Sunday, August 31, 2014

WAWeekend: What's New in The Yakima Valley

The Yakima Valley – where I was born and raised – is in the center of Washington State’s agricultural lands.  Once it’s only claim to tourist fame was its more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

WARoadTrip2012 226

These days  the sunshine is just an added benefit. It has become a place where wine roads, ale trails and hiking/biking paths intersect.

ChelanToppPort2010 105
Hop yards - hops are used in the valley's ales
We returned to Yakima a couple months ago because I was researching an article for The Seattle Times.  I was in search of ‘what’s new?’.  Let me tell you I found plenty. 

If you’ve not had Yakima on your travel radar it is time to adjust your compass and head out for some incredible hiking and biking and then hit either the ale trail to local craft breweries and distilleries or set out to sample wine at the dozens of wineries that are scattered throughout the area.

Where to Go and What to Do in the Yakima Valley?
Just click this link to my article in The Seattle Times for my recommendations!

Map picture

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kaua’i: Strolling through the Garden (Isle)

We’ve come to the oldest island in Hawai'i’s chain ~ Kaua’i, the Garden Isle. 

GreeceKauau2014 121
Taro fields - Kauai's North Shore
Lush green pastures and fields carpet its low lands while emerald rain forests, thick with tropical plants, cascade from its towering peaks. Along its Northshore, where we’ve been staying, it is quite clear why the island got its nickname.

GreeceKauau2014 110

Here the rainfall comes with regularity. Mother Nature’s has doused the area with a daily downpour or two, intermixed with brief sprinkles that  freshen the air and scatter liquid diamonds far and wide. 

(The Princeville area where we are staying gets 60 – 80 inches of rain annually and nearby Hanalei averages 80 – 120 inches.)

GreeceKauau2014 119
Kauai's North Shore
Thanks to winds and waves, seeds and spores were brought to these islands centuries ago (along with the help of migratory birds). So when the Polynesians --  rowing  their double-hulled dugout canoes -- arrived back in AD 500 the islands were already lush with flora and fauna. Today, however, more than 100 of those 1,300 indigenous plants are now extinct and another 273 are on the endangered list.

That’s enough history,. . .come take a  look at the present-day Garden Isle. . .

PicMonkey Collage

We pass a rainbow of colors in the hibiscus plants that line the walkways of the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas where we are staying.  The yellow hibiscus (Pua Aloala or Ma’o Hau Hele in Hawaiian) has since 1988 been the Hawaiian State Flower. Its shrub-like bushes bloom every day but each bloom lasts but a day. Some accounts say it came to Kauai from Africa.

There are only two types of scented white hibiscus, Kokio KeoKeo, and they’re only found on  Hawaii’s O’ahu, Kaua’i and Moloka’i islands.  The one pictured above is of a scent-less variety.

GreeceKauau2014 174

You’ll find many Ti plants in gardens around Hawaiian homes as well as filling this resort’s gardens. They are believed to bring good luck. Those leaves are multi-purpose and can be used to make sandals, clothing and also are used as the outer wrapping of the Hawaiian dish, lau- lau.

GreeceKauau2014 179

The Hala or “canoe’ plant grows as big as a tree around here. I used the zoom lens to capture this bowling ball-sized fruit that was tucked up among the leaves high above me. The Hala is believed to have been brought here by the Polynesians (thus its name, ‘canoe plant’). It is hardy enough to stand the salt sea air so grows well close to the sea. Woven products make use of its leaves and that ‘fruit’ has small tips that are edible.

PicMonkey Collage

While speaking of trees, it seems Hawaii’s trees even sport bouquets of blooms. . . .

GreeceKauau2014 180

Croton plants, pictured above,  fill garden beds with vibrant colors and the tropical sun highlights the intricate patterns on their leaves.

PicMonkey Collage

It is easy to be waylaid no matter what your destination if the trip involves a route through the gardens. . .and there don’t seem to be any routes that don’t meander through gardens on this island.

PicMonkey Collage

One of my favorite plants are the ginger, both red and pink. They are believed to have been introduced here from Melanesia sometime before the 1930’s. Their Hawaiian name is awapuhi-‘ula’ula. (Ever used Paul Mitchell’s Awapuhi shampoo? You know its ingredient now, if you have.)

Kauai2014Aug 081
Writing about the gardens – especially the gardens that stretch for acres through the resort compounds here – wouldn’t be complete without kudos to the staff members charged with tending them.  There’s a team of ladies ( over 50 years of age)  who spend their work days folded up like accordions, their bottoms hovering inches above the ground – for hours on end – as they snip, dig, and groom these gardens. There are similar work teams, in terms of age and agility, working throughout the island.

