Sunday, May 3, 2020

Greece ~ Seeing travel differently. . .

In the end, we decided to ride out the pandemic in Greece.  Our expat lifestyle won out over a return to the States. We'd reasoned that our sparsely populated, rural location in the Greek Peloponnese would lend itself to social distancing and isolation.  The fresh air and sunshine would certainly be positives. We'd have plenty to keep us busy.

The olive grove keeps us busy

Our decision to stay was made just as Greek authorities were shutting down air traffic and mainland  borders. In falling domino fashion, the entire country pretty much came to a standstill within a couple of weeks of our deciding to stay. For many of those weeks we've been allowed out to only six destinations. The government had to be told each time we left our home.  A hashtag 'Menoumespiti' became a rallying cry across social media here -- stay home!

On Greek Easter weekend the travel restrictions were enhanced from Saturday evening until midnight Monday night. Traffic was severely limited. Fines for violators were 300 euros for the driver, 150 for each passenger and your license plates were taken. Pretty smart move, as you can't drive without plates here and to get them back, you had to pay the fines! (One exception made in the village was to allow folks like us to pick up 'to go' Easter dinners that had been ordered before the shutdown was announced.)

A village scene from the parking lot

Tomorrow, Monday, May 4th  the country begins reopening.  We will no longer be required to notify the government of our movements. Small businesses, including hair dresser and barbers, will begin operating within strict social distancing guidelines. We will be required to wear facemasks in stores and other public areas for an unspecified amount of time or face a potential 150 euro fine. Numbers of COVID19 cases will be monitored on a 24-hour basis and if there is a spike, restrictions will be re-imposed. If numbers hold at acceptable levels, the country will continue to reopen in a gradual process that takes us to July.

The future of travel to and from Greece is still somewhat up in the air. There is talk of allowing only those from certain countries into the country; those with low COVID19 numbers. And there is uncertainty about how and when the European Union will reopen its borders.

For us, the pandemic has put the brakes on our spring travels and has slowed our desire to plan future travels. Neither of us are eager to put ourselves in an airplane or airport right now.

Traveling within Greece was a treat last year

Our longtime readers will likely remember that a year ago that I was whining about not being allowed to leave Greece while our residency permits were being renewed.  I described us as being held 'hostage' although we could travel to our heart's content anywhere we wanted to go within the country.

This year going to the grocery store or pharmacy feels like taking a major trip.  What a difference a year makes! Instead of grumbling about the limits on movement, we are singing the praises of those who imposed them. We are seeing travel -- and life, to a certain extent -- differently these days.

The Village Parking Lot - A Destination 

'Let's have a coffee in the parking lot,' I suggested after a recent grocery store trip. It is the village parking lot, the one in which we sometimes sip a glass of wine from a plastic glass while waiting for a 'to go' meal to be prepared.

Going out for wine - quite literally!

Now there is really nothing special about our municipal parking lot.  It is a relatively non-descript, barren stretch of  land bordering the Messinian Bay. Two tavernas serve drinks on portable decks in tourist season. It is the gateway to the harbor's boat launch.

The village parking lot and taverna deck in a pandemic

Back in normal tourist seasons it was difficult to find a parking space there. Sometimes even entering and exiting required holding your breath as you squeezed past double parked cars. We usually tried to avoid it until it emptied in the fall. Sometimes the most action in the lot during the winter is when winter storms create such fierce wave action that stones are tossed over the sea wall. A bulldozer is brought in to clear them so that cars can navigate the lot's unpaved surface.

Social distancing is a snap in this parking lot
But that parking lot has become a shining beacon, a destination, in our somewhat shrunken universe. Often ours is the only car in the lot; other times there might be a half dozen. Sometimes others are off in the distance sipping beverages as well. Sometimes if we are lucky, we might see someone we know.  A wave and called out greeting from a friend passing by feels like a major social interaction has occurred. 

Friends from the States - drinks before dinner

We entertained our last set of visitors from the United States in that very parking lot. They arrived just as the country was shutting down seasonal hotels, so their stay was cut short as they had to race back to Athens for one of the last flights out. They didn't get to see a lot of the village, but we are certain they will remember the parking lot where we had before dinner drinks and a to go dinner picnic on the seawall. 

