Arrival in Greece

Trip Start Sep 13, 2010
1
13
Trip End Sep 30, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Once again Mom has gone and done the near impossible. She arrived at my house with one bag.  One small carry-on bag.  She didn't even have a purse and we are travelling for 17 days.  It’s a good thing too because I needed her to carry an extra bag for me!  She gets my camera bag.

Everyone must be more technologically advanced than I am because we checked in 3 hours early and there were no window seats available.  People must be doing this at home before they come to the airport. 

Jenny rushed from work to meet us at the airport to send us off.  It was good to see her again and we caught up on the latest news in her life for about 15 minutes before it was time to go through security.  It seems like the Trudeau airport has beefed up its security a bit since we were last there.  Once through security, we had to show our boarding passes once again when we got a little way down the hall toward our gate.  Then just before we were called for boarding, an officer brought a dog to the waiting area to sniff everyone’s bag.  Finally, there were security personnel standing halfway down the tunnel before boarding the plane.  It wasn’t as bad as the double scanning at Heathrow last year, but close.

It is always difficult to sleep on a plane.  I figure I probably got about 4 hours of fitful sleep as did Mom.  My bottom got a little sore toward the end so I looked for excuses to get onto my feet.  I do know that the sun rose at 12:50 am (Ottawa time) and a few hours later we were in Greece 7 hours into the future.  One poor lady must have had a sore back because she literally stood up and walked around for the entire flight.  She sat down for the landing and was in obvious pain.

For this trip I worked with a travel agency called Fantasy Travel.  It sounds like a very cheesy company I know but they provide a great service.  After a little research I decided it would be much easier, more convenient, and cost about the same to work with a travel agent in Greece.  All the hotels of my choice are pre-booked, my car is rented, our transfers from hotels to the islands are arranged, and I have someone local to call if anything goes wrong.  We were met at the airport by the travel agency representative who had all of our vouchers and documentation for our entire trip ready along with emergency contact numbers.  It all ran like clockwork.  We got our car, I checked that the air conditioning is in working order as we are expecting daytime highs for the first week or so to be in the high 20s or low 30s… and we were off!  We were warned that Greece is in the middle of a petrol strike so not to let our gas get too low.   Fill it up when I can.  Hmmmm.

As I drove down the highway going in what I thought was the right direction (the rental company didn’t give us the best of maps) Mom was looking up Greek lettering so I can brush up on reading signs.  For example the symbol delta (∆) has a 'th’ sound.  Corinth, where we were heading, looks like  Κόρινθος or Kórinthos and we had fun trying to read the strange signs everywhere.  The landscape as we left Athens looks very arid like a desert.  It is very mountainous and rocky with a few shrubs clinging to steep hillsides and quite often there are fortified structures at the top of the mountains. 


Our goal on the first day is to drive to Nafplio, the original capital of Greece located in an area called the Peloponnesos (Pelop’s Island) although it is not really an Island.  On the way we planned to visit the Corinthe Canal.  I’ll tell you right off.  The drivers in Greece are certainly living up to their reputation.  I read that many drivers never even take a driver’s test.  They simply bribe their way to a license.  I don’t know how true this is but I wouldn’t be surprised.  Many are way too fast and aggressive.  When we reached Corinth, I realized that the fault isn’t necessarily always with the drivers.  There weren’t any traffic lights to keep order so there is a chaotic chorus of people, motorcycles, trucks, and cars all trying to get where they are going.  This requires that you drive a little aggressively but fully alert to your surroundings.  It reminded me a lot of driving in Ecuador when we were there a couple of summers ago. 

I asked lots of people for directions and all day everyone was so pleasant and willing to help even if their English was poor.  They would point in a direction and say something like, " 10 kilometres to the center and then ask again" which I did.  Nobody was grumpy or acted like I was some dumb American.  It was refreshing and it really makes an impression on travellers when they can always find a smile and a willingness to help when it is needed. 

Finding the Corinth Canal which was a little out of our way was really worth it.  What a sight.  Our timing was perfect as a large boat was being towed through at the time we arrived.  It is a little like the Grand Canyon in that it is hard to appreciate the scope and depth of the Canal which took 12 years to build in the late 1800s with the help of Hungary to connect the Aegean Sea and Ionion Sea.  This was probably good for trade.  Mom asked me if I wanted to bungee jump.  I think my wild days (if they ever existed) are over.  She said she would surely have a heart attack if she tried.

Then we ate the last of the food we had packed from home and were off to find Nafplio.  What a delightful drive.  As we asked for directions and travelled we saw chickens wandering around a gas station, about 40 goats with beautiful curly horns resting by the side of a road, fields of lemon trees and olive trees, wind farms with absolutely no breeze budging the turbines, cypress trees that reminded us of Italy, and shades of mountains like layers in a painting as a backdrop.  It was a lovely country drive with unexpected surprises around each turn and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

After asking for further directions from a road construction worker when we reached a traffic circle without any mention of Nafplio on it, we finally reached our destination.  Well, I still had about 3 more people to ask before we found the hotel deep in ancient Nafplio.  As I kept driving and searching and asking, Mom kept saying “Look, Beautiful!”  And it is.  The old town is a maze of small alleyways where cars don’t travel filled with shops, bakeries, restaurants, and businesses that you are drawn to wander down and if you look up, you see the fortress high on the mountain beside the town of which I am told you can hike up 999 steps by foot to visit.  I think we will drive there tomorrow.  The other big feature is another fortress in the water by the port.

After much time spent driving around and realizing that our hotel is only accessible by foot, we found a place to park, checked in, brought up the luggage, Mom took a bath and we both fell asleep for a couple of hours.  We felt much better after that and were off to wander the streets at night, and find a place to eat. 

As we walked along the port lined with restaurants, there was one gentleman who seemed to have a kind spirit.  He showed us his fresh fish and gave us a bit of a lesson on how to identify a good fresh fish and invited us to handle his large variety of specimens.  Mom did, I didn’t but we did decide to eat there sharing a choice of Bass after walking around and had such a lovely meal by the water.  They gave us complimentary dessert afterwards.  Crème caramel and another Crème-like dessert with chocolate and it reminded both of us of Vivienne who passed away in June. 
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Comments

Steven on

What a great first blog. Feels like I'm with you. Love the pictures (and the video).

Looking forward to tomorrow's blog.

Matt on

Thanks a million.glad the trip is going well. I almost erased you thinking it was a spam. looking forward to future blogs.
Love, Matt

Robert on

How nice. It sounds like the fun is only beginning.

Skype is also fun 'coz it went so well. The webcam was flipped down so one click got it uprither. Good enough to see each othern and signs went OK. Maybe the HD cam version is better. Computers can be slowed by too much junk & too many USB connections.

Keep on trucking.

bOb

Marilyn and Reg on

very very interesting, have to park and then walk to hotel carrying your cases. I would not be able do that, keep enjoying reading you blog. Love Reg and Marilyn

Amy Rousseau on

Hi,

My name is Amy Rousseau, daughter of Nancy Dillon who is good friends with your mother. My husband and I visited Nafplio last year and we loved our stay there. If you are still in the area - you must go to this gelato place which we absolutely believe that is the best in the entire country of Greece -- Antica Gelateria di Roma - they also serve delicious mini biscotti. I hope that you both will have the chance to stop by and enjoy some gelato. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Greece and oh yeah tell me about them greek drivers - they are CRAZY! :).

Amy

Kathryn on

Shelley thanks for the blog and please keep sending them to me. I would love to go to Greece and until I do I will follow your journey.

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