Idyllic Aegean With LOUIS CRISTAL, Part Two

Peter Knego continues a scenic and immersive week on board Louis Cruises LOUIS CRISTAL visiting the less traveled Greek Islands on one of the ship’s new “Idyllic” itineraries. Part two features visits to magical Milos, an excursion from the port of Lavrion to Sounion, an evening in Syros and some Turkish Aegean delight.

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2014.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

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MV LOUIS CRISTAL at Adamandas, Milos.

Magical Milos! As our press group longingly gazed into the crystal blue persuasion of Samos on the prior day, we were assured that Milos’ stunningly blue waters would be even more alluring. So, when we clambered down into the tender for our full day excursion shortly after LOUIS CRISTAL anchored in Milos’ harbor of Adamandas, we were armed with sun block, towels and bathing attire.

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Milos cicada in camouflage.

First, we had to “earn” that swim with a stop at Milos’ unique catacombs, where we could barely hear our guide over the eerie, sci-fi buzzing of thousands of cicadas.

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Milos catacombs.

The catacombs are believed to date from between the First and Fifth Century and are possibly even older than those of Rome. The eerily lit caverns were dug by hand as a burial site but later used as a place of worship and subsequently a hideout from latter day Roman persecution. Some 2,000 Christians are believed to have been buried here in graves up to seven deep and much of the site remains un-excavated.

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Venus de Milo’s origins.

Not far from the catacombs, near the village of Tripti, the famed Venus de Milo was excavated from a pile of Roman ruins on 8 April 1820 by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas. Our guide shared that the missing arm is probably a short dig away from a marker indicating where the statue was discovered but only the Greek authorities are allowed to dig there and they have neither the money nor the interest in pursuing the missing limb.

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Bay of Milos and the Roman Amphitheater.

There was no time to visit the Roman amphitheater down the hill but we did get a chance to take in the spectacular view of Milos Bay from the rugged peninsula. Milos, like Santorini, is a volcanic island and its sheltered harbor was formed much like the more famous island’s caldera by the collapse of a giant volcano.

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Provatas Beach.

Our next stop was across the island at Provatas Beach, whose golden sand and clear waters are surrounded by orange and red lava formations that give Milos its nickname “Island of Colors”.

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APHRODITE OF MILOS.

At Provatas, we boarded a skiff for a short ride to the APHRODITE OF MILOS, a 40-foot sailing yacht that would whisk us along the island’s protected southern coastline underneath a backdrop of dramatic white cliffs and craggy caves.

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Cliffs at Kleftiko.

Photos don’t do Kleftiko justice. Its magnificent formations and radiant waters seem beyond the realm of ordinary cameras.

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Pirates’ setting, Kleftiko.

Our guide shared that pirates were drawn to this cove, not only for its sheltered waters but for its hidden network of caves.

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Kleftiko sea tunnel.

Our time in the water was all-too-brief before the mighty APHRODITE returned us to Provatas. En route, we enjoyed the salty breeze and a smorgasbord of locally grown tomatoes and watermelon, as well as cheeses, olives and bread.

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Vegetables of Milos.

Our next stop was a seafood restaurant at Pollonia on the other end of the island, where we were lavished with huge platters of local delights. Even before the coveted sardines, calimari and shellfish arrived, I was sated with a meze of vegetables, hummus and mounds of roasted, garlic-infused eggplant.

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LOUIS CRISTAL at Milos.

Stuffed to the gills, we arrived at the tender landing at Adamandas for the last launch to the ship.

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Amalthia Restaurant private dining area, facing forward.

Once aboard, we barely had time to freshen up before another feast awaited. Executive Chef Ioannis had arranged a special cooking demonstration in the private nook just forward of the Amalthia Restaurant.

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“More wine, more garlic, more olive oil!”

Even in our engorged state, the sizzling aromas were mouthwatering as Ioannis conjured up a fresh paella with locally sourced seafood.

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Drizzled in honey…

It would take weeks to undo all the calories ingested in this magical day. But the gods of gluttony and indulgence weren’t finished until we polished off a tray of crispy baklava and other Greek confections.

Monday, July 21, 2014

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Megayacht at Lavrion.

