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Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Pull of the Peloponnese



The Pull of the Peloponnese: Summer trip to Mainland Greece 2012  

In dark November, when the days are short, we get to thinking of sunshine and travelling……………Pete gets twitchy round the ferry booking sites on the computer wondering why they don’t load their schedules sooner……and we browse through pictures of sunnier days. It’s then we talk about places we’d like to go and invariably, because we are creatures of habit, our thoughts turn to the lovely times we have in Greece……and feel the pull of the Peloponnese. So here we go again.......

Day 1 .
It’s pouring with rain and cold- who wouldn’t leave this all behind if they had the chance? We were due to leave this morning and had slept in the van overnight ready for an early departure when a last minute trip to the cellar revealed water rising down there. We’d just got claims sorted from the last flood, replaced the fridge, freezer and tools and the water was rising rapidly again. We got a neighbour’s pump and the Council guys came out to try to clear the blocked drain that seems to be causing the problem but they didn’t manage to do it. We got all the water out but left the pump in situ in case it started rising again.
Friends offered help ( again- bless you!)  but we decided not to leave till tomorrow. Chris and Colin our neighbours came round- their cellar had flooded last time but not this so we are convinced about the blocked drain.

Southsea


Southsea Beach
Day 2 Southsea                      
Everything remained dry in the cellar so we made an early start to Southsea for friend Andy’s 60th birthday party. We saw another friend drive past on the way down so we stayed together and got to the campsite. It’s not a place we would choose to stay again having stayed here before, but it’s very convenient for Andy and Carol’s house. There are lads in tents, families in statics, people on seasonal pitches, workmen in vans as well as top of the range coachbuilts and demountables……all having to splash about on the puddled gravel . The graffiti on the back of the toilet doors and the run down feel of the place doesn’t appeal much and although the site prides itself on being next to the beach , a huge  grassy bank prevents any sea views- still it serves a purpose for us.



We popped round to Andy and Carol’s for a couple of hours before returning to the site for showers ( I had to hold the button in all the time as it wouldn’t stay on at all) and a change of clothes. We got taxis to the Still and West pub on the Portsmouth harbour front and went into the Vanguard room upstairs. ( so called because HMS Vanguard ran aground there – Pete’s dad was in the crew of the Vanguard during the Royal Tour to South Africa- George Vth and his Queen…….) The restaurant upstairs has fabulous views over the harbour and we loved watching all the boats and ferries to the Isle of Wight come close.  We met lots of friends and had a great time, helped by the really good beer and fish and chips  served in paper.

Day 3 Dover
It was sunny! Blinking at the unaccustomed sight of sunshine, we had breakfast then left the van in the car park while we walked up to Andy’s for lunch. Lots of people came who we hadn’t had time to talk to the night before and we ate in Carol’s beautiful courtyard garden where the different jasmines smelled fantastic. We left to go to Dover, picking up some diesel at Morrison’s at Horndean on the way out of Portsmouth. We parked on Marine Drive where we were joined later by other motorhomes though I searched in vain for a public loo. We had an early night.

Day 4  Stenay France
We went to the port early – and got pulled in for a van search! It’s never happened this side of the Channel before. The guy wanted to see the cutlery drawer and asked if we were carrying knives ( well how else am I going to cut things up?) guns or weapons (!)  He was good-humoured and it only took a minute or two then we were off to queue for embarkation on an earlier ferry than planned. We had a bacon sandwich and had just cleared up when we were called on. The ferry was awash with schoolkids. They were everywhere. I pondered about taking young kids abroad in groups especially from past experience and listening to some of the conversations of the ten and eleven year olds around me…….’are we on a ferry then?’ ‘ are we up France yet?’ The older ones made me smile as they eyed each other up………….However Miss Mardypants ( me) wasn’t too enamoured of the huge din  so many voices make or the lack of spatial awareness- how come they always bump into/ fall against me? We moved from our comfy seats only to find that there was nowhere for old grumps to read the papers in peace and to make matters worse, the queue for coffee didn’t ever get smaller!  We headed for the relative quiet of the Duty free shop where buying gin had a soothing effect.


Stenay
We had a change of route this year heading along the A16 towards Dunkirk then heading for Lille.  We had a necessary coffee stop then tootled down the motorway joining our usual route at Cambrai. This is a lovely drive so the ‘Mavericks’ went on the stereo played loudly to get us into holiday mood. We headed towards Charlesville Mezieres and stopped at a picnic spot in the woods just after Le Nouvion but sadly the ‘frites’ (chips) van wasn’t there so we had a healthy salad instead while watching a family with seven children having lunch. They had a minibus and trailer with 9 bikes on a frame over the top of the trailer.  You’d need to be organised with such a big family and it seemed they were but as usual there was always one being a bit naughty………..memories of French lessons at school came back as the mother said  ‘ You’re driving me mad’ ! Did Madame Emerson say it so often that it’s really clear in my mind? 
We got to the Port du Plaisance in Stenay just as a huge downpour happened but we waited two minutes till it stopped and went into the office where three older ladies were sitting doing crosstitch and chatting.  We had a little chat and a giggle as I paid my seven euros, the same as last year, and got the key code for the toilets and the gate. We drove over the bridge into the aire and parked near the shower block. We had a walk along the river in the sunshine watching the swallows swoop, the fish jump and the ducks dabbling. It’s a popular aire with fishermen. We walked up into town to see what has happened to the Intermarche that used to be a good stocking up point but it’s completely closed so we carried on and just popped into the Lidl for a tub of cream for my spaghetti  though somehow two litres of wine, some apricots and peaches managed to find their way into my bag. I cooked some chicken livers with brandy and cream sauce and we enjoyed it as the walk had made us hungry. I messed about with the Kindle and it froze. I think it was because the battery was low but something else happened- when I charged it up, I could suddenly put text into Facebook which I couldn’t do before so that’s good as it’s a brilliant way to keep in touch without wifi. (Thanks to whoever it was who wrote on a motorhome website about Kindle 3G with keyboard being able to be used anywhere for free- it’s already proved a useful though slightly clumsy way of communicating)
the lettuce garden!













Stenay roundabout




Kayserberg Aire
Day 5 Kaysersberg France
nesting storks
We woke with the ringing of the bells but waited a while before going for a hot powerful shower. We went back round to the office and emptied waste and put on a bit of water before driving across to Longuyon. I messed about with the sat nav as I couldn’t  remember how we’d got to the petrol station in Luxembourg that was nearest but we found it at the beginning of the A13 for Metz. I missed a turn for Metz as I was still messing about trying to save the location L but we got back on the road fairly quickly. We stopped around Nancy at a wooded aire for lunch then drove over the Col and down into Kaysersberg parking down at the bottom of the aire next to a little park. It’s always a lovely scenic drive over the mountain to get there. We saw the usual storks nesting on a tower. The price of the stay there has changed- it’s usually 2 euros for the day and 4 euros for the night but now it’s 7 euros for 24 hours. However getting 7 euros in change proved to be tricky! We went to Intermarche and got some bits of shopping. I asked politely for change but the grumpy lady said no they didn’t give change. We went to buy ice creams- another treat here, but the helpful lady showed me her till- no euros. By putting small coins together with a 50 centimes piece we found in the van we managed to get the 7 euros together for a ticket. An English van was parked over the way and the guy came to talk to Pete while I cooked salmon and veg. I didn’t enjoy it and left most of it but I ate my strawberries!  Pete was very tired so he went to bed around 9.30pm.

Day 6 Fontanellato Italy.
on the road


Swiss rain
We had a big deep sleep not noticing the road noise or any vans coming and going. After tea and toast, we set off for LeClerc in Colmar to stock up on diesel and groceries. It’s on the road to Freiburg. A wide load was coming through when we turned left onto the road, so we waited for it to go through and the workmen putting the cones back so we could get past. Turning into LeClerc, there were guys painting white lines on the road so we had to do a nifty move to get in the car park. We set off towards Breisach to look at an alternative aire for the return journey- we didn’t see it because we were too busy looking at the Rhine. It was a nice drive down the German side, stopping at Bad Bellingen for a Swiss Vignette at 35 euros. It seemed easier to get through Basle from that direction and we went through border control without a stop. There were no queues for the Gotthard tunnel but there was a heavy downpour of rain going through Switzerland. 

 We stopped in the second services after the tunnel where there were no lorries at all- in fact there had been a ‘no lorries’ road sign flashing earlier. Where do they go?             We got round Milan fairly easily keeping in the middle lane as you never knew whether the nearside lane would take you off somewhere . We turned off at Fidenza heading for an area da sosta at Fontanellato which was deserted. 



The toilets were locked-  the same as last year- and some mucky Herbert had put plastic bottles down the loo dump making it unusable though the  waste dump on the ground now has a flushing mechanism.  I cooked supper while Pete had a rest in the evening sunshine and breeze. Next year we’ll park under the solar panel ‘sheds’ for early morning shade.
We put the memory foam mattress under the other mattress as it was hot there.

