Peloponnese fly/drive May 2006

May 12th, 2006, 01:41 AM
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Peloponnese fly/drive May 2006

Part 1 - No room at the inn in Nafplion

We flew from Manchester to Athens (via Heathrow) with BA on Saturday 29th April. It was great to use scheduled flights, as we usualy go to Greece on package holidays and charter flights. Ther was no delay, good service and checked in online the day before, so all we had to do was drop our bags at the fast drop-off area and get through security. The flights were good, on time and with plenty of legroom and we got to watch the Chronicles of Narnia on the Athens flight.

We landed at 5.30pm in Athens but the time we'd waited for luggage, got the mini bus to the car hire place, etc, it was 7pm when we set off towards Nafplion. We'd booked car hire through Economy car rentals who use Auto Union locally. Their office is right at the end of the motorway, so it was simply a matter of following that towards Korinth and then Tripoli until we hit signs for Argos and Nafplion, where we arrived just after 9pm. We wasted 20 minutes driving round in circles looking for the Hotel Ilion before parking up near the harbour to find it on foot. Found the hotel and went to check in - to find they had no record of our booking - and to make matters worse, as it was a holiday weekend, the hotel was full. To cut a long story short, the computer had responded to our booking to say we had a reservation but the required manual follow up hadn't happened, so no room was reserved. The receptionist started phoning round to find us another hotel (it was almost 10pm by this time) but everywhere in Nafplion was full. She eventually found us a hotel in Tolon, a 10 minutes drive away.

The Hotel Apollon was fine - modern, comfortable, half the price of the Ilion and included a good buffet breakfast - but it was not what we'd hoped for. We'd expected the "room of sky" with nymphs on the bed head at the Ilion (http://www.ilionhotel.gr/) and had wanted to stay in Nafplion. However we were determined it wouldn't spoil our holiday.

Day 2 we visited Mycenae and Ancient Corinth - it poured down with rain while we drove but by some miracle held off raining while we went round the 2 ancient sites. Mycenae in particular was packed with coach loads of tourists.

We decided to eat in Nafplion that evening and had a wander round the shops and harbour before looking for a likely taverna. The town was busy with holiday weekend tourists, mainly Greek.
We had a good meal in a restaurant called the Dionysos, where we had long green peppers stuffed with cheese and ham, gigantes - butter beans in a tasty tomato sauce and beef stifado - beef coooked with lots of small onions. With house wine, beer for my other half and a large bottle of water (our usual drinks) this came to 31.50 euros.

Day 3 we drove to Epidavros - only to find it was shut for the May 1st holiday - we even saw a coach load of people being turned away. It wasn't actually raining but thick cloud hung low on the mountain tops, so We decided to drive on to the coast and down the east side of that finger of the Peloponnese. We stopped off at Methana, which has a smelly sulphorous, volcanic spa pool on the way into town, though it didn't look as though it was still used. We had a walk round the seafront and a small wooded headland before heading further south. We stopped again at Galatas, where the ferries make the short crossing to Poros - by this time the cloud had cleared and it was a pleasant spot to relax for a while, watching the boats going to and fro. Contionued along the coast, heading south, then west on the winding, potholed and narrow stretch of road round the south eastern corner of the peninsula, where there were lots of small secluded coves. The road improved but the weather was deteriorating as we headed westwards and then turned north over the mountains and back to Nafplion for another wander round.

We'd visited Tolon about 10 years back on a package holiday, which also when we'd first visited Nafplion. Tolon was worse than I'd remembered and Nafplion better. Not that there's anything specifically wrong with Tolon but it doesn't really seem to have a real focus as a resort - the main tavernas are along a busy road and though some overlook the sea at the back, there is nowhere to walk along the seafront, other than actually on the narrow beach. There is a better beach south of the town. The 2 nights we ate in Tolon we went to Maria's taverna which I remembered from our previous visit and still serves good food. Nafplion has a lovely old town with narrow pedestrianised streets full of tavernas and interesting shops. The harbour is pleasant to stroll along in the evening and there are castles to explore.

Our first 3 nights stay was over and the next day we were to move on to Monemvassia.
Maria_H is offline  
May 12th, 2006, 04:34 AM
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Day 4. We drove to Monemvassia from Tolon, via Mystras, following the coast north of Nafplion before taking the mountain road towards Tripoli, a winding but good, widened road. Before entering Tripoli, the signs for Sparta take you on a short section of the motorway to the next junction, joining the Sparta road without entering the centre of Tripoli. From Sparta, Mystras is signposted and the trip from Tolon took just over 2 hours. We spent 3 and a half hours wandering through Mystras, starting at the main gate at the bottom of the hill and making our way up the narrow stony paths to the ruined castle at the top of the hill and back down via the monastery, visiting numerous churches on the way. The sun came out and the hillside was carpeted in wild flowers, making it a most pleasant visit. We continued our drive to Monemvassia, in about an hour and a half passing sweet smelling citrus orchards and tall eucalyptus trees and parked up outside the town walls of Monemvassia, near serveral skips, piles of building materials and mini diggers - this year they are renewing the sewers in Monemvassia.

