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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TOURISTS OF THE SARONIC ISLANDS - PART I

“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

“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...

Unfortunately there are no longer any springs to be found, sponges have all but disappeared, but fortunately there are still 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!)
“So where are the 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...

POROS

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…

THIS!
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!

AEGINA

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 ;-)

7 comments:

Sharon said...

Classical?

Purple Cow said...

oh, and if you like, tell me why you make this choice...

Ro Magnolia said...

Oh, I love the idea of pretending to be tourists ... and don't know why the Canadians were staring at you ... although maybe it's because we're never quite sure anyone outside of Canada knows who Leonard Cohen is! :)

I'm guessing you chose the Classical tour as well - first off, you obviously had already had been swimming, and secondly, I suspect a panoramic tour would be more frustrating than not, since you'd probably be whisked past all kinds of wonderful things that you'd like to take more time to view. So yeah, I'm guessing you went for the classical. But whichever you chose, I look forward to reading more about it.

P.S. Thanks for the bouganvillea reference! Great visual in my head when you mentioned them. :)

bluecottonmemory said...

Panoramic? Yes, classical history but, like a landscape painting, it is included in the panoramic view - your panoramic view!Which can include swimming - so that one includes all three really, but the others cannot include the other two. How's that for logic?

Now I want to take my boys to Greece!

Phoenix said...

Pretending to be a tourist in your own town - I love it! I used to do that as a kid when my friends and I went to Disneyland (I lived in the next city over) and it was a lot of fun - I'm glad it still is!

Loved the history lesson about Hydra and don't worry, American tourists are embarrassed about being American too. When I was at University in London, I pretended to be Canadian while traveling around.

Crown of Beauty said...

Interesting post.

Greece has always been one of the countries I'd like to visit someday.

Love your tell-it-like-it-is style of writing. Makes everything in your post come to life!

Although I don't know you that well yet, I think you ventured for the panoramic tour.

Lidj

Purple Cow said...

Ro, the Canadians were staring at me cause they were the only ones there. I think they were thinking "Is this mother going to swim here with her children, putting ALL their lives in jeopardy?" And in retrospect that is what I would think, too. BUT this would be the only swimming we would get (oops, am I giving something away here) so I was desperate to check it off our "tourist" checklist and this was the only place we could do it within the space of 15 mins which was all we had left until the boat left!!!!

Bluecotton - the panoramic did not have antiquities. It took you around the island to see the lovely nut groves, churches, fish market and it culminated in a nice "brief" octopus and ouzo dinner.

Phoenix - Oh, so that's why American tourists have a bad name! The cultured ones pretend to be Canadian when they travel! In Greece, the worse tourists are young British tourists who go to islands, get blind drunk and have sex orgies in British squares...The all-round worst all-ages category would have to be Italians cause they like to draw attention to themselves and think they are Berlusconi and I think Greeks are pretty bad cause they are so loud at dinnertime! BEST TOURISTS - I'd vote for Germans! Now I'm getting sidetracked.

Crown of Beauty - Thank you for your kind words.

Bluecottonmemory - Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog...If you knew me well you'd realise that my logic is rather wonky... (I think its the Greek part of being Greek Australian)...