This Time Last Year – Part 23: A wine tasting in Bellingham

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 10 2016 – LA to Birch Bay

I am flying Alaska Air on a 737 to Seattle and a prop plane to Bellingham in Washington State in America’s north west. I am not charged for my luggage as I’ve come off an international flight – even though that was yesterday. I am expressed through security. My port side window seat has leg room and I can fold down my tray and read a magazine without reclining. But I’m not reading because the view out the window is commanding my attention. The flight is following the arc of the Cascade Volcanoes and I am on the lookout for Mt St Helens but there are so many volcanic cones with even some Ngauruhoe and Taranaki lookalikes from the air. The easiest volcano to pick out, however, is Oregon’s Crater Lake. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 22: Across the Ocean once again

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 9 2016 – Athens to LA 

I’m up early, eat breakfast in my room and am ready for a 7:15am departure from the B&B. I’m leaving behind blue skies, my heart, and the remainder of the Dogmatikos wine.

Bougainvillea forms an arch over the gate to St Thomas B & B.

I’m feeling so very sad to be leaving Greece. I have so enjoyed my trip even though for much of it I have been travelling alone. Meeting Tom and Rowena in Athens, the historians in Kalamata, and the welcome and hospitality of Theodora in Corinth, Marian and Sissy in Athens and Alexandra in Thessaloniki made this trip so very extra special. I loved staying at St Thomas B&B and the geology tour with Vasilis was right up my alley. Late April / early May is a perfect time in Greece, weather-wise, for me. In 2013 we had gone in July and I wilted in the 40 degree plus heat. I pledge to myself that next time I visit it will be in Autumn when the grapes are ready for harvest and the figs are ripe for eating. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 21: A geology tour of Attica

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 8 2016 – Athens (Attica Peninsula)

Today I am pursuing my other passion. Geology. I had heard about a Mineral Museum in Lavrio and the ancient silver mines through Matt Barrett’s Greece Travel page on Facebook. I worked out how to get to Lavrio by bus but thought there must be a better way and with a bit of sleuthing uncovered Vasilis Antoniou’s GeoNature Tours. And one of those tours was Lavrio, the Secret of Ancient Athens. Perfect I thought – until I read the fine print. Oh no. Minimum two. I emailed Vasilis, said I would love to go on his tour and gave him some background on my visit to Greece. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 20: A Wine Tour of Attica

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 7 2016 – Athens (Attica Peninsula)

The freshly squeezed orange juice at St Thomas B & B is delicious. It’s a great start to what is going to be a most interesting day. Sissy and Marian are picking me up and we’re going wine tasting! We are in the Attica wine region, historically best known for large scale production of Greece’s famous Retsina made from the Savantiano grape – this grape relishes the hot climate, is easy to grow and has no diseases. But modern winemakers are producing white wine Savantiano that is clean, crisp and textural and to my palate pretty darn drinkable. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 19: Domaine Gerovassiliou

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 6 2016 – Thessaloniki to Athens

Sadly it’s time to leave Northern Greece. Yesterday morning I made a last minute reservation with Ryan Air to Athens, the ticket so ridiculously cheap I pay a few extra Euros to upgrade to a vacant front row window seat, and still the price is cheaper than the cheapest Aegean Air fare. Go figure.

Lucky the airfare was cheap because these taxi fares add up over the day. It’s €15 to the airport where I store my bag for €4, then €25 to Domaine Gerovassiliou south of the airport at Epanomi, the beginning of the Halkidiki Peninusula. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 18: Wine Roads of Northern Greece

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 4 2016 – Thessaloniki

I am very excited because today I am going to immerse myself in the appreciation of Greek wine. Sissy and Marian, the good ladies at Grapefool have arranged for Alexandra Anthidou from the Wine Roads of Northern Greece, to take me under her wing for the day.  I have an early breakfast and Alexandra picks me up from the hotel. We are driving 90 kilometres west to Naoussa, one of the oldest wine regions of Greece. ‘And also the peach tree capital of the world,’ laughs Alexandra. Well, Greece maybe. The first two visits will be here in Naoussa at Vaeni and Kir Yiannni. The  third visit, Alpha Estate, is an outlier another 75 kilometres further away. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 17: Rest day in Thessaloniki remembering Pavlos Melas

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 4 2016 – Thessaloniki

I arrived in Thessaloniki yesterday afternoon and caught a bus to near my hotel, Le Palace Art. It’s in the centre of town and more upmarket than where I would normally stay but it was recommended and I am pleased it was. I am here for three days and from the wee narrow balcony with its own set of weeds I can see the sea. It’s just big enough for my stretchy clothesline and I get some t-shirts dried in the breeze. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 16: A Poignant Train Journey

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 3 2016 – Athens to Thessaloniki

I am leaving this morning from Larissa Station in Athens where trains depart for Larissa and beyond. According to the online booking system the 10.18 am train has no first class seats for the journey to Thessaloniki but there is a seat to Larissa. I will buy that ticket then continue on the fast suburban train to my destination.

The booking office does not take credit cards and I stuff up at the money machine choosing New Zealand dollars instead of Euros. No, no, no, I shout as I realised my non-reversible mistake. I pay an expensive exchange rate penalty. So deflating. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 15: The Odontotos Rack Railway

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 2 2016 – Diakopto to Athens

The mountains tower over Diakopto and rise steeply inland to the resort village of Kalavryta that serves the Kalavryta Ski Resort on the north west slopes of the 2,340 metre high Mt Helmos. Kalavryta is also infamous for German atrocities in WWII.

The best way to get there from Diakopto is on the 120-year-old Odontotos Rack Railway now run as a tourist train by Trainose. This was something I’d been planning to do for months before my trip to Greece. Continue reading

This Time Last Year – Part 14: Easter Sunday in Greece

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 1 2016 – Patras to Diakopto

Easter Sunday. Trains are on strike. The railway line between Patras and Kiato is not functional but the train company operates buses to villages along the route. Like to Diakopto, my destination. My plan was to head there first thing and transfer to the tourist train that runs on a cog railway up into hills and the village of Kalavryta, a ski resort village in the winter. Oh, what am I to do? I contact the hotel owner where I am booked in. “Catch the Ktel bus to Ayio, then a taxi to Diakopto. The tourist train will be running tomorrow.” A taxi. Yes. I am not going to hitch-hike again. Continue reading