With warm weather finally returning, we decided to spend a weekend at the seaside Peloponnese town of Nafplio. It’s about a two hour drive southwest of Athens, and we couldn’t have picked a lovelier weekend in February to make the journey. Sunny and 63 degrees (or, rather, 17 degrees…still getting used to Celsius). I booked us a family studio apartment at the Bonne Nuit Pension, a decent little place in an excellent location, right in the old town.
We started the day at Palamidi Castle, an 18-century Venetian fortress set up on the highest point in Nafplio. I was told there were two ways to get to the castle. You can either kill yourself climbing 999 stairs…
Or drive your lazy ass to the top. Let’s see…carrying a 20-pound toddler on my back while listening to an 8-year-old’s constant whining all the way to the top, or parking 30 feet from the entrance. Honestly, which would you choose?
Once inside, we traipsed all over the various bastions. The views of the city and the bay were amazing. In this photo, you can see the ridge above the old town, and the small island in the bay is the Bourtzi, a water castle used as a fortification in the 1400s.
The kids absolutely loved climbing around, playing peek-a-boo through some of the architectural elements…
…and carefully looking down at the sea.
Some openings had safety bars and some didn’t. Thankfully my boy is very cautious, and my girl can’t climb all that fast. Yet. For the most part the paths were clearly marked, though at one point we walked ourselves along a narrow path right to a staircase leading nowhere, and we had to turn back. After walking every inch of the castle (at one little 8-year-old’s insistence), we had a little picnic lunch in the courtyard near the entrance.
Then it was naptime. For the grown-ups, not the kids, as it turned out. They jumped on one bed while the tired adults slept in the other. Actually, James did all the sleeping. I’m a mother. A nap in the middle of the day…as if! Feeling relatively well-rested, we hiked down to Arvanitia Beach along a gorgeous path right along the sea. It wasn’t quite sunset, but the views were still spectacular.
Not a railing in sight, which made for good photos, but I was scared to death my baby girl was going to try and walk right off the edge and plummet into the sea. Thankfully the trail meandered back away from the water so she could walk on her own. The beach itself wasn’t much to look at, but we did get to see the back entrance to the castle with all of those stairs we decided not to take.
Instead, we climbed a nearly equivalent amount of stairs as we wandered around the old town back to our hotel. Well, maybe not 999…but our feet were aching all the same. Thankfully, one of the restaurants a friend had recommended was a short distance from our hotel, so we had ourselves an early dinner (6:30, so early by Greek standards) at Alaloum. I finally got some of this Greek lamb everyone keeps telling me about. More skin, fat and bone than I typically enjoy, but the meaty parts were excellent. The restaurant was small, but not too crowded or smoky, and we were treated to some complimentary gelato for dessert.
As we walked home, we came across a festival in the main town square. The Greeks celebrate Carnival all month long, and with Clean Monday just a week away, the festivities were really ramping up. Kids in costumes and their parents danced in a circle as musicians played traditional Greek music. Weary from our day of driving and climbing, we made our way back to our hotel and all of us conked out before 9:30.
The next day we drove about an hour East to the theater and archeological site of Epidaurus…or maybe Epidavros…it’s spelled both ways, but the Greeks seem to prefer the latter pronunciation and spelling. They play it fast and loose with their U’s and V’s.
The theater is the best preserved from this era, the 4th century BC, and it is renowned for its excellent acoustics. You could stand in the center of a little circle on the stage and hear your own voice bounce back to you like you were talking through a microphone. Clapping also sounded wicked cool. You can see the kids really enjoyed that.
The theater was remarkably well-preserved, but the rest of the site was not. No bother, though, because the kids just wanted to climb on everything.
Monkey see, monkey do!
On our way back home we made a brief stop at the Corinth Canal, built in 1893.
Apparently it doesn’t serve much of a purpose anymore, but it sure looks cool! We stopped for lunch at the Goodies right next to the canal, and inside hung several photos showing how it was built. Liam got a real kick out of that. And Violet was happy to have her “fry fries!”
Now that James’ refugee travel has been put on hold, we’re planning more of these little weekend getaways for the spring and early summer. Next stop in March, Monemvasia!