Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Catching a Daydream ~ That Greek Stone House

Dream Catchers ~
Ornamental hoops, woven with intricate designs and feather tails ~ their purpose:
The good dreams know how to pass through the dream catcher,
slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers
so gently that many times the sleeper does not know that he/she is dreaming.
The bad dreams not knowing the way get tangled in the dream catcher
and perish with the first light of the new day.

DreamCatchers on sale in Stoupa, Greece
Hello, or Yassis, as we say in Greece.  Seems I have been away from the blog for a bit of time, doesn’t it? That’s because we’ve been busy for the last few weeks chasing that daydream of owning a home in Greece. In fact we were back there to seal the deal on a purchase. You might even say, we were there to catch that dream.
IMG000Regulars here know that we began the home search two years ago. We’d decided that The Mani in Greece’s Peloponnese would likely be the place; if we ever did take such a quantum leap.
We were serious enough this spring that we spent a good deal of our time there with realtors.  However, as I told you, we came home without a plan to go back any time soon.

DSCF0954 What I didn’t mention was that a week or so after our return home, an email from a realtor about a particular ‘stone house on a hill’ that we’d visited ~  one with a view, and a small olive grove, surrounded by gardens, set the wheels of serendipity into motion. . .


Messinian Bay – The Mani, Pelopponese

Approaching Athens airport

In a short whirlwind month after receipt of that email, an offer was made and accepted, we’d sent a down payment, and our airline tickets were purchased.

We raced around gathering – and packing -- the required documents (including certifications of income, work/retirement, citizenship and marriage) to obtain Greek tax identification numbers and open a bank account; both are prerequisites to making such a purchase.

Following our return in late June, we ‘hit the deck runnin’ as they say, getting all that legal and banking ‘stuff’ accomplished.

Those things are done in The Mani’s big city, Kalamata (yes, same as the olives – they are grown in the surrounding area). So we had an added benefit of getting to know that town’s charms as well as get the process rolling.

View from our hotel - Kalamata, Greece

IDSCF0022n fact, I must digress a moment and tell you that we were in Kalamata the night Greece won its soccer game and advanced in the World Cup series playoffs.  Cars and people filled the streets after the televised game ended at 1:30 a.m. celebrating as if they had won ‘The Cup’ itself. A parade of cars stretched for miles, horns honking, flags waving, cheering, singing. . .from our hotel balcony we had quite a show. What a celebration it was!

During the daytime we’d tick off our list: met with an accountant and then our attorney, our realtors, the tax people and bankers. Both sellers and buyers have plenty of paperwork requirements, it turns out. While we stood in a long line at the tax office, the sellers arrived and waited in another line for other paper work related to the sale.

Just ‘a document’ was needed but it would be there in a few days, so we moved from the city to the village of Kardamyli, the place we’d spent several days last spring. It was closer to ‘the stone house on the hill” anyway.

We’d met the owners last spring and went out to visit and get our ‘operating instructions’ for the house – its plumbing, electric, water as well as to take notes on olive harvest – a rather fun-sounding task we’d need to return for in late November. They were busy packing up belongings to ship back to their home in England, to where they were returning.

We began our research: finding the area’s grocery stores, furniture stores, the water office, the phone store, where gas stations were located, how to pay electricity, nurseries and garden companies. . .the days went rapidly but we managed to sneak in a quick road trip as we waited for the July 10th closing date. . .


. . .but sometimes catching dreams isn’t as easy as it sounds or as those dream catchers make it look.  Our daydream chase took some interesting twists and turns. I’ll continue our tale next week on Travel Photo Thursday. That’s it for today so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more travel inspiration.  Thanks to all of you who continued to make regular visits even though we were somewhat out of touch while in Greece. Your notes, comments and emails were appreciated.  See you soon~

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In Kefalonia With Captain Corelli and his Mandolin

Okay, movie aficionados out there, this post is for you -- especially if you like movies shot in wonderfully romantic locations like Greek islands.

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Kefalonia - looking towards Sami

Kefalonia (Cephalonia), one of the seven that make up Greece’s Ionian Island group. It was where we spent the last five days.  We weren’t on the island for very long before we'd been told by many locals that it is where the 2001 movie, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed the year prior to its release.

