SUNDAY 20-5-18

That was a rather noisy and disturbed night. We'd had to sleep with the roof vents fully open to get air to circulate and keep us cool. Last night at 21:00 it was still 23˚C having dropped from the lower thirties of the day. Unfortunately we have no access to electricity parked here which means we can't run my hovercraft engine, which we did on the last night in Athens which kept us nice and cool whilst we could close the vents almost completely and block out the noise of the passing traffic.

Here, it was the local older men who congregated around our vehicle in particular, so I suppose we had parked in their traditional spot and fished and talked loudly. In fact the rod dangling in the water was, I think, just an excuse to get some talking done. That went on until the early hours followed by the local yoof in their cars. Never mind even acne needs to rest, and we managed to get some sleep during the latter part of the night.

By the time we got up this morning all the other motorhomes had moved on, how wise. We decided that after our breakfast we'd move the vehicle back round to the sand beach parking area, where we'd be away from the fisherman and yoof and hopefully any restrictive rules regarding what we can and can't do.

Having parked up we walked in to town cutting through the marina complex. On its edge there were numerous young women and children living rough in a car park. They could have been Roma, or possibly fragments of the vast army of illegal migrants invading Europe. In the town of Nafplio itself there were quite a few beggars and the odd scruffy urchin walking around with their hands out. This suggests we may now be getting close to the landing areas of those migrants. So we should be alright if we want a couple of cheap lifejackets and a rubber boat.

And that's what I cannot understand. How come that with all the resources the Government has at its disposal, coupled with the resources of other nations, we can't track down these people-smugglers and bring them to justice, (or better still just covertly put a bullet through their heads) yet hundreds of thousands of supposedly desperate people with wads of cash, have no trouble finding them at all? Why is that?

Our walk around town was very pleasant. The Chef wanted to take a few photographs with her iPad which she didn't have with her yesterday evening when we came out. I'm now beginning to appreciate the difference between a tourist who travels with a tour company, in hotels or onboard cruise ships, and a motorhomer. While they are soaking up the historical sights and clicking away, I'm constantly looking out for things like supermarkets, bakery's and butchers in order to keep ourselves stocked up. I often find myself with my nose pressed up against their shop window to see if they're worth a visit before we leave town.

It was getting really quite warm as we made our way back 'home' for lunch. We intended to spend the afternoon sat out in our chairs, hopefully beyond the reach of the local Plod, our detection reduced by the fact that we'd parked the vehicle sideways so that our activities couldn't be seen from the road. Unfortunately the weather changed a bit this afternoon and it's been cloudy and breezy with the odd light rain shower.

When the weather improved this evening we decided to go in to town for a bite to eat rather than mess about preparing something. That done, we had a nice walk along the 'Prom' in the cool of the evening with local families out enjoying themselves now that most of the tourists have gone home and left them in peace.

We've reviewed the cunning plan again as we're getting a bit fed up with piles of old rocks and would prefer to spend a bit of time on or near a beach, so tomorrow we're heading for Messene, a pile of old rock, before making our way to a beachside campsite.

Our second parking place within the marina

Our second parking place within the marina

Our first parking place

Our first parking place

SATURDAY 19-5-18

What a  difference a day makes.

This morning we left the suburbs of Athens bound for the Corinth Canal (GPS: N37.927026 E22.994658). Unfortunately the satnav was having a tantrum this morning. I think it may well not have been turned off properly the last time we used it and it just ran its battery completely flat. So it was back to basics, using the road atlas and road signs.

Before we knew it we had crossed the canal, and I had to pull off at the exit almost directly past it. We were  blind as to where the parking area was, as I had noted its co-ordinates but didn't have the satnav to feed them in to. Never mind, we ended up parking on a small piece of wasteland, rather like a dusty lay-by, right opposite a garage, and very close to the canal.

Having locked up and activated the PIR alarm, we wandered to the footbridges running either side of the main road across the canal. I have to say it wasn't as long as I thought it would be. You can in fact see both ends of it, though not at the same time, due to the road bridge being in the way. Never the less, it was an amazing feat of engineering, started by Emperor Nero, the project was only finally completed between 1882 and 1893. It must have been a dramatic sight to watch a large ship sailing along it. These days ships are built too large to be able to pass through it, though coastal freighters and small boats still do.

