I arrived back into Igoumenitsa at about 0930, having left Corfu on the early morning ferry an hour before. It’s easy to forget that these ferries are more than a tourist amenity -my sailing was full of lorries and cars, mopeds and commuters and everyday Greeks moving around for work and trade and business. Although this ferry charged a fare, it was only five euros each way and so was obviously heavily subsidised. Some of the smaller ferries elsewhere were free and were clearly just a vital part of the infrastructure .
In any case it felt like a pretty cool way to get around, and of course no one batted an eyelid about the bike. I’m not saying it was always easy manoeuvring the bike around but there was no resistance to it, no sharp intakes of breath, no “you’re not coming on mate” and no “designed in” features seemingly existing for the sole purpose of making life difficult. It was refreshing and something I’ll miss when I’m back home .
So my first day of riding in Greece started nicely and the day stayed that way. It was hot hot hot and the first hill dragged on a bit, but I’d taken the decision to stick to a main road all the way to Parga about thirty miles down the coast, rather than dive off into the olive groves and back streets as suggested by the routing app. The main roads were really quiet, wide and smooth and were great to ride on. Greek drivers were seemingly taking part in National Bust A Stereotype Day and were literally without exception patient, courteous and really bike aware. It was a real pleasure.
I’d chosen Parga because it was a rideable distance away and seemed to have lots of available accommodation, ticking the two main boxes of route planning . I knew nothing else about it .There was no through road to the town though,meaning I was going to have to come back up this steep long downhill in the morning .
It was an absolute delight . A small mainland town that looked like one of the Greek islands,with houses tumbling down to a harbour and a prom lined with restaurants and bars. It was the first purely tourist place I’d come across and far from being tacky and overcrowded, it was really lovely.
I even did that cliched thing and took a swim in the sea, fully clothed in cycling kit (giving it a sneaky rinse out at the same time of course 👌) getting out of the water like Daniel Craig in my mind but in reality more like Daniel Lambert (niche Leicester reference there ) and had a cold beer while I dried out .
I later found out that Parga is a TUI package holiday destination which explained the accents I was hearing . It certainly had a holiday feel to the place .
My accommodation was right on the harbour front and was a really charming family owned B&B ( Pansion Nikos Vergos) . A benefit of travelling out of peak season was the ready availability of these places, being able to book on the day or even just turning up, and costing a fraction of what they would charge a few weeks earlier-I was operating firmly in the 35 Euro a night bracket with no problem.
When I got back to the hotel later, the owners little kids were playing near my bike in the foyer (the usual overnight resting place) and he mistook my concern about the bike falling on top of them with irritation that they were near it . We cleared that up with a smile and then he asked if the kids could have a photo sitting on the “Englishman’s bike” ! They looked tiny, like on those photos of adults on elephants, too little to even reach the handlebars so Dad had to stand next to them, beaming away . The next morning he gave me a Greek flag to stick in my bags and the kids waved me off with a shy and rehearsed “bye bye mister “. I was loving Greece already ….