Day 7 Fano Italy

Just as we were going to empty the waste water, an Italian van pulled into the service area and we watched the guys seemingly squirting water into the van (surely not?) and water coming out of the bottom of the van so I’ve no idea what they were doing. Pete filled about four watering cans of water and put it on- enough for showers later.  We headed back to the Autostrada turning into Fidenza for fuel.  After a coffee stop south of Bologna we had a good run down to Fano. There are always road works as they are widening the road to three lanes and every year there’s a bit more done. The man in the toll booth gave me a huge beaming smile when I gave him some sweeties. It was a little bit cloudy when we parked on the site once again at the far left next to the bamboos. We had some salad and a little doze in the shade then we went across the road for a swim. I had my big sunhat on as the clouds had lifted but a good breeze kept the temperature bearable.  We bobbed about close to shore and there was more exposed pebble beach than last year. We lay about on huge flat rocks then the Italian man in the van next door to us came to tell us that the van alarm was going off. Pete hurried back and I followed – being fairly sure that the breeze had wafted the net curtains and that’s what had caused the alarm to go off. I cut up a small fruitcake and left it on the table next door as a thank you. We showered and read then had supper before going for an evening stroll along to Fano. We had a good time people watching! ( Katie – you would have loved it!)  There were the usual sellers of mega-tat ( torches, toys and  plastic  wind up cyclists going round in circles to the tune of ‘ the Lonely Goatherd’- cycling ‘Sound of Music’ fans would love that one I’m sure) , flower sellers, people eating out or just cycling or strolling having a chat as they did. We stopped to watch a beach tennis session- talk about energetic! We also watched a beach volleyball tournament, which was very fast and exciting to watch. We paused briefly at a huge community gazebo set up with music and chairs all round- where people were sitting watching an empty dance floor in the centre.  We did think we might be the first to have a go then we remembered a) Pete doesn’t dance unless he’s had a few to drink and it’s Irish music, Wishbone Ash or Bruce Springsteen and b) we’d have looked completely daft! Common sense prevailed over the alcohol .
Fano 

the new Taylormade bike cover
We had a nice cool night.

Day 8 Ferry to Patras
We left putting our 7 euros through a slot on the office door. It seems to take ages to get back to the Autostrada because of the roadworks which take you a roundabout route. We got to Ancona with only one little traffic queue and we checked in and got to the port queue with only one van in front of us. There were hardly any campervans unlike other years. Pete walked to ‘his’ bakery for bread, tomato pizza and biscuits and came back very hot. I sat still reading and writing my blog but it was hot hot hot.  We got to the port at 11am and didn’t get on till 2.30. I felt very sorry for groups of German young people coming off the ferry who had to stand around in the relentless heat waiting for their tour buses. It is a tedious hot wait and there’s no way you can get round it- is there? I thought it was time we were due a ‘window space’ on the boat and the deckhand motioned us behind a caravan- I was just about to be Miss Mardypants again when the guy gestured for us to reverse in to a space next to the open window! Perfect! So sitting on my own settee with a glass of cider over ice watching Ancona disappear, I was a very contented soul. Pete went walkabout but I wasn’t bothered as we’ve been on this ship- Hellenic Spirit several times. He came back to report that there were young people everywhere ( what? Again?) except the front lounge. 



a van with a view

Ancona



They were setting up speakers on deck by the pool for a party so people sleeping on the deck wouldn’t have had the quietest of nights. Pete had the idea of a take-away supper and went up clutching a piece of foil and a plastic bag and came back with two plates of gyros. Great idea –they were delicious and 8.50 euros each, a lovely plate of grilled pork meat, chips, pitta, tomatoes, onions and yogurt. We played tavli ( backgammon) 3-2 to me though that sort of score  won’t last.

Day 9  Aginara camp site Glyfa, Greece
We had both fans running in the night and being at the bow meant we didn’t notice the engine noise so much. I heard the call for Igoumenitsa so got up to watch the to-ing and fro-ing of unloading.  



I got a facebook message from my sister,which was good. We had fruit and yogurt for breakfast and I ventured into the now quiet regions of the boat but came back to watch the coastline slipping past in the sunshine. We were off quite quickly and were soon doing a Lidl shop picking up some fresh fruit and veg (and just a little wine) By 4.30 we were parked in a lovely spot with a seaview at Aginara after being greeted with a big smile by Angeliki at the gate. The site is much quieter than normal- there are far fewer Germans here than usual.
We had our first ‘proper’ swim – the Italian swim doesn’t count for me- I don’t ever long for a swim in Italy but I sometimes dream of swimming here. We went up to the restaurant and we were made so welcome once more. It wasn’t very busy but we did had a lovely meal- salad and super tzatziki, pork chops and ‘rollo’- rolled chicken which probably won’t rank as one of my favourite dishes but they had no fillet. We had our customary walk by the beach to watch the lights twinkling on Zakynthos and look at the millions of stars.


Aginara beach Glyfa



Day 10 Aginara
A lovely cool night but we were fooled by the fans- when we went outside it was hot. I enjoyed myself- yes really- doing the washing. I used two deep plastic trugs from Asda to compensate for the shallow sinks here and splashed about happily getting things clean. The washing line looks a bit odd though with over a week’s worth of pants on it ( yes Katie- I overcame my embarrassment at people seeing my pants on the line! Hehehe)
Things dry here so fast and smell so clean- and they don’t need ironing (how much do I hate ironing?) Pete cycled up to take the passport to the office but Angeliki said she knows our names now and doesn’t need one…….accepted regulars now eh? He was away ages chatting- he loves to do it. Meanwhile I was on my second filter coffee and when he came back I made a fresh pot!  We spent time reading the news online and generally pottering about having toast cooked on the little outside cooker sat on top of the recent purchase- the camp kitchen- a very useful piece of kit. We eventually made a move to the beach where the new Swimways swimfloat got it’s first outing. It packs up smaller that the swimways swimfloat lilo size and is such good fun to mess about in the sea on. Pete cooked sea bream on the cadac and we played tavli- he won the set of course.

Day 11 Aginara
Another cool night. Pete had an internet morning paying bills etc while I had another trip to the laundry room to wash bedding and towels. There is a washing machine here- I just like splashing about. We had a salad lunch followed by a lazy time on the beach. We went to the restaurant which is a little busier and Pete ordered kouneli stifado( rabbit stew) as Angeliki had told him they were cooking it. They are ‘growing their own’ rabbits here now and they are kept in a huge netted area with a massive mound of earth to burrow in. As a former vegetarian, it’s not for me  ( I had stuffed courgettes) but you can see the logic where food prices are going up and wages are being cut. Angeliki and Pete talked about pensions being cut by a third in Greece. In Athens, a primary school teacher we know, had her wages cut from 1200 euros a month to 580 but the rent and food prices haven’t gone down. It must be very difficult for most Greeks. We had a walk in the dark round the rest of the site and sat out in the cool and quiet till late.

Day 12 Aginara         

I was looking at the waiter’s notepad last night- he writes down the specials on the back and it’s good practice for me to try to read it when I came across the word Agginara ( AGGINARA) and he told me it was ‘artichoke’. So the name of the site is ‘artichoke’? I’m not sure.
We had toast then a cycle to Arkoudi village. We parked the bikes in the shade and I had my first Greek coffee of the trip. We sat watching workmen tidying up in the square opposite, a workman’s wagon knock the wing mirror off another van and attempt to put it back on, and the endless law breaking that is Greek motoring. Arkoudi has a one way system which is rarely recognised. The prize for the most potential offences that morning went to the café owner who rode his not very roadworthy motorbike up the one way street carrying a coffee in one hand ( due care and attention?) without a helmet. Parking is another source of amusement to me. I’m quite a law abiding parker and I get anxious if I’m not parked completely straight so I love to watch the rebels here who just stop  in the middle of the road and leave the car with the engine running while they go into a shop…..and the arguments that ensue when someone want to get past.
Having had enough amusement for one day we walked down to the beach and back to the bakery for rolls and eggs, then across the road to the shop with groaning shelves for mosquito liquid and a cheap mask for snorkelling. I was a bit worried about getting the eggs back to the camp as they came in a paper bag but they emerged unscathed after the bumpy ride back. We had rolls for lunch then went to the beach where the wind had changed direction and was coming off the sea, stirring up seaweed and making it ‘bumpy’. We launched the lilo and the swimfloat and swam out to where it was calmer and clearer for a float about. It was very hot so I had the Greek old lady look swimming in my big hat and sunglasses- very comfy. Pete grilled pork chops and I did a ‘George’s ‘ salad- taught to me by chef George at the Aegean restaurant on Kalymnos.  It’s Greek salad ingredients chopped small with a garlic oil and lemon dressing- it’s very good.

13 Aginara
There was a sort of mist in the night and the things out on the line weren’t dry. Pete turned the fans off in the night as it was cool too. We had poached eggs for breakfast and the German couple in the self build Boxer across the way left as did the Dutch couple next door. Pete found a euro on the ground but once again left the tin of ‘Lush’ shampoo in the showers- for the third time. ( I think this bar of solid shampoo from Lush is great for travelling- it does hair, clothes....super stuff.) He’s now got a big bottle of cheaper stuff so he can see it better and not leave it.  We read online that there are huge fires around Patras so I put a note on Facebook to say we aren’t near there . After supper we went to the bar for ouzo and talked to Fotis the bar man from Kastro who chatted and played tavli with Pete.

14 Aginara
We went to the beach early but I came back as I’d got a stomach ache. New neighbours arrived in the form of a Polish family with a huge boat. I went back to the beach in the early evening and floated about on the now flat sea. New neighbours arrived on the pitch next door around ten o clock  at night and it must have been difficult pitching in the dark.