GreeceKauau2014 170 That’s it for this week. I’ll show you our  Kauai homes-away- from-home in future posts.  We are staying in ‘luxury-digs-for-less’ thanks to The Scout who found some great rates – and we’ll tell you where we found them.

Aloha and Mahalo for your visit today.

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Floral Friday Foto
Weekend Travel Inspirations – Reflections en Route (Sunday)
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When Travelers Need a ‘No-Brainer’ Vacation ~

Sometimes even die-hard travelers like us - who find the months of research prior to a trip as much fun as the trip -- need a no-brainer vacation. That’s what we decided a few weeks ago.
You’ve probably sought the same kind of get-away at one time or another.
The kind of vacation that requires little planning.
A kick-back, “I don’t care about anything” kind of trip.

Beach - Lanai, Hawaii
Those of you who follow our travels know we traveled to Greece this summer to buy a home. It was a high octane trip. We didn’t go with the intention of having a restful, relaxing time and our expectations were on target. (Of course, we did plan to buy a house and we didn’t – but that’s an old story now. . .)

So back in the Pacific Northwest, The Scout and I decided to wrap up the summer’s chores, put Greece on the backburner for a bit and head out in the early fall on an R and R vacation. . .

Celebrity Solstice - South Pacific 2013
Step One:  The Scout embarked on what he does best ~ conducted a quick search for deals and destinations.

He found a cruise which sailed from Seattle. The plus: no flight and 30 minutes to the ship. And there is certainly a no more carefree way to travel than walking aboard, unpacking, being entertained, fed regularly and traveling to some exotic ports of call. The minus: a lengthy flight back . . .a maybe a bit too much travel?

PicMonkey Collage
Istanbul Scenes - 2010
He found good airfare to Istanbul – a delightful city, to our way of thinking. The fare wasn’t quite as great as the $608 round-trip one I told you about last spring, but good.  That would mean another series of long flights as it takes nearly a 24-hour day to fly that far from Seattle when one considers connections and wait times.  We nixed that idea as well – far too much ‘seat time’.

PicMonkey Collage
Scenes from Central Washington State
We considered close to home road trips, but that required us to think up a route we wanted to take and figure out where we wanted to stay along the way. . .too much thought required for that one.

Maui, Hawaii
Long-time readers know of our love affair with Hawaii, so you’ve probably already guessed the destination we’ve chosen. . .

. . . a place that in terms of flight time from Seattle is less than six hours. . .

. . .where sitting on a beach requires little effort. . .

. . .sipping Mai Tai’s at sunset requires even less effort. . .

. . .and packing a few tee-shirts and shorts – a snap. . .

. . .eating poke and plate lunches a bit of fresh fruit ~ heavenly. . .

The Scout found us a steal of a deal on accommodations. We are using an Alaska Airlines companion fare ($99 ticket anywhere Alaska flies, issued once a year to Alaska Airline credit card holders) which bring the airfare to a ‘reasonable’ one. 

PicMonkey Collage
Lana'i Island and island scenes

What’s even better is that we are returning to a place that we’ve not been to for 25 years.  A trip down memory lane is on the itinerary. Where are we headed? Well, stay tuned. . .I’ll let you know when we get there! And I’ve still have plenty of Greek places to tell you about in coming weeks as well.

A big welcome – and Aloha -- to our new followers and subscribers – how nice it is to have you join us on our travels! And thanks to all of you who've traveled with us for some time now! 

If you have the time to add a comment tell us where you would go for a  ‘kick-back’ R and R destination?

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspirations – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Peek at 'Paddy’s' Place ~ in Kardamyli

KARDAMYLI - Our time in Greece was spent not far from “Paddy’s place” as the locals refer to his home.

Paddy, is Patrick Leigh Fermor – the British writer; a near legend in Greece for the part he played in World War II in Crete.

He’s also a legend in some literary circles worldwide. You might know him from the series of books he wrote about his two-year trek on foot as a young man in the 1930’s from Holland to Turkey or from the numerous articles and other books he penned during his lifetime.

Around here his most well-known book is, MANI, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese.

Taygetos Mountains - Peloponnese
He came to The Mani – the vast, sparsely settled area in Greece’s Peloponnese by pack mule somewhere near the mid-20th Century. They didn’t have roads to the region back then and the trip required crossing the soaring Taygetos Mountain range. Note, that even the present-day road (in the photo’s lower left corner) through the area isn’t a super highway.

Kalamitsi in the foreground, Kardamyli in the back
It was The Mani, in an area called Kalamitsi,(the cluster of buildings to the right center above) just south of Kardamyli, where he and his wife, Joan, chose in the 1960’s to build their home.

We think a lot about his place and his history here each time we’ve visited the area. It’s the kind of place that writers consider hallowed ground; the place of pilgrimages. Paddy and Joan hosted many an event and guests – artists and writers among them -- at their home during their years here. A Google search will result in a treasure chest of photos that captured those times. Joan died in 2003 and Paddy at age 96 in 2011.          

