Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hello Greece! Nafplio.

Nafplio, Greece. The view from our hotel room balcony.

Thankfully, it was an uneventful and at times, boring flight to Athens. Despite having requested seats next to each other, Bro and I were initially separated until a stewardess kindly arranged for us to be seated next to each other.  As with all long distance flights, I start to get antsy about five hours in.  That's when in-flight entertainment kicks in and I find myself watching one movie after another.  This flight though, I slept. It had already been a long travel day for me and I wanted to do nothing more than just nap.  Bro had also caught an early morning flight from SFO so he too was in need of some shut eye. We barely chatted on the plane. 


We landed in Athens around 9:30am. Though we were both tired, our excitement at finally being in Greece took over.  We were ready to roll and that was a good thing as we had at least a two hour drive ahead of us before we would actually make it to our destination for the day.

We cleared immigration and then went to baggage claim to wait for Bro's suitcase.....which luckily for him, arrived!

Next, we had to find the Enterprise car rental counter.  I had booked a car for us.  There was only a small group of people ahead of us in line but they seemed to take forever.  While we waited, Bro darted in to the bookstore to check out the roadmaps. I had brought my Garmin GPS with me, installed with a map for Greece, but we're both very old school - we need our maps. :-)  Bro plunked down a few Euros to buy a map that covered the areas we would be driving through.

Finally, it was our turn.  We signed all the papers and followed the instructions to get to the car lot.  We stepped out of the terminal into a picture perfect day with temps in the low 70's and barely a drop of humidity in the air.  It was a short walk to the rental car lot and there, in parking slot 146, was our little gray Opel.

Bro checked out the car with the attendant while I loaded our luggage into the small trunk.

We were so excited to finally get going!  Bro was going to be in the driver's seat while I would be responsible for navigation.

We got in our seats.  He put the key in the ignition.  He looked down at the gear shift and had no clue what to do. I tried to figure it out and was certain it was simpler than we were making it out to be but neither one of us wanted to chance shifting into the wrong gear and taking off so Bro when back to get the attendant.

Sure enough, it was simpler than we thought.  Shift to the left towards "A" to drive - only one gear.  Shift right and down to reverse.  Lead in the middle and by default, that was park.  Sheesh.  So simple yet we made it so difficult.  We felt kind of stupid and shared a good laugh over it with the attendant.




I had already programmed the name of our hotel in Nafplio in to the Garmin.  Ms. Garmin led us out of the rental car parking lot and on to the highway. Our first impression of the roads was that they were really good.  Not a big highway by US standards but the road was excellent.


The signs are well positioned for easy viewing and in case you're wondering, destination names are provided in both Greek and English. I was worried we would be looking at Greek only and that would have made driving a true challenge!


Our first stop was to get gas.  We followed the Enterprise attendant's directions to get to the gas station and there we topped off the tank.  We had been given a quarter tank to start with.

Back on the highway, we settled in for our drive.  The arid, mountainous landscape around us reminded me of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Bro felt right at home here.


Surprisingly, there was little traffic on the highway.  We were on a toll road and I guess many a Greek opts to go on the local roads instead.  For us, the toll prices were reasonable - 2 to 3 euros and there weren't that many tolls along our entire drive.  It was smooth driving!

We dutifully followed Ms. Garmin's instructions and she led us through some pretty landscape.


Then, we left the highway and ended up on small country roads.  Bro was beginning to wonder where she was leading us to as Nafplio is a pretty good sized destination and therefore, should have a main road leading to it.  Nonetheless, we continued to follow her turn by turn instructions which were basically taking us in the same direction as what the map was showing.


We passed by many an orchard.  Bro started to joke that she was taking us through people's driveways and backyards!  But, we were actually enjoying the drive - it gave us an opportunity to see a bit of rural Greece so we just kept going with the faith that eventually, we would reach Nafplio.

And yes, before we knew it, we found ourselves on the narrow streets that run through Nafplio.  Ms. Garmin navigated us to our hotel though we didn't quite get her instructions correctly so we had to do a few U-turns before we found the front entrance to the Hotel Agamemnon.  There was no obvious parking space so Bro double parked and waited by the car while I got us checked in.

After I got the key to our room, we got our suitcases out of the car and headed up.  Before we settled in, we headed back down to the car and followed the receptionist's instructions on where to find a place to park.   We found a space, on a nearby street and parked the car.  Parking is free here and basically, as long as you don't obstruct traffic or where it's explicitly prohibited, you can park anywhere.  We like that approach!

