Monday, July 6, 2020

In Greece ~ The Trip Decades in the Making

The trip we took last week, one might say, has been decades in the making.

For that reason, 'The Trip' we envisioned was going to a memorable one. It was the kind you think about for months in advance, pondering which destination would be 'the most special' - giving little regard to costs or logistics.

Four decades in the making 

'The Trip' to be taken in 2020 was our 40th wedding anniversary celebration. Special was the operative word in planning it. Those big ones don't come around often and at our age you don't know how many more are in the future. So, 'the something special trip' included visions of elegant cruise ships and/or exotic destinations.

Then 2020 was ushered in by COVID-19. . .

1980

Upon reflection, maybe we should have expected such a major unexpected turn of events, as we'd had a similar jolt to our wedding plans as well.

Back in 1980 -- just weeks before our wedding -- Mount St. Helen's blew her top and buried our central Washington State town in a layer of ash. At the time questions swirled about whether or not more eruptions were coming, if we would be able to get anyone to the church with the thick layer of ash covering the town, if guests could even travel to attend the event. There was also the question of: was ash hazardous to one's health?

For a time only essential workers were allowed out -- newspaper reporters of which I was one -- were among those workers. Because of the potential  health dangers we workers wore face masks when outside as a precaution. Sounds a bit like current times, doesn't it?

Just weeks before our wedding in Yakima, Washington

Fast forward four decades: We are now American expats living in Greece. As you know from my writings this spring, Greece took swift and somewhat draconian measures to curb COVID. As the lockdown lingered, and our world shrank, our anniversary plans were reduced to hoping restaurants might re-open so we could simply go out to dinner in the village. (I've written in earlier posts about how the pandemic lockdown changed the way we look at life - and this is a good example of that!)

Restaurants were closed during lockdown - take out was 'dining out'

However, lockdown success resulted in low COVID numbers in Greece.  That fact allowed the country to start opening to travel in early June. Hotels and restaurants are slowly coming to life. Luck was with us as the luxury resort - Costa Navarino -- re-opened June 19th, nine days before our anniversary.  And that, we decided, would be the anniversary destination!


Costa Navarino - In the time of COVID


As one follows the two-lane agricultural road through villages, olive and orange groves and vineyards that make up the most western 'finger' of the Peloponnese, the idea of ending up at five-star luxury resort seems rather farfetched.  But this posh place has been a showplace in Messinia since the first guests were welcomed in 2010. It wasn't until last year that we 'discovered' this oceanside oasis.


Our route to Costa Navarino

We are still giddy over post-lockdown travel freedoms so instead of the short two-hour route, we took a meandered drive around the point.  It is an area rich in history - and even in pre-COVID times wasn't overrun with tourists. The drive takes one to Koroni on the eastern shore; a once important port for Venetians because it was on the trade route with Middle Eastern crusader kingdoms. It, and its sister city, Methoni, on the western coast were known as the 'eyes of the republic' during the centuries this area belonged to the Venetian Republic. Each town offers tourists a castle dating back to those ancient times.

Costa Navarino might be considered the area's modern day palace for pleasure set on some 300-acres overlooking the Ionian Sea. It is home to the Westin Costa Navarino and the Romanos - both participating hotels in the Marriot Bonvoy hospitality empire. We don't golf, but that doesn't keep us from enjoying the views that extend over the  resort's two golf courses.  There is a spa, two pools, a variety of restaurants - all of the sort you'd expect to find at a high-end resort. This one offers a picture-perfect golden sand beach.


Golden sand beach at Costa Navarino


We hadn't set foot inside the lobby before we were reminded that travel during COVID19 is a whole 'new normal'. Protocols (mandated by the Greek government) are strict and fines and punishments are severe for those hospitality establishments not adhering to them. We suspect many may be with us for sometime.


Social distancing - 2 meters apart throughout the resort


Social distancing reminders were visible throughout the resort beginning at the entry to the hotel.


Temperature taken and awaiting check-in


While awaiting our turn to enter the lobby, two staff members wearing gloves and face shields greeted us with warm welcome and a question, "May we take your temperature?"  Once we cleared the temperature check we found ourselves separated by plexiglass windows from reception desk clerks  (all of whom were wearing face shields and gloves). Contactless credit cards were requested. 

Contactless is the new word in travel


Contactless seems to definitely be a 'new normal' for travel. 

Take your own temperature machine - future of travel?

Our room was spacious, the large deck offered views of the sea and the place was so clean that I didn't use any of my cleaning wipes I now routinely pack these days. 


Sanitized might be the room feature of the future

Our welcome gift last year was a bag of sea salt harvested at the resort.  This year we had a gift bag of disinfectant liquid, antibacterial handwipes, face masks and information on how to reach the hotel's onsite COVID19 doctor (one of the government's mandates for large hotels). 