Oh, to have been among those guests. . .

The old port - Kardamyli
Kardamyli (kahr-dah-mee-lih), where they made their home, has a population of about 400 residents and is one of the most beautiful places in the Peloponnese.  It might well be our favorite town in the area.

PicMonkey Collage
The Messinian Bay from Kardamyli
It is snugged up against the bluest of water in the Messinian Bay with the Taygetos Mountains serving as its backbone.  No question in our minds why it was said to be one of the seven cities offered to Achilles by Agamemnon.

The snow-covered Taygetos in springtime 
In his book about The Mani, published in 1958, Fermor wrote, “The quiet charm of Kardamyli grew with each passing hour.” 

One of my favorite buildings on Kardamyli's main street
He continued, “It is too inaccessible and there is too little to do there, fortunately, for it ever to be seriously endangered by tourism. No wonder the nereids made it their home”

PicMonkey Collage
(L - R) Fountain in Kardamyli's square, street scenes and view from a favorite coffee shop
Paddy would likely be surprised at the numbers of hikers – primarily from European countries – that are these days trekking to the area to experience some of those same old donkey trails he likely used to reach the area. They are now popular hiking routes.  He’d probably be floored to know that America’s well known tour guide, Rick Steves also offers a tour that includes a one night stop in Kardamyli. He’d be stunned at the number of modern bars and restaurants that sit side-by-side with those traditional tavernas in town. But he is correct – mass tourism, thankfully, hasn’t altered the area's charm.

Aquarella, one of the newest bars in town opened this spring
After last week’s post saying we’d gotten back in the saddle again and gone house-hunting after our failed home purchase this summer, I got a note from my blogging buddy, Vera Marie over at A Traveler’s Library (she shares our love of Greece and for Fermor’s books) in which she jokingly asked if we’d considered Fermor’s home.

Sadly, we’ve never gotten any closer to the home than from a roadside viewpoint high above Kardamyli.  I’ve zoomed in with each stop we make to get a better view of the house that matches those identified as his on internet sites. (My photos below match those identified as their home.)

PicMonkey Collage
Kalamitsi - Patrick Leigh Fermor's homesite
I  have to admit I would love to own Paddy’s place – especially after seeing photos on the internet of the home’s interior. I could imagine entertaining guests as he and his wife had done in this wondrous place.
But the home isn’t for sale.

All news reports say he left the home to the Benaki Museum in Athens and that plans are to one day use it as a writers retreat.  However, there is no reference to it on the museum's web site.

Patrick Leigh Fermor's home - Kalamitsi 
Last year a movie, Before Midnight, the third of the Before Sunrise trilogy was filmed in the area, and included scenes shot at Paddy’s. The DVD can be ordered from Amazon – I just did so as it might be the only way we’ll ever see this place close up!

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday. Thanks for joining us today.  And a big welcome to our new followers!

I have added a few of Paddy's books and the DVD to our Amazon carousel found on our home page. (Legally I have to tell you we make a few pennies from each sale from it and honestly, I have to tell you, we've never sold anything from it!)

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspirations at Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday at Lavender Cottage Gardening

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Where Kalamata is More than an Olive

“The olive? . . . Isn’t that the name of an olive?” we’ve been asked when we start singing the praises of Kalamata.

DSCF2262Correct! It is an olive to be sure.

But it is also the name of the second largest city in Greece’s Peloponnese; a place that won our hearts this summer.
And Kalamata lends its name to this plump, blackish-purple olive sold in deli’s worldwide. The leaves, like the olives are larger than other varieties.  Kalamata olives can’t be picked green. They ripen in late November and must be hand-picked to avoid bruising.

Early morning in Kalamata, Greece

Kalamata, with more than 50,000 residents, is a vibrant city offering festivals and musical events in the summer when tourists flock to its beaches and fill the dozens of hotels along the waterfront. It is a market town with a variety of stores, hospitals and medical centers. Its airport – with an increasing number of flights this year – is a gateway to this area of the Peloponnese.

DSCF0009 It is just a bit more than a three hour drive from the Athens Airport on a modern-freeway with toll booths and rest stops (with gasoline stations and restaurants) at regular intervals along the way. The freeway circumvents Athens so it is an easy-drive even for those on a first-time road trip.

You can't get lost on this road trip: the freeway from Athens ends at Kalamata. From here travels in The Mani are on two-lane roadways.

Sidewalk cafes line the pedestrian-friendly city center
DSCF0216On the Greek “cute-o-meter” the buildings in Kalamata can’t compete with the likes of postcard perfect Santorini and Mykonos.

