Friday, March 16, 2018

Greece: On the Road Less traveled ~

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

                                      - Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

The Kalderimi less traveled
We set off one morning this week to explore a road less traveled. . .less traveled these days, anyway. Once upon a time this kalderimi. was the main thoroughfare linking two ancient villages in Greece’s Mani. Now, one of the area’s many hiking routes, it is carpeted with spring's wild flowers; the blooms soon to be replaced with summer’s sun-burned sepia soil and gray stones that make up its underlying surface.
‘In the former Ottoman countries, a kaldırım (Turkish) or kalderimi (Greek καλντερίμι or καλντιρίμι; plural kalderimia) is a cobblestone-paved road built for hoofed traffic. Kalderimia are sometimes described as cobbled or paved mule tracks or trails.’
                                                  -- Wikipedia

Lagkada's narrow road becomes the kalderimi
While many we know think we took the road less traveled just by moving to Greece, we‘ve but touched the surface of the Mani’s magic and mystery. It is outings such as this that will keep us entertained here for many years.

Lagkada village - Mani - Greek Peloponnese
This kalderimia was the original path between the villages of Thalames and Lagkada. The two are about a 20 minute drive south of our home. We began our walking ‘road trip’ at the village furthest from us, Lagkada, which is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of a hill.

Its history, according to some, dates back to the reign of Marcus Aurelius; a time when the Romans conquered the neighboring Thalames, which was on the major route between Sparta and the Messinian coast. The two villages are about two kilometers apart.

Lagkada, like many of the villages here, is populated with stone homes and Byzantine churches and punctuated with a few towers, for which the Mani is known.  The Kalamata – Areopolis ‘Highway’, a narrow two-lane paved road that replaced the kalderimi, bisects the sleepy village. The only signs of life on the day we visited were a few locals sipping coffee at the taverna across the highway from the Church of the Metamorfosi of the Soter; a church with murals said to date back one thousand years..

Scaffolding has recently gone up - restoration is underway at the ancient church
The kalderimi is now one of the many walking paths that draw hikers and out-door vacationers to the area in the summer months.  (Shhh. . .don’t tell them of its springtime beauty.)   We didn’t encounter anyone making for a much more pleasant experience than our memories of walking the paths between villages in Italy’s over-run Cinque Terre.

Cobblestones and wildflowers of the kalderimi
The stone surface is uneven and we could have used some hiking poles for a bit of balance, but did the walk in a half an hour with plenty of stops to 'ooh and ahh' at the flower bedecked olive groves we passed. We did wear shoes with sturdy treads although we could have used those with the no-slip soles.

Olive groves carpeted in wildflowers
There are organized hikes offered by companies in Kardamyli and our village of Agios Nikolaos but walks that follow the old kalderimia are quite simple and easy to accomplish on your own.

On the road less traveled
One of the best sources for Greek hiking opportunities we’ve found is the on-line Walkopedia. (By clicking on that link you’ll be taken to a list of hikes throughout Greece.)

Springtime in the Mani
Today marks a month since our return to The Stone House on the Hill, following our six-week sojourn to the U.S. We’ve spent the last four weeks ticking projects off our house and garden ‘to do’ list. As that list shortens our upcoming travel list is lengthening.When not welding a shovel or pitchfork,  The Scout’s been at work planning some new adventures. . .so hope you’ll be with us as we set out to explore Greece. . .

Mani wildflower
Where ever  the road leads you and yours this week we wish you a safe, happy, healthy journey. As always, thanks for the time you’ve spent with us ~

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
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Best of Weekend

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Greece: Sun, Sand, Sirocco ~ Must be Spring

‘All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind. . .’
                 -- Kerry Livgren, Kansas (group), 1977

That song was playing in a taverna last night in the village. No other song could have been more fitting this week. 

Sunset during Sirocco wind in the Mani
The famed Sirocco wind carrying the warmth and sand of Africa’s Sahara desert into Mediterranean countries to its north, made its annual appearance this week.  While we are told Greece doesn’t have a word of its own for the wind, we are coming to call it the Winds of March or the Wind of Martios, as the month is called here. It always seems to visit this time of year.

