Arctic Athens…. .

Our arrival in Athens coincided with a dramatic drop in temperature.  We went from T-shirt weather to T-hermals weather in the space of twenty four hours.  An arctic northerly wind was blowing right across the city.  We decided to brave the Athens traffic and head for a guarded parking spot in the Piraeus district on the southern end of the city.  At €13 per night it’s less than half the price of the two campsites on the outskirts of Athens and as we would be out and about sightseeing all day it didn’t make sense, in our eyes, to stump up the extra cash for a campsite.  Maria, the lady who mans the car park from 7.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, welcomed us and shuffled a big SUV to another area of the carpark so that we could squeeze in.  It was smaller than we expected but absolutely fine and with a rolling steel security gate which locked us in between 10.00pm and 7.00am we felt very safe.  We would recommend it as a no frills safe parking spot to ‘do’ Athens.

P1110405.JPG
Guarded parking at Piraeus – this picture was taken on Christmas Eve just before we left – when we arrived it was practically full.

The Metro was a five minute walk away with trains running to the centre of the city every ten minutes for €1.40 each way.  All the public transport we have used in Greece has been really efficient and cheap so a big tick for Greece on that score.  We were within spitting distance of the Acropolis within thirty minutes of leaving the van.  Tim was keen to crack on with getting the Acropolis and the Parthenon under our belts before the weather deteriorated.  We finally found the entrance after a thirty minute detour in the wrong direction which took us into the Anafiótika area, one of the old districts in Athens, below the northern slopes of the Acropolis.  I had a poke about up and down the narrow alleys and steps feeling more like I was nosing round a hilltop village rather than being in the centre of the largest city in Greece.

P1110264.JPG
The little streets in the Anafiótika area below the northern slopes of the Acropolis.
P1110265.JPG
Worn steps.
P1110321.JPG
Looking down on the Anafiótika area, one of the oldest settlements in Athens.

Backtracking we finally found the entrance to the Acropolis and spent a very cold but enjoyable couple of hours taking it all in.  The weather and the time of year did us a favour as it was extremely quiet and we didn’t have to fight our way through hordes of other people or have an eye or two poked out by marauding selfie sticks.

P1110269.JPG
The Acropolis taken from Areopagus Hill.
P1110275.JPG
Theatre of Herodes Atticus.

P1110285.JPG

Figure of the comic Satyr, Silenus, seen in the Theatre of Dionysos.

P1110297.JPG
Parthenon.
P1110302.JPG
Looking back over to the Theatre of Herodes Atticus.
P1110309.JPG
Sculpture on the east pediment of the Parthenon.
P1110318
We were fortunate not to have any crowds.
P1110333.JPG
Porch of the Caryatids (replacements of the originals) – four of the originals can be seen in the Acropolis Museum
P1110346.JPG
Theatre of Herodes Atticus seen from the other side.
P1110364.JPG
Tower of the Winds – octagonal structure built as a water clock and weather vane by Andronikos Kyrrestes in the 1st Century BC..
P1110362.JPG
Each side has an external frieze personifying the eight winds.

I had done a little homework before we got to Athens and had semi planned an itinerary so as to make the best use of our time there.  It is like no other city we have visited.  We only really scratched the surface and would happily visit again to see more.  Aside from the ancient sites we thoroughly enjoyed mooching about the flea markets in the warren of streets in the Monastiráki district.  The shop keepers wares sprawled out onto the pavements in front of the dilapidated, graffiti covered buildings in which they are housed.

 

P1110352.JPG
Flea market in the Monastiráki district.

P1110354.JPG

P1110373.JPGGrafitti is everywhere in Athens, and also much of what we have seen of Greece.

P1110257.JPG
Graffiti is everywhere……………
P1110438.JPG
……….even on the cacti!

The central meat and fish markets are on the scale of nothing we have ever seen before.  It was a mass of people, noise and activity and……………dead things that I’d rather not see but fascinating all the same.  I suspect that what you can buy there is the freshest you will ever get.

P1110376
Central meat market.
P1110414.JPG
I really should be a vegetarian.
P1110412.JPG
It was really noisy in the fish market.
P1110413.JPG
You don’t want to be wearing open toed sandals in here!

