Day 312, and reviewing the trip

So, how was your trip, Dave? Well, not too bad all told. Betty and Jerry, neighbors at Channing House who took either the same or a similar tour last year, raved about it. Me? Well… I’m glad I went, especially glad to have seen Santorini and Crete. Santorini is spectacular to look at, although I would certainly not want to live there, or spend another day there for that matter. Crete was a surprise, a really attractive and scenic countryside, pleasant towns, and a functioning economy–as opposed to an economy based 90% on hotels and tourist shops, as at Santorini or the other islands. The other islands, Mykonos, Paros, Delos, are, frankly, bleak, windy deserts. Their villages are photogenic for sure, but only a hopeless romantic would dream of living in one.

Just for the record, according to the Health app in the phone, I walked an average of 4.3 miles per day, 51.4 miles total in 12 days. All the Road Scholar systems worked well; I can’t imagine a more competent, patient, charming group leader than Anastasia; and the other members were compatible and friendly.

I didn’t enjoy seeing the ancient ruins as much as I had anticipated. It’s interesting to think about people 3500 years ago (1500BCE, at Knossos and Phaistos, even earlier on Delos) building elaborate homes and having elaborate trading systems and rich religious beliefs. But on the spot, there’s just waist-high stone walls and a few fallen columns, and it’s hard to feel the history.

So how did it feel, traveling alone?

This was my first voyage as a lone bachelor. I can only think of three times I traveled alone, after I was married. In 1991 I attended Clarion West, an intensive residential writers workshop, hoping to find that I could write science fiction. I drove alone in our camper van to Seattle and lived in a dorm at Seattle University for—was it really six weeks? At the end Marian flew up to join me, and from there we went on a couple of weeks tour into Wyoming and the Tetons.

The other times were bike tours. I signed up for a ten-day, supported bike tour of Oregon. We drove the van to Corvallis for the start, then Marian went to a motel on the coast while I rode with the group, camping each night. A few years later I tried to do an unsupported solo bike tour around the wine country. Four days in I strained my knee and had to call Marian to come fetch me.

Those are the only times I remember being separated from her, phoning in every other night or so. All my other travels have been as half of a couple. The common theme is that these three were challenges I set for myself, really to test myself: could I become a fiction writer? could I handle an extended bike ride, with or without support? Marian supported me in these, but wasn’t interested in taking part herself.

Anyway, here I was this month, alone on another tour. I suppose it was again a challenge, to see if it would be enjoyable, or even tolerable, to travel alone.

Did I miss Marian, or miss having a travel companion in general? An emphatic yes to both. Several times I caught myself imagining sharing the experience with her, and getting emotional.

Also (and this was the big lesson I took away from that solo bike tour as well) having new experiences (good or bad) is richer, more real, more significant and memorable, when you share the experience with someone else. Being part of a tour group is a help. At meals we could talk about the wacky traffic in the narrow village streets, or the fact that Greek hotels, even the upscale ones, don’t supply washcloths. Sharing such observations validates them and resolves one’s feelings about them. This was an emotional support that Marian and I gave each other, minute by minute, through hundreds of travel days. Being in a group of friendly strangers was not the same as that, but better than being alone. A journal (i.e. this blog) is another partial substitute for a companion.

But also, as I realized a few days in, Marian’n’Dave was a bolder, more adventurous traveler than Dave is alone. Partly that was because Marian was more disciplined than I about traveling. She was on a trip, and she would by god make the most of it; where I am shamefully willing to back away from the effort to go out and explore this town, or attend that concert, or go find a meal in a strange restaurant. I have to fight the tendency to just wimp out and go sit in the hotel room.

Partly, it was that a couple can encourage each other, spot possibilities and explore trade-offs of different plans, more efficiently than a single person can do. Dave’n’Marian were quite a bit smarter, more flexible, and more observant traveler than Dave alone is.

Thursday, 10/10/2019

I slept for 10 hours, from 6:30pm to 4:30am. Then I got up, made coffee, and spent two hours cleaning up the accumulation of papers on my desk, and another hour reading the paper, before time for breakfast downstairs.