Maybe it should be the Winds of Spring, because it seems to bring the new season along with it as well."
'Springtime is the land awakening.
The March winds are the morning yawn.'
     -- Lewis Grizzard

The Mani became 'dust in the wind'
By whatever the name, it mutes our normally vibrant-colored Peloponnese and turns our world gray for a few days. It makes everything dust in the wind. Then as quickly as it comes, it goes.
The ‘bright side’ to the Sirocco, is that it’s a sure sign that spring is almost here. And not a minute too soon, I might add!

'I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now,
one does, I think as one gets older.'
         -- Virginia Woolf

Wild iris border the roadways
Actually it has felt spring-like since we returned to Greece in mid-February from our six-week sojourn to the United States. This is the first time we’ve been here that early in the year and we were surprised at the many wildflowers already in bloom.The first troubadours of spring, the tiny wild Iris, have lined the roadsides and bordered the groves it seems for most of the winter.

Olive groves are carpeted in gold
Then, as if those iris were the warm up act, a few weeks ago the countryside threw off winter’s coat showing all its springtime colors.

Our olive grove – that drought-stricken, barren area we arrived to last fall – has become an almost magical place – home to hobbits, elves and  fairies - if you let your imagination roam.

A tree in our olive grove
Red, yellow, white and blue are the colors woven together in this year’s spring carpet.

Blooms are everywhere
PicMonkey Collage
The Garden in the Grove at The Stone House on the Hill

Going Wild in the Peloponnese

It is the perfect time to explore the Mani countryside. The old limestone trails that once served as the only link between communities have become popular with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Ribbons of hiking trails curl and wind deep into gorges and wrap around hillsides.  Any number of walking tours can be booked or follow the trail signs with guidebooks and maps in hand and explore on your own.

A few days ago we hiked out beyond the end of the road, just beyond Trahilia village near us on a day that was ‘just right’ as Goldilocks might say. . .

Looking back at Trahilia

Another day we parked in the village of Platsa, just above us and set out to visit a spring nestled into the hillside some 1.2 kilometers away. As we walked through the village we passed its long-ago school-house-once-turned tavern, now abandoned, and admired the wildflowers growing as high as its once crowded tables.

The old schoolhouse-turned-tavern in Platsa
'There are always flowers for those who want to see them.'
                                 -- Henri Matisse

The path to the springs near Platsa
Whatever season you are welcoming in your part of the world, we hope it is as beautiful as springtime in Greece.  That’s it from The Stone House on the Hill this week.  As always we are grateful for the time you spend ‘with us’ and look forward to your comments. Hope to see you again next week and bring some friends with you. . .

‘Like wildflowers;
you must allow yourself to
grow in all the places people
thought you never would.'

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
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Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Greece ~ Just a Year Ago. . .

Happiness is not a goal – it’s a by-product of a life well lived.
              -- Eleanor Roosevelt

A year ago this week we packed our bags and headed to San Francisco, California. A short jaunt compared to our usual travels: an hour and a half flight each way, a couple nights stay and we were back home in the Pacific Northwest.

Such a tiny little trip with such a huge impact on our lives.

The Stone House on the Hill - middle row, far right
Today, sitting in our home in Greece where we are living as full-time expats, I think of that trip as the first domino to fall; setting off a series of  life-changing events. We’d gone to that city by the bay to  make a case for being granted an entry visa to Greece. A face-to-face meeting at the Greek consulate. That began the process of obtaining a permanent resident permit; one that would allow us to stay here longer than 90 days at a time and also allow us to buy and register a car. 

The application process – as you long-time friends and readers know – was a lengthy endeavor and so focused on it were we that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to ponder the possibilities that having it in hand might bring . . .

Pursuing the Possibilities. . .

