Greece again. 2017
The plan this year was to head for Igoumenitsa and drive down the coast to Patras, meet with friends then carry on to the south. The plan changed......
Here's where we stayed on the journey:
Slate Hall Farm , Haverhill, Cambridge
Marine Parade, Dover
Aire de Camping Car, Stenay, France
Breisach am Rhein stelplatz, Germany
Brisighella, Italy 2 nights
Superfast X1 ferry overnight
Aginara Glyfa Greece 3 nights
Methoni , Greece
Camping Thines Finikounda Greece.....a long time!
Elia Beach Greece 3 nights
Kounoupelaki Beach Greece
Camping Tsolis north coast Greece 3 nights
Olympic Champion ferry overnight
Coldrerio services Switzerland
Plainfang, ( after Colmar) France
Rion Bridge Greece
Slate Hall Farm Cl Haverhill
The trip started with a visit to see friends. Simon, Marion and Molly. We found the CL down a narrow road- a pretty site on a working farm. Our friends came to collect us and we went to the Fox and Hounds in Steeple Bumpstead for a lovely meal and a catch up.
We drove on B roads through Saffron Walden after calling for shopping. We made a stop at Maidstone services but the parking was awful- very narrow. We parked up at Capel le Ferne for a couple of hours before going into Dover and parking up. We went to Wetherspoons for too much Villa Maria and a curry for me after ringing DFDS to see if we could get an evening ferry without success.
We woke up with water dripping in from the skylight- it was raining hard. Pete contacted Brownhills as we shouldn't have water coming in. The ferry was straightforward but we had fun in the E Leclerc supermarket at junction 16 at Bergues because they have put height barriers. Never one to be defeated, I negotiated a route past McDonalds and through a clothes shop car park. We got the usual first French shopping but the strawberry tarts had soggy bottoms!
We decided not to go to Remich but stop at Stenay. It was a nice route as there had been some road improvements in Belgium and we took junction 28A and a straight wooded road to N89 Bouillon.
We had a 'get to know your new van' day- we had fantastic showers, it didn't rattle on the road, loads of room ...but I couldn't find the instructions for the mifi, or the van instruction book or open the skylight in the shower. The bedroom door jammed open . But....
I found the instructions for the mifi and got it working, I found the Adria book, I found the plastic locking switch on the shower roof light and found I had put some bags in a space that blocked the bedroom door from moving...yeah!
The van roof leak is bone dry so I think it may have been Pete's over enthusiastic washing of the roof.
Breisach am Rhein
I went to the loos in the aire and there was hot water- usually it's not very warm. We went left in Montmedy for a change then went right via Musson and Aubange to the Cactus supermarket and garage , Avenue de Luxembourg , Bascharage on the edge of Luxemburg where we fill up and get cheap gin ( 8 euros 30) and some of our favourite wine.We drove down to Metz in pouring rain but we were surprised to find that Jete de Pierre rest place where we usually stop, is now closed, what a pity. We stopped further on in Baccarat at Aire de Meurthe. We stopped for diesel in Vogelsheim ( France) but then found it was cheaper in Germany. We parked in the aire at Breisach where there is a new ticket machine and it costs six euros. We went for a walk and an ice cream but turned back as the skies went black and it poured down again.
Brisighella - a new stop.
We headed off but wasted half an hour going round the new road system and buying awful bread at the supermarket. We stopped for a break south of Basel at Tufengraben- a good spot. There was a 19 minute queue for Gotthard tunnel and we stopped again at the parking after Gotthard south services. It was E2.30 entry to Italy where for your money you get mad drivers, crazy driving and traffic jams but nothing much changes...expect the unexpected and all is well.