15 Aginara
baby swallows
We got up a bit earlier and cycled up to Ligia where we had a coffee stop in a very shaded café. There were two swallow’s nests that we could see and probably some we couldn’t because there were so many swallows about. We watched three baby swallows hanging onto the nest stretching their wings- it won’t be long before they fly.  We cycled up to Kastro but didn’t go to Chlemoutisi castle as we spent a long time in there last year. We found a butcher’s and a bakery and I bought cheese pie and spinach pie. We cycled to the edge of the village and had a beer mezze in ‘Klodia’ where they have a lovely garden. We watched a drinks delivery,(health and safely officers would cringe) and the restaurant being set up for the day. It’s a long downhill from Kastro past the Roman mud baths at Killini where lots of people where covering themselves in the smelly black mud, letting it dry then washing it off. I wasn’t tempted. We came back for cheese pie and a snorkel and I saw a huge purple jelly fish near the bottom by some rocks  being attacked by lots of fish. We went up to the restaurant for kokkinisto and souvlaki and as we were last there, talked economy and politics with the waiters. It seems that trade here at Aginara is 50% down on a normal year.

16 Aginara

We had another beach day and I cooked Halki pasta for tea ( On the Greek island of Halki, when we were veggies, we had this pasta made by slowly cooking down lots of onions and garlic in butter and oil then mixing it with pasta and grated cheese- it’s simple but lovely).

17 Aginara
Two more Polish vans and boats arrived plus a Polish caravan. We had a cycle to ‘Ionian Village’ beach where, because it’s Sunday, there were lots of people and cars. We didn’t stay, but cycled to Arkoudi  which was also busy. Pete moved the bikes so the man selling honey from his truck could park without knocking them over. We were just going to have a drink but the food looked really good in the little café so we had a rocket, lettuce, pinenut, walnut and sun dried tomato salad with balsamic dressing ( mmm) then shared a gyros plate and some gavros ( little fish)  It was lovely and a good place to watch the ‘new’ tourists that the camp site staff had told us about…the area has become  popular with Russian tourists and though we saw lots of young women and children, we didn’t see any Russian men. We cycled back just as it was getting dark and it was a perfect temperature for cycling.


Arkoudi 
18 Aginara

We woke to the sound of another Polish van towing a huge boat arriving. The wind had changed and the sea was stirred up. I wasn’t tempted to go in as I watched a young boy fish out several purple jelly fish. Pete cycled to Arkoudi for some more Melia rose wine at two euros twenty for a litre of super organic local wine, it seemed like a good idea. We packed away most things for an early start tomorrow ……..we’d been here long enough.

19 Gythion Bay Campsite, Mavrovouni, near Gythio.

We made a start around ten ( okay- it wasn’t early!) calling in at  Lidl  in Ameliada– which had no left turn into it from the dual carriage way but just after it was a break in the grass with a ‘no u turns ‘ sign. We drove on looking for somewhere to do a legal turn but eventually turned left into a disused factory then went right. As we neared Lidl we saw cars doing U turns into Lidl…this is Greece. 
Here's a 'Lidl' bit of information.......you can almost get the same groceries in all Lidl stores...it doesn't seem to matter which country you are in. We stocked up on basics but thought we’d wait to get veg and fruit in the market in Gythio. We drove down to Kalo Nero and debated going to see if the camp site in Kyparissia was really closed or someone had opened it. We’d tried to book a space there but had an email back to say that it was for sale and they were closed. We decided against and went across to Tripoli  stopping for lunch at the monument to people who had lost their lives in the war up the twisting road we call Mam Tor. ( Looking down towards Megalopoli , you can see power stations and it reminds us a bit of Castleton in the Peak District)
 We carried on and went on the A7 new motorway towards Athens before turning off at Tripoli for Sparti. ( four euros 90 toll at Manari bridge) It was a nice drive down to Gythio through Sparti and soon we were setting up at Gythion Bay campsite where we’d stayed last year. Pete was delighted to find a spot where he could put his hammock up. It’s busy, but not as busy as last year. A Greek family arrived with their caravan and worked hard setting up their pitch with plenty of tarpaulins to give them shade . They seemed unhappy about a tree root sticking up so Pete went to lend them a hack saw but the man had a better plan …….he tied a rope around it and pulled it out completely with his truck………..! We met Petros and Maria again who we met last year. We had a celebratory margarita before going to Takis along the beach for a lovely meal of pork in wine sauce. We were the last people there and talked to Takis about the usual politics and economy. It’s fascinating to me as Greeks have no reluctance to talk about how much they earn, how much they pay for electricity etc whereas  we are so reserved as a nation. We walked back along the beach watching the stars and the wind there was earlier died down so we sat out watching shooting stars and satellites.


20 Gythion Bay
We had a cool quiet night. We needed to put a side curtain on the awning for extra shade in the morning. I did some washing then went to the  beach. The sea was very ‘bumpy’ but we had a splash about. Petros and Maria invited us to sit and have a drink with them. We learnt about Petros’ pension being cut after he’d waited months to receive it. The talk was of the crisis of course but it is interesting to have different people’s views on it. The wind got up again and was very strong so we put more pegs and straps on. I cooked chicken in the oven as the Cadac wouldn’t light. We said ‘Hello’ to an English  couple who have been  living here since Christmas.

21 Gythion Bay
We had an early swim in a flat calm sea. We cycled into Gythio leaving the bikes by the harbour ( I’m not so confident about cycling round in traffic) and had coffee in the ‘roundabout ‘ café we usually go to. It’s a good place to watch the world go by…..some people were lugging suitcases so we reckoned there must be a ferry due in . We walked along the waterfront picking up a bit of shopping and calling at the butcher’s for some pork chops. We got pies from the lovely bakery at the back of the ‘roundabout’ then cycled to the supermarket near Mavrovouni for tonic and iced tea. We went to the beach where the wind was coming off the sea and we bounced about on the waves on the lilo. On the way back, I spoke to Viv, the English artist living here. She came round later and we had gin and tonics and a chat with her and Alan about living in their motorhome and people we both have met.

22. Gythion Bay
It was market day and Pete loves markets so we cycled into Gythio and had coffee at the same place ( creatures of habit) The market didn’t seem as big or as busy as last year. Pete bought grapes, onions and beans from one lady and her little girl and the lady put a huge lettuce into Pete’s bag for free!  He was very happy!. We had a salad lunch and went to the beach where we watched kite surfers throwing themselves into the air and windsurfers scudding about on the waves.   The vegetables we bought were fantastic- the courgettes were as soft as butter and the green beans were so fresh.  We watched a young Greek couple put their tent up after walking round the site for almost an hour before deciding where to put it. They were loaned a hammer as they tried to put pegs in with a stone……..

23 Gythion Bay

We were woken up by the same couple repositioning their jeep about fifty times……….! We went for an early swim and talked again to Viv and Alan. Pete cycled to the bakery at the top of the hill for fresh bread while I cooked bacon and made the coffee ( a reward for a big long swim) I did some washing under the canopy of grapes…eat while you work! 

At home, our friend’s daughter was getting married. We had been invited to Lauren and Mike’s wedding but had already booked ferries. We thought we would take a photo of us all dressed up holding a glass of wine so we could send it to them at their wedding reception so we dressed up. The wedding was a black tie occasion so I made Pete a bow tie from bin liner plastic and turned his collar up so it looked authentic. I had brought a headband with me so we did a head and shoulders shot which didn’t show my five pound ‘Factory Shop’ beach dress and Pete’s shorts. Then we took a full view to make them laugh!  We had a giggle doing it too……



We went round to Viv and Alan’s where they had made some lovely chicken tikka and coconut rice. We met Hera, the Doberman and Alan played guitar and sang. About 10.30, we went along the beach to where a rock band had set up and we arrived to them playing  a Pink Floyd number…….super. We had a drink but didn’t stay too long though it was  busy with people eating and drinking. We sat outside to cool down when we got back then realised it was 1am….a late night.

24 Gythion Bay
 We had a swim then took laptops to the bar where the signal is better so we could have an internet session. We played tavli and Pete won every game before we walked along the road to the ‘butcher’s taverna’. There were only two other couples there but when we ordered chops, we heard them being ‘chopped’ in the kitchen. The food was very good and as it’s above the road, we had a view of the moon on the sea . We rang Tom and Lucille earlier and spoke to Lauren about the wedding- she sounded so happy and was pleased with the pics we’d sent. People who went to the wedding had put some photos on Facebook so I got to see how lovely she looked.

25 Gythion Bay
 getting walnuts
I had a clean and tidy out. We spoke to Vassilis, our new tent neighbour. We had another beach afternoon and looked at wedding pictures. Pete cooked bifteki, fasolakia and fried courgettes with pitta bread and tzatziki for tea and it was wonderful. We sat out chatting till late.

