Sichuan and TibetDiscover the stunning scenery and fascinating cultural heritage of China's hidden 'Tibet in Sichuan'.
There are a million cats foot loose and fancy free in the Cyclades. Each island has a flotilla of them drifting up and down the village lanes or lurking expectantly at quay side. They are a mellow lot not given to hissy fits or unpleasant behavior. If there was a Scarface Claw in the pack I never saw him. Cafe owners aren’t keen on them but no one locks up at night without leaving a bowl or two out for the cats. I thought they were cute but I suspect that they regarded me as a sucker!
Our maritime perambulations have taken us to every Island worthy of the name. Well perhaps not so many but from the nightly confines of my bat cave it seems that way. Now the contemporary equivalent of sextant, dividers and slide rule are pointing us towards Athens by way of Mikonos, party central of the Cyclades. Unfortunately for us the jet set has occupied the high ground at Mikonos. Scruffy sailboaties are banished to the industrial port from where it is a 3km hike into town. There is a public taxi boat but it fails to show at the appointed time and I’m sus that it is cahoots with the rapacious cabbies who are circling the marina like a school of sharks
It is too early in the season at Mikonos for the beautiful people but the boutiques are buzzing with happy young Asian holiday makers. Petite ladies with slight frames draped in the pastels of the latest Hellenistic fashions pose for young men weighted down by oversized cameras. This would be quaint and even romantic if there weren’t so many doing the same thing in the same places but no one seems to mind. These folk are here for things that we are not, so its an easy decision to head off to Paros via the archaeological sanctuary of Delos.
At Delos the sun is hot and the day bright. Its time to rig the ‘Bimini’ and break out the wet suits. We go ashore by dinghy to view the stunning 3000 year old Ionian era ruins. It is a truly inspiring spot with its ancient marble columns, mosaic frescoes, theatre and monumental ruins afloat in a sea of wildflowers. There are regular day cruises to Delos from Mikonos but the privilege of arriving up by sailboat would be hard to beat.
I’m happy to report that Paros, Tinos and Siros all have cats waiting to smooge gullible landlubbers into parting with tasty nibbles. Of course cats aside there are many other interesting things for travellers who might stop over. Parikia the capital of Paros has both Venetian and Byzantine influences and a spectacular 4th century Byzantium church at nearby Panayia Katapoliani. Tinos has a bevy of picturesque mountain villages and a myriad of spectacular decorated dove cotes. It takes little effort and minimal expense to get out and about on the islands by rental car to discover these things and more. Over the past few weeks it has dawned on us that kids don’t live in these villages. Only old people are left now that the younger folk have gone off to Athens and the future of rural villages looks bleak.
Siros is the historic capital of the Cyclades. In the main centre of Ermouli the streets are literally paved with marble and the neighbour hood of Vaporia has grand Venetian houses dating from the era when Ermouli was the ship building centre of the Adriatic. Its a busy place spot but has a quayside mooring to die for. Just back up to the quay and drop your gangplank at any cafe that takes your fancy. Wait staff will bring your coffee and croissant to the boat. Its a lollygaggers paradise.
Our sea legs are so well developed by the time that the Albatross gets a sniff of home port that we are reluctant to leave her. The exceptional Radu and Adrianna have another charter to organise and we have other fish to fry.
Something has come adrift with the legs I use for landlubbering. The quay is too stable and I’m feeling queasy.
The Albatross is owned and exclusively operated by Radu and Adriana of Bluewater Sailing based in Athens http://www.sailboatchartergreece.com/