Us, family and friends
Back in 2000 Mark and I did the dirty deed – we got married, in Falmouth Cornwall, in Pendennis Castle with almost every person we loved celebrating with us! It was a wonderful day/weekend/start of a new life together.
I say almost everyone, because Mark’s parents were both unwell and not able to make the journey to Cornwall. We asked permission to leave our mobile phone on the table between us and the registrar so that we could keep the line open for our ceremony and his parents could listen in, and he agreed but the walls were too thick to get a signal, so they had to wait for the video and photos! What a shame, but with 6ft thick granite walls, what did we expect!
The fairytale room
Our friends had gone up to the castle early in the morning and transformed it with local flowers, grasses, pampas, and bamboo from Glendurgan Gardens. They did a phenomenal job and the place looked like a fairy-tale dream – really beautiful.
Caught in the act!
Us, Pendennis Castle
So, the day was wonderful, the following day was excellent with a 4 hour private ferry trip around the waters of the Falmouth area – it helped to clear our heads a little!
Then on the Sunday evening we took off for London on the sleeper train while our wedding guests continued the party well into the following week! The following day, we flew out to Greece for our honeymoon.
We had decided to wing it while we were there, but I insisted on the first night to be booked! So we had called this hotel in Athens and explained that it was our Honeymoon and could we have a nice room please! “Of course” came the reply, “We have the Honeymoon Suite looking out over the Parthenon” Perfect, we say, book it! Yes, it was a nice room, yes, it did look out towards the Parthenon – pretty spectacular view if truth be told….. BUT (didn’t you just know there was a BUT coming?) the beds were two singles separated by a heavy night-stand – not insurmountable, but the best bit came on closer inspection of the beds – they both had half foot wooden surrounds all the way around the mattresses, so when we pushed them together, there was a foot gap separating us newly-weds! Oh, how we laughed!
Slight change of plan…
As part of our plan, we wanted to take a mini-cruise from Piraeus and went to book it at a travel agent – and walked out with a 3 night stay on the island of Paros and back again! Not quite what we had in mind! Any Fast Show fans out there will be muttering – “Better than that!” So, a stay on the island of Paros, I was coming around to the idea after looking up some pictures of the place – very pretty in that old Greek, white cubed building and blue shutters, fishing village kind of way.
We booked a taxi from the hotel with it’s interesting version of a honeymoon suite for first thing the following morning – we had to pick up our tickets at an office near the quay before getting on the ferry to Paros. Guess who got the taxi driver who didn’t know how to get around Athens…? Yup! We had a visiting card for the ticket office, but instead of admitting he didn’t know where the street was, he just dropped us off by the ferry on the quay – jumped out the taxi, pulled our luggage out the boot and no amount of protest was going to make him help us any further! By this stage ( he’d taken his time actually finding the port and the right quay) we had approximately 15 minutes to find the ticket office, get the tickets and return to the ferry….. We didn’t make it! We missed it by about 5 minutes, in fact I stood at the edge of the quay in great dismay watching our ferry disappear out of port! After another traipse to the ticket office we were assured that we could get on the next ferry – in 7 hours time….!
Anyone spent that amount of time in Piraeus with a fair amount of luggage on a hot June day? If you’re thinking of it, I beg you, think again!
Finally, we got on the ferry, as soon as we were allowed to. We consoled ourselves that it was more romantic this way, a sunset cruise, so we set ourselves up on the top deck with a fine view of where we’d been and either side of the ferry. The ferry looked familiar – I could find my way around, I knew where the loos were, the bar was in the right place….. after a bit of head scratching I looked at the lifebelts and it all became clear – the ferry was an old P & O cross channel ferry! So when they become too old for the channel crossings, they sold them on to the Greek ferry companies!