If you are in need of anything be it ironmongery, batteries, spices, fabric, birds, rope, antiques, art, crafts, jewellery, handmade shoes, bikes, paints etc etc you will be sure to find it in central Athens.

P1110408.JPG
You can get anything in central Athens.

One of the highlights for both of us was a visit to the Acropolis Museum.  Now, I’m not really one for museums as I do have a short attention span but what clinched it for me and for Tim was the building it is housed in.  Decades in the planning and designed by Bernard Tschumi, it opened in 2008.  Concrete pillars and a glass walkway suspend the building above an early Christian settlement.  The top floor has a panoramic view of the Parthenon and displays the remaining original parts of the Parthenon frieze that are still in Greece in the order that they would have graced the Parthenon itself.

P1110391.JPG
The approach to the Acropolis Museum – the building is suspended over an early Christian settlement.
P1110404.JPG
Because it is spacious it doesn’t feel busy.

 

 

P1110401.JPG
The four original Caryatids and a cast of the fifth – the gap is there ready to receive the sixth one if the British Museum ever decide to give it back!
P1110395.JPG
The view of the Parthenon from the Parthenon Gallery on the top floor.
P1110399.JPG
The display of the remaining original parts of the Parthenon Frieze.

We missed the changing of the guards at Plateía Syntágmatos Square, home to the Greek Parliament and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but saw the National Guard (ézones) in action outside the Presidential Palace the following day.

P1110381.JPG
Plateía Syntágmatos Square, home to the Greek Parliament and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

They stand motionless for an hour before it is time to switch with another guard.  During the changing they work together to perfectly co-ordinate their moves.   I’m not sure they can really concentrate on guarding anything when they are so busy co-ordinating their arms, legs and pom poms in slow motion.  The two we watched weren’t quite in sync when they had their backs to each other but it doesn’t look easy.  Apparently the steps for the changing of the guard are carried out in slow motion to protect their circulation after standing motionless for an hour.

P1110423.JPG
Outside the Presidential Palace.

P1110426.JPG

P1110427.JPG
It’s all in the timing.

Whenever we are in a city we like to seek out some green spaces between landmarks so we walked up through the National Gardens, created in the 1840’s, to bring us out to the Kallimámaro Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.  We didn’t feel like we were in a city once through the entrance to the Gardens as it was so quiet amongst the trees with paths meandering here and there.

P1110418.JPG
Kallimámaro Stadium.

As the weather on the third day had improved we climbed up Lykavittós Hill for a view over the city.  There is a funicular railway to get you to the top but I didn’t tell Tim that.  It reaches 910ft above the city and is a favourite spot for people to view the city at night.  We had to make do with a day time view as we didn’t fancy climbing up in the icy temperatures at night.

P1110440.JPG
The view from Lykavittós Hill.

Dropping back down to the town we visited the Temple of Olympian Zeus and our three day mini break in Athens was complete.

P1110462.JPG
Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest in Greece.  Only fifteen of the 104 columns remain, each 17m high.
P1110475.JPG
Toppled column.
P1110456.JPG
View from the Temple of Olympian Zeus towards Hadrian’s Arch and the Acropolis.

We celebrated with burger and chips at a small cafe in the Monastiráki district followed by a pint of Guinness at a nearby Irish bar.  It would have been the perfect end to our visit but Tim felt unwell halfway through his pint and had to trot to the gents to be sick.  He’d scraped off most of the dressing on his burger as he can’t abide creamy type dressings as they can make him ill. It seems whatever was in the dressing hadn’t agreed with him.  Either that or it was a reaction to paying €12 for two pints of Guinness!  I knew it was serious when I had to finish his pint.

DSC05040.JPG
That’s not a smile it’s a grimace – €12 for two pints!  

He was not a well chappy and took to his bed as soon as we got back to the van.  I was stressing a bit that I might have to drive us out of Athens the following morning with a sick patient in the back but he woke up feeling much better and we left Athens at 7.30 am on Christmas Eve to avoid the traffic and headed for Ancient Corinth on the Peloponnese.

P1110250.JPG
They’re getting into the festive spirit in Piraeus.

καλά Χριστούγεννα!

 

A hop over to Evia…. .