“We need much less, than we think we need.”
              -- Maya Angelou

Rainbow over the Mani 
We went from pondering to pursuing possibilities in rapid fire succession once we got those precious little plastic cards proclaiming us residents of our adopted country.

While I often encourage 'pondering possibilities and chasing daydreams' in my writings, there comes a time in life when you’ve either got to act on them or file them away and get on with the status quo. We knew in our hearts and heads, that for these two boomer-aged adventurers, it was time to act.

So here we are. . .now what?

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”
                            -- Pearl S. Buck

Afternoon coffee break at The Stone House on the Hill

It has taken a year for the dominos to fall into place and for us to settle in to this new lifestyle. Although we returned for full-time living last fall, the reality of being based here didn’t hit until we returned from our six-week visit to the U.S. 

The few days we spent in the Northwest, tagged on to the start and finish of our Hawaiian timeshare life, were interesting. We loved seeing friends there. Time didn’t allow us to see all that we’d have liked, but time is limited when one travels. We lived in hotel rooms, each stay being only a couple miles from what was once our home.

It was unsettling to be in an area we know so well and to slip into the old rhythms and routines: running errands, making appointments and shopping with such ease, yet feeling a bit of an outsider to it as well.

Wild flowers carpet the olive groves in February
Back at home in Greece we found ourselves returning to our rhythms and routines here as easily as we had in our former Northwest stomping grounds. Just as we got caught up with friends 'back there', we’ve spent the last week getting caught up with friends 'back here'.

A New Chapter at The Stone House on the Hill
It is the first time we’ve seen the Mani in February. The olive groves are carpeted in wild flowers, almond trees are in bloom and roses are budding. Mother Nature can’t make up her mind to dress for spring or winter so sometimes we have 65F/18C days and others a howling wind and rain.

With the logistics behind us it is time to really live in Greece. The Scout is mapping out travel options in the Peloponnese and further afield on this side of the ocean, we have a stack of books to read (we continue to avoid owning a television) and the seed packets I stuffed in my suitcases when we moved last fall need to be planted. Our days are full. We sleep soundly at night.

The Stone House on the Hill from the olive grove
We’ll be welcoming three sets of friends who are visiting in the late spring, I’m going to make good on my promise to learn more Greek and my writing journal – that has sat untouched for a year – is going to be filled with scribbles. Who knows? We might even attend that summer Sardine Festival that I’ve whined about missing while high stepping to the “Schengen Shuffle”.

We’ve got a year to enjoy this life before we get back on that Road to Residency and begin our next journey: renewing our residency permits.

“At some point you gotta let go, and sit still and allow contentment to come to you.”
                                                     -- Elizabeth Gilbert

Sunset in Kardamyli village
It’s been an amazing year and we thank you all for being with us as we leaped hurdles, celebrated successes, stopped at roadblocks and then accelerated at full speed ahead.  We hope you’ll continue to be part of the journey as this is the year when the real fun begins!  See you back here next week and until then safe travels to you and yours!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ballistic missiles, tsunamis and other Tropical Tales. . .

We arrived in Hawaii the day after its now-infamous missile warning was issued – a false alarm that reverberated around the world.

A few days after we arrived we missed the tsunami warning for the island of O’ahu. It had been real but issued during the night and withdrawn before we woke.

Last week we missed – again, by a day -- a high speed shoot-em-up freeway chase on O’ahu’s west side near our Ko Olina resort  in which the suspect was shooting at pursuing police and later held them at bay for 17 hours in the small town just north of us.

It seems that even a tropical island paradise has both 'wonders' and 'warts'.  Regulars here know I usually focus on the ‘wonders’ because I want to inspire you to pack up and head out on your own adventures or to entertain you armchair travelers. But sometimes the ‘warts’ are as interesting as the wonders and are worthy of focus . . . for example:

The Missile Alert

20180131_002331-1_resized (1)
The emergency alert showing on some cell phones in Hawaii
In case you’ve been off the planet or away from the news in recent weeks, here's the gist of what happened: On Saturday, Jan. 13th the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) issued the alert shown in the photo above. It appeared on some cell phones and the state’s warning systems.