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We were here because we’d taken a ‘getaway from this midsummer Peloponnese getaway’ of ours. The island is a mere three hour drive from The Mani where we are spending most of our time, followed by a another 1.5 hour f ferry ride. 

SmFjiGreecesummer2014 088Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz starred in the movie based on Louis de Bernier’s 1994 novel of the same name.  (While it didn’t do well at the box office in the US, it did very well in theatre’s elsewhere in the world.)

We learned most of the movie’s history at a  coffee shop on the main drag of the waterfront village of Sami, the place where most of the filming took place.
The shop had been shut down for some time while the filming took place. In fact most of the town had been rebuilt as a set to look as it did before the real-life 1953 earthquake leveled most of the island’s buildings. Then crews returned it to its modern-day state after the movie was shot.

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They had a photo album abut the movie’s filming for guests to enjoy so I took the liberty of photographing a few of the photos in it:

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If you’ve not read the book or seen the movie, it takes place during World War II during the Italian Occupation of the Ionian Islands.  (We saw this statue in nearby Argostoli town.)

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Nicolas Cage is an Italian officer who speaks Greek and Penelope Cruz is a beautiful Italian girl who lives on the island. . .the rest is up to your imagination – if you’ve not seen the film or read the book. The filming took place in Sami, the beach of Antesamos, and the town of Argostoli, and village of Fiscardo.

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That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday – hopefully I’ll be in the land of the internet and can link to Budget Travelers Sandbox, but if not, drop by and take a look at the photos there anyway.

We’ve had a very ‘hit and miss’ time with internet and therefore blogging  has also been none existent while in Greece these last few weeks.  We are most grateful for those of you’ve ‘hung in there’ with us. . .thanks for your patience and your interest!  We’ll be back on schedule after we return to the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

One Greek Cell Phone And 3 Villages Later. . .

It sounded so simple:  Buying a cell phone in Greece to use here. We had chided ourselves for not doing so last spring.  Now we are back and it was time!

After all, we’ve become somewhat adept at using “Lloyd, the Droid” our smart phone acquired a year ago back home. How difficult could it be? We were soon to learn that answer. . .

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Waterfront in Kalamata, Greece
Our first stop was, OTE, the Greek telephone company store.  Like all technology stores the youthful sales staff spoke (in English) knowledgeably about  phones, pads, pods and computers. They told us about plans and prices, pros and cons. Way too much ‘stuff’ for our needs.

There are three mobile providers in Greece (like Verizon and ATT in the U.S.) Vodophone, with its named splashed on the sides of ferries, WIND, with its youthful promoters prancing around big city sidewalks handing out advertising promotions and Cosmote, with signage plastered around the Athens airport, claiming to have the network with the largest coverage.

Turned out we did need Cosmote, who locals told us, really does have the best coverage for the area of the Peloponnese in which we are traveling.

So off to a hole-in-the-wall electronics store in the big city, Kalamata, where the young clerk spoke enough English to show us ‘devices’ and then tell us he didn’t have the SIM card for Cosmote.

ManiJune2014 016

At the other end of Kalamata we managed to pick another hole-in-the-wall store, staffed by an old woman who spoke no English but managed to sell us a flip phone and Cosmote SIM card through use of a point-and-nod method.

“Good?” I asked of the Samsung phone we eventually purchased. She nodded.

“Passport photocopy” were the two English words she uttered.  We provided it and she then recorded every detail of that 5-euro SIM card on the back of the photocopy. For what purpose we had no idea.

After returning to Voula’s Hotel Vardia in Kardamyli we began charging the phone – soon, a bunch of Greek words appeared on its screen.  We knew it could be changed to English, but hadn’t been able to ask the saleswoman to do it.  So we’d unplugged the phone and headed to Voula's office. But the words would disappear by the time we got to reception. . . so I copied them down, took them to Voula and she said, “It says, ‘the phone is charged’.”

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Charged, yes. Working, no.

Voula’s youthful employee, Emma, translated the recorded Greek message which said the phone/card needed to be registered before it would work.  (But Emma at least worked some magic and got the English to start appearing on the screen).

