It’s Raining In Lefkada :: Βρέχει στην Λευκάδα

Λυγιά :: Lygia

I was impressed with the breakfast in Glyfada this morning – A buffet breakfast and I had a little bit of everything; bread with ham and cheese, a slice of feta, bougatsa, a chocolate croissant, and a slice of cake.

I checked out of the hotel not long after breakfast. I wasn’t sure or not whether to go in to Athens itself on the bus or not. I had my ATH.ENA card (which is a bit like an Athenian Oyster card) with me so I could have done; but on reflection I decided it would take up too much time. I wanted to be on the road by 11. Besides, I was in Athens only 6 months ago and I’ll be back again before too long.

So I settled instead for a walk along the beach at Glyfada before getting in the car and getting on the road.

Παραλία Γλυφάδας :: Glyfada Beach

The journey from Glyfada had essentially 3 stages: First stage was to get clear of Athens. Thankfully the Athenian traffic wasn’t as scary as Piraeus had been the evening before; I sailed through. There were a couple of moments when I just wanted to beep the horn to express my extreme dissatisfaction at the actions of the driver in front…but I resisted tempation. I might be picking up some Greek driving habits but I’m not that Greek. (Does my horn even work? I’ve never had to use it! I wonder what it sounds like!)

Before I knew it I was on the A8 motorway. Almost as soon as I got there the traffic disappeared. It was like flicking a switch. One minute I was in a 3 lane Athenian traffic jam and 5 minutes later I was in 6th gear zipping along an empty motorway.

I stopped at Κόρινθος / Korinthos (Corinth), perhaps a little more than an hour after I’d left Glyfada, for some lunch and to have a look at the Corinth Canal.

Κόρινθος :: Korinthos

Last week when I was on the motorway there were no tolls, due to the EU elections – but today the tolls were operational again and I came up with what I think is an excellent system to aid sorting all the coins out as quickly as possible while I’m approaching the toll booth.

€1 and €2 coins in one of the cup holders; €0,50 and €0,20 coins in another; and €0,10 in another. So as I approached the toll booth I could just reach for the coins I wanted easily and quickly – This was important because one of the side effects of driving an English car abroad is that I hold up traffic a little bit while I get out the car and walk round to the window of the toll booth; pay and take the reciept, get back in the car and set off again.

My system made progress through the tolls very efficient although I think my €0,10 pile might also have Turkish Lira and Norweigan Kronor mixed in with it as well.

The motorway A8 goes all the way from Athens to Patra now. The last time I did this journey the motorway stopped just beyond Corinth; Now it has been extended all the way to Patra – Just before Patra it links up with the Γέφυρα Ρίου-Αντιρρίου (Rio-Antirrio Bridge) – It costs €13,50 to drive across that!

Then after that I’m on the A5 – another new motorway in Greece which felt like it was deserted; I am not used to being the only customer in an entire motorway service station.

I came off the motorway near Αμφιλοχία / Amfilochia – Eventually a new motorway will link from here to Preveza and the airport at Aktio – but for now, the motorway number which they’ve given it is signed but then crossed out. So the last 30 miles or so were done on local roads.

It started raining as I came out of Amfilochia – lightly at first but it steadily became heavier until by the time I got to the bridge linking Lefkada to the mainland, my wipers were on their full speed setting and I still couldn’t really see!

I had to wait before crossing the bridge on to Lefkada; It is a floating bridge and they had moved the bridge out the way to allow boats to pass through the narrow channel between the island and the mainland.

Driving through Lefkada itself was certainly interesting; The main road was more like a river – Passable with care. Perhaps the weather is preparing me for my next island hopping adventure – That will be when I drive to the Outer Hebridges in August. A world away from Greece!

Still images from footage recorded by my dashcam

The change in the weather meant I had gone from 28 degrees, clear skies, Sunny in Glyfada; when I filled up with petrol in Athens I was greeted with a very cheerful: «Καλημέρα, καλή εβδομάδα, καλό καλοκαίρι» (Good morning/week/Summer) to being greeted with Καλό χειμώνα (= Good winter) in Lefkada.