26 Gythion Bay



Another cycle to Gythio. We had coffee in a different café ( 50 lepta more) . We walked up some steps and along some back alleys where improbable timbers supported jutting out house extensions ( a bit like a poor man’s version of York).  here's some more photos-





It was very hot. We’d been told there was a small market today but couldn’t find it and it was too hot to go searching very far. We bought spinach pie and ‘ Mani Pitta’ ( sort of a big flat fried salty doughnut which comes with a piece of cheese sliced on the top) from the very pretty smiley lady in the bakery. 
Earlier, in the café, I’d noticed her standing under the air conditioner in the shop doorway. She was wearing a pretty long pink dress and she was dancing about a little bit so we had a little conversation and she laughed a lot. Pete bought a whole chicken which the butcher cut up ( 6 euros) before we cycled back up the hill to one supermarket and then down to the next one. We sat for ages talking to Vassilis, Dora his wife and Mannfried from Germany who had arrived from Finikounda where Vassilis and Dora had just been. We learnt lots- including the fact that we were parked under two walnut trees and how to take off the outer skin and dry them…being careful not to stain your hands..( is that where ‘nut brown’ comes from?) 
Pete cooked half the chicken and it was fantastic- you wouldn ‘t dream of putting such tasty meat into a sauce, it was so good.  The sky was a bit cloudy and people said it might rain…….

27 Gythion Bay

It was very hot. We went for a swim and stayed on the beach. Pete brought me some coffee in a flask ( wonderful) Big black clouds built up so we went back to the van and sure enough, we had thunder and lightning and a little bit of rain.

After the rain, we went for a cycle ride left out of the campsite. It’s a pity I didn’t take the camera as the mountains and clouds were lit from behind by a fabulous sunset. We cycled quite a way before we decided that we should go back as it would soon be dark. Just after the turn back to Gythio my tyre went flat. I’d got a thorn in it. Pete cycled back to the camp for the pump ( which we’d forgotten of course) . It reminded me of last year around Asini where it happened to Pete. We got back stopping only once to pump the tyre up.

28 Gythion Bay

It’s a full moon tonight. The thorn in the tyre went, of course, through the seam on the inner tube so it wouldn’t mend. We had a long chat with Vassilis. I went to the bar to load my blog onto the internet……..always a bit of an interesting experience…I never know really whether it has saved or not and when I load photos, the text moves……I really should do more about learning how to do things properly! It clouded over again around four o clock. George rang from Athens and he’s coming to stay tomorrow. We went to the little taverna left out of the campsite and just over on the right. I wasn’t sure about this at first as only the family were sitting there but others came later. We had a lovely meal watching the moon.

29 Gythion Bay
We cycled in to the market but it was not as busy as the week before and not so much to buy. We had coffee near the market. George borrowed a car and it broke down so he was going to try to get a bus from Napflio but had to rent a car as there was no bus. He arrived late with Georgia, his daughter, and we went to the campsite restaurant to eat. Vassilis organised a surprise anniversary meal on the beach for Dora complete with candles in the sand, roses on the table and heart shaped bifteki- how romantic ! We sat with them later for a drnk and cake while Georgia climbed the olive tree.



30. Gythion Bay
We went into town for coffee and a visit to the health centre as George had forgotten his medication. We spent a long time on the beach so Georgia could play in the water- she swims like a fish. In the evening we went to Barba Sideris for Kondosouvli ( spit roast pork pieces) Souvla ( whole pig spit roasted then cut up) and Kokoretsi ( pig insides rolled into a sort of sausage and spit roasted) It was lovely and quite the nicest meat I’ve had here yet. Pete and George went to the bar as there was a band playing but Georgia was tired so we went to bed.          


swimways swimfloats- a great idea.



31 Gythion Bay
Pete bought me a double hammock a few years ago- I didn't want one .....but he did!


We got up to say goodbye to Vassilis and Dora – it was lovely to have met them. I cooked fried eggs for breakfast as it’s Georgia’s favourite then we went to play ‘monsters’ in the sea again. I cooked spaghetti with bacon and ‘secret salami’ for lunch. Georgia and me went back to the sea and she made some little songs up as we were playing about on the float….very clever songs! I came back when Pete and George came down to the beach and did what other campers do – watered the grass all around our pitch to cool it down. Pete played a children’s tavli game with Georgia and then we went to Takis’ taverna along the beach. 

Everything was good, Georgia played with other children and when Takis talked to George, they discovered that George’s cousin is Takis’ good friend….small world. Petros and Maria also talked to George and they found that they live 500 metres away from each other in Athens….very small world.

32 Gythion Bay
The fridge was flashing- the gas had run out. Pete changed the bottle but there must have been a problem with that 13 tank as it should have lasted all the time we are away. ( When we got back home, we found the full gas bottle was still in the garage! ) I cooked eggs again and George and Georgia left around eleven o clock. We went down to the bar to have an internet session and we had a musical accompaniment as Al was putting some songs onto Youtube and was playing inside the games room.  I chatted with Dragana- Georgia’s mother and I was pleased to find that my last blog had saved. We ate lots of fruit on the beach and just had a quiet afternoon. Pete went shopping while I made carbonara – this time with feta and parmesan and as he’d bought some cream to put in the pasta, we kept some and had it with frozen raspberries  to follow as a treat.  It was very hot (38 degrees) so we put both fans on in the night.



33 Gythion Bay

We had a cycle into town to buy a new sun bed as one had broken.  We bought new real fake RayBans for Pete and a cap for me to swim in from Pete’s favourite shop (- where he bought the double hammock years ago) We found the small market up ‘Butcher’s street’ and bought more vegetables. Pete cycled back with the sunbed strapped to the back of his bike and he said I should write that he was heroic…….so I've written it! We had a fridge clear out as some of the vegetables we’d bought on Friday were past their best. Pete cooked sweetcorn but that was like wood too..


Pete the hero carries a sunbed!

We had lemon and coriander cous cous with beans carrots and Sparti sausage. Pete said ‘you can’t fall out of a hammock’ but I proved him wrong by trying to move over on the double hammock to watch the stars with him and doing a gentle roll straight over the side.  I wasn't hurt- not even embarrassed!.

34 Gythion Bay

After we’d spent the day on the beach, we had a cycle down the little lanes we’d never been down in Mavrovouni Bay. I didn't enjoy riding along the gravel road where the stones were very deep but it was interesting to see the houses and five star hotel. Al and Viv came round to be reminded how to play backgammon- at their request- and I gave Viv a bottle of Avon ‘Skin so soft’ dry oil spray as it’s effective against mosquito bites and I had a spare bottle.
Mavrovouni bay 



35   Gythion Bay
We went for an early morning swim and I really didn't want to get out of the water – it was so calm and lovely. We did a slow pack up and went for a last meal at Takis…..where we will be always know as ‘Forever Fostiras’ ( he used to play football in the same area as George lives and Fostiras is the local team we’ve been to watch there) He chatted and we had yet another perspective on the crisis. He is a business man of course and he just hopes he can keep going and that the banks don’t foreclose on mortgages. We’d spent a long time talking with George about what was happening in Athens. He told us how the fascists had got lots more votes in his own working class area and that people were ready to blame immigrants for everything. Even some of his friends held views that he couldn’t believe they could…………people seem to need someone to blame for the problems. He told us of a guy in the area who didn’t have enough money for the medication he needed to live and George and his friends had gone round cafes collecting money for him so he could buy some. There is now 55% of 16-25 year olds without a job and 25 % of the rest of the population. There are thousands sleeping rough in Athens. Some of George’s friends have lost their jobs and the government help is restricted to a small amount for one year if you have been in work for the previous two years. After the one year- there is no help at all. George has had to re-negotiate his rent to a lower amount. The landlord was happy to do that as the flat he has next door to George has been empty for a year…….Everyone we talk to has something to say about the crisis but no-one can see a solution.
Pete and Takis

Camping 'pods' Greek style

Viv


36 Karavostasi ( not far from Neo Itilo and Areopolis)
Viv came round to say ‘goodbye’  and we saw Petros , Maria and Dimitra too. We went to the office to pay our 425 euros for our 18 night stay . We had a lovely drive  to Areopolis and had Mani pitta and coffee in the square. 


Areopolis


We’d had a Mani  pitta in Gythio but it was greasy compared to the lovely light salty fried dough served with a piece of cheese on top. The coffee shop we went to must be the local place to go for these as everyone there was eating one!. We had a wander round the back streets to the Museum but didn’t go in. Instead we went to the supermarket for  local wine and the bakery and greengrocer’s. Pete had wanted to get a basil plant in Gythio but I had vetoed it because it would get spoilt carrying it back on the bike but next door to the bakery was a really nice little plant shop with some super basil plants- just the right size. The friendly old guy who ran the shop picked me a piece of every herb he had and told me the Greek name for each and I told him which ones we had in the garden at home. He gave me a plant saucer and lots of big beaming smiles. Pete was really pleased with the basil plant. 
We drove to our usual spot- the field marked ‘free parking’ past the fish restaurant ‘O Faros’ in Karavostasi. 



fantastic swimming!

There were two huge French campers there already. We parked in the middle with the awning facing the sea just before an Italian van came. Sofia and her friend came out of the caravan behind to go swimming and were delighted to see us again. She came out of the sea very quickly though when the Italian van looked like it was parking in ‘their’ drive. They have access to their land over the field so it’s best to park only on the left side.  We cycled along to the right out of the field to our favourite swimming spot and got there just as a group were leaving so we had it to ourselves.  The water here is so clear and the place between rocks is like a mini fjord  so I can float about without the wind taking me in one direction or another. We ate some of the super bread from Areopolis with butter and Marmite for lunch and felt like we’d had a feast , it was so tasty. We went for a swim just in front of the field but it’s a little more difficult to get in the water there.  We went to O Faros for fried courgettes in a light crunchy batter, tzatsiki , bread toasted with oil on, little chips, shrimp saganaki and sardines- opened and grilled flat. It was really good food and the view from there over the bay is wonderful.