Our friend Maria at the realtor’s office down the road in Stoupa confirmed that it needed to be registered and sent us to the nearby supermarket.  They understood the problem, but could only help if theyhad sold us the SIM card.

Next day we turned to Voula once again and she called the old woman who’d sold us the phone. Turns out that woman hadn’t registered all that information we provided her (that’s why she wanted the passport info). . .but with Voula’s encouragement, she did and two hours later the phone was working. . .

No, not yet – it still wasn’t working!

This time Emma made a ‘house call’ to our room and told us that the Greek recorded message was that we had no minutes. We’d purchased the phone and operating system but now had to buy minutes. So off to the supermarket down the street (which luckily is run by Voula’s mom). Fotini summoned a youthful employee who not only sold us the minutes, but did all the input to make them work!

ManiJune2014 077One phone, four days and  three villages of helpful people later, I am happy to report, our phone now works!

We’ve texted, we’ve talked!!

These two Techno Dinos have taken another step across that Digital Divide that now stretches to Greece!

For those who might be contemplating getting a phone to use in Greece:  Go to a store where the employees speak English, as your first step.

We bought a middle of the road model for 38-euros, the SIM card was an additional 5-euros and 200 minutes were 10-euros (that is the minimum amount sold).  Fancier models (smart phones and those with dual SIM card capabilities began in the low 100-euro range).

As for technology, the internet in the rather agricultural area in which we are traveling this weekend continues to be a cross between mystery and challenge.  Some days the strength is strong, other days non-existent so I’ll apologize again for not visiting my fellow bloggers nor responding to emails in a regular fashion. In fact I will post this post sometime – we have no connection today.
Thanks for the time you spent with us and hope your travels are good ones! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer’s Sizzling in Greece

My youthful daydreams of lazing on a Greece beach during summer school breaks and dancing some Zorba style dances at picturesque tavernas into the wee small hours, have met reality.

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Kardamyli Greece
We are back in Greece – in fact, have been here for just over a week and haven’t yet spent any time on the beach or dancing Zorba style: it is simply too darn hot!  (Somehow those long ago summer fantasies didn’t take into account the weather.)

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What we are coming to appreciate is the Greek version of the siesta – that laid back time in the afternoon (hopefully spent in an air-conditioned room) during which time you can read books, gaze at the distant sea, make notes in the journal . . .or if the internet connection works, you can even write a short blog post.

ManiJune2014 048

Our time is being spent in the Peloponnese this trip for reasons I’ve written about in previous posts.  This week we are in the furthest most western ‘finger’ of this vast area and will have plenty of new country to show you in future updates.

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We’ve spent a good deal of time traveling between towns so I thought today I would give you a sample of our time here.

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We’ve had sporadic internet so we may be hit and miss the next week or so both in posting and in visiting our fellow bloggers – I will get back to you all as soon as internet becomes more available or we get back home.  Hope to link up today with Travel Photo Thursday over at Budget Travelers Sandbox!

Thanks for your visit – we hope your summer is sizzling with fun times and good travels ~

Monday, June 30, 2014

WAWeekend: Canal cruising the “Venice of the West”

In need of a shot of the beach, we headed to Washington’s Ocean Shores on an early spring weekend. Actually, I was researching an article about this place on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean; the place once envisioned to be the “Venice of the West”. That story appeared Sunday, June 29th in the Seattle Times but here's a bit more temptation for you:

Back in the 1960’s developers had a plan to turn this entire peninsula in southwest Washington into a California-style resort home development and built 23-miles of canals (to provide more waterfront lots, some say) and also because they hoped to attract boating enthusiasts to the area.

The development never quite took off but the city that was created as a result of the project now attracts some four million tourists each year. They flock to the area for birding (some 280 species) and the beach – a six-mile long stretch of flat, drive-able (it is a state highway in places) beach. 

PicMonkey Collage
We’ve visited on a couple of previous occasions but like so many who visit, never have gotten far from the beach. We had no idea how much the area has to offer outdoor enthusiasts. Researching articles does make one focus a bit more closely on places.
One of the most delightful discoveries was the maze of fresh-water canals that link to Duck Lake, both located just a couple miles back from the beach. An even better discovery was the company that rents electric boats so even those of us “Boatless in Seattle” folks can enjoy the waterway that winds past homes and wooded areas that front the canals.

