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. 

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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?!”

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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

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Summer Sojourn ~ Novel Destinations

As summer stretches out before us and the suitcases start calling out for a sojourn, we’ve been ‘researching’ some novel  -- and not so ‘novel’ -- destinations.

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I revisited Tuscany with Frances Mayes’, “Under The Tuscan Sun” the real-life story of her home purchase in Italy now some 20 years ago. Where did that time go?  Seems only yesterday I was reading the book published in 1997 for the first time – so envious of her adventure.  Now those olive trees she and Ed were working to save, produce enough olive oil that they sell a line of it, they’ve renovated another home in Italy and a Southern estate in the United States. 

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Then I traveled to Seville with Karen McCann’s “Dancing in the Fountain”.  I ‘met’ Karen in the blogosphere (she writes and her book is a bigger, more detailed but equally funny and informative account of how she and her husband – who started out in Spain with a plan to stay a few months to learn Spanish now, nearly a decade later -- live most of each year there.

Eiffel Tower

The Scout traveled to “Paris” with Edward Rutherfurd, one of our favorite historical novelists.  He has authored a number of similar books including London and New York. This, his latest, just came out in paperback (and yes, we still prefer to read real books with paper pages!)

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We both re-visited those white-washed islands – Greece’s Cycladic Islands – by re-reading Jeffrey Siger’s “Murder in Mykonos” and “Target Tinos”.

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Seattle's Space Needle
That’s a few of the places we’ve traveled – and never left the comfort of our Pacific Northwest home.  Of course, we have been inspired to start packing.

Do you have any ‘novel’ destinations to recommend? If so, we hope you’ll make note of them in the comments below or send an email.  Happy Travels – whether actual or armchair and Happy Summer to you all!

Note:  All of those books can be found on our Amazon Carousel on the blog's front page (for those of you subscribers just open this link ) and scroll to the bottom. You can read reviews of the books by clicking on them and even purchase them if you so desire. Full disclosure: we make a few pennies on the books sold! More Disclosure: we have yet to sell a book!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crete: Hiking through History

From those iconic whitewashed buildings in the Cycladic Islands of Greece we told you about last week, we move south to the southern coast of Crete. The area is laced with hiking trails that wind up stark hillsides and through lush gorges – leading through the island’s ages-old history.

DSCF1275Many of those trails begin or end in Loutro, the small village where we stayed on Crete’s southwestern coast.

Some are what we consider  ‘soft hikes’ – those that don’t require hiking boots or other equipment and could be considered more ‘stroll’ than ‘hike’.

One of our favorite such stroll/hikes snakes along the hill – a backdrop to the village – and leads back more than a century ago; a time of Turkish occupation of this area. . .

The trail in April was lined with spring wildflowers and the hillside carpeted in greens.

Up, up, up the hillside, we left the village and its crescent-shaped harbor far below. For those in moderately good physical condition – the pathway with an easy grade (a hiking pole would be nice, but not required). Trail markers like those below are posted on rocks and signs along the route..

PicMonkey Collage

We’ve visited this area three times in recent years and the setting has remained as enchanting as the first time we saw it.


As you crest the hill you step back into a time of Turkish occupation – a time when the koule, or small castle, dominated the hill top. Back then this fortress was probably a hub of activity while nowadays only goats laze and graze among its ruins.

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Sometimes we’d pass another hiker or two and we’d nod a greeting – no one wants to break the silence that envelops you here. . . it’s broken only by the hollow clang of the goats’ bells,the buzz of the bees and the rustle of leaves.


The remains of the Turkish koule are unattended – it isn’t a tourist attraction that requires security or entrance fees. Only those who hike between Loutro and Phoenix, as the neighboring harbor is called, are even likely to know it is there.


This area was once the base for Saracen pirates who were driven out by the Venetians and later the Turks drove out the Venetians.


The solitude here is so enveloping that just a short visit can refresh the soul and clear the mind.  I chuckle though each time I see this modern-day addition: a labyrinth. . .I guess it’s for those who need a kick-start in absorbing the solitude.


Hope you enjoyed our stroll through history – as always, your time is much appreciated. Hope to see you back here again soon!

Map picture
IF YOU GO:  Crete’s northern cities, Heraklion and Chania, have ferry connections to Athens and other Greek ports and airplane connections from Athens and other European airports. Buses, taxis or rental cars could be used to reach the southern shore.  Loutro, however, is accessed only by boat (there is a local ferry) or on foot.

Hiking: The trail we wrote about is part of the European long-distance path, the E4, a network of some 11 long-distance paths that stretch across countries in Western Europe and were developed by the European Ramblers Association (made up of walking groups throughout Europe). In Greece, it stretches across the Peloponnese and then takes up on this island. The Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing established and maintains the trails. They also produce a multi-language pamphlet with information about the trails. 

Map picture

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Greece: “But, what do you eat there?”

There are certain people we know who don’t share our enthusiasm for travel.  They list the logistics and planning or those unknown experiences . . .like eating  different food as reasons for not setting forth.

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Easter pastries - Greece
I can tell you – and our bathroom scales reconfirm this – we love the foods (and drinks, of course) we discover on our travels!

Some of our favorite food is Greek. We found so many culinary delights as we traveled around Greece this spring that I am serving up a two-part report; beginning this week on our food-fest there and starting with perhaps the most recognizable dishes:

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Pita Gyro: This fast food is the cheapest ‘full meal deal’ in town.  Thinly sliced lamb, beef or chicken, tomatoes, onions, French fries, yogurt with paprika (pictured above) or tzatziki, a yogurt sauce comes wrapped in hot pita.  The cost usually under $5 US.

Greek Salad: Unlike the versions we are served back home in the U.S. here the bowl is filled with chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, whole olives with pits and slabs of feta, seasoned with oregano and olive oil and vinegar mixtures.  Usually in the $5 – $7 US range and enough to share between two.

loutro to kirkland 121Hummus: While we call it a dip in the U.S. it sometimes is listed under salads here – other times as a meze, or small plate. 

This traditional mixture of garlic, olive oil, garbanzo beans and tahini, is one of our favorites. In the photo to the left, the restaurant served it with sautéed onions.  Less than $5 US.

loutro to kirkland 165Two other sauce/salad/mezes: are the traditional – tzatziki, (left side of the plate) yogurt, cucumber, oft times a bit of grated carrot and varying amounts of garlic and garlic salad basically garlic and mashed potatoes mixed together and served cold or at room temperature.

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Greek meatballs rival that of their Italian neighbors.  Here, however, they aren’t served with pasta.  Instead, potatoes – slow roasted in the oven with oregano, olive oil and lemon juice – share the plate.  (And thank goodness, those baskets of bread are served as a routine part of every meal. This one came  in handy for dredging through that olive oil and lemon sauce!)

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Stuffed grape leaves – served as mezes here, are a tart lemon-flavored treat filled with rice and served at room temperature or barely warmed.  We ate many of these but I am featuring the ones served at The Nest, a restaurant (known for its traditional Greek food) tucked in the maze of the Old Town, Chora, on Ios Island

This family-owned restaurant  and the food it served, captured our hearts (and stomachs) and drew us back two of the three nights we were in town.  Among the many dishes we sampled were these grape leaves. The owner said that the leaves are grown in his cousin’s garden and each morning his mother comes in to make them ~ now who could resist that?

Note:  The opening photo is of pastries (some of you saw it on Facebook)  - a gift for Easter from Maria, the lady who runs Pension Loutro Bay, on the southern coast of Crete, where we spent the holiday this year.

Thanks for your time today – we hope you’ll be back later this week!

Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday


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