Trip Start Mar 05, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wednesday 20th August: Santoriri
For one reason or another Heather, Lisa, Dimitris and I left Paros earlier that we had planned. The experience of working in the campsite had begun to turn a little sour for us all and it became apparent that the best thing for all our sanity's was for us to leave. It was sudden but I must admit it was welcome. With Heather and me working for a wage of Eur25 per day it was not worth the money to stay when the fun had gone out of the experience. We all had a few days to spare before we were due to catch our flights to Scotland so we decided on a little relaxing holiday to try and erase some of the bad experiences of the summer and end on a high. Saying goodbye to everyone was tough as most of the relationships made over the summer were fantastic. To see Zayed with tears in his eyes while saying goodbye to Lisa, Heather and Dimitris was heart breaking. They had become family to him over the summer and he was devastated to see them leave. I myself would miss him greatly. The story of his life makes him one of the most remarkable characters I've ever been lucky enough to meet. It is no overstatement when I say it was a privilege to have been in his company. As for Michalis and Christos I would miss them also. Michalis is the nicest Greek man I've ever come across. His humor something I will never forget and something which provided me with great entertainment over the summer months. With Christos being half Greek and half Swiss he doesn't come into the Greek slime ball category. He was a complete gentleman, a trait that is rare amongst the Greeks. The guys were my regulars in the bar and trying to get them drunk on the strongest of cocktails was one of my favorite pastimes. I will remember them all fondly when I look back on this time in my life. As we climbed into the waiting taxi we were equipped with two tents and only the essentials of our belongings. Our immediate destination was Parikia but after that we had no ideas, no plans. By leaving we were bringing an end to one chapter and marking the beginning of a new. As I looked around the taxi and into the faces of everyone, I was thinking how under this one roof sat everything I had come to hold dear. In differing ways and meaning, I had come to love them all.....all except the argumentative taxi driver, he alone epitomized everything id come to dislike about the Greeks.    
As we sat having some lunch in Parikia we were trying to come up with ideas on were we should spend the remainder of our time in Greece. Neither of the girls had been to many of the other islands. Since I had traveled the Cyclades extensively I felt that of the islands I had been too they would find Santorini the most beautiful. Naxos was an island that I hadn't been to yet but would quite like to go. Although Santorini is an expensive island it was somewhere I wanted to bring Heather. When I was there with Boyce earlier in the summer I had looked around at its beauty and thought that it is somewhere she would love to see. Plus it's quite a romantic island and after our experiences in Paros I wanted to try and show her the most romantic of times. With Lisa keen on the idea I went and booked us some tickets and as if like a sign it was meant to be we would be getting the next ferry due into port. The ferry trip was almost 4hrs but it passed quickly. The whole journey we were entertained by Dimitris racing around the floor and getting himself into all sorts of mischief. He is such a placid wee child that you can take him absolutely anywhere. He's not one to get cranky and start crying or whining. He keeps himself entertained and occupied. As we climbed down from the ferry the sight of the caldera and the village of Fira clinging precariously do the edge of the mountain was even more spectacular than I remembered. I took great joy from the expressions on the faces of the girls as they took in the sight. With lots of domatia owners waiting to tout for customers we had no difficulty finding accommodation. We booked into 'camping Sanorini' which is just down the hill slightly from Fira. With a swimming pool, along with a bar and restaurant it's certainly one of the best campsites I've ever stayed at. The bar was really nice and with some pool tables it was offering more than our bar in camping Naoussa but having said that for all its better facilities and polished appearance it didn't have anything like the charm that we had created in Paros. In terms of running the bar, it had all the mod-cons but the opening hours would mean you would be working for about 15hrs a day. I think I'll stick to the working hours in 'Feathers bar' thank you very much. In the few days that we were there we got to know the barman quite well and he was always good for a late drink. When the 2 for one happy hour finished on cocktails it would never be over for Lisa, Heather or me, for every hour was happy hour for us. There is one problem with drinking cocktails in Greece and it's something me and Heather encountered one night to our detriment. The two of us woke in the middle of the night with ferocious headaches with Heather suffering one step further than me and having violent vomiting thrown in for good measure. In the bar