These electric boats put along at 5 mph, which is good for this ‘no wake’ zone. . .and it was about the speed a ‘land-lubber’ like myself could handle when it came my turn at the wheel.


Owners Tom and Nancy Kimzey take you out for a brief training session to make sure you know how to navigate the waterways and even more importantly how to dock the boat when you return it!


You can rent these cute little cruisers by the hour or half-day. (There are no restrooms aboard but there are back at the boat company headquarters.)


If you are headed to Ocean Shores make it a point to go cruising on the canals – you’ll be glad you did!  To reserve a boat call 360-289-0487 or 360-790-2623, 

We are back in Greece hoping to put a new twist on an old tale for you! (For my blogger buddies out there, I apologize that I've been a bit scarce but internet has been spotty at best.  I'll be back visiting your posts as soon as I am more fully 'connected'.) See you then and thanks to you all for today’s visit!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Greece: ‘That’ Stone House ~ Dwelling in Possibility

‘Dwell in Possibility’
                          -Emily Dickenson
Taygetos Mountains - Peloponnese, Greece

Our trip to Greece last spring had a two-fold purpose: one was the enjoyment of revisiting as much of this vast country as our time allowed and the other was to pursue a daydream – to search for ‘that’ stone house.

I wrote a post as our search began that seemed to strike a chord with those of you who suffer from wanderlust and “possibility” as we do. Many wrote and told us our tale had made you laugh –others sent words of encouragement to continue the search; the one started by following a couple of Albanians – one a home builder – up into an olive grove until our little rental car could go no further.


Our search did continue. We set off on our own – sometimes ending up in the most interesting places, usually near and sometimes in an olive grove. Often times not finding a house but always having an adventure, like the day we came face-to-face with this cow.  You know the thought going through her mind, “OMG! What are those crazed tourists doing here?!”

PicMonkey Collage
Homes we visited in the Peloponnese - 'The Scout' at work
We also spent two days of our time in The Mani, as this area of the Peloponnese is known, with two realtors – a valuable time in which we learned much about Greek homes and the area. One fellow was most congenial and the other seemed exasperated with the task of showing homes from the moment we met. At the end of a day spent parading through occupied homes and looking at construction shells – none of which caught our eye – Mr. Exasperated asked, “Just what do you want in a home?!?”  I snapped back, “I don’t know but I will know it when I see it. . .and I haven’t seen it!” (Daydreams can be difficult to articulate but you know them when you see them!)

Street Scene near Kalamata Municipal Market
While out exploring the normal tourist routes we added visits to grocery and hardware stores. . .just in case we should wake from the daydream and decide we really were going to buy a home. On Market Day we drove to the area’s largest city, Kalamata, (yes, those olives are grown here)  and shopped at its huge municipal market, making notes of the plant vendors along the route. We visited furniture stores. . .again, just in case.  These outings were fun and certainly added a different feel to the area than our normal tourist outings would have done.


We spent more than a week exploring this part of the country following looping roads to, and through, small mountain villages or to the beaches that dot the coastline. At the end of each day we retreated to our hotel, sipped wine at sunset and pondered buying a home. There were pluses and minuses and we probably exhausted them all on those quiet hours watching the day come to a close. ‘Were we too old?’ ‘Did we have another adventure left in us?’ (We did own homes in Mexico for 15 years – but then that was back some years ago. . .)


We didn’t fret about things like is there health care available and whether people spoke English here (those are questions we’ve been asked since we returned home – the answer is ‘yes’, to both in case you are wondering).
Our concern was the impact such a purchase would have on our current travel life – Would it open new avenues of adventure or limit our travels?
We also discussed the logistics and requirements. We’d learned that buying a home in a foreign country requires a few more steps than forking over a deposit  – in Greece a ‘stranger’ (as they call foreigners) must have a Greek bank account and have a Greek tax ID number.  Both of those were steps we could take just in case . . .but in the end, we didn’t.

A Map in the Lap and my travel journal - necessities of a road trip
Our days in The Mani came to an end. We headed north, looping our way back to the Athens airport where we returned the car and hopped a plane to Crete, then island-hopped our way back through the Cycladic islands and then back to Istanbul and home. We’d kept our eyes open to home possibilities in each of the Greek areas we visited.

