Good Morning from Athens

By , August 12, 2015 08:06
View of the Acropolis from the roof of our hotel.

View of the Acropolis from the roof of our hotel.

In a few hours we fly back to the UK from Athens.

We had most of yesterday on Syros, before taking the 15:00 ferry from Ermoupoli to Athens. A journey which takes 3,5 hours, it was a nice leisurely journey across the Aegean, passing the islands of Kea and Kithnos on the way before following the coast of Attiki in to the port of Piraeus.

We were met at the port by one of Athens’ many taxi drivers – all the taxis in the city are yellow with a blue stripe down the middle, so you can’t miss them! As we made our way along the dual carriage way from the port in towards the central part of the city, we had a great view of the Acropolis straight ahead of us.

The hotel we are in is the Apollo Hotel in the Metaxourgio district – it’s just round the corner from where I stayed last year. After checking in and getting ourselves sorted, we headed to the hotel’s rooftop bar, which had great views over to the Acropolis: A view I didn’t get in my hotel last year!

Athens as a city is a bit of a mess – most of the buildings are high rise flat and apartment blocks and they’re all a bit grubby. After being almost completely destroyed in WWII it was a case of rebuilding as quickly as possible. But ignore the state of some of the buildings, and you can enjoy many areas of the city.

For our last night, I wanted to take my parents to one of the areas of the city I liked last year. We got our tickets for the Athens Underground and went towards the touristy Plaka district, where, hidden in one of the narrow side streets, was the Giouvetsakia taverna. We had a starter of Greek salad, Greek beans, and some sort of spicy cheese. Then we all had a very tasty Giouvetsaki – the specialism of this particular restaurant.

I was amazed that, even in a city like Athens which gets very large numbers of tourists each month, the waiter in the restaurant remembered me from my last visit there! I only ate there once – he must have served thousands of people since late July last year. Yet he recognised me instantly.

Perhaps making the effort to speak to the locals in their own language helps to stick in the mind a bit more. From what we saw, some of the other tourists in the city weren’t all that pleasant. There are a lot of people come to Athens who perhaps don’t really know the Greek setup as well as those who return to their favourite islands year on year.

It’s approaching 8am over here – we have a taxi booked for 9 – so it’s time for a quick breakfast before we go.

See you on return to the UK,


A Night Out in Ermoupoli

By , August 11, 2015 09:12

This afternoon we will be getting the ferry back to the mainland. Not a high speed service – we’ll be on one of the regular ferries which takes cars, lorries and coaches – so the journey will be about 4.5 hours. A leisurely stroll back to Athens.

Yesterday was our last full day on Syros. The last 2 weeks have gone far too fast for my liking. But hopefully, it will only be another couple of months before I am back in the country. I am thinking of doing a long weekend in Athens sometime in November.

Ermoupoli. Who put that great big cruise ship in the way of my view? I wonder what it would be like to park one of those things...

Ermoupoli. Who put that great big cruise ship in the way of my view? I wonder what it would be like to park one of those things…

For our last night, we caught the bus in to Ermoupoli and had a stroll round the shops, had a drink in the main square, and ate at one of the grill houses on the water front.

Like many Greek cities, Ermoupoli really comes alive at night. Much of the main road along the waterfront is car free after 9. Miaouli Square becomes the place to go if you want to go to a bar, or where the local kids go to play their evening football game. (I heard a few people shouting “Πρόσεχε” as the ball crept a little too close to people’s tables).

On the road leading up to the square, there are a couple of ice cream places: Go to the one on the right hand side as you are facing the square – he has an interesting range of flavours and he’ll let you have a little taste before you decide which flavour(s) you want!

Miaouli Square in Ermoupoli

Miaouli Square in Ermoupoli

We’ve still got 6 hours before the ferry which is plenty of time for a last swim at the beach, and at the pool, before we had for the city.

Bye for now,


Kini, Lottos and Finikas

By , August 10, 2015 11:25
Kini Beach - Παραλία Κινίου

Kini Beach – Παραλία Κινίου

Yesterday was our last day with the car. We headed back to the village of Kini where we spent the morning on the beach there.

Kini Beach is almost like an English beach with bigger waves than elsewhere on the island – it was quite fun getting in and out (I did get splashed a few times)!

Just behind the beach of Kini is a small aquarium – it costs €2 to go and have a look around. Nothing too spectacular, but it was interesting to have a look and see what type of fish (and eels) live in the local waters.

We had lunch at a nearby taverna, before walking to the nearby beach of Lottos (Λωτός). Slightly outside the main village, it is a bit quieter than Kini but a bit rockier as well. I quite enjoyed having a nice long swim here then lying under the tree for a bit.

