Thursday, 30 September 2010

All by myself...

Geoff and Sandra finally set off back to England last Monday. I took them to the ferry at Igoumenitsa bound for Corfu where they caught the flight back to Manchester and arrived safely home for tea! It was a pleasure and a privilege to have Geoff here for three weeks and show him many of the sights of Epirus and Lefkas Island, I'm sure he thoroughly enjoyed the experience which was something totally different for him as prior to this the longest he ever stayed away from home was five days (apart from being in India during the second world war). I think he was beginning to get ready for home though as he had started to mention things as though he was missing them his friend Sonia and brother Ron especially. Anyway Sandra gets back this Sunday flying into Preveza at about 13:30, this means a very early start for her setting off from Yorkshire at about 3 am as it's 2 hours to Manchester and then you have to be there two hours prior to the flight the three and a half hours here, I think she may well be a bit zombied by the time she arrives.

We have had lots of rain this week so far today has been fine though, I took the opportunity to assemble all the flat pack furniture we had brought from England in anticipation of our move to Lefkas. This took a full day! but with the aid of Tree and Mike's trailer it will be easy to transport and I won't have it to think about when we get to Vournikas.

Picture: Our House in the beautiful mountains of Epirus

I had fears of being force fed by Mantha whilst Sandra was in the UK but she has been staying at her daughters house on Lefkas island until last night. However, the inevitable happened today while I was sorting some pictures out to put on George's laptop (a load of oldies I have scanned in for him) she insisted that I stay for something to eat because I must be starving being on my own with no woman to look after me! I insisted that I only wanted a little (just one heaped plateful) of her rizzi and moschari (Rice and Beef) with of course a separate plateful of Salata and psomi (salad and bread). It was very good and much appreciated but to be absolutely fair I'm not quite as useless as people seem to think I am and I can prepare my own food, you don't get a belly like mine by going without food!

Picture: Sunrise from our Balcony, well sky getting lighter we are shielded from the sun for an hour and a half in the morning.

Tomorrow starts the final leg of our time here at Assos as we shall be moving by the end of October, there are many things I shall miss about the place and it's people just a bit of a shame that the house is very cold in winter being devoid of insulation and only with a primitive heating system. We shall be paying regular visits back here though and we will always have something of Assos in us.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Last Week for Geoffrey

Picture: Geoff and Sandra enjoying a drink overlooking "Limni Zhero" (Lake Zero)

It's now into our last week with Geoff as a guest and I think we can honestly say that he has enjoyed every moment of his time here. He's trying the language and the food, YES, for those who know him this may be a surprise! The man who says "urhh don't know how you can eat that muck" or " Don't put any of that slop on mine" he has been eating steaks with mushroom sauce poured all over them, squid, tsatsiki, big beans (giganties), mussels, fried sardines, saganaki etc. etc. He's becoming a real greecophile.

Picture: Donkey stood at the side of the road waiting for it's master to come back after his fill of tsiperou.

This week we've been to all the usual haunts which I have probably gone on about at some length in the past. He particularly enjoyed the ride across the Souli Mountains with the panoramic view from over 4000 ft and with it's spectacular views over Paramythia. We have eaten at several Greek restaurants and he was most impressed with the food and the fact that they always give you bread and water without having to be asked. Geoff still prefers to eat indoors though even though it's much cooler if you eat outside where the breeze can cool things down somewhat.

Picture: Sandra and her dad took into some "pack up" at the springs of Achrienon

For the last week or so the temperatures have been around the 30 degree C mark but being a dry atmosphere this doesn't seem too bad and certainly nothing like it would be in the UK when you sweat just thinking about getting another beer from the fridge, we had kept Sandra's dad out of the sun as much as possible as he suffers from skin cancer but this really isn't the problem which people might think it is especially with his factor 50, long sleeves and hat on!

Picture: Geoff studying the water flow from the springs.

We have booked Sandra's flight back to the UK with her dad and also her return flight, unfortunately we could not get any flight back to Manchester from Prevesa so they are flying from Corfu. This is a bit more messing about with having to catch a ferry to Corfu but it's much better than having to go to Athens especially with Geoff in tow. Sandra will be at home from Monday afternoon and her return flight is on Sunday to Preveza which means we will be separated for six nights. This may sound unbelievable but this will be the longest that Sandra and I have been apart for about 37 years! (I wonder if I can trade her in for two 25 year olds!)