I had debated whether to go and work at Yosemite today as scheduled, but I felt dandy at 9am so I headed down to the garage… and found that I had left the front door of the car ajar, and the battery was dead. Now what? I checked with the front desk and no, Facilities doesn’t have any way to boost your car; call triple-A. Which I did. The truck arrived around 10. It was too big to fit down the ramp to the garage, but no problem, they had a portable booster pack. I escorted them through the front door and down the many basement hallways to the garage. In five minutes the car was running.

So off to Yosemite for a day’s work. The 1401 restoration crew were all there, scanning old ALDs (logic diagrams) for use in maintenance.

On return I wrote up this blog. After supper I shall for the first time in two-plus weeks, turn on the TV and see what has been recorded in my absence.


Day 311, returning (updated)

Wednesday, 10/9/2019

I was awake ahead of my alarm set for 2:30am. As I had planned the night before, all I had to do was do a quick wash and hair brush, put on my clothes, zip the bag, and out the door. Then wait around in the lobby for the van to arrive. There were nine of us all told, taking a 3am van to the airport for 6am flights.

The flight to Amsterdam was nominal, except that although the plane mated to a jetway in Amsterdam, we weren’t allowed to use the gate, but rather went down outside stairs to a bus to be transferred to another part of the airport. This was still in the security zone, at least, but I did have to go through an automated “passport control” point where my passport was scanned and my face photographed by a machine.

The SFO flight was already boarding when I finally reached that gate. For this long flight I had paid an extra $60 for an upgraded seat. Not business class, I forget what they called it, “just slightly more leg room and further forward than the real economy” class. This was money well spent for a 9-hour flight. Nevertheless sitting in one seat for nine hours is not fun. The KLM plane was a good old 747, with the upstairs lounge and all. Its in-flight entertainment system was notably less sophisticated than the Airbus I flew from JFK to Athens. The screen was VGA quality at best and washed out by light from the windows. When I brought up one of its games, the splash screen said “copyright 2005”. Well, carp carp carp; the flight was smooth and landed on schedule.

I felt really healthy striding through SFO getting to the Lyft pickup point. Why not, it was just coming up on 9pm Athens time. That faded through the afternoon until I was very ready for bed after a quick supper at 6, and turned in.


Day 310, back to Athens

Tuesday, 10/8/2019

Slept adequately well in my cabin on the Blue Galaxy. At 5:30am came the first PA announcement that we were approaching Piraeus and would be docking soon. I dressed and packed my bag and went to the meeting point. Besides us fortunate to have cabins (there are over 100 cabins on the ship) there were hundreds, literally, of people who had spent the night in chairs. The lounge area looked like a refugee camp. I suppose it is much cheaper, but… the face value of our class-A cabin tickets was €97. How much do you save in exchange for sitting up all night?

As usual we were met with a coach and driver for the twenty-minute ride into Athens, back to the lobby of the Hera Hotel. Our rooms of course weren’t ready, so we stacked the bags; but the breakfast bar was open so we used that. Then we had free time to kill until our rooms were ready, and/or until we meet at 2:30 for an activity.

My top priority was printing my boarding passes for tomorrow’s flights. The hotel computer was unavailable due to a meeting. OK, I got out the Maps app on the phone and searched for “internet cafe”. There one was, a half-hour walk away. So, fine, a morning walk through Athens at 8:30am on a weekday. It took only minutes to print the passes, cost €1.70. Walked back, spent an hour sipping a cappucino and eating one of the big sugary doughnuts that all Greek cafes have.

According to the Maps app, the Athens Pinball Museum was just around the corner. I’ve time to kill, I’ll go look. This was a cultural treasure! A nice clean place, one big room with at least 50 pinball machines from all eras. You pay €10 for a day’s access, and you can play all the machines for nothing, as long as you like. I spent an hour and played about 10 different machines.

Back at the Hotel at 12, sat and dozed in the lobby with other Road Scholars. Then some rooms were ready. Got into mine about 12:30. Shower and shave and put on tomorrow’s clothes. Fiddle with the internet including this post until time to go out for a museum visit.

I’ll publish this now. No doubt I’ll have time in airports to post something tomorrow.

I’ve some thoughts about traveling solo, and missing Marian, but I’ll get into that later on.

