Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Symi, sniffles and a snotty nose

Tuesday 29th November

Can't believe that it's already November 29th, over a month since our visit to Symi and I haven't got around to writing about it. During this past week I do have a fairly good excuse though, I've been down with the worst cold I've had in more years than I can remember. It's been difficult remaining upright without my head complaining in the strongest possible terms, thus sending me back to bed to get horizontal again.

Good news before I go back to the Symi trip. Today it's been raining. Today's also the first day since last Friday that I've transferred from the bed to the sofa to see if I could manage that. Still here, so I must be on the road to recovery. I even managed to write a few words of the new book, "A Jay in the Jacaranda Tree" today as well. Hopefully that will be out before next season begins.

The rain's been so lovely that I just had to take a few photos from the sofa...

Sitting at that table earlier, looking out of the French Windows down the valley we were a bit irritated to see (we checked with the binoculars to be sure) that the flamin' horse that gave me a nip is down there on the loose again. They had disappeared for a couple of days, but we haven't walked it because it's been all I could do to stand up and walk to the bathroom. Now it seems that Dimitri has brought them back, so we don't know what we're going to do next time we need to walk down that way. A friend has just posted on Facebook that she's had a fright from a donkey in the last day or so too. Maybe the weather's been making all the animals go AWOL, I dunno. Are we due an earthquake? Don't animals tend to sense such things?

On the trip to Symi though, what a great day out it proved to be. I'd e-mailed Mihali who runs the Nikolaos X from Mandraki to confirm that it was sailing on Tuesday October 25th, and he told me that instead of us paying the usual €20 each return, we could go for €35 for the both of us. Even better than that, when we got to the quayside at Mandraki at 8.45am, we were told that as a special deal we could go for €15 each return, so we felt well pleased as we walked aboard the very smartly liveried vessel. Years ago when I used to do the Symi excursion for work we'd occasionally make the crossing on the "old" Nikolaos X, which had a rather staid paintwork design, but the new-look Nikolaos is very on-trend...

Image courtesy
The "old one" looked like this:

Image courtesy
In fact, the difference is so striking that I was convinced that they'd retired the old lady and brought in a newer vessel with the same name. I only found out I was wrong when I went to the bar in the lounge after we'd set sail to order a frappé and got talking to the couple who were serving and asked them if they remembered me from a few years ago. They said they did indeed and I also brought up the subject of the ship's cat. The old Nikolaos X always had a cat on board and, sure enough...

I asked the ya-ya (whose family runs the ship) where the cat was, because I couldn't see him anywhere. She pulled back the cover and there he was, sleeping contentedly out of sight. There are no rats or mice on board the Nik X!

Anyway, I complimented the crew on their new vessel when they replied, "She's not new. She's the same boat." Now, you've seen the photos, would you have thought that it's the same boat? It even looks bigger to me. They told me that yes indeed they had given it a major refit, which had involved someone setting about the superstructure with an oxy-acetylene torch, but it was still the original Nikolaos X. Well it was a very successful job in my view.

Of course, with it being the very last week of the season, we kind of anticipated having the ship to ourselves. Wrong. She was surprisingly packed to capacity, maybe owing to the exceptional weather, I don't really know. But instead of being able to wander the decks during the crossing, we found ourselves having to grab a couple of places in the lounge and pretty much stay there for the duration. I did venture upstairs for a look around, but there were so many bodies about it could well have been the first week of August. At least there's on-board wi-fi.

Arriving at Panormitis I was dismayed to hear that the old bakery up behind the monastery had closed. That had been something I'd really been looking forward to, remembering that when I'd been doing the weekly excursion I'd always make a bee-line there for one of their delicious TDF apple pies with cinnamon, whilst the "faithful" tourists all made their way into the monastery itself. The bakery had been a wonderful throwback to the past, with a great stone oven behind and to the side of the serving counter and you could watch them using wooden paddles to slide new batches in and baked ones out while you breathed in the exquisite aroma whilst watching your milopita being wrapped in a tissue for immediate consumption, whilst it was still warm of course.

The old bakery at Panormitis may be gone, but at least the one on the front is a fairly pleasant place to sit.

We were eventually on our way again and couldn't wait to be sailing once more into Symi's harbour. It's a place so familiar to the both of us, since we'd holidayed there several times before moving out to Rhodes and then I'd done the weekly excursion while working on Rhodes for three seasons on the trot. We also spent an off-season break there in November some years ago with a couple of our Greek friends.

Our last-but-one Greek holiday before moving out here was on Symi, so that would have been in June 2004 (we'd also gone to Makrigialos, Crete in September, before moving out to Rhodes in August 2005). Anyway, here are the shots I took on October 25th as we renewed our acquaintance with one of Greece's most beautiful islands...

At the top of this street, which leads away from one corner of the harbour,  is Taverna O Meraklis, which was always our favourite.

Looks like this shop will even sell you a kitten if you're interested.

Climbing the Kali Strata.

There's the "Nik X" tied up below.

A brilliant spot on the Kali Strata for taking in the wonderful view.

The Dolphin Italian restaurant, just behind the bridge.

