Saturday, September 23, 2017

Expat Life ~ With a Foot in Two Worlds

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go. . . 

. . .'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again. . .

                                                          -- Lyrics by John Denver, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is one of my favorite pre-travel theme songs.  This year perhaps its lyrics are a bit more poignant and at the same time a bit more exciting than ever before. We will soon be off to Greece.

And for the first time ever, we won’t be returning to a home base in Washington State.
We’ve always had a home in Washington. And that’s what makes this such a journey into new uncharted territory for us.

From the airplane - Washington State's Mount Rainier
P1050095Regulars at TravelnWrite know we’ve just concluded a “Summer of Slogging” at our Pacific Northwest home; cleaning out and organizing our life’s accumulations in order to embark on a new adventure: living in Greece.

[For those new folks – we purchased a home in Greece 2.5 years ago and obtained our residency permits this spring. It was the nudge we needed to go from our part-time to full-time ex pat life.]

With treasures tucked away in storage, given away or sold, we put our home of 30 years on the market two weeks ago. In a head-spinning blink of time it sold within 48-hours.

In two weeks, we’ll be boarding a flight to Athens.  With our heads still spinning, we have yet to feel the euphoria of freedom and adventure that so many ex pats before us have promised will happen.

Not Here Nor There

Instead of swooning over newfound freedom we are teetering between two worlds; feeling neither here nor there. A Twilight Zone of sorts.

Our destination: The Mani, Greek Peloponnese
Cue up Rod Serling (those of you of a certain age will know who I mean). In that quiet tone he’ll tell the viewing audience,“The Smiths  have just realized they are in a world of limbo – no longer rooted in the U.S. and not yet planted in Greece. Their only way out is through a maze of lists, logistics, and lessons.”

In the grand scheme of things, our Twilight Zone is nothing. Compared to those uprooted and homeless as result of hurricanes, wild fires, floods and social unrest, what we are experiencing is a blip on the comfort zone. Yet, when your world is shifting – if even by choice, as ours is – the change process is seismic.

The Logistics and Lists of Leaving

Way back in June we told you all that we’d be back in Greece by mid-September. Heck, yes! No sweat! We’d clean out the house, put it on the market, come back in a few months when it sold and complete our move.

Arriving in Athens, Greece

That was the plan alright but as the old saying goes. . .life has a way of happening while you are busy making plans for it. Time to regroup, take a closer look at those lists and logistics and forge ahead. . .

Regrouping and refocusing - taking a closer look at details
Changing dates:  We now have an early October date to move out of the house. We have a date for closing the sale. We have a new departure date for Greece.  And none of those dates are the same.
If all goes as planned (and that phrase is our new mantra) paperwork will be completed one day, we’ll finish moving out of our already-pretty-empty-house another, we’ll spend a couple nights in a SeaTac Airport hotel and two weeks from today we will fly to Greece.
* A lesson learned: we were able to change both the date and destination of our return flight on British Airways for little over $1,000 for both of us and we were able to stay in the previously booked premium economy section. That was less than we’d have paid if we’d have cancelled this the trip (the return leg of our trip here in June) and rebooked it using premium economy with the low-cost Norwegian Airlines and a regional airline.

“Moving abroad. . .must sell. . .” the reality is that no matter what they tell you about storage units, you can’t get the contents of a three-bedroom home into a 200-square-foot-storage unit. And further, in a hot housing market, volunteer agencies get mighty selective in the donations they accept.
*A lesson learned: We’ve attempted to donate some of our furniture that won’t fit in storage, to organizations serving the needy and homeless. Several of them have on line lists of items they will accept.  Two organizations in the Seattle area, charge a fee to cover the costs of picking up your donations.  The fee is $300 for one group and $500 for another.  We’ve opted to sell the furniture using on-line classified ad sites.