Day 309, Rethymno, Chania, aboard ship

Monday, 10/6/2019

Bags out at 8:30. To pass the time before our 9:30 departure, I took a walk around the vicinity of our hotel in Haraklion. Took an arty picture of the early morning people.


Heard chanting from a big Orthodox Church and stepped in a for a few minutes. Goodness how “high” a church they are: three priests, each full-bearded and wearing starched white vestments that swept the floor, taking turns chanting the mass in Greek (I assume). Incense. Lots of candles. Congregation of maybe 30-40 for 8:00 mass.

We then boarded our coach for a 90-minute drive through very scenic countryside (every bit of Cretan scenery has been really nice, fertile fields, abrupt 8000-foot mountains, etc.) to our first destination, the port town of Rethymno. Here we walked around the old city while Anastasia pointed out the successive works of the Byzantines, the Venetians, and the Ottomans, each taking over from the prior landlords, building stuff, and being kicked out in turn. We had “free time” of a couple of hours to look around on our own and find some lunch. I found a nice lunch of a greek omelet in a sea-front cafe, then I visited the town’s archaelogical museum, and finally returned to our meeting point eating a gelato.

Next we coached to another seaside town, Chania (pronounced Hon-ya, with a rasp on the H). Again we walked around seeing the works of the Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. The port was a near copy of the Rethymno port. Both had a Venetian breakwater and lighthouse just like this.


There was also a picturesque old mosque that had nice light on it.


I spent an hour sitting in a cafe nursing a freddo cappucino, watching people and avoiding a rain shower (first rain of the trip).

Finally we took our final coach ride in Crete, to the port of (forgot the name) to board the Very Large Ferry, the Blue Galaxy. I’m told this almost-a-cruise-ship carries 1800 people. Each of us has a cabin. The ship is to depart at 9pm and arrive in Piraeus about 6am.


Pictures added.



Day 308, Gortyna, Phaistos, Matala

Sunday, 10/6/2019

Everyone’s feeling end-of-trippy. The conversation as we assembled for 9am departure was all about who’s got what flight on Wednesday, and how gawd-awful early will they have to get up? But today is today.

We drove an hour south of Heraklion, over a mountain range, through the very scenic Cretan countryside, to the Archaeological site of Gortyna (not to be confused with a place of that name on the Greek mainland). Here a theater built by the Emperor Trajan incorporated inscribed stones from an earlier structure, the text spelling out one of the earliest known legal codes, now called the Gortyn Code. Here’s a segment of it.

Anastasia says it is read left to right and right to left in alternate lines, and is in the Minoan/Doric dialect of Ancient Greek.

From there we went to the much larger site of Phaistos (pron. “festus”), another huge palace like the one at Knossos and contemporary with it. This site sits on a ridge with great views in all directions. Here’s looking North from the car park.


The site itself is like Knossos, a few acres of waist-high walls and stairs.


It takes study and imagination to recreate some idea of what went on here in 1600BCE. Actually I don’t find it that rewarding. It’s great that they found and preserved these things and all, but…

Now came a surprise, to me: the seaside town of Matala. This is a pretty resort on a beautiful beach between sandstone cliffs. In the cliffs are ancient caves.


So far, so normal. The first surprise was this carved tree stump where we got out of the coach.


Lyrics from John Lennon’s “Imagine” written on the pavement. Across the street, a VW bug with flowers painted on it. What’s going on? The source of all this hippie vibe is Joni Mitchell, who stayed briefly in the caves with other wandering kids in 1965 or so, and wrote a song about it. This blog post collects all she ever said about the experience. But the merchants of the town took off on the 60s counter-culture theme and rode it hard. The place is full of shops selling t-shirts with Jimi Hendrix or VW vans on them, and so on. We had a nice lunch. I bought a t-shirt.

We headed back, arriving at 5pm. Supper is at 7pm. I took the time to do the final laundering of the trip. I have the necessary clean items to carry me through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday when I will arrive home.


Day 307, Knossos, pottery, museum, lecture

The ferry ride was nominal, two hours in comfortable assigned seats, in which one was well-advised to remain as the large boat was rolling a bit with the seas. We transferred to the hotel–not the one in the itinerary, but an upgrade to a four-star one–by coach. Even though it was now dark, it was easy to sense that Heraklion is a big city, not a village. Streets that are straight, and lined with multi-story buildings, and with sidewalks my goodness. Dinner in the hotel was excellent, although hard to do justice to, given a large lunch earlier.