at our campsite all the cocktails and drinks we mixed were with quality alcohols, all the top brands. Unfortunately not all bars operate with the same philosophy. It's quite a common practice for bars in Greece to use cheap local moonshine in cocktails and mixed drinks and its really bad news. Its black market alcohol and not only does it give you a nasty hangover but it comes with the added danger of the possibility you could go blind from drinking too much of it. You might think I'm over reacting but I can say with hand on heart that the words I'm expressing are completely accurate. Not only are bars ripping you off in the prices they are charging for these drinks but they are also risking your health to fatten their own profits. It is very difficult to tell if you are getting proper drinks or not. The bar in the Santorini campsite had on display the bottles of the top brands of alcohol, your Smirnoff's and your Bacardi's, but that doesn't mean they are actually using these in your cocktails. The day after the night Heather and I were ill I suspected that the cocktails we had were to blame and I watched the barman closely. He never once used the bottles that were on display. The drinks were either pre-mixed already or were taken from bottles that were kept under the bar out of sight. My advice to everyone is to be vigilant, watch your barman closely and don't be afraid to cause offense by demanding quality alcohol be used to mix your drinks. In my experience the majority of Greeks are rude and offensive people anyway so don't be afraid to hurt their feelings a little. The barman in Santorini camping is a nice guy; he is just doing his job after all. It's the boss man that's the problem.
The four of us were a having a great time spending our days walking the shops of Fira or lying on the black sand beaches of Kamari when a family emergency back in Scotland required that Lisa had to return home earlier than expected. Both Heather and I were gutted to see them go. On a personal level I had grown very close to Lisa and Dimitris. They had both played an important role in my experiences in Greece. I knew I would be seeing them again when I made my own trip back to Scotland with Heather but watching them board the ferry I felt that they were leaving a small hole behind them. With their departure I felt it was a good opportunity for me to show Heather the most romantic couple of days she could ever experience. With Santorini being famous for its wine there are a number of wineries on the island. I had been planning to take her on a tour and hopefully get to do some wine tasting at the same time. I intended to bring her to the 'santo wines' winery which is a vine growers' cooperative with grapes sourced from all over Greece and not just Santorini. I had everything planned, I even researched the bus we would require to get there and I was so excited to show her a good time. Unfortunately as things sometimes do with my plans I made a bit of a hash of things. I ended up putting us on the wrong bus and we arrived at a completely different winery, one called the 'volcano wines and wine museum'. Internally I was raging with myself for getting it so wrong. A mark of the kind of person Heather is she didn't mind my error and was still excited to go in for a look. I'm not joking guys; the museum is dire. It was like a 'Santa's grotto' you would bring kids to see at Christmas, but instead of wonderful winder displays with little cute robotic elf's making all the kids toys the displays in the museum were full of the freakiest looking puppets all carrying out the strangest acts that I can only presume are involved in the wine making process. We both tried real hard to get into it, our little headphones narrating us around the museum but by the end we were nearly running out of there. When the museum tour was over we were then treated to a wine tasting that consisted of a few mouthfuls of 4 different wines with one of them being a vile desert wine. I was so disappointed with the experience but I was disappointed more for Heather because it wasn't the romantic day out I had planned. When we finished the wine tasting we talked about buying a bottle of the nicest wine and bringing it back to the campsite but with no proper fridge to keep it cool it seemed like a pointless exercise. The wine tasting was conducted in this bar and gift shop that had loads of tables and chairs and as it was quite a nice setting we asked if we bought a bottle of wine would it be OK if we drank it sitting at one of the tables. The girl said she wasn't sure but asked her boss and he said it was fine but they told us we had to sit at a specific table, the worst in the room stuck in the corner and behind a big pillar. I looked around at all the empty tables and back at the manager wondering why we couldn't sit at a nicer table  and he explained that there was a group coming in to have a wine tasting and they needed the tables. No problem I thought, so we sat where we were told and we drank our bottle of wine having a lovely time. It was turning into the type of day I had wanted it to be after all. As we approached the end of the bottle and the tour group had been and gone. They had only used 3 of the 20 or so available tables so I was a little confused as to why