Our time in Greece was our down time. A time to catch up with good friends and Yiayia and Pappou who we would be meeting up with in Thessaloniki. Lucas and Allanah were so excited about meeting up with their friends that the 3:00am wake up call was not an issue at all. Even though we had a long day ahead of us catching a flight from Reykjavik to London, then London to Thessaloniki, then a further one and a half hour drive to Vourvourou there were smiles all round.
We were to spend a few days at Ekies All Senses Resort located in Sithonia, the middle leg of the peninsula in Northern Greece known as Halkidiki. As we arrived at midnight the kids had to wait till morning for their reunion with Maria, Nashia & Costa.
Let’s just say that even though our rooms were close together I’m sure no other guests would have slept in that morning after all their squeals of delight. With swimming bathers on we all toddled down for a big breakfast and hit the pool for some catch up time.
After a month of non stop traveling I can’t say that we moved more than a few metres for the next couple of days. Our time was spent on the beach chatting, eating, drinking and moving from sunbed to sunbed depending on the heat of the sun.
We did finally venture out for a boat tour on a traditional Greek boat. The water here is so clear.. I’m not one for jumping off boats but the water was so enticing I donned a noodle and off I went. The water temperature is so warm compared to Australian waters and the water so buoyant due to the high salt content. We traveled around different little coves in the Halkidiki region only accessible by boat.
The following morning I received a big surprise. Mum and Dad had arrived a few days earlier in Greece but were in Veria visiting friends. As it was my birthday they surprised me at breakfast, turning up unannounced. Best birthday surprise ever. We spent a wonderful day together meeting new friends and finally venturing out of the confines of the hotel to another beach in the area for more swimming and eating…
It had been over 20 years since I had been here and I was a bit shocked at the state of this beautiful city. The streets and cafes were still full of people but the city looked unkempt. Buildings boarded up, shops empty and graffiti everywhere. The stark example was walking down a street with high end fashion stores and turning the corner to a lone Louis Vuitton Store with no other store open for business in the street. The GFC has definitely taken its toll in this once beautiful city. My heart just broke and I was brought to tears when a little Yiayia was begging while we were enjoying lunch in a taverna. There are beggars all over the world but when you see a woman who could have been any one of your relatives back home it really hit a nerve how bad things are here for quite a number of people in the community.
We spent a few nights here and enjoyed some adult time with no kids in tow as Niko and Aleka were kind enough to take us out for a night on the town. Amazingly the contrast here is there are still many Greeks able enough to go out and have a good time. The perfect weather here even in the evening has many advantages. The outdoor tavernas are full of people enjoying their meals outside in the night breeze and the open air bars are buzzing till all hours of the night.
On our last night here we ate out in the Ladadika area. The city’s old commercial centre which had fallen into decay and was completed renovated and has become an area of old fashions tavernas with music filling the streets.
Maybe I just didn’t give this city a chance this time, we didn’t see it all and there are always surprises in every place, so I hope next time we visit we’ll stumble across a regenerated and reinvented Thessaloniki.
The next stop on our Greece jaunt was Meteora, a place I have been wanting to visit for years. We were headed for the town of Kalambaka situated on the base of these enormous rock pillars jutting out of the earth. Over 20 monasteries were built here by Orthodox monks trying to take refuge during the Turkish occupation. Only six of these monasteries remain today.
Our destination after Meteora was Parga. A large picturesque village with a small bay. We stayed in a villa high on the mountain overlooking the village. Beautiful views and a cool breeze in the evening, perfect.
Parga was our base for exploring the islands of Paxos and Antipaxos. Boats sail everyday for a day trip stopping for a swim in picturesque locations. The day started off well but for me motion sickness set in and I saw absolutely nothing. There was are large swell that day and the sail boat was rocking and rolling. One third of the guests on the boat were sea sick. Luckily it made no difference to John, Lucas or Allanah so they had a great time!
Our final stop in Greece was a quick 2 day stopover in Corfu. We dropped our car off in Igoumenitsa and boarded the one hour ferry bound for Corfu. We have never visited the Ionian islands so we though a quick taste would wet our appetite for a future visit. We stayed in a hotel in the old town and I think it was not the best idea looking back. Even though the hotel was nice and cool inside there was no respite from the heat with no access to a pool or close to the beach. We were able to stroll through the old Venetian streets in the late evening but the midday heat was a killer. We attempted climbing the old fort and aborted half way. Too hot! Next time we visit it will be beach bound….