Saturday, 10/5/2019

With a 4-star hotel we are back in the land of luxury breakfast bar spreads. Sadly I wasn’t really hungry for breakfast and couldn’t do it justice. At 8:30 we gathered in the lobby and headed off to find our coach. There was a bit of a delay as the coach had gone to the original hotel, not the new one. That was soon sorted and we were off for Knossos. Driving out of Heraklion I was impressed with the number of trees; big old pines and cypress line all the streets, and I saw several small parks.

Once outside town it was quickly clear that Crete is a very different landscape from the Cycladic Islands we’ve been on. The rolling hills are a quilt of vineyards, olive orchards, and other crops.


So much nicer than the xeriscape of the prior islands. Twenty minutes brought us to Knossos. We visited this site once before, in 2006, as part of an Eclipse cruise in the Mediterranean.

Strangely, as we went in, nothing seemed familiar. I think the entry gate with cafe and gift shop was probably rebuilt in a 2010 upgrade mentioned on a sign. But when we started into the actual archaeological site,


it didn’t seem familiar. On this visit, guided by Anastasia, our attention was brought to several rooms and chambers that I am sure I never saw on the prior visit. Meanwhile the 2006 gallery has this picture of a deep staircase that I am sure I didn’t see this time.

2006 Solar Eclipse Genoa Greece Mediterranean Cruise

(Jean, if you are reading this–dig our your pictures of Knossos from that trip. Do you have a good overview of the site?)

Anyway we toured the Knossos site pretty thoroughly. Next up we went to a local pottery where we had a demonstration of turning a vase on a wheel and discussion of local ceramic styles. While there my eye was caught by this accidental masterpiece.


From there we coached a few klicks to a “rustic taverna”, a farmhouse that served meals in an open courtyard, with all the food ingredients sourced from their farm. It was a very good meal.

Back to the city, to the Archaeological Museum. Here are kept all the stuff that was dug up from Knossos and other sites around the island. This giant scale reconstruction of the Knossos palace complex as it is thought to have existed around 1500BCE was a help in understanding what we’d seen earlier.


From there I walked the short distance to the hotel to start this post and hopefully get a nap before our next activity.

Which was a talk about the Flora of Crete by a botanist. Crete has a highly varied biota because, she pointed out, it is about 600km from Europe, from Africa, and from Asia. She described a lot of the interesting and useful plants. The most interesting I thought was oreganum dictamnus, “dittany of Crete”, a pretty thing (she had brought a sprig for us to smell) with a thyme-like scent and a reputation for healing pretty much everything.

Then we had supper and called it a day.










Day 306, Pyrgos, Kamari

Friday, 10/4/2019

At 10 our bags were loaded into the coach. This coach would be with us all day for once, until we boarded the ferry for Crete in the afternoon.

First stop was to explore the village of Pyrgos. This is a tiny town draped around a conical hill topped by a fortified castle built by the Venetians while they occupied the island in the 1500s. The Wikipedia article has it right about “narrow labyrinthine streets” but it omits their main characteristic, steepness.



While climbing up and around these tiny streets Anastasia talked about past history, the various conquerors, Venetians being driven out by the Ottomans, etc. She also talked recent history, Greece’s falling birth rate, offset by immigration from Bulgaria, Turkey, and recently, Syria. As we panted up the steep, irregular stairs


and paths she also talked about the problems of people living in these so-quaint homes. Many are elderly and have lived here all their lives (we passed a very elderly woman sweeping her patio just then). What do they do when they can’t tote their groceries up any more? What does anyone do if they have a medical emergency? One literal answer is, “donkeys”. There are pack donkeys on the island, mostly for carrying tourists, but also available to carry loads. So, need to go to the hospital? Call a donkey…

At the top we visited a little Orthodox Church, and then we were on our own for an hour. I worked my way back down, enjoying the quaintness.


At the bottom I sat in a cafe by the meeting place, where I chose off the menu what I think is my new favorite drink, a Freddo Cappuccino. (That’s Italian for “cold”.) A double espresso in a glass, with ice cubes, topped by a couple inches of creamy foam you can stir in with a straw.