We got to Modena, Camping Club Mutina where we usually stay. I had sent an email without getting a reply and there were loads of people wearing yellow tee shirts buzzing around on bikes. One guy kindly told me that we couldn't stop there because they were full, there was a rock concert the next day ( Vasco?) and 200,000 people would be in Modena! They said they had sent an email and we could stay outside the camp but there was a chance that we wouldn't be able to get out of Modena in the morning because the roads would be closed. We were very tired by then so we had a cuppa and a biscuit and looked up somewhere else to stay. We found one but it was another hour and twenty minutes down the road. We got off at Faenza after struggling in rain and shitty traffic to get diesel. There were more jams round Bologna - it wasn't our night. It got dark, we were tired, the sat nav played up and we couldn't find the sosta. I told Pete to drive back to the railway station where I got out and spoke to a group of young people who were sitting on their Vespas. A couple of them went in front of us and found us the place to park. They were rewarded! We were so relieved. I faffed about in the dark trying to read the meter and instructions, made tuna sarnies then slept.......
We had a good sleep . We looked on the internet about this place and went for a gorgeous walk through tree lined streets to the town centre then up 380 steps to the Rocca Tower - three euros well spent. It is fabulous up there with amazing views. We read about the mining of gypsum and the Messinian salinity crisis....yes, a Greek connection.
We went into the town square and sat ages waiting for a coffee before I realised it was self service!. It wasn't very expensive and a good spot for people watching. There was a donkey track with a vaulted ceiling in the town and some of the biggest aspidistras ever. We saw a hoopoe flying through the trees in a park and got back to the lovely sosta with a cool breeze blowing through the van. A great place to stop.
We were the only ones staying overnight and we emptied the loo and water easily. We called at Lidl in Faenza for some shopping. We cruised happily on down to Fano where the sosta at Sassonia was busy as normal but the lady on the gate was very smiley ( Carla) and we parked in the second road. We didn't swim just lazed on the beach for a while. We went to the same restaurant as last year where the food was fine but the service isn't great ( Mel told us later that if you turn right, there's a better place)
A nice breeze kept the van cool.
Superfast X1 and the big decision change.
We got off early down to Mondolfo and onto the autostrada where I randomly said 'How about not going to Igoumenistsa and going straight to Patras?' and Pete readily agreed. We just felt we wanted to be settled. We drove past field after field of sunflowers. We got to the ticket office and changed tickets without cost or fuss then got to the docks and pulled up behind David and Derwena and Maria and Stefan! We took pics and sent them to Theo at camping Thines. We had a very private spot- slight sea view and a really good sleep, helped by a glass or two of wine and a shared plate of gyros from the on deck snack bar supplemented with more salad and feeling glad that we didn't need to get up early and get off.
We went for coffee with Stefan and Maria in their very spacious caravan and the morning went by quickly and soon we were in Patras. We got off at 2.15pm and went straight to Lidl and for fuel.
We drove down to Glyfa and another favourite spot at Camping Aginara.
We had a pot of home made vournela jam from Kiki and gave her a packet of custard creams! The showers are newly tiled with swallows nesting in them. We went to the taverna there for a meal- papoutsakia ( little shoes- aubergines stuffed with mince) We met the Italians next door who have a cat ladder up to the window for their two cats.
I did a big wash in the big sinks, exchanged camp sites with an English couple , Nigel and Marion who had been to Turkey , sorted the stiff drain tap out and had a picnic lunch on the lovely beach. The flowers here are just gorgeous- even the bins have a covering of bougainvillea.
Aris and Dimitris, our friends from Rion came to visit. It was so good to see them. We went to the next village- Arkoudi , for souvlaki but Dimitris, also known as super chef, brought us a huge dish of yemista ( stuffed peppers and tomatoes) We ate all of it the next day! We had a call from Theo to tell us the pitch would be free on Sunday- earlier than we had planned.
We drove down to Methoni camp site, stopping as usual in Zaharo for coffee and spanakopita ( spinach pies) and a quick shop in Kalo Nero. Pete did some excellent manoeuvering past a bus in Marathopoli but we never found the start of the new road built last year......
We had a surprise driving into Pylos where we saw our friends Andy and Carol and Marj and Mike, sitting at a table in the square. They had shared a taxi there. We had to stop of course! We had a quick catch up and told them we would be at Thines tomorrow.
Nandia met us at Methoni campsite reception and remembered us from last year. We went to O Nikos for a lovely meal trying hard not to listen to some loud americans talking about what a great guy Trump is.
Finikounda ! Home again!