they wouldn't let us sit somewhere nicer but I didn't question it. We were having such a lovely time that we didn't really want it to end and asked if we could have another bottle of wine. Heather came back to the table with the bottle but as we were drinking it I could feel the staff giving us the evil eyes. It was starting to make me feel uncomfortable. We weren't loud or disruptive, in fact I even go so far as to say that you wouldn't even know we were there so I felt they had no reason to be acting the way they were. It was a wine bar after all and we were paying customers. We finished the second bottle quicker than anticipated and we didn't want to leave yet so I went up and asked if we could have another bottle. The manager had the most morose of expressions on his face but he got the wine. As he gave me the bottle I tried to chat to him but he was having none of it, he didn't even utter one word. I rejoined Heather at the table and we continued to enjoy ourselves but all the while I could feel the eyes on us. It was starting to annoy me by this stage because it was making us feel uncomfortable about being there. When at one point I gave Heather a kiss and this guy came over to tell us that we couldn't do that I had reached breaking point. I mean it was a kiss, no eating the face of each other, just a kiss. Is there any romance left in the world? On top of the evil eyes I was ready to leave but I was angry because it had spoiled what had turned into a beautiful afternoon. As I brought the last empty bottle of wine over to the manager I asked him what the problem was. His reply was that nothing was wrong. Without raising my voice I told him that Heather and I were on our honeymoon and that we were having a lovely romantic day but that it was spoiled by the rudeness of him and his staff. I said that we were not loud or rowdy during the time we were there so there should have been no reason for us to be treated that way. If they didn't want us there then they shouldn't have said we could drink there. I topped it all off by throwing down one of my business cards and saying that was a travel agent and I would not be recommending the tour or the winery to any of my clients and walked out the door. I didn't know where it all came from 'the honeymoon' the words just flowed out of my mouth without me thinking. I guess I was just trying to make my point register with him more. His attitude typified the Greek hospitality I experienced over a lot of my time in the country and my frustrations just came out. I wasn't having much luck showing Heather a romantic time.
On another day I had planned for us to take a boat trip around the island. We were both real excited as we made our way to the port to set off for the day. With a breakfast consisting of a huge bowl of fruit and ice-cream we were full of energy stepping onto the ship. The shape of Santorini has changed greatly through the course of its history as a result of volcanic eruptions. Situated out in the lagoon are the inlets of Palia Kameni, Nea Kameni and Thirasia. They were all part of one island land mass at one time but have since separated. Palia Kameni and Nea Kameni are still volcanically active and were the first stop on our boat trip. With its lunar landscape of craggy rock formations Nea Kameni is a strange sight. It's a barren and dusty island where multicolored fumaroles emit sulfurous vapors from the volcano crater. It smells of rotten eggs but it's a cool place to visit. Unfortunately I nearly ruined the whole day for us by getting into a bit of a strop. For some stupid reason I got it into my head that Heather was putting me down and took offense. Of course she wasn't doing anything of the sort, it was me just being too sensitive. I was mad at myself and felt really guilty for spoiling the morning. It seems I don't always need the lack of Greek hospitality to ruin my romantic days, I'm well capable of doing it myself. Thankfully Heather was able to forgive my stupidity and boarding the ship we sailed onto Palia Kameni where the volcanic activity has created these hot sulphur springs. We were real excited jumping off the ship but we were a bit disappointed to discover the the water was barely lukewarm. We had both been expecting to be jumping into a warm bath rather than a tepid soak in a cove. Lunch was spent in a lovely harbor front restaurant on the unspoilt island of Thirasia where we feed sea going fish with bread from our table. The next stage of the journey was a glass bottomed boat ride to Oia in the north of Santorini. To make sure we got some good seats we made our way back to the boat early and with the biggest of ice-cream cones in hand we sat waiting for the off while Heather's excitement at the prospects was palpable. Unfortunately the experience was a bit of a let down as the only fish we saw was when the boat was moored in the harbor. We got to experience how deep the caldera was and to view a small vessel that I imagine was sunk specifically to give people something to look at but that was about the best of it. Luckily for both of us the end of the day was the best part and hugely romantic. It was like we had been building up to it all day. We got off the ship in Oia and over a bottle of wine looked out over the most magnificent of views. As