Leaving Agathonisi and on to Ikaria

Agathonisi has been the perfect start to my holiday proper (overnighters on Samos don’t count!).  This beautiful little low key island has been the perfect place to unwind and it has enabled my mind and my body to fall into rhythm with the slower pace of Greece.

What have I loved about this place?  The fact that everybody knows everyone and before long you at the very least know the names of most people you will encounter.  Staying at Mary’s Rooms is staying with a family.  Maria (the younger) runs the business along with her taverna in Megala Chorio, her aunt Irene helps run the pension when Maria is elsewhere and Maria’s grandmother Maria (the elder) has made this visit extra special.  She always greeted me with a smile and would bring me little gifts from a cucumber from her garden that she looks after so lovingly, to freshly baked biscuits. As I’d said before, we could speak in our own languages to each other and be perfectly understood.

There really isn’t much to do here which is why it is the perfect start to this trip.  Over my 4 days here I have taken a daily walk to Cave Beach.  It is only a 15 minute walk but is more manageable than the hike up to the two villages – once to each of them was enough in the heat!  Mary’s Rooms are right on St George’s beach, a narrow stretch of pebble beach interspersed with tamarisk trees for shade.  A small section of the sea has been cordoned off for the children to swim in and every morning the children from the school have been having their swimming lessons here.

I have varied the places to eat, rotating breakfast  between Cafe Yetoysa (the old name for the island) and Café Creperie Memento.  In the evening I’ve eaten at George’s Taverna a couple of times and also Cafe Yetoysa where Vangelis does a mean chicken souvlaki and his grilled octopus apparently is the best you will ever taste! Café Thalassa right in the port is a great place for a sandwich when you’re feeling hungry.  You will eat well on Agathonisi!

The island had been very quiet up until my last night when at least 6 yachts appeared in the harbour.

It was really good to see the taverna’s looking a bit more lively on my last night.  As I paid for my meal a couple sat at a table nearby asked me if I would like to join them.  Cathy and Robin the only British people I have seen  on the island so far have been sailing these island for years.  We share a bottle of wine whilst they tell me stories of their voyages.

I did walk up to Maria’s Taverna – Atsidas one evening but it was closed.  But the view from there is amazing!  It looks like a fantastic place to eat if your legs will carry you.

A passenger boat coming into the harbour is an event and I’ve delighted in walking out to the road to Cave Beach to wave to it as it departs – before you know it you have a ship full of people waving right back at you!  The Niss K, Dodek Pride and even the little Leros Express are part of the entertainment.  The only people that seem to be coming and going to the island have been the soldiers based up high on the island – not that many tourists it seems.

I found out that the younger priest that mans the ferry ticket office does it because “his woman – it’s her job but she has problems”.  I’ve loved seeing the older priest come down to the beach and strip off his robes to his matching black shorts and go for a swim.  That was a first for me!

Agathonisi has felt friendly and intimate and it is with sadness that I leave – but it’s time to move on.

I have booked a ticket on the bouncy Dodekanisos Pride – the more windy it gets the bouncier the ride – but she is fast and in 35 minutes I am back on Samos.  Farwell Agathonisi!

I’m back at Hotel Dolphin again and I really can’t be bothered carrying my suitcase up 4 flights of stairs so I take out a change of clothes and make do with that.  After a shower and change I go to buy my ferry ticket to Ikaria.  It will be on the Dodekanisos Pride again as she waits in the harbour overnight.

After a walk around town and retracing some steps from 10 years ago including the Castle of Lycourgos Logothetes, I treat myself to a nice meal at Restaurant Dionysos, Pythagorio.  Lamb cooked in garlic and honey and of course a Greek salad.  I end the day with waffle at Hotel Dolphin – how indulgent!

Just as I’m about to get ready for bed I realise that I’ve left my very precious camera at the restaurant!  I move faster than I’ve moved for a long time and as soon as I walk into the restaurant the lady recognises me and tells me that they tried to run after me to find me.  I thank them for looking after it and tell her that I love my camera more than my husband! (joke!)

It really wasn’t a good nights sleep again.  Hotel Dolphin is certainly handy for the ferries but not for getting some quality shut-eye.  The music from nearby clubs and bars DO go on until 4am – not just if there’s a festival like the last time I stayed.  I put the air conditioning on full to try and drown out the noise but that doesn’t really work.  I just call it quits in the end and get up at 6am.  I need to be at the boat for 8am anyway but call into the bakery for bougatsa to start the day on a high!

The Dodek. Pride is busy – quite a lot of day tripper to Fourni – a sprawling island that’s shape reminds me of a lobster. If you don’t know what I mean just look at it on a map!  Whilst we skirt the South of Samos the sailing is fine and even when we are out in unsheltered sea, the bouncing of the boat is more of a gentle roll.  However, as an emetophobic my eyes and ears are everywhere to make sure that nobody is being ill.  Thank heavens I’m surrounded by Greeks who like me have the sea in their blood!

Once we arrive at Agios Kirykos, one of two ports on the island, I catch a taxi to Hotel Oinoi in Therma where I will be staying for 6 nights.  This is a little further away from the port than I would usually stay but the hotel has had really good reviews and is a great price at 35€ per night with breakfast included – a real treat!

The taxi ascends up a steep road and then the road becomes narrow and twisty as it descends between two cliffs to reveal the little spa town of Therma below.

I have a lovely spacious room with balcony and unusually (but thankfully) the hotel has a lift!

Just 5 minutes away is the beach and the spa where you can access a range of treatments including the sauna in the cave heated by the geothermal waters below.

There are just a couple of parasols on the beach, which is very popular.  Note to self – the early bird catches the worm!  There are no sunbeds so I also make a note to buy something that will have my bones being eternally grateful when lying on the beach.

I can’t spend endless hours just lying on a beach and prefer to be out and about exploring, I do need to learn to relax more and not to always be itching to seeing new things.  Because we are slightly cut off here I may be able to get some practice in!

It seems that there is a small bus that joins Agios Kirykos and Therma with an hourly service.  I do find a timetable on the internet but in practice the bus dances to the sound of its own tune and certainly not the advertised timetable.  During the week there is also a water taxi that connects the two places but again – the schedule is anyone’s guess.

I end my first day here with a meal on the beach at O Kritikos which is right next to the spa.  It has tables right on the beach underneath tamarisk trees making it nice and shady.  The food here is also really excellent and O Kritikos offer  a modern Greek menu with some items I haven’t seen before.  I try the spicy Ikarian cheese to start with Grilled lemon chicken and a fabulous blackcurrant and ice cream dessert!  A wonderful introduction to the island!

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