PicMonkey Collage
Our cars and Herbie

Soon to be Car-less in Seattle:  After having been a two-car couple for decades, (with Herbie my ‘69 Bug a pretty face in our garage) we are going car-less. We sold both of our cars to friends in the eastern part of the state. Herbie (sob!) has been sold to a local classic car enthusiast. Timing is everything at this stage of the game and our friends are working around our schedule, taking our last car the morning of our departure for Greece.
*Lesson learned: Opting to sell the cars will result in no storage costs (for Herbie alone the quotes were from $200 US a month to $350) nor insurance payments or licensing costs which amount to savings of several hundred dollars. On the downside, we will need to rent a car when we come back for visits, but the savings will pay for it.
This was too many bags - we'll have more this trip!
Packing the Bags:  While packing boxes and garbage bags has been the main focus of the summer, I’ve also been packing travel bags.  We are breaking all our previous rules about traveling light and will be herding more bags than either of us would prefer.  But we’ve realized that all those things that we’ve previously left ‘at home’ when we travel, for example those file folders with tax, medical and other ‘life’ information, also need to relocate.
*Lesson learned: By flying premium economy we are each allowed two free checked bags, an additional carry-on bag and one personal item.  We explored the cost of shipping a suitcase or a box the size of a suitcase and found it to be $200 for each piece and some who do international suitcase shipping don’t serve Greece.
Washington State ferry and Seattle Space Needle - icons of our life here

“The address and phone number associated with this account?” I’ve had three encounters in recent weeks – at retail stores, service providers and state agencies that all asked for some account identification that included either an address or phone number.  Hmmm. . . so what do we use to access those accounts when we don’t have an address or phone numbers?
*Lesson learned:  We will maintain a U.S. address by using a mail forwarding company in our town.  For $20 a month, plus a small charge and postage costs, they will forward our ‘snail mail’ to Greece.  By not having a land line, internet provider and cell phone as we do now in the U.S. we’ll save more than $300 a month, nearly $4,000 a year. We’ll rent a mobile phone during future extended stays in the U.S. or do like we did only a few short years ago when we traveled without mobile phones.  Wouldn’t that be a novel thing to do?
PicMonkey Collage
Homeless in Seattle . . .but not Homeless  ‘How does it feel to be homeless?,’ our U.S. friends are asking with increasing frequency. ‘When will you be home?’ our friends in Greece are asking. It’s all in your perspective.
Home for the indefinite future will be in our Stone House on the Hill, on the edge of our olive grove overlooking our slice of The Mani. In three week’s we’ll no longer be ticking off lists and logistics, but will be scheduling our olive harvest. We’ll still be listening to our UW Husky football games (broadcast live in the early morning hours of Sundays) and following our Seattle Seahawks on internet feeds and FB updates. We’ll read the Seattle Times and watch televised feeds to keep up with Washington and U.S. news. We’ll welcome guests from the Pacific Northwest to our home. We’ll come back and visit.

*Lesson learned:  In June I was thinking of life as chapters - this one closing and another beginning. I've changed over the summer. I now think of it as life's continuing story, a single chapter in which the setting may change, new characters are added, the plot will have new twists and turns; but it all will serve to make the chapter larger and more interesting. It won't be a chapter's closing.

Again, thanks for being with us and all your words of encouragement and excitement as our adventure unfolds.  We appreciate your time and love reading your comments and emails. Hope you’ll return again next week and bring some friends and family with you! Safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens

Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Towering Tales ~ Feuding, Fighting and Families

The road clinging to the cliff side had become so narrow that I shut my eyes and gripped the door handle to the side of my seat. . .all the while praying that we wouldn’t meet an on-coming car. The Scout, behind the wheel, was navigating our ascent up the mountain on a roadway, barely wide enough for our small SUV.

We’d set off last spring to find a village that had been recommended as a ‘must see’  in a region of the Peloponnese known as the Mesa or Inner Mani. The higher we went, the more narrow the road became, offering no pull out or turn-around on its winding ascent.

The Mesa Mani, that begins about an hour’s drive to the south of our Greek Stone House on the Hill, is a wild, wondrous area that overwhelms the senses. Such a rugged, vast area -  in places so remote - that it can put your nerves on edge. . .

Wide open spaces of the Mesa Mani - Peloponnese
We were traveling through one of those nerve-jangling areas that provided us with magnificent sweeping views of this storied land  (when I had the courage to open my eyes, that is).

“Gripping that door won’t save you,” The Scout, in his matter-of-fact way observed aloud, never taking his eyes of the narrow strip of pavement or his hands off the wheel.

I wondered if we’d mentioned to anyone we might be coming this way, just in case we were to end up somewhere in the bottom of the ravine our route was rimming. . .

