A day trip to Paros

By the time we went to bed last night we still hadn’t decided how to spend our last day on Antiparos, so this morning what do we do?  We decide to go to Paros!  I remember how pretty the little fishing village of Naoussa was so I’m keen to see if it lives up to my memory of it.

There are two boats you can take between Paros and Antiparos: 

Parikia (the main port of Paros) – Antiparos.  It takes about 30 minutes.    The timetable may change throughout the season so this is only a guide.

Pounda – Antiparos.  This little car ferry shuttles back and forth across the short stretch between the two islands and takes 8 minutes.  However, you will need to take the bus between Parikia-Pounda – a 10-15 minute journey.  The bus stops on both islands are literally a stones throw from each port.  The advantage of the car ferry is that it runs until late at night – especially handy if you are arriving on a late ferry!!

As much as I enjoyed the journey over on the little car ferry (and eternally grateful to it for Friday!) today we decide to catch the direct boat.  We take our place on the upper deck and take in the wonderful view of the port.  Over to the left are the port landmarks – the windmill and  and the blue domed church and over to the right the short stretch of whitewashed hotels and tavernas.  This view puts the size of the port, and indeed the island into perspective.  From the port there is one main street that leads up into the Chora and then further up into the Kastro – all a few minutes walk.

 

On the way over to Paros we pass the tiny, privately owned island of Revmatonisi owned by the shipping magnate Goulandris family.  A substantial whitewashed villa sits hidden behind a barrier of mature palm trees. It doesn’t look much as you sail past but I’m sure it’s spectacular close up!

The narrow straight between Paros and Antiparos is very shallow and requires precise navigation.  It was an earthquake in around 550 BC that caused a piece of land to separate from Paros and this became the little island of Antiparos.  Signs of this volcanic activity is more evident as you pass the Northern tip of Antiparos where you can see a scattering of little islets spilling out into the sea.  The sea between Antiparos and the uninhabited islands of Kato Fira (Diplo) is so shallow you can wade from one to the other.  Beyond Diplo is Pano Fira and even further lies a rocky outcrop of small islets jutting out from the sea.  Perched on top of one of the larger islets we can see a whitewashed church.  As much as I’ve tried to Google, I can ‘t find anything that gives me the name of these islets or the name of the church – there is a reference on Google maps to Agios Spyridon but nothing else.

After 30 minutes, we arrive at Parikia which seems quieter at this time of day than it did in frenetic hours of the early morning.  It is the case that within minutes of a large ferry coming into view, a port will suddenly burst into a hive of activity and then as quick as it came, the calm returns.

As we disembark from the boat (and this is the same on any boat or ferry arriving here) we see the little windmill/tourist office in the middle of the main road and to our right, the port cattle shed/waiting room.  We turn right and about 100 yards down is the small bus station – the pink X marks the spot!

The bus to Naoussa is about to leave.  Peter purchases the tickets from the little office and we hop on board. We pass long stretches of agricultural land that spills out from beneath low lying hills.   As the bus winds down towards the village of Naoussa I begin to remember exactly where we are.

The bus terminates adjacent to a row of shops behind which sits the marina.  However, first we are desperately in need of refreshment and stumble into a nearby cafe bar (who’s name I unfortunately forget) for a tall glass of fresh lemon juice over crushed ice, garnished with a sprig of mint.

After a short respite from the heat we walk down to the small harbour, home to brightly painted fishing caiques that look resplendent against the whitewashed Venetian houses, many of which are now pretty little tavernas.  The remains of a small kastro and a short harbour wall encompass a number of bobbing fishing boats, a haven from the open sea beyond.  The church of the Assumption of the Virgin sits high on the hill dominating the skyline above the harbour.

The stone harbour wall invited us to walk down its length into the ruin of the partially sunken kastro.  A series of arches built into the thick defensive walls offer us perfectly framed vistas in which to appreciate this picture perfect scenery

We walked back along the harbour wall past fishermen preparing for the next day – some sitting on their boats, others sitting with their backs against a wall mending their nets.  Washing is strung across a line on one of the boats. The marina is absolutely teaming with fish.  We stroll amongst the pretty Venetian dwellings that have been reinvented as rather trendy eating establishments amongst which are highly rated seafood restaurants.

Before making our way back to the bus stop we stop to look at Agios Nikolaos in the harbour which also enables me to seek 10 minutes respite from the sun.  This small church is believed to be the protector of all fishing boats – and protector of the fair skinned!