So that was what the Greek's forefathers did. So what have the modern Greeks done with it? They've turned the area in to a ghastly, scruffy, litter-strewn, graffiti-decorated, run down stop-off point for tourists. The only other good thing about stopping off there was the very good supermarket we spotted. They were selling everything on our shopping list except part-baked baguettes, and I've got a feeling we may not find over here which is a shame, because they provide us with the security of always being able to enjoy fresh bread, even when we can't get to a bakery or supermarket.

We decided to have our lunch there which would give the satnav longer to stop sulking and recharge itself. In the end in desperation I pushed a biro point in to the 'reset' hole and that seemed to do the trick.

So next stop was Mycenae to view a fortified palace complex. Again we enjoyed wonderful scenery along the way. We both agree that the scenery so far in Greece has excelled that of Italy, even the Tuscany region, which to be honest wasn't that special.

Off the beaten track we went, winding our way in to the hills. And then there it was - a pile of rubble in my opinion. To think that we'd gone to all that trouble to see a ruin. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to find it had been turned in to a rockery with plastic gnomes with wheelbarrows and fishing rods sat amidst it all.

About turn, back down the hill then heading for the next location on our list - Nafplio, which according to my cunning plan is the most elegant town on mainland Greece.

On our arrival here we parked up on a large piece of very sandy land which looked like an informal parking area. We joined another motorhome, the only other vehicle there. It was a very nice spot but we were a bit concerned about our security there during the night or when we left the vehicle unattended. In the end we decided to move in to the marina complex, part of which is a free Camperstop (GPS: N37.569257 E22.801397).  

We spent a couple of hours watching Harry and Megan's wedding via the internet. What a great shame his mum couldn't have been there to witness the lovely day, though I believe she was there in spirit, and I'm sure he sensed it.

Now these Camperstops are very useful resources for us motorhomers (cars and caravans can't use Camperstops), but there are rules when using them. You are only allowed to park, that is, you can't get things like tables and chairs out because that constitutes camping. You can't even use a portable gas oven stood outside on a small table on which to cook your evening meal, a fact that was pointed out to me by the mobile local constabulary very soon after I had set it up. Bastards - go chase some people smugglers.

The Chef has now risen to the challenge of cooking two large pork chops, oven chips and, substituting mushrooms for some salad, in just one frying pan, utilising the lid from the wok. Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver.

This evening we plan to take a walk in to town for a look around. We'll certainly be spending tomorrow here, but I fancy we may well move back on to the sandy car park, where I suspect there are no rules and tomorrow we can have a veritable feast.

Back for some chores

Back for some chores

Temple of Hephaistos

Temple of Hephaistos

The Erechtheion, side view

The Erechtheion, side view

The Erechtheion up on the Acropolis complex

The Erechtheion up on the Acropolis complex

Athens city, ain't it lovely?

Athens city, ain't it lovely?

Olympian Zeus at ground level looking towards the Acropolis

Olympian Zeus at ground level looking towards the Acropolis

Olympian Zeus from the Acropolis

Olympian Zeus from the Acropolis

The Parthenon - an Estate Agent's side aspect. The Japanese scarecrow comes free.

The Parthenon - an Estate Agent's side aspect. The Japanese scarecrow comes free.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

The Temple of Athena

The Temple of Athena

Herodes Atticus Theatre

Herodes Atticus Theatre

FRIDAY 18-5-18

Well at least I now know what it must feel like to spend a night sleeping on the side of the M25. The traffic outside didn't let up at all, supported regularly by the sound of regular cat fights around the campsite.

We were a bit jaded this morning, but knew we had to get up and face Athens. Another factor being that last night we realised we had lost another hour whilst crossing over to Greece on the ferry, and so had to 'lose' an hours sleep last night to adjust to local time.

I felt a bit guilty as The Chef has been here before and vowed never to come again, but you can't be this close the city and not visit can you?

Our washing which was hung on the line and left out all night was almost dry, and would have been completely dry had it not been for the occasional very light rain showers during the night. To play safe we bought it in, just in case the forecast of further showers proved to be right.

