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Trip Report Trip report – Peloponnese (and a little bit of Athens)

Firstly, I’ll be honest. This isn’t a trip report at all. It’s just a report on the hotels we stayed in, plus maybe one or two asides. We did so much nothing this holiday that I would bore you all stupid if I tried to do a day-by-day account.

We are a small family (2 adults and one kidlet, aged almost 6), and this break was mostly about relaxing, eating, swimming, eating, seeing some parts of Greece we had not visited before, and then eating a bit more.

Our trip looked like this: (after much help from fodorites - Thanks again to all the fodorites who helped us plan this trip. Special thanks are due to Clausar and to Yiassas, who even offered to check out some prospective apartments for us).

1st night: Athens airport – Sofitel – EUR150 for a room with child bed
Then:
5 nights in Nea Monemvasia (Gefyra) staying in Topalti village – EUR120 for a 2-bedroom apartment
4 nights just outside Gythio in Castello Antico – EUR120 for a loft room
7 nights in Finnikounda in Fotis Apartments – EUR70 for a “2 room” apartment (one bedroom and a bed in the sitting room)
Final night: Athens – hotel Ilisia – EUR80 for a room with a child bed.

Our thoughts on each of those hotels are set out below.

1st night: Athens airport – Sofitel – EUR150 for a room with child bed

The Sofitel was perfect for us as we arrived late at night. You just follow the signs for “hotel” in the arrivals hall and it is right outside the arrivals hall. There is a nice enough cafe just outside the hotel where we got some late night sandwiches and a couple of beers. Pricey but pleasant and would be a good place to have a nice snack even if you are not staying in the hotel.

There is an indoor pool on the top floor, open until 11 at night, which is a great way to cool down after a long flight. We stayed here for our first night and went for a swim in the morning while hubby picked up the car – a much shorter swim than originally anticipated – we rent from Economy Car Rentals and they have moved their rental desk since the last time we used them at Athens – previously we had to go on a shuttle bus to a car depot miles away, now their car pick up zone is just 100 metres up from the arrivals hall and it’s very efficient. Great for car pick up, not great for our little planned exercise!

The room here was OK, pricey for what you got (but the location is such that they can charge what they want). It was really handy and very well soundproofed – we did not hear a single plane all night despite being right in the middle of the airport.

Nea Monemvasia (Gefyra) staying in Topalti village – EUR120 for a 2-bedroom apartment - www.topalti.gr

We picked this place primarily because it had a pool. We got a basic but fine 2 bedroom bungalow in a small development of maybe 15 bungalows with a nice pool. The development is on the edge of Nea Monemvasia, slightly up the hill, a shortish walk into the centre of the new town.

There is nobody permanent on site but the development is owned by the same people who own Villa Diamanti in Nea Monemvasia, so you pop into Villa Diamanti to check in and they bring you up the hill to Topalti. The linens were changed and the apartment cleaned every day, which we did not expect. This apartment would easily have slept 4 adults. The only negative here for us was the firmness of the beds – I know this is a common complaint in Greece but wow, these were very very firm indeed.

A few general comments on Monemvasia – if you only visit for 1 or 2 nights, definitely try to stay in the old town. It is so magical. We were there for 5 nights, and were glad we stayed in the new town, because we wanted to use it as a base for touring around and it is so much easier to access the new town, obtain parking etc. Our favourite beach in this area was Plitra, which was nice and sandy but a bit chaotic as it is so popular – the music was loud and we felt we were practically in a disco on the beach. Hard to get sunbeds (in fact we were “double sold” a sunbed that had already been paid for by someone else, but he very kindly let us keep it anyway). Plitra was great for kids as it is very shallow. I’d suggest going early or late rather than in the middle of the day as we did.

On restaurants, the most memorable restaurant we ate in here was not in the old town but along the bay as you go south out of Nea Monemvasia – there is a cluster of restaurants there with a view of the rock and also of the turtles swimming in the water. Had an amazing Moussaka here – can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it is the traditional Greek one with the blue chairs & white table cloths and the lights in the water so you can see the turtles. It’s just beside a slightly posher looking fish restaurant with purple tablecloths. Well I can just imagine all of you trotting down the road asking for the restaurant with the purple tablecloths. Sorry about that. Should have noted the name.

The really memorable food experience in nea Monemvasia was the icecream. There’s a bakery/icecream shop on the main road to the causeway called Charami (XARAMH) and my word I think it’s the best icecream we ever had. Every night we got a cone here before making our way home up the hill. Bliss. (I would especially recommend the ferrero, we tried almost every one and that was our favourite).