We had booked the Hotel Byzantino using www.yourgreece.gr (I should have used them for the Ilion instead of going direct) and this time the booking was fine. It is not a hotel in the traditional sense, the reception is a small office amonst the shops on the left as you enter the town, the rooms are scattered about the town in restored old houses and the bar/cafe is further along the main street. We were shown to our room, along the cobbled main street, left up stone steps under an arch opposite the bell tower, round a corner past a mini digger and up some more steps to an anoymous wooden door - making us wish we'd packed our things into a smaller bag and not lugged our 2 wheeled suitcases from the car. The room could be described as having rustic charm, with beamed ceiling, uneven marble and stone tiled floor, 2 beds and a huge fireplace. Outside the door was a small terrace with a table and chairs with a sea view over the rooftops and past the bell tower. The bathroom was small and rustic (without much charm), old marble tiles, a small sink and loo and a hole in the floor where you showered into the corner and the whole bathroom got soaked. You are paying for the location here, not luxury and that is certainly fantastic.

Day 5 The next morning we were woken by the sound of pneumatic drills. We got up and headed out of our room to get some breakfast, only to find that the workmen had dug a 2 foot deep trench with earth piled on either side just before the steps that led down to the main street - and cutting off the only way out of our room. We went back to the room to collect all we needed for the day, so we'd only need to cross once, then the workman secured a plank over the hole and helped us to get over. After breakfast we climbed the zig-zag stone steps to explore the old town, it was bright, sunny and breezy. Apart from sections of wall, the church of Aghios Sophia and some old water cysterns, the ruins are fairly scant but the views over the lower town and along the coast are fantastic. Before heading back down, we were taking some pictures from up above and noticed with the binoculars that the trench separating us from our room was getting bigger. We decided to call in at reception, as we were worried about being able to get back to the room in the evening. The people at reception seemed oblivious of the trench but immediately offered to give us a new room. My other half had to return to the room and re-pack our cases and get the workmen to help him get them over the trench - the next day we saw them demolish the stone steps under the arch opposite the bell tower...

The 2nd room was off the other side of the main street and reached by a narrow wooden spiral staircase, where we regretted the suitcases again. This room was bigger and nicer than the first room with a high beamed ceiling, windows on 3 sides, rocking chairs and a big balcony with a sea view. The bathroom though was even smaller than the other one. The room had a fridge, so we were able to stock up with cold drinks and provisions for breakfast. We spent the afternoon reading on a nearby beach in our fleeces, as though the sun was shining, the wind was getting stronger and quite cool.

Day 6. Overnight the wind got stronger and was howling so much, I expected tiles to be blown off the roof tops. We'd intended to spend a day relaxing on the beach but though still sunny, the strong wind was quite cold. We had a drive down the peninsula as far as Neopoli and saw where the ferry left for the little island Elafonissos, which would have made a good side trip on a warmer day. We then headed back to Monemvassia and wandered round the lower town. A lot of buildings have been renovated but there is a lot more work going on or yet to be started. Building materials are brought in on horseback and mini diggers are all that will fit through the narrow passageways. It is definitely a fascinating place but I would stay that 1 or 2 nights stay would be sufficient to explore it all and soak in the atmosphere.

While we were there we ate in 2 of the 3 restaurants in town and had good meals in both. We went back to "To Kanoni" a 2nd time as we enjoyed the food so much - their "mixed Greek plate" starter being well worth sampling. The other place we tried was the restaurant with the big garden, whose name I forgot to write down, where we had tasty "lamb in the oven". After our 3rd night in Monemvassia, it was time to head to Paralio Astros.
Maria_H is offline  
May 15th, 2006, 04:20 AM
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Some photographs from my trip

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/296138/index.html
Maria_H is offline  
May 15th, 2006, 05:29 AM
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Great Trip report. Loved the pic's it brought back such nice memories. I was just there last October yet it seems so long ago that I was there. Glad you had a great time.
Areala is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 05:30 AM
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Thanks Areala - hope my report isn't too long. I'm working on the final part - before the memories fade too much.
Maria_H is offline  
May 19th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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Part 3 Paralio Astros

Day 7. We left Monemvassia, heading towards Sparta before turning right for Geraki on the road that goes over the mountains, to reach the coast near Leonidio. The road wound it's way up the mountains with views at first towards the Taygetos, with patches of snow still on the top and carpets of wild flowers lining the route. We passed a monastery perched high on the cliffs and beautiful mountain views, before we eventually reached the coast after driving through the narrow streets of Leonidio. Headed northwards, along the coast road stopping briefly at Sambatiki, a pretty bay with a small pebble beach backed by a few houses and fishing boats pulled onto the shore. The wind seem to have dropped, the sun was shining and pleasantly warm and the sea was now calm.

