Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kefalonia: Week Two

I write this post from the lounge area of a cruise ship. Well, it’s actually the ferry from Athens to Rhodes, but it sure feels like a cruise ship. This is definitely not BC Ferries!

Our second week on Kefalonia was as good as the first. We learned how to find our way around the island; which restaurants to return to, and where to use the internet in comfort. We discovered the best places to buy fish, but didn’t find a good place to buy lamb since we were repeatedly told we were in the wrong season.

After eating in many different restaurants, Sally maintains that the food along West Broadway is as good as, or tastier than what she found here. I agree that we get better lamb, beef, and chickens in Vancouver; however the grilled fish is much better here. Especially the fresh sardines.

As planned, we did make it up to Fiskardo. While someone had described it to us as a lady with too much make-up, we didn’t agree. We thought it was delightful and very picturesque, and I couldn’t stop taking photos of the old buildings framed by the fish boats. We met up with some people who we had met on the day cruise to Ithaki, (former bikers nowliving in Cornwall), who had only just recovered from an ouzo and beer drinking binge that started just after our cruise. (Hey, that’s what life is all about for some of the Brits on a Greek Island!) I was disappointed that we didn’t meet up with Steven Spielberg!

We also explored the island of Zakynthos. After driving around, it was a family decision that Kefalonia was much nicer, so we didn’t stay over night There seemed to be more garbage along the streets; too much ‘highway commercial’ development outside the main city; and not quite the same atmosphere.

(Although I did like the small gas stations in main street mixed use buildings, which I think might be a good idea for Vancouver, since we have lost most of our corner gas station sites.) But it was a most worthwhile day trip, and we would recommend it. Next time, I would stay over and take the boat cruise which circles the island.

We did get to see some of the archeological sites around Kefalonia. While the tombs near the villa were interesting, they were more so after seeing photos of their original discovery in the local museum. There one could also find some of the artifacts that had been removed from them. We also got to go bowling!

Two weeks after our arrival, we reluctantly packed our bags since it was time to move on. We took the bus/ferry back to Athens to spend one more night together as a family before Georgia set off for a summer in Nova Scotia. In true Greek style, we enjoyed a late night dinner in Psiri, a most lively and happening area, and successfully negotiated a taxi ride back to the hotel. I say ‘successfully’ since getting a cab in Athens can be an adventure. If the driver doesn’t want to go where you are going, he’ll refuse to pick you up. If he doesn’t feel like turning on the meter, he won’t. Sometimes he’ll insist that he be allowed to pick up other passengers on the way. And often, he smokes a cigarette en route!

Despite its wonderful history, impressive sights, and lively places to spend an evening, Athens is not one of my favourite cities. Many areas are much too dirty, and sadly the city is literally covered in graffiti. It is tragic to see historic buildings and walls covered with ‘tagging’ and other messages. This is what can happen when a society and its municipal authorities appear to simply give up. I do hope this will never happen in Vancouver.

Athens is also a difficult place to be a tourist. I decided to check out the ‘hop-on-hop-off tour bus’ which usually is a great way to see any city’s main sites. But only in Athens are the stops concealed by garbage and parked vehicles, while the bus arrives an hour and ten minutes late! (The reasons I waited so long were that I suspected it would eventually arrive, and wanted to see if it was worthwhile for our next day’s outing.) At first, there were only two other people on the bus. Robert and Monique were travel agents from England and France who had been attending a travel industry conference hosted by the Greek government. They too had persevered for the same reasons as I did. We all agreed that most cities treat their visitors much better! Monique thought that even the Parisians, who generally hate tourists, are more accommodating!

But now we are saying goodbye to Athens from the Blue Star vessel ‘Diagoras’. As you can see, not everyone chose to eat in the dining room! At nine in the morning we will arrive on the island of Rhodes to see what has been described as the best and oldest inhabited medieval city in Europe. Then we'll head off to Turkey. So, after wonderful two weeks on Kefalonia, it's back to ‘adventure travel’. No more relaxing.

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