Not long after I got out the car the rain stopped and, while still overcast, it was at least looking a bit brighter. Having spent all my cash on the motorway I needed some money so I drove back in to town to find an ATM before returning to Lygia for dinner.

I ate at one of the restaurants we’ve really liked when staying here before – I ate at Maki’s and, as it was my last night in Greece (but not my last meal – I’ll have a good meal in Sivota before I go to get the ferry on Tuesday night) – I had a starter as well as a main course.

Λυγιά :: Lygia

Tomorrow – my last day in Greece but not too far to travel. The sat nav suggests it should take about 2 hours to make the 125km (78 mile) journey to Igoumenitsa.

I will probably stop in Sivota on the way and maybe I might go in to Preveza itself. I’ve got all day, and the forecast is for it to be cloudy most of the morning so the morning at least will not be a beach morning which is a shame. I’m still wearing my shorts though – I’m on holiday!

I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to write a blog for a couple of days now – I probably won’t have chance tomorrow and on the ferry I’ll leave the laptop in the car so it might be Thursday now before I post again.

I’m off to bed.

Καληνύχτα,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 240
Accumulative Mileage: 2532.2

Journey Map

To Glyfada :: Προς Γλυφάδα

Γαλησσάς :: Galissas

Today saw the start of the long journey North, back to Gloucestershire – but not before spending most of the morning and early part of the afternoon on the beach at Galissas / Γαλησσάς.

Leaving Syros to return to the mainland, even though I’m still in Greece, always feels a bit like the end of the holiday; I had the same feeling when leaving Syros part way through my 6 week trip around Greece in 2014.

Boarding the ferry wasn’t too bad – but busier than all the ones I’ve been on so far. If you can imagine driving on to the ferry then doing a 3-point turn to reverse in to a parking space, but following instructions being shouted at me in Greek, rather than looking in the mirrors (they don’t like it when drivers look in their mirrors on the ferries, it means they’re not paying attention to the crew).

The good news is that I can understand most of what they’re saying so managed to board and park with no problems. The most useful phrases for this are: Αριστερά/Aristera = Left, Δεξιά/Dexia = Right. Also useful to know are: λίγο γκάζι = a little (more) gas, and πίσω = back.

Ερμούπολη από το πλοίο :: Ermoupoli as seen from the ferry

The crossing from Syros to Piraeus took about 3 and a half hours – then it was in to the traffic of Πειραιάς / Piraeus. What an experience that was. Piraeus traffic was absolutely terrifying.

Taxis cutting in from the right (and left), bikes cutting in from all directions, I got stuck behind a bus but there was too much traffic to change lanes – and Greeks don’t like traffic lights.

I survived it all though and arrived in Γλυφάφα / Glyfada just in time to watch the Sun setting before I went for dinner. I am just over the road from the same beach I came to on the tram in December to watch the setting Sun – and just a 5 minute walk away from my regular Athenian / Glyfada beach.

Αθήνα :: Athens
Πειραιάς :: Piraeus
Παραλία Γλυφάδας :: Glyfada Beach
Η θέα από το δωμάτιο μου :: The view from my room

Quite a drive to get to Lefkada tomorrow so I’m going to put the TV on for a bit, then head off to bed.

Καληνύχτα,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 15.4
Accumulative Mileage: 2292.2

Journey Map

I’ve got my GPS tracker working at Sea!

To the Cyclades Islands :: Προς τα Νησιά των Κυκλάδων

I’m now on my second Greek island this holiday and for the next 6 days I’m in the Cyclades. I’ve got 3 nights on Τήνος/Tinos, followed by 3 nights on Σύρος/Syros.

I got up at dawn this morning, with a ferry to catch from Ραφήνα/Rafina I didn’t have time to hang around. There was no traffic the whole way to the port – surprising given that I was only a few minutes away from the suburbs of the Greek capital. At times it felt like I was driving on island roads!

When I got to Rafina getting on the ferry was not as difficult or as stressful as I had expected for a Greek port.

