Tag: Mani peninsula

Reasons I love Stoupa

Mention Stoupa as a travel destination and most people will just look at you blankly. Only once, in the 18 or so years I’ve been raving about it, has anyone known where I was talking about.

In fact, mention mainland Greece to most people and they look slightly confused. “Whereabouts?” they’ll ask. Not many people have particularly good Greek geography, so if it’s not the capital Athens, or perhaps Halkidiki in the North, then most people won’t recognise it. My response of “in the Mani Peninsula, in the base of the Peloponnese mountains” usually elicits a vague acknowledgement and little else. In fact a work colleague told me this year that I’m the only person he knows who’s ever holidayed on the mainland.

I feel for Stoupa right now

It’s heavily serviced by Thomas Cook flights from the UK, and many of the accommodations have an affiliation to TC too. Because the accommodation owners get paid at the end of the season, there’ll be many who will have worked the summer season for nothing; at least until the financial mess can be sorted and creditors paid.. For a small village which needs to make the majority of its money in the summer in order to survive the quieter winter, that’s a heavy blow.

Some of the reasons I love Stoupa are reasons that others would find to dislike it. It isn’t fancy. There are no luxury hotels. Nothing is higher than two storeys. Apartment decor tends to be rustic, mismatched and basic. Bathrooms rarely have baths. Shower cubicles may not have a curtain, or a hook for the shower attachment. If it’s true that you go on holiday to experience something different then, for us, Stoupa is it.

Sunbleached cars and battered mopeds are the only (occasional) traffic that you see. Taxis are as rare as hens teeth. Electricity cables drape precariously from telegraph poles to houses. There are only a handful of shops. on the one main street. It takes no more than 10 minutes to walk from one end of the village to the other.

Cats wander freely amongst handpainted restaurant tables and wooden chairs. Wine is ordered by colour and quantity, not by grape or the bottle (it’s approximately 6 euros for a litre of very drinkable local wine – what’s not to like?!) Food is traditional and home cooked – no haute cuisine here. The most tender meat, the reddest tomatoes. tear and share bread with olive oil, seafood, tasty potatoes . Oven baked, freshly grown and always delicious.

There is no “picture perfect” backdrop of white sands and palm trees

The mountains are rugged and imposing; often clouding over with ominous blackness that rarely reaches the Stoupa coastline but provides a dramatic vista as you swim in the cool blue sea. The coast line is craggy in places. There are no water sports, just a few small boats and pedalos to hire. The stone buildings don’t have the curb appeal of Santorini’s white architecture, for example; so often portrayed in articles about visiting Greece. The silvery grey leaves of the olive trees look arid rather than lush. It’s beautiful, but not an Instgram dream, and it’s all the better for it (I didn’t see one selfie stick in the whole time we were there).

I love Stoupa not in spite of all these things, but because of them

These are the things that make it so inimitable to me. It feels real and authentic. It’s not showy or trying to be something it isn’t. It’s solid, dependable and welcoming. It isn’t exciting, yet I get so excited at the thought of going, precisely because I know what to expect. This goes against the grain for me when it comes to travel, because I love the thought of exploring new places and seeing more of the world, but there’s something about this little village that just has my heart.

Oh, and did I mention the sunsets?

I think that the Thomas Cook situation has opened a lot of regular visitors’ eyes about how precarious the livelihood of some of the accommodation owners is, and I think it will change how people book in the future. We booked directly with the apartment this year and will do so again in the future. I only hope that another airline picks up the Thomas Cook routes so that Brits are still able to visit and holiday amongst the Greeks, Germans, Dutch and other nationalities who love it as much as we do. While both BA and Easyjet currently operate flights from the UK, Thomas Cook was by far the biggest operator; flying probably a thousand people each week to Kalamata airport.

Have you got a favourite holiday destination that you love to go back to? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A day out in the Mani Peninsula, Greece – part 2

After spending the morning visiting the Diros Caves and Gythio, we started heading back towards Stoupa, planning to stop at Areopoli on the way. Areopoli is a small mountain village with typical stone houses, small winding streets and small nooks and crannies. There’s very little to do there, and wandering round doesn’t take more than about 20 minutes (even with photos) but it’s a super quaint and picturesque place that we were very happy we visited.

Take a look for yourself!

Isn’t bougainvillea just the prettiest flower? I wish it would grow in the UK, I’d cover my house in it!

Imagine having this little nook to swing in?

Areopoli archway swing

 

I loved the umbrella avenue. These had actual lightbulbs in, I bet they look so pretty at night.

With the afternoon heading towards evening, we started the long winding mountain drive back to Stoupa, having had a fabulous day, but somewhat relieved that the mountain driving on the opposite side of the road was over!

