It leaves you speechless.
|Papadiaika: our secret beach where the dogs can run wild|
Whatever I expected out of Greece, it wasn't this.
I've been lead to believe that it was only in Tuscany or Provence that you could be so fully surrounded by ancient and gnarled olive groves...or that it would have to be somewhere like Granada that I could sit by the sunny sea while resisting the call to don my skis from distant snow-capped mountains...and I assumed that it would have to be Southern California where I could see the ocean lap upon long sandy beaches and then collide with abrupt cliffs a mere mile down the shore.
|A view of the orange and olive groves stretching out to the sea on a walk in the backyard|
And yet, here it all is. Here, in a single, breathtaking locale. Here, standing quietly by as people rave about Italy or France or whatever hot destination is in this month's Condé Nast Traveler.
How could I have known that all of those breathtaking vistas had rolled up into one tidy yet wild bundle and waited to present themselves to me right here in Greece?
Calling myself lucky would be an understatement.
|Our honorary pets, Foxy and Ellie||
|John and Ellie on what we call the "private" beach|
That we were chosen out of several other applicants to house and pet sit in this Heaven on Earth, I'll be forever grateful and mildly bewildered. I must say that when we set out to travel
the world on a budget, I didn't know it would end up being this leisurely.
We're currently situated in Elea, a tiny town within the region of Lakonia that falls on Greece's Southern Peloponnese Peninsula. Reaching it takes a good four-hour drive south from Athens that passes through Sparta and just misses Kalamata. It's not too difficult along the way to imagine yourself riding with Zeus in his chariot, rolling through an ancient land of staggering mountain ranges and seemingly-untouched landscapes.
|An old rampart that overlooks the town and the sea||
|The steep cliff that the rampart stands on|
And all the better that the drive is long, it's probably what discourages many people from visiting. Fewer people means more untouched beauty all to myself.
|Our abandoned beach and the distant Taygetos Mountains||
|Running straight into hypothermia|
We've spent our days walking through the olive and orange orchards, hunting for wild asparagus (more on that later), cooking, playing boardgames, and simply basking in this beauty-soaked lifestyle.
|The town of Elea: where olives and oranges unite|
Perhaps it's not for everyone--no large supermarkets, no nightlife, no theaters. Hardly any English speakers and....wait for it...no TV (at least where we're staying).
But if you enjoy the idea of stumbling upon ancient ruins during your daily strolls, if you like to play backgammon while the sun sets over the olive groves, or maybe if picnics on abandoned beaches is more your style...skip the islands and consider a visit to Southern Peloponnese.
|An old blue-roofed daredevil of a church||
|The olive trees through a nearby ruin|
There's just one thing: if you do decide to come, please, just keep it a secret.
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, and stay tuned for our visit to the ancient city of Monemvasia...
If you're interested in opportunities to house/pet sit abroad, check out TrustedHouseSitters.com or MindMyHouse.com.
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