We boarded our faithful coach to go to the seaside resort town of Kamari. Here we were on our own to find lunch and pass the time until 4pm. This town is strung out along a half mile of pebbly beach, and every foot of the seaward side of the road is occupied by restaurants, one after another, each an open-sided structure with tables and usually an employee standing on the sidewalk urging passing tourists to come in.

I fell in with a group of six and we walked along bantering with the barkers. Finally one offered us a 20% discount so we sat down and had a nice meal. After, I walked some of the other streets, then settled in near the meeting point to wait.

At 4pm everyone was there (we are a punctual group) and we joined our coach for the ride back down the switchback road (see Day 304) to the port, for the ferry to Heraklion, Crete. I think I will put the rest of the day in the next post.

Day 305, Santorini

Thursday, 10/3/2019

We assembled at 8am to bus to Akrotiri, to see the vast archaeological exhibit of a Bronze-age town destroyed by the Thera eruption. Mostly exposed in the 1960s, the dig site has been preserved under a huge roof. Visitors walk around on foot paths above the digging area.

Probably a merchant’s storehouse, with jars of–oil? grain?

The town was a busy seaport occupied by people doing trade with other places around the Mediterranean, in particular the Minoans of Crete, who we’ll be dropping in on soon. The town was buried under several meters of volcanic ash, preserving even some organic things like wooden furniture. No human remains have been found, unlike Pompeii (which happened 1700 years later). Possibly the inhabitants had been warned by earthquakes and escaped. There is evidence of buildings being damaged by earthquakes and being repaired and used again before the final kaboom.

Quite a few of the buildings were multi-story and the ground-floor areas have yet to be opened. There is little on-going work, and what is being done now is privately funded, largely by Kaspersky, the Russian whose anti-virus app was widely used in PCs for years. However, for the first time on this trip, there were actual archaeologists at work.


This woman was carefully sieving dirt for small objects. Slow work, archaeology.


The road to and from Akrotiri (which means “hilltop”) gave some great caldera views.


Back in town we went first to the Archaeological Museum where bits from the dig are displayed. Frescos that had been lifted off walls, and many pots and small objects.

After this we had free time to explore the town. If one walks to the topmost street, there is this view (as a panorama).


Behind you, as you look over this railing, are several streets worth of tourist bazaar.


We were on our own for lunch. I was walking along one of these streets and noted a tavern advertising Craft Beers. It was a pleasant place inside, an open veranda with a breeze and a view the other way, over rooftops to the distant sea. I had a slab of moussaka and a bottle of Red Donkey amber ale.

Back to the hotel to chill until 5 when we go out once again. Then we went to the winery where the famous vinsanto is made. The winery has a spectacular location on a bluff with a great view of the cliffs. They host a lot of groups and weddings, you can tell. Everyone in our group was given three glasses, and cheese and breadsticks, and a winery employee poured us small samples of three wines, explaining the virtues of each. The first two were dry whites and I could barely tell any difference between them, and barely detect any flavors. Not even good box wine in my opinion. The third was the vinsanto, which was more interesting. A pale red, it was extremely sweet but with other, spicy flavors. If I entertained, I could see keeping a bottle of it around for after-dinner sipping.

From here we went to a taverna where we had supper and then live music and dancing. The two musicians and three dancers were more than competent. The dancers worked hard to get people up to join them in dancing to the familiar tunes like “Never on Sunday” (and when will I get that out of my head again).

Tomorrow is a slow day: bags out at 9:30, depart at 10 for a couple of simple activities here, basically killing time until the ferry for Crete departs at 6pm.

But the real good news: my cold symptoms have completely gone and I feel normal again.


Day 304, to Santorini

Wednesday, 10/2/2019

My minimal supper was quite satisfactory, thank you. When I checked at 7:30 I found that Anastasia had left a note at the desk, bags out at 9:30, depart at 11. With that resolved I felt free to retire and did. I woke several times in the next ten hours to cough or blow my nose. At some points I felt feverish and had a sore throat, so was not anticipating a good morning. Some time around 2am I managed to push the phone off the night table. It hit the marble floor and put a spiderweb crack in the corner of the screen.