Our wellness welcome gift

(A bit later a bottle of wine, sterilized wine glasses and a box of the hotel brand biscuits were delivered to the room as a welcome as well.)


Hand sanitizer machines on the beach

We followed set routes throughout the resort for exit and entry, no longer just veering off to ask a quick question at the reception desk - distancing was taken most seriously. Hand sterilizers were abundant and placed throughout the resort -- including the beach!


Scout moving hair from forehead for temperature check

Costa Navarino is a gated resort so when returning from an outing we were warmly welcomed back after providing a room number -- and this year also having our temperature taken  -- then the gate was raised. 

Love in the Time of COVID-19

I have to tell you that while it felt somewhat different (and this report might make it sound horrendously different), our stay was lovely.  High end and cheerful service from staff who were masked and gloved and working in temperatures in the 90F/30C range.  Accommodations that were clean and luxurious. It might not have been among our envisioned destinations a year ago, but we couldn't have chosen a better 'special' place.

The Flame Steakhouse - Costa Navarino

About that special celebration. . .The Scout had had his heart set on a steak dinner to celebrate the day.  The Flame Steak House Restaurant in the Golf Club didn't let him down.

Celebrating 40 years of new adventures


And who would have thought that we'd be celebrating our 40 years together as expats living our Stone House on the Hill near a delightful fishing village called Agios Nikolaos in the Greek Peloponnese?! My gift from The Scout ,a fishing net with four fish - one for each decade - couldn't have been more perfect!

Next week I'll be telling you about another palace . . .that of King Nestor's. . .it is just down the road from Costa Navarino.

As always thanks for the time you've spent with us today. Stay safe and stay healthy ~

Linking soon with ~

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday

13 comments:

  1. The golf course looks pretty amazing! How far to the King Nestor palace dig? Just some more reasons to come back, once we get Covid-19 under control...

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    1. I'll give you details in the next post Marilyn - about 10 minutes drive from the Westin.

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  2. Congratulations. nice celebration.

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    1. Thank you. It has been a great life -- and celebration!

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  3. Love the west coast! My favorite all time stay was not a luxury hotel, but a place in Pylos where our room hung out over the water that gently olayed a tune on rocks.

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    1. I know the exact place to which you refer! Pylos is a favorite city of ours.

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  4. That is a really pretty symbolic necklace. One blue fish for each decade that you've caught him in your nets. And what a romantic fish he turned out to be, still in love after all those years, taking his wife to all those stunning places for romantic weekends. One of these days you should do a blog about how you two met and what is your love story anyway.

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    1. Well you gave us a good laugh at the image of me having him caught in my net for so many years. For us, we really do see the village fishing nets when looking at the necklace. I'll keep your suggestion for a blog post in mind. Many thanks for writing!

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  5. Happy Anniversary! Wishing you many more happy years together! It's great that you were able to escape to someplace special to celebrate. I must admit to being a bit (okay, extremely) envious that Covid is under control where you are. Here in NJ and NY, we are also doing well, but the rest of the country hasn't learned from our experience, and the virus is raging out of control, as I'm sure you're aware. We bought a place in Florida a year ago, and hoped to escape to it a few times a year, but that's not happening any time soon. I'm trying not to look too far into the future to speculate about our winter plans in Florida. We'll have to wait and see. Just grateful that we are all healthy!

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    1. Thanks for the wishes Amy! I am so sorry to keep reading about how Covid is continuing to run rampant in the States and is keeping so many of my fellow traveler friends homebound. The country of Greece had 31 new cases yesterday and officials are monitoring those numbers closely -- all it will take is a spike and we shut 'er down again. So glad you and yours are healthy!! Thanks for writing~ xxx

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  6. Happy 40th! Could there be a more perfect place to celebrate your years together than Greece? I'm sure when you first married you never pictured even in your wildest dreams of calling such an exotic destination home. While the road over the years may have meandered and taken some detours, you sound like you are right where you belong! PS Love your wedding photo. When I look at mine (we were also married in 1980) I am just gobsmacked at how young I look and what a momentous decision picking the right partner can be. :-D Wishing you and Joel many more happy years together!

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  7. You are so correct about celebrating in Greece! I keep reading these heart-breaking posts of people who planned weddings and anniversary celebrations here only to be cancelling their plans and we are blessed to be able to celebrate in Greece by jumping in the car and taking off on a road trip. Those 1980 young women we were are pretty young looking aren't they? (And I thought I was so old!!) Thank you so much for the good wishes ~ hopefully one day soon we will finally meet face-to-face or should I now say, mask-to-mask?? xxx

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  8. Happy anniversary to you both!

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We have been having problems in recent weeks with our comment section and I am not quite sure how to fix it. Thanks for letting us know. Some comments have been coming in as emails, so I will respond to those as I get them.

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