37 Karavostasi
We needed to use the fan as it was hot in the night so I used the inverter . Sofia brought us some figs and some pears from her garden and I gave her a little Christmas fruit cake. She came back again with a bottle of wine from their own vineyard- just as she did last year. 




We cycled along the bay and had coffee at Mavro Pirates . A guy wasn’t looking and reversed into our bikes but thankfully nothing was damaged. We cycled along to Limeni where there is now a one way system along the one lane. It’s strange to see how much money there is around here- there is a lot of building going on and it’s all stone, upmarket houses and apartments. We had a lovely swim past the second fig tree. It’s too difficult to find words to describe the clarity and colour of the water here……’amazing’ might do it. Something- maybe the wind or a passing car knocked my bike over and a passing Greek guy stopped to pick it up. We cycled back and had sliced tomatoes on bread for lunch. It doesn't sound very exciting but when the bread tastes home made and the juice of the ripe tomatoes soaks into it, enhanced by salt and black pepper, with a little bit of basil on top, it’s food for the gods. The taste cannot be matched if you do it with sliced white bread and supermarket tomatoes- not ever!
Pete spent time taking the outer husks off the walnuts he’d collected with Vasilis....and despite warnings, got brown stained fingers.
nut brown fingers......

It was a breezy afternoon and a dark cloud stayed over Areopolis all day. We went for a swim in the ‘piscina’ –‘our’ pool which is clearly a favourite place for others to swim. We avoided the cold spots where the water bubbles up  from the sea bed ( I think). It isn’t really cold- just cooler than the rest of the sea. We wondered about the big stone buildings on the hillside that have been almost finished but left alone for two years. In the evening we needed a walk so walked along to the end of the road in the sunset. There had clearly been a lot of damage in the winter which had been repaired with concrete and the stones had been cleared with a  bulldozer. The sunset was beautiful.


looking across to Areopolis



abandoned British caravan...it's been there for years


38. Karavostasi
We found out a bit more about this ‘field’ from the Greek speaking French guy in front. It seems to be owned by a lawyer from Sparti. I sewed Pete’s sandals that the boys bought him that had almost worn through the toe strap and I tried to make my old brown bikini last longer by sewing it. The bikini sew worked, the sandals lasted another five minutes!  We went to O Faros again for dinner.


Mavro Pirates

Limeni

swimming in Limeni










39. Camping Thines Finikounda     
We set off around nine o’clock and it was already hot. There was hardly any traffic and it was a lovely scenic drive to Kalamata. We met a bus but fortunately, it was at it’s turning around point so we only had to wait a minute till it reversed off the road to turn around. We stopped above Kardamili for coffee and toast with a fantastic view down to the sea….what  must it be like to be an eagle and see things from high up? We were briefly joined by a fire crew and spoke to a Greek family stopping to take photos. 


above Kardamyli


We went to look for propane in Kalamata. We’d been told to look on Athinon Street but we tried two places- Pete crossing the very busy road so many times- without success so we gave up. 

We stopped in Lidl and did lots of shopping because it’s always more expensive to shop in Finikounda.  We waited ages in a garage just by Carrefour while a guy filled up twelve cans with diesel in the back of his truck. The garage owner looked fed up but he managed a huge smile when he got  sweeties from me! We stopped on the sea front at Petalidi and had more lovely bread and tomatoes before going from Xarokopio to Finikounda . Pete drove carefully as there are many dips and hollows in that road. Our first sight of Finikounda was from the top of the hill and we felt like we were heading home…..and it felt like that again when we got to Thines campsite and woke Takis up to tell us where to park!


a resident

Clemens

Michael and Sylvia

We’ve got a place with lots of shade and it took the usual ‘wriggling in’ time to park in it. Our friends who were already here came straight round  to see us and it was so good to see them again. We got set up and went for a swim. It felt cooler than Gythio. There are now brollies and sunbeds down a wooden walkway to the beach which are free and a sign now for the camp coffee shop. I cooked some carbonara and had a lazy evening.

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This is where the very boring stuff starts as we don’t do a lot here except swim, chat, eat, read and go for bike rides so you can skip this bit unless you need help to go to sleep……..

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40. Thines
We went for an early swim and the sea was just about perfect- like an empty swimming pool with hardly a ripple on the surface. The campsite isn’t full but there are only a few spaces. I did some washing …I love the big deep sinks here. We were invited to Sylvia and Michael’s for coffee but their coffee machine broke so they came round here. I lent my coffee funnel to Sylvia as she needs her  filter coffee! It was given to me by Katie- thanks Katie. You made Sylvia happy! Pete talked to Clemens and Martina in the water- they have both grown up a lot. Pete found two euros in the sea. We went to Palamidi for dinner where we sat at a table on the grass with a lamp for light. It’s a new thing this year and very nice. We went to Sylvia and Michael’s for wine when we came back and laughed a lot with them.


41 Thines
It’s ‘Xronia Polla’ day- the Greek festival for the Assumption of Mary. We woke to church bells, a priest singing in the distance and the sound of ‘Xronia polla’ being said to greet people.  Pete sent an email to his friend Andy who came here last year with Carol , offering him the position of ‘Underwater Sculpture Park designer’ as this was what the two of them did last year, moving rocks under the water…………
Pete brought lunch to the beach. He made lettuce ‘sandwiches’ – he rolled up large lettuce leaves around  hummus, ham and cheese…..and interesting new recipe!  We went into Finikounda with Sylvia Michael Martina and Kathi for a walk and a drink.




Pete the cleaner


42 Thines
Pete cleaned the bird muck from the front of the van- it was expected as we are parked where the birds roost  every night. The ant population came to check us out too …….We counted 52 brollies or shade structures along this stretch of beach which I don’t think is as busy as last year though we didn’t count the camp site umbrellas. We had yogurt and honey for lunch then I made bifteki when Pete cycled to get mince. I twisted my knee somehow in the van so had a painful night.

43 Thines
My knee hurt when I got up but was okay after a swim. Sylvia and Michael came round with a cake with a candle in and sang ‘Happy Birthday’- that was so nice!  I had five cards, some DKNY perfume and two bars of soap ( buying presents is not one of Pete's strengths!) from Pete. He looked after me all day making me a bacon sandwich and bringing me a cup of tea on the beach in the afternoon.  
my bacon and egg sandwich!
I had lots of birthday messages and texts and a card from Mam and Dad made me a bit tearful, the words inside were so lovely. We went to To Palamidi for a seafood plate which was so good after drinking peach juice and sparkling wine.

44 Thines
I had more birthday messages on Facebook. We had a quiet beach day then walked up to the restaurant in Kamaria. Bernhard had organised it so a big group of us walked up to the house on the hill where we had an amazing buffet meal. 
Sylvia the official photographer leads the walk up the hill...Martina pretends she's not with us!




lovely food and lots of laughs

We were so lucky as our Austrian and German friends spoke English and translated conversation for us……..we had lots of laughs too! We had a cool, much quicker walk back down the hill at the end of a lovely evening.

45. Thines
Pete brought lunch down to the beach. We played tavli and I won a set- it doesn’t happen often. We went round to Ferdl and Christina’s for a drink and met Andreas and Andrea. The highlight of the day was the Al Mirqab- an enormous yacht- turning up in the bay and mooring opposite the campsite. It’s one of the largest in the world and all the people in the campsite watched then went online to check out who it was that spoiled my view!


46. Thines
Andreas called round for a chat and talked about driving to Greece. Lots of people are getting ready to leave the site. Pete watched the football- Man Utd v Everton but the signal was poor on the computer.

47. Thines
Pete was praised by Despina for cleaning so often. He just doesn’t like to leave bird droppings on the van for very long! Sylvia and Michael brought us a cheese pie round after they went shopping- how kind! Pete read a whole book. We went to Bernhard and Uschi’s for dinner and had lovely chicken in sauce. I whizzed some frozen raspberries and yogurt together for instant ‘ice- cream’. We had a very interesting talk comparing attitudes and customs in Germany and Britain. They are in awe of the National Health Service- it’s a pity more people in Britain don’t appreciate how  brilliant it is, even with all it’s faults, it has to be better than paying thousands of euros for treatment. Even a simple dental treatment is about two hundred euros in Germany. We had a lovely evening with two very kind people.

48. Thines
Pete was talking football to Theo- it’s an international language! We had souvlaki from the café then went to Sylvia and Michael’s for a drink with Ferdl and Christina. Another lovely night.

49 Thines
Pete put covers over the front of the van after a ‘rainstorm’ of bird mess as lots of birds have started to roost in the trees. We went to To Karavi for dinner- fried courgettes circling a hollowed out tomato filled with tzatsiki followed by pork roasted on a spit. There was so much pork, we took half home with us.


50 Thines
Cold pork sandwiches for lunch! We went out for a meal to To Palamidi with Bernhard, Uschi, Michael, Sylvia, Christina, Ferdl and the young people as it was the last night for some. We had a wonderful evening with Michael telling some very funny stories which had us laughing till we cried.