To Limanaki, Finikas - Το Λιμανάκι, Φοίνικας

To Limanaki, Finikas – Το Λιμανάκι, Φοίνικας

In the evening, for a change of scene, we got the bus along to Finikas (Φοίνικας). There is a wider selection of restaurants and tavernas in Finikas so we thought we’d give one of them a try. Near where the boats are moored, there was a nice looking place called “Το Λιμανάκι” (Little Harbor).

It perhaps wasn’t the best place we ate at, but it was nice to do something different for a change, and we enjoyed our starter of the Gigantes beans. My pork with honey and thyme wasn’t bad at all either, it was almost like Sunday lunch!

Today is our last full day on the island, and a day by the pool and the beach wouldn’t be a bad idea I think. At some point I need to go in to Ermoupoli too, to collect the tickets for our ferry to Athens in time for our departure tomorrow.

Bye for now,


Cats and Beaches

By , August 9, 2015 08:05

Ερμούπολη – Ermoupoli: Capital of Syros, of the Cyclades, and of the South Aegean.

What a busy couple of days we’ve had!

On Thursday we went in to Ερμούπολη/Ermoupoli, the capital of the island of Syros and of the Cyclades. It’s a proper capital city! Miaouli Square is my favourite part of the square. It’s like a mini Syntagma Square, with the City Hall dominating the square. The narrow side streets of the city, as well as the port, are all nice areas for a walk too.

The mother cat

The mother cat – her 3 kittens live in the flowerbed just below the wall of our balcony, where she is sitting in this photo.

Cat-wise, it seems that the tabby which has adopted us is a mother. Hidden just a few metres away from the back of our apartment, out of sight of everyone but us and the Greek family who live next door, she had 3 tiny little kittens. They can’t be more than a few weeks old. As long as we’re quiet we can watch her feeding them.

Normally she doesn’t like being watched with the kittens though, but she’ll happily come to our apartment 5, 6, 7, times a day in search of a meal and something to drink.

For the last couple of days we’ve had a car and have been out and about around the island. On Friday we went up to the village of Κίνι/Kini which has a lovely beach and harbour area. In the morning we were on the main beach of the village, but since this got rather crowded by the afternoon I moved over to nearby Lottos beach, which was much quieter.

Κίνι - Kini

Κίνι – Kini

I also visited the “Kini Cat Café” – a house in the village from where Jacky and a team of volunteers help the sick, injured and abandoned cats on the island. Each year there is also a neutering programme which takes place, since a large number of cats on Syros (and all over Greece, for that matter) are strays.

It was great being introduced to some of the local cats – some of whom made friends with me almost straight away. A lovely ginger one, McDuff I think he was called, jumped up to sit on me and made himself very comfortable.

Yesterday we have been along to Κόμητο/Komito beach – a very nice sandy beach along the coastal road from Agathopes. Since it is high season even the “out of town” beaches such as Komito are packed – particularly in the afternoons.

It seems that in the mornings the families go to the beach, and the young Greeks hit the beaches after lunch. Presumably, since most of them appear to be student age, they don’t get up until lunchtime anyway…

In the evening we went to Taverna Savvas where we all enjoyed Veal Stamna (it’s basically veal in a clay pot, with carrots, cheese and a little pepper). Very tasty!

Today is our last day with the car and we will probably go back to Kini and Lottos.

But for now… breakfast time!



We’re Now On Syros

By , August 5, 2015 08:22
Leaving Tinos

Leaving Tinos

Having to take 2 ferries to get from Tinos to Syros could so easily have gone wrong, but we made it! We first took the Golden Star “Superferry II” from Tinos to Mykonos. Then, we walked straight on to the next ferry, “Blue Star 2” – much bigger and smarter than the Golden Star service.

Superferry II as seen from Blue Star 2.

Superferry II as seen from Blue Star 2.

Despite being the island next door, because this summer the service from Tinos to Syros is not daily, it took us 4 hours from leaving our apartment in Tinos to arriving at our apartment on Syros. The journey wasn’t as bad as it sounds though. There is a lot more room on a big ferry than there is on a plane, and you can sit outside in the fresh air.

On arrival in Syros, Giannis met us and took us in his minibus to Galissas. We are staying at Galissas Studios – in the same apartment we had when we were here 2 years ago, and just down the road from where I stayed when I was here on my own last year.

The cat knows exactly where the fridge is...

The cat knows exactly where the fridge is…

At Galissas Studios this week we have a pool – something we lacked on Tinos. In Galissas itself there are a few tavernas, 2 mini markets, and a very nice beach. Not long after we had arrived in our room, we were also greeted by the very same cat which we fed here 2 years ago. I think she gets fed a lot – she certainly was not scared to walk straight in to the apartment and sit right in front of the fridge.

Today, we will probably stay in Galissas, sit at the pool and go to the beach. Perhaps on Thursday we will go in to Ermoupoli, Syros’ capital, and then on Friday and over the weekend we’ll have a car for a few days.