The road quite literally less-traveled  Mesa Mani Peloponnese
“Let’s get a coffee” when we get there, I suggested through gritted teeth, my eyes still shut.
Now had we read the guidebook before setting out I would have never made such a ridiculous suggestion, but then had we read the book, we likely wouldn’t have been on this road to Mountanistiki either:

Just us and the wind in this hilltop town - Peloponnese
The road, was just as the book described it: ‘really quite a driving experience with vertiginous drops’ [that] . . .leads to a depopulated ghost town set on a mountainous ridgeline at 600 meter (1,950 feet) elevation’. Yes, it described it all to a tee!

No coffee to be found in this town - Peloponnese
With the wind as our tour guide, we followed the town’s narrow walkways past crumbling structures and fences. ‘Why had it been built and why had it been abandoned?’ we pondered. ‘And who might still be living among the ruins?’ 

The town, its houses and towers built between 1880 – 1910, was definitely a ghost town with perhaps evidence of one or two places still being occupied. 

I suspect its towers, pyrgos, as they are called in Greek, could have answered our questions. They are among some 800 towers that remain scattered about the Mani; towers that have played a major part in its history.

Oh, the tales they could tell about the feuding, fighting and families . . .

The tales these towers could tell - Peloponnese

Towering Tales

Limestone rocks - Mesa Mani, Peloponnese
Let’s begin at the beginning: A popular local story about the Mesa or Inner Mani, is that when God created the earth he was left with a pile of rocks and he put them in this expansive arid area. Its early settlers, the Maniots, used those rocks to build homes, fences – and towers.  The competition for its scant resources, necessary to sustain life and livelihood, led to feuds and that’s where those towers come into importance in this area’s history.

Every village still has a tower or two in the Mesa Mani - Peloponnese

Families built tower houses – ‘mini castles’, as they are often described – some five stories high, and accessed upper levels with ladders that could be pulled up behind them. Holes were built in the walls from which they could shoot a gun or dump boiling water or oil on unwanted arrivals.  While this may sound like a medieval tale, this was the way of life going on well into the 19th Century in this part of Greece.

Towers, towers everywhere - Mesa Mani, Peloponnese
Unlike the Outer or Exo Mani to the north where a village was ruled by a single captain of a family, this area often had several feuding clans residing in a single village.

“Sons were called ‘guns’ as wielding one was their main virtue,”
explains Andrew Bostock in his book, Greece: The Peloponnese.

I should note that the towers also came in handy to ward off a variety of foreign invaders and pirates who played a significant role in the area’s history as well. 

Postcard pretty Vathia in the southern Peloponnese

Unlike the ghost town we visited, there are some pretty spectacular tower towns that are easily reached. One is Vathia, a post-card-picture-perfect town; home to a few permanent residents. It is said to have once sported a ‘forest’ of towers. One account from 1805 tells of a war in the village that lasted 40 years and cost 100 lives. 

Vathia - Mesa Mani, Peloponnese
There were three types of towers and they were indications of a clan’s strength and unity: the war tower, the tower house and the tower dwelling. They dot the Mani-scape. Many have fallen to ruin; some are being or have been restored. Some modern homes are built in the tower home design or have incorporated a tower into their design. Many towers these days are downright charming.

Today's tower is most inviting - Peloponnese
Yet, they are a testament to the times when the area was definitely a rough, tough place. You are wrapped in history everywhere you travel in this area. And sometimes, when you least expect it, you come across some rather ominous reminders of the not-so-long-ago past like this sign we saw mounted on the side of a building in a village called Dry:

PicMonkey Collage
If only we could read a bit more Greek. . .

Armed (pun intended) with just a bit of folklore and history, a trip through this part of Greece can stimulate the senses and the imagination. While locals could probably tell you the exact history of each tower we are content in conjuring up possible storylines while speculating about. . .who carried those stones, how long did it take and how did they do it and when?

Can you see it there on the Cliffside?
We aren’t the only ones who come up with storylines about this place. Jeffrey Siger, our friend who spends his time on the island of Mykonos writing crime novels set in various Greek locales, visited the Mani and has penned both interesting blog posts about his research trips to this area: and conjured up a very good story in his sixth book in the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series. Well worth a read if you are visiting the area, and like us, love reading novels set in areas you are visiting.

