Friday, 1 June 2012

Bari and the ferry to Greece

Took the highway route this morning to the port town of Bari. The ferry port was well signposted and we easily found the ticket office for Superfast Ferries. All cabins for the 10 hour overnight voyage to Igoumenitsa in Greece are booked so we have had to settle for aircraft type seats in the lounge.

Locked our jackets and boots in the Pacsafe and went for a walk into town as we have 5 hours to kill before boarding. For anyone who doesn’t know what a Pacsafe is they look like this.

They are made of stainless steel mesh. The weakest point is probably the padlock which could be broken open with bolt cutters but it’s enough to deter opportunist thieves. I have put the cable through the front wheel to secure it.
The part of town near the port is not what we expected. Nice cafes, clean and very pleasant alleyways with a maze of 4 story apartment blocks that look as if they have been standing for centuries but are in very good condition, several churches tucked away, piazzas and a 11th century castle build by Roger the Norman. Again the castle has been renovated/modernised and turned into a museum. The extensive modernisation works were probably inevitable in this case because in previous centuries it was used as a prison and a barracks, so the alterations no doubt went beyond the point of no return.

That's me having a post-lunch nap
Some last comments on our time in southern Italy: people are very friendly and keen to practice their English on us, good drivers who are very considerate to motorcyclists and unpredictable foreigners who appear to be lost, good food and house wines at very reasonable prices, not a great selection of dishes for vegetarians, hotels and B&Bs difficult to find in country towns and villages (unlike northern Italy where a few years ago they were everywhere), coffee/cafĂ©  culture is very strong. Generally we preferred Corsica and northern Sardinia which have all the best aspects of Italy without the dirt, congestion and chaos of the city areas.
When we rode on board the boat we discovered that they don’t tie the bikes down. That is the responsibility of the rider. Searched around and found an abandoned tie down and a piece of rope and did the best job I could. Tomorrow morning we’ll see if it worked though I had great difficulty finding somewhere to tie down to. Then headed for the reception desk to enquire whether there was any possibility of getting a cabin in the event of a no show. Had to wait to see the purser who was dealing with a couple of unhappy passengers who had got to him before me.  When it came to my turn I walked in with a big smile, wished him good evening in Italian and asked in English whether there was any possibility of getting a cabin. He smiled back and said yes but they are very expensive. After a few jokes about oldies and only being able to afford to travel on a motorbike he managed to discount it about 50% to 124 euros. When I said I would have to get the approval of the Minister for Finance he thought that was hilarious and when I returned he said he would upgrade us at the same price to a deluxe external cabin with a window. It just goes to show what a smile and a crap attempt to speak the language can do. He even got a porter to take our stuff to our room.

Excellent meal for dinner. Pork tenderloin stuffed with blue cheese and herbs and stuffed peppers. Gail had the stuffed peppers with rice with a tomato based sauce. Tried Greek draught beer and a bottle of retsina which smells to me a bit too much like citrus floor cleaner but tastes fine. Tonight we have to plan our route for tomorrow which will be fun as we have only an Italian map of Greece and the names of the towns are in Italian.

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