the sunset approached we climbed into the ruins of an old fort and sat arms around each other watching the sun go down. It's the most famous place to watch the sunset on the island and is a must for any visitors. The narrow streets can get very packed with tourists so its advisable to get there early to get yourself the best viewing positions. After the romantic sunset we finished the evening with a lovely dinner before getting the bus back to the campsite. It's funny but the most romantic day we had was a day I put no preparation into at all. We spent a glorious day sunning ourselves on the beach of Perissia. It was such a hot day that the black sand was impossible to walk bear-foot on. Lazing in the shallows soaking up the sun it was magnificent. For our dinner it was champagne cocktails while we returned to the deserted beach after to lie looking up at the stars. It was such an amazing day and it brought home to me that although I tried you can't always create romance most times it just happens naturally. It was a beautiful way to bring a close to our time in Santorini.
Saturday 30th August: Naxos:
We had a few days to spare before we would have to return to Athens and our flight to Edinburgh. Having covered everything that there was to do in Santorini we decided that we should take a trip to another island for the few days, experience something new. It would also have the second advantage of breaking what would be the long ferry ride from Santorini back to Athens. When we left Paros originally the other island we considered visiting was Naxos and it was the ideal choice to base ourselves for the few days. The ferry time from Santorini to Naxos was 3hrs, Eur17 per person, and would first be stopping at the islands of Sikinos and Ios on the way. I had been intending to have a ceremonial goodbye to my flip flops since they had broken a few weeks back and decided somewhere between Santorini and Sikinos that it was best to throw them over board, setting them free and in doing so perhaps they might make it as far as Australia one day. As I emotionally tossed them into the white wash of water being churned up by the boat propellers I wished them well on their journey and hoped at the very least they managed to escape out of Greece. We were deep in conversation when the ferry began to pull into a port. We hadn't heard an announcement as to what island it was but we remained seated and relaxed in our seats watching other passengers make preparations to disembark, sure it wasn't Naxos. As we sat looking towards the window we both had a slight doubt in our minds and thought that we should just check where we are, just in case. Heather stayed seated while I made my way toward one of the stewards to check on our location. When my question 'how long before we get to Naxos' was met with the reply 'this is Naxos'. It took few seconds for the words to register before I turned and hightailed it back to Heather to collect our stuff. We were laughing uncontrollably as we vaulted down stairs and corridors in an attempt to get off the ferry in time. Reaching the gangway the crew had already begun to board the cars and passengers as we made our way off the ship. Still laughing at our very close call while walking out of the port I did a quick double take of our luggage only to discover we were a bag down. I had left a plastic bag at the top of the gangway. While telling Heather what I had done I was at the same time trying to picture what was in the bag so I could be sure we weren't missing anything important. Talking allowed, I listed them off one by one, guidebook, packet of crisps, and bottle of water. We were just coming to the conclusion that it was nothing to worry about when I remembered, Lisa's blanket. In panic I ran as fast as my legs could carry me back through the bedlam and anarchic display from the ferry crew and while ignoring their shouts and protestations I climbed back onto the ship grabbed the bag and jumped back off again. Out of breath and with adrenaline pulsating through my body I returned to find Heather, cool as a cucumber, sitting relaxed on her suitcase. The blanket, Lisa was forced to leave behind when she unexpectedly had to return home to Scotland. It was one of these woolly types and she had been very attached to it so I made her a promise that I would bring it back to Scotland for her, I didn't want to let her down. With the drama over we exited the port and towards Hora with securing accommodation being our first priority. As we walked I was approached by a guy that owned a small hotel in the town and he had rooms available. He was quoting a price of Eur35 per night which I thought was a little steep considering it was coming to the end of the season but at the same time it was late in the night and I didn't want to be walking around haggling for a place to stay. When he said he would come down to Eur30 that was good enough for me, especially when he said he had a car that would pick us up so we wouldn't have to walk with our entire luggage. With the lights of the harbor promenade breaking up the darkness and the bustling atmosphere emanating from the various cafes and bars my initial impression of Naxos was quite engaging. Even though we had just stepped off the ferry I was already enjoying myself.