(Intercontinental ballistic missiles are designed primarily to carry nuclear warheads so with the war of words going on between North Korea and the U.S. you can imagine the way the message was interpreted).

Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 headline in the Honolulu paper
Within two minutes officials knew the warning was sent in error - there was no missile -- yet it took 38 minutes to issue a corrected message. Now that might not sound like a very long time, but from the stories we’ve heard and read, it was for many an eternity and a horrifying one at that:

*families huddled together in interior closets and called loved ones elsewhere in the world to say goodbye. Then cell phone systems jammed and phones didn’t work.

*at least one man on the island of O’ahu had a heart attack,

* some hotels evacuated tourists, others had them shelter in place some issued emergency directives, others didn't.

* a local man told us he grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and headed to his roof to watch it end – he knew there would be no place to safely shelter, he said.

* a long-married couple visiting the island told each other ‘it had been a great run’, made themselves MaiTais and went to the beach to sip them while waiting for the end.

Remember, many residents of the island of O’ahu are only a generation away from - and can still tell personal stories of -- the World War II Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. So alerts for any type of imminent attack are taken seriously.

The Missile’s Fallout

The day we arrived on O’ahu; the day after the false alarm, the investigations were already underway. The employee in charge of pushing that button had done so in error, and was horrified about it, it was reported. News stories over the days following said the employee was placed on a leave of absence and death threats were being received at the agency.  . .

Headline Honolulu newspaper Jan. 31, 2018
Two and a half weeks later, the missile's fallout continues. On Jan. 31st headlines were still in mega-point type face and more information was being released about the investigation’s findings and conclusions:

*The employee who sent the false alert had been a ‘source of concern’ for more than 10 years. And had at least two times before this incident had confused drills with real events and had been ‘counseled’.

* 'HI-EMA had not anticipated the possibility of issuing a false alert and wasn’t prepared to issue a correction” and officials also mistakenly believed  they had to consult with the Federal Emergency Management Agency before  issuing an official notice of the alert being false.

* The Governor ‘was delayed in sending out social media notification because he forgot his Twitter password'.

* The employee was fired and the head of the agency resigned. (The employee has hired an attorney and been giving interviews to news media that counter some of the report conclusions.)

Then Came the Tsunami Alert. . .

Wind and rain often are part of an island visit
We first learned of the tsunami from an ex pat British friend back home in our Greek Mani who wrote a note saying, “Bloody Hell. . .now a tsunami?!”  I wrote back assuring him that the alert had been for the West Coast of the United States after an earthquake in the Pacific Ocean near Alaska. “No where near us,” I assured him.

Well, later in the day we learned that there had been an alert issued for our island as a second earthquake had occurred nearer Hawaii – several night owls here were up late enough to receive it on their cell phones.

Our resort  manager explained later that with a tsunami – unlike an incoming missile – there’s usually a four to six hour window before it hits so they were aware of the warning but opted to make sure it was going to stay valid  before rousting several thousand guests in the middle of the night. The alert was called off a few hours after being issued.

Ignorance is bliss, I’ve decided.

Shoot outs and other day-to-day realities

Beaches on O'ahu's west side
With a population estimate of 1.4 million people this island state ranks 13th in the US for population density.

The island of O’ahu (best known for its Honolulu and Waikiki Beach) has some 950,000 of the state’s residents. Crime shouldn’t be a surprise here but still it seems incongruous with the island’s beauty. We visitors find ourselves so enchanted with our surroundings we wonder how residents could possibly abuse this paradise with crime.

The shootout I referenced in the opening of this post took place on the Main Road on this end of the island, a few miles northwest of the resort. It involved a high speed chase with the fleeing suspect shooting at pursuing officers and ended with a 17-hour stand-off at a residence in the town of Waianae.. The alleged ‘shooter’ was reportedly under the influence of crystal methamphetamine, or ‘ice’ as it is called.  No one was injured and the suspect is being held on $3 million bail.
(Sounds more like an episode of Hawaii-5-0 than reality, doesn’t it?)

