x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Island hopping: the sequel

Travelling with kids: There are lots of small children and tiresome teens but no other babies on the 7.25am ferry from Athens to the island of Naxos, a four-hour journey away.

There are lots of small children and tiresome teens but no other babies on the 7.25am ferry from Athens to the island of Naxos, a four-hour journey away. Waiting quayside at the harbour of Piraeus, surrounded by huge ships, I'm feeling too amazed at having made it - awake, dressed, washed, fed, and taxied by 6.30am - to wonder how we are actually going to get aboard the Blue Star Naxos. As the steel ramp is lowered to allow vehicles and pedestrians to embark, and a crush of people surge forward, baby and I are swept along, husband, manfully grappling with two enormous suitcases on tiny wheels, behind.

Up the ramp, baby safely strapped into her car seat which is clipped into the pushchair, we smoothly trundle onto the car deck. So far so very familiar: I'd discovered the joys of Greek island hopping, on and off ferry after ferry, one summer 16 years ago. My husband (then boyfriend) and I, equipped with backpacks and straw sun hats, had lazed on wooden benches on deck, read books and admired the changing landscape. Looking back, I now think of that holiday as 'Island Hopping Part One: The Carefree Years' and wonder if this trip will ever be as relaxing.

This morning's odyssey feels rather different. For a start, there is a purser in a smart uniform ready to take pity on a harassed-looking mother stupid enough to bring a pushchair aboard. I think that I am wearing my unflappable, ready-for-any-adventure face but, whatever, I'm clearly in everyone else's way so he picks up the front of baby's carriage and helps me up the escalator. Escalator? Greek ferries have obviously become a bit more swish, or just a bit more grown up like me.

The helpful man leaves us in the lounge area where there are airplane-style seats and a flat-screen television. I look around for husband, who's still trailing and toiling. Being uptight northern Europeans, we had to keep all our belongings with us rather than making life easy and dumping the suitcases in the locker downstairs.

It then becomes clear that travelling with me, rather than baby, will be today's challenge. Capable of succumbing to sea-sickness, even on a battleship-sized boat on the smoothest seas, I have to sit outside buffeted by fresh air. So we all have to sit outside. Greece being Greece, that's also where the many smokers take refuge as well as passengers seeking sunshine and glorious views. We finally manage to find seats away from smoke, bright sunshine, wind and sea spray (not easy), right next to a group of backpacking 20-somethings, who make me feel wistful. And very old.

Baby in the meantime is chortling happily. There's so much to see that she's quickly exhausted and falls asleep in my arms. Her parents are left to enjoy a rather expensive coffee and spanakopita (spinach and feta pie). Truth be told, as the sun dances on the water, today hasn't actually been all that difficult.