This sure isn't Athens. What a change of pace just a couple of hours from the big city!
A Few Observations About Greece
After leaving Athens, we noticed a few things that seem different from other countries we have visited.
- Water. We are so thankful for the free water that is often brought to our tables before a meal. What a nice change from other European countries! And if we do buy water, it is extremely reasonable.
- Driving. Parking is a free-for-all, even in Athens! We never saw parking restrictions anywhere nor do people have to pay to park. Many people seem to just create their own spots. Motorcycles and scooters can drive anywhere. Pedestrian streets, sidewalks - it doesn't matter! And those rentable electric scooters are absolutely everywhere. Seems like a scary proposition to me.
- Abandoned homes and buildings. They are everywhere! Maybe it's due to the economic crisis Greece endured in the last decade, but there are so many homes and buildings that are either empty, partially-built, or in severe decay. It would be a fixer-upper's paradise around here.
Renting our Car and Getting Out of Athens
We had coffee and pastries and made our way to the Sixt rental car company. It took about an hour to complete all the necessary paperwork. Luckily, we scored a nice diesel Audi and got out of town. About an hour from Athens was the extraordinary Corinth Canal. It's a man-made canal that provides as a shortcut for boats not wanting to go all the way around the Peloponnese Peninsula.
We continued driving to the small town of Nemea which is known for its wine. We found a recommended restaurant that ended up being one of the most memorable lunches we've had! It was a very local place that didn't even have a menu. The chef/owner came to our table to describe the choices. We went for a yummy Greek salad, tzatziki, roasted lemon chicken, and potatoes. It was so filling and delicious. After lunch, we stopped at a nearby winery where I tried some varietals I had never heard of. I bought a bottle for the hotel.
Finally, we made our way to lovely Nafplio and found parking near one of those abandoned buildings. This one was a hotel that would have views of the ocean from every room. Sadly, it is looking beyond repair. It's quite the opposite of the nice pension where we are staying. I love the old rock walls and atmosphere. The adult room is upstairs giving us a little privacy from the kids.
There are great views from the breakfast area upstairs. The breakfast is so yummy with Greek yogurt, orange cake, various savory pies and cakes.
We wandered around the town and made friends with many of the resident cats. So many cats and kittens!
We took some pictures of the scenic streets, got a small take-out pizza (we still were not hungry after that massive lunch), and called it a day.
First Full Day in Nafplio
I began the day with a scenic run along the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, it was hotter than I am accustomed and I must have been dehydrated. Those six miles really worked me over! It was a scenic run with more cats.
We decided to hike up 999 steps to Palamidi Fortress. We could see the fortress and its steps from our breakfast patio. It was a sweat-fest but we did it and it was really awesome!
After cooling off with some ice cream, we packed up and drove to a nearby beach. The water was so warm! We found a casual beach bar with umbrellas. We felt spoiled having drinks and lunch brought to us on the beach! It wasn't very expensive either.
After 2-3 hours at the beach, we came back to our room to cool off and unwind before a late 8:00pm dinner. We played games and relaxed. Dinner was a real treat. We sat outside on a small street enjoying moussaka (kind of like Greek lasagna), lamb, and another Greek salad. What a great way to end another day.
Epidavros, a scenic lunch, and more beach time
After another yummy breakfast, we drove about thirty minutes to the historic Epidavros Theater. The theater was created in 300 BC and is the best-preserved of all of Greece's ancient theaters. The acoustics are amazing. You can hear someone speaking from the stage all way to the top seat. We all took turns clapping and speaking from center stage.
We were hot and thirsty by this point so we found a recommended casual yet scenic spot for a snack. It was a twisty uphill road to an incredibly perched restaurant. We were practically the only ones there!
We decided to head back to the same beach as yesterday because it was so easy and relaxing. We came back and wandered the streets of Nafplio for the last time. DD#2 had been eyeing a pair of Greek sandals so we finally let her buy them.
We found another recommended place for dinner where we ordered way too much food! We tried some hummus and fish roe spread, more Greek salad, fried shrimps (unpeeled and still with their heads and tails. Interesting), grillled octopus, and lamb meatballs. So much food! We will be heading south down the coast tomorrow to Monemvasia. More to come!