We set off for the short drive to Finikounda and when we got there, we found that Rikki and Gerd - Austrian friends, had moved pitch so we could get on earlier. How nice. We pitched up quickly then went for a swim and met with all the people we knew and had a super reunion meal at Palamidis.
We had lots of visitors the next day and got to know our neighbours, Ute and Eddie.
Pete and Andy went inland on their bikes up the valley while Carol and I had a chat but Andy got a hole in his tyre- Pete came back to get help so Takis and Pete went in the truck to get him. They found him by the church in the shade and when he saw them, he pretended to pray- to much laughter.
When they got back, we all had drinks in the bar. We met Dafni, an architecture student working here for the summer and laughed with Katerina and Babis. We ate at the campsite as Despina was cooking - fantastic traditional food.
Pete and Andy sorted out getting a new tyre and Yiannis (also Thines family) got one in Kalamata for him. I took an gin and tonic round for Christina but got waylaid on the way back by an aperol spritzer with Maria......I love this campsite......!
The boules made an appearance in the early evening.
Takis took Andy to get the tyre fixed on. Mel arrived late afternoon...so good to see him after his solo drive here.
Another cause for celebrations so drinks in the bar, then Palamidis for dinner.
Dia and Dimitris surprise visit:
We didn't know they were coming from Athens for the weekend so it was lovely to see them.
I was having a bit of bother swimming- my right hip wasn't working as it should so breast stroke was tricky...I ended up sort of flailing my legs! Theo brought us breakfast of bread , honey and jam.....in exchange for a cup of tea.
One of our chairs broke but Pete fixed it though it won't fold ever again. Mel did a mammoth wash that was too mammoth for the washing machine which didn't recover. We formed a camp 'band'! Panayiotis, lead guitar, Jan and Mel playing along....Eddie plays too and me.....good fun.
I realise that I have too much trivia on here for seasoned motorhomers and what follows can be happily skipped....we were here 77 days! But what a fantastic time we had and what lovely people we know and lovely new people we met.
I will put some photos and some highlights.
Dimitris, Babis, Theo and Angelos ..... a gathering of electricians all trying to fix Andy's cool box.
A fantastic night at Takis' farm where we had loads of food, beers and laughter.
Andy and Carol left and Andy did a treasure hunt for us to follow. Pete and Pete took Honza and Rafaella with him as he cycled everywhere..... good fun if a bit complicated by the first clue which Theo and Mario set involving finding a man on the site and giving him a beer....no-one knew who he was so Pete had to get help from Stefan asking German and Austrians.
Good friends Nondas and Mary arrived from Athens and Brigitte and Herbert .
Jan and Honza moved their van next to us when Ute and Eddie left.
Pete went with Mel, Mario, Myrto and her sister to Kalamata to get an air conditioner for Mel and new chairs for us....but didn't get any but Myrto got a lovely outfit for her graduation.
Babis,Mel and Herbert cycles 34 kilometres...and that was before I had breakfast!
Pete went fishing with Nondas and Paulo and caught 19 melanouria which we ate fresh.
Mel went to Evangelismos with Thanassis and Babis but two of them had bust tyres so it took them five and a half hours!
We went to Pylos with Theo for shopping and coffee.
Lots of Greek friends arrived for the August holiday
We became grandparents! On August 8th little Louie George arrived . Our first grandchild....Mary bought banners and put them up on the awning to let everyone know.
Lots of people from the campsite- including staff, went up to the panagyri ( festival) in Akritohori. It was a brilliant night- dancing, laughing and the pork...oh the pork.....! Mary suggested taking a pot of mustard so I put one in my bag. Wow! Mel learned to dance - to everyone's amusement but bless him, he worked hard at it and mary and Nondas were very patient. The band and singers were very good. Theo showed off his exceptional skill of catching peanuts in his mouth. There were so many people there all having a great time, it was wonderful.
We had great news on 8th August when Joe rang us to tell us of the birth of his son and our grandson, Louie George. Jemma and the baby were well and Pete couldn't speak for joy!
Views from the van at Thines, Finikounda
suddenly during a routine operation. She had sent me a funny text to say what she was having done........her last message to me was pure Katie....funny and clever.