Come the morning, the phone was working and so, amazingly, was I. The sore throat was gone, my nose was running much slower, and I felt nearly normal.

I had to kill time until 11, and didn’t go for anything ambitious, just hung out in the lobby. At 11, we got our final schedule. Lunch here on Paros, then a 2:30 ferry to Santorini, arriving about 5. The general strike has cost us half a day on Santorini but no real inconvenience.

We had some free time in town before lunch. Some went to the local archaeological museum, which would have been a laudable choice, but the previous day I had noted a hat store outside the old church. I found my way back to it and was able to get a nicely shaped white straw hat for 12 euros.

After a leisurely lunch we walked the short way to the ferry dock to await the Sea Jet. The Sea Jet line specializes in high speed connections and part of that is the quickest possible turnaround. I commented on the rapid mob exit onto Paros, but this boat is much larger. Where the prior one had let everyone off its one car ramp before others could board, this one had two ramps. One huge horde poured out on the right while our horde poured in on the left.

we are going in on the left while Paros-bound folks pour out on the right.

You don’t show your ticket yet. They just get the mob inside the cavernous car deck, raise the ramps, and away. People find places for their bags and finally queue to have their tickets torn and then can go upstairs and find a seat.


The whole process, boarding and later debarking, is a huge hustle, with crew members standing around gesturing and shouting, in Greek and English, “Hurry up!” and “The boat leaves immediately!” If I had been traveling alone it would be quite intimidating, but just following Anastasia, it was actually quite fun, like performance art or something.

An odd moment occurred during the 2-1/2 hour ride. There were TV sets all over, tuned to the Greek equivalent of ESPN, and I happened to be watching the screen at a moment when they ran a two-minute promo for professional women’s basketball, and there was Kristin Newlin, Stanford 2004-2008, driving and dishing a layup. She’s been with a Turkish team for several years now, and here she was, featured in a promo for EuroBasket, the female league.

So we arrive in Santorini. The scrum, at least 300 people, exit into the narrow dock of the new port and disperse toward the many waiting tour coaches and vans. And you look up:


Santorini is the remnant of a volcano that blew itself up 3 millennia ago (see Wikipedia link above) and in fact the west side of the island is shaped a lot like the east half of Crater Lake. If you imagine Crater Lake, lopped in half, and the missing half replaced with the Agean sea, and a bunch of whitewashed hotels set on the upper rim, there you are. The New port is scrunched on a narrow ledge at the bottom. The old port isn’t being used, but people who visited a decade ago might remember going up from the old port in some kind of cable car. Now it’s coaches climbing the switchbacks.


The view gets better as you go up.

Bus window pics are never good, but at least I will straighten this one later.

We checked in to our hotel and almost immediately headed out for the evening’s activity, which was to watch the sunset from Ia, a town on a headland away over above the group of three cruise ships in the above pic. Apparently this is a thing, sunset from Ia, because a few thousand other people were already there in the town’s little streets.

Moon over hotels where a room costs 1000 euros a day, and up.

We had dinner in a restaurant, then bused back to our hotel. I did some laundry, wrote this up, and so to bed.

Day 302 (cont) and 303, Paros

By 5pm my nose was confirming what I had suspected in the previous night: I have a cold. When the group met I warned people but nobody seemed perturbed. At 6pm we headed out walking the narrow, side-walk-less streets of Paros. Actually the town’s name is Paraikia(?). There is absolutely no concession to the handicapped in the Greek islands (or Athens, now that I think back). In a wheel chair? κρίμα για σένα (kríma gia séna, too bad for you).

Anastasia’s first target was a combination of architecture and archaeology. She led us to a tiny chapel obviously made of old marble, on the edge of a bluff over the beach, and explained this was the butt-end of what had been a much longer temple to Artemis, but the hill collapsed into the sea, creating a big jumble of marble. Then for the next 20 minutes we went through the streets behind, spotting pieces of marble, slabs and the round drums of column segments, incorporated into houses and walls.

Wall built by the Venetians in the 15C using marble from a pre-Christian temple. Note round sections of columns.