If You Visit:


As vast and deserted parts of the Mani may seem, it is home to 98 of the 118 listed traditional settlements of the Peloponnese. And within many of those villages you will find tourist accommodations, tavernas and eateries.

We stayed at the family-owned and operated Citta dei Niccliani. It is just outside the village of Gerolimenas during this trip.  It provided affordable luxury accommodations which were most welcome after a day’s explorations in the area.

Table tops at this Aeropoli restaurant are tributes to the towers
A recommended route links Aeropoli on the west to Gythio on the east with a stop at to Tenaro at the tip of the point in the south.  Allow plenty of time though to explore villages and soak up the views along the route. It can be done in a day, but is a far richer experience if done a bit more slowly.

The ‘highway’ is a well-maintained two-lane road. Invest in a road map, sold at larger grocery stores and tourist shops, that is printed both in Greek and English. Some road signs are in Greek and a bilingual map is the key to deciphering them. The road I described in the opening is not ‘the highway’.


That’s it for this week.  Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us ~ as always, we appreciate it! And thanks to those who’ve shared these posts on FB with friends and family. If this is your first visit to TravelnWrite, use the sign up button on the right hand column to receive these weekly  in your inbox! Safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Monday, September 4, 2017

Off the Beaten Path ~ Peloponnese 'Krasi' Country

Krasi – ‘wine’ in Greek

Those who travel from Athens to Kalamata cross the famous Corinthian Canal on a route that slices through Nemea, one of the Peloponnese peninsula’s, wine producing regions. We like to think of it as, ‘Krasi Country’.

Nemea Wine Country - Greek Peloponnese
Yet, most  – unless they have a tour guide pointing them out – will likely miss both.  They are unremarkably shy when competing for attention with Greece’s ‘hyped-up’ tourist destinations like Santorini or Mykonos. 

Image result for map of nemean wine country peloponnese
"Our" wine country is in the upper right hand corner
It took several trips through the area, as we traveled between Athens and our home just south of Kalamata, for us to give the area more than a passing glance. As we zoomed along the divided freeway one or the other would comment, "Those look like grape vines don't they?" And I must confess that we still have yet to view the Corinthian Canal up close and personal.

But all it took was one visit to Nemea, the Krasi Country that carpets the northeast corner of the Peloponesse, to keep us coming back to it.

We are used to the ‘glitz’ of wine promotion in the U.S. where magnificent tasting rooms and wineries reign over vineyards and ‘tastings’ can cost $10 or more. It is not like that here. We’ve yet to visit a winery with a tasting room, let alone one that is open!

In fact it is difficult to buy a bottle of Nemean wine at a restaurant or taverna here! That’s because they usually produce their own and serve it in a pitcher at a far lower price than the bottle would cost. (Say three-euros vs. 15 euros -- both still a deal in our book!)

Main Street in Nemea town
The area has charmed us to the point of making an over-night stop there a ‘tradition’ when flying out of the Athens’ airport. That way we give ourselves a trip within a trip and it breaks up the near four-hour journey between our home and the airport quite nicely.

Had wine roads to ourselves in June
Our visit last fall was on a dreary, rainy day when the area was shrouded with clouds and mist (yes, it can happen even in Greece) so the area’s sheer beauty wasn’t really revealed until we returned in June.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see carpet Nemea region

The history of vine cultivation in the Peloponnese is fascinating. It dates back to antiquity and experienced one of its finest moments in the Middle Ages, when Monemvasia put the region on the map with its trade in Malvasia (or Malmsey) wine. Its modern wine history can be traced to 1861 with the establishment of Achaia Clauss by Bavarian trailblazer Gustav Clauss. He developed the sweet Mavrodaphne (also Mavrodafni), now known around the world.

PicMonkey Collage
Wineries dot the landscape in Nemea

Wine Tasting

While there aren’t the ‘tasting rooms’ that exist in wine producing regions of the U.S., we still managed to have some great experiences tasting some wine! (Maybe even better than lining up at a tasting bar in some fancy tasting room. . .)

Had this place to ourselves to in wine country
P1040163We created our own wine tasting on a warm June afternoon at a small kafenion we happened upon along our route.

