A quick summary of what to do when ferrying out into the islands as I begin my post:
- Bring a backpack – one that holds everything you have and distributes the weight evenly on both shoulders.Do not bring a trolley bag or anything that is too heavy/inconvenient to bring around as you walk around before boarding the ferry. Bear in mind the cobblestone roads everywhere as well.
- Space out your days. Avoid taking the ferry the same day you land in Greece – something we learnt the hard way. Ferry delays are unpredictable and will add more time into your already long journey
- Check (and re-check) your ferry timings. Ferry timings change sometimes and you want to make sure you don’t miss your ferry!
- Wear warm! We had free seating seats and by the time we boarded, most of the indoor areas were taken up so we sat outside. When the ferry starts moving, the wind gets unbearably cold. The air-conditioning also gets chilly after a while so make sure you have extra clothes somewhere nearby.
- Go Indoors: Away from the ocean spray, away from the biting wind. Get warm and comfy on the plush chairs.
Piraeus Port – gateway to the Grecian islands, and also only 25 mins away from the center of Athens. We bought train tickets and were soon speeding down towards the direction of the port.
We alighted at Piraeus, along with rest of the train as it was the terminal station and followed the crowd out of the station and down into the streets. Using our newly bought data to find our way to Gate E7 where we were to board. Along the way, we saw a fruit juice stall! 1.50 euro for watermelon and melon juice. In 30 degree heat, it was a GREAT idea. Everyone got a cup each and sipped happily as we set off in search of the nearest supermarket for some water!
Nearest supermarket: AB Vassilopoulos along Nikita Street, about 20 mins away on foot. There we stocked up on water, cookies and snacks a little too enthusiastically and were heavily laden as we made our way to gate E7 to board where we waited and waited for the 5.45 pm ferry to arrive.
We got worried as we neared 530pm and yet no sign of the ferry. ‘Are we waiting at the wrong gate? Did we get the wrong timing for the ferry?’ We started looking around and dashed to the Blue Star Ferry counter near by to check.
“Oh, your ferry time is wrong, it is no longer 530pm but 730pm” We just looked at one another with shades of disbelief and relief. We did not miss our ferry and now had time for dinner but at the same time, our 5 hour journey to the lovely island of Paros meant we were only going to reach at 12.30am! We called our hosts in Paros and told them of the delay and they were really nice about it. There was going to be someone waiting for us at a church along the main road from the port.
So now we had 2 hours for dinner. We went looking for good seafood but the place we found was closed for renovations, due to re-open the very next day (!!!) so we found our way back to the ports and settled on ‘Porto Grill Piraeus‘. We ordered a Greek Salad and a Kebab Grill set for 4, along with whatever drinks we wanted. Feeling dehydrated and with a headache coming on, think I chugged down a liter of water during dinner.
We had to take away the kebab with us as we had at least half this huge platter still left on the plate when we were done. Figured that we might get hungry during the ferry ride over. We boarded the ferry and found seats in a slightly sheltered area as indoor seats were mainly taken up.
Departure was late – leaving really only at 8pm as it was the last ferry of the day to leave Piraeus towards the islands. But that meant we could enjoy the sunset from where we were at the top deck as the ferry left for the islands.
The 6 hours were okay at first, we walked around the deck and talked. Then, as the time went by, it started feeling like eternity. Some of us slept holding our bags while some of us chaffed hands to keep warm. It got steadily colder and colder – perhaps due to the lack of sunlight as well. I was thankful I had a pair of long pants and sweaters around so I could pile them on but eventually, we all made our way indoors, seeking a place of warmth.
Mind you this was now about 11pm local time in Athens – about 4am local time where we come from, so we were tired, grumpy and cold. There were seats indoors but we were not entirely sure if these seats were reserved seats or not as we paced outside the for a while. With 2 hours more and no stops in between, a kind young lady came out from where she was and told us to head in and sit down – which we did and promptly knocked out for the rest of the trip, waking only when we heard the call for ‘Next Stop, Paros’
We got out the main doors onto the streets of Paros about 1am in the morning. Trudged down the main road parallel to the shore, we found a church 10 mins later and called our host who thankfully woke up soon we were in our rooms! See the next post here for what to do in Paros!