We were absolutely devastated. It really makes you think about your own life . We are here such a short time- we have to live it to the full.
The return journey:
When we left Finikounda, we headed to Elia Beach on the coast north of Kalo Nero. It didn't look great to start with so we left the van and walked into the forest along the track. There are miles of forest track with pine trees, small clearings, two places to get water, bins at the end of the track and great access to a fantastic beach. Camping is encouraged here with signs to tell you not to go on the beach at night because of turtles and nests.
We found a shady place thinking we would stay overnight but left three days later! We had a cycle ride, good swims and watched lots of beautiful butterflies flying south- there were so many of them!
Pete found a baby tortoise then we rescued a bigger one from the middle of the road. We watched a shepherd herd his sheep along through the forest and saw stunning sunsets...and it got even better when a baker's van arrived in the morning with fresh bread.
Kalogria/ Katakolo/ Killini/ Kounoupelaki
We stopped in Katakolo for coffee and met up with Corrinne and Geoff from the campsite in Finikounda who had left a few days before us...nice surprise! We then went to Killini port to saty there for the night but didn't find anywhere we liked so drove on through the Strofilia Forest to Kalogria where there was a camperstop. It wasn't anything special and there were no showers so we drove back a bit to Manolada then down a gravel road to Kounoupelaki Beach. We had a quiet night there.
Camping Tsolis , north coast past Rion near Lambirion.
After buying bread, tomatoes and cucumbers from a little old guy who turned up in his car, we set off for Patras. We called in at Lidl there that has the best view of any supermarket! We drove to camping Tsolis to meet friends Aris and Dimitris before we got the ferry. It's a pleasant site above a beach with great views. Pete had a swim in full sunshine but it was cooler. We had a lovely meal cooked just for us by the lady who was the waiter, the chef, the everything.....She also gave us grapes but it felt very end of season there. They sell nice bread in the office and the staff told me that people usually stay a day before the ferry but there are a few static caravans that Greeks use for weekends and holidays.
Dimitris and Aris took us into Rion by the bridge for souvlaki and a lovely evening.
We met them there the next day too for coffee. We parked under the bridge where there were lots of people swimming though we didn't.
We had stayed three nights at the site but I wouldn't do it again. It's safe to park near the bridge if we needed to.
We got the usual ferry with the usual 'Wacky Races' approach to getting on- there is never any logic to how and when you are boarded.
The boat was rammed full of lorries and we seemed to spend an age in Igoumentisa but this seasoned old ferry traveller couldn't be bothered to get up to watch. There was a whiff of drain smell and I got anxious about ti but then realised that it wasn't our van that was smelly.
When we got off the next day , it was 5.35 Italian time and we set off for the big drive north. We stopped opposite the Barillo factory for a quick cuppa but there was very little space as lorries needed to get parked up. We got to Coldrerio services just over the border into Switzerland at 11.45. It was too long a journey for me and we won't be doing it again....though I have said that before!
It was one of those days- nowhere with space when you needed a coffee stop and I was still grouchy from the day before. Pete had said that in return for stopping longer at Finikounda, I could choose a route back- and I had but we didn't follow it because he wanted to get diesel and LPG in Germany and my route wasn't that way. We struggled to do our first solo fill up with LPG but a nice guy came out of the garage near the bridge in Breisach to help. We parked by the river for a nice lunch then carried on past Kaysersburg over the col to Plainfaing- a new aire. It had barrier entry which didn't take a lots of puzzling out, electricity, well laid out plots and wifi. It's a pretty place but after a walk, we realised that there wasn't an awful lot to see but it is a convenient route stop.
We stopped at the bakery in Fraize as usual for beautiful baked goods. We headed for Luxemburg and the usual garage and supermarket at Bascharage. There was heavy rain . I got soaked going to the bank in Montmedy. The sun came out in Stenay so we had a walk.
We headed back to Dunkirk via Valenciennes. It was cold! Next year we will go a faster route via Bouillon to the motorway. and maybe stay at the aire in Bouillon instead of Stenay?
We evicted a small Greek spider when we parked in LeClerc. We got the boat before the one we were due on and parked up in Marine Parade. Pile driver noise at 8 am gave us an early start home.