Two Beaches and a Bang

8- 16 June 2019

We last visited Stoupa 10 years ago in September 2009 with Mum. Not much has changed apart from a few more sunbeds on the beaches. Full of memories we rediscovered old haunts – the cake shop hidden down a little alley where we indulged in Baclava and Kataifi;  the 5 Brothers Taverna which was a favourite, the Maini Apartments where we stayed; and the bars we preferred for our card games of “May I”after dinner . 

There are 2 beaches – Stoupa beach itself, a narrow strip backed by the bars and tavernas of the village, and over a small headland Kalogria beach, opposite the campsite, which is preferred by the Greeks despite the cold springs in the bay that turn the water icy. We made use of both, and found we have been spoilt by the almost deserted beaches we have used up to now – we found the sheer number of people unsettling. Stoupa is a favourite with Brits for holidays and holiday homes, and being small (about 500yds long) is generally fully booked from June onwards. It was strange to hear English spoken, German and Greek having dominated our travels to date. 

We found our Geordie neighbours from Gythio sitting in the shade with their elderly boxer (dog, obviously). They had tried to wild-camp for the first time and been moved on by the tourist police. Parked with a group of other motorhomers on a beach who had tables and chairs out (illegal) they had been thoroughly checked over and moved off, ending up on our campsite in Stoupa. We really felt for them as we think it has put them off trying it again.

Our second and final night we had dinner at a little restaurant tucked down a narrow alley in a quiet area away from the main action. Tis Marias o Kefenes (Maria’s Cafe) had been recommended for it’s meze so we were happy to follow the owner’s recommendations. We watched the sun go down whilst tucking into a chilli-spiced yoghurt and home-baked bread followed by a delicious “surprise” salad involving warm lentils & potatoes mixed with tomatoes, cucumber, onion and dill with a delicate vinaigrette. A revelation. Then just as we were starting to feel full, we were presented with a platter of mezze – lamb cooked in red wine, cinnamon and cloves; chicken in yoghurt, beer and oregano; and the tenderest chunks of veal in a wine and tomato sauce. To go with the meat there was okra; artichokes and potatoes, and rice cooked with red wine.

The meats were beautifully tender and we did our best to do justice to it all but when we had stuffed every last corner we still had to face the owner’s disapproval over our inability to finish it all. We really enjoyed the stroll back in the sultry night air because it  gave our tummies the chance to settle – over our waistbands!

We were very relaxed as we headed out of the campsite in the morning. A large bin-lorry was parked across the entrance but Danny was now an expert at tight spots. The gap was enough. We edged forward, then heard the scream of metal on metal and within 30 seconds we had acquired a huge 5m scrape down the side of the van. The offending stop sign and tree at the entrance had combined with a dip and tilt in the road and a blind spot to blind-side the driver. No noticeable damage to the sign of course.

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The bin-lorry man made a gesture that showed he thought we were idiots, and the campsite owner came out to commiserate. Oh dear, oh dear. Not so relaxed now, not a good start to the day. Time to talk to insurers.

Re-focusing on the important stuff we drove north to Kalamata, the second largest city in the Peleponnese, and visited it’s Lidl. We stocked up, along with various Italians, Eastern Europeans and other Brits, then headed on through the heat of the day down the left finger of the Peloponnese and across to its western coast at Finikounda. We got onto a tree-shaded pitch and tried to relax on the hottest day so far (36C) and the temperature inside the van stayed stubbornly 2C above. Okay, we came for the heat but 36C in June is taking it to extremes for us cold blooded Notherners!

Camping Anemomilos is a lovely relaxed site metres from a coarse sandy beach and within 10 minutes walk of Finikounda via the “narrow road” route on the hand-painted sign. This take you over the headland and down a pedestrian walkway that winds steeply down between the small, higgledy-piggledy fishing cottages of the old village.  A small place now a low-key focus for holiday homes it has some nice tavernas and small gift/beach shops plus a couple of small supermarkets. Quiet now, it looks like it can get busy in July/August.

We visited one taverna in the middle of the stretch along the beach and heard the slightly eccentric owner telling other guests that 10 years ago his place was at the end of the village. But it fet to us that the development was sympathetic. It was there we had our first  Pastitsio, a bit like lasagne made with macaroni.

We also visited the small taverna across from the campsite where instead of a menu, they take you to the kitchen so you can choose your meal from the already-cooked-in-the-oven stuff or the fresh meat & fish for the grill. That and the free ice-making machine (a technological marvel we had not met before) were highlights of the campsite.

We did have a bit of a frustrating time with the Wi-fi which appears to be the norm for Greek campsites – the iPhones cope okay and the iPad is hit and miss, but the Macbook just ceases to function at times. A one hour conversation with Apple just confirmed the problem – bad internet. To be honest, the only thing it is a problem for is the blog. We have our Kindles for company and are making good progress though a wide range of books – including revisiting childhood favourite Treasure Island – yo ho ho !

The campsite also had it’s fair share of surprises. Apart from doves doing their “business” on our permanently open windows, there was a hoopoe that regularly pecked around our van for insects, a Scops owl booping away in the dark (thanks for the ID Eddie), and a pine marten that would scamper around at night looking for scraps.

But we were mostly engaged with flitting between the wonderfully quiet beach and the shade of our awning – sunbathing when it wasn’t overbearingly hot, swimming in the sea to cool down, and relaxing in the shade. Retirement is a real challenge!!!