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Octogenarians do Greece

Well at least least one Octogenarian does! Geoff, Sandra's dad, seems to be loving it fraternising with the locals and trying to learn the language he even said he was going to buy a phrase book to help as he couldn't be always borrowing mine!

Picture: "House of the Rising Sun" for oldies!

After the first few days getting things in order here squaring up the garden etc Geoff has settled in very nicely and seem to becoming the proper Greek even doing some el fresco dining - well not for main meals but at least for snacks.

Picture: Geoff taking it easy "Sigar Sigar" in the village square, Karya

We have had a couple of days out this week so far the first was to take Geoff and have a look at our new abode on the beautiful island of Lefkas. That has now been given the official seal of approval as has the whole Island. We started by going down the centre of the island to the village of Karya where Geoff spent some of his vast fortune on some hand made carpets for his bathroom when he returns home and then on to Nidri to see if we could try and arrange a flight from Preveza to Manchester for the end of this month, this would be ideal because Jet2 and Easy Jet are expensive with late booking from Corfu and the other option is from Athens which is a long ride before catching the plane. Spare seats have not yet been released for that weekend but the guy is ringing us next week.

Picture: The denuded hill side above Nidri, the picture doesn't show it as bad as it really is.

The evidence of the recent fires are very plain to see on the mountains above Nidri, it must have been devastating for anyone who has lost so much of their income although at least no one was badly hurt during the blaze. The island tour ended at Lefkas Town where Geoff stood the evening meal for us a good time had by all.

Picture: Geoff by the river taken on the gorge which runs between Filipiada and Ioannina

Today we have been for a general ride around some of the scenic areas which we knew would appeal to Geoff from Arta city up the gorge towards Ioannina and across to Derviziana, he has been dumbfounded by the shear beauty of this area. We have taken him across some high mountain passes with views to die for finishing at a little taverna in Derviziana which boasts a balcony overlooking panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valley. I think that this may become a regular thing for him to visit as it's made a lasting impression. You never know we may need to start a senior citizens tour company for all these OAP's coming over.

Picture: Church just Outside Devizianna.

Bottom Picture: Looking down from the Balcony of the taverna Geoff spotted some giant Marrows! Can you see them? They are at One o'clock from the tree in the centre of the picture.

Friday, 10 September 2010

gud to be bak... gud to be bak... as Slade once said.

Well we've made it back to Sunny Greece once more and this time we've taken a different travel method to get here which I will briefly relate here as it may be of some use to anyone else wishing to drive out rather than be stuck in a damp stuffy old aeroplane.

Picture: Geoff and Sandra on the "Pride of York" Just prior to leaving Hull.

Picture: Geoff enjoying a glass of very nice wine after a great meal onboard the P&O Ferry

We decided to try the Hull - Zeebrugge Ferry as it's only about 30 miles into Hull from our village and also it save a 250 mile drive down to Calais or Folkestone for the channel ferry or tunnel. With us having Sandra's dad with us this time we would need to have an overnight stop on the south coast so some of the cost of the ferry was offset by this. The cost for three of us with two inside cabins (although we were upgraded to outside ones) and the cars was £370 Geoff's cabin obviously had a single room supplement on it. This price also included all our meals (3 course evening meal and buffet breakfast) which were good restaurant quality and basically eat as much as you want. Just a bottle of wine to pay for at about £12 which is reasonable. The ship is very well set up to fill the time of day for you with a cinema and cabaret on board. Despite the choppy seas everyone arrived in Belgium the next morning having had a good comfortable nights sleep. We disembarked at at about 09:30 finally getting on the road for 10 o'clock heading for Brussels and filled with Diesel at 1:24 Euros and on to Luxembourg, Strasbourg and then to our overnight stop at Kepple - Grafenhausen in Germany. Two road tolls on this leg of the journey for A4 Metz to Strasbourg (4.80 Euros) and A4 just outside Strasbourg (7.90 Euros) it could be avoided but it's more miles to do so. Total Miles from Zeebrugge to here 370.