The hotel was small but nice and even though the door to the room opened right out onto a bed it was fine for the few days we would be there. No sooner had we dropped the bags but we were out and about strolling arm in arm around the shops and bars. We went into one little cocktail bar for a drink. It was pretty and had a big water display in the middle of it, very romantic. I turned to Heather and gave her a coin to throw into the water feature and to make a wish. When she was finished it came to my turn, I made my wish and prepared to toss my coin towards the water. Even though I could have just dropped the coin into the water I was so close, for some reason I employed this flicking technique and sent my lucky coin over the water feature completely, missing it by a long way and landing it under a table by the feet of some other clientele. As people were trying to fathom how I could have managed such a feat, honestly it was harder to miss; I sat mortified while trying to hide my embarrassment. We ended our stroll with a drink in an Irish bar before calling it a night. A request by Heather for me to sing her to sleep resulted in me attempting 'the island' by Paul Brady. I thought it was very appropriate song due to the chorus unfortunately I had forgotten that the rest of the song was a depressing look at the futility of war. Somehow she managed to still fall asleep but I couldn't help but think that I might have given her some bad dreams. I'll have to remember a more light-hearted tune for the next time.
Getting up the next morning we had no real plans for the day. When we were walking around the night before Heather had come across a bead shop where you can make your own jewelery. She bought some materials so she could make little presents for her friends back home but as we made our way back to the hotel she got the idea that it would be nice for the two of us to make each other something. As soon as she said it I thought what a wonderful idea. I have to admit it's not something I have ever thought of doing before but the idea of creating something for the person you love really appealed to me. The idea epitomizes the type of person Heather is. Instead of buying some trashy souvenirs for her friends she puts real thought into it and gives a gift that is not just a piece of jewelery but also a piece of her, for it's a piece of her that goes into the making of it. It's a much more personal gift in comparison to a tee-shirt of a key ring. I was touched by how she decided to display her love for her friends in this way but I was even more touched by her suggestion that we make some jewelery for each other. There are probably guys reading this that will think what a soppy girlie thing to do but for me the idea was beautiful. The idea of creating something for the person you love is fantastic. I'm a romantic and although I would never have come up with the idea myself I was really enthusiastic about it. Much like me Heather is a sensitive and sentimental soul and I love her for it. After a breakfast that consisted of the best crepes either of us had ever tasted we set off for the bead shop. For the next hour or so we both picked our way through the endless types of charms and beads available, all the time trying not to have the other see so everything could remain a surprise. I had promised that I would buy her another ankle bracelet to go with the one I bought for her in Paros so for my present I decided that I would make her one instead. I was going with a beach theme idea having lots of little shells and colored stones to go with these little star fish I found in the shop. There was a shelf of different types of beads lining two walls of the shop. The shelf was about waist height and another shelf at head height containing other ornamental souvenirs. At one point I was bending down to get a closer look at the beads only when I straightened up I whacked the back of my head against the upper shelf. It was really sore and the noise I created turned everyone's attention towards me with a sympathetic moan. Of course Heather found this funny as it's just another example of the nice but dim things I do. Unfortunately during the next 20Min's I did it another 3 times. Although Heather had the insight to my nice but dim qualities everybody else in the shop didn't and were looking at me like I must be completely stupid. The guy that owns the shop is a hilarious character and he was giving me an awful jibe. Eventually we both got