Evia, also known as Euboea, is the second largest Greek island separated from the mainland by the sixty metre Euripus Strait.  We thought visiting Evia would be a fun way to hop, skip and jump across to Athens from Volos instead of the three hundred or so kilometre drive along the motorway on the mainland.  After an overnight stop in the little fishing port of Achilio we boarded the nine o’clock ferry at Glypha for the forty five minute ferry crossing to Agiokampos.

P1110200.JPG
Achillio.

 

P1110202.JPG
Leaving Glypha.

We parked up on the beach at  Pefki and after a walk got the chairs out for a spot of al fresco lunch.  Whilst munching our sandwiches we had some welcome visitors when a pod of dolphins swept across practically right in front of us.  We couldn’t believe how close in to the shore they were.  Lovely to see.  They disappeared, then reappeared for a second swim past before going off to pastures new.

P1110217.JPG
What a treat to see whilst having our lunch.

DSC05011 (1).JPGWe spent a few days trundling round the northern end of Evia at an average speed of about twenty five kph, stopping at beaches along the way.

P1110222.JPG
A walk from Krya Vrysi to Paralia Agias Annas.
P1110227.JPG
A very rickety bridge over some deep water!
P1110229.JPG
Our parking spot at Krya Vrysi.

It’s a mountainous, sparsely populated part of the island with a windy up and down main road which snakes through thousands of acres of pine forest.  We could smell the strong scent of pine resin when driving through a couple of the villages and saw plastic bags of the stuff piled up into large mounds.  Then we noticed all the plastic bags hanging from the tree trunks catching the sap dripping from open wounds on the trees where a large patch of bark had been removed.

90705496
Pine resin being harvested (photo courtesy of google images).

Apparently  Northern Evia is the largest resin producing area in Greece and its main use is to give Retsina, the Greek white (or rosé) resonated wine its distinct flavour.

Evia is linked by two bridges to the mainland at Chalkida but we continued the fifteen or so kilometres to Eretria to stop for a couple of nights before getting the ferry back to the mainland.

P1110233
Our overnight stop at Eretria.
P1110240.JPG
On the ferry back to the mainland.
P1110239
Ollie’s roof seems to have a bad case of mange!  We haven’t really had the opportunity to get up to it to clean it this year.

Next up……….Athens.

Αποχαιρετισμός!

Continuing on in Chalkidiki…. .

It seems like ages since I last did a blog post as my usual weekly ramble was a bit different a couple of weeks ago.  I had intended to update the blog with another post on what we had been up to but then I thought ‘now come on Jane, don’t over stretch yourself’ so it never happened.  Then, of course, time went on and before I knew it another two weeks had evaporated into thin air.  In truth, I could faff all day with a blog post.  I procrastinate on what to say, which photos to choose, what to put in, what to leave out.  How other people knock out a blog post everyday is beyond me.  Writing to me is not a natural thing and being confronted with a blank page can set me off into a bit of a panic.  Hence, I’ll always find other things to do.  In fact, I’ve already made a cup of tea, as a distraction, half way through writing this first paragraph.  If anyone has any hints on how to overcome these tendencies then I’d love to hear them!

In a nutshell our last two three weeks have looked a bit like this:·

  • Number of historical sites visited – Nil
  • Number of bike rides – Four
  • Number of walks – A fair few
  • Number of idle days – Too embarrassing to say

We’ve been bimbling.  The Urban Dictionary defines bimbling as ‘to wander in a happy but slightly disengaged state, though with some harmless or ineffective intent’.  That kind of sums up nicely our last two three weeks.

We trundled around the Sithonia peninsular stopping for one or two nights at a time at beaches or harbours.  The roads were quiet and we’ve enjoyed parking up close to the sea as few people have been about and the resorts are mostly closed up for the winter.  It’s a beautiful under developed area perfect for beach walking, mooching about and watching the fishermen go about their day.

P1110072.JPG
A little cafe closed up for the winter in the tiny harbour at Fteroti on the Sithonia peninsular.
P1110073
I love the colourful traditional fishing boats.
DSC04923
A boat building yard in Lerrisos.
P1110078.JPG
Lerissos.
P1110088.JPG
Figurehead on one of the boats in Lerissos.
DSC04944.JPG
We stumbled across some traditional music in Lerissos.