On the other hand those two islands weren’t leveled by an earthquake as was Kalamata in 1986. Of such a magnitude, it killed 20 people and destroyed 10,000 homes. Evidence of the damage is still visible on buildings in the downtown.

Amazingly its 13th Century Ayii Apostoli (Holy Apostles) church in the heart of the city’s historical district required repair but remained standing. It is said, that in 1821 The Greek War of Independence from Turkey was declared at this church.

Ayii Apostoli Church
The town is built on the site of ancient Pharai - so old a place that it is described by Homer as subject to the kingdom of Agamemnon. There’s a long story surrounding Kalamata, its modern name, but the short version is that its from a miracle working icon of the Virgin Mary known as ‘kalo mata’ (good eye).

Unlike our visit here last spring when the streets were empty and the town seemed dead, the place was simply hopping with beach- and sun-loving tourists this summer:

PicMonkey Collage
Sun-bonnets and hats are displayed for sale throughout the town
While we spent our time in town working on tasks related to the failed home purchase, we still could enjoy the beach and marina before and after trips to the bank, government offices and other such destinations.

Pharae Palace Hotel on Kalamata's waterfront
In fact, we stayed twice this summer at a hotel called Pharae Palace, where for 70-euros a night, we had an ocean-side balcony room and the price included free wi-fi (that worked!) and a lavish buffet breakfast – one of the best we’ve had in Europe served in its rooftop bar and restaurant, The Loft, a place that offered 180-degree views.

PicMonkey Collage
Views from The Loft
History buffs will want to visit its three museums: The Archaeological Museum of Messenia – where displays are divided into provincial regions; a Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata that highlights the town’s bygone days; and a free Military Museum (where all the signage is in Greek).

If You Go:

For more information:

As always we appreciate the time you spend with us! And thank you so much for recommending TravelnWrite to others and sharing links to the blog on Facebook!! Hope your travels continue to be good ones whether actual or armchair.  See you back here again later this week.

Linking with:
Mosaic Monday
Foodie Tuesday

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Greece ~ Unexpected Joys Off-the-Beaten-Path

We did get back in the saddle again last month after our Greek house deal fell through and resumed our search for homes and/or property in The Mani.  And I have to tell you, searching for real estate in a place with the history and mystery of the Peloponnese is simply a task punctuated by unexpected joys.

PicMonkey Collage
With our realtors, on our own and with friends our search continued

From olive groves to gorges, we spent our last few days in Greece exploring "possibilities' with our realtors and even with friends who were kind enough to escort us. We also set out on our own several times. The one thing that becomes very clear when searching for property is:

When you get off the beaten tourist path there is always a treasure to be discovered!
The Gulf of Messina and Kardamyli
High above the small village of Kardamyli on the Messinian Gulf where we were staying, is an equally small – actually, smaller –  ancient village called Proastio.

Proastio is known for its many churches. You can find them in every size, shape and condition.

Our destination was an area just outside the village.  We set off on a rather bumpy dirt road because that is often where you find the most interesting of houses for sale.

It wasn’t long before we came upon a small brown directional sign that alerted us to a church somewhere ahead that obviously had some historical significance. 

By this point in our home search/purchase process we were easily swayed from our task. We decided to table our search to find and explore the church in this scantily populated area.

We parked the car under the shade of this ancient olive tree and set out in the direction of distant, but distinct, goat bells; their dull clanking calling us to the old church where the animals grazed. . .


As was the case in so many places we visited – wonderful, enchanting historic sites – we were the only ones there. In this case we had  two or three grazing goats who had greeted, then, ignored us.


Signage explained the structure was the old Katholikon of Agio Theodoroi, (Saint Theordoroi) and dates back to the 13th Century.  At some time in history it was severely damaged by an earthquake and restoration measures have brought it back to its present condition.  Sadly, its door was locked as its interior is decorated with murals also dating as far back as the 13th Century.

DSCF2460This newer church sits behind the old one but there were no signs to explain its more ‘modern’ history or age.

This carved stone basin just outside its door caught our attention.

What was it used for?

Holy water?

When had it last been used?

We peered and poked around – desires to look at real estate completely forgotten with this treasure to be explored. We didn’t touch the walls so fragile looking that it seemed the slightest touch could topple them, yet obviously strong enough to withstand centuries of wear and tear.

PicMonkey Collage

Our curiosity satisfied we returned to our original task. . .but we’ll long remember this topsy-turvy treasure that we discovered off the beaten path:

Katholikon of Agio Theodoroi
Have you had the courage to venture off-the-beaten tourist track? What was it you discovered?

We are giving a big shout-out today to our new followers and subscribers!  And another shout-out to those of you who recommended TravelnWrite to them! We appreciate all of you who take the time to read TravelnWrite very much~

Linking up:
Budget Travelers Sandbox – Travel Photo Thursday


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...