everything we needed and made our way back to the hotel. It was a good job we left when we did as I'm not sure my head could have taken anymore punishment. As we lay on opposite sides of the bed trying to hide each of our creations I was beginning to have difficulties. It was the same when I studied art for the 'leaving cert exams', you get this idea in your head about what it will look like but your final creation is anything but. I often thought about doing art in University but the fact that I was too lazy to do up a portfolio coupled with the frustration when my ideas didn't come out the way I wanted meant I went down the chemistry route instead. As Heather was busily working away with no bother, all you could hear from me was the exhaling of breath in complete frustration. Determined not to let myself, and especially my babes down we had to go back to the shop so I could get some advice. Having picked the brains of the experts I felt confident I now held the necessary skills to complete my masterpiece. Instead of returning to the hotel we decided that we would go to the outdoor cinema for the afternoon but when we got there the film choices were rather dull and plus the show wasn't starting till the evening so instead we decided to go on the lash. Approximately 9 bars and several hours later we found ourselves down in a bar at the end of the promenade having consumed endless amounts of cocktails, wine and even a glass of champagne. It was such a great day and we must have laughed our way all around the town. On the walk back from the cinema towards town we had passed a few small supermarkets and with Heather being a shopping diva we had to go in for a look. She is so funny, it doesn't have to be clothes or shoe shops, even plain old groceries stores will do. Another thing she loves is getting presents, doesn't have to be anything big but presents none the less. It the first supermarket I bought her a hair accessory but in the second supermarket we went into we bought each other lucky bags. Mine was pretty crap, some spinning top was about the best thing I got but Heather got this little pink Barbie phone that made a few noises when you pressed the buttons. She was delighted with it and I must say it was pretty cool. Anyway with me being the man it was my job to mind it for her and she dared me to wear it around my neck for the day. I've never been one to care too much about what other people think so I accepted the challenge. To cut what is developing into a rather long story short several bars into our pub crawl we found ourselves sitting in this rather quiet cafe when these two guys were concentrating intently on a Liverpool football match on the TV. We had quite a lot of cocktails consumed at this stage and had decided to move onto a glass of champagne. With our tipsy and mischievous nature we started trying to disrupt the guy's by pretending the Barbie phone was really ringing and like Dom Jolly in 'Trigger happy TV' shouting down the phone as if we were answering it for real. I can't be sure if any of you are even smiling reading this but to us it was the funniest thing ever. Just before we were about to leave for the next bar Heather kept shoving tons of peanuts into the pocket of my shirt saying that they were for later. As the night wore on I had completely forgotten I had them until that is we were making our way home. On the promenade we came across a small arcade one of those claw machines where you can win a teddy bear. Heather being Heather wanted a teddy and put the challenge up for to win her one. Me being me I desperately wanted to win one for her, show her that I'm the man. Coin after coin I was putting in the machine and although I got close a few times I still didn't have any luck. After awhile a small group of kids gathered to watch and to issue helpful instructions to me in my quest. It was turning into a right little scene. When I was down to my last few coins I summoned up all my skills and sent a green bunny landing down into the trap. I was thrilled with myself but when I bent down up pick out the teddy all the peanuts fell out of my pocket and onto the carpet. There were loads of them and the kids were just standing looking at me with the strangest expressions on their faces. They were still staring at us as Heather and I stumbled up the street laughing wildly. We topped the night of with a celebratory drink in a bar before returning to the hotel bringing an end to our first day in Naxos.
