Showing posts with label Lefkada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lefkada. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lefkada ~ Let the Greek island hop begin!

We must go and see for ourselves.
   -- Jacques Cousteau

As I wrote last week,when we set off on our Greek island-hopping road trip, we ‘knew better'. We knew we’d be part of the tourist masses swarming to the Greek islands in August. In our case we were heading north to Lefkada, (lef-KAH-dah) also known as Lefkas, in the Ionian Sea.

We did find ourselves among throngs of tourists but it wasn’t so bad at all. . .in fact the pulsating, vibrant Lefkada town was just the shot of city life I’d been seeking.

Havana Club - Lefkada town
But if you are in search of quaint Greek fishing boats and blue and white painted tavernas with octopus drying out front, this might not be the place for you.

In our case (as much as we love all-things-Greek) we are discovering that sometimes we need a break from all those Greek things. This town, with its distinctly Caribbean colors and a surprising number of bars offering a Mojito as the drink of the day, gave us that needed change of scenery.

The colors in Lefkada town were invigorating
The place also had a distinct Italian ambiance with a number of stores offering Italian made products – from Murano glass items and Italian leather goods to clothing.  (Its history, like so much of Greece, includes Italian occupation.) The bridge at the lagoon even looked like something right out of Venice – complete with selfie-taking tourists crowding onto it.

Bridge of Sighs - good sighs, that is - Lefkada town
“But, of course” (our favorite catch-phrase in Greece), there were plenty of tourist shops offering all sorts of Greek souvenirs, and plenty of Mediterranean cafes with menus that looked distinctly Greek.

Toe-tapping street musicians entertained nightly
Since most sun-seekers on Lefkada headed to the beach during the day, we had plenty of walking and shopping space in which to explore the town of some 9,000 residents. Then when evening rolled around the city’s pulse quickened as tourists and locals turned out in force and there was a street party feel everywhere we went.

(And we did stroll because most of the main streets in the historic center of town were closed to vehicular traffic in the evenings – a very nice and wise touch!)

PicMonkey Collage
Captivating carousel - Lefkada town
A musical group entertained near one plaza while a few blocks away, a merry-go-round that reminded us of one we’d seen in Florence, Italy enchanted kids of all ages.

Earthquake Memories!

Corrugated metal siding - Lefkada town
Lefkada island suffered damage back in the1953 Ionian Earthquake that leveled the capital city of nearby Zakynthos island and literally raised the island of Kefalonia 24 inches, according to accounts of the catastrophic event.

Sidewalls of metal to protect against earthquake damage - Lefkada town
So many of the wooden homes in the heart of – now, ‘historic’ – Lefkada town were damaged in the quake that as a safeguard against future seismic activity wood-sided homes and businesses now sport corrugated metal siding which only added to the Caribbean look and feel of the place.

But why Lefkada? A Room With a View

As the The Scout  was plotting out where our summer travels might take us, he happened upon a hotel in Lefkada, the Hotel Boschetto. The more we read about it, the more we wanted to stay there. And to stay there, we had to go to the island! (That is sometimes how easy our travel destination selection can be.)

Hotel Boschetto - Lefkada town
Boschetto, we were told by one of two Greek brothers who own the place, is Italian for ‘small garden’ and was once the name of the area in which the hotel is located. All that remains today is a small fenced the garden in front of the hotel, which is housed in a building that once sold oil from its street level and upper floors served as the home of Anthonis Tzevelekis, a well-liked civic leader and founder of the island’s popular summer folklore festival.

The International Folklore Festival of Lefkada has grown so large that if you plan to attend, reservations for hotels must be secured months in advance.

PicMonkey Collage
A room to remember at Hotel Boschetto - Lefkada town 
We booked the Junior Suite at the very top of the building for a rate of 145 euros a night. Each morning a waitress from the restaurant below brought coffee to our room and then we dined on a full  breakfast (included in the room rate) on the street level.

For those of you who like to compare prices, the rate is equivalent to $168US. To put the price in perspective a room with sitting area at the Fairfield Inn in my hometown of Yakima WA costs $204 a night in August – and offers a parking lot view, serve yourself continental breakfast and no room service.

Evening in August in Lefkada
The hotel which has been in operation for two decades really was the pull to get to get us to Lefkada. It is definitely a reason to return to the island that sits off the west coast of mainland Greece in the Ionian Sea.

And we will need to return as two full days didn’t give us enough time to visit the traditional Greek villages tucked away in the mountains nor to explore the many beaches that ring the island.

If you missed the part about how we got here; here’s last week’s post: Island hopping road trip

Our next stop is the island of Zakynthos, or by its Italian name, Zante, to the south. Hope you’ll join us next week when we tell you how we made lemonade out of a lemon of a stop there.