Off to the bus stop then each armed with our €3 tickets which entitled us to five trips on buses, trams or the metro. Crossing the multi-lane race track outside the campsite wasn't too bad. There were traffic lights down the road in both directions and so we timed our crossing of the lanes to coincide with them.

After a forty minute bus ride we arrived at Athens main railway station from where we caught the Metro to the Acropolis. I hadn't intended to go in, just a take couple of pictures and that would be that, but the building was obscured quite badly at the top of the rock, and so I suggested we'd have to go in. Having debated the three ticket options ranging from ten to thirty euros we opted for a pair of cheapies. Imagine how delighted we were to be told at the ticket office that today entry was free. I don't know why. Here's a country that's bankrupt and they're giving away thousands upon thousands of euros worth of tickets.

It was quite interesting to have a look around the Parthenon complex up there I have to say, the only problem was the crowds, made worse I suppose by it being a freebie day. It was quite manageable whilst looking at the Theatre of Herodes Atticus. Built between AD161 and 174 it once had a cedar-wood roof that gave better acoustics and allowed for all-weather performances.  This 5,000-seater theatre is still in use today, in fact they were setting up some staging in there today. The Chef suggested that perhaps they were going to broadcast Harry & Megan's wedding tomorrow live on big TV screens. She's such a wit.

However the crowds got bad when we reached the entrance to the Parthenon at the top. It was like the United Nations up there,  it seemed to be Yanks who were in the majority, and I bet good ol' Franklin J. was among them.

It took ages to get out of the complex because there was no management of the crowd sizes and movement, people kept pouring up, but the exit had become a pinch point and a long, seven-person-wide queue had formed. Nobody was taking charge and holding back those entering in order to clear the backlog of leavers. Never mind, eventually we cleared the exit and made our way to the bottom as quickly as possible.

Next it was a visit to the site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus which I'd spotted from the Acropolis. It is the largest temple in Greece, exceeding even the Parthenon (well it would be if were all still there). Work started on it in the 6th century BC, but it was not completed until 650 years later (I think a forefather of British Leyland's union leader 'Red Robbo' was organising the labour there). Only 15 of the original 194 Corinthian columns remain.

We then wandered around the base of the Parthenon, gosh it was hot by then, over 30˚C, it was all getting a bit too much. In the end we came across the Temple of Hephaistos, had a look round then made our way back. We were by then a long way from the Acropolis Metro station and didn't fancy the walk back. Luckily we chanced upon a Metro station close by and after some considerable confusion regarding lines and directions we got ourselves back to the railway station for a bus back to the campsite.

This evening we have enjoyed a chicken salad followed by some more fresh cherries, one kilo for three Euros, which we bought from a roadside stall up in the mountains yesterday.

As for Athens, I speak as I find. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The horror of the traffic seems to be contained to the suburbs, like where we are. There must be some kind of filtering process as you get closer to the centre, there were nothing like the number of cars I expected.

To visit Athens I would suggest flying in, there's a train line running from the airport in to the city. Book a hotel right in the centre and go walkabouts. Residing in the centre gives you a distinct advantage over the blasted coach parties and peasants like us. You can make an early morning start on your sightseeing, go back to the hotel for a rest and then come back out again in the evening to enjoy the café culture, and I guess, the attractions floodlit later in the evening.

Granted we have to pay for our campsite fees, but myself and my darling Chef did Athens today on a tenner. Now that won't help the Greeks clear their debt with Germany's Angela M will it?

Tomorrow we head out of town and down the road to Corinth.

THURSDAY 17-5-18

The single parent chick began chirping loudly at 05:00, presumably his normal breakfast time, but not today, it looks as if it has now been abandoned, but looking at the size of its head as it pokes it out for food it looks big enough to fly the nest, and if it wants to survive that's what it's going to have to do.

Oddly enough I didn't hear the bells ringing at the monasteries up on the rocks, but the dogs began barking at 06:15. For a location which should be really quiet it was very noisy.