We stay at the Eurohotel which is about half way between Strasbourg and Basel on the E35 and very conveniently placed about 400 mts from the motorway so no big detour to get on and off for the night. A meal in one of the restaurants in the old Bavarian village set us up for the night. Bed and Breakfast in the hotel is 62 Euros breakfast for a double room and 49 Euros for a single, Breakfast 8 Euros per person. Next morning at around 08:00 after a fine buffet breakfast and a fill up with diesel at 1.21 euros, we set off for Switzerland.

The border control at Basel checks for a valid vignette to use the countries motorway and tunnel systems. The last time we came through with a 2009 one and they did not stop us but this time they did so we had to buy one for 2010 at 30 Swiss Franks, give them Euros and they give you the change in Franks so I don't know where we will spend those HMmmmmm.

Once into Switzerland keep heading for the Gottard tunnel which is the longest in Europe I think at 18 kilometers and is a masterpiece of engineering although the ventilation system didn't seem to be working particularly well when we went through it and although we were recirculating air in the car you could still get a whiff of the fumes from outside. On exiting the tunnel keep going on the same road heading for Italy and Milan and you enter Italy in their lake district at lake Como. There are two motorway tolls north of Milan one just outside Como and the other just before Milan at 1.80 Euros and 1.40 Euros respectively. From Milan follow the motorway across the north of the country to Venice passing Lake Garda on route the toll for this section of the journey is 17.70 but it's almost door to door and after departing the motorway it's only a couple of miles to the causeway which takes you into Venice and the ferry terminal. Total mileage driven from Germany to Venice 422, arriving at 15:45.

Picture: On the "Lefka Ori" leaving Venice in places you can almost reach out into the streets pretty good vantage point methinks.

We caught the Anek lines ferry for Igoumentisa and Patras (you pay the same price for either destination) and enjoyed the beauty of Venice as the ferry slowly made it's way through the town, unfortunately it was sort of twilight when we departed at 20:00 so we could see it great initially but things got rather dark towards the end although the lights in the town are a special sight. It takes about an hour to leave Venice astern.

Picture: Sandra and her Dad sat in Venice harbour waiting to depart, yes it was cool but it had been raining most of the day, and you're 500 miles further north than here.

The food on board Anek Lines is not as good as P&O but it's still adequate and not too expensive, again we had been upgraded with our accommodation to big family rooms instead of our normal budget jobs which was very nice but all rooms are the same size when you're asleep. The ship is a bit like a cruise liner with swimming pool etc but for us it's just a transport system although people do seem to make use of it. It's a full day to Igoumenitsa and two nights on board if you want to go to Patras. We arrived in Greece at 8 o'clock in the evening although it was gone half past when we got off the ship, then just about an hour and a bit to home.

Right well that's just about got the nuts and bolts of the journey out of the way, I'm sure that the people back at home will be wondering how Geoffrey has coped with it all. Well, as a couple of people saw before we set off the car was as usual packed to the gunnel's and a small cocoon area left for Geoff. I thought this may be a little claustrophobic for him but he seem to enjoy being wrapped in his own little chrysalis. He relished the ferry journeys and marvelled at the scenery all the way here and to date seems as if he's born to it. Yesterday and today the temperatures have been in the low to mid thirties and because of the dry heat (and the shade) he seems quite happy sitting here on the balcony watching the world go by.

When we arrived back at our house at about 10 pm on Wednesday night we turned on the water and found to our dismay that water was squirting all over the bathroom so we had to fill up some containers and turn the water off again until I could look into it on Thursday morning. I found that we had not one but two cracked fittings on the shower taps so having purchased two replacement bits and fitted them turned the water back on to find that a washer had gone in the toilet feed and it was also leaking all over the bathroom, this I hadn't noticed because of the spectacular nature of the first waterfall. I improvised a new washer in true Waddingham/Heath Robinson Fashion and fixed this. Then the toilet would not stop flushing so I've had to strip down the entire cistern to get that to work again. The house has had a thorough clean from top to bottom to get rid of all the things which have taken up residency since we left in June spiders flies and the like, although knowing Sandra's must do attitude towards the hoover this would have happened even if she hadn't found a dead fly anywhere. all this and more was ably assisted by our new apprentice Geoff.

Anyway Geoff has now been introduced to the notable locals and I'm sure will be speaking fluent Greek by the end of the first week here as he made passable attempts at French, German and Italian on the journey here.