Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Melting in Antiparos

Many years ago, when my blog was still written in Greek, I wrote a post about Antiparos that proved to be the most popular of my blog ever. As I am about to probably go there again for yet another year, it seems a good idea to translate this in English, what with Antiparos expected to become gradually more popular with the screening of the movie "Suntan". And since I've been going there for more than 10 years, what I should really do is compile a post featuring photos from all those years. Until I get off my ass and finally do that, here is the original post, translated in English:
So, why Antiparos? Before I answer that, let's take some time to examine how a typical summer vacation day would be on some of the other popular islands of the Aegean...
You wake up and after freshening yourself up and maybe having breakfast (unless the "Rooms-To-Let" people have placed you somewhere in the middle of nowhere where there is no breakfast available) you want to go to the beach. Well, you have to get your beach gear and go look for the bus that will take you there (I never bring a car to a Greek island, so it's easier for me to find a boat ticket and it's cheaper. Otherwise it might cost me 150 euros to go and another 150 to come back). Once you get to the beach and secure a fine spot where you may wish to stay all day there, you have to not lose track of time so that you don't miss the last bus going back. And don't even get me started on how crowded the buses are.
When you do finally get back to your room and have a shower and maybe take a little nap, you'll probably want to go out to get something to eat, have a drink and maybe go to a club. Well, needless to say you're going to need another bus or even a taxi to do that.
Now, let's examine the same summer vacation day in Antiparos: You wake up and after freshening yourself up and having breakfast (if the rooms where you're staying don't offer breakfast you just pop out and grab something. Everything's close by. And the best place for breakfast is Margarita's). Then, when it's time to hit the beach you walk for about 10 minutes towards the Camping Beach in one direction (or one of the "Psaralyki" beaches in the other), and you're ready to dive! If you get hungry, there's no need to go back. A canteen van will soon come by with soft drinks, beer, coffee, sandwiches and sweets.
Opposite the Camping Beach is a little island called "Diplo" and you can get there by swimming (or even "walking" as in places the water is very shallow) and explore it. It has its own beaches as well.
And since the Greek mentality is to build on every free space available, a colleague at work who saw the picture above asked me : "Is it legal to build there?". Some things never change...
If you do like that sort of thing you can stay at the camping itself.
where you will get to meet all sorts of creatures (from all ranges of the animal kingdom)
You can leave the beach whenever you like without having to worry about bus schedules.
You will see the sunset,
you will also see the moonrise,
you can even stay there for a night swim (or come back later after your night out - especially if there's a full moon),
and then you can even see the moonset
and the sunrise...
As far as your night out is concerned you needn't worry. You will have plenty of time to take a shower after the beach and get yourself ready. Because all the restaurants and bars are again a few minutes walk from your room just like the beach was (You just go the other way). And the best way to end the night (or to welcome the new day that is about to arrive) is of course to go to "La Luna" a disco (that's exactly what it is) where time seems to have stopped at 1982 (or maybe 1983 on a good day). Beware though: Once in there you will only drink a beer, or a drink like Bacardi Breezer, that is to say drinks that are opened in front of you. You have been warned! If you fancy a bar instead, I recommend "Loco Coffees & Cocktails". On your way back to your room there is a mini market in front of the port. This must close at some point but I've yet to see it do so. Whenever I come by it, it's always open. There used to be a place called "After" which would serve hot snacks 24 hours a day, but it has now closed. I'm sure you will be able to find something to eat if you get the munchies in the early morning hours.
In short: If you stay in a room at Antiparos main town (because basically there is only one town in the island) everything is within 10 minutes reach. You walk 10 minutes towards one way, you get to the beach. You walk 10 minutes towards the opposite way and you get to the bars and restaurants. What more do you need? It's the perfect way to relax (or "melt" as we jokingly say in Greek) all day. There is even an open air cinema there which unfortunately doesn't operate every year.
There are of course other places to go, other things to see and other beaches to swim in. But to get there you need to have a car (or a motorbike) or take a boat from the port. Plus there's also an incredible cave and you can get there by bus.
I have visited some of these places during the first few years I went there, but now I mainly go there just to relax. And relaxing was exactly what I needed when I was working in IT where I would be interrupted while writing code by someone complaining "I cannot turn my computer on" (they had kicked the cable away from the socket with their feet) or "my computer is stuck" and I would have to ask "have you tried turning it off and on again?". I would need 2 straight weeks of relaxing back in the day).

