After a few days in Athens, my husband, Rory, and I headed for the open Greek road on the Peloponnese. We hit up Corinth, Nafplio, Stoupa (for the wedding) and Ancient Olympia.
Driving in Greece
Driving in Greece wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. For one thing, the Greeks drive on the right side of the road, so we didn’t have to worry about driving on the left. There’s also a national network of highways that never seems to have any traffic, so that’s also a plus. It’s only when you’re driving through small villages — which we did on our way back to Athens from Olympia — that it gets tricky. Yes, some of the streets in Athens are small, but some of the “roads” in Greek villages are only roads in the academic sense; they really did not look like any road a car should be driving on!
Our first stop was Corinth, where we stopped for pics of the canal (pictured above) before we made our way to the beach. Pro tip: while you can find English speakers in much of Greece, the folks who worked in the restaurants along the beach in Corinth did not speak English very well. We were surprised since Corinth is only an hour outside Athens. This made trying to find beach towels to buy difficult! However, we discovered here that restaurants often have beach chairs that you can use for free as long as you buy something, even if it’s just a drink. They have servers who come out to you, too. I wish we had this kind of service in Los Angeles as a matter of course!
After checking out some ruins in Ancient Corinth, we made our way to Nafplio, a small, cute and laid-back bayside town. We stayed at the Amfitriti Palazzo hotel, way up on the hill with an amazing view:
We found the nicest little beach behind our hotel. While it was rocky, it was pretty quiet. In the morning, the water was completely calm. We took a morning walk along the bluff that overlooks this beach — just wonderful.
We had dinner at Kipos (Greek for “garden”), where I had rooster with pappardelle, and Rory had lamb with potatoes, while overlooking the water. We had a great meal here, thanks to Yannis, who worked the front desk at our hotel and recommended this place. The locals always know, huh?
Another thing we learned about driving in Greece we learned in Nafplio — that double parking, or parking anywhere you want for the most part, is OK. This became especially apparent when we went on to Santorini (more on this later!), where we rented an ATV and parked it just about anywhere we wanted. It was kind of awesome. Embrace the chaos.
Tolo, Kalamata and Stoupa
After a quick beach pit stop in Tolo, an old fishing village (Yannis said this was a great place, but we didn’t have time to explore), we headed over to Stoupa via Kalamata on the Mani peninsula. Yes, this is where the famous Kalamata olives are from. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop here, either, so we kept going through the one mountain road that eventually led us down to the ocean at Stoupa, a small town that many locals said was one of their favorites for vacationing. I could see why: the coast is dotted with interesting rock formations, and the pace of life is a lot slower here. The water was a lot colder here than in the places we previously visited, but I just hung out under a beach chair umbrella, anyway. The wedding reception was at Liastres restaurant, which overlooks the water and seems like a nice place to spend a long meal (the food for the reception was catered, so I’m not sure what the restaurant’s actual food was like).
After the wedding festivities were over, we made our way up to Ancient Olympia, which is the birthplace of the Olympic games. There are lots of cool ruins to see here, but make sure to get to the site early, or else you’ll be fighting hoards of tourists. Also, it was a lot hotter and more humid here than we were used to since Ancient Olympia is inland, so we faded fast.
Despite the heat, one of the best meals we had in Greece was in Ancient Olympia at the Europa Hotel, a Best Western property. We had dinner outside, which is possible only during the summer, overlooking the valley. Coupled with the delicious food, it was a lovely experience. We started out with the house rosé and yet another Greek salad (of course it was good). I also had a warm pastry of phyllo dough filled with feta cheese and topped with a sweet sauce and raisins. For our mains, I had moussaka, the Greek version of shepherd’s pie with beef or lamb, eggplant, sometimes potatoes, and topped with a cheesy bechamel sauce that’s baked like a casserole. Rory had the lamb. Both dishes were excellent and were accompanied by roasted potatoes made in the Greek style with lemon. These Greek potatoes have become my new favorite!
From Ancient Olympia, we drove four hours back to Athens — not without getting lost on mountain roads and tiny villages. Next stop: Santorini!