Mount Athos, the highest point on Chalkidiki’s eastern most peninsular, is a no go area for regular folk like us.  Athos is an autonomous republic ruled by the 1700 monks living in its twenty monasteries dotted around the peninsular and is a unique area of Greece.  Strictly no females are allowed to visit and only adult males can visit by applying to the Pilgrim’s Bureau in Thessaloniki for a ‘Diamenterion’ (official permit).  We took a walk up to the perimeter fence just to see how cut off it really is.  There weren’t any rabid dogs patrolling up and down or anything but the signs weren’t particularly welcoming and as we didn’t really fancy being arrested we had to make do with a walk up the hill where we could just get a glimpse of one of the monasteries.

P1110095.JPG
The Monks say ‘NO’.

 

P1110105.JPG
Zoomed in view of one of the monasteries on Mount Athos.

………..and some pigs.

P1110109.JPG
Not wild boar this time.

Boat trips can be taken from Ouranoúpoli to see some of the monasteries from the water but they aren’t allowed to dock anywhere on Athos.

We moseyed up the coast as far as Olympiada, where we were accompanied for the night at the harbour by a Bulgarian van, before retreating back to Thessaloniki for a couple of nights.

P1110113.JPG
Colourful harbour wall at Stratoni.
DSC04957.JPG
There’s gold in them there hills – well, not quite – you can see a silver, lead and zinc mine on the edge of Stratoni village.

We went back to the camper stop at Zampetas principally as it broke the journey up on our way further south and also because they have a coveted item there.  A washing machine.  Washing machines are like Hens Teeth in Greece so when you know where you are likely to be able to utilise one you seize the opportunity.   Once pitched up and settled in I stripped the bed, hoovered up every scrap of dirty washing, and skipped off with my bag of laundry to the machine.  Happy days.  Not quite.  The machine was broken.  Oh, the disappointment.  What a waste of a breezy sunny day if you can’t use it to dry your freshly laundered smalls.

The next option was to do some hand washing.  Nope.  Can’t be bovved.  I don’t mind doing cycling kit and underwear but I draw the line at hand washing bedding.  A quick internet search turned up two self service launderettes in the centre of Thessaloniki……..two bus rides away.  No matter, I was on a mission.  I wanted that laundry done and I wasn’t going to be deterred by a mere bus ride or two getting in my way.  The four hour round trip went without a hitch.  The second bus dropped us off a minutes walk from the launderette.  The brilliant huge drummed machine at €3 a wash took care of the whole bag of washing.  €3 for the drier and everything was turned around in less than ninety minutes.  The free internet at the launderette kept me entertained whilst Tim went off in search of a few music shops in the town.  He conveniently arrived back just as I was folding the last T-towel into the bag.  Two buses back and a quick pitstop at Lidl for a celebration doughnut and our mission was complete.

Our next stop was Volos, a thriving port city with a very pleasant seafront and the gateway to the Pelion peninsular.

P1110129
Our parking spot 7km outside Volos.
P1110147.JPG
Looking back towards Volos from the looooong breakwater.
P1110145.JPG
Art at the docks in Volos.
P1110134.JPG
Fishermen were tending to their nets at the quay in Volos as well as selling their catch – some still alive!

After a couple of nights just outside Volos, which we visited on the bikes, we moved round to the little village of Kato Gatzea.  We were looking forward to a couple of nights on a campsite.  We’d been in Greece over a month and we’d only seen one other British van so imagine our surprise when we were shown around the campsite by the owner to find that the three other vans on site were all British.  Like buses they are, like buses!

P1110154.JPG
Our camping spot at Camping Sikia on the Pelion peninsular.

Our neighbours, Mick and Janette, were on a similar trip to us.  They had also rented out their house and shed all their stuff to travel for an extended period so it was nice to swap a few stories.  The other couple, Grant and Janet, turned out to be from New Zealand and were travelling throughout Europe for three years and will return to NZ in 2019.  The other chap, Jim, was also on an extended tour staying on the campsite until the New Year.

P1110180.JPG
Monday afternoon drinks on the seafront?  Oh, why not!