Just outside Gythio - Castello Antico – EUR120 for a loft room
www.castelloantico.com

This was by far our favourite place to stay of the trip. It was a hotel as opposed to an apartment, but the room had a mini fridge and it didn’t feel like a hotel as it is made up of a series of houses. It is a 3 star hotel and we could not see how it wasn’t a 4 or 5 star.

The room was a loft room, so we had a double bed and there was then a stairs to an open loft area where the child bed was. You could have slept 2 kids in the loft area, or 1 adult. The hotel is really stylish and the room was very classy. All very simple colours with plenty of stone. Pure class. Towels and linens were changed daily and beach towels every second day.

The hotel has a lovely pool, an excellent restaurant and is located on Mavrouni beach so you can either go to the pool or to the beach where the hotel provides umbrellas and sun loungers. Staff extremely helpful. The price included breakfast for the 3 of us and represented great value for what we got. I can’t recommend this place highly enough. The only issue is location – it is not in the town so you need a car, or you need to be happy to eat at the hotel. We did one night and were really taken aback at how good the food was.

We had a few other good meals in Gythio. We liked Nissus restaurant and ate there twice (the first restaurant as you go out along the pier towards the little island with the lighthouse). The wine we really liked both here and in the hotel restaurant was called Biblia Chora, both the red and the white were excellent.

Probably the culinary highlight of our whole trip was in Gythio – not a fancy meal at all but a little souvlaki place that served only one dish – fried pitta bread with a pork skewer and a slice of cheese. Salty, sinful, and just delicious. Never had anything like it before. The place was full of Greeks drinking beer, shouting and generally having a good time. The food was heaven. The souvlaki place was just beside a cafe called the “corner cafe” and it is on a road running perpendicular to Ermou (if you go along by the playground on Ermou and keep going you will find it on your left).

Finnikounda - Fotis Apartments – EUR70 for a “2 room” apartment (one bedroom and a bed in the sitting room) - www.finikoundaapartments.gr

Our final Peloponnese destination was Finnikounda, which we enjoyed very much – thanks to those who suggested it. We loved Methoni, both the castle and the beach, and visited it many times. We were glad that we stayed in Finnikounda and visited Methoni by day rather than the other way round, as there was not too much life in Methoni by night (we ate there a few times during the day and twice at night) while there was plenty of life in Finnikounda.

Our apartment was quite nice, basic but with a pool. Great location, very short walk to the beach and town. Very quiet (in fact, all the places we stayed were quiet bar perhaps the very last place in Athens, see below). The big issue here for us was that the pool was closed for much of the afternoon – it opened from 10:30 to 2 and 5:30 to 8. The reason for the closure is that it is in a residential area, so for siesta time the pool area needs to be quiet. All fine reasons, but we were a bit put out as we had chosen the apartment for the pool so would like to have been told in advance about the closing times.

We ate in a number of restaurants in Finnikounda and found them all to be fine.

Methoni had the really memorable food experiences (good and bad) – Taverna Thalassa on the small square by the beach was really good, we had lots of different dishes here and they were all excellent. There is a restaurant at the end of the beach which is practically in the water and looks really cute but it was not good (probably because it looks so cute it doesn’t have to be...). The kebab place Kastro by the castle is good and the locals in Kastro were incredibly friendly. Good for an informal lunch before or after a castle visit. Incidentally the castle in Methoni closes at 3pm so don’t leave it too late to visit.

We had considered staying in Tsokas in Finnikounda and happened to pass by it during our stay – it looked nice but the location of Fotis is much better, and it is a lot cheaper, so we were happy with our choice.

Final night: Athens – Best Western hotel Ilisia – EUR80 for a room with a child bed.

We stay in the Ilisia in Athens because it is convenient for visiting relatives who are based in Kessariani. We were a bit disappointed here because we normally book a particular room on the top floor which is at the back away from the road (very quiet) and which has a separate sleeping area for the kidlet. We had booked that room, but were given on arrival a totally different double room with a child bed in it (so no room to swing a cat) which was at the front on the road. We weren’t that happy, but in the end we kept the air conditioning on all night which blocked out almost all the road noise.

The location of this hotel is not bad, it’s just beside the Hilton, and it’s cheap for Athens. If you can, ask for the room on the very top floor (I think it is 701. If not it is 601). It’s a bit more expensive but much better and particularly works for a family with one or two kids.

That’s all folks! Happy to answer any questions... jane

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