Mr Smiley -Michael's a great advert for toothpaste!


51 Thines
 It was a sad morning as we said ‘goodbye’ to Sylvia, Michael , Clemens and Martina as they left for the boat home. The young ones had slept outside on their last night. Later, Bernhard and Uschi left too. It always feels sad when they all leave as they are such good campany. We heard from our Tom who is in England for a friend’s wedding. I made spaghetti carbonara.

the cat we all liked that no-one saw after Michael and Sylvia left......

Uschi and Bernhard left too


52 Thines
Takis came to say we could move to a place on the front but it’s nice where we are – except for the bird problem- so we didn’t move. Pete instead asked Takis to put up a canopy so the mess doesn’t land. Pete won a set at backgammon. I felt a bit ‘down in the dumps’ – I think I was just a bit sad.  Instead of cooking, we went to To Palamidi and that cheered me up. I don’t really like eating horta- greens- Pete loves them but we ordered horta and gigantes ( big beans) and putting the two together meant that I didn’t taste the horta but got some iron in my system. I had prawn saganaki which is little prawns in tomato and feta sauce….so delicious. It was quite romantic sitting in the garden there eating by lamplight. When we came back , we walked through Camping Anemomilos and back along the beach.  The moon looked like a big slice of lemon over the sea.

53 Thines
It was very cool in the night . Takis came round with a cover and put it up with Pete. It’s lots better now. We cycled into Finikounda to Gardenia for a double Greek coffee. It seemed ages since I’d been into town on the bike and I was a bit nervous. Pete cooked Mani sausage- it’s a local sausage with orange in- it’s very tasty. The wind was very strong in the afternoon and evening but we didn’t need to take the awning in- we just closed some windows.

54 Thines
Pete did  lots of extra swimming today. He went shopping and got some lovely bread- ‘miso miso’ half brown, half white. We had to try very hard not to eat the whole loaf! We cycled along towards Methoni to Lambas bay where we stopped in the middle of the bay and splashed about in the huge waves. Pete was like a little boy bouncing about and jumping up and down. There were lots of sea daffodils- they are such a beautiful flower that grows out of the sand. We cycled further to the taverna at the end of the bay where we had lunch- fresh fish and salad. There’s a beach bar too- Destino- with a pool , sunbeds and café but we didn’t stay there. Pete helped Theo move the beach beds further back from the sea as the tide was high. Pete cooked chicken and we watched a tv programme.
sea daffodils at Lambas beach


Pete jumping about like a little boy!...spoiling my photo!!!


windswept look.....no hairbrush!



55. Thines
We had a wonderful early swim. The contours of the beach have changed due to the high tide and rougher sea. I made hummus- I’d brought some chick peas with me. We had an evening cycle along the road to Koroni, up the hills as far as the church and water tower. It’s very high up and the views over the coast and the islands were stunning in the evening light. We cycled the last bit uphill and as I was going quite slowly and almost stopping, I started laughing because we passed a parked car with the door open and Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ was on the radio……..( it’s ‘our song’ though the words are terrible, it’s the music that was playing when we danced together for the first time) Coming back down to Finikounda was fantastic and exhilarating. We hardly pedalled till we got to Finikounda and the sun setting behind the coast and sparkling on the sea was magic.  When we got back we talked to Gabi and Gerd next door and he played melodion softly as we ate our pasta puttanesca. The gentle Austrian polkas sounded wonderful.







here she comes! braking hard......

Pete and Gerd...the music man!




















56 Thines
Oh no! Someone has taken the buoy away so Pete can’t swim between the two now- he’ll have to find another marker to show the distance he swims. A flock of birds, black with white undersides, circled the bay as we swam. We couldn’t recognise them because of the angle of the sun. Gerd showed me his website for friends-  he has friends who climb on Kalymnos and I saw some lovely photos of the island. Despina was sitting at the outside table with Voula in the evening and it was quiet and peaceful so Pete took them a glass of rose wine each and some cake. They asked us to join them and we were soon drinking ouzo with the family. We went later to La Foca in Finikounda for the first pizza of the holiday. It was delicious but maybe next time we’ll have just a small one!
 When we got back Gerd and Gabi invited us to drink with their friends, as it was their last night. We had a good chat with them and Johannes and Heike.

57 Thines
Gabi, Gerd and Kathi left this morning leaving us with a lot of space in front and a big sea view. Pete went shopping and a huge German van arrived and parked in front.  Theo had a try on Pete’s electric bike and Despina gave us our glasses and plates back- and about a kilo of tomatoes! Johannes and Heike came to the beach to say goodbye. That evening, we went onto the beach when it got dark to lie on sunbeds watching the full moon shining on the sea….should they be called ‘moonbeds’ at night? It was so lovely. We are so lucky to be able to do what we do. How many people have ever had the chance to sit in the moonlight watching the sea like that?
Kathi

so many goodbyes.....

Pete being busy thinking...


58 Thines
I had a text from my sister saying they had arrived in Newcastle to see my Mam and Dad.  We swam in a flat sea then cycled to Methoni past the campsite which looked closed. There were lots of vans left there but the café has broken windows and was closed, the surf hire shop was gone…….it looked a sad place. 

Cow beach

en route to Methoni
We went to Carrefour and to the bank than as we cycled past the coffee shop, I saw Gerry and Jill, who we’d met before several times who stay in Methoni. We had a chat about the campsite, which is open, has electricity and water but no-one to take the money. They give a few euros to a woman who cleans the toilets and showers (squirts a hosepipe round) It’s such a pity that the site isn’t properly maintained as it’s in such a good position for the town and must bring in business for local shops and tavernas.  Pete read ‘The Thread’ by Victoria Hislop, which I’d just finished. It had been recommended to me and I enjoyed it- it’s almost a potted Greek history. We went into town to Dionysos for suckling pig but this time only got one plate and salad and tzatsiki. Finikounda was quite busy with the restaurants and cafes bustling with people .
road down to Methoni




59 Thines
A beach day and I listened to music instead of reading. Pete came back to watch football v Southampton and Mario kept popping over to check the scores and try to get a better website for Pete to watch it on. Man Utd wont 3-2. We played tavli and I went to bed while Pete watched a BBC programme about Azul Nadir then ‘Match of the Day’……you can tell the football season has started.

60 Thines
We cycled to town for coffee and spinach pie ( sharing one!) I went to the supermarket while Pete called at the butcher’s but he was away ages…..he eventually came into the supermarket to tell me he still didn’t have the chicken because he’d been drinking beer and eating bread, cheese and cockerel with the butcher! I went home while he went back to get the chicken and a couple of hours later, he came back to the camp site. I don’t think that will happen in our butcher’s in Penistone especially as the butcher had sent him with a big piece of liver ‘ for your wife’! We went for an evening cycle around the back roads of Finikounda, up to Kamaria and Evangelismos, round to Finikes, down to Lambas and back just as it was getting dark. I cooked the liver with onions and gravy while Pete grilled sausage, courgettes and potatoes. 
we didn't know why there were steps in the middle of no-where till I read the sign that says the steps show what the view from the first floor of a house built there would be....................

61. Thines
Swim, beach, towels washed…the German family with lots of children parked in front of us left and within minutes in came a little  yellow VW camper with five people in. They did put a tent up too. Pete cleaned the bikes and adjusted his chain and I put the memory foam mattress back on top of the bed  as I’d ached a bit from cycling. Pete cooked fabulous chicken with pitta.
happy chap!

62 Thines
It was windy so we didn’t have the usual swim. We did mundane and boring stuff on the computer- trying to change electricity and gas providers. We saw three buzzards above the camp and what looked like an eagle. We cycled up to Lachanada which was steep, carried on up, then down and round to Zizani and down the steep and twisting road to Grizokampas. It was quite tough for me but we did it. It was worth it for the views as you can see across to Mani from up there. We had an icy cold gin and tonic before going to To Palamidi for oven lamb and bifteki. The four tiny kittens under the hedge persuaded me to part with most of the bifteki- they are really cute…and really hungry.


oh my aching knees!I've no idea why I was smiling....you can't see the pain.....


above Lachanada



63 Thines
We were woken in the night by cats jumping about on and under the van screeching as they ran about. The yellow VW van left and was replaced an hour later by a similar van in silver…a popular place. Pete spent hours trying to work out the best deal to change companies for electric and gas suppliers.  Pete took some English beer  to the butcher’s and came back with yet more liver and lamb chops. We cycled to Lambas again, this time with a picnic. We sat under an abandoned palm beach brolly and enjoyed the view and the sea. We had a lovely meal that night and looked at photos we’d taken during the trip.
64 Thines
An exciting morning- I defrosted the fridge! Pete finally sorted the gas/electric issue after ringing Uswitch to get advice. The guy there was really helpful. Juanita and Peter ( English couple with caravan) came round for a drink. They talked about Morocca and Spain and their visits there.
65 Thines
Super early morning swim. We cycled to town and were a long time in the butcher’s talking about Nestor’s buried treasure and how his grandfather had been told  by a French archeologist where it was (?) and how he had spent his life looking for it as he’d forgotten what the archaeologist had told him……..The butcher himself had bought metal detectors to try to find it too. (But why hadn’t the French guy found it if he knew where it was? …I didn’t ask that question) We went to To Kima for chicken and souvlaki then Gardenia for the first caramel ice cream of the trip.
66 Thines

