Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Clare's stay in Greece 2016- Part 1

 So I knew when I was in Greece last year that I was going to come back again this year.  Six weeks had flown past so fast I decided to come for 8 weeks this time around (with the knowledge that if 8 weeks went too fast there was always an option for ten weeks in 2017!).

I had managed to find a house to rent, this time through an British travel company.  I made the booking soon after getting home last year, to make sure I was able to secure the time period I wanted.  The owner was happy for the dogs to stay in the house with me as long as they didn’t go in the pool (no concerns there as both Poppy and Dexter need an extraordinary amount of encouragement to go anywhere near water).

The last few weeks before leaving home were similarly crazy, finishing the work that needed to be achieved in the UK before leaving and preparing everything for the trip.  But, finally the day dawned and I left home, again with the car loaded up like a packhorse and set off.  My journey was meticulously planned, again through the tunnel, France, Switzerland and then Italy, this time sailing from the port of Bari in southern Italy and then a short overnight crossing to Igoumenitsa in Greece.  From there a short two-hour drive (empty roads, quiet, beautiful scenery) down to the island of Lefkada, via a causeway, and then the shorter ferry crossing from there to Kefalonia.  I needed to drive an average of 450 miles a day to arrive on Kefalonia on Day Four.  A long drive but achievable over a day with just a few short stops for comfort.

I felt fairly confident that I wouldn’t encounter anything as upsetting as arriving in the port of Astakos on the Greek mainland last year and being told by a distraught German resident that around 20 dogs had been poisoned in the town just three days ago (readers who read last year’s blog may remember this part of my story).  I had been terrified that Poppy may have sniffed any left-over powder that apparently had been used to poison the poor animals, and sat on the ferry terrified that she may become ill with almost certainly no help to hand. 

However, my journey didn't start too well with a 3.5 hour delay at the Eurotunnel due to a broken down train in the tunnel!  Still, it was a beautiful day and we patiently sat on the grass and strolled around waiting to be called.  It meant arriving at the hotel in Nancy, France at 8 o’clock in the evening (not ideal) but we were there.  One day down – three to go!

On Day Three I drove 475 miles from Parma to the old port city of Bari, in the 'heel' of the boot of Italy, for my onward ferry journey to Greece.   However, this is the point where my journey took a turn for the worse.  I arrived at the ferry ticket office, parked outside and went in to pick up my tickets.  I came out and got back in the car to drive down the road to the port for the ferry and before the car's auto locking had kicked in, my passenger door was opened and a youth on a bike leant in and took my handbag from the passenger seat.  It happened so fast. I realised with horror in a matter of seconds that I had everything in there that I needed to get to Greece.... my passport, the dogs’ passports, my driving licence, credit cards, mobile phone, everything.  I knew my trip was over but also in that nano-second wondered how I would even get back to the UK.  The people in the ticket office tried to calm me down, but unbeknown to me one of the people who worked there had disappeared to the back streets to see if he could recover any of my belongings. 15 minutes after I'd been robbed, this wonderful man walked in cradling my belongings in his arms. The thief had dumped everything he didn't want or need.... the only things I didn't get back were my actual handbag and purse and the 30 euros in the purse.  EVERYTHING else was recovered... I am eternally grateful to this kind man who went looking for my belongings as I wouldn't have had the courage to go looking myself particularly with two dogs to take care of too. Despite getting everything back I needed to continue my trip I couldn't stop crying for hours for thinking of the violation itself and also for what could have happened but didn't. I knew I was very lucky. But it has taught me a lesson and I have pleaded with everyone I've spoken to since, to always manually lock their car doors as soon as they get in.... don't wait for the auto locking to engage.

Another bit of luck - he didn't want my Inspector Maigret novel either as that came back too, sodden from the rain. It's drying out in the sun now so will be able to read that too. So lucky.

My house here is beautiful, in a glorious setting, the island peaceful and crime-free.  I know this has helped to fade the memory of what happened and the vision of the arm reaching into my car to take my bag.

After about a week of being here, my friend Hayley arrived from England for the summer, accompanied by her good friend Christian who helped her on the journey from the UK with her three energetic dogs following recent surgery on her spine.

Her first challenge was to find a new home since her landlord of several years announced ‘no dogs allowed’ despite her previously having dogs there for the last few years.  At this late stage it was no mean feat to find somewhere for the whole summer especially with the Greek resistance to dogs living inside.  Hayley’s three dogs are all roadside rescues from Kefalonia but are now used to living in the lap of luxury, so leaving them outside was not an option!!  Luckily, through a friend of hers she managed to find a lovely little house nearby with an enclosed garden, complete with orange, apple, lemon, apricot, peach and fig trees. 

I was thrilled for her, and without further ado, we packed up her worldly belongings into our two cars and trundled off up the road to the new abode!

Aside from this, we've been settling in nicely. The days seems to follow a pattern of a leisurely start, walking the dogs, a few hours of my work on my laptop and then another walk late in the afternoon.  The dogs appear happy and have a large enclosed garden to mooch around in and temperatures are very comfortable at the moment (warm but not hot).  Dexter seems to like lying on a patch on warm earth, and always has done.  Perhaps it goes back to his days in the foster home in Aegina where he spent all day outside in the huge garden there.  Although it’s sometimes hard to spot him (see picture below!)  I had to really search for him on this particular day!
Dexter : ) 

I’ve also found a new walk which is absolutely beautiful.  It takes you from a small hamlet nearby, winding through a forest of oak, cypress and arbutus via a dry-stone walled path, to where the Germans built their battery in the 2nd World War and a huge vista of the open sea.  I felt like I was in an enchanted forest walking along the sun-dappled path.  Pure heaven.

I'm already dreading the day I have to leave this little bit of paradise.

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