We passed numerous small coves along the coast and turned off near the town of Astros for the little resort of Paralio Astros. I'd not known quite what to expect of Paralio Astros, finding little information on the web but we immediately liked the look of the resort. We found our accommodation at the Panorama quite easily from the map supplied by the apartment's owner. Apostolos (who speaks good English) and his wife, Anna (who speaks a little) greeted us like long lost friends and showed us round the apartment. The block is just over 10 years old and the apartments are huge. The decoration and furnishings were a little old fashioned with mis-matched flowery curtains and bedspreads but the rooms were clean, comfortable and well equipped. There were 2 bedrooms (1 double, 1 twin) a large kitchen/dining area, 2 balconies (a large one off the kitchen and another off the bedroom) and a bathroom with a large shower (with a base and shower curtain!). There was another single bed through an arch off the dining room and a bed-settee in the lounge - all for 40 euros a night.

We spent a few hours reading on the beach, a few hundred yards from the apartment and had a wander round the town. The main part of town is built up the side of the hill, topped by the ruined castle. In front of this is the harbour area, with 2 piers projecting out, one at either end, more or less at right angles to each other. The northernmost pier has a statue of a mermaid in a fountain that was lit up at night. Along the sea front between the 2 piers is a tree lined promenade with bars and restaurants. South of the pier the road runs one block back from the beach with more shops and tavernas and then rejoins the beach front in an area backed by blocks of apartments - the Panorama was in this area, a couple of blocks back from the beach (only a 10 to 15 minute stroll from the harbour). The coarse sand and shingle beach then carries on for miles past the town and there is another long sandy looking beach north of the resort.

In the evening we strolled into town to get a meal. Most places were empty, or almost empty and many of the menu boards were entirely in Greek but at least they were open. It was too early in the season for most tourists and the first charter flights from the UK arrived on our last day there. We got the impression from the amount of accommodation, bars and restaurants, that it could be quite lively in July and August during the Greek summer holidays.

Day 8. We spent the morning exploring the town and walked up to the castle, which is quite overgrown inside but gave good views over the town. Followed a narrow track at the back of the castle which led to a sign indicating the remains of an ancient town, though there was little to see, other than an indistinct wall. Walked down the track back towards the town, passing a picnic area at the old lighthouse, a modern concrete amphitheatre and an old anti-aircraft gun (!) before arriving back at the mermaid statue. Then spent a lazy afternoon reading on the beach, as it was now pleasantly warm.

Day 9. we decided to visit the Lousios Gorge, a fair drive via Tripoli and Megalopoli, then heading north and up into the mountains towards the pretty village of Steminitsa. Just north of the village we followed a narrow pot-holed road, signposted for Lousios Gorge walks. The road wound down the mountainside, with hairpin bends, eventually arrived at the top of the gorge at a car park by a church, which was obviously a popular picnic spot. We headed off down a way marked path, through the trees and down into the gorge. After about 10 minutes we passed a monastery perched precariously on the mountainside, under a rocky overhang. Carried on down into the wooded gorge with many wild flowers and the sound of water rushing far below. We eventually crossed the blue waters of the Lousios River on a wooden bridge and carried on to the remains of Ancient Gortyns, an ancient therapeutic sanctuary. Looking back up the gorge, we could see the church where our car was parked, way up above - and realised how far we had to walk back up hill! Some white fluffy clouds, had also thickened and darkened and it threatened rain, so we made haste back to the top and fortunately there were only a few drops of rain before we got back to the car. The walk took us about 3 hours.

It was raining as we drove back through Steminitsa, so we didn't bother exploring the village - we also knew we had a 2 hour drive back. I'd like to return to this area to explore the mountains and villages further, some day. South of Steminitsa we'd seen a sign for Tripoli and decided to take this more direct route back through the mountains. The road didn't rise any higher but wound through pine forests, orchards and mountain meadows, before descending to Tripoli, where we followed signs for Argos and Nafplion to rejoin the road we'd set out on.

