Land of sun and sea (a week in Greece)
At the beginning of September we spent a week on the Peloponnese with our two dear friends Jak and D. We had been talking about going to Greece for the last 3 years but stuff sort of got in the way (getting married, moving house, endless DIY etc.) so our trip was long-awaited and all the lovelier for it.
Greece is a favourite place of mine and R's but Jak and D hadn't been for many years, so we were under pressure to make sure that we did it justice! We chose to return to the Peloponnese, where we spent a blissful week a few years ago. This time however, we ventured further south, down the eastern "finger" of the peninsula to the remote village of Kyparissi where we spent most of the week. We also drove over to the central finger, the Mani, and spent the last couple of days of our holiday in atmospheric Gerolimenas, a village that feels like its at the end of the world.
We flew to Kalamata and hired a car at the airport, heading east up into the mountains. passing through the hot and historic Sparta with its wide dusty boulevards on our way.
Kyparissi was an excellent place for a few days of total relaxation - nestled beneath forbidding mountains, secluded and quiet with two almost empty beaches, clear, clear sea, changing, brooding skies. This was the view from the beach on our first evening.
We established a regular spot on the beach a short drive from Kyparissi and spent long, lazy days reading, swimming, sunbathing, reading, swimming sunbathing (you get the picture). Luckily Jak and D were very happy to do very little as well.
We stayed at the
, which was a lovely place - understated and relaxed, owned and run by the very friendly Esther, who is Spanish, and her Greek partner. Our rooms were large, airy and bright with huge balconies, perfect for an evening G&T as the sun went down.
It felt so good to just have hours to read and chat, to watch the sky and the water, and feel ourselves starting to unwind.
The sea was incredibly calm and so clean. We could see fishes swimming around our legs and toes!
There were a couple of tavernas in Kyparissi, just a short walk from the hotel. We sampled pretty much everything on the menu!
The food was all incredibly fresh, simple and delicious, but I must admit we got a little bit bored of Greek salads and souvlaki after a while!
Long, leisurely dinners, eating too much, drinking too much, chat chat chatting, catching up, reminiscing, planning the future.
And then, walking it off before bed, watching the lights, taking pictures in the dark (me posing).
The weather was hot with bright sunshine most days, except for one day when the skies started to fold in and the mist came down. Still warm, but cloudy and dramatic, completely beautiful in fact.
One day we took a trip down the coast to Monemvasia, a little town located on a tiny island which juts off the east coast, further south than Kyparissi.
We stopped at the interesting village of Limenas Geraka for lunch. The village sits alongside a natural fjord reminiscent of something in Norway or Sweden. The front is lined with whitewashed houses and a run of quiet tavernas, old men sitting around passing the time of day, sipping coffee and watching the world go by.
There was a wonderful swimming spot at the end of the harbour, and we stripped off and had a swim before lunch.
We met this little guy who was barking happily while his owners took a dip.
We ate at this taverna which is the same one that Rick Stein ate at on the series that's just been on TV - amazing!
Octopus drying outside in the sun.
We ate a delicious meal of red and grey sea bream, spinach pies, tzatziki, greens and chips. Mmmm-mmm.
Followed by a plate of fresh figs.
And I found my perfect Greek house.
After lunch we kept heading south, and soon arrived at Monemvasia.
Monemvasia (the name means "single entrance" in Greek) is a tiny Byzantine fortress town that seems to grow out of the rock of the island that it's perched on. It is made up of a maze of tiny cobbled streets, breathtaking architecture, churches, ruins, hidden passageways, and its fair share of trinket shops and expensive hotels.
I was expecting it to be overrun with tourists but actually it wasn't too busy, and we had a leisurely explore, meeting several local kitties on our travels.
The plants and flowers were so lovely - fig trees, cacti, hibiscus, strange foreign succulents.
We climbed up as far as we could for the view and a picture.
And then back down again!
Vocal kitty with a squared-off ear.
On our way home we stopped at a deserted windswept beach and had a swim in the last of the sunshine with the view of the island in the distance.
For our last couple of days, we headed westwards to the Mani, the wild middle peninsula of the Peloponnese.
We broke our journey with a stop at the port town of Gytheoi, with its neo-classical houses clinging to Mount Koumaros all the way down to the sea, its colourful fishing boats, line of friendly fish tavernas, and more drying octopus. We stretched our legs and had a wander along the front, and then ate lunch right by the water.
It was seriously windy!
The Mani is famed for its barren and inaccessible terrain, and for its history of feuding clans and bitter struggles for land by the Maniat people. The whole peninsula is scattered with dry stone walls and the remains of tower houses, mini castles used as a way for Maniat families to protect their own scrap of fertile land from potential invaders. Sometimes battles would take place within one tiny village, with warring families shooting at eachother across alleyways.
As we drove south we started to realise just how mountainous and remote it is!
We made another stop for a swim in a crystal clear bay near the village of Nyfi.
In Gerolimnas we stayed at the lovely
which is a very special place, and well worth a stay for a night or two if you find yourself in that part of the world. Furnished with antiques, luxurious but relaxed (and not too expensive), with a lovely pool and good food.
Gerolimnas itself is a strange but fascinating place, perched almost at the end of the world, beneath a huge bluff, which overhangs, bathing the village in cool, eerie shadow. The Kyrimai is right at the western end of the harbour, with views out onto the ocean and lovely sea swimming from a little rocky outcrop.
We did a bit of exploring but we only had a day so were a little limited in what we could do.
We visited the nearby village of Vathia, with its tower houses. It was a bit spooky, full of ruins and houses that looked like they had been deserted in a hurry.
It was fascinating peering into the deserted houses, but it felt a bit intrusive too. I wanted to know what had happened.
After a quick pit stop at a bar with these amazing boot-planters, we followed the road out of Vathia, towards Cape Tenaro, the most southerly point of mainland Greece.
This is it!
The Cape is a rather barren, windswept and atmospheric place, waves lashing against black rocks, sun beating down, earth parched and brown. It was apparently the entrance to Hades, and you can kind of see why. There is a half-hour walk to the actual end of the Cape, but it was hot and we decided not to do it (feel a bit regretful about that) but we did have a lovely swim in a little cove to the left hand side, and then lunch and a beer in the single taverna.
On our way back we stopped at this incredible beach, which was totally deserted and wild. We had a swim but the sea was choppy and I got a bit anxious (past experiences of being dragged along the sea bed by undercurrents!). The beach reminded me of Aberbach in Pembrokeshire - it had that same windy, raw feel to it.
We read our books on the rocks, we savoured the feel of heat on our skin, we sighed and remembered we had to go home tomorrow.
Seems like a world ago now, what a lovely week. x