“Let’s pretend to be tourists!”
We do that sometimes. Don our cameras and start mingling with the tourists, hoping that we can feel grateful that we live in a place that other people actually dream of travelling to. It is one of the most innovative ways I have found to get my daughters to practice their English – the language we speak when we are pretending to not be Greek.
We woke up "jetlagged" in the wee hours and dragged ourselves to the Ledra Marriott, trying to blend in with some Chinese and Indian families waiting, like us, to get picked up for the one-day-cruise to three Saronic islands – Hydra, Poros and Aegina.
“Three islands in one day! Ripper!” said Z.
“If we have time can we do four?” asked M, sarcastically I think, reminding me of her father.
The next thing we knew is that we were bustled onto a boat and "learning" how to dance Greek syrtaki as taught by Ukrainian dancers wearing traditional Greek costumes strangely combined with flowers in their hair (we already knew the steps to Syrtaki but pretended to just be really fast students). And thus passed the time with us masquerading as foreigners being taught about Greece by non-Greeks pretending to be local. It was actually quite Shakespearean! I dare say, arousingly so.
I was on the verge of blowing my cover, when my Eldest - a "Treasure Island" fan - called out - "Land ahoy!" in her best Long John Silver voice, and that was when we saw...
“Hydra is the St. Tropez of Greece,” said our hoity-toity hostess causing me to ask if she had ever been to St. Tropez. Her response was negative and I thought that this was just about the right time to ditch the group and show my kids the Hydra I knew.
“So is this where Hercules fought with the multi-headed Lernaean Hydra serpent?” asked Z, the 6-year-old who seems to be dumping princesses and showing preference to mythological creatures.
“No,” I said. “It is named so because there used to be springs on the island." (Hydra is derived from the Greek word for “water”). In the past it also used to have a thriving sponge industry, too...
no cars. So we rode donkeys around the winding streets stopping every so often to admire the bouganvillea plants, the old mansions that have been turned into schools and museums as well as the statues, such as the “Boy on a Dolphin”, based on the same-titled Sophia Loren film of the Fifties. (PS Ro Magnolia, the splashes of bouganvillea reminded me of you!)
famous people? All I see are Hydriots!” exclaimed my eldest, evidently influenced by the St. Tropez analogy.
“Yes, where are the Idiots?” chirped in the youngest.
So I told them about songster Leonard Cohen who had once lived here and how poet Robert Green had written an unconventional memoir titled “Hydra and the Bananas of Leonard Cohen”, inspired by living in a house overlooking Cohen's banana plantation on this very island.
As I was getting obsessive about all this, my daughters had already stripped down to their bikinis and were about to jump in the deep rock pool while these Canadian tourists were staring at me dumb-founded. “Hey, this is dangerous!” I noticed. There were sea urchins on the walls, waves from nearby speed boats were practically flinging us onto the rocks but there we were bravely swimming in this perilous place, proving yet again how oftentimes tourists forget to pack their brains when they go on holidays (yes, even pretend tourists).
Before I knew it, time had got the better of us. Luckily my eldest is the junior national long distance running champion (just me bragging) and managed to stop the boat before it left…the youngest and I came panting five minutes afterwards.
Sea and sweat dripped from us as we entered the dining room looking a frightful sight. Chinese and Indians snickered as we pretended to be American tourists (sorry guys for giving you a bad name). And you can only imagine my further embarrasment when I had this tingling sensation that a boatful of Asian men were staring at my breasts only to find that there were two round wet marks boldly contouring the fabric above them...
What an utter waste! We only had half an hour and all that gave us time to do was to climb to the famous clock tower (Roloi). There was strange irony to it as we rushed against the clock to get to where else but the clock tower. We went up god-knows-how-many-flights of stairs in lunchtime heat chanting "Hickory Dickory Dock" as if it were some mantra only to see…
Yes, that’s all it is. Nothing more.
The sad news is that Poros is swarming with things to see from lemon groves to antiquities and it seems like sacrilege being so near and yet not getting close at all.
Well, it wasn't a complete and utter waste of time...we did buy some folkloric shirts and souvenirs!
For the island of Aegina we had three options – the Panoramic tour, the Classical tour or the Swimming tour. If you know me, you’ll probably guess which one I chose… AND I’LL FINISH OFF THE ONE-DAY CRUISE IN MY NEXT POST…
So, for the sake of curiosity, how well do you know me? Was it the Panoramic, Classical or Swimming tour that I took…Come on, venture a guess!
PS No George, these are not my photographs, I swiped them off the internet as I still haven't transferred mine onto a disc yet. If you like I'll include mine when I do the write up of Aegina ;-)