Thanks as always for the time you spent with us today and until we are together again, safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Island-hopping ~ A Road Trip in Greece

The journey, not the arrival, matters.
     -- T.S. Eliot

On the road in the Peloponnese

We’ll I just might disagree with Mr. Eliot on that statement after taking a rather posterior-numbing road trip to a Greek island last week.  The arrival was joyous, as after 6.5 hours in the car, it had seemed a long time coming. Especially when the travel time was estimated to be much less.

But the unknowns such as real travel time are what make road trips around here fun and interesting!

Despite the fact that ‘all of Europe travels in August’ (or so we’ve been told) we chose to set out on August 1st. We were living in Europe now and as the old saying goes, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do. . .’

See the source image
We headed north from the Peloponnese
We live south of Kalamata in the dark green region shown on the map above. The Scout had selected the island of Lefkada, (the dark turquoise island to the left of the Peloponnese) as our first stop.

While I usually just tell you about where we’ve ended up, I thought today you might like to join us on the journey itself. So hop in and buckle up: you are supposed to wear seatbelts in Greece.

Hi Ho Silver and Away. . .

Lefkada is part of the Ionian island group (named for the sea in which they are located). The better known island of Corfu – thanks to cruise ships stops – is further north. While Americans it seems have yet to discover the wonders of the other islands in the group, I can assure you they are magnets for European and Asian visitors.

Each is distinguished by its stunning beaches, charming towns are alive with shops, restaurants, tavernas and lounges and more remote villages still provide a touch of old-time Greece.

Onions anyone?
Just beyond Kalamata we headed west to follow the coastline north. Our route cut through agricultural country. It is harvest time in this area of Greece so passing trucks laden with onions or watermelons and fruit stands lining the road were not uncommon sights.

PicMonkey Collage
Pumpkins and gourds for sale
We were heading to Patras, the largest city in the Peloponnese, located on its very northern tip. There we would cross the Patraikos Gulf/Gulf of Corinth and continue north for another 2.5 hours, our route hugging coastlines, cutting through hills.

Always travel with a 'map in the lap'
To reach the mainland of Greece on this route, you cross the Rio–Antirrio Bridge. At 1.8 miles long it is the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. It links the town of Rio on the Peloponnese to Antirrio on mainland Greece.

Approaching the bridge from Patras
It is absolutely stunning as you approach it, and it is simply breath-taking as you drive across it.

Crossing the bridge is a treat
For those who want to know more about the bridge’s construction, click this link.It is a toll bridge, the cost to cross each way is just under 14-euro.

Then on to experience another feat of construction in this area a few kilometers to the northwest: a tunnel that is nearly 3-kilometers long and that cuts through an entire hill. It is so long they offer a customer service stop and list radio stations on which to get emergency information should something happen in the tunnel. (Not my favorite part of the trip!)

PicMonkey Collage
Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel?
Our journey north took us past a massive lake, through pine forests, past barren, craggy hillsides and through delightful towns – the kind that you make a note, saying you’d like to know more about – and for many miles/kilometers we hugged the Ionian Sea.

Along the sea our route took us

Driving in Greece

A number of you’ve indicated you plan to visit Greece and many have asked or commented on driving.  So here’s just a bit of information for you folks:

The roads vary dramatically.  For some distance you might find yourself on a two-lane road, the type shown in the first photo.  The mainland and Peloponnese are also laced with an increasing network of divided, four-lane highways – these are toll roads and you’ll pay amounts ranging from 1 - 3+ euros at regular intervals to drive on them.

Not for the faint of heart or timid drivers
One of the more interesting road types – we first encountered this in Crete – is what we call 'that other kind of road’ which is still two lanes of traffic but also wide shoulders so you simply drive over the outside line and let others pass as they care to chance it.

A Word to the Wise:  This year the Greek government passed a law requiring International Driver’s licenses (permits) in order to rent a car. Travel chat sites and FB have been filled with debate on whether they are really needed or not – some companies yes, others no.

While the rental car companies may not ask for them, believe us (first hand experience) if the police pull you over for a random check of your car’s paperwork – they will want to see the permit.
In addition to the car's registration and insurance papers, the police wanted to see the driver's international permit. For Americans, they are easily obtained from the AAA auto club office near you in most large cities.

Island ahead. . .
As the afternoon was coming to a close we found ourselves on the causeway that links Lefkada island to the mainland. And next week I’ll show you some of the surprises we found here. Hope you’ll be back and until then, safe travels to you and yours! Thanks for joining us today~

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend


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