Read part 1 of our day out in the Mani here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A day out in the Greek Mani Peninsula – part 1

Despite having been to Stoupa 4 times previously, I’ve never really explored any of the surrounding area (unless you count the 2km coastal path walk to the neighbouring village of Aghios Nikolaos). I’ve read many times that that the scenery is incredible, but I choose not to drive when I’m overseas (never done it) and the public transport is nigh on non existent (there are 4 buses a day which run on GMT – Greek Maybe Time, I kid you not!)

On this year’s trip, however, I decided to bite the bullet, hire a car, and get out and about.

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. Not quite as nervous as the husband (who, until a few days before, had said he wouldn’t come in a car with me driving “on the wrong side of the road”). He’s not a great passenger in the UK, so on unfamiliar winding mountain roads (and I mean winding), with sheer cliff drops and crazy Greek drivers overtaking on bends, he was something of a nervous wreck!

First stop, about an hour’s drive from Stoupa, was the Caves of Diros.

I first went to the Caves of Diros with my Dad on my first visit to Stoupa many years ago. We went on an organised coach trip, which I always find quite restrictive because you have to stick to a set timetable, and there’s lots of people on the coach, and the bendy roads can feel quite sickly in a big vehicle. This time we went at our own speed, stopping on the way to take come photographs from the top of the mountain. The colour of the sea in this part of Greece is just incredible, it looks photoshopped, even to the naked eye.

After a winding descent we followed the signs to the caves, spotting some beautiful ceramic shops along the side of the road.

The journey through the caves is done on a small rowing boat carrying up to 7 people and the man in charge. It takes about half an hour and covers 2.5km. At times you really have to duck down so as not to hit your head on the rock formations above, and the boat can be a little wobbly in the water, which is crystal clear below. It’s hard to comprehend that you’re looking at millions of years of stalagmite and stalactite formations.

I tried to get some pics, which was difficult because of the lighting and the momentum of the boat, but you can get an idea of how impressive they are from the handful that turned out ok!

When you leave the boat you walk through another lengthy stretch of caves, before coming out into the bright sunshine and the aqua sea and bobbing boats of Diros Bay.

On leaving Diros, we headed from one side of the peninsula to the other to the seaside town of Gythio, which had been recommended to me as a pretty place to visit. Gythio is a harbour town with some cosmopolitan seaside restaurants and bars, and pretty coloured buildings. It was fairly quiet when we were there, during the heat of the day, but we had a little wander and some lunch. For me it had more of an Italianate feel than Greek, with the pastel buildings and the intricate balconies, but it was nice to sit right on the seafront and have some food and a refreshing drink.

By now it was early afternoon and time to start heading back towards Stoupa, with a stop at Areopoli planned on the way. More on that next time!

Have you been to mainland Greece? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A week in Greece

Last week I flew to my happy place in Greece, a small village called Stoupa; nestled in the base of the mountains on the Mani Peninsula. I first blogged about Stoupa here. Whilst I’m not usually a fan of going back to the same place multiple times (it’s a big wide world out there, after all) there’s something to be said for finding a place in which you’re completely at ease, completely relaxed in an instant, with incredible food, scenery and people.

That place, for me, is Stoupa. Which is why I’ve been there 5 times.

It’s testament to the village that it’s hardly changed at all since I first went there around 16 years ago! And that’s the appeal of the place. Whereas holidays, for me, are often about exploring and finding where everything is, the beauty of Stoupa is that you already know everything there is to know. It’s like putting on a comfy jumper and cosy slippers.

I first went with my Dad, then my Dad and his wife went, then my husband and I went and so, after my Dad died last year, it seemed fitting that his wife, me and the husband would all go together, as we all love it so much.

With no further ado, here are my pics!

Do you have a favourite place in the world where you feel instantly relaxed and at home?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My first…part 5

It’s the first of the month again! Aren’t these long hot summer days amazing? (huge amounts of sarcasm). Grrrr….

Anyway, as I’m off to Greece in just 10 days time (woo and hoo!) I thought I’d talk about my first ever time on the Greek Mainland, in my early 20s.

I love Greece. Adore the place. The people, the climate, the food, some more of the food. Mmm…food. Greek cuisine is right up there with the best in the world, for me.

Greece is my first choice of holiday destination if I’m looking for a chilled, relaxed break with guaranteed enjoyment.

The first time I ever visited the mainland was with my Dad. After my parents separated things became fraught between me and my Dad for a while. I hadn’t taken sides in the split but I was living with my Mom, and she had a new partner which my Dad found difficult to deal with, especially my acceptance of it. In an attempt to build bridges I suggested that the two of us go on holiday.