Junk card along one of the Waianae country roads
I’ve been working on a freelance travel article while we are here which has taken us to new territory on the island – beautiful places tucked away in the shadows of the Waianae Mountain range.  One of the most startling things about this new area was that locals are dumping cars along side the roadways.

We asked a local resident about the unsightly dumping and she said, “The Mayor came out and made them clean it up. They were all gone – they hauled them away but then they were all back again.”  'Really??', we asked ourselves. Sadly, that section of roadway looks worse than some third world countries we’ve visited. Warts, to be sure.

So . . .Warts or Wonders?

Lanikai Beach - windward side O'ahu
We’ve been asked a dozen times by people we’ve met this trip, “Why are you living in Greece?” but no one asks, “Why did you come to Hawaii?”   No one questions this tropical paradise as a destination. The parade of wide-bodies jets begin arriving early each morning from Asia and Australia and by early afternoon the parade is coming from the United States and Canada. The number of visitors here topped 9.4 million last year.

Ewa Beach area looking back at Honolulu and Diamond Head
Hawaii and our island of O’ahu haven't lost their magic despite bungled emergency alerts, irresponsible dumping, crime and other ‘warts’.

Sunset from our timeshare home at KoOlina - O'ahu
Bottom line is: no place is perfect – despite what the tourist organizations tell you.    And Hawaii’s welcome and its wonders continue to overshadow its warts. We are thankful the missile alert wasn’t real – what a shame it would be to destroy this tropical paradise . . .

That’s it for this week from the island of O’ahu. Our time in Hawaii has gone rapidly. Won’t be long before we are heading back to The Stone House on the Hill. Thanks for the time you spend with us and we wish you a safe and happy week until we are back together again.

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Saturday, January 27, 2018

How Sweet that Taste of Tripoli!

No, not that Tripoli.

Not the one in Libya. And for that matter, not the one in Lebanon.

I am talking. . .‘our’ Tripoli – the one in the Greek Peloponnese. The one located about half way between our home in The Mani to its west as it is from Athens to its east.  A two hour drive from either direction will get you there.

Tripoli - the heart of Arcadia
Overview of Tripoli  Photo credit:

It’s one of the largest cities in the prefecture of Arcadia, And it boasts a population of somewhere between 26,000 and 42,000 depending on which Greek statistics you want to use. We know its a big city because it rates more than one exit from the Athens – Kalamata highway.

I have to admit we've driven past those exits numerous times - as we've done with other such cities and villages along our route -- speculating on whether or not to go explore. Other ex pats had recommended the place for car repairs or for shopping. Certainly, not for a getaway. 

But on this particular trip we decided it was time to check out the neighbor to our north.

The distance between the highway and the city center is a long boring stretch of unimaginative buildings that house car repair shops and industrial equipment (down-right dull and certainly not inviting) that we could understand why no one we knew went there for a get-away.

But after that introduction, we were blown away by the city itself!

It was a treat to arrive at the main square, a bustling place where cars and pedestrians jostled for space. We found a curb-side parking spot several blocks away and set off to find our hotel with the clack-clack-clack rhythm of our suitcase wheels alerting those we passed, that tourists had arrived in town.

St. Basil's Square Tripoli
Past the towering Metropolitan Church of St. Basil, which was built on the site of former the Beqir Pasha Mosque.  Who knew such a structure with such history would be this town’s centerpiece?

We were in search of a 4-star hotel that had been highly recommended on a number of traveler review sites. A 4-star. . .in this Tripoli!?  Somewhat skeptical, (based on our preconceived notions of the city), we decided to take a look before we booked a room there. A few stops to ask directions and we arrived at the Hotel Anaktourikon (also called Anactoricon) – the oldest hotel in the city.  Those travelers reviews had not steered us wrong! It was 4-star!