Breakfast time now, I think…


Final Day on Tinos

By , August 4, 2015 07:54
Chora (Tinos) by night.

Chora (Tinos) by night.

Yesterday was our last day on Tinos.

The last couple of days, the wind has been particularly strong so not really great weather for beaches. Mum and I did manage to find a sheltered one which was quite nice: Ag. Markos.

For our final night on the island, we got the bus in to town for our meal; we ate at a taverna on the pedestrianised street leading away from the waterfront. It can be quite fun to sit and watch the crowds walk past!

After strolling around a bit, we had an ice cream each, before we got a taxi back to our apartment (the last bus had left 10 minutes previously).

Later this morning, we will be getting the ferry across to Syros. Despite being visible from the harbour of Chora here on Tinos, there is not a direct ferry today – the ferry companies didn’t publish their summer timetables until after we’d booked, and in previous years it has always been a daily service.

So instead, we have to zig-zag our way from Tinos to Mykonos, then we effectively double back on ourselves for another crossing over to Syros. We have a 90 minute stopover in Mykonos. Not ideal, but at least the port of Mykonos isn’t in the main town. Mykonos is not my favourite island at all, based on a previous overnight stop on the island.

Anyway… I need to pack.

See you on Syros!


Quiet Day at the Beach

By , August 2, 2015 10:01
Sitting on the balcony outside our apartment.

Sitting on the balcony outside our apartment.

Sunday morning on Tinos island and the meltemi winds are up, the sea looking quite white now, and Mykonos just a silhouette in the haze.

Yesterday was a quieter day, as we chose to stay in the Ag. Ioannis Porto area. There are two beaches in walking distance from Anemologio, the apartments where we are staying – Ag. Kyriakis and Porto.

The beach of Ag. Kyriaki.

The beach of Ag. Kyriaki.

We spent the morning at Ag. Kyriakis beach. As the winds were up we chose to sit on the rocks so we would not be sandblasted! Both of the beaches here are sandy, sunbeds in some areas but there is plenty of space for those wanting to get away from all that. Several guidebooks say they are the best beaches on the island.

For lunch, we went in to one of two beach bars located between the beaches. We went in to the Anemos bar. It’s quite a nice place to sit to keep out of the hot sun. There is another right next door.

Mum and Dad enjoy their drinks at Anemos Beach Bar.

Mum and Dad enjoy their drinks at Anemos Beach Bar.

At both, drinks and snacks are served all day, as are full meals if you are particularly hungry. The two more traditional tavernas are also open for lunch – and are in fact busier at lunchtime than they are in the evening, since this is when most Greeks have their main meal of the day. In the afternoon, Mum and Dad went to Porto beach, and I returned to the apartment for my siesta.

Later in the evening, we took the bus to Chora. Tinos’ main town has lots of narrow side streets leading away from the main shopping street. The main street leads up to the large Church of the Virgin Mary; a lot of Greeks come here as a pilgrimage and you will see people crawling up the red carpet which leads from the harbour to the entrance of the church.

The main street of Chora Tinos, looking up towards the big church.

The main street of Chora Tinos, looking up towards the big church.

In the narrow streets, plenty of tavernas, bars and cafenia can be found hidden – away from the bustling main street. We found a nice taverna – Malamatenia (named after the little square on which it is located) where we enjoyed our meal next to a small church.

Since the last bus back in the direction of our apartments is at 22:00, we took another taxi on our return. The taxi rank is located on the sea front, by the roundabout. Just walk up to a taxi at the front of the queue, and tell the driver where you would like to go. If you are in a village wanting to get in to Chora, you can always phone for a taxi on (+30) 22830 26000.

Today – Sunday – I am going to get the bus in to Chora to get some bread from one of the many bakeries which can be found there. I will also collect our ferry tickets for our transfer to Syros on Tuesday. This afternoon I will return to the beach… if the wind is not too strong.

Bye for now.


Coach Tour of Tinos

By , July 31, 2015 20:20

The View from Our Apartment

This is the view I am greeted by each morning when I wake up and look out the window. The view over to Mykonos is great. I love watching the ferries go past during the day, and by night you can clearly see many aircraft arriving and departing from Mykonos Airport.

As we are only on Tinos for 6 nights, we decided the best way to see more of the island was to book ourselves on to a coach trip.

The daily tours are run by the local branch of the national bus operator ΚΤΕΛ. 7 days a week, the bus leaves from Χώρα.

There are two routes: one route operates on a Tuesday and a Friday – the other on all the other days. Each route takes you through the villages of Tinos and makes 5 stops. The guides tours are in Greek and in English.

I’m normally always sceptical about coach tours – but this is not one provided by an international tour operator. This is Greece’s national bus company and most of the tourists on the tour were in fact Greek.