The day began in a similar fashion to the day previous, breakfast of crepes and a trip to the bead shop. We had presented each other with our creations that morning. Heather had made me the most fantastic bracelet. It's so well made it looks like a professional job. Its color coordinated in design and best of all is the center piece, which is a 'fresh water pearl'. The crystal has the healing property to encourage the wearer to discover the positive parts of them and to be more open to loving themselves and others. What a beautiful message to give someone, I'll never take it off. With each and every day I love her more and more. As for my wondrous creation, it didn't turn out exactly the way I wanted it and due to its size and weight it was not be the most practical of ankle bracelets but because a piece of me went into its creation she loved it all the same. As it was too heavy for my knots it kept breaking hence having to return to the shop so the guy could attach a proper clasp on it. For the rest of the afternoon we went shopping all around town. Yes that's right I went shopping...shock horror. I still don't like to shop but doing it is fun when I have Heather around. No matter what it is I'm doing it's always better when she is around, plus I'd do just about anything she asked me ;0). In one shop she tried on this dress, strapless, purple, and knee length (I'm pretty sure I'm not painting a good picture here) but it looked unbelievable on her. When I saw her wearing it she had me almost speechless and not for the first time, me being almost speechless is becoming a common occurrence with this girl. It was like it was made for her to wear and I had to buy it for her. We were going to a fancy dinner that night as it was the last of our summer and I wanted to do something special for her. With the months of traveling we had ahead of us there wouldn't be lots of opportunities for spending money on presents so I wanted to take advantage while I could. If I can't treat my sweetheart every now and then there would be something wrong. By the time we got back to the hotel I was like a Sherpa in Nepal I was carrying so many bags. I come in handy for some things.
We were in flying form as left the hotel for dinner. A bottle of wine as your getting ready certainly helps matters. We had spotted this Italian restaurant down the road from the hotel that was advertising it had over 150 different types of pizza. Impressed by the claim we had been planning to go in since the first night we arrived but we had saved the experience for our last night. I suspect the advertisement was a little misleading as the menu was only a few pages long, I was expecting a novel to come out originally. I think the claim might be that they have 150 different types of toppings. In any case it didn't matter for we had a beautiful dinner with a nice bottle of wine. I had to laugh when I saw the expression on Heathers face when she caught sight of a banana split being brought to a table next to us. It was massive and her face just lit up. I'm not usually one for desert when we go out but she wanted one and while ordering she was suggesting that I would help her eat it. When it arrived she took about 4 bites and declared 'I've enough and you can help me eat the rest now'. Being already full I said I'd have a small piece but she cheekily goaded me into eating the whole lot. By the time I managed to force the last mouthful down, and it was touch and go I'm telling you, I was ready to burst. I could hardly move from the table which of course she found hilarious. I can tell you one thing I don't mind making a complete fool of myself in order to hear her laugh.
Our last morning was spent down at the beach of Agios Georgios. It's a popular beach situated at the southern edge of town. It's a very popular beach but I didn't like the endless rows of sun beds and umbrellas. There is hardly a free spot of sand where you can throw your towel down. With a sports club at one end it's a beach that's fashionable with the windsurfing and water sport crowd. We had a spot of lunch in a pool bar by the waterfront. Well when I say lunch it was more of a bowl of potato wedges and in fairness we were lucky to get even that much. After a bit of a swim in the pool it was soon time for us to get back for the ferry. We were both glad that the time had come to leave Greece. It had been a tough experience, especially for Heather. We were so eager to get out of the country we decided that although we would be getting back to the mainland with hours to spare before our flight we were going to get the bus straight to the airport on arrival and sleep in the terminal while waiting for the flight. The thought of going into Athens was too much for either of us to bear. As we waited for the ferry to arrive we were standing in the queue with everyone else. It was a windy day so the ferry was running a little late but no more than 15Min's when all of a sudden various Greek people in the queue started arguing and shouting but at nobody in particular. At one point Heather and I just looked at each other and thought what is going on. It must be a Mediterranean thing but the Greeks are such hotheads. They lose their tempers at the slightest of things and then go into a