While we were in Paralio Astros we tried the 2 tavernas nearest the mermaid statue. The one at the far end of the resort was new (or at least had new owners) and they did their best to impress, giving us a huge plate of fresh fruit after the meal as well the wine "on the house". The 2nd one from the mermaid end, called Remezzo, we went to twice. The food was excellent and the owner spoke good English. Dishes we ate there included aubergines with parmesan - cooked aubergine, topped with tomato sauce and grilled cheese, courgette fritters, spaghetti marinara and pork escalope cooked with a cream and mushroom sauce all delicious and freshly cooked to order.
Maria_H is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 03:13 AM
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Last part - Athens and home

Day 10. It was time to leave Paralio Astros and head back to Athens. Apostolos shook our hands and asked us to tell everyone about his apartments http://www.vahaviolos.gr/index.html and Anna kissed us on both cheeks and waved us off. We headed back towards Argos and approaching from this side, we ended up in the centre of the town. Progress through Argos was slow, negotiating our way through heavy traffic, double parked cars and poor signposting. We eventually found the correct road, following signs to Tripoli and Korinth and a few miles beyond the town took a left turn for the quickest route back onto the motorway and from there, a straightforward drive back towards Athens. Dropped off our hire car and were taken by minibus to the Sofitel, opposite the airport and checked into our room. The Sofitel isn't cheap, we paid 204 euros for the room, including breakfast but it is comfortable and luxurious with all the trimmings you would expect for the price. It is also very convenient for an early check-in.

After dumping our bags in the room, we set off into Athens centre for our last afternoon and evening. The metro is behind the Sofitel and we got a 10 euro ticket - return for 2 people from the airport into the city - only to be told that "due to problems on the national railways" (?) the last metro train back was at 7.20pm but there was a 24 hour bus back from Syntagma Square. The metro takes about 40 minutes and we got off at the square to check out where the X95 bus came back from, before heading off to explore.

We headed for the Acropolis, which is open until 7.30pm in the evening, tickets costing 12 euros each. There is plenty of scaffolding but this doesn't detract from the impressive ruins. The Acropolis seem to be constantly under repair - some to make good previous renovations that have done more harm than good. We wandered round the ruins and museum before heading down, through the Agora, then back through Monastiraki, passing the tower of the winds and on to Plaka. Entrance to the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora, which contains the Tower of the Winds, are included in the ticket for the Acropolis. We ate at Sholarhio (also known as "To Gerani" http://www.sholarhio.gr/english/index.php) in the Plaka area, sitting at a table in a little upstairs balcony, overlooking the street. There is no menu, the waiter arrives with a huge tray full of dishes and you just point to what you want - they are all priced between 2.5 and 5 euros each. For 6 different dishes, drinks and a free dessert, it came to 31.50 euros.

The bus back from Syntagma Square to the airport cost 3.20 euros each and took about 45 minutes. A timetable and ticket office are next to the bus stop. We settled down to 1 night of luxury in the Sofitel before our early flight home the next morning. Breakfast is served from 4am and we were down about 5.30, for a good continental buffet breakfast before we checked in for our flight home at 6.15.

Not all our plans had worked out quite as expected but I wouldn't change much. I will certainly double check all hotel reservations, in the future and consider using someone like "Your Greece", rather than booking direct! The weather wasn't quite as good as the same time last year - but to go later for more chance of hot weather would mean missing out on the wild flowers, so is a chance you have to take. I think 2 nights in Monemvassia and an extra night in Paralio Astros would also have been better but on the whole it was a very enjoyable holiday.




Maria_H is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 03:37 AM
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A very great trip report. I can tell you had a wonderful time. I went last year in the fall and I just love reading other peoples trip reports about Greece. Hopefully I will get back there again one day.

So where is your next trip gonna be ?
TheVagabondLady is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 03:41 AM
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Thanks VagabondLady - my next trip is somewhere entirely different - New Zealand in October! I will certainly be back in Greece again sometime next year. I've spent about 15 holidays there - losing count now - and still have more to see. I can't get enough of the place!
Maria_H is offline  
Jan 5th, 2007, 05:58 AM
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I missed this report when you posted it. Great report and I loved your photos. Makes me want to pack my bags and go exploring.
Nikki is offline  
Apr 28th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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I am planning a trip to the pelopnnese. I fly into athens in Aug 2007 and plan to collect a hire car from the airport area in order to drive to kalamata. I have heard that a particular car hire company deliver your hire car to the Holiday inn at athens airport. Does anyone know if this is true and if so what is the company that provides this wonderful service?
duffelgoat is offline  
Apr 30th, 2007, 01:29 AM
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Economy Car rentals will deliver or pick up a car from an Athens hotel - www.economycarrentals.com
Maria_H is offline  
Apr 30th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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Thanks very much, i will check out the web-site.
duffelgoat is offline  
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