We ended up staying six days on the site as we had a superb pitch overlooking the bay, the weather was great and it was nice not to have to drive for a while. I took to the bike to explore the very beautiful but very hilly peninsular whilst Tim took to the beach with his clarinet for a bit of al fresco practice.

P1110160.JPG
View towards Milies village.  

The hills in this area rise to over 1600 metres and much of the area is covered by dense woodland and produces apples, pears, peaches and olives.  My legs felt every one of those hills but with little traffic I had a couple of challenging but rewarding rides in the area taking in some of the mountain villages with far reaching views across the bay.

P1110164.JPG
Station at Milies – the 60cm narrow guage Pelion train which runs between Ano Lehonia and Milies, completed in 1903, is one of the narrowest in the world.  Alas it only runs in the summertime.

P1110172.JPG

One of the restored mansion houses in Vysitza.

P1110182.JPG
Afissos.

 

P1110189.JPG
One of the simple cafes along the seafront closed up for the winter.
P1110185.JPG
Little church outside the tiny hamlet of Lefokastro.
P1110187.JPG
Another traditional fishing boat laid up for the winter.

It is olive picking season and every second vehicle you see is an olive mobile (aka pick up truck).  All over this region we’ve seen them tooing and froing between the small olive processing plants that are dotted about.

P1110025.JPG
Olive processing plant.

 

P1110181.JPG
View of the sunset from the window on our last night at Camping Sikia.

We reluctantly left the campsite and headed south towards Glyfa where we could catch a ferry to Evvoia, the second largest Greek island after Crete.  The island is linked to the mainland by two main bridges but that would have meant a longer drive and wouldn’t be as much fun.

τα λέμε αργότερα!

Sharing the Blog Love…..The Liebster award…. .

download.png

You may be wondering what this blog post is all about going by the title.  The Liebster award?   What is all that about?  I too was thinking that very same thing when Suzanne from Globalhousesitterx2 left a message on my blog to say she had nominated me for the award.   I headed on over to her blog, then, to upskill myself so to speak and find out what it was all about.  Ah right, after a bit of reading and digging I got the low down on it.  Originating in Germany, it’s basically an internet award where a blogger nominates fellow bloggers whose musings they enjoy reading and asks them to answer some questions in a blog post.  Once the nominee has answered the questions and published them on their blog they then nominate blogs that they enjoy reading asking those bloggers to answer the same or different questions.  And so it goes on.  It’s all about sharing the blog love and it’s aimed at newcomers to the blogosphere.  Are you all with me so far?  Great.

Suzanne and her husband are New Zealanders living an extraordinary life of world travel combined with house and pet sitting.  I enjoy reading all about their globe trotting lifestyle and Suzanne’s musings on life.  Thank you Suzanne for nominating my blog.  I’ve done my best to answer your questions.

And without further ado here they are:

What country, city or continent would you most like to visit and why

Ooh, that’s a toughy.  I couldn’t really pick just one.  In truth, I’m not very well travelled in terms of having visited many other countries.  Until we started on our trip around Europe I’d only visited a handful of countries as, for eighteen years, we holidayed in the UK due to having our dogs.  I don’t have any one specific stand out destination that I would most like to visit.  I’m happy doing what we are doing now travelling and discovering new areas and countries in a loose haphazard kind of way.  Anywhere new is good enough for me at the moment.  Maybe in years to come, after having experienced and visited more countries, I’ll have an idea of somewhere that I think ‘yes, I have to go there’.  Having said that, Scotland is somewhere that I have never been to that I would really like to see but we keep putting it off because of the weather!

What was the most inspirational time in your life so far?

I think that has to be the years leading up to us taking this huge long trip around Europe in our van.  Up until about five or six years ago I’d been pretty content with my life.  My job was a means to an end.  It wasn’t something I was passionate about but, you know, I felt I did a good job and I didn’t hate it anything.  I didn’t feel like I was in the rat race and life was pretty good.  But then a combination of things happened including an enforced job change to another department which left me in a working environment and job that I felt, deep down, was not for me and I started to think ‘gosh, is this as good as it gets….am I going to be able to do this for another ten or fifteen years’.  I don’t know why but I started to peruse a few different blogs on people taking time out to travel around Europe in their motorhomes.  As this was something that we wanted to do when we reached traditional retirement age I devoured them all.  This then morphed into delving into blogs about minimalism, simple living and living intentionally.  Blimey, I was on fire!  It made me completely change my mind set and perspective on life.  When it came down to it, time and experiences were more important to us than stuff.  Living with less and wanting less has definitely changed our lives for the better and enabled us to pursue our current life of travel.