I wasn't too sure about the drinking water at the campsite. I tried it at the tap near our pitch and it seemed to have a salty aftertaste, and I tried it at the dumping point for the black water, and that was much the same, and so I went and asked the boss, Lady Rothchild, her with the hairy top lip, who was raking it in, cash of course. She said all water was for drinking. A complete lie because the water in the sinks and showers are sure as hell salt water. It's very fortunate that we'd decided to treat ourselves to bottled water on this trip, but it now seems a necessity. I did decide to put twenty litres of their stuff in the tank, but we won't be drinking it. If we ever manage to clear the area for salty water, then I'll give the whole system a good flushing out.

We touched really lucky soon after we left the campsite and had passed through Kalambaka town itself. There before us was a 'Shell' garage selling good fuel at a good price, with the added bonus that they also sold LPG gas. That gave us the opportunity to fill up the first of our two onboard LPG cylinders which by now was getting a bit low. To top it all, our eyes caught sight of a Lidl supermarket just a stone's throw down the road. Needless to say that was our next stop. I stayed with the vehicle while the Chef popped in for a few bits.

Today, rather than go the long and expensive route down to the Athens area we decided to take a chance on the more direct route heading south on the 'A' roads. I had expected to spend  much of the day up in the mountains coping with hairpin bends etc but we had a very pleasant surprise. The road for much of the way was in very good condition, and lots was dual carriageway. We of course got some mountain experience, but were rewarded with magnificent views.

We had lunch in a lay-by up in the mountains and agreed that it had been worth taking a chance on the roads. We felt that we'd seen the real Greece, and the very acceptable rural way of life here.

All was going well, too well, until we came across a junction with the toll road. We knew that we were likely to need to use it for just one junction, which we did, and when the satnav directed us off at the next interchange we felt sure all was going well. But no. To be fair there were quite a lot of road upgrades and new junctions along the way, but the satnav froze, then gave us directions on to the toll road going back the way we came, so having just paid €1.50 to travel the short distance we were now required to pay another €1.50 to go back to the beginning, and then - oh gosh! It sent us back again. Three €1.50 trips. That was it. I decided that we would just stay on the toll road and go the long and expensive way to the Athens area.

We were hoping to travel across country to a place called Elefsiuna which is just west of Athens city and has a couple of parking opportunities. Luckily having looked at the road map we spotted that we could get off the Greek Gravy Train at Thebes and get back on our intended road. So that was a result and eventually we arrived at the first of our parking opportunities in Elefsiuna. It was awful. We sat and shared a can of beer before deciding that there was no way we were staying in that area.  Off we went then to Camping Athina (GPS: N38.008696 E23.671740) on the west side of Athens, we were well placed to get there, apart from the fact that it was the rush hour, and we had to contend with up to four lanes of traffic going the same way as us with the usual Kamikaze scooter riders attacking from both sides. As we approached the campsite we were less than delighted to see that it was on the opposite side of the road, another four-laner, with no 'U' turns or roundabouts to enable us to get over there.

I've bored you enough, eventually we arrived here. We had agreed to stay three nights giving us time to wash some clothes etc and spend one day in Athens, the fee was to have been €29.00 a night, but no, that was last year's price, this year it's €33.00, and to top it all we can only stay for two nights as they are fully booked for the weekend. I bet it's the bloody Germans, they're everywhere. They do seem to be the most prolific motorhomers in Europe.

This has focussed our minds to the extent that we'll do our washing this evening (the line is already up), and leave it out all day tomorrow whilst we risk life and limb to cross the multi-laned race track with our newly-purchased bus tickets to Athens in our grubby mitts.

This evening we are dining on a whole chicken breast which we came across in a supermarket, complete with roast potatoes and vegetables. I mean if you're going to get mown down crossing a multi-laned highway to reach a bus stop, you want the pathologist to see that your last meal was a good one.


Today's story has an unhappy ending.

Unfortunately last night there were some 'Jobsworths' about - the local police who came along and told us it was some sort of Ecological or Archaeological, or something, protected area and we were not permitted to stay up there for the night. It was just as well they didn't catch us with the portable gas oven fired up outside cooking our pizza and chips, which we had originally planned to have for our evening meal.

Back down the hill we had to go to a local campsite, Camping Vrachos Kastraki (GPS: N39.713242 E21.615943) the one we'd agreed earlier that we'd stay at for a couple of nights starting tonight, but thanks to the Greek Constabulary our first night was last night.

