Trip report - Greece

Jul 21st, 2006, 07:28 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2006
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Trip report - Greece

My wife and I flew to Athens from Boston in September 2005. This was our first visit to
Greece but our 24th two week excursion to Europe in the past 18 years. This trip would rank near the top of our "best trip" list. We prefer to travel using a rental car and do not make hotel reservations unless we are planning on spending the first nights in a big city, such as Athens. Our preference is for small family run hotels or B & Bs. Our trips are always in either May or September and we have never had a problem with "winging it" during these months.

This particular trip was one of the best for several reasons. A big reason being the weather. Everyday was sunny and 75 to 85 degrees. Others being the incredible ever changing scenery...the great food and the easy pace of the whole trip. Every stop we made was a winner. As you can already tell, I am not a writer but I will attempt to give you an idea of what parts of Greece we were able to see in fifteen days. For our first trip to Greece we wanted to see the mainland and did not want to spend our time riding ferries and island hopping.

We arrived at the Athens airport and took the train and subway to our Hotel. (Jason Inn)
The hotel was pretty basic, the price was right, the room was clean and it was within easy walking distance to the major attractions. By the time we were settled in it was 3PM. We left the hotel for a walk and as luck would have it there was an open air double decker bus a block from our hotel that was giving free rides around the city. We hopped on and rode the tour twice and were able to get a real feel for the layout of the city.

Day two was a great day! It started with a good breakfast at our hotel served on the rooftop garden with a spectacular view of the Acropolis. After breakfast we took the bus to the entrance of the Acropolis and spent several hours at the top. We walked down thru the Agora. My wife can only do a limited amount of walking, otherwise we would have walked both ways. We then walked to Sindagma Square and saw the changing of the guard and then to the Grand Bretange Hotel for a look at Athens best known hotel. We walked back thru Plaka, had dinner and we were in the hotel by 10:30 pm.

We started day three in Athens by getting tickets for the "hop on hop off" bus and then headed for the lively and interesting Central Meat Market. From there we took the bus to the stop for Lycabettus Hill. After climbing many stairs we reached the level where we caught the train to the top. Spectacular views of the city and countryside. We spent some time at the National Museum but it was such a nice day, I couldn't make myself stay inside. I'll save that for another trip and a rainy day.

Day four in Athens really wasn't needed but it turned out to be a nice relaxing day. We went to the Monastiraki Flea Market, walked thru Plaka to Syntagma Sqauare and the National Gardens in the am. A girl in the park asked me if I would be interested in joining the Communist party. I looked at her a little funny so she asked where I was from.
When I told her, she said, "Oh, I guess not."
In the afternoon my wife rested and did some people watching in the square. I walked back up to the Acropolis and down the opposite side to Hadrians's Gate. Another great day!

We picked up our rental car in the am of our fifth day. Our first stop was the amazing Corinth Canal. From there we visited the ancient theater of Epidavros. In my opinion, these are both "can't misses". We finished the day in the beautiful seaport town of Nafplio. Our hotel was the Grand Bretange the second oldest hotel in Greece(not affiliated with the one in Athens). We had a nice room with a balcony overlooking the harbor. We stayed two nights. The next day we drove up to the fort that overlooks the town. You can also climb the 999 steps to the fort from town. The fort is massive and very impressive with great views. Returned to town and went for a swim at the rocky beach below the fort.

When we left Nafplio, we passed thru Tripoli to Sparti and Mystras. Mystras is an ancient uninhabited Byzantine town. Well worth the stop. We finished the day in another beautiful seaport town - Monanvassia. This town is a little out of the way but well worth the trip! We stayed at a small family run seaside hotel. We had the best meal of the trip. I don't remember the name of the place but it was the restaurant closest to the causeway on the mainland side.

We left Monanvassia late the next am and drove to Gythio....walked around for a while and then headed for Mani. Our first stop in Mani was the small picturesque town of Gerolimenas. We decided to spend the rest of the day and the night there. This is the great part about winging it...if you get to a place you like you can stay there. If you don't like it, you can move on.

The following morning, after a swim in the harbor, we drove around the Mani Peninsula.
We included trips down a lot of the side roads to some of the small and interesting settlements. This was a spectacular ride and I highly recommend it. We finished the day in Kalamata.

The next day we went to the ancient site in Olympia. Again, another "can't miss". We headed for Patra where we planned to spend the night but didn't see anything there of interest so we crossed the bridge and headed for the nice seaside resort town of Nafpaktos. I think we were the only Americans in town. Another great stop! We stayed two nights. Great food at a restaurant owned by Maria Loi. She does a cooking show on TV in Greece and sometimes in the U.S. She came to our table and introduced herself and chatted for awhile. We hadn't heard of Maria and just happened to be passing by when a pretty girl in front told me they had the best moussaka in Greece. It was good but I had some in Monanvassia that was its equal.

We left Nafpaktos and headed in the direction of Ioannina with plans to spend the night. After arriving and looking around a bit we decided to move on. This turned out to be a great move. We ended up in the mountain town of Metsovo. It was a very interesting village where some of the older ladies were dressed in traditional costumes. There were plenty of small hotels.

We left Metsova after a great breakfast at our hotel and started the winding drive thru the mountains to Meteora where we spent the afternoon driving the loop of the amazing rocktop monastaries. We made many stops along the loop and I took way too many pictures. The night was spent in Kalampaka.

