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.

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.

 

And So It Begins

Yesterday we picked up the bike, a blue Triumph Bonneville America. This was in Swindon, at Blade Triumph.  We really must say a special thanks to Steve who was excellent throughout the purchase and made sure everything needed for the trip to Greece was in place.  A +1 to Steve for excellent customer service.  We were given a good send off, some photos were taken, hopefully we will get copy in due course.

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The ride to London was not the greatest.  Come on England, it’s September not November, it was a chilly 15C at best and with fine drizzle.  It was the sort of drizzle that doesn’t make you wet but the continual forced evaporation adds greatly to the chill factor, so by the time we’d got to Dartford we were well chilled and not in the best sense of that word.

The bike handles really well.  It’s noticably lighter than the Softail so does get blown about a bit more.  It’s got quite long wheel base wise but this is fine.  I like the quick release wind shield, it does the job very well.  The ride position is low, I like that a lot.  The floorboards are fine, the controls all good, it feels and rides very good.  So yes, I’m happy.  It looks pretty good as well.

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We’ve been commuting into London by train, dealing with family matters.  Mostly stressful but now it is all done.  Dartford is good because hotels are inexpensive, the commute is easy and for tomorrow, it’s an easy road trip to Folkestone.  Everything else now done, including hi viz vests for France, a bit of retail therapy, and a bottle of very nice looking Bordeaux for when we get to St. Agnan en Vercors which will not be tomorrow. 

So in the morning we’ll grab a hotel breakfast, coffee and something light and then after packing the bike we hit the road.  Going to do the Shuttle because it is fast and convenient, so all going well we should be in Calais by 12.00 or so.  We shall see how far into France we get, south of Troyes is the plan – weather permitting and the weather looks good.

 

Road Trip

For those who may be interested pretty soon we are going to be starting a road trip.  We are going to blog about it most days, along with photographs, so there will be regular updates here and on facebook.

We will be picking up a Triumph Bonneville America in Swindon and riding it to Lesvos.  It’s going by way of London, we have a few things to attend to before hitting the road, but by 14th we should be well on our way.

There is of course a reason for this apart from the fun of it all.  We find ourselves living partly in Greece and partly in Turkey.  In Turkey there is a good public transport system, this is not the case on Lesvos, so it is in Greece that we need a vehicle.  The Harley is Turkish registered, trying to take it permanently to Greece would be a nightmare we do not even want to think about, so in time we’ll part with the Harley, and the UK registered Triumph will become Greek registered.  We intend to complete the registration process before March of next year, after then things might get more complex and we might as well take full advantage of EU membership while we can.

We will worry about the registration process when we get to Lesvos, there will be paperwork and expenses, but it does not look too hard.  Until then we get all the fun of the road and the delights of France and Italy.  More on this as it unfolds.

 

 

Three countries in a week

Greek-visiting-dog

 

We had a busy week after we got home from the Greek trip on which we lost the camera. Hilary had some health check ups at the State Hospital in Kuşadası and we sent off for her residence permit (ours expire in different months due to a complex set of circumstances which involved an official thinking he was doing us a favour rather than making our lives more complicated). Actually getting a residence permit here in Turkey is a great deal easier than it used to be. It can all be done online and through the post and we now both have permits for two years – so no more of that hassle till 2019!

We then headed to London for a flying visit to family. Really only a long weekend but it was good to see them. Home for one day (just enough time to throw the clothes in the washing machine) then we were back to Lesvos. The very nice lady who was selling us the house had arranged to be out for a week so that we could visit the noter together and do all the legal stuff. It all went very smoothly and our estate agent took us all out for a very fine lunch to celebrate.

Next day we got the water and electricity put into our names. Then we moved into the house. The day after that we opened a bank account and got a mobile phone. Though, actually, the bank account was not properly opened as according to Greek law, you have to put 10K euro into an account to fully open it and that could not be arranged until we got back to Turkey.

We spent most of August at home. Both of our residence permits were safely delivered. Ashley updated his Turkish driving licence to the new format (an incredibly easy process). The guy in the Emniyet who told us what we needed to do didn’t know the url for making an appointment and advised us to Goggle for it. We now goggle for everything!  He also gave us a slip of paper which listed all the paperwork we needed.  Two new photos, a medical report from the family doctor, receipts for two payments from a government bank (the two payments totaled around 15 lira which is less than a fiver sterling) and his existing Turkish licence.  We have a new family doctor surgery here in Selçuk so we took the opportunity to visit her.  No one else was there and she and her assistants were very pleasant.  Because Ashley wears glasses, he also had to go to the ophthalmologist in the state hospital here and get a vision report.  We took all those things back to the Emniyet at the appointed time and, four days later, got a text message asking us to go back to the Emniyet and pick up the license.

What with the lost camera etc. this is not really a very photogenic post.  The picture at the top shows the dog who frequently visits us in the Lesbian House!