim. There was no-one else near the pool anyway. The tiny beach at the bottom of the last path was so calm and peaceful and I sat there for a while, and enjoyed the shade of a tree and just looking out to sea. The water sparkled and all seemed well with the world.
My bed called me loudly however so I made my way up one of the paths and had a lovely rest for an hour.
The Hotel had a restaurant but we decided to walk back to the town in the cool of the evening and find somewhere recommended by Trip Adviser: the Thiriotrofeio (Menagerie) Restaurant. It was in a backstreet of the little town, and the proprietor and his wife made us very welcome, in English. I immediately said I recognised Ella Fitzgerald singing in the background, and this seemed to earn us Brownie points straight away. The meal that followed was wonderful, cooked while we waited, and all accompanied by little home-made specialities suggested by the owner. The starter was a cheese croquette accompanied by Rose Preserve, which set the standard; our main meal was tender veal, with vegetables in rice with a sauce. Dessert was chocolate mousettes and ice-cream; we had wine, water and bread as necessary, and then were given a little glass of cherry liqueur, made by the proprietor's wife - again delicious.
After our meal we booked our tickets for the next day’s sailing – we went to the old agents for Agoudimos Lines, whose offices looked as if no-one had told them Agoudimos had gone bust a couple of years ago, with that company’s name still lit up in neon and giant posters of the Ionian King, Penelope A, Kapetan Alexandros etc. on the walls. They had all the timetables for the other operators marked up outside and sold tickets for them of course, but it was all slightly bizarre!
The way home in the night-time heat, back up the winding paths to Andros Holiday Hotel under the starry skies, helped the wonderful food to settle and my air-conditioned room made for a blissful end to a relaxing but eventful day. Tomorrow we take a mid-morning ferry trip from here on Andros back to Mykonos, and then will get a late afternoon ferry back to Piraeus for a late night arrival.
Ships seen in Piraeus in the morning:
Champion Jet 2, Festos Palace (on board), El Venizelos, Superfast XII (off the port), Celebrity Equinox, Minerva, Island Princess, Tera Jet, Nissos Mykonos Blue Horizon, Blue Star Patmos, Blue Star Delos, Blue Galaxy, Blue Star Paros, Panagia Tinou, Aidastella, Highspeed 6, Macedonia, Panagia Agiasou, Phivos, Ionis, Agios Nektonos Aeginas, Alchios, Flying Dolphin XVII, Adonia cruise ship, Hellas Liberty, Salamis Filoxinia at sea
Ships seen in Mykonos:
Creta Cargo Lines Talos, Mykonos Express cross-harbour ferry, Margharita ch., Alexandros, Ekaterini P, Fast Ferries Andros, Superferry II of Golden Star Ferries, a Costa cruise ship at a distance, Blue Star Paros, Superjet, Romantica of Chandris in a picture on the cafe wall
Ships seen in Andros:
Fast Ferries Andros, Theologos P, Superferry II, Ekaterini P seen out at sea, sailing from Rafina to Mykonos but not calling at Andros
To be continued...