I have a thing about ferries, I love travelling by ferry. I like the view of land from the sea. Ferries are sturdy, boats seem to flimsy for huge seas and cruise liners are just too big and brash. As a child my first trip aboard was day trip to France. Dover to Boulogne. I don’t mind flying but taking off and landing make me nervous. A ferry slips away from the port with no effort and I like watching the land disappear from view. Ferries allow for wandering around, that trains and planes and other types of travel don’t offer. I love how all the bottles in the duty-free shop clink together as the ferry moves. Most of my day trips to France revolved around hyper-markets and the importance of returning with cheese and a French stick and later the cheapest available wine.
I’ve taken the ferry many times to France and to Ireland and Amsterdam. I’ve taken iconic ferries across the harbour in Sydney, the Star ferry in Hong Kong and the Staten Island ferry in NYC, those places look amazing from the comfort of a ferry, stretching out above the water. All the images I’d seen pre-trip coming to life in front of me. My favourite ferry journeys are the ones of my youth from Athens and between various Greek islands. Sleeping on decks, bums on slatted wooden benches, feet on back packs. Watching the sky and the calm blue Aegean sea. Ferries crowded with back packers heading to sun drenched Greek islands. The ferry journey out laden with promises of the experience ahead. The return trips; very tired and still laughing at holiday moments, new friends made, romances, long nights out and in my case sun burn. My friends and I loved Ios, accessible only by ferry, 8 hours from Athens. Each summer it’s narrow white streets became crowded with youths. On my first visit I was delighted to discover that, locals apart, it appeared to be populated entirely by under 25s. That such holiday destinations existed was a youthful revelation and I became a fan returning again and again.
Ios was essentially a small village around the port. The island is small and largely barren. The village (was) picture perfect Greek island. White buildings, tiny doomed churches and narrow winding streets all caught together in a knot beside the port, with a few other bars and buildings strung along the beach. I remember all the ‘discos’ being a walk from the village, I guess because of the noise.
The docking ferry was met by various local older ladies each offering cheap rooms. We’d stay in absolutely basic rooms, two beds and a shared shower. We had more important things to spend out money on; toasted cheese sandwiches in the beach side bar, beer and pink panther cocktails (which smelt like paraffin) and of course entry to the obligatory ‘disco’.
to quote from my diary (I think this was my third visit).
Ios 17th September (I didn’t bother to record the year and I am too old now to work it out)
“Am so hacked off. Lay on the beach all day and face is really red, panda rings on a massive scale. Also a big red botch on my shin and various other red patches. What am I going to wear now? Every one else is really brown.
Was so careful yesterday on the boat I really thought I was onto a good thing”.
I would add that I have pale sensitive skin that never tans. The ‘good thing’ was an impossible dream. I can’t share most of the diary, it veers between extremely dull (“sat on the beach. Ate cheese toasties”) and very uncomfortable; ‘holiday romances’ (i’m using the term in it’s widest possible sense) and irresponsibility; swimming at night, abandoning friends in bars, walking back late at night along dark roads. The naivety of youth. The diary for this trip is that it repeatedly mentions someone called Karen. Karen, it seems, was mostly ill. I suspect Karen took this photo of my friend Marie and I about to board the ferry. I have no photos of Karen and now can’t actually remember who Karen was. Whatever happened to Karen?