So how can you get to Antiparos? Well, you have to get to Paros first. To do that, you take the boat from Piraeus (the port of Athens). Once you get to Paros there are two ways to go to Antiparos. Either you get the boat from Parikia (the main port of Paros), which takes about half an hour (you turn left as you exit the boat from Piraeus to do that), or you take the bus to Pounda where you will take the ferry which will take you to Antiparos in 5 minutes (you turn right as you exit the boat from Piraeus to do this one). If you have a car or there's a strong wind you have to choose the second option.
In fact the hardcore fans of Antiparos claim that the best place in Paros is this one:

The 10 metres of concrete you have to walk on in order to get on the boat to Antiparos!
Greeks coming back from their holidays in late August wish each other "Have a nice winter" (a bit stupid really as in August it's still summer and autumn comes next, before winter). But guess what: Antiparos is still great in September!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

London 2014 - What I didn't see at the Games

When I visited London back in 2012 to attend the Olympic Games, I did not stay for long. It was therefore inevitable that I would miss a couple of things that I intended to visit. So, when I was back in the city two years later on my way to Stratford-Upon-Avon in order to see Bryan Adams in Birmingham, I took advantage of my free time in order to see what I've missed.
Back in 2012, on the last day of my stay, before catching my plane back to Athens, I happened to pass by Greenwich. I noticed that there was a new cable car there, the Emirates Air-Line near the O2 Arena. Unfortunately, I did not have time to wait in the queue, ride it, then get back on the tube to go all the way to Heathrow. So, I promised myself that the next time I was in London, this was the first thing I would visit.
So, after arriving late at night and having spent the night in Christmas decorated Gatwick airport because it was too late to search for a place to stay, I got me a train ticket and combined travelcard and made my way to the city. 

My first stop was, of course, North Greenwich, to ride the cable car. I got my ticket (it's actually called a "boarding pass") at the Greenwich Penisula station for about 3.30GBP and rode it across the Thames experiencing a view of London from high above, to the Royal Docks "station".

From there, I walked to the Royal Victoria DLR station to catch a train to my next destination: Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. (DLR stands for Docklands Light Railway, which is an overground train, without a driver).

During the Games, I had noticed a strange structure there, the ArcelorMittal Orbit. You needed a ticket to visit it which was quite expensive, plus there was a long queue to get in. So I did not go and I made another promise to myself that I would visit it the next time I was in London. The ticket was still expensive, but a promise is a promise, right?

I went all the way to the top using the lift and, for the second time that day, I saw London from above. 

I went back down on foot, admiring the view. And since I had time to kill, I stopped for a quick snack and visited the Aquatics Centre, the venue where I had attended the Synchronized Swimming event two years before.

Then it was back to Stratford station, stopping at the big shopping centre for window shopping, long enough to realize that my favourite GEOX jeans and shoes were much more expensive here than in Italy.

After a brief stop at FOPP in Charing Cross (probably the last big record store standing in London) in order to buy the Bryan Adams Reckless box set, I made my way to St.Pancras station, to catch the train to Stratford-Upon-Avon. 

While waiting for the train, I was treated to a free sample of Coca Cola Life. This is supposed to be something like the Green Cola we have here in Greece but it's much tastier (always IMHO).

Two days later, I was back. Having seen Bryan Adams and having explored Stratford-Upon-Avon (which will be the subject of a future post), I returned to London in order to catch my flight back to Athens. But first, I would spend the night there. This time, I got a one day Travelcard which cost only 8.90GBP (a snip, as Smash Hits would say). Why am I pointing that out? Well, it's because that very same travelcard this summer, while I was passing through London on my way to Manchester to see The Stone Roses cost 12 pounds. It went up by 3 pounds in less than 2 years. Well, London is becoming too expensive I think...

My first stop was once again FOPP for some further purchases and then it was on to The Pride Of Paddington, my favourite London pub, where back in July 2012 we were entertained by my friend Tony and his band at what was one of the best pre-concert Bruce parties I have ever attended

Well, this pub, happens to have a hostel on the floor above so I decided to try that one. Not bad. 

Plus, I enjoyed constantly being in close proximity to my favourite drinking establishment in the city. 

After I settled in, I went downstairs for a quick pint and crisps and then back upstairs for a good night's sleep. As a hostel guest I was entitled to several discount vouchers for the pub which I used the next morning to enjoy a good breakfast.

But by then the time had come to go back home. So after a brief walk around the Paddington area where I had the chance to spot the Royal Norfolk Hotel, where I stayed the first time I visited London back in 1987, I took the train to the airport...

..And on my way there, I saw that they were rebuilding the chimneys of the Battersea Power Plant! Isn't that supposed to be a sacrilege? No flying pigs in sight though...