It is a little bit different to Dover though; In Dover you enter the port and go through the Passport Control lanes, then you check-in (different lanes for different ferry companies), before being given a lane number from which to board your boat.

In Rafina all traffic enters the port, at which point there are 4 or 5 ferries in front of you. You just identify your ferry, drive up to the back of the boat, hand over your tickets and drive on. They attach a sticker to the windscreen with your destination to assist the staff in the garage so that you are appropriately parked – Not blocking anyone getting off before you, and not blocked in by anyone getting off after you.

The above is no problem really, until you realise there are 2 identical boats from the same ferry operator in port, and I couldn’t remember which one I was meant to be on!

My ferry – Golden Star Ferries «Superferry» was one which you drive on forwards, a guide will get you to turn round in the garage and reverse you in to a space, so you can drive off forwards. In Rafina I got to the port early enough that this was a fairly simple process, with a whole hour and a half before departure it wasn’t the mad rush I thought it would be.

I am expecting it to be a bit mad when I get when I get the ferry to Σύρος/Syros in a few days and then when I get the ferry to Πειραιάς/Piraeus from Syros at the weekend; the ferries only stop for as long as is necessary to unload disembarking passengers and for new passengers to board – Maybe 15-20 minutes max?

The crossing itself wasn’t too bad. It took around 3 and a half hours to get to Tinos, with a quick stop in Γαύριο/Gavrio, one of the ports on Άνδρος/Andros, on the way for passengers to disembark and new passengers to board.

On the way out of Andros another encounter with Greek wildlife – I had snakes in the road on Thassos, and now the ship was being followed by a pod of dolphins, riding the waves behind the ship. They were too far away to get a photo unfortunately, but good to watch.

I believe after I left the ferry at Tinos it was continuing on to other Cyclades islands including Mykonos, and then going on to Crete.

Γαύριο Άνδρου – Gavrio, Andros

Disembarkation in Tinos was simple, straight off the ferry, on to the main road in to Χώρα (Tinos Town, known locally as Chora which is the Greek word for ‘village’).

Chora was quite busy (busier than eg. Thassos Town) but once out of town I was surprised that a lot of Tinos is almost deserted at this time of year. There are people about, but not many. I am the only guest in my accomodation tonight!

In some ways this is not surprising. Tinos doesn’t feature in many British holiday brochures. It isn’t a terribly touristy island. Brits tend to head for Mykonos (I can see Mykonos town from my room). Greeks do come here for their holidays, but that is concentrated around a few weeks in late July/early August, and increasingly in some places in to early September too.

After I’d settled in to my room, I had a couple of hours on the beach – Last time we were here we got sand blasted because the Summer wind – the Meltemi – was up. Today, there was just a gentle breeze.

I drove in to Chora to get to a supermarket so I could top up my sipplies of bread and cheese so I could make myself some lunch – Even though it is low season parking is still a bit of a struggle in Chora; I had to drive along the front once or twice to find a suitable spot.

Lunch was followed by a short siesta (probably not necessary in May when the Sun isn’t so strong, but I did start early this morning). Then I had a couple more hours at the beach before I returned to my room to get ready to go out.

I drove in to Chora for dinner tonight; most of the nearby places are shut until the holiday season picks up. On the way I had to spend some money on the car – Coming off the ferry this morning I noticed my passenger side dipped headlamp was out. Given that I fitted both headlamps at the same time, it wouldn’t be long before the other one went. It had gone by lunchtime.

Lukily for me I found a mechanic on the way in to Chora this evening who had the right type of bulbs in stock and as it was starting to get dark, light fading fast, he fitted them for me on the spot. He checked my full beam lamps too – but they were working fine. The look of confusion on his face when he went to put the full beam on and activated the windscreen wipers instead was comical!

Clearly he was not used to cars with the steering wheel on the wrong side – we are on an island where the number of foreign cars altogether, let alone British cars, can be counted on one hand. (A big difference to Thassos where Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian, North Macedonian and Turkish cars were fairly common).

I needn’t have worried about driving with no lights on – The local cops were themselves driving with bulbs at both ends of the car not working! But given that I’ve not driven at night in Greece before today, I thought better to be safe than sorry. I drive in the dark fairly frequently in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, but Greece is a different style of driving to Western Europe.