We sat alternating between reading our holiday reads and gazing at the sea going past, the sun going down – it WAS romantic. Then Mark started looking from one side of the ferry to the other with squinty eyes – then pointed out that from one side the view was of the horizon, the sea and sky…. the other side had a view of the sky, just the sky and nothing but the sky…. Hmmm. We gathered our belonging to us and sat a little further into the centre of the ship – like it would make any difference! No worries in the end, we arrived safely and ran the gauntlet of the folks trying to persuade us to stay at their hotel/ bed & breakfast/ front room/ shed/ fishing boat… whatever they had!
The added value island stay..
Anyone watched the movie Mamma Mia? I’m not suggesting the place we stayed at was like the one in the film, but had I known about the film back then I would’ve been reminded of the scene where Meryl Streep is singing her way through swathes of laundry – this is what we had to get through to arrive at the front door! Our home for the next coupla days, or so we thought!
Rumours started on the second day that the ferry wasn’t going to come because the weather was too bad – so we went down to the quay to investigate this terrible weather – calm blue seas, not a hint of white-horses, beautiful warm sunny skies.. We shrugged and laughed at the doom-merchants!
We packed up on the appointed day and got ourselves down to the quay and waited, waited some more, and then, finally, asked if the ferry was going to make a showing sometime that day – Not a hope – the weather is terrible, stormy, rough, blowing a hooley, impassable… Really? We said – looking around at the folks hiding in the shade of the pines mopping their brows. Yep! Probably won’t be here for at least 3 more days. THREE days?? We cried. We ran back to the place we’d been staying - we could stay one more night but they were booked after that, we didn’t question it at the time, but when we were reminiscing about our adventures on honeymoon, we did wonder to ourselves just where these bookings were going to appear from considering there was no ferry for 3 days!
It was for the best, because we started a tradition (for as long as the honeymoon lasted anyway) that every place we stayed in from that night on would have a view of the sea plus a balcony to sip our sundowner on, a bonus and definitely something to look out for. We got a lovely room right on the waterfront, great views, and the balcony to have our aperitifs on. The reception pointed the way to a cheap car rental place close by and we went with the flow! I mean, what can you do, you’re stuck on an island, no way of getting off it, so you may as well enjoy it. We played the ‘what will be struck off the menu next’ game at each meal because the island bought most of their basics from the mainland! Of course the fishermen weren’t going out either because of these furious storms that we just kept missing, they must have been hiding from us!
Finally, the ferry came around the headland (I wonder if they heard the mighty cheer from the quay of waiting passengers?) exactly 3 days later, just like predicted! Sounds like they just wanted a holiday! (Or there was a strike we didn’t know about!)
When we got back to Piraeus, we decided to take the first boat that would take us to the Peloponnese – all part of the adventure we’d decided was our right!
The Peloponnese – AT LAST!
A hydrofoil was going to Ermioni via Hydra. We sat inside, right at the front to get a good view as we flew along on a hydrofoil – a first for me! We saw the crew cast off through the windows and soon after, more crew came through the cabin and closed all the curtains, so no-one could see anything! If we’d had a day time sailing then all would’ve been well, but it was evening and the lights from the cabin would’ve affected the vision of the captain – so we were told, anyway!
We arrived in Ermioni at about 11pm and had nowhere to stay and no details of what might be available! I recall that nothing was open except a grotty cafe selling dodgy kebabs, but we were hungry so decided to eat something before THAT closed too! Then we looked for somewhere to sleep! Finally, at about midnight we saw a sign for a ‘hotel’. Never in my life, before or since, have I stayed in such a pit! Filthy, sticky, dingy, the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned since the last people staying there and they were disgusting. I slept on top of the bed with my clothes on and a pair of socks, I wasn’t going to let my feet touch the floor directly! Uggh! I get the creeps just thinking of the place!
Funnily enough we were up and out of there super early! We found a ticket office and caught the bus to Nafplio. Interesting bus ride screaming around mountain roads and overtaking on blind corners, we hadn’t been in Greece long enough to take this in our stride and by the time we got to Nafplio we were a little jittery and in dire need of a drink! Nafplio soothed us a little, a lovely bustling port town full of Venetian style houses with the Juliet balconies – so absolutely not typical Greek architecture!
