Friday, December 28, 2018

Greek Life ~ Our Trip Around the Sun

No, you never see it comin', always wind up wonderin' where it went
Only time will tell if it was time well spent
It's another revelation, celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs of my trip around the sun
                -- Jimmy Buffett, lyrics, Trip Around the Sun

Our village, Agios Nikolaos
Several times in the last few days we’ve remarked, ‘This winter certainly isn’t like last. . .’ or ‘Last year . . .” comparing the weather, or state of the garden or happenings in the village.  And each time, I’ve thought how amazing it seems that we’ve completed our first trip around the sun living in Greece; fulfilling the challenge we gave ourselves to ‘live differently’ while we were still able.

The Stone House on the Hill
In our case, for you new readers, that means in a home at the edge of an olive grove on a hillside in Greece’s rural Peloponnese.

(For regulars here, I promise more tales of our Arabian nights will be forthcoming as I am feeling a bit like Sheherazade with more from our Arabian and Indian travels than I’ll ever be able to tell you. But as the year comes to a close it seems a time to reflect on this trip around the sun of ours and life’s souvenirs we’ve gathered along the way.)

Winter “Wonder” land

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d have bet money we’d make it as full-time ex pats at this time last year.

Stormy seas, stormy skies, stormy day in Agios Nikolaos

We moved into full-time ex pat life just weeks before the winter storms arrived and what a winter it was!  Weekly, it seemed during the month of December, the wind whipped down the gorges of the Taygetos Mountains, howling and shrieking; a wind strong enough to knock over potted plants while rain came down in the proverbial buckets.

At the time, if we were honest, we’d have to say we wondered what had sounded so appealing about this ‘living differently in Greece’ idea. . .

20181129_075418For a day, sometimes two or three we’d hunker down to avoid the nasty weather in our Stone House on the Hill even though it was dark and cold thanks to power outages caused by blown transformers or downed power lines.

Even with a roaring fire in the fireplace and candles scattered about, let me tell you, you can start going stir crazy in cold, dark houses.

‘It isn’t a normal winter,’ the locals would say.

‘Haven’t had power outages like this for a decade,’ long-time ex pats would say.

‘This is driving us nuts!’  we would say.

In January – as you regulars here know – we set off for our Hawaiian timeshare life and had I not had my cats awaiting my return I might not have come back and doubt if The Scout would have resisted.

Springtime Came Early

Kalderimi near our home in the Peloponnese

By mid-February though we were reminded that most of the time our area – best known for the groves of Kalamata olives that carpet the countryside here – is downright breath-taking in the spring and luckily spring comes early!

The countryside was covered in blooms and you may recall I wrote about taking outings on the ancient kalderimi, cobble-stoned roads that were built decades ago for hooved animals that linked the villages. (They lace the countryside here and are most popular with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts., If you are considering a visit, you might want to time it to see the springtime blooms and experience these roads less traveled. )

20180529_102452Spring was also the time we began in earnest planting flowers and vegetables in our garden. I had visions of the harvests I would have. . .

The sunflowers towered over me. I built bamboo frames (as they do here) for the promising tomato plants. Strawberries were going to be plentiful.

I would make jam.

I’d probably have to freeze some of the tomatoes.

I’d give away potatoes.

Yes, the promise of spring. . .

And then Came Summer

And with it the realities of that Mediterranean sun. . .these photos taken in July tell the garden story. No amount of watering (morning and night) nor the addition of shade (using beach umbrellas) could save the garden.  My harvest was humbling (it’s okay, you can laugh as even I can laugh now) and is shown in the bottom photo – a few garlic, tomatoes, almonds, and potatoes.

PicMonkey Collage
Summer realities in the garden
By August another reality hit and that was the loss of our olive crop to the pesky dako, the olive fly that has destroyed crops in Italy and France, and now is invading Greece. We had no harvest this year, nor did many of our Greek friends. Ours is a hobby, so was disappointing, but we could almost cry for our many Greek friends who have hundreds or thousands of trees and who lost their crops on which they depend for income this year.

Reality set in back in August
Many versions of ‘why’ exist but the most often given is that Spring's warm, wet weather also nurtured the fly’s eggs and thus doomed the crops.

PicMonkey Collage
Hot time in the summer in the villages
Crop failures aside, summer was a wild, wacky time in the villages.  Streets closed to traffic in the evening and taverna tables filled the roadways. We are so used to our American friends never having heard of our area, that we were stunned to see the hundreds of tourists who flock here every summer from other countries.  It was hot, but it was grand!

Autumn’s Arrival – how quickly it came

By this point in our grand adventure of living differently, we’d given up the idea of being homeless in America. We’d made it for almost a year.  We realized that boomer-aged people who have money in financial institutions and medical care providers in the US, and well, who have to deal with the government (Social Security and Medicare) really need a residential address in the U.S. Greek addresses (which we don’t even have) and Greek phone numbers just don’t fit in the forms (we were square pegs trying to fit round holes).

PicMonkey Collage
Another adventure in living: Manson, Washington State
Autumn brought a return to the U.S. so we could move our belongings into our residence we’d purchased back in July (it can be done from Greece) in Central Washington State. For now the home will serve as a landing pad when we visit, provide that much needed address, and be our fall-back plan and destination when the time in Greece comes to an end.