Both having a love of Greece from previous visits to the islands, Dad suggested calling the travel agent (as you did in those days, before cheap airlines and hotel comparison websites, god I’m so old!) and finding out what was available within a few days; somewhere “typically Greek”. The travel agent suggested a place called Stoupa, which neither of were familiar with. It was described to us as being a small village on the Mani peninsula, with a mountainous backdrop, a handful of tavernas and bars and a very relaxed atmosphere. It sounded perfect.

And perfect it was. We arrived at Kalamata airport at around midday on a hot Sunday afternoon, after a 3am start from home. I hadn’t been to bed the night before as I was still packing so I slept all the way to the resort. On arrival we were shown to our apartment, which was a 2 story house, split into 3 apartments. We had loads of space, two balconies, 2 bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. It was very much a home from home.

After changing into shorts we wandered down towards the direction of the sea, passing small tavernas and shops. As we reached the end of the narrow street the whole of Stoupa opened up in front of us. A horseshoe shaped bay with a sandy beach and sparkling blue sea. Stepping out and looking backwards we saw the mountain backdrop promised by the travel agent. We fell in love with the place immediately.

It was a week of lounging in the sun, reading books, sleeping and eating amazing food. We took an organised trip to the Diros Caves. We walked to Agios Nikolaos. And we overcame our difficulties and had a lovely Dad and daughter time.

Years later my Dad took his now wife, and she also fell in love with the place in the same way that we had years previously.

I never once suggested it to the husband, as he tends to get bored easily on holiday and I thought Stoupa would be way too quiet for him. I think he felt left out, because my Dad and his wife and I used to talk so fondly of our times there, and the husband had never been. So, eventually, and under some duress, I agreed that we would go. I warned him before we went that if he hated it he wasn’t to tell me, because he would spoil it for me!

But guess what? He loved it too! Absolutely adored the place, immediately. Such is it’s magic! And what did we do? Exactly the same as my Dad and I had done over a decade previously – eat, drink, sleep and read. We didn’t even leave the village because we were so content. Not only that, he was so taken with it that we went back 6 weeks later for our 5th wedding anniversary.

Here are some pictures of the bay.

And the mountains. Can you see the tiny villages? At night they look like little patches of sparkles in a sea of blackness because they’re so remote.

Stoupa mountain villages

And there are the most fabulous sunsets. Every. Single. Night.

Stoupa sunset

I very much want to see more of the world – all of the world – but I think I will always return to Stoupa. It holds such happy memories and is everything I could ever want in a relaxing holiday.

We talked about going back again this year, but I vetoed it because my Dad is ill. He was supposed to go last year and had to cancel because of his cancer treatment, and I don’t feel right going when he can’t.

So, this year, the husband and I are off to the other side of the peninsula – a place called Finikounda. I’ve read reports from some people that say it makes Stoupa look overly touristy, so I’m intrigued to see just how quiet it is! And of course I’ll be blogging all about it when I get home.

10 days to go!

Do you have any summer holidays planned? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Nature photo challenge – day 7

I’m going to cheat a little bit here, with two photographs. Ok, technically three. They are from the same destination though, and I really couldn’t choose between them as they all give me all the feels, so ner.

Both of them were taken at my favourite holiday destination on Mainland Greece. Stoupa is a small coastal resort at the base of the Tygetos mountains on the Mani peninsula and is quite possibly my favourite place on earth. I first went there about 15 years ago with my Dad, and returned many years later with my husband. I didn’t expect him to like it as it’s so quiet, but he was immediately besotted with it’s quaint charm, slow pace of life and amazing food. So much so that we went twice within 6 weeks!

The sunsets there are stunning. The contrast of the sky against the dark coastal rocks is just gorgeous.

There’s no better way to start an evening in Stoupa than sitting in a bar with a cocktail and watching the sun descend; turning the sky amazing shades of yellow, orange, red, indigo, violet and inky blue, before ending in the blackest of blacks due to lack of light pollution. During one trip the moon which followed was blood red for the whole week, which was eerie and fascinating and exciting, all at the same time.

This second picture was taken on the coastal path as we walked from Stoupa to neighbouring village Aghios Nikolaos.

Stoupa to Aghios Nikolaos

The blue of the sky, the darker sea glistening under the sun and crashing in white foamy peaks against the rocks and the cool sea breeze is the epitome of being alive. It’s like an instagram filter has been placed over your eyes and brought everything into super HD quality; the blues, the greens, the sandy path, the dusty pebbles, the black rocks, the pale mountain peaks. Along the path is the occasional house with white washed walls and tumbling pink bougainvillea. It makes me feel so relaxed yet so alert, all at once. Magical.

And that’s it! The end of the 7 day photo challenge. Thank you so much to Terri-Louise at TouLou89 for nominating me, I’ve really enjoyed it. So many memories, happy thoughts and things I’d forgotten.

For my final nomination, I invite anyone who’s reading and would like to get involved. Do let me know in the comments if you take part so I can check out your posts!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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