rage about it. I found myself being physically drained while listening to them. When the ferry arrived all the cars, vans and motorbikes all started revving their engines and moving closer to a closed gate. A bottle neck developed resulting in complete chaos when the gate was eventually opened. I wonder can you guess how the various drivers coped with the situation of the bottle neck....they argued with each other about it. Thankfully we made the ferry with no problems and we passed the time with Heather beating me in a few games of 'shithead'. I don't understand how she can win all the time; it's incredible for it's a game of chance after all. At one point I fell asleep and according to Heather I was groaning some kind of incoherent language resulting in me scaring the passengers that were sitting around me. With Heather not one for getting embarrassed she thought it was funny and spent her time trying to record me doing it on her mobile phone. I wouldn't mind but she gets up to all sorts of antics in her sleep, walking around and laughing hysterically to name just two things. Maybe our strange sleeping habits indicate how perfect we are for each other or maybe were just lunatics. When we arrived in Parikia we had to avoid all the dodgy and seedy looking taxi drivers that would pounce on you out of nowhere and patiently wait on the bus. When it arrived we boarded and I made no efforts at one last look around to say goodbye, something I have always done when leaving other places around the world. As I put my arms around Heather I held her head so the driving motions of the bus wouldn't jerk it around and she could fall asleep comfortably, deep in my own thoughts I tried to sum up the experience in Greece.
Paros will always hold a special place in my heart for it brought Heather into my life but as for Greece on the whole, I don't care if I never have to go back again. The islands are beautiful; I can't deny that especially Paros, Naxos and Santorini. The biggest problem I have is the people. I can understand that for many, especially on the islands, the summer months are their only chance to make a proper living. You would think that because of this short window of opportunity and such a heavy reliance on tourism for income that you would find people being friendly, smiling, and happy to see you and wanting to make your stay more enjoyable. Unfortunately in the main I found the opposite. The majority of people were rude and unwelcoming so much so that at times you felt they didn't want you in their country at all. All they ever wanted was your tourist money and they didn't really want to work to get it. Tourism you could describe as a circle, a cycle. If you can make tourists come to your island or your country and show them the time of their lives then they will want to come back. Better still is when they will go home and tell all their friends and family how great a time they had therefore you reach an even bigger audience because now their family and friends will consider visiting, and so the cycle continues. You could call it a ripple effect, touch one person's life and then they will go and touch the life of someone else. I don't think the Greeks get this concept, certainly not judging by the way Boyce and I were treated every time we drove on and off a ferry. Being screamed at by sailing crew in a language you don't understand is intimidating and with island hopping being such a key part of Greek holidays for many people the ferry is one of the first experiences they have. First impressions are the lasting impressions. The second issue I have is with the cost. If Dublin is supposed to be one of the most expensive cities in Europe how can we be getting charged between Eur7 and Eur11 for cocktails and spiked cocktails that use cheap alcohol instead of the well known brands. Restaurants are expensive and the service was poor in the main. They are keen to get you in the door when they see you walking down the street, all jokes and politeness but as soon as they have you sitting down your practically ignored. I don't mean to be harsh with some of the things I say and after all it is just my opinion. Greece has changed a lot since I was here a few years ago but it's unfortunate that it hasn't been change for the better. It's no longer a cheap holiday in fact I'd go so far as to say that it's no longer a value for money holiday. If things are going to be expensive then OK but at least give value for money. I understand that the 3 months of the summer is a short window of opportunity to make money but it's not good to be ripping people off. I'm sure because of my travel agency background I probably look at things with more of a critical eye than most people would, I can't help that. But as a result of my travel experience I know only too well that there are for more rewarding and value for money places for you to spend your holidays. Maybe the experiences of Greece are still a bit raw. It might take time for the wounds to heal and maybe in a few years I will look back differently but for now I'll coin a statement that Boyce made famous during his time in Greece and one that I think is fairly apt, 'the best way to see Greece is on a postcard'.
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