There is something so romantic about travelling from one country to another without the stress and artificiality of flying. We were both super excited about the prospect of crossing over from Italy to Greece by overnight ferry.
We pottered across from Naples on the west coast to the east coast of Italy on the train, through some beautiful mountains, and down the coast to just above the ‘heel’ of Italy. We stayed the night in the port town of Bari, which didn’t seem to have a lot to recommend it. There is a pretty ‘old town’ by the port, which is clearly either thronged with cruise ship tourists, or dead, depending on whether there’s a cruise in port. Being used to travelling in Africa, I probably overestimated how much of a margin we needed for everything and we could easily have got the train down the same day as the ferry, as instead we had a day and half in Bari, which was about a day and a quarter too much.
Anyway, it gave us a chance to stock up on vegetables after all that pizza, and we made a huge vegetable stir fry in the hostel – I think we fed half the backpacker community of Bari with the leftovers.
It was finally time to embark, and again, I had built in far too much time, as the checking in process took all of 5 minutes, and then we were on board hours before sailing. Mind you, this gave us ample time to scope out the best viewpoints and stake a claim to a table on the deck. Lauren was fizzing with excitement but after 4-5 full tours of the boat, she was happy to settle down on deck.
We also got the chance to watch the loading of all the trucks carrying goods (and live animals in a couple of cases) across to Greece, which was actually really interesting, seeing how the trucks were manoeuvred backwards into spaces with centimetres to spare.
On board there was an interesting mix of tourists (mainly young Australian backpackers travelling in a huge group and getting drunk on cheap booze and freedom) and hardened truck drivers (also getting steadily drunker on the cheap booze, ultimately ending up in a punch up in the restaurant later, much to Lauren’s amusement and my alarm).
Our cabin was tiny but functional, with a pull-down bed for Lauren above my bed and a teeny weeny bathroom. It was about the size and set up of the cabin we have booked for a 30-day crossing on a cargo ship from London to Montevideo in December, and given that within 2 minutes our possessions were liberally scattered over every surface and bit of floor, it did cross my mind to wonder how on earth we will cope on a longer voyage.
As we are currently working our way through the Corfu Trilogy by Gerard Durrell, Lauren was keen to see Corfu when we passed it. Luckily the woman at reception told her there was no point waking up at 5am to see it, as it would be dark and we would be too far away. I should have slipped that woman a tenner. Anyway, when we did wake up closer to 7, we were threading our way between beautiful outcrops and islands, and it was a pretty idyllic start to the day.
We docked just before midday in Patras, and again, I had planned a night here “in case things go wrong” and while it was a lively little place, surrounded by mountains and with a lovely vibe especially as it was Sunday and the whole town seemed to be out for Sunday lunch and a stroll, it would have been easy enough to get straight on to Athens the same day. Instead, we went for a late lunch (kebabs, of course) and then hid inside doing schoolwork for a few hours as it was nearly 40 degrees. We went for a stroll in the evening, enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a G&T worthy of my father (for me) and an early night, happy to be in Greece and excited about Athens the next day.
Next: Athens – The Acropolis, the Parthenon and will the Souvlaki be as good as mine???