The campsite is nothing special, but then it doesn't need to be, as it's very busy all the time due to the passing tourist trade.

At 05:50 this morning I was awoken by the sound of the bells from the monasteries up on the rocks clanging away, they made quite a sound between them, but The Chef slept through it all. Whilst the sound of the bells was nice enough to hear, the sound of all the local dogs joining in with them bark, bark, barking was awful. There's a very big loud dog somewhere close by us and it was the worst of the lot. I was going to get 'Henry Horn' out , and give them a bit of their own medicine, but that would have meant giving The Chef a rude awakening from her slumbers.

We'd bagged a pitch close to the toilet block last night. It was nothing special, but at that time of day there was little choice, and so this morning we decided we'd try and relocate if something suitable was vacated.

Returning after my shower I noticed that one of my sandals was missing from under the motorhome (I leave them out there to air), 'Begger' I thought 'Now what do I do?'

Remembering how I'd noticed a few dogs roaming freely around the campsite on the way to the toilet block, the result of the usual irresponsible and selfish dog owners, I decided to take a look around, and fortunately in the lower pitches behind us, I found my missing sandal. Clearly some mutt or other had decided to run off with it.

 After showering and breakfast we noticed that a motorhome not far from us was getting ready to leave. Unfortunately he was one of these sad, thorough individuals who took his time over everything. He wiped his electricity cable before stowing it, wiped and cleaned everything else, he even took his shoes off as he finally got in to his vehicle and brushed the bottoms of them in case they had any dirt on them.

Finally he was gone and we quickly shot in to his pitch as there were numerous other motorhomes arriving and they would have their eyes on it also.

Up on our levelling blocks, reconnected to the electricity we were all set. Soon afterwards we noticed, a few feet above us in the tree trunk on our pitch, a baby bird continually being fed by its parents. Nice colourful birds, but I've no idea what sort they were. There was quite a noise coming from the nest as it was demanding food continually.

We decided to go for a walk along the road for a bit before having lunch It was already getting very warm, and we didn't fancy trudging round in the heat of the day. It was quite a nice area. Clearly the income from tourism here gets ploughed back in to the community. As you'd expect there were plenty of restaurants, Tavernas, gift shops and hotels.

Back for lunch before sitting out and having a read and nap, to be continually plagued by very persistent flies. I've swatted so many internally that we've got to run the hoover round before we leave tomorrow.

We continued to observe the parents flying backwards and forwards to the nest with grubs to feed the noisy chick.

Motorhomes have continued to pile in all afternoon, I don't think the owner knows the meaning of 'full', she just keeps letting folk in, expecting them to sneak in to any available space.

Late this afternoon The Chef called out that there was a snake on our pitch. And sure enough there it was, it had curled itself around what looked to be mum or dad of the chick in the nest. It had the head of the bird in its mouth. I didn't fancy having the snake on our pitch whilst it swallowed the bird and then lay there for hours digesting it. The snake wasn't huge. You'd never get a handbag or a pair of shoes out of it, but you sure as hell wouldn't want to find it in your underpants.

In the end, with the aid of the winding pole for the awning I shifted the snake and its prey to the edge of the pitch and then got it to part with its dinner. I saw it off our territory and then covered the bird with a piece of wood in the hope that the snake wouldn't return and claim it.

I did take a few pictures but don't intend to share them, because it's just Mother Nature in action and not very nice.

This evenings meal was the pizza and chips which we didn't have last night, I washed down with some rosé wine I bought in Italy. Unfortunately I think the air is starting to get to it, as it now has a gentle hint of Corsodyl mouthwash about it.

We leave here tomorrow heading towards Athens. Either we'll do the whole journey tomorrow or we'll park up somewhere for the night and arrive at our campsite on Friday.

 In the meantime I am still listening to a large ungrateful chick, halfway to becoming an orphan.

I tell you - you don't get this on Warners holidays.

The Great Meteoron Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour

The Great Meteoron Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour

TUESDAY 15-5-18

Today was a better day and we had enjoyed a good night's sleep in the supermarket car park. We had it all to ourselves. Some folk may be concerned for us regarding our safety, but we have various forms of protection on the vehicle, with the final lines of defence being something hard that would give somebody a very nasty headache which is kept locked away in the back, and only relocated should we feel the risk to ourselves to be higher than we feel comfortable with, and something in a small pressurised canister which would give you very painful, runny eyes, and because of that it is locked away in the hidden safe, and only relocated when we find ourselves in a situation where we feel at risk.