We had at least moved those daydreams to possibilities. . .we could now 'dwell in possibility'. . .


As you might have guessed this story’s ending hasn’t yet been written. Although, we’ve finally answered those questions we pondered so regularly at sunset. I’ll tell you the answers and, perhaps, the ending of this daydream in a future post. Stay tuned. . . 

Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us today!

Linking up with:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Travel Photo Monday

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Taking (Another) Bite Out of Greece

I told you that we’d eaten so many wonderful foods while in Greece that I had to tell you about them in a two-part post. Having given you the sampler plate earlier, pull up a chair and prepare for another Greek feast. . .

Salt and Sugar - Poulithro, Greece
Coming from the United State’s Pacific Northwest where seafood is plentiful and relatively inexpensive, we’ve not eaten much fish in Greece. We’ve found it to be extremely expensive in comparison to other dishes (the waters, they say, have been somewhat ‘fished out’).

On occasion something comes along that we can’t resist, like this warm octopus salad served to us at a delightful place named, Salt and Sugar, in Poulithro, a small town on the east coast of the Peloponnese:

Octopus Salad
The chunks of octopus were tender and mixed with onion, capers and sundried tomatoes – and served with a wonderful olive oil and lemon sauce.

DSCF3074On the west coast of the Peloponnese, we sampled a variety of dishes at this delightful restaurant (pictured on the left) in the harbor town of Agios Nikolaos, (St. Nicholas) where outside tables overlook the harbor.

Among our favorites here were some of the more traditional Greek dishes – many of which are made in such large batches that they aren’t made until tourist season is in full-swing -- dishes like the labor-intensive pasta dish called Patitssio


A layered dish a bit like macaroni and and a bit like lasagna, the macaroni-shaped pasta is layered with a red meat sauce and topped with Béchamel sauce. One serving is easily shared between two people.

You might be surprised at how much pasta is served in Greece and how good those dishes are ~ some sources say these Italian-like recipes have been handed down through the generations; having originated here way back while the Venetians occupied so much of this country.


We are in agreement that we each have a ‘peasant palate’ – sometimes the simpler and least expensive the ingredients, the better. Such is the case with slow-cooked flat beans. Simmered for hours in a tomato sauce flavored with fresh herbs this dish is inexpensive and filling enough to be shared by two.


We’ve lucked out on our last two visits and arrived at just about the time the first artichoke harvest of the season. One of our favorite dishes – pictured above -  is artichokes, served in a lemon sauce with peas, potatoes and carrot chunks.  I am happy to report that among our Greek words – good morning, good afternoon and good night – I can now say, “ah-gee-nar-rus” the word for artichoke and if I say it with the right inflection the server knows I am inquiring about the availability of this dish.


And of course we can’t sing the praises of Greek food and not mention the iconic, moussaka.  This lovely layered dish of aubergines (a much lovelier name used throughout Europe than ‘eggplants’ as we call them in the U.S), potatoes and meat sauce, also topped with a thick Béchamel.  This tasty bit of heaven also came with those lemon/olive oil roasted potatoes on the side.

DSCF1108This dish and the one pictured below were eaten at a table with a picture perfect view of the crescent-shaped beach in another small town, Stoupa, in the The Mani area of the Peloponnese.

Stoupa, is just a a few minutes by car from Ag. Nikolaos. With such good eateries in both towns it is difficult to choose where to eat.


We couldn’t resist trying a traditional egg dish served scrambled with feta cheese, fresh tomatoes and ham.

Salt and Sugar interior
One of the things we like most about Greek food and the restaurants in which they are served is the pace.  The food is served slowly, it is to be eaten slowly and there is never a rush to get you up and out of the place. 

You’ll not receive a bill until you ask for one and then – in the smaller cities – you’ll have some treat, a drink, or fruit, or pastry – delivered before that bill as a gesture of thanks for your business.

If You Go:
Map picture
The pin on the right marks Poulithro and the left denotes Ag. Nikolaos and Stoupa.

That’s it for this week’s Foodie Tuesday. Bon appetit to you where ever you are dining this week!
What foods have you eaten in your travels that have left a lasting impression? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday at Inside Journeys


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