Lazy morning- Pete spent most of it in the hammock. We ate the last of the bacon with egg and tomato L but had pork chops and kidneys in brandy and cream sauce. Despina and Takis came to sit with us and have a glass of wine.  
67 Thines
The silver van left. Ricki and Gerd, the Austrian ‘neighbours’ put their boat together and though we had considered getting one, I realised that it was too much effort and we wouldn’t use it very much. We met up with Jane and Kerrigan from Leicester who are here on holiday. We know them from their work in the National Union of Teachers and Palestine Solidarity campaign. We’ve met them here before and it was so good to see them again. They’d had a good flight and they are very pleased with the accommodation at Panorama Apartments. We some lovely food met at To Palamidi and shared some lovely food. We had lots to talk about.


when Pete cooked lamb chops

my annual 'favourite seat in the whole world' photo

Rainbow's end- Finikounda

68 Thines
Pete swam for over an hour. I went to get binoculars from the van as I couldn’t see him and I was worried. It made me think about what I would do if anything ever did happen while we were away. We cycled into Finikounda and met Jane and Kerrigan for coffee and Pete gave them some fresh figs. It clouded over and I made lentil soup…..it felt like a soup day. We went to the beach around four o clock then Pete cooked chicken. We watched a tv programme I’d downloaded .
69 Thines
We had a big swim, then cycled to Methoni where we went to the bank, got bread and had a coffee. There was a coach trip in and people getting off the bus were unmistakably British. We went to Dionysos for lamb souvla which was wonderful. We went to Gardenia and had ice cream and saw Jane and Kerrigan.


Gardenia cafe


Jane and kerrigan

We tidied up- we were having visitors! I made some hummus and salad for lunch. Jane and Kerrigan came round for a swim and lunch. It was a lovely sunny day. 


The guys from the campsite, Mario, Yiannis and some others, started to knock down the bar area of the café. They are changing it so it will be used more in the winter. We were told that the  wind was going to be strong so we went to the beach and brought back the sun brolly and beach chairs as the sea would be high. Pete helped Ricki and Gerd bring their boat higher up the beach too. It got very windy so we stayed inside and it was dark by eight o clock. We went to bed then got up again to wind the awning in.



the wind started......

71 Thines
The wind howled all night and the waves crashed onto the beach. I did some washing but hung it out round the back of the site while Pete went shopping. The wind was blowing sand and salt air into the van so we closed the windows. It was Stavroula’s name day and she brought us some little nut pastries around- how kind!  The sea came up over the sand and onto the road and the sand/ salt mix in the air went everywhere.  It got hot in the van but we couldn’t open the windows because of the sand. We went on the internet and read- a different day to the normal one here. Pete braved cycling to the shops and I spent the afternoon cooking stifado and spaghetti bolognaise.





72 Thines
It was raining when we woke up. Pete put the awning back up as the wind had dropped and we tried to clean the salt and sand off the chairs but it was too wet. I talked to Katie on Kalymnos and Tom in South Korea. There was a huge thunderstorm with spectacular lightning. Pete watched football on the computer.
73 Thines






There was weak sunshine this morning but it brightened up.  We washed the groundsheet in the big sinks as it was a mess. We walked along to the end of the beach on very flat packed sand. It made walking easier for me. The weather has once again reconfigured the beach. The campsite now has another huge round table as Mario has made it. We went to To Palamidi with Jane and Kerrigan for more food , wine and chat. The prawn saganaki was delicious. 
74 Thines
The sea was calm and we had the beach to ourselves . I cooked bifteki and onions inside as it was another cool evening.
I love the colours after the rain



75 Thines
An Austrian van arrived and the man came knocking on the door and told us to move our bikes and chairs in quite a rude manner. He seems to be a regular visitor but he had no need to be so rude. They also have a noisy dog. They came over and introduced themselves later and told us not to even look at the dog as ‘it’s crazy’………it looked a nice dog but it drove us crazy in a short time and we made plans to move earlier than we would have done. We went into town for something to eat and joined Jane and Kerrigan in To Venetikos. It has a lovely balcony overlooking the sea and the food and company were good.
76 Thines
The sea was flat but I didn’t swim as it was a bit grey and cloudy. We went to Jane and Kerrigan’s apartment at Panorama for a swim in the pool and lunch. They have fantastic views over Finkounda and the rooms are super.  





We came back to swim and tidy up as we’ve decided to leave tomorrow. We went to To Palamidi for a last meal there with Jane and Kerrigan. We’d had a lovely time in Finikounda which was made even better by the  people we met there and the friends  we see there too.

77 Methoni
We spent the morning washing windows and packing up after a swim.  We had big hugs from Despina and Takis and as we’re now Facebook friends, we can keep in touch more easily. Gerd helped us reverse out. We planned to stay at Lambas beach for a night and go to the taverna there . We stopped above the beach we call the cow beach as it doesn’t have a name but there is usually a cow on it. Pete went down to take some photographs. When we got to Lambas, the taverna was clearly closed for winter so we had a change of plan and decided to have a night on the camp site at Methoni. 







The electricity is on and there are working showers and hot water. We had a swim- or rather a play about in the water there as it’s shallow a long way out. The sea had brought sections of the road and footpath down again in the winter and it must be a constant battle to keep that sea road open.  We went into O Nikos, a favourite place when we used to stay in Methoni. We went into the kitchen to choose from the wonderful food available. They do the best fried courgettes there!  It was cheap and good. We saw a British Autotrail parked on the harbour with an unusual number plate but no-one around. When we got back we went in by the open gate which is usually locked…….a man from the caravan near asked me if I knew where the key was. I thought that was a strange question as what would I be doing with the key?  We had a very quiet night- no barking dog!

78 Methoni
 We have a nice pitch here with views…..and views of the caravans closed up for winter. It feels a bit strange but everything is working and we like Methoni. The cleaner came round to collect five euros. We went for shopping and saw the Autotrail again so we had a lovely chat with  the owners, Margaret and Mike Mitchell.  We told them about the campsite and she had read some of the things I’d written on the internet.  We went to the ‘Everything’ shop- a little hardware shop that has almost everything you need. We bought a metre of shower matting to cover the space between the two front seats as there is a little gap that attracts dirt. We went to the café opposite for internet and coffee. When we got back to the site, Margaret and Mike were there , set up and doing some washing and they were happy. We were sitting in the van when the guy from last night came over and invited us to eat with him and his friend in the caravan in the corner. We were delighted and later on we went into their caravan to eat. The caravan outside looks very ordinary and old but inside it was super! There were lots of little wooden cupboards, lovely lighting and lots of cushions…and just a little bit kitsch. The table was all set and we had ouzos with Dimitris and Aris from Patras. We had Gemista          ( stuffed vegetables) that Dimitris had cooked, with wine and cake too. We had a fantastic evening , laughing so much.  We cleared up the misunderstanding of the night before. Aris had asked me if I knew where the key was- not because he didn’t know where it was but to tell me where it was hidden so we could use the gate!  Their families have been coming to this site for many years and we learned a lot. And laughed a lot more!

79 Methoni
And still we haven’t moved! We are comfortable and for five euros, it’s cheap. Aris told me that the cleaner asked for 2 euros in August when there were a lot of people there but for five euros now. The guys came over with Greek coffees for us! It was so nice to sit in the sun and chat. They had a look in the van and liked it. Pete went for a swim and I looked for Olympia campsites as we’d planned to go to Gialova but the guys had been there the day before and they said there were lots of mosquitoes and we just didn’t fancy being bitten. Gerd had also told us that his friends had had their caravan broken into while they were in a café there- they could see the caravan but the thieves had gone round the other side and stolen things from it. Aris and Dimitris said that Dimitris wanted to cook again and they wouldn’t let us take them for a meal. We had an evening walk into town to get cakes and see the sunset behind the castle (7.36) . It was amazing to see the castle walls edged with golden light. 







Margaret and Mike had moved their van nearer us as they had connected to a broken electricity box.  Dimitris made little bread/pastry rolls filled with feta and basil which were absolutely delicious. Then we had spaghetti with huge chinks of meat cooked in a wine sauce……and he made it in a pressure cooker! Dimitris ‘fast food’!!!! What a super cook! Pete brought sparking wine and cakes but when he opened the wine, it went everywhere! But Aris and Dimitris just laughed even more. I asked them why they had invited us to eat with them  and said that we could have been axe murderers……….more laughter!  Another lovely night.

80 Methoni
Aris and Dimitris brought coffee over again and they had a look in Margaret and Mike’s Autotrail Navajo. Margaret and Mike are moving back to the harbour for their last day here as it’s easier for Margaret to get into the water there. Pete learnt a lot from Mike who has the van kitted out with everything to make life easier for Margaret who uses a wheelchair. Margaret decided she wanted to take Dimitris with her to be her chef! How lovely it is to meet people who don’t let life and disabilities get them down but travel, meet people and laugh a lot. 



Pete supervises, Aris advises and Dimitris does the work!

Dimitris...'eat something' Raptis

We helped Aris and Dimitris pack the caravan away for winter by moving it to a more sheltered place, said goodbye and thank you to them and that we hoped we would meet again.We went to the café opposite O Nikos to watch football ( I know…..not something you should be doing while the sun’s shining) We met some more English people there who live here for part of the year or all year round. We went back to the site for a shower and a change before going back to O Nikos for souvlaki  and pork chop.

