It’s All Greek…

Listening to Greek spoken all around me, I find that it sounds like a blend of Italian, Spanish with a hint of Russian. I can’t get over the signs with Greek announcements. No idea what they offer but the length of the words is fascinating.

Names, too, are longer than names elsewhere: Constantinides Oikonomopoulos is an example of a common name. Our guide for the day has shortened his name, for the sake of tourists, to Cosmos but it was four times longer than that.… Our driver’s name is Nikos. That one I can remember.

IMG_2356We leave the hotel again at 5 AM. This the taxi actually does take us to the port of Piraeus and the ferry actually does sail today.  The nation wide port strike is over. The ferry blows me away. ‘Greek ferry’ always conjured up images for me of the overcrowded ferries in Burma, where people vied for every square inch on outer decks to spread their mats and huddle along railings with their basket full of vegetables, roses, tobacco leafs and roots. The Greek ferries, however, are towering cruise ships. Shiny floors and glittering chrome everywhere, smiling men in uniforms welcome us aboard and point us towards comfy chairs in air conditioned lounges. BC ferries take note! Leather chairs and cozy sitting arrangements everywhere, shiny clean windows from floor to ceiling, even in the bathrooms. A few elderlyIMG_2359 Greek women stretch out on a couch, snoring away. An Orthodox man in black robe and cap stumbles by, leaning heavily on his carved cane. But most are tourists swaying under the weight of their enormous backpacks, or dragging wheelies up the gangplank. We sip hot coffee as we glide on a blue sea towards our first Greek island: Naxos.

And soon it appears, a cluster of bright white houses huddled along the shore of a brown rocky island, bathed in bright sunlight.

Our hotel, booked through AirBnB, is perfection. Not a luxurious or glamorous hotel but a lovely small Greek family hotel. The bright white apartments have the typical Greek blue doors and shutters and surround a sparkling blue pool. Dark red bougainvilleas cascade over balconies. Even the doves on the powerlines are brilliant white.

We have a cool white room with light blue furniture and a kingsize bed. There’s a plate of fresh grapes and peaches waiting for us. The hotel owners even pick us up at the ferry with our name on a sign. We’re impressed and it takes the hassle out of finding out how to get to the hotel in 34º heat.

IMG_2366Close to the hotel is a large supermarket so we stock up on staples, freshly squeezed orange juice, jam, coffee. Kees walks to the bakery each morning to pick up fresh croissants. Ah… what a treat. We eat on our own balcony in the shade by the pool. And swim… 

We explored Naxos on foot. We walked all the way from our hotel, through winding streets full of little restaurants, coffee shops and stores, to the old town. Old Town is a labyrinth of streets no wider than a meter or so. The white washed walls leans against each other. Wooden balconies cling to the stone in desperation. They are constructed of what looks like driftwood and stones and must be many hundreds of years old. We climb steadily on steep streets or staircases until we reach the catholic church at the top. A stone tower makes it look like the old fortress it once was. Along the way we see many cats who slink in the shadows. IMG_2374

Back down, we spot the sparkling sea and the large, iconic rectangle called Temple of Apollo. It looks exactly like the rectangular frame of the National Geographic covers and is all that is left standing of an ancient temple. We walked out onto the rocky spit and walk around it for a good view of Naxos through this ‘frame’. Then we walked back all the way along the shore, where crowded tourist shops and sunscreen slathered tourists vie for space. We eat perfect moussaka under the stars. Back in our quiet little resort, we are the only ones in the pool. What a perfect spot. The only problem here is that we don’t want to leave… IMG_2398

V2V: Catch a Ferry with a Catchy Name

I’ll never forget the face of a little girl who overheard me, in a school after an author visit, telling the librarian that I was in a rush because I had to catch a ferry. The girl looked at me with huge eyes, then whispered, “Are you really going to catch a fairy?”


If you want to catch a ferry, there’s a relatively new one on BC’s west coast.

The V2V (downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria, or visa versa) is a twin hulled catamaran ‘fast ferry’, traveling at around 30 knots per hour as opposed to the appr. 15 knots per hour traveled by the Spirit of British Columbia. The other main difference is the fact that the V2V Empress is passengers – only, no vehicles.

We boarded in Victoria where a red carpet led into the luxury vessel, docked right across from the Parliament building. The smiling crew welcomed passengers and led us to our reserved seats much like airline crew does.

IMG_1792The large, reclining chairs are comfortable. Each has its own power and USB outlets and, of course, wifi is free on board.

There is also a small bar serving coffees, soft drinks, alcohol and light meals.

Despite the speed, the vessel stopped on a dime, or so it seemed, when orca’s were spotted. Passengers had a close-up view of a mother and baby orca as they drifted by us.

The ferry makes the trip along the southern Gulf Islands, through Active Pass and across the Strait of Georgia to downtown Vancouver in 3 hours. We disembarked close to Canada Place and found ourselves walking downtown Vancouver.

If you have to conduct business or if you are visiting on a cruise ship, the V2V offers a wonderful alternative way to travel between BC’s beautiful coastal cities.

Check it out here: