Saturday, 14 November 2015

Midnight Ramblings

Thursday 12th November, and the small hours of the following morning......

Or, travelling through the Peloponnese by motorhome - some concluding thoughts - a few piccies, mucho prejudice, and a bit of a rant.

How come Gill can sleep,

but I end up wandering around an empty ferry...

watching dawn break over Albania, while blogging bollocks on my iPhone?
I am no expert. There are blogs and sites by people far more experienced than us about the delights and pitfalls of traveling in Greece by motorhome. if you are planning a trip I recommend strongly reading the following before you go:

Of course, being the kind of person who reads the IKEA instructions after constructing the bedside table with upside down drawers, I did not bother too much with advice, so ended up in a number of 'pickles' which could have easily been avoided with a bit of prior research.

So, is Greece somewhere worth considering motor-homing in out of season? It depends, I think, on the sort of person you are, and why you enjoy living long term in a motorhome. It was clear from last year's travels in Spain that there are a substantial number of winter escapees, retired people, whose idea of living the dream is to up-sticks for weeks to a four star site, ideally near some interesting places to see, but next to a nice resort with bars and cafés overlooking the sea. Often they seem to have done this for years and enjoy socialising with people they met there previously. Some have a penchant for arranging their pitches to be a home from home, complete with a gas BBQ with a control panel like Mr. Spock's, a shoulder-high barbed-wire windbreak, a Jodrell Bank sized satellite dish, fairy light festooned awning and so on. The British contingent's preferred gleaming pride and joy seems to be a newish twin wheeled Auto-trail Chieftain with trusty Smart car towed behind. If this in anyway resembles what you like to do, then the chances are you would be utterly miserable in Greece.

First of all, there are very few sites open in the autumn, and most do not conform to Western European standards in term of facilities and layout. Secondly, there are relatively few people travelling by motorhome at all. You can go for days without seeing another van, often you can be parked up in a wild camping spot, with, if you are lucky, Yanni the fisherman, a couple of bewildered stray dogs, and a mangy feral cat. Even on camp sites we were, quite often, the only people there among rows of empty, tarpaulined statics.

So, a couple of pre-requisites to enjoy Greece off season, firstly, you need to be reasonably happy with thinking your own thoughts, or reading other people's. Connectivity is not great and wifi unreliable, so forget who's been hoiked off 'Strictly' or the latest trials of the 'special one'. Secondly, and this may seem like stating the obvious, but if you are travelling as a couple, then really you need to be still best friends as well as spouses, lovers, or whatever. Delight with one another and mutual trust is important not simply because it means you will have a happier time, but the co-driver in the passenger seat, especially when you have a right hand drive van, is essential for safety. Inevitably you will end up in stuck in a narrow village street and having to reverse in impossible circumstances; without Gill hopping out and directing from the rear, I would probably still be trapped at an acute corner of Agios Nikolaos, with a Greek coach driver sporting Mafioso sunglasses gesticulating wildly at me.

A short digression - not entirely unrelated to the foregoing, but still 'off topic'. I am a member of a forum called Motorhome Adventures. It's great - a group of 8000+ people who share experiences, advise each other about technical stuff, and generally celebrate the freedom of owning 3.5 tonnes of metal with an on-board bed and a bog. However, there is one thing about the site which I find tiresome, that's the redneck blokeish minority. What gets me down Is not the fact that they seem more interested in technical stuff about solar panels and sog units than the places they have visited, but behind the big boy chat lies a veiled misogyny. Any mention of their long suffering travelling companion is couched in faux jokey terms like 'she who must be obeyed.' Somehow you just know that somewhere in their garage they have a neatly folded Union Jack the size of a duvet cover destined to flutter on a fibreglass pole over their pitch by the sunny Med. 

I've had a few minor run-ins with some of these guys who have piled- in to point out their irritation at my know-all attitude, and my lack of a sense of humour. I understand why I irritate them, it's clear they equate an emotional response as questionably sentimental, and a Romantic viewpoint somewhat effete and unmanly. I suppose 'creative types' and Mr. Practical are always gong to get pissed-off with one another. 

So, to sum up my middle of the night ramble, stuck on an empty ferry chugging 'slow ahead' across the Adriatic, if you have lost your sense of romance, and distrust the lure of the Romantic, forget Greece and head for the Costa Blanca. On the other hand, if you are uplifted by beautiful landscapes, dream of driving down empty cliff-hugging roads or wandering around ancient places where the past is palpable and intermingles with the present, if going for a swim in November in a warm crystal clear sea, or coming across great local produce - thyme honey, olive oil harvested yesterday, herbs growing by the roadside, if these things still matter to you more than a reliable satellite signal or a beer with your mates, head for the Peloponnes next autumn. 

The past month for us has been a revelation, an unforgettable experience - romantic, with both a little and a big 'r'.

The amazing Maisy.


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