While the young Greek woman running the place spoke about as much English as we did Greek, we managed to order ‘ena portiria krasi leftko; and ‘ena portiria krasi rose’ (glasses of white and rose wine).  Those phrases are among our 'survival' phrases we learned early on!

And as is still the delightful tradition in Greece, the wine came with a plate of food, at no extra charge.

Later that evening in the village in which we were staying, we’d decided to enjoy the warm evening a bit longer with a stop at the town’s kafenion for a nightcap.  As we were sipping our ‘miso kilo of rose’ (as the half-liter pitcher is called here), a Greek man pulled up in his pickup, nodded and spoke in greeting as he walked past and went inside.

Minutes later a second pitcher of wine was served to us, sent by Mr. Nikos, the man who had just walked past. Turns out he is the winemaker of the rose wine served at the kafenion and he was so pleased we were drinking it, that he sent us more.

Mr. Nikos, the winemaker, and our private tasting with him
So pleased in fact that he went to his truck and brought back a bottle of red wine for us to sample. (We were unable to consume it all, btw). And then he sat and in our broken English/Greek we discussed wine with him as dusk became dark.

Wine tasting at its best - Peloponnese, Greece
Eat your heart out, those of you who pay hundreds of dollars for a chance to eat or drink with the winemakers!  We had a most memorable tasting with the winemaker himself and for less than 5 euros!

Kefalari Village – Off the beaten path

One of the reasons we return to this wine region is to visit Kefalari, a tiny mountain village that sits at an elevation of 2,650, high above the region's vineyards. We’ve stayed at the town’s Guesthouse Arhontiko, and its sister property, the Armonia Boutique Hotel.

Our room in June - en suite bathroom and a deck
Both offer exquisitely furnished rooms and breakfast is included in the rate. The mid-September rate respectively is about $42US and $71 US a night. They are tucked away in the heart of the village, footsteps from each other.

PicMonkey Collage
Breakfast is a favorite at the guesthouse and hotel
We’ll be heading back to our ‘Krasi Country’ as soon as we get settled into the new lifestyle in Greece. And our travel tip is: If your travels take you to Greece, you’ll want to visit all those well-known oft-written about tourist destinations, but remember there are travel treasures out there to be found just a bit off the beaten path. 

Kalo Mina, (Happy New Month) and Happy September to you and yours.  We have arrived at our ‘countdown to Greece’. Suitcases are packed and being repacked. The ‘for sale’ sign goes up this week on our U.S. home.  A new adventure is about to begin. . .

As always, thanks for the time you spend with us. . .safe travels to you and yours~ hope to see you back here next week!

Linking up this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Escape ~ A Summer’s ‘Slog’ down Memory Lane

                            Escape: break free from confinement or control

Never has ‘an escape’ sounded as good as it does right now. 

Seeing the Peloponnese and its wonders  - 2013
Our summer reminds us of that time back when our lives were governed by our 8-to-5 jobs. It was a time when we lived for those one- or two-week vacation escapes allowed in our employment contracts.  In that life, even the promise of a long holiday weekend made us giddy.  We enjoyed the anticipation as much as the escape itself.

PicMonkey Collage
Setting out to explore the Wadi Rum - Jordan, 2015
Fast forward a few decades and we are again in the ‘anticipation phase’; dreaming of an escape from what will forever be known as our Summer of Slogging. “Slogging” -- the term I’ve borrowed from my ex pat friend Anita who writes No Particular Place to Go -- is the process of cleaning out life’s accumulations in anticipation of having a new adventure somewhere else in the world.  For Anita and Richard it is Portugal, for us it will be Greece.

Slog: work hard over a period of time

20151119_155419 [622832]
The Stone House on the Hill - a catalyst for change
Now the process of discarding and downsizing was a long-overdue task especially at the ‘boomer ages’ that we find ourselves.  And we are blessed to be tackling it so that we can have a new adventure and not because health or finances have forced the task upon us. While spending more time in Greece was the catalyst to get us off our duffs, the reality is, that it is time.

We are certainly not blazing any new trails, simply following the path of so many ex pats before us: packing up and storing away this life until we are ready to return to it.  And that means discarding and downsizing.