There's so much I could say about Symi. The positives are that it's still as beautiful as ever. The negatives? Well, it's always difficult going back somewhere and expecting to find things the same isn't it? For starters, we wanted to eat out for lunch and were torn between two places. One was the little restaurant way out on the corner (further on past the boat yard) before what used to be called Nos Beach, but now isn't. It's called Tholos and always had a great selection of starters ideal for non-meat eaters. Its location is superb, right on a corner with two sides facing the sea, which is only a few feet below your table. It represents quite an investment in time because it's a long walk out there from the back of the harbour, but we'd never failed to get a table there in the past.

It was either the Tholos or O Meraklis, as I was quite keen to see Sotiri again, a gentle man who always walks slowly and reminds me of the old British comedian Freddie "Parrot-Face" Davies. We strolled right past O Meraklis and if Sotiri had been in evidence we'd certainly have eaten there. Instead there was a much younger chap waiting tables who looked as though he may be Sotiri's son, although I couldn't be sure. We hung around a while to see if Sotiri would put in an appearance, but he didn't. A lot of years have gone by, a lot of water under the proverbial bridge, since we first ate there. It was 1993 in fact, a mere 23 years ago. One can hardly blame Sotiri if he's taking things a little easier these days.

It would have been ever so slightly deflating to eat there and not see our old friend so we plumped to make the walk out to the Tholos. It may have been October 25th, but it still felt like mid-September temperature-wise and we were well moist with perspiration when we arrived, only to find that the place was packed out, mainly with day-trippers from the Nikoloas X. Once again, we hung around a while before deciding that time constraints dictated that we go somewhere else. So, reluctantly, we set off for the long walk back to the harbour. It was only when we reached the bridge that we spotted the modestly sized "Dolphin" Italian eatery that we'd patronised several times back in 2004. Check out the post on James Collins' Symi Dream blog which talks about the Dolphin.

Result! No sooner had we decided to sit down than we began to remember why we'd eaten there several times 12 years ago. The thing was though, would it still be the same, or have things changed here too? Our answer was soon forthcoming when the proprietor, Basilis came out to prepare our table, hand us menus and ask what we'd like to drink. He told us when we asked that he'd been running the place for 23 years and thus was definitely the chef/proprietor when we'd frequented the place in 2004. We'd eaten there several times then for two reasons, a) the food was fab and b) the prices surprisingly keen.

Since he wasn't overly busy, we had quite a good chat and told him that we remembered being served by a British woman 12 years ago, who it turns out is his wife Rachael. It didn't take long to discover that he knew Cornwall well (we have good friends near Padstow), since Rachael is from St. Austell! He's also very familiar with the area of South Wales that we'd adopted as our home for 24 years before we moved to Rhodes. Not only did we thoroughly enjoy our natter, the pizza was excellent and the whole bill including drinks came to €13.30.

All in all, that left us with an abidingly cozy feeling about Symi as we re-boarded the "Nik" for the return leg. Some things have changed, as is inevitable. Some things though, are still as they were. 

Before getting home without hanging around, since the better half wasn't feeling well due in part to tiredness (it's a long day from Kiotari and back again), we found ourselves enthusing in the car about the whole day.

Wednesday 30th November

The sun's been out again all day today. Not that I've seen much of it. After having got up and spent much of yesterday on the sofa I spent a night frequently disturbed by a hacking cough, so I returned to my bed again today. It's really tricky when you have Greek friends and you go down with a cold. Without exception they'll all insist that you ought to go to the doctor, they'll be very dismayed that you don't have either a medical thermometer or a blood pressure machine at home and will tut about your failure to stock up with a couple of prescriptions. It's amazing I'm still alive in their opinion.

Only the other day I read a survey that showed Greece is well out on top of the list of European countries where excessive use is made of antibiotics. We all know that they're gradually losing their usefulness. So-called experts say it's because bacteria are developing resistance, but far more sensible to me is the explanation that antibiotics are killing off all the susceptible bacteria, leaving only the resistant ones to survive. End result, future disaster. The problem is, the drug companies are huge and powerful. They need to sell their products, pay their shareholders their dividends. There is no reason, for example, for anyone to suffer from type 2 diabetes. With the correct diet and exercise routine it can be reversed. Here's the proof. Trouble is, too much money is made by the companies producing the insulin, the hardware for sufferers to check their readings and administer the insulin etc. for them to allow the general public to get wind of the real solution.

Here in Greece, if you get a sniffle you zip down to the local GP and come out with about three prescriptions, one of which is almost certainly going to be for antibiotics. Trying to explain to one's Greek friends why one just lets a cold run its course, since there is no known cure, is not too easy I can tell you. After all, they go to the doc for a pin prick! Yes, sure, you can alleviate the symptoms, but a cold is a cold. Sore throat first, then comes the bad head, the catarrh, the cough and eventually it clears. At least I haven't resorted to claiming I have 'man-flu".

I'm prepared to be patient and enjoy the personal attention I'm getting from my resident nurse. 😉


  1. Love your pictures of Symi. I have been going to go so many times on the trip from Rhodes but haven't ever gone as being a wheelchair user I'm worried it wouldn't be doable. We've all been down with this dreaded cold too. It's taking about 3 to 4 weeks to get rid of. I hope your feeling well again soon.

    1. Diane, you'd have no trouble doing it on the Nikolaos X in a wheelchair. It's a flat ramp on and off each end and although you may not be able to climb the Kali Strata, the entire harbour area is flat.