The end of the adventure

Morning view from our house on the Mani peninsula

Morning view from our house on the Mani peninsula

Today was our last day in Greece with the kids. Tomorrow we fly back to Paris and from there we head back home to turn our attention towards the next season at Maison Conti. We drove up through the Pelopennese, crossing the Corinth canal and stopped at a hotel on the mainland coast. The journey was about three hours.

I leave you with a few views of the Bay of Megara. I'm not sure when I'll be back to the blog, but I appreciate your company for the last weeks, and all your kind comments.

 

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Somewhere out there is Hydra

Somewhere out there is Hydra

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At the end of the earth

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What an incredible part of the world this is! It certainly makes you dream of Odysseus. You can almost believe you see him sailing past... 

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We began the day by crossing the river Styx into the underworld, locally known as the Diros Caves. It is a huge series of grottos, navigated by boat.  

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We took a counter-clockwise tour of the Mani peninsula though hardscrabble villages carved into the steep mountains.

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We visited the temple of Poseidon where we laid our offering next to all the others left by travelers before us. 

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It's hard to imagine the kind of rough existence which people have eked out here over thousands of years. Currently the population of the area is 5000 hardy souls, but 200 year ago, 60,000 lived here.

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Around every bend in the road is another beautiful view. This is the southern most point of continental Europe.  

Mani penninsula

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Today we left our little place in Xiropigadou and head down to the southern tip of Peloponnese. The scenery on the way was spectacular. 

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We stopped in Mystras, the site of a Byzantine church and ruined castle which overlooks the plain of Sparta. We have taught Quinn and Zinnie to exclaim "ancient footprints are everywhere."

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Our new location for a few nights overlooks the sea, but is a few kilometers up a rugged mountain.

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We are staying in a self-catering stone house in a complex of similar ones, all run by the same family. 

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From one side of the house we see the high mountains, 

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And from the other the sea. 

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Epidavros

Quinn's treasures

Quinn's treasures

Today we drove to the east coast of the Pelopennese to see the ancient amphitheater at Epidavros. The site was a famous center for healing in the 6th century BC, and the theater, which seats 12,000, was built in the 4th century BC due to the popularity of the sanctuary there.

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The theater is famed for its excellent acoustics. A person standing on the stone in the middle of the ground floor can be heard by all. 

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The site is rich in ancient statuary and artifacts. 

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A few miles away is the town that bears the same name. We found a restaurant for lunch overlooking the breathtaking vista. 

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After lunch we took a very rugged dirt path through a lonely forest towards another archeological site, but realized it was going to be too far and too arduous for the kids. We got a glimpse of it in the far distance.

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Quinn pointed out three islands illuminated by the afternoon sun. He thought they made a worthy subject for a photo, and so did I. 

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Astros

The evocative coastline of the Bay of Argolic

The evocative coastline of the Bay of Argolic

We had a rather less adventurous day today. We try to vary the rhythm so as not to wear out the kids. We stayed fairly close to home, visiting the little harbor town of Astros, just south of where we're staying, and had a nice lunch. Afterwards we played around the marina, climbed to the lighthouse and horsed around in the local amphitheater. 

Astros harbor

Astros harbor

Náfplio

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We made the correct turn this morning and made our way up the coast to the strategically located town of Náfplio. There is a fortress at the mouth of the harbor as well as one upon the very top of the hill behind the town. It was the capitol of Greece from 1821-1834, when someone presumably pointed out that Athens was the more logical choice.

Bourtzi, built by the Venetians in 1473

Bourtzi, built by the Venetians in 1473

This time of year we don't have much competition. The town is lively during the warmer months, but mostly quiet for us. We enjoyed walking about town, which is pretty and full of shops and restaurants. 

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We had lunch at a restaurant on the main square where the waiters were jolly and the food fresh and tasty. 

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Yesterday was our dog day, as we met friendly dogs at almost every place we stopped. The kids began. giving them names. Today it was cats. They seemed to be everywhere.

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We visited the archeological museum and saw Mycenaean artifacts from 1400-1500 BC.

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The second fortress, also built by the Venetians (in the 1680s), is reached by walking the 999 steps to the top of the mountain, where you are rewarded with a stunning view over the town and Aegean Sea. Quinn was eager to go. 

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Zinnie, not so much. 

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So Rick and Quinn scaled the mountain while Zinnie and I did some drawing at the bottom.

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At the Athen's airport where we rented our car, we were told that the one thing we should not miss in Náfplio was the gelato made fresh daily by an Italian guy. We were told to ask anyone where his shop was, since he's a local legend. We were not about to miss that! 

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After a rather long and eventful day we came back to our house and Quinn, despite it being nearly dusk and 50 degrees, took a swim. The rest of us just watched in wonder. 