81 Camping Diana , Olympia
Pylos castle closed on Mondays


We paid Ritsa the cleaner for the campsite. We went to Pylos castle but it was closed ( most sites like that are closed on Mondays) but as Pylos harbour car park looked very busy from our bird’s eye view of the town, we left the van there and walked down. 
The square was really busy  and there were bands playing and a big flea market along the harbour. We bought some vegetables and I asked the lady in the shop what was happening. She said it was Panagiri – a festival. 





t

We watched the hustle and bustle from a seat in a café and saw Juanita and Peter ( English couple from Thines campsite) so we had a coffee with them and a chat. The barking dog is making people miserable on the site. We went back to the castle only to find we couldn’t get out of the car park as the priest had parked in the entrance. I went to the gate and talked to the custodian and a man rang the priest ( who had said he would be five minutes) who then came to move his car……….there was plenty of room in the car park but he had to park across the entrance. We then went to Kalo Nero and did a Lidl shop.  We had cheese pies at Nestor’s palace . We got to Camping Diana and chatted to the Greek owner who was ninety years old yesterday! His wife gave me some cake and we had a chat in French. Her husband is so sprightly and chirpy. He gave me loads of information about Olympia and tips on where to get tickets etc. There was a couple sitting having a beer that I’d noticed when I went into the office but when I came out I realised it was Dave and Sue,who we know from Sheffield National Union of Teachers. What a small world! We had a beer and a chat then did the obligatory van visits. They came round after dinner to see some photos of where we’d been to help them on their travels around the Peloponnese. The site has a small swimming pool and is very shady – hence the mosquitoes there too but it was fine for our overnight stay.



camping Diana


82 Aginara Beach camp site Glyfa 
( again)
I made  a list of useful information and sites for Dave who had done lots of research already. We got a map and more info from the old chap and said goodbye to Dave and Sue who were leaving. We walked down into Olympia and it was busy. There were buses everywhere and so many people and tour guides. We marvelled at the museum and archeological site and even though it was very busy there were little corners where there were no people so you could sit quietly and feel the history……….then you could look at all the people!!!!! and there were some sights! Five inch heels are probably not the best footwear for an ancient site…………I won't write much about Olympia as there are better places to read all about this marvellous place.










90 years old!
We went back to the Campsite and were guided out by my 90 year old friend and puppy Igor. We got to Aginara just as a caravan was leaving a spot we’d always liked to try but it usually has a long term resident caravan on it. It’s a nice pitch. I’d bought ready cooked chicken at the A and B supermarket in Pyrgos so we had some for late lunch and dinner. It was very hot there.
a pitch with a view and a garden!

the flowers are lovely at Aginara

Aginara camping

My beach

me in MY sea....

swimming- glasses on for maximum people watching ( though there weren't any people) 
83 Aginara Beach
We had an early swim in a flat sea then ate eggy bread because I'd broken two eggs during the drive there. I’m trying not to use the gas as it’s low and we’ll need it for travelling back where there’s no electricity. We spent a long time on the beach with a sunset ouzo and orange.  I washed bedding and towels. We went out the restaurant for dinner and had super  little courgette fritters, cauliflower stifado and rabbit stifado. Pete watched football on the internet.

84 Aginara Beach
We had a good sleep but there is a crying baby here who cries a lot. There was a problem with electricity in the area so we cycled to Arkoudi. We had a coffee in our usual spot on the corner of the square. A man stopped his car in front of the café ( that’s usual) and spoke to a man sitting on another table. They were arguing about whether we were German or not and were quite surprised when I said we were English. The conversation went on for a while then Constantinos- the guy in the car- asked Eleni, the coffee shop owner, what we were drinking and paid for our coffees! I asked him why but there wasn’t an answer that I could understand…..We saw Mario , who is a waiter at the restaurant at Aginara but he’s finished now for the summer as there aren’t many people there. We swam again and saw loads of little fish jumping in front of us. The old chap at Camping Diana said that the Ionian sea is warmer than the Aegean sea at this time of year and it feels like he’s right. 
towards the sunset and Arkoudi

We cycled along to Arkoudi for our evening meal where we had coffee. We had rocket and marouli salad, chicken and gyros. It was wonderfully tasty and the cycle back in the dark was fine with me using the head torch as extra light though there was a moon.

85 Aginara beach
We had a fantastic swim in the flattest sea ever- just perfect. The van with the crying baby left and you could almost here the collective sigh of relief coming from the rest of the campsite. I was on my own on the beach for quite a while when Pete cycled to Arkoudi for salad. We did a slow pack up and went to the restaurant hoping for more courgettes but there wasn’t a lot of choice and no courgettes.


86 Patras and Ferry to Ancona
We had a last swim and left just after 11am. We went to Patras Lidl and Aris and Dimitris came to meet us there. We all drove along the beach road south to a lovely little taverna where we got parked easily. ( I forgot the camera!) We had a super lunch, chips, fresh kalamari and gavros, salad and kolokeftedes.  They brought us gifts of wine, liqueur, sweets and loukomia- all local produced. We gave them a bottle of sparkling Saumur to throw over the furniture! Maybe this time they’ll get to drink more than one glass each this time as Pete’s not opening it and throwing it about. They are so sweet and kind. They kept to our ‘must get to the boat by 2pm’ timetable though when we said goodbye, we went for diesel and had to wait ages while the tanker filled up the petrol station’s tanks! We learnt from a waiting lorry driver that he doesn’t go through Switzerland and few lorries do as the government charges one euro for every kilometre!  We got to the ferry office and booked in easily. We were checked by security guards though the lorry in front had to go off to be searched further as they couldn’t see right inside. Pete drove to the front- no British queuing with this man. When we went to go on board, an officer checked the tickets and said we had the wrong ones as we were over two metres high. I argued, unsuccessfully,  that they were the same tickets coming out and no-one said anything but he said we had to pay 43 euros more so he took the ticket and the money and said to come to reception later. We made some people smile, security guards and deck hands by giving them sweeties. We were put right at the back, a noisy place but near the shower and loo but this time there’s not much of a view…..well, you can’t have everything and we had a great view coming out. There weren’t many camper vans on but there were lots of buses . The ship was very busy with lots of young people from Slovenia and Germany who were travelling from Zakynthos on package holidays and they were everywhere on the upper decks. We retreated to our van and watched ‘The Kite Runner’ on dvd.  It wasn’t hot in the night but it was a bit noisy so we shut windows and skylights .





 87 We had a long lie in- the skies were grey so we were in no hurry to get up. I caught up on my blog  though I couldn't upload it. I made some sandwiches for the next part of the journey. We left the boat an hour after arriving in Ancona . The rain started just after Rimini and didn't stop until after Milan. We had lots of music to listen to on the way.....
The traffic was not too heavy but the rain was!The sheet lightning lit up the mountains and lakes and was quite 
spectacular. It was 12.30am when we got into Switzerland and Coldrerio services where we were going to stay overnight but there was a problem- it was closed! We had no choice but to carry on another half an hour to Bellinzona. The next problem was that the fridge wouldn't work on gas- it stuck on 12 volt which meant it wasn't cooling unless we had the engine on. The castle around Bellinzona looked very pretty lit by lightning and floodlights.
88 Stenay
It wasn't raining when we woke up but there were amazing low cloud formations in the valleys. We saw an English van and when we pulled in for coffee at Lucerne, it pulled in behind us. Annie and David from Bideford came over for a chat- they said they hadn't seen any English people for weeks. We then went up the German side of the river from Basle to Briesach . We had a look at the closed campsite but didn't stay at the stellplatz there as we had planned because the fridge still wouldn't work on gas and we thought it might work if we had electric hook up so after stopping at Colmar Le Clerc for shopping and fuel, we headed over the Col (949 metres high) towards Stenay. I tried a different route and turned off south of Metz and went via Ars and Verdun. It was a nice route but no quicker than the usual one. We got to Stenay about 7pm . The fridge still didn't work so we transferred the contents to the portable fridge we have. We had a welcome gin and tonic and tarte Alsacienne and an early night.



























89  Home

prawns!




We set off at 9.45am though we couldn't use the showers and toilets on the aire side of the river as they are being improved. A lady came to collect the camp fee but my French suddenly went out of my head and I could only think of the Greek words...how embarrassing  We stopped in Le Nouvion woods for coffee then via drove via Douai and Lille to Auchan in Calais then down to the port. We had to pay extra because we were two days early for the boat ( happens every time!) but we sat waiting for the ferry eating our customary prawns and salad with fruit tarts- delicious! The ferry crossing was quiet and we were one of the first off as we were outside the car deck- a first. Pete drove to Leicester on quite quiet roads and we stopped there for a drink before driving the last miles home- listening to the football game on the radio to pass the time. We got home around 12.30 am. We went in the cold damp house and I tried to put the heating and hot water on and all the power went off! Welcome home! We went back into the nice warm van to sleep.

The next morning, we looked around our lovely garden and saw the birds arriving to feed and thought about how lucky we are to have good friends who look after the house and garden for us and how nice it is to have a lovely home to come back to..............the end of another fantastic trip to Greece.













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