Travel broadens the mind and also gives you perspective on life. Stepping out of your life periodically helps you see the world through fresh eyes and is certainly good for the soul!
I am not a writer but I believe that everybody can write, especially if there is something you are passionate about. My 'writing' may not be particularly poetic but I enjoy the reflective process and I believe that any creative pursuit should be encouraged. My blogs are more like a photograph albums with words.
My most recent passion is Egypt. My husband Peter is Egyptian and I have been truly privileged to have seen Egypt in ways that most tourists may not get the opportunity to. I will never tire of visiting Egypt. Every trip reveals something new and amazing. The blog 1001 Nights has also been the catalyst for the book we are writing about the village of Garagos - the place where Peter's ancestors have lived for generations.
My first passion is for Greece. I have been visiting Greece and the Islands for over 20 years and never tire of discovering new places - sometimes revisiting the very special places. I've decided to try and document my trips to the Greek islands in the blog - a Greek Oddity. This is a mammoth task that will involve routing out hundreds if not thousands of photographs from the loft followed by sifting and scanning - oh to have had a digital camera then! I guess I've visited around 50 islands now and I'm really excited about revisiting them through the blog. I do this mainly for posterity and also hope that one day it may be of interest to my children and grandchildren.
We have our last fabulous breakfast at the Albatros. I would definitely recommend this small family run hotel. It has the friendliness of a family hotel but with very high standards and excellent customer service.
We have a final stroll around the marina before returning for our taxi
This has been a wonderful holiday. Even the torrential rain and thunderstorms on the first few days were enjoyable. One week has been very short and it is definitely an area that I would like to explore further, but look who we're going home to see!
NB - This photo blog was written 9 months after the trip with only notes for the first 2 days of the trip. I've done the best possible with the few grey cells I have left!
This really is turning out to be a beach holiday - well on the days we had sunshine anyway. We aren't sit on the beach all day people but with the lack of excursions (I had really wanted to go to Albania and also a trip to Corfu or one of the Sivotan islands) we are making the best of things and also taking the opportunity to relax.
At the marina there is a set of steps that leads up to a path that takes you around the bay in the opposite direction to the beaches we had already visited. The first beach we come to is Gallikos Molos Beach, a narrow stretch of sand and stone with the most crystal of waters. It's too cold to swim but it is heaven to walk along the deserted beach. The view from here to the Sivotan islands is beautiful.
The next beach we reach is Zeri Beach where we are surprised to see water park complete with multi coloured water slides. It seems so out of place here.
The path takes us back up onto the road again and we access the beach from behind the water park. The beach doesn't disappoint and we're quite happy to spend the rest of the day here.
That evening we decide to have our final meal down at the marina. Vangelis is out on the prowl for tourists but we are keen to another taverna on the front. We choose O Faros which is next to Vangelis's restaurant and he provides us with some good entertainment as he tried to entice tourists in. There is clearly stiff competition amongst the restaurants in the marina.
We can see a man sitting on the harbour wall selling small bags of oregano - we buy a couple of bags to take home. Our meal is a great feast. We start with tzatziki and dolmades, Peter has the seafood platter and I have lamb stifado - one of my favourites.
This is a nice last meal of the holiday!
One last stroll around the marina before returning back to the hotel
We take advantage of the nice weather spend the morning on Zavia Beach, saving our appetite for the evening.
Late afternoon we change and get ready to head up to Perdika Village on the bus. This is the last bus of the day so we also take the details of Giogios the taxi driver so that we can book our return journey to Sivota.
The House of Sweets really does have the best vantage point from where to watch the sunset so we order some wine ready to watch the sun set behind the island. Whilst we are there I receive a phone call from my eldest son Tony to tell us that his partner Kerry has given birth to a baby girl! I had been on tenterhooks every day since we left home but this is amazing news. As the sun goes down on another day in Greece a new life begins at home!
After a stroll around the village we decide to eat in restaurant Ta Kavouria right in the middle of the square. We chose well. Clearly the central point for the local community, from here we see all walks of local life coming and going.
The meal is simple but delicious - I have the local sausage and Peter has rabbit. We toast the birth of our new baby granddaughter again!