At the end of the day all we can do is take reasonable precautions in all aspects of what we do on these trips, then take a deep breath and just go for it. Nothing is totally safe, everything has an edge to it, and that's what helps make you feel alive.

Luckily for us the supermarket had some very useful items on the shelves, and it helped make up for the missed opportunity to stock up back in Italy before we came across to Stavrosland on the ferry.

We were away by about 09:30 heading for Metéora, famous for its monasteries built on top of sandstone cliffs. Needless to say we used the toll roads, they may be expensive at times but I'd rather spend the money on toll fees than new tyres and shock absorbers.

We are being classified as a Class 3 vehicle, Class 1 being a motorbike, Class 2 a car, or car towing a trailer. The toll booths are manned rather than automatic, and some staff are better than others. At one booth a female seemed absolutely determined to get us in to the Class 4 category (higher than 3 metres (we're 2.71)) and kept making me move the vehicle along slowly so that she could measure its height at any point she thought she might hit the jackpot. I did eventually say quite firmly and loudly (by now she was measuring something at the back) that we were a Class 3 vehicle. Soon afterwards the barrier rose and we were through. Bugger, I'd have had a Victor Meldrew moment if she demanded we pay the Class 4 fee I can tell you. I don't mind that your country is bankrupt, just don't ask me to bail you out.

I did suggest to The Chef that we take a look at Metsovo which was on the way. It was identified as my 'en-route' campsite should we need to curtail the journey for any reason. So, off the toll road we came and up in to the mountains on a road which made climbing up to Monte Cassino seem like a picnic. And when we got up there - nothing. Nothing worth any effort whatsoever, and so back down we came.

Throughout today we have enjoyed spectacular scenery, and I apologise if the pictures don't do it credit. I can no longer take the pee out of The Chef for her pictures of trees, road signs etc because I had exactly the same problem with the camera on the bus trip along the Amalfi Coast. There's a delay between pressing the button and the camera actually taking the picture. I'm going to have to try and encourage her to use the SLR.

So eventually we arrived at Metéora, or rather the car park to view the monasteries on the outskirts of town (this car park has since been blocked off to prevent use). Park now at GPS: N39.726561 E21.628056.

So a bit about Metéora:

The natural sandstone towers of Metéora (or "suspended rocks") were first used as a religious fretreat when, in AD 985, a hermit named Barnabas occupied a cave here. In the mid-14th century Neilos, the Prior of Stagai convent, built a small church. Then in 1382 the monk athanasios, from Mount Athos, founded the huge monastery of Megal Metéoro on one of the many pinnacles. Twenty-three monasteries followed, though most had fallen into ruin by the 19th century. In the 1920's stairs were cut to make the remaining six monasteries more accessible, and today a religious revival had seen the return of monks and nuns.

Most enjoyable is all I can say. Having taken a few photos from our parking space we decided to take a closer look, only to find that we could visit the 'main' monastery, The Great Meteoron Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour up until 16:00. So up we went. Three euros each and the Chef gets to wear a loaned sarong as it's a religious site, and today she's flashing a bit of lower leg - naughty, naughty.

A lovely location, with the icing on the cake being a couple of rooms which had amazing artwork on their walls and ceilings. Photography was banned and so I have tried to take a picture of a picture which I came across in the museum which we went in at the end of our visit.

I will post a good few pictures to take your mind off this text, but there are limits to what I can add. I did take a picture of Franklin J Arsewipe 3rd with his wife, Fanny from Arkansas, visiting the site, and I was going to invite you to spot him, but it would have been just too easy, and so I've left it off.

On the way back to the motorhome I did suggest to The Chef that we spend the night up here, after all we're self contained, and luckily she agreed. So unless some 'jobsworth' comes and tells us we can't stay here, we're going to spend the night right here, and try and capture both the sunset, and in the morning the sunrise, before going back downhill and spending a couple of nights at a local campsite before heading towards Athens.