Dinner in the parking lot

Until our coming and going was curtailed by the government, and social distancing the norm, I hadn't really appreciated that big old lot. I sincerely hope that when this ends, I will remember those trips to the parking lot as having been a special part of this pandemic lockdown.

Perhaps Columbian writer Gabriele Garcia Marquez said it best when he wrote,

May we always remember our trips to the parking lot

'What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.'

Our thanks for being with us today - as always we appreciate the time you spend here.  We hope you continue to cope with the coronavirus safeguards within which you live and that you, your family and friends stay well.

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. I remember that parking lot! With great fondness I should add...��

    1. And hopefully you will come back one day and we won't have to entertain you in the lot - we'll just park there!!

  2. I had to laugh when I read of the parking lot becoming an anticipated destination! That's something I can identify with as I always look forward to my weekly trip to the grocery (something that used to be a drudgery) and I'm positively giddy today with the hope that the garden store will have been allowed to reopen! It's interesting to see how quickly I've become accustomed to the new normal of wearing a mask (homemade) and social distancing and I've been diligently working on my pandemic afghans for friends. (I bought A LOT of yarn before everything was shut down.) Portugal announced a couple of days ago that, like Greece, it is taking a phased approach to reopening with the warning that it will monitor any spikes in virus infection. The consensus among my friends is that we are in no hurry to get back to anything but very small gatherings (2-4 people) and will proceed with much caution. It's not difficult at all to be patient when you consider the rewards for yourself and family/friends and I feel quite fortunate to be living in a country that's taken a studied and measured approach in how it has contained the virus. Wishing you continued good health in your part of the world and plenty of optimism moving forward, my friends. One of these days, our paths will cross!

    1. It is amazing how 'doing without' something makes it very special when you can again 'do it'. I have had the same excitement over a trip to the grocery store! Stay safe and well and yes, one of these days we must aim our paths in the same direction! We've got to get that accomplished!! xxx

  3. Looks like a lovely way to get back into a nice groove again, love the ocean views also

    1. Standing in a parking lot sipping wine, really isn't a bad thing when the lot is in a charming Greek village, that is for sure!!

  4. We love this introspective about the parking lot. I guess each of us has this sort of "familiar destination" that holds a special place in our heart. The memories that tie us to our own "parking lot" create a bond with life that no pandemic can destroy. Keep up the spirit, and we know that we will all eventually be traveling again.

    1. Well, from reading your blog I know you two are continuing to make special memories and keeping old traditions, like date night alive, and hopefully we will all remain healthy and able to look back on this time as a genuinely enriching experience!

  5. How strange, Jackie that you should talk of car parks. Yesterday after being 'locked-in' by Lock-down for over five weeks and I admit, a little stir crazy, I knew I needed some exercise. We live on a hill, totally impractical for me, but OK for Bill. He estimates that round the block is equivalent to the supermarket but less expensive! We drove five minutes up the road to the car park which is much flatter for me to walk (to me it was essential travel), only to find there was no chance of social distancing due to dog walkers on the nearby path. So we stayed in the car -- admired the dogs, and we did get to see the sea! A pleasant change from four walls. Take care when you do venture out. First port of call? Hair salon? It certainly will be for me. I hope the UK used a similar method to Greece for easing the Lock-down when the time comes.

    1. Isn't it amazing what just getting outside the four-walls can do for your spirit? I sometimes just need to see 'the old boys' who sit (yes, they sit on the seawall) outside the taverna to be reminded that this too shall pass. The stories and the history many of them have witnessed here makes this a mere blimp on life's journey. Will write an email soon!! xx

  6. I can identify with your trip to the parking lot. For me, my weekly treat has become going to the supermarket! (Never thought I'd hear myself saying that...)

    1. You and me both! I swear (and hopefully I won't forget it) that I will never complain about grocery shopping again!! Take care and be safe!

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  8. I think you made a good decision to stay in Greece. All that sunshine is certainly a plus -- just like we enjoy here in AZ where we are glad to be during this time. A big treat for me is driving to the grocery store to have curbside touchless pick of my online orders. It's the little things we start to appreciate at times like this. Here's to future safe travels -- sooner rather than later. But we're happy to staying safe and doing our part to keep others safe by staying at home despite the early openings of some states.


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