Another bright day! We decide to discover more of the coastline with an early morning walk.
We had only viewed Zavia beach from the main road above the other day so decide to walk down to the beach itself - it's only 700 metres from Sivota village. The walk down a steep path brings us to an olive grove and through the clearing is access to the beach. The cyclamen growing amongst the wild grass are in splendid form this morning. A concrete terrace has a number of parasolled tables and chairs and stone steps lead down to the beach itself. The beach is set in a deep narrow bay and the beach is sand/stone - very beautiful set against the backdrop of the greenery.
Although it's warm it isn't warm enough to swim in the sea. We sit on the beach for half and hour then set off to Mega Ammos the next beach along the road.
Again the views of the coastline below are stunning.
Mega Ammos is a beautiful beach - just 1.5 kilometres from Sivota Village. The path to the beach is pretty steep - more noticeable on the way up!
We stay for a short while and then walk to Mikro Ammos beach. We watch galleon style boat come into the bay. Excursions are running from somewhere - probably from Corfu as there is absolutely nothing running from Sivota.
Despite the short distance between the beaches the walk up and down from the main road is strenuous work and it's quite warm today. Luckily we have times it just right to catch the bus back to Sivota village.
When passing through the village we had seen signs for The House of Sweets - Katie's Cakes up in Perdika and if there are cakes on offer I'll be there. We check the bus time table and see there is a bus that goes there throughout the day and into the early evening so we catch the next one that leaves from the village.
The House of Sweets is great with an extensive range of homemade cakes. We stay for cake and tea. The views of the bay below are stunning. The village is quite charming and we imagine that is a really great place to watch the sunset from so we decide to come back the following evening for a meal but we will catch a taxi back.
The buses don't run very regularly so we ensure we catch the next bus back to Sivota.
Giorgios the taxi driver that Maria arranged to take us to Meteora picks us up at 10.00am from our hotel. He's a very friendly chap and is happy to take us the 400km round trip. He has visited many times before but hasn't been for a while so he will enjoy the trip also.
After all the faffing around trying to find organised tours to Meteora it is such a relief to now be going - I just don't care about the expense. Today the sun is shining so we don't ask for anything more!
The drive further into mainland Greece is fantastic. Although my passion has always been the Greek Islands I can feel a yearning to explore mainland Greece about to erupt within! The landscape is so rich and verdant - the rain is clearly a contributing factor to its beauty.
After a couple of hours driving the landscape begins to change. In the distance I can see what I think is Meteora. Like a child on a school trip I point and ask Giorgios if the rocky outcrop in the distance is Meteora - he tells me that it is. Words can't describe the feeling and the realisation that this trip that had been at the top of my bucket list was minutes away. We approach the village of Kalambaka before making our ascent. Can you imagine what it must be like to live in shadow of Meteora?
You can already see how photogenic Meteora is. As we begin the gradual climb upwards, an amazing view is offered to us around every bend. Giorgios stops on the side of the road for our first photo opportunity - teasing us with a view of our first monastery!
The first monastery we visit is the Holy Monastery of Grand Meteoron. Just a 'few' steps to climb before we reach the entrance. I had been a bit apprehensive before coming to Meteora, thinking that my vertigo would throw one of its spanners in the wheel but so far it isn't too bad. Although I had come prepared, dressed modestly in long sleeves and covered legs I had to wear one of the wrap around skirts available - trousers on ladies not allowed.
The Grand Monastery serves as the main museum for tourists visiting Meteora. Points of interest are the wine cellar where we see a representation of shelves fully stocked with wine barrels, a kitchen with an array of antique utensils featuring a bread oven and in the refectory you can imagine the monks gathering to eat their (what I imagine is meagre) meals. In the sacristy is a grizzly collection of the skulls of former monks that habited the monastery.
The amazing views from the terrace are spectacular however, as I move towards the outer fence for a photograph I have to clutch onto anything within arms reach to stop the vertigo eebiejeebies!
From the perimeter fence I can see the next monastery we are going to visit - the Monastery of Varlaam. It looks like access is by way of a narrow bridge suspended between two rocks. We also see a little cable car running from the monastery. My knees are now knocking quite loudly at the very thought! I may just sit this one out.