Time is running fast.  This has been just a short whistle stop tour of Naoussa as Peter is keen to visit the monastery in Parikia so we walk slowly back to the bus stop.  A copy of the timetable is by the bus stop and we realise that we will have to wait nearly an hour for the next bus.

When we arrived back at the bus stop we realised that for the return journey we need to walk about 200 yards towards a small bus station – continue walking in the direction of the bus when it arrives in Naoussa – the bus station is at the end of the street.

 We walk past another impressive looking church  and Peter goes inside whilst I rebind a sore blister with a bandage.

Just before we arrive at the bus station we pass a small place called Restaurant Pervolaria which advertises ‘A Taverna in the Garden’.  A large pergola covered in hessian drapes and bougainvillea branches provide much needed shade.  We have decided to eat at T’Ageri back on Antiparos tonight so decide to opt for cheese and spinach pies and a cup of tea just to tide us over.  This is a nice family run taverna – the owners were very friendly and welcoming.  It’s a little walk up from the centre of Naoussa and has very clean toilets.  A wonderful place to rest a while when you have time to kill.

The bus soon arrives and we return back the journey back to the port of Parikia.

Before we go to the monastery we decide to walk to the kastro through the winding streets of the chora – this is Cycladic architecture at its best – very typical and very pretty.

The Venitian kastro sits amongst the whitewashed cubist houses – an add looking structure at first glance but the reason becomes clear from our guide book which says:

The Venetian Kastro (1260 AD) was largely constructed from the remains of the archaic Temples of Demeter and Apollo, remnants of which can  be see in the form of the circular column drums now embedded in the kastro wall.

A little further around the corner we pass the church Agios Konstantinos – I say Agios Konstantinos – I’ve tried to research what the name of this church is and trying to match photographs of this church with references to it being next to the kastro brings up three option – St Konstantinos, Holy Mary Septemvriani and St Eleni.  Information on the internet and my guide books are confused so my best guess is that it is St Konstantinos!

Regardless of name, this church is so picturesque, adorned with the famous Parian marble and overlooking the harbour – it’s the things that postcards are made of (except if I’m in the picture of course!).

Now it’s time to go to the Byzantine monastery that Peter wants to see – Panagia Ekatontapyliani – try saying that when you’ve had a few ouzo’s!

Also called Katapoliani, it is said to be one of the most important early Christian monuments in Greece and also known as Our Lady of the 100 Doors.  According to www.hotels.line.gr:

“The temple owes its name to its 100 gates, 99 of which are visible and the hundredth will be revealed when the Greeks will recapture Constantinople, as it is said.

The Katapoliani, probably derived from the term “Katapola” meaning “in town”, probably indicating the location of the ancient city of Paros. 

Its construction, according to tradition, must be started in the 4th century by St Helena, the mother of Saint Constantine, who made a vow that if she found the Holy Cross, she would build a church at the location of a small temple she had found when she stopped in Paros throughout her journey to find the cross. Then, after she carried out the purpose of her trip, she fulfilled her promise.”

We walk into a large paved courtyard.  To our left is a shaded area with a metal framed pergola and a tree bursting with ripe lemons.  Towering above this is a tall tree with spreading boughs on which hang two church bells.

The large wooden doors of the church invite us in.  We are almost alone – only another couple and a cleaning lady when we enter.  We all stand in awe, taking in the magnificence of this church, except the cleaning lady who is vigorously polishing each icon. Before moving onto the next icon she kisses the cleansed (and sterilised) icon and crosses herself three times – a well deserved perk of the job!

Peter also visits the icons, showing his respect to God in a much more covert way.  I would describe myself as an Athiest with Agnostic tendencies – I don’t really believe in God but at the same time if I was given a conclusive sign that he/she existed I may be convinced.  Maybe that’s a sign of getting older and the realisation of my own mortality!  When I consider the magnificent world we live in – the sheer miracle of nature – I do become a little more tempted to believe.  I love churches and the absolute feeling of tranquillity and peace that washes over you – a haven from the outside world – saying that, my local garden centre has the same effect on me too!

Within the monastery complex, housed in some of the cells is the Byzantine Museum – we are not allowed to take photographs inside but this web link gives an overview of some of the exhibits.  There is an amazing wooden, carved model of the monastery and also one handmade from wire – very intricate and quite exquisite.