Getting ready Mar16.JPG
Everything packed up and ready to go into storage before our trip started in April 2016.  In April 2017 we let it all go and gave it to a charity.

What are you passionate about?

I really feel at home around animals and like to be with them.  We don’t have any pets at the moment though.  We made a conscious decision when our last dog sadly went to the big kennel in the sky, towards the end of 2013, that we would have a break from the responsibility of having a pet to enable is to pursue other things.  Some of the volunteering we have done through Helpx in the last eighteen months has been with various different animals including donkeys, dogs and alpacas.  If we ever settle back into a normal life or even if we don’t then I’m sure we will have another dog……….or two.  I also love travelling in our motorhome, reading, walking and cycling.  I quite like birdwatching as well but I’m not serious about it and generally can’t identify what I’m looking at.

Doug Brighton 2010.JPG
Douglas, sadly missed.
P1040003.JPG
A day out at the Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth, Devon.

What is your favourite book and why?

Reading is one of my most favourite things to do and there are sooo many books I could choose.  Instead of choosing one book then I’m going to choose my favourite author.  And that would be, hands down, Alexander McCall Smith.  I just love his books.  He’s a prolific writer and just when I think I’ve read everything by him I’ll be casually flitting about on the Amazon Kindle book pages and see he has published another book.  My favourites by him are all of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series and the 44 Scotland Street series.   He has a very simple, subtle way of writing with beautiful observations and reflections on life and a whole host of wonderful characters.  Overall, his writing just exudes compassion and kindness which is something we should all aspire to.  With every book I have read of his I always learn a few new words which I have to look up but I can’t confess to remembering them.

61ueP2TZE1L._SL300_.jpg

What is your favourite time of year?

I love all the seasons, well not so much winter, but if I had to pick one time of year I would say it would have to be Spring.  The days start to get longer, migrating birds return, new shoots appear and you have that feeling of the whole summer stretching ahead of you.

P1050497.JPG
Spring 2016 walking the Harrogate Ringway.

What other interests do you have besides blogging?

This varies year to year as I am a fickle soul and don’t seem to be able to stick at anything for very long.  Currently I enjoy spending time trying to improve my French.  It’s a lofty goal of mine to become fluent in at least one other language and be able to get by in another two.  The other two would be German and Spanish.  But I’d also like to learn Portuguese too.  And maybe Italian.  Did I mention I was fickle?  I’m so envious of polyglots who speak several languages effortlessly and I’m a late starter to this so we’ll see.  Time will tell.  Maybe by telling it to the world here I’ll make myself more accountable.  Peut-etre.

Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?

Now, I think the answer to that question for me would be ‘it depends on the weather’.   If it’s dry and bright then I would choose the mountains over the beach any day of the week.  As walking is one of my passions then I need to be able to get out and about amongst those peaks.  If the cloud is low or it’s raining and I can’t see them then I can find them a bit oppressive.  You see, I’m a fair weather mountain person.  In contrast, I love beaches in any weather and at any time of the year.

P1010756.JPG
You can’t beat the hills on a sunny day.

Where did you go for your most memorable holiday?

One holiday that stands out was a trip to the Isles of Scilly back in 2009.  We had our lovely dog Lulu then.  We travelled with just our backpacks and little tent on the train from our home in Wiltshire to Penzance and took the ferry to St Mary’s island.  We stayed on St Agnes, which has no cars, spending a wonderful week exploring the islands, visiting the pubs and generally enjoying a slower pace of life.  The weather was amazing which was just as well as our little tent was a bit cramped with the two of us and Lulu.  We took the least amount of stuff we felt we could get away with but bought two cheap camping chairs in Penzance.  I can’t do without a chair.  If I go camping I want a chair.  If I sit on the beach I want to be in a chair.  If I go on a picnic I want to be in a chair.  No romantic picnic rug for me.  I want a chair.  That’s all I want.  A chair!  Anyway, when our week’s holiday was over we gave the two chairs to a couple of backpackers who were just arriving on the campsite.

isle of scilly 087.JPG
Tim with Lulu, Isles of Scilly, 2009.