Ξινάρα - Xinara

Ξινάρα – Xinara

Our first stop of the day was at the village of Ξινάρα (Xinara), where we looked round the museum and church there. The scenery here is interesting too, with the big rock in the background, it was almost like a mini-Meteora: To see what I mean, take a look at last year’s photos from Kastraki and Kalambaka.

Of Tinos’ 42 villages outside the main town, Πύργος/Pyrgos (meaning Tower) was our next stop. With narrow pedestrianised streets and a square with lots of cafenia, a bakery and post office, this made a good place to stop for a drink… and had time allowed would have been an excellent location for lunch as well.

Pyrgos - Πύργος

Pyrgos – Πύργος

Next on the day’s itinerary was a visit to Κολυμπήθρα beach. Kolimbithra is actually 2 beaches – ‘Megali Kolimbithra’ which is less crowded but more exposed when the wind gets up, and ‘Mikri Kolimbithra’ which has 2 tavernas and sunbeds.

Kolimbithra Beach - Παραλία Κολυμπήθρα

Kolimbithra Beach – Παραλία Κολυμπήθρα

The coach stopped for 1hr 45mins, giving us enough time to have souvlaki and chips at the taverna above the beach. Had time allowed, we would have liked to walk across to the larger beach, but the small one is not bad at all. There’s just more people there.

On the way back from Kolimbithra, the coach goes up to the monastery of the Virgin Mary, not far from the highest mountain on the island, with views over to Mykonos and Delos to the South, and Syros to the West.

The final stop before the coach returns you to Chora is at the Halaris patisserie, where you can try traditional sweets from Tinos, and you have the opportunity to by them too.

At a cost of €12 each (or €7 for under 12s), this was not a bad trip. There are regular busses to all the places the tour goes to so we can easily go back to spend more time at our favourite places, if we want to.

Returning back to Chora at 17:30, we got an ice cream from the mini market opposite the bus terminal, and got the minibus back to Porto – driven by the same driver who had driven the coach on the trip!

Tomorrow won’t be quite so busy I think. We plan to say around the Porto area and relax for the day. Perhaps on Sunday we will go in to Chora in the evening and eat in one of the restaurants in the narrow pedestrianised streets which lead away from the port to the residential area.

Time to get ready to go out for dinner now.

Bye for now.


London to Tinos

By , July 30, 2015 16:36
Athens from Above

Athens from Above

24 hours ago, we were on the boat out from Ραφήνα (Rafina) to Τήνος (Tinos).

Athens was the first destination of our holiday. Just a very quick stop at the city’s Ελ. Βενιζέλος (Elevtherios Venizelos) Airport, from where I had a taxi pre-booked to take us to the port of Rafina.

In Greece, taxis are a cheap, quick and easy way of travelling, particularly if there are several of you and you’ve all got luggage. Within an hour of landing we had arrived at Rafina and had already collected our tickets for the ferry journey to Tinos.

Rafina - Ραφήνα

Rafina – Ραφήνα

The driver, clearly impressed with our ability to communicate in Greek, pointed out all the attractions on the way – the Attiki Zoological Gardens, the designer outlet, the vineyards and the olive groves. I was sitting in the front, Mum and Dad in the back.

We had a bit of a wait in Rafina, but managed to find luggage lockers so we could leave our bags and headed to the beach to cool off. With temperatures above 30, this was very welcome! You couldn’t swim in the sea like this at Dover (or, for that matter, Piraeus).


Superjet: This is the boat which took us at high speed from Rafina to Tinos.

From Rafina, we took the 15:45 Seajets service to Tinos. Travelling at high speeds, ‘Superjet’ got us to the island in just 1hr 45mins. A “normal” car ferry would take 4hrs 30mins minimum to complete the journey. For those interested, the boat then went on to the islands of Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Ios and Santorini.

On arrival in Tinos, we headed to the taxi rank where a driver took us to our accommodation – the Anemologio, on the island’s South coast, with fantastic views over to the likes of Μύκονος (Mykonos) and Δήλος (Delos).

There are several fantastic beaches just down the hill from us, a couple of tavernas, a mini-mini-market and a bus stop so we can get in to Χώρα (Chora).

For our first evening, we had a swim at the beach before going to a little walk, then going to the taverna for our evening meal.

I had also discovered that I had left a mobile phone in the taxi, and phoned the taxi company’s office to explain (in Greek) the situation so I could try and track it down. This I managed to do successfully so I collected it from the taxi rank when we went in to Chora this morning.

Tomorrow, we will be taking a guided tour of Tinos, organised by ΚΤΕΛ (the Greek version of Stagecoach). This will take us in to many small villages, a monastery and a nice beach too. So it should be an interesting day.

At the moment, I am indoors, trying to keep cool, and I’ve got the radio on too. We’ll head down to the beach a little later too.

Bye for now.


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