Winter Comes Again

December 28, 2018 Stone House on the Hill
Winter has returned to The Mani, this place where we’ve lived while taking that trip around the sun. This year storms have been few, temperatures are mostly spring-like.
Our trip around the sun has been filled with making new friends and creating ‘our world’ here, continuing to learn the nuances of a new culture, struggling to learn a Greek word here and there and planning for ‘next year’.

We will be reapplying for our resident permits in the spring and if granted we can continue on as full-time residents for another three years.

And you know?  I think we just may do that!

A toast to you on solstice in Abu Dhabi at The Grand Canal
Our wishes to you all for the Happiest of New Year’s and we hope your travels – whether in real life or armchair – take you to places you’ve always dreamed of visiting.  And our thanks for coming along with us on this journey and all the others on which you’ve joined us. We appreciate the support and cheerleading when we needed it and all the  kind words and comments you’ve made along the way.

Hope to see you back here next week and bring some friends along with you!!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global


  1. Jackie--you have to learn a whole new gardening calendar, like newcomers to Arizona do. We grow lettuce and tomatoes and other garden crops in the spring fall and winter, which makes up for the brutal summer. Can you do that?

    1. We do – or did before the construction of the arbor as seen on FB – have lettuce and some volunteer tomato bushes come up in the garden this month. Sadly they gave their lives for construction but a few remain so will have some lettuce this month. We do plant earlier but the key has been keeping the plants alive in the heat – like the strawberries that literally turned brown and crispy. Hopefully the new arbor will provide some sun protection. We’d commented last year on why so many gardens had arbors over them – now we know! We plan to ultimately use natural shade with the bougainvillea extending from the deck and planting a grape vine as well. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Congratulations on surviving your first year as expats! What a grand adventure you two are having. Even with setbacks (that photo of the shriveled olives was a heartbreaker) you are experiencing a side of life few people back home could truly imagine. Thanks for sharing this story of your first trip around the sun in Greece, and here's to many, many more.

    1. I suspect you can relate to those moments that leave you shaking your head, but then again, so many more moments have us pumping a fist into the air and saying, Yes! So glad we did this! BTW, happy anniversary -- loved the air freshener gift idea!!

  3. Wonderful read Jackie! We are following your journey with delight. IAm planning an arbor for our upper lanai and hope to have some crops this year too.

    1. Thanks MJ, glad you are enjoying the journey. Hope to see you soon in Hawaii!! xxx Happy New Year!!

  4. Happy New Year! I love recaps like this. How lovely that you were able to harvest anything, no matter how small...almonds, tomatoes! You rock :-). How sad though about the olives and how terrible for the people that depend on it to make a living. I hope 2019 turns out to be even more awesome than this year. Wishing you the best from Valencia :-)!

    1. Happy New Year to you and wishes for continued wonderful adventures and new travel destinations. Yes, any harvest with my less-than-green thumb is a good harvest!!

  5. What a year! Congratulations on a full year if expat living and your new US home!

    1. Thanks much for the good wishes and the same happy New Year wishes to the two of you. Enjoy your time in Mexico!

  6. Well, you had an exciting year and I'm glad to hear you will be staying on.

    We lived in Jamaica as Peace Corps volunteers and talked about living abroad when we retired. But, it's difficult to imagine a better home base than our cozy little cottage. We do have some big travel plans for 2019 though.


    1. Well hopefully you will be writing about your travels this year on your blog and I can't imagine anyplace better than your cozy cottage in which to spend your retirement years!

  7. What a great name for an end-of-the-year post. It sounds as though your first December had many challenges to weather (pun intended) but it will always give you a benchmark for comparison in future years. It will be interesting to see how 2019 unfolds for all of us and what beckoning roads we'll choose. However, one of my promises to myself this year will be meeting you and Joel IRL, either in my adopted country of Portugal or yours. Wishing you another trip around the sun filled with much laughter and many new adventures!

    1. So I wrote about how mild and wonderful the winter has been and it snowed - yes, snowed! - yesterday. And cold, oh my, has it been cold. We are eager to meet you and are looking forward to that being a goal for us as well! Happy New Year and Happy Travels!!

  8. What an exciting year you two had in 2018. Looks like the adventures were amaing. Can't wait to see what 2019 holds for you.

    1. We are just surprised at how fast the year went and how easily a very new and different place can feel comfortable and like home!!

  9. Your village and pictures are gorgeous

    1. The village is a picture-perfect little place and we are so fortunate to have found it when traveling around looking for a place to settle in! Thanks for visiting!! Happy New Year!!

  10. I've enjoyed every minute of your life in Greece, and hope that it will continue for you for another 3 years! So sorry to hear about the devastation of the olive fly. My goodness that can cripple a whole industry, not only individual farmers. I hope they find a control for it. We have a problem with fruit fly in our stone fruit crops over here. Wishing you and yours a happy, peaceful, wonderful 2019 wherever you are!

    1. Oh and the same wishes for a wonderful New Year go back to you and yours. Love your blog and will see you there soon!

  11. Beautiful photos!
    Happy new year, and thanks for linking up at

    1. Happy New Year and thanks again for hosting your wonderful linkup!!

  12. I am so envious of your life in Greece


    1. Oh Molly I love to see comments from you on the posts!! Happy New Year!! xx Jackie

  13. I have followed your adventures on and off for the past year so some of this post was not new - but I missed a few bits here and there. I feel for with the summer sun beating down on your veggie patch. Living in Australia I know how that feels.

    1. Coming from the Seattle area where the biggest problem was getting enough sun to ripen veggies, it was a bit of a shock but we are working on a solution as I write this!! Happy New Year and continued happy travels!


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