It is now time to make our way back to the harbour for the boat back to Antiparos.  There is so much to see and do on Paros that I feel as though we have only just dipped our toes into what the island has to offer.  I would love to have visited Butterfly Valley – especially as it was the right time of year.  Also the Ancient Salt Mines and maybe have walked the Byzantine Trail.  However, this is one of the few downsides to island hopping – sometimes you only get a snapshot of the island – but then again – it does leave you wanting for more!

When we arrive back at the port the boat Antiparos is coming down the straight.  Tourists who have probably visited Antiparos for the day disembark, then we board.  There are only a handful of us on board for the return journey.  We sail along the shores of Paros until we turn out into the middle of the straight, passing cormorants on rocks jutting out from the sea.

We arrive back at the port of Antiparos.  As much as my body is crying out to throw itself into the sea to refresh itself, we decide to go straight back to the room to shower and get ready to go out.  Before we go for our last meal on the island at Restaurant T’ageri, we want to visit the kastro which is just a short walk from Villa Harmonia.

Although this is the beginning of high season, the kastro is virtually deserted.  The early evening sun casts a warm glow over the stone dwellings.  Once newly whitewashed and painted with brightly coloured windows, doors and balconies, wind, sun and age has added to its visual appeal, by adorning it with the patina of  time.

We’re so hungry after having refrained from eating anything substantial at lunch time – we are more than ready to eat now.  We head straight for T’ageri.  It isn’t very busy tonight but this we don’t mind.  As soon as I walk in, a lady in a bright pink dress, pink sandals and a pink flower in her hair, points to my camera and tells me that it is going to be a good moon tonight.  After taking our seats at a table overlooking the harbour, the lady asks me questions about my camera and also shows me photographs of the moon that she took the night before.

As we continue to talk she tells us that her daughter works for the diving school next door and that she is staying with her on Antiparos for three months.  The lady also tells us that she is French but lives in Derbyshire.  She bought her husband the camera for his birthday – though I’m not sure how much he has been able to use it yet!

She tells us a lot about herself – through her fathers job she had travelled extensively around the world as a child.  Her husband works for an airline and they had at one time lived in Nigeria.  In between conversations about photography (at times it turns into a photography lesson) we order our meal.  I don’t think Peter wants to spend so much time wrestling with his food tonight and also we are spoilt for choice on the menu.  We decide to order a mixture of things including octopus, zucchini fritters, aubergine salad, local cheese and a Greek salad.

Giorgios comes from the kitchen to ask as how we have enjoyed our meal and explains to us the meaning of the word T’ageri.  “It is like the feeling of the wind on your face” he tells us.  Giorgios brings us out desert which is absolutely amazing.  Choux pastries filled with a banana cream (they were much more than this and my description doesn’t do them justice at all) – Giorgios tells us how he makes them and I really admire his passion for good food.   Take a look at their menu and you will see that this is no ordinary Greek Taverna!

http://www.tageri.com/p/menu.html

Maria and the owners, the French lady, Peter and I chat convivially into the evening.  So far there is no sign of this perfect moon – we are waiting in anticipation with our cameras on standby.  I’m sure this time last night the moon was already shining over the harbour.  We wonder if it is hidden by clouds we can’t see in the night sky – not the case because we can see the stars.

“Look!” the French lady shouts, pointing in the direction of Paros.  As we turn, we see the moon beginning to peak out over the top of a low mountain across the sea.  Everyone makes a grab for their cameras.  A crowd has already begun to gather along the harbour wall to witness this magnificent spectacle.

I had left my travel tripod in Egypt so in the absence of a tripod, we take turns in balancing our cameras on top of upturned ice buckets.  Photos are still a little blurry (Note to myself – buy another lightweight tripod before our next trip) – I don’t want to mess up another photo opportunity like this again!

Full moon over the bay at Antiparos from T’Ageri Restaurant. T’Ageria means the feeling of the breeze as it touches your face! T’Ageri is an exceptional restaurant and one I have very fond memories of.

This is a great end to our stay on Antiparos.  We give our thanks to Giorgios and Maria and say goodbye to Mr and Mrs Eugenidis and the French lady.  We walk past the marina, the moon illuminating the small boats moored up to the harbour wall.  I think of the meaning of T’ageri and the line written inside the menu:

‘’Take us far away, take us away to distant places, blow open sea, blow sea breeze…!’’

‘’Να μας πάρεις μακριά να μας πας σε πέρα μέρη, φύσα θάλασσα πλατιά, φύσα αγέρι φύσα αγέρι..!’’

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