I was a late starter when it came to visiting Greece. Having had my first child just days after my nineteenth birthday and then four children by the age of twenty five, travel wasn’t on my list of priorities. Some years later I’d become a single parent (through choice) so life was hectic – and poor.
By the time I was in my early thirties I’d gone back to university to do a degree in business management whilst working very unsociable shifts at Manchester Airport. I’d met another lovely man but life was still crazy and I was exhausted. So a holiday was arranged – a seven day package holiday to the Kassandra peninsula in Halkidiki staying at the gorgeous Pella Beach Hotel. Anyway, I’m not writing about this trip – this is just for context.
Several years later that same boyfriend broke my heart and I felt like my world had ended (as you do!). I just needed to get away to try and work things out in my head. My wonderful mum who had always been my rock, had offered to have the children for me whilst I had a break. I found a holiday on Teletext for seven days on Poros. I had no idea where Poros was but I knew it was in Greece and I just booked it.
This was 26 years ago. I do remember that the now ex partner had driven me to the airport as he still wanted to remain friends despite now being involved with someone else. That’s always a recipe for disaster isn’t it! I don’t remember much about the flight or even arriving at Poros except meeting a young couple on the boat who were also staying at the same place as me. We bonded over a newspaper crossword where I offered them the correct answer to one of the clues – sonar. Why I remember this I don’t know! She was called Joanna and she had confided in me that she had only just met her boyfriend and wasn’t sure how she felt about him – or even going on holiday with him. I can’t remember his name but he did strike me as a nice man albeit a little shy.
Taxi’s were waiting for us at the port and took us to our accommodation called Rania’s Apartments up above the town. It was a whitewashed building with a pergola and a well established lemon tree growing at the front. From my balcony I had easy access to the lemons which I would pick and throw up a floor to Joanna’s balcony for their gin and tonic!
I remember the welcome meeting being great fun, ending up in a bit of drinking and a couple of excursions booked – one of those being to Hydra.
The first couple of days were spent exploring on foot combined with relaxing on the beach and trying to get my bearings.
Rania’s was at the top of a lot of steps – several hundred in fact. Halfway down the steps I’d noticed an artist’s studio and popped in to have a look. The artist herself was a beautiful American lady with long golden hair and a startling smile. She was so glamorous and I do remember being a little bit in awe of her. I thought how brave she was to have left her native country to come and live on a Greek island and do something so creative and with such talent. What an inspiration!
Her artwork was colourful and vibrant – just like her. I loved everything that I saw but not having the budget to buy any of the originals I purchased 6 cards. Several of the pieces really spoke to me – in particular the ones called Learning Tree and The Turning point especially considering the reasons that had compelled me to run to Greece.
I still have those cards to this day and here they are.
The artist of course was the very talented and lovely Pamela Jane Rogers. I returned to Poros 2 years ago as part of a trip around the Peloponnese. Before I arrived, I sought Pamela out on Facebook to see if she was still on the island and to my excitement she was! She no doubt wouldn’t remember me but I was delighted to have been able to meet up with her for coffee and again the following year making that 24 and 25 years later. Pamela is an accomplished artist and now also has author added to her list of accolades. If you ever want to read a truly inspirational book then Pamela’s book Greekscapes: Journey’s with an Artist is a book you really must read.
A couple of days in, I’d decided to do as little as possible to help me recoup my energy. It was April but warm enough lay on the beach – but not really to swim. I headed to Askeli Beach which was deserted apart from me. I drifted off into my own little world only to be shaken awake by a loud cracking sound. I sat up to see a fisherman slapping his octopus onto a rock with all his might. He thought it was funny that had startled me and beckoned me over. Curiosity got the better of me so I tied a sarong around me and went over to see what he wanted to show me.
In his broken English and with lots of gesticulation he told me that he was tenderising the octopus so that it was good to eat. I don’t remember much more about the conversation but somehow I ended up agreeing to go fishing with him the following day. He’d told me to meet him at Kanali at 12.00pm and he would show me how to catch octopus! How exciting I thought, letting curiosity again get the better of me! How dumb the older and wiser me is thinking!
Anyway, at 12.00pm Mr Octopus Man (I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember his name) came down Kanali in his little boat. I hopped aboard and off we sailed. We headed out along the coast (which direction I’ve no idea) until we came to a place where the cliffs spilled into the sea. He took out a metal cylinder from the circular hole in the front of his boat and held it into the water. It seemed to act like a magnifying glass to see where the octopus were hiding. Once he knew that there were octopus afoot he baited a metal claw on a line and dropped it down into the water with one hand whilst still looking through the cylinder with the other. Once he could feel the weight on the line he yanked it up quickly.
The small octopus was fighting with all its might to escape but within seconds Mr Octopus Man took a metal skewer and stabbed it in the eye. It made me jump to see the black ink splurt out on the floor of the boat. He then chucked it into a bucket where it continued to squirm and writhe. I was horrified and yet – at the same time fascinated.
He gesticulated for me to try but I didn’t have the dexterity to balance the cyclinder whilst holding the line so I had a go at both – but one at a time. I was hopeless but knowing now how they met such a brutal death, my heart wasn’t really in it.