Do you prefer a sunny or a rainy day?

Oh, sunny.  Sunny.  Yes, definitely sunny.  I’m no sun worshipper though.  Lying on a beach slathered in chip fat slowly cooking is just not for me.  My idea of sunbathing is sitting in my shorts and T-shirt under the shade of a tree reading a book.  I love sunny days because they make me feel happy and energized.  Everything just looks better on a sunny day.  Sunny days allow me to do the things I love like walking and cycling.  That said, if I’m tired after a busy few days I’m more than happy to sit watching the rain roll down the windows whilst supping a cup of tea.

P1040219.JPG
A beautiful sunny day perfect for cycling along the Moselle in Germany.

If you had a day all to yourself how would you spend it?

Ok, I’d start with a cup of tea in bed whilst reading a book, a blog or something educational followed by a swim, ideally on a sunny day in a nice fifty metre outdoor pool.  After breakfast a long walk in beautiful countryside preferably one where I would come across a field of donkeys to pat.  A cheese and pickle sandwich for lunch followed by an afternoon kip.  I’d listen to a few language podcasts, read some more and finish up my day with a homemade chilli.  Rock and Roll I am not!

P1040516.JPG
My ideal pool for a morning swim.

So there we have it.  And now it’s my turn to nominate some of the blogs I enjoy reading.  I’ll leave the questions as the same or if you want to mix it and match it with some others I’ve listed below, or answer some but not others, do what you like really……..or not.  It’s up to you 🙂

What books have you been inspired by and why?

What would you say has been the biggest challenge of your current lifestyle?

What has been the biggest benefit of your chosen lifestyle?

I would like to nominate:

Adventures in Life, Love, Travel…….and Puppies!

Love Motorhoming

The Wanderlings

Aaronandnickytravels

Phew, that was, I think, my longest blog post yet.  If you’ve got to the end then thanks for reading.  I’m off for a lie down!

Cheerio!

 

 

IT Stress and Van Repairs…. .

I had a bit of IT stress last week.  Well, not strictly IT stress but more of an ‘aaarrrrggghhhh’ moment which then turned into IT stress.  More on that in a minute.  We travelled east from Metéora towards Thessaloniki but made a pit stop at an aire in Vergina to break the journey.  Vergina is the site of Greece’s most important archaeological discovery in the 20th Century which is all very interesting but that’s not what I’m going to tell you about.  If you are interested you can look it up here.  As I’ve said before I try to keep this blog simple and I am in no way shape or form a history buff so if it’s a long winded story then I have decided I’m not going to write about it.  So there!

So, being the heathen that I am, instead of visiting the museum at Vergina (which is said to be excellent) and it being a beautiful sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky, I decided to go out for a walk.  I picked out a route which I thought would take me to some ruins but to my surprise, after an hour and a half, I arrived at a fully restored Monastery nestled in a valley.  It was closed but I did wave to a very startled nun working away at a desk in one of the rooms at the back.  The only access to it must be via a very bumpy track in a 4WD.

The piece de resistance of the walk though was coming almost face to face with a wild boar.  It was but twenty or thirty metres away in a clearing snuffling around as, I presume, boars do.  It hadn’t seen me so I spent a few minutes taking some photos and just enjoying the moment.  Once I started to retreat I startled it and it ran off.  Fortunately in the opposite direction.

I got back to the van buzzing.  I put the SD card into the laptop to show Tim my sighting whilst grinning from ear to ear.  He gave me back the laptop and I deleted the photos from the SD card.  Aaaarrrrgggghhhh nnnooooooo.  A split second after I’d pressed the delete button I realised my mistake.  I hadn’t saved them.  Oooh how cross was I?  I mean, you know, it wasn’t the end of the world or anything and nobody had died but I was crushed.  That’s where the IT stress came in.  Seeing my face Tim calmly removed the laptop from my grasp and set about trying to retrieve the photos.  He worked on it for hours.  Hours and hours, I tell you.  After numerous downloads of recovery apps which promised the earth but delivered nothing he had to admit defeat but had managed to retrieve two photos.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And here they are…….