Our new digs: a 200-square-foot storage unit

The intent of this blog has always been to inspire travelers to step outside their comfort zones, to travel to places they’ve never gone before. And I have to tell you – this summer we’ve taken our own advice and done just that.

Closing out, this longest chapter of our lives together, is proving to be one of the biggest adventures we’ve ever embarked upon. While it sounds simple enough to ‘clean up and clean out’ we’ve found the process in many ways to be surprisingly unpleasant and stressful as deadlines loom and the ‘to do’ list grows.

Frankly, it would be so much more fun to be packing for a summer road trip.

P1010169 (1)
Monument Valley - Utah, 2016

But the bright side has been taking a road trip of sorts down Memory Lane.

Memory Lane: the past, especially the past shared and remembered by a group of people, thought of as a path that can be traveled along to revisit former times

While never leaving the house, we’ve been back to our childhoods, our teens, and our early years together. Our travels and those never to be forgotten ‘good times’ with friends have been savored as we sift through faded photographs. It’s been a great route though and in its own way has provided a bit of at least a mental escape.

PicMonkey Collage
My friend Mary and I and our first concert - 50 years ago this week

With a Little Help from Our Friends

Since I wrote about our plans to live in our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese for a longer period of time, many of you have shared your stories with us. Those emails and comments have kept us sane as we go about our slogging: Misery does love company!

Some of you have moved short distances to smaller digs or have opted to rent over home ownership and its headaches. Some are moving (or have moved) to a far distant place within your country of residence. Others are taking (or have taken) the quantum leap to a new country. And you all lived through it with most of you being able to laugh about it now.

Someone else is escaping to a new adventure 
You’ve also shared some great tips and words of wisdom about downsizing that  we are using and that I want to pass along five of them to others who might be contemplating the writing of a new chapter in their lives:

1. If in doubt, take a photograph and toss or give away.  This advice has worked well with those items that I’ve ‘had forever’ but never use and seldom look but with which I hated to part.

2. Weigh the cost of buying a new item someday with that of the storage space rental. My kitchen appliances will likely head to charity and when we return, I’ll get to buy new ones. (And using that discard plan, I can keep my parent’s old electric popcorn popper in the freed up storage space!)

3.  Give gifts back to the friends who gave them to you. They say you give gifts that you would like to receive. I’ve returned several birthday gifts to girlfriends who gave them to me and told them to use and enjoy them while I am gone – we can discuss ownership after I return.

4. Share family heirlooms with the younger generation now – we’ve given a number of things to the next generation of family so they can be used and enjoyed instead of stuffed in a box in a storage unit for years.

5. Give it away. One of the beyond-best things we’ve had recommended to us as part of our efforts is the Buy Nothing Project, a community-building effort that is using FB to achieve their goals. You search FB for a Buy Nothing group in your area and request to join. Once accepted you can give away items to your heart’s content or on the flip side, seek items.  We’ve seen posts from those who’ve cooked too much of something for dinner and have offered to share it with others (and they’ve had eager responses). We’ve given away an incredible amount of stuff to an incredible bunch of people – all of whom live near us, but whom we’d likely have never met.

PicMonkey Collage
My 'toss' has become 'treasures' at Buy Nothing

Words of Advice

We are nearing the end of this process and are now thinking Greece. A number of you have asked for our downsizing tips.  Our answer is: start now. Fill a bag with clothes you no longer wear.  Get rid of Aunt Nellie’s cookie jar that you never wanted in the first place.  Give grandma’s mixing bowl to another family member.  Don’t wait until, like us, you are faced with the task of doing it all at once.

And after you’ve taken that first step, hope you’ll be back with us next week. We are gearing up for our return to Greece and next week want to tell you about the wine country not far from us there. It’s a refreshingly different experience than we are used to in the States. 

Until then, safe travels to you and yours.  Thanks for staying in touch and for the time you spend with us ~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

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Monday, August 14, 2017

In France ~ Something Old and Something New

Never has the old and new been so perfectly juxtaposed as they were in the French countryside where we made our home for a week in June. We had Disneyland to our right and the medieval city of Provins to our left.
PicMonkey Collage
Disneyland and Medieval villages in the French countryside
And we can thank our ‘timeshare’ life for introducing us to both.  I’ve long sung the praises of the timeshare concept of ‘trading time’ for new locations.  In this case we’d traded one of our small hotel-room sized weeks in Hawaii for a two-story, two-bedroom, 2.5 bath home in the French countryside. I wrote about it in June, if you missed it, take a look at our home away from home.

