Tag Archives: Travel

Lake Kerkini – Birding

This was the first time we have been to the lake in September.  The water levels were lower so it was not possible to access the submerged forest.  Many of the sumer visitors had flown, flamingo were passing through and will in time head further south.  Not sure where they had come from, prossibly the Danube delta.  There were still pelicans.  There were many waders including flocks of avocet.  There were raptors, including marsh harriers, and later in the day from the bike we saw golden eagle, black kite and short toed (snake) eagle, common buzzard and long legged buzzard.

It was an early morning trip on the lake.  The light was fabulous.  We’ve never seen so many flamingo, like a pink line stretching around the lake.  The below are from this current visit.

Lake Kerkini is a very special place.  We are fortunate, it is easy for us to visit. It’s about 12 hours from our place on Lesvos, most of which is ferry time. and about 12 hours by road from Selcuk though that necessitates an overnight stay. So it’s easier from Lesvos, get a morning ferry to Kavala and be there in time for dinner, something we intend to do late spring or early summer next year.  There are plenty of hotels in the area, we have one we use regularly.  The whole area is set up for nature tourism, and it’s not just the lake and water birds, there are bee eaters along the river, rollers nearby and so  much more, and there are good knowledgable guides.

The below are from our photos from previous visits.   Maybe they will inspire others to visit the area, it really is worth it.

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On Coffee and Roads

So we found ourselves in Igoumenitsa in the late morning.  We’d had a morning coffee on the ferry, good it was, though expensive.  But now Greece, coffee is different.  Gone is the delight of Italy where the only choice to be made is whether to add extra hot water to the espresso.  Espresso and a glass of water on the side, or add hot water and call it Americano.  Either way is fine, and as said, even the motorways service areas in Italy provide coffee as good as in a decent restaurant in London.  So back to Greece, we found a place offering breakfast which was ham, cheeses, bread, butter, olives, fruit juice and mixed friuts, and added coffee, here our coffee of choice is Freddo Espresso, essentially espresso over ice.

Suitably fortified and caffeinated it was time to hit the road.  It would be the last day of going fast.  By now it was approaching midday, we expected to be in Kerkini by 5pm or so.  The Egnatia Odos is an impressive piece of engineering, and as motorways go pretty spectacular.  It traverses a few moutain ranges, goes up to ski resort altitude where the air was unsurprisingly a little chilly.  Some of the views were amazing, not as impressive as some views on the old highway, but that road takes many hours longer and we have done it a few times in the past.  Of course there is an even older highway, Via Egnatia, a Roman thing constructed back in the day for much the same purpose.

It got hot as we dropped down onto the Macedonian plain, passing Vergina and the tomb of Philip  (which is amazing), then Pella (less impressive but the name invokes so much history), then around Thessaloniki, before the last leg to Kerkini.

We got there, booked into the hotel, then went out on the bike with our friend Vasilis.  Not far, around the lake, and to take in some views and share a beer.  Lake Kerkini is a magical place.

Then out again for dinner, before an early night to catch up on missed sleep and because we were going out birding on the lake early the next morning.

 

Ancona, onto a ferry, win, lose and tie.

It was meant to be a short ride to Ancona and onto a ferry just after lunch.  We’d booked the ferry the night before, there was a choice of two, one ANEK Superfast and the other Minoan/Grimaldi.  Crossing with Minoan was slightly cheaper and faster, it might have been that the other ferry included a stop at Corfu, but anyway we booked with Minoan.

An hour on and we got a text message saying the ferry was going to be departing two hours later than scheduled.   Not a problem we thought, just a bit more time hanging around in Ancona, and besides there was important things to do like ice cream and enjoying the evening.

So the next morning we set off, delaying leaving the hotel as late as possible and having a leisurely breakfast.  We still got to Ancona with loads of time to spare, checked in, exchanged the voucher for tickets and we were given a slip for a complementary snack and drink.  With so much time to kill Ashley decided it was a good plan to go and find a local supermarket and stock some supplies.  Supplies ended up being a 1.5 litre bottle of verdicchio which cost 4 Euro (and we were to discover was surprisingly good).  This was definately a win.

Eventually we boarded the ferry.  Then a whole load of nothing happened.  The two hour delay became 3 hours, then a bit more, then someone announced the ferry would be leaving in 30 minutes.  All in all getting towards 4 hours, so we were looking at putting in for a refund assuming it would be at least 3 hours late into Igoumenitsa.  As it turned out the ferry made up time, so we were only two hours late into Igoumenitsa which amongst other things meant we were not entitled to a discount.  We will call this a tie.  Not too late and no discount – must not grumble.