What a great view we had from our room.

Back in our room, I threw open our balcony door and we stepped outside to soak in the view.  It was that kind of view that is so beautiful, it just makes you take a gasp.  I told Bro that I had splurged on a room with a view and for a whopping $79, it was so worth it!  It had truly been a long travel day for both of us and it was time for us to relax.  We both sat down at the small balcony table and just admired the sight before us.


It was about 1:30pm by now and even though neither of us was particularly hungry, it was important we go get lunch so we could begin to get adjusted to being in the Greece timezone which is 7 hours ahead for me and 10 hours for Bro.

After settling in a bit, we headed out.  Our hotel was located just a block away from Syntagma Square, the heart of old town Nafplio.  We headed towards the square in search of a restaurant.

A row of restaurants fronting our hotel. 

A view of Syntagma Square.

From Syntagma Square, looking back towards the water.

Old town Nafplio is simply gorgeous.  Cobblestones lined the narrow pedestrian only streets.  Lovely old buildings, brightly colored and well cared for house commercial establishments.  There were plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bakeries to choose from.  Lots of small shops selling souvenirs as well as products for every day use.






The trolling waiters were out and about, at the ready to hand a menu to any tourist passing by.  We fell for one.


It was our first meal in Greece.  We were by the sea.  We had to have seafood.  We had no idea what to order.  Bro finally settled for the grilled stuffed squid, I had the grilled octopus and we shared a classic Greek salad.  (and yes, the tomatoes are as delicious here as they are reputed to be....)  Verdict on the food?  Okay, nothing spectacular but it was just the right amount of food for both of us.



After the meal, we strolled around the streets for a short while.  Bro was really exhausted.  The poor guy just wanted to get back to the room and get a bit of sleep.  I was tired but I was determined to power through the jet lag.

Really charming place!


The building (with the arches), in the background is the Archeological Museum.


Syntagma Square.  High up on the hillside sits the ruins of Palamidi Castle.

Back in our room, Bro slept.  Poor guy.  Exhausted.  I had planned for us to spend the afternoon exploring Nafplio but I didn't have the heart to push him as I know he would have gone along if I had wanted to.  In all honesty, I was beginning to lose steam myself.


I was back out on the balcony, enjoying the view.  But that only lasted for a few minutes.  I needed to go back out on the streets.  I figured Bro would be out for at least an hour.

I wanted to go back and take a longer stroll through the old town.

View of Bourtzi Fortress, built by the Venetians, sits a short distance from shore.

I zoomed in to take a close up photo.

The white building is Saint Nicholas church.  The pedestrian only area begins just behind the church.


Cars allowed on a few streets.

I loved the balconies here.  Flower boxes everywhere!

The building with the blue window shutters is the War Museum.

Eventually, I ended up circling back to Syntagma Square and from there, headed back to the hotel.

The obelisk was erected in 1903 in honor of the French Philhellenes (Maison, Fabvier and De Rigny) who fell during the Greek
Independence war. Their names are found on the inscription on the base of the monument.

I too finally gave in to exhaustion and laid down for a short nap. It was dark when I woke up.  The clock read 8:30pm!  I rustled Bro up as sleeping any later would only exacerbate our jet lag. 

We decided to walk about town.  Better than sitting in and watching TV.

Bourtzi Fortress, all lit up.

It was a beautiful night. Cool with a breeze gently blowing from the sea.  The restaurants, located on the promenade, were now filled with people. I think it was mainly locals coming to enjoy a bite or drink. Nafplio had come to life!

Syntagma Square was also lit up.

We took a seat on a bench and watched the world go by.


An enterprising vendor had set up a stand with small motorized vehicles.  We smiled as we watched a young dad following his son riding around on a scooter.

Round and round the little boy went!

Posing for the obligatory photo taken by moi.

The door to St. Nicholas church was open.  We peeked inside from afar.


We happened on a place selling gelato.  I had a scoop of pistachio.  Best. Pistachio. Gelato. EVER!

Even in the dark of night, Nafplio oozes charm.  Seriously.

From our hotel, we continued walking on the promenade but in the other direction.  It was a quieter spot, away from all the restaurants and bars.  It was nice spot to sit and chat which we did until we both decided it was time to call it a night.

We have a full day of driving tomorrow so a good night's sleep is definitely in order.  I am so excited to finally be in Greece and am looking forward to our two week's here.

For now, good night from Nafplio!