We used our brilliant Lonely Planet guide to Greece to find Pension Marianna up too many steps but with an incomparable view across the town from a fabulous roof terrace (and our room, if truth be told!) The brothers that run the place ply you with fresh produce from the family farm like their free range eggs and fresh lemon juice sweetened with honey.
Napflio has the most amazing fort (Palamidi Fortress) perched high above the town and we were advised to get a taxi up to the top and then walk down the 999 uneven steps. Hmmmm.. Not sure if they were having a laugh up their sleeve! We taxied up there and wandered around, gazed at the fab views and then started to head down, and down and…. well, you get the picture! Very thoughtfully at the bottom of the steps was a little bar with outside seating under the trees, it was all we could do to crawl to the nearest chairs and collapse in a jellied heap! Half an hour – half a long hour, it took for our legs to come back to some semblance of normality! Several Fanta Lemons later (totally hooked on them and have never seen them anywhere but Greece!) and serious conversations about what the soldiers would’ve said in the 18th century if they got back up the hill and had forgotten the milk! We made our way back to the Pension, however it took far longer than it should have because we took one look at the looong series of steps going up to the accommodation, turned around and found another bar in the piazza! We needed the strength to continue!
We took a day trip to Epidavrus, a World Heritage Site 3rd century amphi-theatre with the most amazing acoustics! We heard an American checking it out by quoting Shakespeare from the stage. We happened to be right at the top (hurrying away from a big group of loud and chattering (read: shouting) Italians – we could still hear every word the Shakespeare enthusiast spoke like she was using a microphone!
The Mani and other fingers..
Anyway, we toured around the Peloponnese taking in the amazing sights including visiting the Mani with it’s strange, tall, square towers dotted around, there was even a whole village of them, Vathia – spookily empty for the most part! We were going to stay in one if we found one that had rooms but after a lunch overlooking an extremely tempting crescent of beach and bay we headed down to it after eating and passed rooms carved into the cliffs….. who else has stayed in such a place?!
View from the room in the cliffs
Kalamata, with their superb olive oil was a busy and bustling town and Gythio a lovely Greek fishing village where we found a great place to stay right on the harbour.
The Rock of Gibraltar – Greek style!
Near the end of the 3 weeks we took a trip to the island of Monemvasia – basically an enormous rock with a fortress on the top connected by a causeway to the mainland (It was part of the mainland until a massive earthquake separated it in 375 AD). You cannot see the town until you’ve walked through an L shaped tunnel in the thick city walls which leads you into the centre.
We stayed in a magical place called the Malvesia Hotel with our room having it’s own private patio with views over the rooftops that seemed to tumble down the cliff to the sea. When we woke in the morning, there was a gentle tap on the patio doors and we went out to find our freshly-made breakfast laid out for us on the table.
Another wonderful thing about Monemvasia is that there are no vehicles – not even bicycles. You can drive over the causeway, but you have to park up outside the city walls and walk in through the tunnel. In fact, it would be down-right dangerous to drive or ride anything through the streets as the cobbled streets resemble stepping stones with deep, wide, chasm-like gaps between the cobbles! It was difficult enough on foot, and definitely not for high heel wearers!
We hiked up the steps to the fortress and upper town ruins with it’s spectacular views over the sea. We leaned on the walls and took deep breaths while gazing out on the wonderful panorama. Just at that moment an obscenely humongous but sleek Sun-Seeker yacht cruised on by around the island complete with heli-pad on the stern! In that moment, something happened and we looked at each other and, just for a moment, we became telepathic, “…. life’s too short for 2 -3 weeks holiday a year …. we want to see more …. we want to get out there ….. we want adventures. “
Life is for living!
All this flashed between us like Morse code and with scarcely a word spoken between us, our lives changed forever, there and then!