I continued in to Chora for my dinner, and settled for a pizza (not very Greek but it was easy) in one of the tavernas along the front then returned to the apartment for a drink on the balcony before going to bed.

Χώρα Τήνου – Tinos Town

I’m going to try and explore the island more tomorrow, perhaps get to a couple of the places we went to in 2015; I’ll also need to go in to Chora to pick up my tickets for the ferry to Syros.

Καληνύχτα,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 36.9
Accumulative Mileage: 2158.6

Journey Map

500 Miles :: 805 Χιλιόμετρα

Today has been a long day on the road – my car’s GPS records show it was 9hrs 31mins of driving time, plus stops with added 1hr 50min to that. I’ve covered nearly 500 miles in a single day!

I left Potos after breakfast and getting some rolls in the bakery to make my packed lunch with – Then it was straight on to the road to get the ferry back to the mainland.

Today that was easy – No reversing on, No reversing off; Straight on to the ferry when I got to Thassos Town.

An easier ferry to drive on to today!

Today was changeover-day for the British tour operators; the ferry was full of Brits and when I checked the Kavala Airport departures board (see left) I saw there was a flight due to leave for Manchester a little over 2 hours later, so I guess they must have been heading for that.

(Sidenote: A German car on a Düsseldorf number plate drove in to the Airport as I was driving past the turning – I assume it was meeting someone flying in from there).

For me though a day on the road lay ahead – When I got off the ferry at Keramoti an estimated journey time of 7 and a half hours was showing on the sat nav (not counting stops).

An easy enough journey: Take th A2 to Thessaloniki, the A1 (previously known as the Π.Α.Θ.Ε) to Athens, then the A6 (Athens’ version of the M25) until I see a sign for Porto Rafti.

I was surprised at how clear the traffic was – None the whole way, a little bit busy going round Thessaloniki and coming in to Athens, but otherwise the motorway was – if not empty – certainly virtually clear – for most of the journey.

Perhaps the highlight of the journey was when I came out of a service station on to the motorway, and then overtook a police car with its blue lights on – He was only doing about 80km/h in lane 1, in a 120km/h zone.

There was one small problem I had along the way: Zipping a long at 120km/h suddenly I started losing power and the Engine Management Light came on. The car had gone in to its ‘Limp Home’ mode.

I made it off the motorway and found a petrol station where I thought it might be an idea to ask for help (if nothing else to find out where on earth I was if I was going to have to call someone out – I have European wide breakdown cover but saying «I’m on a Greek Motorway somewhere between Thessaloniki and Athens» to Green Flag won’t really help them.

But of course, the minute I took the key out of the ignition it seemed to reset itself…Typical! Without the light on, no mechanic’s diagnostic computer will detect any problems. As a precaution we checked the oil level (all good), plenty of fuel, water, etc. and it drove fine with the light off. So I – cautiously I might add – set off again.

According to my GPS records I believe this small breakdown happened not far from Lamia, still a 3 hour drive from tonight’s destination. In the end I made it to Porto Rafti without any further incidents.

Perhaps some dirt got in to the system – My windscreen was collecting a lot of dirt (seems like quite a few squashed insects too) so it would be possible for some dirt to get in to the engine system; when I stopped for fuel at the services, the forecourt attendants cleaned everyone’s windscreens too. Or perhaps it was a faulty sensor. Whatever it was, it can’t have been too serious for the car to drive as normal as though nothing had happened for the remainder of the journey – but perhaps something to get looked at before too long.

Eventually, after first setting off at 09:45 this morning, I arrived in tonight’s accomodation in Porto Rafti at 20:52. It has been the longest day of driving so far this holiday and I think possible the longest day in the entire 3 weeks.

A good meal and a drink was needed after all that.

Got to be up early tomorrow to get the ferry to Tinos, so I’m off to bed.

Καληνύχτα,

FH

Today’s Mileage: 493.8
Accumulative Mileage: 2121.7

Journey Map

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