_1100963.JPG
All Saints Monastery, in the middle of nowhere, near Vergina.
_1100966.JPG
Yay, the one photo of the wild boar Tim managed to recover.

Anyway, I soon got over the disappointment with the help of a packet of chocolate digestives and a pint of tea.

As well as IT/photo woes we’ve had van woes.  When I changed the bedding the last time I noticed that the bottom of the mattress was wet and the likely culprit for a leak was the window above.  The kitchen window was leaking too on occasion depending on whether the van is facing into the wind or not.  A camper stop then at a caravan dealership outside Thessaloniki beckoned.  Tim emailed them and Alexandre replied saying ‘bring your van tomorrow and we sort all your problems’.

We arrived the following morning to a friendly welcome and they got to work straight away.  We also asked them to replace all the LED strip lighting as they were all flickering which can be migraine inducing for Tim.  In for a penny in for a pound we also asked them to look at the ailing shower tray.  Yep, they could do that too.  It did cross my mind as to whether they could retrieve my deleted photos as well but thought that may be pushing it. Whilst they worked on the van we took the bus into Thessaloniki.

DSC04790.JPG
Ollie, quite literally under the knife.

It was a sixteen kilometre, two bus journey which cost €1.20 each.  Absolute bargain.  Thessaloniki is the second city and second port founded in 315 BC.  We weren’t expecting to enjoy our meanderings as much as we did.  It has a pleasant waterfront promenade, Byzantine churches by the bucket load, interesting street art, pleasant squares, parks, numerous museums, several markets and a Marks and Spencer.  Tim was hoping for the purchase of a pork pie in the M&S food hall but alas only non perishables were on sale.  We only scratched the surface of what Thessaloniki has to offer and you could spend a week there but a day was enough for us.

DSC04803.JPG
The White Tower, built in the late 15th Century.
DSC04825.JPG
The colourful Ladadika area.
DSC04836.JPG
One of the traditional markets.
DSC04844.JPG
Agia Sofia Church built in the mid 7th Century.
DSC04851.JPG
The Arch of Galerius built 295 – 305 AD.
DSC04845.JPG
I love the artwork on the side of blocks of flats.  It seems to be popular everywhere.
DSC04859.JPG
The statue of Alexander the Great on horseback.

Back at Zampetas the van was finished so we spent the following day giving it a good clean.  It needed it!

DSC04870.JPG
Everything was out for a good clean.

Leaving Theassoniki we took the A24 which took us across a long ribbon of scrubby scrubbyness which was interspersed with petrol stations, light industry (both thriving and derelict), unfinished building projects, farmland and a fair dose of roadside rubbish towards the Halikidiki (Chalkidiki) peninsulas.  Getting closer to the Kassándra peninsula the land opened up into small single story orange roofed dwellings surrounded by crops and olive trees.  Much more agreeable.

We’ve spent the last six days here pootling about the coastline.  Pretty much everything is closed in the smaller coves but one or two tavernas were open in Nikiti and Marmaras.

P1100993.JPG
Nikiti on the Sithonia peninsular.
P1100995.JPG
A walk from Nikiti – we could have been on the South Devon coast near Dawlish, UK!

We’ve had a mix of weather with clear sunny days, perfect for strolling along the shorelines, to blustery windy days giving everything a bleak feel and reminding us of parts of the Cornish coast.

P1110002.JPG
Cats!
P1110033.JPG
Sunrise over Porto Koufo.
P1110036.JPG
Our parking spot at Porto Koufo.
P1110043.JPG
Kandilakia (Καντηλάκια), wayside shrine.  
P1110050.JPG
Parked up at Kalamitsi – can you spot us near the far end of the beach?
DSC04898.JPG
View towards Mount Athos.

It’s a completely different experience to what we had in Spain and Portugal this time last year.  We’ve only seen one other van (Bulgarian), hardly any people and we’ve been able to park up with no problems right by the sea every night.

Anyway, as it is Tim’s birthday today I ordered this sunrise especially for him 🙂

P1110066.JPG
Happy Birthday Tim!

καλή Παρασκευή σε όλους!