LOUIS CRISTAL berthed at Lavrion, the main port east of Athens, in the early AM. The Idyllic itinerary is structured so that locals who only have the weekend to escape can board in Piraeus on Friday and disembark early enough on Monday at Lavrion to get to work. Guests booked for the full seven days could relax and enjoy the ship here or do as we did and head out on a morning excursion to nearby Sounion. Located some forty five miles from Athens, the region is now a popular resort destination and upscale community.

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Temple of Poseidon, Sounion.

Sounion is the southernmost point in Attica, the northern, continental portion of Greece. A magnificent temple dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea (and earthquakes) was built atop its peninsula, offering a spectacular and strategic view of the nearby Cycladic islands and the coastline of the Athens region.

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Full temple view.

The temple of Poseidon was constructed atop the ruins of a prior temple in 444-440 BC in a setting 200 feet above the sea. It was sacked in AD 399 but 15 of its original 34 Doric columns remain. Lord Byron was so taken by the place, he “tagged” his name on one of its eastern columns.

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Aegis’ leap.

According to Greek legend, the Aegean Sea was named for Athens’ King Aegis, who leapt from the cliffs of Sounion to his death out of despair when he mistakenly thought his son Theseus was killed in a battle with the Cretan Minotaur. That’s the truncated version, anyway…

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Sounion setting.

After our tour, there was time for a cherished cappuccino and a chance to savor the view.

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CRISTAL versus the Meltemi.
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Stern in the blue.

LOUIS CRISTAL departed that afternoon on a southerly course for Syros, which is in the cluster of Cycladic islands that includes Mykonos, Tinos and Delos. The Meltemi winds were up and roaring but LOUIS CRISTAL took it all in stride.

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Approaching Syros.

Syros has a bit of everything: A wonderful waterfront town (Ermopouli or “City of Hermes”) with boutiques and cafes, towering cathedrals, steep hills lined in white stucco homes, Neo-Classical villas and the massive Neorion shipyard that rivals those on the mainland.

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Holy reflections.
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Christ in the cupola.

Shortly after LOUIS CRISTAL berthed, we were off on a guided walking tour, past hotels and apartments, to St. George’s Cathedral, which dates to 1200 AD. In subsequent centuries, it was sacked and rebuilt, most recently in 1832.

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The lion sleeps…

Because of Syros strategic location as a stop for sailing ships, Ermoupoli became the leading port of Greece in the mid-19th Century. The town was rebuilt in a Neo-Classical style with the input of some of Europe’s leading architects.

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MV LOUIS CRISTAL at Syros.

When sail gave way to stem in the late 1800s, Syros was no longer an essential pit stop for trading vessels. A long, slow decline followed as it was ultimately by-passed for Piraeus.

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Alight at Syros.

We spent the evening on the other side of the island at the village of Kini, indulging in yet another feast by the sea at the Ailou Yialou restaurant before returning to the ship.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Alacati, Turkey.

For those only doing the four day portion of the Idyllic itinerary, the Turkish port of Cesme is ideal for excursions to Ephesus or Izmir. And for those taking the full week (most having already visited Ephesus on Saturday’s Kusadasi call), Cesme has other things to offer, including an excursion to the resort town of Alacati with its numerous cafes and shops.

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Sole Y Mare.

The lion’s share of our morning would be spent at the Sole Y Mare club, where sun loungers vied with the hypnotic blue Aegean waters. After dark, this idyll of sun and sea worship becomes one of the region’s most popular night clubs.

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Cooking demonstration.

Shortly after the LOUIS CRISTAL cast her lines from Cesme and made course for Bodrum (note, in 2015, Bodrum will be dropped in favor of spending a full day at Cesme), a cooking demonstration was held in the Muses Showroom by top Greek chef Parthenia Ismirnoglu, featuring stuffed eggplant and dolmas (grape leaves).

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Sunset wake.

Following dinner, I was too spent to join my comrades on a night tour of the lovely hamlet of Bodrum, where LOUIS CRISTAL would be overnighting before sailing off to the nearby island of Kos, another less-frequented jewel of the Aegean, at dawn.

End of Idyllic Aegean With The LOUIS CRISTAL, Part Two…

Special thanks: Nicholas Filippides, Marlene Oliver

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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