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Wrong Turn

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After a morning of romping around our own little beach, we decided to take the road to Náfplio. At some point we jogged left instead of right and soon realized we'd lost our way

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Instead of retracing our steps we decided to follow another road that led towards a "Hellenic  Pryamid."

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We climbed a hill and found ourselves at this pile of rocks that were stacked there about 2500 years ago. 

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 We have a project to sketch every day, each one of us, with the idea of putting together a travel journal when we get back home. 

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The pyramid and rugged countryside around made a nice subject for our first efforts. 

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Zinnie chose to imagine how the pyramid looked before it tumbled down.

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Quinn was more interested in how the ruins fit into the landscape. 

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Even Rick is trying his hand. 

 

Χαίρετε Pelopenesse

View off the terrace with fishermen casting their nets in the distance. 

View off the terrace with fishermen casting their nets in the distance. 

Last night we arrived in Xiropigado where we've rented a little house right on the sea, just down the coast from Náfplio. 

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We have an idyllic spot from which to gaze out on the the famous wine dark sea. The house itself is charming.

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It is our grandchildren's school holidays. Emily asked over a year ago if we could watch them during this time, as she and Jos are working on a show together. I began to hatch a plan to take them with us to Greece where presumably it would be a bit warmer and there would be more fun activites to keep us busy. Quinn is a history buff, and they both love the beach, so it seemed an excellent plan. 

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The house has its own private beach which you sramble down to via a rocky path. 

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Although the weather so far isn't glorious, when you're in Greece who cares? 

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Até Logo Portugal

Dawn

Dawn

This is our last morning at Barroqueira, the calendar has turned over, which means we're off. Our job is complete and Paris awaits us. We leave spring far behind us! 

Almond trees on the hill behind the house at Barroqueira

Almond trees on the hill behind the house at Barroqueira

Winter still has a grip at home, but hopefully not quite like the photo below taken the day before we left.

The forest of Montmirail on the first of the year

The forest of Montmirail on the first of the year

I'll be back to the blog very soon...our off-season adventures are not quite over yet. We're hitting the road again in little more than a week's time. 

Company for Dinner

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Last night we invited Iza and our neighbors Nicola and Chris to dinner. Nicola and Chris moved into the unit around the corner from ours last year. Nicola is Swedish, but she grew up in Portugal. Chris was born in France but is an American. He worked for NGOs all over Africa and in Haiti before retiring to Portugal. They are living at Barroqueira while they wait for their retirement home, right on the beach in Tavira, to be constructed. They had us over for dinner several weeks ago for fondue. Before leaving here we wanted to reciprocate.

Since I am often a rather reluctant cook when it's just the two of us, I like the excuse of having people in to try out new recipes, which can add a little excitment. In this case I had it in mind to make something fishy and found a nice-sounding  Mediterranean stew on a BBC food site. It starts out with onions, fresh tomatoes, tomato pureé, red chili, white wine, fish stock and orange peel (which in my opinion is the important ingredient to really add a special flavor.) To this base you add your fish.

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The recipe called for halibut, prawns and clams. We couldn't figure out the Portuguese word for halibut. Our google translate said it was "linguado", but when we asked for that at the Mercado, we were presented with what was clearly a lovely sole. So we just bought a hunk of tuna, fresh caught and costing only 7€ for half a kilo. We then happened upon some fresh swordfish steaks, Rick's favorite, and not easily available at home. So we bought one of those as well. A couple was selling clams out of a bucket right outside the market, clearly they had been gathered earlier that same morning. They were tiny, but turned out to be very tasty.

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The finished dish was a success. It was not at all difficult to make either. 

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I found a Jamie Oliver recipe for a griddle flat bread made from self-rising flour, baking powder and yogurt. Very simple. 

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Once browned on the grill, it is painted with garlic butter mixed with fresh herbs. It was also a hit. 

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The salad, which we had after, was refreshing, with avocado, orange, cucumber and mint. It had a honey dressing and was garnished with almonds.

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Apple crumble for dessert, also very simply made with a new recipe I found on the food network. It claimed to be the best ever...I'm not sure of that, but it did get good reviews from the assembled. 

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The Bungalow

The living room with double door onto a private terrace

The living room with double door onto a private terrace

I thought you might enjoy seeing inside our little home away from home. There are several "units" on Iza's property, which is called "Barroqueira." The one where we stay is the only one that is rented on a short term basis. She does have vacancy this year, should you be interested. 

The loft

The loft

This is where I do some writing and art

This is where I do some writing and art

The kitchen, dining room and pantry

The kitchen, dining room and pantry

The master bedroom with door to the terrace

The master bedroom with door to the terrace

Second bedroom

Second bedroom

Private terrace. There is an additional bedroom and bath in a separate building off the terrace

Private terrace. There is an additional bedroom and bath in a separate building off the terrace

Family dogs: Zeus, Julius and Eva

Family dogs: Zeus, Julius and Eva