We arrived at the Hotel Anaktoricon Tripoli
We'd just arrived at what turned out to be one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed at in Greece – and we’ve stayed in quite a few. Its location on Ethnikis Antistaseos, one of the city’s many pedestrian streets that branch off St. Basil’s Square, was perfect for strolling to the town’s many dress, gift and bookshops, cafes, bakeries and restaurants.

Being off-season there was availability and we could choose the room we wanted. After looking at a couple we chose one with a balcony overlooking the pedestrian street. The bed was as comfortable as a Marriott bed and a 2016 renovation had made the hotel’s interior simply stunning.

Gallery image of this property
A room at Hotel Anaktoricon - Tripoli, Photo credit: Hotel Anaktoricon
The room rate 65-euros ($77US) included a buffet breakfast – a perk that as is pretty typical at many Greek hotels. What wasn’t typical was the massive buffet feast we found waiting for us the next morning.

Breakfast buffet was included in the room rate at Hotel Anaktorikon Tripoli
After getting settled for our overnight stay we set off to make the most of the remaining daylight hours. Back we went to St. Basil Square to begin our explorations. 

Newspapers on paper are alive and well in Greece
While in the United States the general feeling is that 'print media' is going the way of the dinosaur, as a former newspaper reporter, I am delighted to tell you there’s no such thoughts here – print-on-paper media is alive and well as evidenced by this display outside a grocery store.

Directly across the square from the church we found the somewhat famous Mega Kafenion, the Grand Cafe, a place that has drawn locals and visitors for more than a century and has become a trademark of Tripoli. Elderly Greek men gathered around several tables played Backgammon and sipped Greek coffees at the time of day we stopped by.

PicMonkey Collage
Mega Kafenion, the Grand Café, is a trademark of Tripoli

Back down the pedestrian street we went past one of the city's many museums, this one the Archaeological Museum, housed in one of the stunning neoclassical buildings - there are many such buildings here. Past the Malliaropouleio Theatre, that overlooks another of the city’s squares, Petrinou Square.  Open since 1905, two theatre groups are based here and give performances and host events throughout the year.

Malliaropouleio Theater - Tripoli
People watching is made easy in this town. Beautifully decorated cafes and bars have interior and outside seating that open onto the pedestrian streets. It was difficult to choose which one to use as a viewing stand but we finally chose a place about two blocks from the hotel called the Chocolate Bistro.

PicMonkey Collage
A chocolate bistro - our kind of place Tripoli
We strolled the well-lit pedestrian streets, ate dinner, and visited stores until late into the evening. A final stop at Areos (the Courthouse) Square, bordered by a large park to one side and cafes on the other, it begged for a return visit when we had more time to spend here.

Areos Square - Tripoli
Our taste of this Tripoli was enough to bring us back again. For you outdoor enthusiasts, there is seasonal mountain climbing and skiing on nearby Mount Mainalo. There is plenty to see and do in the city - we'd recommend picking up a copy of the tourist guide that offers information and maps in Greek and English.
It is definitely worthy of a 'get-away' whether you live just down the road as we do or are visiting the Peloponnese as a tourist!

Travel Tip:  We found that hotel we stayed in on When I put in my date the site said, 'One room left. 125-euros’.  Knowing it was off-season and the likelihood of the hotel having only one room left, we decided we’d go directly to the hotel and check it out first.  As I said above, we had a choice of rooms and paid 65-eruos.  Just sayin’ . . .

For more information on Tripoli check out their tourist website at  (its in Greek and English).

That’s it for this week. Safe travels to you and yours. Hope to see you back here next week. Bring some friends and family with you!  Thanks again for the time you spend with us!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel InspirationBest of Weekend

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Heading to the Other 'Home' ~ Make that, 'Hale'!

Hale ~ ‘Home’ in Hawaiian

As the pilot announced our approach to the Honolulu, Hawaii airport on Sunday, the person next to me shifted and stretched as he observed, 'Boy this is a rather long flight, isn’t it?’