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As to the ferry, well it was OK.  The restaurant was expensive, the bar expensive, and we’d declined to take a cabin on the gronds of the crazy expensive.  So after a spectacular sunset we splashed out on dinner, sat in the bar and consumed our verdiccho (most of it) and managed to get a few hours sleep.  We’d booked a reclining seat, but the room with them in was not pleasant, it lacked ventilation and Ashley got yelled at for even daring to take a look in the place.  So, despite paying for the seat we ended up sleeping in the bar, we were not alone in doing this and to be honest it was a more pleasant environment.  So that’s the lose, spending money on a seat we never used.

But anyway, we got to Igoumenitsa at a reasonable time in the morning.  Got off the ferry and went in search of breakfast and more coffee.

Italy – A Land of Pizza, Coffee and Ice Cream

Leaving Vercors the trip became slightly more planned, mostly because we wanted to get the 08:00 ferry from Kavala to Lesvos on 22nd September.  So we had a choice, loiter in the alps or go to Kerkini in Northern Greece.  Kerkini won.  This meant going fast, so down to Grenoble, then up to the Frejus tunnel, down and around Torino and then find somewhere in Northern Italy.

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Motorways in Italy are less sane than those in France, and there was lots of work being carried out on bridges which sort of slowed the traffic a bit, or maybe, or maybe not.  Speed limits seem to be more of an advisory thing.  But there are advantages.  Motorway service station coffee is as good as espresso can get, so way better than what was on offer in the UK or France.  Same with the sandwiches and other things served between slices of bread.  Toasted with raw ham, rocket and parmesan is always an excellent choice.

We ended up in Ovada which was very pleasant, and managed to dodge the thundery showers which started to pop up in the late afternoon.   We had icecream, Hilary had spritz, there was nibbles with the drinks, so much that we ended up sharing a pizza.  Almost needless to say the ice cream was fantastic, as was the pizza.

Next day was more of the same, going fast to Cattolica, near Ancona and the ferry we wanted to catch on the 18th.  Cattolica is a small resort on the Adriatic, way more sane than Rimini.  We had ice cream, we had drinks and nibbles, and pizza again.  For the record (though some may have picked up on this from our facebook) not once in a pizza restaurant did we see pinapple on the menu.

So, Italy, we went fast, we did lots of excellent food and drinks.

Next will be Ancona and the fun and games of the ferry to Igoumenitsa.

Rest Days

We took a break from riding to enjoy some of the finer things France has to offer, so amongst other things mountains, scenery, cheese, wine, company.

Town

We went to an old water powered wood mill and factory.  It had been closed for some time, left how it was when  in operation.  Some of the lathes still worked.  It was a fascinating look back in history.

And a couple more pictures from Vercors.  Such a beautiful part of France.

Next up, onwards to Italy.

Up to Vercors

A second day of heading south took us to Vercors.  French motorways are really easy, they are fast, the traffic is sane so covering distance is no big deal though breaks were taken for coffee, food and rests.  Then it was up from St Marcellin to St Agnan En Vercors.  This is an amazing road.  Vercors is almost impossibly pretty and it was one hell of a way to test out and get used to the new bike on narrow mountain roads.  Great fun.

We stayed with friends, Jeff and Hennie, had a break from riding, more on that later.

Like Birds

Like birds in September we are heading south.  The ride started cool and grey, and as we headed south it got progressively warmer and sunnier.  We got as far as Bar Sur Aube which all said is pretty good going.

As expected the Shuttle was hassle free and relatively expensive but it is so much faster than a ferry,   We met a few others on the road.  A load of guys on scooters heading to an event in ther Ardennes, and some Harley people off to an event in Normandy.

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Motorways in France are easy, and driving switches to the correct side of the road.  It really was odd being in the UK and being on the left – I’m no longer used to it.  Silly things like setting the mirrors before leaving Swindon and then realising I had a wider view of the curb than needed.

I’m not a fan of dayglow yellow.  Strictly speaking they do not need to be worn, they only must be worn by law if we get off the bike on a highway.  Reality is it’s easier to wear them and not worry about an official being officious.

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Tomorrow we head for the hills near Grenoble.