I was prompted to write this article by the inclusion of a photograph of the ship ‘Australis’ in Part 121 of Adelaide Goater’s Journal ‘Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford’, published on this site by her Grandson, Rick Goater, on 12th. April 2020 … Thank you Rick!
A couple are from my own meagre collection.
Day 3 – we are about to enter Piraeus, the very old port for Athens, and Greece as a whole.
Apart from several trips to The Isle Of Wight, and a 72 hour Company ‘flying’ visit to Paris from Gatwick in 1965, none of us had ever been ‘abroad’ before … how would we handle a foreign language, and indeed ‘foreigners’ to boot?
After docking, we went to the pursers office and changed a few pounds for Greek drachma … the exchange rate at that time was 83 drachmas to the pound (1 drachma roughly = to 3d) and then, not without a slight feeling of trepidation, Di, Martyn, Valerie, Timothy and myself headed for Piraeus railway station to go in to Athens (3 year old Miranda remained aboard with a couple from our meal table, Neil and Agnes).
Trip to Athens
Our trip into Athens started off well, discovering that station names and destination boards displayed on the platform were in English as well as Greek, and the lady at the ticket office understood ‘Athens’, although not English as such, so we paid our drachma, with her help, and we were on our way.
About 2 stations out of Piraeus however, Timothy decided he did not like something he had eaten, and thought the carriage floor was about the best place for it, thereby creating a Grecian hubub of, to us anyway, unintelligible language and gestures. A hasty decision was made for Di and Timothy to alight at the next station and return to the ship, whilst the rest of us would continue to Athens, albeit positioned further up the train.
The main train station in Athens, is below ground at Omonia Square, a large, pedestrianised paved square, with traffic and shops around its perimeter.
Our visit to Athens was a short one, as I think we all felt we should return to the ship a.s.a.p., so it was up to the surface, a brief look around the immediate part of the square, a purchase of some sweets for the kids from a Greek street vendor and then down below again to the train back to Piraeus. I guess you could say ‘we did Athens in about 30 minutes flat’. On our return, we were told that Timothy had made a ‘miraculous recovery’ without any further displays.
The following day the ‘Australis’ was in port all day, refuelling and taking on water, provisions and whatever else a ship does in her home port, including a change of crew and lots and lots of Greek immigrants.
Our time was spent to advantage by way of an organised coach trip to the Acropolis for a close-up encounter with the Parthenon. It felt strange that we were here, effectively, in a bygone age …
It was a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting day, part of the return trip being spent driving round Athens.
Have to say, although only a few days have passed since leaving Blighty, with all the Greek food, although very nice, we already miss our fish and chips from King’s Court Fisheries in Winchester Road, Fryern Hill in Chandler’s Ford.
Kids asleep, time to slip out to the ballroom and enjoy the splendour of that area (as well as the dancing) …
Music good, dancing good, all round company good, topped off with a sip or two in the cocktail lounge, then a cup of coffee and off to bed …
Next stop Port Said, at the northern end of the Suez Canal, which, luckily for us, was open to shipping. The Canal had been closed to shipping due to conflicts in the area from 1956 to 1957 (and again in 1967, but we had passed through by then).
We had booked a tour of Cairo, The Pyramids and Sphinx, with an overnight stay in a very nice hotel in the centre of Cairo (whose name I have forgotten), whilst the ‘Australis’ went through the Suez Canal. Our experience of Suez was restricted to the floating pontoon walkway to the quayside and a drive through the streets to the desert, and on to Cairo in one of two lovely, luxury class, Mercedes coaches.
At the Hotel in Cairo, we experienced yet another first in our lives … at Dinner, Di and I both ordered ‘Escargots’, a dish consisting of cooked edible land snails. They were served as an hors d’oeuvre and they are consumed by mainly French people, but also people in Germany,
England, Italy, Portugal, Sardinia, Spain, and, in more recent years, Australia. I have to say, we enjoyed them, but we have never had them since !
The following morning, it was off into Cairo with our guide, to visit a very busy bazaar, a perfume shop and The Egyptian Museum, home to the most extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world. It has 136,000 items on display, with many more hundreds of thousands in its basement storerooms. Among its most famous collections on display, are the finds from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Next, it’s off to the Pyramids of Cheops (Giza) and the Sphinx … at the time of our visit in 1966, this required a drive by coach to a vehicle enclosure and then a ride by camel (Di’s choice) or horse (my choice) for adults, or donkey and cart for the kids, to reach the Pyramids … Today, Cairo is built-up to the point the city now virtually ‘touches’ the Pyramids, and you can drive all the way.
“I have been to the Pyramids”
I can truthfully say I have been to the Pyramids, and I can truthfully say I have been inside the Great Pyramid, but … about 20 feet inside and climbing upwards, I became so claustrophobic, I had to get out very quickly for fear of passing out, and, I might add, followed very closely by 3 kids ! … I guess it was the total lack of air, rather than being enclosed, because although I have been in many caves, I have never experienced the same feeling before, or since.
We were to rejoin the ‘Australis’ at the southern end of the Canal, at Suez. The trip was uneventful, with basically only sand to see, and the very occasional vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.
On our arrival at the quayside at Suez, we were a little surprised to find there was no sign of the ‘Australis’, or indeed very few other ships. After a short wait, a ship appeared, but it was not ours … and then another, this time the Italian Migrant Marconi, a big modern vessel, and then, at last, the ‘Australis’.
The next thing, we (about 20 of us) were herded on to a small craft and we started heading out in to the Canal. Surely we weren’t expected to board a moving vessel out in a choppy canal, but, yes, that was the name of the game, because as the ‘Australis’ got closer, still travelling, it seemed, much too fast for our little boat to keep up, we saw a gangway being lowered from a hole about halfway up the starboard side of the ship.
The ‘Australis’ slowed, but did not stop, and the transfer of passengers actually went without a hitch, but it was not an enjoyable experience, and very frightening for the kids (as well as adults, I might add), although I guess they were not aware of any sense of danger.
Safely back on board, it was ‘A stiff Brandy’ time, but we made do with a coffee, and lemonade for the ankle biters.
Next stop Aden!
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