The following morning we drove thru Karditsa and stopped at the small mountain town of Gravia for lunch. We planned on spending the night in the coastal town of Galaxidi. It was a very nice but small town. We ended up staying in the larger coastal town of Itea.

On our fifteenth and final day we took the short drive to the incredible ruins of Delphi. We spent four hours exploring the ruins of this ancient hillside settlement.
The museum at this site should not be missed.
This was a great way to end our tour of Greece. We were left with an easy 2 1/2 hour drive to our hotel at the Athens airport.

When we arrived back in Boston, we had a two hour drive to our home in Maine. We didn't talk much about the trip on the way home but as soon as we were safely in the driveway we both said "WHAT A GREAT TRIP"!
kettamic is offline  
Jul 21st, 2006, 07:52 PM
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Hi kettamic,

Thank you for sharing your trip report! That area around Metsovo is soooo beautiful - arrrgh, I wish I was there now.

Sounds like a wonderful trip!


murphy89 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 09:16 AM
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Thanks for your kind words. I am new to Fodor's Forum and wrote this trip report before reading some other postings. I just finished reading a report from maitaitom and can now see what a boring report I submitted.


kettamic is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 12:26 PM
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Boring it isn't, especially to those of us who love Greece.

Well done on your first report. I enjoyed reading every word of it.

billbarr is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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"For our first trip to Greece we wanted to see the mainland and did not want to spend our time riding ferries and island hopping."

shame because the islands are so much nicer than the mainland i think But i'm glad you enjoyed yourself. personally i hate athens in the summer, too noisy and polluted. in fact, i hate that place in general. it is a real hole IMO. But there is a lot of beauty outside of it. if you managed to find a lot inside of it, i'm happy for you. i just wish i could think the same
kikos is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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^^I realize by mainland u didn't just mean Athens. next time make sure you check out the islands. some of them are like paradise on earth.
kikos is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 04:23 PM
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Fab trip report! I love Greece but have so far only managed Athens and some of the islands so reading about other areas just makes me realise I have many, many great trips ahead of me. Thank you!!
Jul 30th, 2006, 08:47 AM
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We also loved the Pelopnesean Peninsula, antiquities, small villages,and beautiful scenery. We also enjoyed Crete.
SuQue is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 04:51 PM
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kettamic, where did you stay in Nafpaktos? We are looking for a hotel there, one with a balcony,near the waterfront so we can walk along the port. Also, what is the name of the restaurant there, run by Maria Loi who has a cooking show? Thanks! Margeo
margeo is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 12:25 PM
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wow! this all reminded me of our trip in the Peloponese last year. We also LOVED the Mani and stayed in Gerolimenas for 2 nights. I would have stayed there forever, eating fresh calamari and drinking ouzo till I dropped!
Jojonana is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 02:03 PM
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I don't know how I missed this report last summer! Thanks for sharing. We visited many of the same spots on our trip last May.
TexasAggie is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 06:28 PM
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We arrived in Nafpaktos late in the afternoon on a Saturday and all the rooms with a view were booked. We ended up staying at the hotel Atki. It was one block from the shore as I recall. The cost was 50 euros with breakfast. Maria Loi's place is called Koyzina and is located by the harbor on 3 Anemoyanni Street. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we enjoyed ours.

kettamic is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 07:56 AM
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Where did you pick up your car and who did you rent if from? Did you have to drive out of Athens? How easy or difficult did you find driving in Greece? Thanks.
milliebz is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 08:07 AM
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Hi millie,
I'm not kettamic but DH and I also rented a car and drove around mainland Greece so I'll try to answer your question. We rented from Avis and chose to pick up and drop off the car at the Athens airport. We just took the metro (10€ for a 2-person one way ticket) from the city to the airport and picked up the car there. The airport dumps you out onto the highway and it is VERY easy to follow the signs to the National Road that takes you down to the Pelopponese. We found driving in Greece to be extremely easy. The signs are awesome and seemingly omnipresent. Just drive on the right and you'll be fine. You can find a detailed account of our driving experience here:
TexasAggie is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 05:15 PM
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I rented my car thru autoeurope. I picked it up in Athens and dropped it off at the airport. I didn't have any problem getting out of Athens and found driving in Greece very easy. Good roads, very little traffic and excellent signage.

kettamic is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 07:12 PM
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Thank you both. I did not realize that going to the airport was an option. We did that in London and it made a tremendous difference so I will look at that option.
milliebz is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 07:45 PM
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Thank you so much for linking your trip report. I read it way back when I first started planning but this time I cut and pasted a lot of tips. Invaluable. Metro, driving, restaurant and highlight tips are so valuable. BTW, I live in the Denver area also.
milliebz is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 07:53 PM
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I had read somewhere that 80% of all cars rented by tourists in Athens were returned within the first hour because of the crazy traffic.
The last two summers we rented from Ace Rent A Car who met us at the Athens airport. It was really worth spending the 10 Euros to take the metro back to the airport. The toll road to the Pelopponese is just great and is like driving the freeway at home. Speeds are a little bit excessive particularly when your little rental car is a small Hundai which can't compete with big BMW's Audis and Mercedes, hoewever if you stay over to the right it is fun driving in Greece.
stanbr is offline  
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