“Canadian Coffee” and other Andros Adventures

Here we are back in Greece . . . on one of the prettiest and greenest of the Greek Islands.  Andros is the northern-most island in the ‘Cyclades’ group, second only in size to Naxos.  It is about 37 kilometres long and almost 17 kilometres wide, lying in a northwest to southeast orientation in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey.  I’ve mentioned it before, but they are called the ‘Cyclades’ from the Greek word  κύκλος , or kyklos, meaning circle.  This group of islands formed a circle around the sacred island of Delos in ancient times.

Most of the Cycladic islands are fairly rugged and dry, but they call Andros “The Island of Waters and Dreams”.  It has mountains, gorges, rivers, gushing freshwater springs, waterfalls and beautiful plant-life. 

For years, we had by-passed Andros as the ferry stopped only briefly there on the way to Tinos, Mykonos and other Cycladic islands.  The first time we travelled to Tinos, we took the long way around from Pireaus, stopping briefly at Syros, then continuing to Tinos.  A few years later, we discovered the Athens/Rafina route, where we flew into Athens, took a free transfer from the Athens airport to the port of Rafina.  This made things much easier, and the Avra Hotel in Rafina was a nice break.  The last time we came this way, the Avra Hotel had been shut down, then reopened under new management, so there were a lot of renovations going on.  On this trip, our friend Sheila decided to join us.  Sheila is a wonderful artist, who had visited  Greece years before on a painting trip and was looking to reignite those memories of Greece.  Also joining us at Rafina was my niece Jackie and her husband Martyn from the UK.  It is relatively easy for them to fly down from England, so they try to join us each time we manage to get ‘across the pond’ from Canada to Europe.

So there we were, five ‘tourists’, enjoying the ferry trip from Rafina to Andros.  Before long (after a beer or two), we arrived at Gavrio, the first port of Andros. We disembarked, and the ferry left almost immediately.  Greek ferries do not spend a lot of time after they unload their passengers.  It’s just in . . . unload (and usually load at the same time), then off they go! 

It was here we rented a car for our stay on the island.  I also visited the ‘To Logari’ bookstore, a little place run by a young couple who, a few months ago, had sent me a couple of travel books on Andros.  Our next stop was our hotel in the beach village of Batsi, and our Hotel ‘Chryssi Akti’.  This means Golden Coast or Golden Beach, both names very appropriate for this little place.  It was located just on the north end of the town of Batsi, right on the beach (across the street) and had lovely rooms, great breakfasts, a pool, and good prices.

Across from the beach Author Ian Kent
Across from the beach

The short walk into the main part of the village was strewn with restaurants, tavernas and various bistros to provide a choice of food.  We tried several, returning to many during our stay there. One thing you can count on in Greece . . . especially the islands . . . is there is always some fisherman with an old ‘Caique’ or owner of a motor boat who is in business taking tourists out for a cruise around the islands.  Remember the movie ‘Shirley Valentine’? (one of my favourites) . . . that was on Mykonos, but the same scenario happens in all the islands.

Captain and Crew - Author Ian Kent
Captain and Crew

So not long after we arrived, Martyn had sourced out a man who could take us for a cruise around and along the coast of the island, to see some of its natural beauty.  So we booked the trip, looking forward to seeing the coastline from a small boat.

Our ‘Andros Cruise author Ian Kent
Our ‘Andros Cruise

These short island circumnavigations are always a treat, fresh air, great scenery, and usually some interesting and informative commentary about the island, and its history.  This was no exception, a couple of hours of delightful cruising in a small boat, while the captain pointed out various items of interest along the shoreline.

Before long, we were back on shore, looking for a good place for lunch.  Returning to Batsi, we picked a nice looking taverna/restaurant overlooking the bay, and with a couple of beers and a flask of retsina, we enjoyed another Greek lunch.  I ordered one of my favourites, chicken souvlaki, and was surprised when it arrived.  Rather than a couple of straight skewers holding the meat, they had strung large pieces of chicken on a semi-circular stainless steel skewer, and laid in on the plate among the rest of the meal.  We were all surprised, never having seen this style before.  Needless to say, it was delicious and very filling, as the pieces of chicken were very large.

A Big Souvlaki Author Ian Kent
A Big Souvlaki

Every once in a while, I have to blow my horn and boast about how lucky I am to have such a wonderful travel buddy.  Here’s a photo of Diana, my Greek ‘wannabe’.

Diana, my Greek ‘wannabe’ Author Ian Kent
Diana, my Greek ‘wannabe’

A day or so later, we had dinner at another beach taverna in Batsi.  This time, Sheila ordered a pork chop, which was on special that day.  Normally, Greeks use a fair amount of chicken and pork, and they are both tender and delicious.  When Sheila’s pork chop arrived, it was huge!  When she tried to eat it . . . it was impossible!  This huge chop must have been a reject from the shoe leather factory, because Sheila had trouble cutting it, and found it impossible to chew!  Needless to say, it was sent back, and something else was ordered.  The waiter/owner was quite embarrassed and tried his best to satisfy us, but Sheila never did recover.

Sheila’s big pork chop! Author Ian Kent
Sheila’s big pork chop!

One of our best times of the day when we travel, is when we get together in the evening, usually on a patio or lounge area, kissed by a warm, gentle breeze off the Aegean, and we all get to review our day and compare notes.  Usually, this includes a beer, glass of wine, or some other beverage.  One evening while we were sitting around enjoying the ambiance, somebody suggested “I’d really like one of those special coffees!”  Our waiter, Chris, was not sure what we wanted, so I volunteered to give him a training course on ‘special coffees’.  We went back to his little corner behind the bar, and off the top of my head, I started telling him what to put into this coffee.  I am not a bartender, but I had a rough idea what we should include.  Of course, Chris, the young Greek bartender accepted my word as ‘expert’, and followed every suggestion.  I thought “OK, we’ll start with a shot of espresso . . . so much for the coffee part!  Then . . . how about one or two shots of Grand Marnier, then some Bailey’s to smooth it out.  We tried several different combinations that evening, eventually arriving at a wonderful concoction that everyone enjoyed immensely! Our bartender/waiter was right into the experimenting part of the exercise . . . which ended up with a delicious (and potent) blend we called ‘Canadian Coffee’.  There was not enough ‘coffee’ in the drink to keep anyone awake, because there was enough other components to sedate even the most serious insomniac.

Yet another delightful Greek evening . . . we all hoped our bartender would remember the recipe for the subsequent evenings for our ‘Canadian Coffee’.

During this trip to Greece, stylized owls were a popular theme in many of the tourist items.  We loved most of them and bought various tea-towels, cushion covers and other items with cute little owls on them.

Greek owls (koo-koo-vaya) Author Ian Kent
Greek owls (koo-koo-vaya)

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