From there we wended through many narrow alleys to the historic 6th Century Church of Panaya of Ekatontapiliani, Church of Our Lady of 100 Doors. Whuh? There are supposedly 100 doors, or windows, not clear which, of which 99 are open but the 100th will not be opened until Byzantium is free of the Ottomans, i.e. never. I was feeling pretty tired by now, possibly with a bit of fever, so didn’t properly appreciate this place.

There we were met by our coach and bused to a restaurant for supper. This featured a glass of Ouzo for each. I can dig ouzo. Sipped slowly, the anise flavor is nice and complements food. Back at the hotel about 9:30 and I crashed.

Tuesday, 10/1/2019

I woke frequently to blow my nose, and decided to down-rate this hotel from 3.5 to maybe 1.5 stars. One: no A/C, the only way to cool the room is to open the french doors onto the garden (Correction! There is A/C, I just didn’t know how to start it). Also the room has no box of tissues, so I’m blowing my nose on toilet paper. And you aren’t supposed to drink the tap water, but they charge 50 cents for bottled water. And the wi-fi is one of those annoying ones where you have to “log in” to their landing page every time you close your laptop, although it makes up for that by being weak and slow.

At 4:30am the local roosters started crowing. The first lorry went by at 5:30, so I got up.

I’m feeling better this morning. Very possibly this virus will be a light one. Washed myself and my laundry. Went out to the lobby at 6:15. Breakfast service won’t begin until 7:30. Anastasia had pointed out a bakery down the road so I walked there, but it wasn’t open. There turns out to be a lot of people staying here, mostly Greek. At breakfast, which was available by 7:20, there are at least 50 people chattering loudly and cheerfully in Greek, plus our scatter of Road Scholars.

At 9:30 we boarded our coach for three stops. First was the quarry where for from before 1000 BCE fine white marble was dug to make the statues and columns of the classic temples. Unfortunately it isn’t much to look at now. There’s a deep hole in the hillside from which marble was once dug, and some buildings that remain from an unsuccessful attempt in the 1990s to revive the marble operation. We got to look at some samples of marble and admire how you can hold an inch-thick chunk of the real stuff up to the sun and see the sunlight passing through it.

On the way to the quarry, driving across central Paros, I could see that this island is quite a bit more fertile, less desert-like, than Mykonos, although still not exactly lush.


Anastasia pointed out a grove of particularly ancient olives.


Next stop was the town of Lefkes, the original capitol of the island, sited high on a hill in the center from when people wanted to be safe from pirates. Here we walked around a bit, looking at this and that. I was feeling somewhat ratty with my cold, and having to blow my nose every few minutes. In the central square, Anastasia declared a free hour and pointed out two different routes people could take, to look at an old church and graveyard, or something else. I opted to sit in the shade and drink a cold coke.

We returned to the coach and went to Nauosa, pleasure-boat port on the northern coast, for lunch in a restaurant. After lunch we had another free period. I wandered the town center a bit, looking at tourist shops, then bought an ice cream and found a shady wall to sit on.

The architecture of this town, like the preceding ones, is cubical stone buildings covered in stucco, piled up in interesting and seemingly random orientations around steep, twisting, narrow streets. The decorating rule seems to be, if it doesn’t move, whitewash it, unless if it sticks out, paint it blue. See the picture in Day 301.

I am still slightly puzzled by the absence of any tiled roofs. All house roofs are flat; the only non-flat roofs are barrel-vaulted roofs on the many little churches. In Italy and the south of France, all roofs are sloped and tiled, and the climate can’t be that different. Or can it? Maybe they didn’t have clay for tiles; I note even the Roman-built structures appear to use brick sparingly. But how do they seal the flat roofs?

During the ride back to the hotel, Anastasia announced a “teeny tiny problem”. It seems there might be a general strike in Athens tomorrow, and if so, the Blue Star ferry that we were to take to the next island will not run. In which case we’ll take the Sea Jet. So: if a strike, we leave at 8am, if no strike, at 11am. She hopes to know for sure by 5pm. (Who wants to be a tour guide? Can you imagine the phone calls?)

Meanwhile we are on our own for supper tonight. I decided I will hole up in my room and not try to find a restaurant. I walked to the Mini Mart across the street and bought PowerAde, a protein bar, and trail mix. If I get hungry that will do. Otherwise I will just chill in the room.