Anyway, all of that vertigo stuff aside - I pay a visit to the ladies facilities. You need strong leg muscles to squat over this thing without splashing your clothes! Tres difficile for ladies!
Before we leave we buy a couple of jars of Meteora honey which is a lovely dark brown - I can't wait to taste it! We meet Giorgios back at the car and we hop back in for the short drive to the Monastery of Varlaam. I tell Giorgios that I am concerned about walking across the bridge and he reassures me that it is fine. And do you know what - it was - it looks far worse from above and was not a problem crossing at all.
We cross the stone bridge and begin climbing the 195 steps into the monastery taking in the view of neighbouring monasteries and the landscape was we go.
We are presented with an attractive courtyard with wonderful vistas.
The church hosts some wonderful frescoes.
Not to mention more amazing views! The little cable car shuttles back and forth to the monastery.
Giorgios has also been into the monastery and I'm glad he's enjoying this trip with us. Giorgios take us to another point down the road from where there are the most magnificent views we have seen yet. Unfortunately my jelly legs won't allow me walk out onto the rock that overhangs the cliff edge.
What an amazing trip this has been. After all the trials and tribulations of trying to get here we finally made it. I hope to come back another time and visit more of the monasteries and maybe stay in Kalambaka.
The views back through the Thessalian landscape hypnotise us especially after such an exhausting day.
Well after a shower and a change we're ready to head out down to the Marina again. The weather has certainly improved and we take the opportunity to watch the sunset over the Sivotan islands.
This evening we eat at restaurant Parasole that does fabulous pizza's which we can see being made through the open window of the restaurant
We awake to another grey and overcast day. No rain as of yet - but we know that its coming!
We head down for breakfast which again is a great feast. The Danes have their maps spread out across the tables planning their drive to Meteora - obviously much braver than I!
Today we decide to do a bit more exploring of the area and take a left out of the hotel and head towards Zavia beach. We don't take the path down to the beach but carry on on the road above it.
Wild cyclamen are growing everywhere and we pass villas with gardens that have trees that are abundant with fruit including pomegranates.
We don't pass anyone else on the road except groups of cats languishing close to a rubbish bin and also a gang of dogs trotting down the middle of the road as if a daily routine. I imagine them like a group of old men gathering together to stroll to the local kafenio where they will catch up on all the latest gossip!
The weather certainly isn't beach weather so that isn't an option. We walk to Isabella travel agency again to see if there is any update on the Meteora trip. No excursions are running - we'd also fancied the day trip to Albania but that is out too. All she can offer us for the week we are there is a night out in Parga - not really what I'm looking for!
We take another walk around the Marina which isn't very big. A gentleman standing in the doorway of one of the quayside taverna's catches our eye. He is wearing a captains hat and tells us that his name is Vangelis and his restaurant cooks the best kleftiko in town. Well lets see if it lives up to his claim - we will come back later. For now we decide to catch the bus to Igoumenitsa. It's a bit of a long shot but as it's a port I expect it to be busier than Sivota and possibly there are travel agencies there with trips to Meteora. Besides it's now pouring down with rain again so at least by bus we get to see some of the local area and keep dry!
There are lovely views of the coastline from the bus. Igoumonitsa itself has nothing really to offer - particularly in the rain. After a scout around we don't find any travel agencies so haul off our festival ponchos and go to a local cafe for hot chocolate whilst we wait for the return bus. Enough is enough. We are going to have to bite the bullet and visit Meteora by taxi!
At the bus station buses are waiting to begin their journeys to Thesalonika, Ionnina and Athens - what a thought to be able to jump on a bus and travel further across Greece - another ambition yet to be realised! The bus we catch is fully of school kids returning to their villages. The rain has not yet relented.
We decide to take Vangelis at his word and go to sample the best Kleftiko in Sivota at restaurant Trehantiri. The food is great and the service fabulous and the klefiko was one of the best. Vangelis spends most of his time trying to attract the tourists in - one of the things that I don't like about the more touristy islands of Greece but I have no complaints. The marina is quite lively in the evenings (for out of season standards) and a lovely place to eat.
When we return to the hotel we ask Maria to book the taxi for us. To hell with the expense - tomorrow we are off to Meteora!!