Minnie's welcome sign at Disneyland
Our stay at the “Village Marriott” or the Marriott Ile-de-France as it is properly called, put us smack dab between the sprawling Disneyland (now celebrating its 25th Anniversary) and several charming villages where life remains untouched by the glitz that Mickey and Minnie brought to the area a quarter century ago. One of our favorites was Provins. . .

Entry into the medieval town of Provins
While the name when spoken sounds much like the wildly popular “Provence” region, this “Provins” is in the midst of the Champagne region; a region founded back in 1065.  Once the administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire, the place is simply oozing with history.

Heavy security at Disneyland
And unlike Disneyland, there are no entry fees or metal detectors or armed security guards with their attack dogs to greet you.

So on a cloudy morning that threatened rain we set off for a trip back in time. . .by hopping a public bus at the station near Disneyland.

The journey aboard bus No. 50 was a journey of an hour in each direction. It would have only cost 4 euros round trip per person had we not purchased the bus/train pass that allowed us unlimited travel for the week we were there.

Those of you who’ve traveled with us at TravelnWrite, know that we are not fans of group tours nor do we like the confines of set tours. Hopping a public bus and setting off on our own is one of our favorite ways to explore new territories. 

Off on an Adventure

We pretty much had the bus to ourselves – which also meant we had front row seats. The villages on the route are small and there weren’t a lot of folks traveling between them and Disneyland on this mid-week June day.
Our almost private bus in France
Again those who know us, know one of the reasons we bought a place in Greece was to have a base from which to explore more of Europe. This week-long trip was one of our first ventures out and let me tell you, that a just-over- two-hour flight from Athens to Paris is an affordable treat when compared to trips from Seattle, our home-base on the U.S. west coast.  And as we prepare to make Greece more of a full-time home base, we are also planning the outings that we’ll be taking.

PicMonkey Collage
What a contrast to Paris less than an hour away by train
Provins was an administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire and was one of six cities on the circuit of Champagne fairs.  Those medieval fairs lasted for six weeks in each location and at the height of their reign offered fair goers textiles, furs, leathers and spice.  Some of the huge warehouses in which the fair goods were stored still exist within this walled city.

The city square - Provins
I’d like to imagine the fair -  the fair of St. Ayoul of Provins - was held in this city square each September.

The buildings and streets in Provins were out of a fairytale
Provins prosperity lasted until the beginning of the 14th century when rerouting of commercial routes, plagues, wars and the decline of fairs led it into a state of hibernation; a small town in a rural setting - somewhat untouched by the outside world.

Provins storefront
That seclusion is credited with the saving of some 58 monuments, nearly all built in the 12th and 13th centuries. They’re credited with this town’s placement on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

PicMonkey Collage
Eglise Saint-Quireace  Provins, France
Entering this cathedral we were reminded of one of our all-time favorite books, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is set in medieval times – those in which fairs were held and central to its story line is the building of a cathedral. We highly recommend it to you historical novel fans out there.

Even the doors reek with history
We pretty much had the town to ourselves on the day we visited although from the many tourist shops and restaurants that fill the ancient buildings we suspect this place at times could be as busy as Disneyland.

We were content to wander the streets and let our imaginations run wild (with the help of interpretive signage along the way)but for those who want more tourist-type experiences, there are a number of monuments  and performances that have set hours and admission fees. For example the Underground Galleries are 4.50-euro for adults and 3-euro per child; the Legend of the Knights show is 12-euro for adults and 8-euros per child.

Even the steps had a story in Provins, France
Should we return to this part of France again, we’d probably opt to spend a night at one of the many hotels within this walled city so we could experience its after-dark atmosphere. . .I am certain it would be magical . . .

If you are lucky enough to be in this region this fall you might want to attend the town’s Autumn Fair, October 1st.  For more information on it and the town, visit their tourist office website at:

That’s it for this week.  Our packing continues. We thank you for your time and hope that you and yours have safe and happy travels.  Thanks to those of you who’ve shared the blog with others and re-posted it on Facebook.  It is much appreciated!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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