It had taken six hours to travel from Seattle to this island state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Ko Olina on O'ahu's western shore from the airplane
I simply nodded. He wouldn’t have comprehended that this was just the final leg of our 8,700 mile journey which had begun days before on the other side of the world. This flight simply marked the end of our journey and our arrival ‘home’ – albeit the short-term variety.

This is the 10th year we’ve journeyed to Hawaii in January for a month of tropical living. What makes this year’s trip different is that this is the only 'home' we have left in the United States.

Our Stone House on the Hill, far right small gray stone home in this photo
Our full-time home is on a rocky hillside at the edge of an olive grove in the Greek Peloponnese. We moved there last fall after selling our home on the outskirts of Seattle. And in doing so, made our ‘commute’ to the timeshare life we’ve lived for a decade a whale of a lot longer. But this segment of the 'old life' was one we weren't ready to give up.

PicMonkey Collage
The journey between homes is a long one
Our journey began with a four-hour drive to Athens and an overnight stay at the airport hotel there. An early departing Aegean Airlines flight the next morning got us to London’s Gatwick airport where we had another overnight stay.  Wednesday morning we boarded another early morning flight from Gatwick to Seattle.

Norwegian Airlines flies Boeing 787 'Dreamliners' to Seattle from Gatwick
We could have shaved some time and hotel stays off that by flying British Air from Athens but it would have come with a much higher ticket price. Instead, we’d opted to try Norwegian Air, the European low-cost airline, that is taking that side of the world by storm.

Even though we knew it was popular, we were surprised at how large its presence is at Gatwick.

Norwegian Airline counter at Gatwick
In September the budget airline, which flies to 150 destinations world-wide, began flying between Seattle and London four times a week. Flying this airline to Seattle can cost as little as $500US or less, round trip in economy class, with an additional charge for food and beverages ordered on board and for bags checked.

Affordable Luxury

PicMonkey Collage
The Lounge at Gatwick
Being a low-cost airline, it doesn't have a Business or First class section, yet it offers what we consider 'affordable luxury' in its Premium Economy class. For a trip as long as we were taking, that's what we wanted for at least a portion of this journey.

Premium Economy offers large reclining seats, with food and beverage service provided as part of the ticket price. We also had access to the Business Class lounge at the airport.  Our cost was about $1,300 per ticket – several hundred less than the price of Premium Economy tickets on British Air and we had no extra charge for seats (British Air charges for advance seat selection).

Two seat side, bulk head - perfect!
Waiting for takeoff  with feet up and not yet fully reclining, it had already exceeded our experience flying British Air Premium Economy last fall.

A Mimosa or a Buck's Fizz by any name, is tasty
Wine and beer are complimentary in Premium Economy and our flight attendant made sure that my Mimosa (or a 'Buck’s Fizz' as it is called by our British friends) was as generous a pour as The Scout’s club soda! A second round was offered before meal service commenced. We had a choice of fish, meat or chicken entry. We chose the fish which was flavorful, not overcooked, but steaming hot and tasty (on an airplane! - can you believe it??).

Dinner was served
The lights were dimmed as were the windows (the Dreamliner’s features include enhanced air filter systems, mood lighting and extra large windows that turn dark instead of closing completely.)

Lights and windows dimmed 

We set off for The Land of Nod and hours later awakened to the second round of food – this one a cold plate was just as tasty had the first had been.

Second meal service as tasty as the first
Had we flown in the Economy section we’d have made our food choices from the screens at each seat and the flight attendant would have brought the order from the galley and payment would have been made by credit card.

Menu choices included food and drink
As you can tell, we were pleased with that experience and are singing the praises of the new airline. I should note, that our praise is not based on any compensation we received from the airline for saying good things about them. . .they don't even know we are raving about them. But we wanted you to know as many of you are contemplating travel to Europe and it might be worthwhile to check out this airline.

That’s it from our Pacific Paradise this week.  Welcome to our new readers this week (thanks for getting in touch with us and letting us know how you came across TravelnWrite!). And thanks to all of you for the time you spend with us.

We are linking up this week with:
Best of Weekend
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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