Anyway, Mr Octopus Man is one step ahead of me. He tells me that he brought a picnic and asked if I’d like to eat. I say yes and tried to discretely see where this picnic was. All I could see was a banana sticking out of a carrier bag. And before you think it – that’s NOT a euphemism!
He started guiding the boat further along the cliff edge until we came to a little bay. I distinctly remember that it looked as though there was no way to access this cove except by boat. He pointed to it and then put his hands together at the side of his face and tilted his head to mime sleep. Mr Octopus Man wanted us to go to the cove to SLEEP!
Finally the penny dropped and I needed to get my wits about me. The best I could come up with was to feign sea sickness. I told him that I didn’t feel very well using every body language skill that I could to look as though I didn’t feel very well.
He got the picture. He sailed the boat back to Kanali where I alighted and told him that I was going to lie down at the hotel.
I walked back to the hotel almost kicking myself for being such an idiot. Luckily, Mr Octopus Man meant no ill intent but it is only afterwards that I asked myself why a fisherman would go fishing in the middle of the day – all the fishermen I’ve seen usually go out first or last thing.
Later that evening I’d arranged to go for a drink with Joanna and her BF. I felt a bit like a spare wheel but I think Joanna also wanted a bit of a diversion from the intensity of her new relationship. Anyway, it was very kind of them to invite me out. We ended up in a taverna where we started with a few ouzo’s and I was able to regale them with the story about my little octopus adventure. It wasn’t long before the ouzo began to take effect – and the photo’s I think speak for themselves!
Just as the party had started going – who should appear in the taverna? Yes you’ve guessed it! Mr Octopus Man who just seemed to loiter in the corner looking uncomfortable. I didn’t quite know what to do but we ended up finishing our drinks and moving on to another place. It wasn’t too long before my new admirer (or so it seemed) appeared here too. By this stage quite a few ouzo’s had been downed and I just needed to go back to the hotel. We had a boat trip to Hydra the following day and it was an early start.
Joanna, BF and me met at the port in the morning looking like death. I’m not sure a boat ride is the best thing for a hangover but we embark on this trip nonetheless. As we head off, complimentary drinks are offered around including ouzo. Now you’d think that we’d learned our lesson but actually – this was exactly the hair of the dog that we needed.
When we arrived at Hydra the band of three did a bit of exploring together and I then went my own way to give Joanna and BF time on their own. We’d agreed to meet later at a taverna close to the port for lunch. I ambled around the town and then up the main road away from the port. I remember the spring flowers vividly. Everything else is a hangover blur!
Back on Poros Mr Octopus Man continued to make appearances wherever I was but he was harmless and I guess it just wasn’t meant to be!
In my remaining time on the island I walked up to Temple of Poseidon – or what remained of it – again the spring flowers stole the show. I also visited the monastery and walked around the coast to Russian Bay. All giving me time to reflect and think. Think about possibilities and opportunities
Whatever became of Joanna and her BF – I don’t know. This was pre Facebook so communication was more challenging but I do hope they got married. The way he used to look at her you could tell he was absolutely besotted! It gave me hope again.
I don’t remember much about the ferry back to Athens or anything else about the journey but I am confused about something. The photo’s were pre digital. I’ve lost the negatives and luckily the photo’s from this trip were all clumped together in a box in my loft. I have no way of sorting them into date order to determine where some of them were taken but I’ve managed to makes sense of most of them. I’ve then photographed the prints – hence the terrible quality.
I was curious about the ferries that I’d either arrived or departed on. I could see name of the ferry on one of the photo’s and it was called Georgios. When trying to research it I couldn’t find anything. I decided to focus on its very unusual livery – not one that I recall seeing anywhere since. I have three of Frewin Poffley’s Island Hopping Guides – 2001, 2004 and 2009 editions. I searched through them to see if the livery in the photograph was listed and unfortunately it wasn’t.
The other thing that I’d noticed was that the ferry was not in the port of Poros but in the port of Methana. I went through my photographs from Methana 2017 and this was confirmed – the photo from the ferry is looking back towards the port and the hotel where I had stayed just two years ago.
This made me wonder if the ferry had actually arrived or departed at Methana and we’d travelled by taxi to or from Poros (and of course smaller ferry) However, on the first two photo’s I’m definitely on a large ferry in Poros. How confusing!
I started to Google – Ferry, Methana, Georgios and Eureka! Between 1990 – 1995 the ship Georgios had been owned by a company called Akouriki Naftiki Eteria. After that it changed hands and names several times. The exciting discovery is that the Georgios is still alive and well and sails under the name of Apollon Hellas – the very ship that I sailed from Methana to Piraeus on just two years ago. From my hotel room over looking the port I’d see her come and go almost daily and I was completely oblivious to the link. I don’t think I’ll get to the bottom of which ports I’d either arrived or departed from but finding out that the Georgios is now the Apollon Hellas has made my day. Everyone has a little bit of geekdome in them don’t they!
After flying back to Manchester, the ex boyfriend had arranged to pick me up from the airport. We arrived back at my house and I told him that whilst I was away I’d made a decision. The decision was that we couldn’t remain friends and I didn’t want to see him again. He cried. I felt a bit sorry for him – but not for long. I’d realised that as nice as he was, he’d held me back and I was destined for better things. And another love affair began!