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Saturday, August 15, 2015

RETURNING TO THE OLD FAVORITES AND EXPLORING THE NEW

I've been doing my usual pre-trip research and looking into various 'new' destinations in Greece. Each time I visit there I like to see at least one new place as well as visiting my old favorites.

For certain I'll be returning to Naxos and to Maragas Beach where I have spent many happy times camping. I missed going there last year so this time I plan on trying to spend a week at the beach. I won't be toting my little crawl-into tent though. I've decided to rent a bed-tent and give that a try. If it doesn't prove comfortable I can always opt for a room. This is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever visited and I just love being there, swimming, relaxing and having my usual beach picnic, and watching the gorgeous Naxos sunset.


 Maragas Beach



Naxos is a very interesting island with a Venetian influence. I've done the round-the-island tour several times and always enjoy it. And spending an afternoon exploring the old Venetian castle is always fun.

Venetian Castle
Venetian style vaulted streets
 
Great seafood tavernas


Exploring the island's villages

Visiting the island's Kitron brewery (a traditional drink made from lemons) 

I've written a few stories about Naxos, one in particular about camping there.


Maragas Beach Camping 

One place I've always been curious about is the Pelion Peninsula. This is the legendary home of the Centaurs and has been occupied since the Bronze Age.  There are many quaint villages in this mountainous area as well as some loved beaches. 








I have been investigating a traditional village called Tsangaradha which is not too many miles from the main port of Volos and a bit inland from the sea (with sea views). Another choice might be Zagora where there is an ancient castle ruin. 

Both these villages are accessible from Volos by bus. I could easily visit both too as they are not far apart. 

My other choices were the island of Chios but, depending on finances (due to the current drop in the looney) I may not be able to afford going there this time as it's farther up north off the Turkish coast. There's some interesting villages on Chios which is the place where mastic comes from, that resiny gum-like substance used for chewing or flavoring. 

 Chios windmills

 The village of Pyrgi with it's unique architecture


No matter where my wandering leads me in Greece I know it will be another thrilling new experience and I'm sure to come away with happy memories and lots of new travel stories.
 





Saturday, August 01, 2015

THOSE OLD FAMILIAR PLACES: ATHENS, Greece

My favorite perch above the rooftops of Plaka

I always look forward to returning to Athens,Greece to see my friends and all those old familiar places that I have grown to love as my own 'adopted' city/country.  I made my first trip to Greece in 1979, arriving by bus to Thessaloniki (from London) and then by train to Athens. I fell in love with Greece immediately. It was almost as if I had lived there before and on that first trip, plus other trips since,
 Plaka at Night

 Lysicrates Monument by the "Dirty Corner" where we used to all hang out

 Stoa of Attalus in the Agora

I have had so many deja vu experiences it really does make me think I lived there in another lifetime. In fact, my Celtic novel DRAGONS IN THE SKY is a first person narrative of a Celtic girl who gets kidnapped and ends up in Greek Macedonia. In researching it I have discovered so many connections between the Celts and the Greeks.  The whole idea of the novel (which I started writing in the '70's before I had actually visited Greece) was because my first historical novel, written when I was 17 in high school, had an Alexander the Great theme. I became fascinated with him when I was 16 and often people asked if I had lived in Greece before because I was able to write such vivid descriptions of the country and the characters.

The Parthenon

On my first trip to Greece I went to the museum in Thessaloniki and saw all the grave finds from Vergina, allegedly Philip II, Alexander's father. (This may now be contested with the discovery of a second tomb). When I took the train down to Athens I sat with a middle-aged doctor who was very kind and welcoming and when I arrived in Athens he was very helpful and encouraging.  I checked into a small hotel, The Tempi, in Plaka and thus began my exciting exploration of this amazing, historic city that I have grown to love.

View of Lykebettos over the Plaka rooftops

I visited again the next couple of years and by 1983 I decided to fulfil a life-long dream and go to live in Europe. I had always thought it might be London I'd move to, but no, I KNEW it was Greece. So I found myself a home in Plaka and there I stayed tutoring ESL and enjoying a most fascinating life for the next five years.  I regretted returning to Canada when I did in 1987 but later I went back to Greece, spending six months at a time while I was writing SHADOW OF THE LION. And since then I go nearly every year spending as much time as I can afford.  I had always thought I'd return there to live, and almost did on a couple of occasions.  And I still have that dream of living the rest of my retirement life there. But meanwhile I will be happy with my visits, each time exploring a new place in this wonderful country.

A place where I love to sit and enjoy the view

New Acropolis Museum

I have good friends in Greece and love to visit with them. I feel as at home in Athens as I do in Vancouver  and in fact, when I return to Greece I feel my life 'changes', and I am more alive and happier than I am anywhere else.
 Monastiraki market district 
Dining at a favorite souvlaki shop in Monastiraki 
So, this September I once again return to my beloved country. It has been so sad what has happened to Greece due to the econimic strife all brought about by former politicians and dishonesty and now by the determination of Germany to control all of Europe, especially greece, through the banks.  My friends there have been suffering terribly and I understand the terrible situation they have been put in. If my meagre tourist dollars can help I will do what I can and I encourage others to visit this most fabulous country too.
 Some of my Friends
 Anna owner of the To Kati Allo Taverna
Anna's family, Dino (her son), grandson and husband Leonnatis
NEXT: Exploring some new places in Greece.