Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Greece and the Netherlands

I've spent most of April and early May traveling, personally, not with a small group, in the Netherlands and in Greece.  In the Netherlands I reacquainted myself with Amsterdam and its world-class museums.  I loved the multi-cultural Albert Cuypmarkt market area and its affordable restaurants, including Albina, a Surinamese find.  I agree that the best Appeltarte is served a the convivial Cafe Winkel just off the Nordmarkt square.  We were able to get tickets for the landmark Hieronymous Bosch exhibition in Den Bosch and it was stunning.  Loved Haarlem and the zillions of tulips at the Keukenhof gardens. 

The main purpose of our trip was to explore the Peloponnese penninsula in Greece for 12 days.  This is an area of Greece that seems to be mostly visited by Greeks, other than the occasional tours coming to see Epidaurous or Mycenae, two outstanding ancient sites.  We loved those but also loved ancient Corinth, the 'Cyclopean' walls of Tiryns and various other smaller ancient sites we discovered along the way.  Hill top Mystras is a wonderland of Byzantine Churches (near Sparta) and as you work down to the isolated, rocky Mani penninsula at the very bottom of the Peloponnese the scenery is rugged, wild and absolutely beautiful.  Napflio is a lovely small Renaissance era city with a big harbor and nice nearby beaches. 

Very convivial, pretty town to spend a few days in.  Gytheio, further down the penninsula is a cute small town on the water with multi-coloured buildings and some nice small hotels and good fish restaurants.  Unpretentious and welcoming.  One of the finds of the trip was the Eumelia Farm and Agriturismo where the young owners are endeavoring to build a completely environmentally sustainable farm and also a locavore network of high quality artisanal food producers.  They have olive and fruit trees at Eumelia and the setting, in a plateau of ancient olive trees ringed by mountains, is simply glorious.  Eumelia also hosts yoga retreats and can host small groups so if you want a tranquil get away with superb local uber-fresh food check this place out.

Medieval Monemvasia on the eastern coast of the Peloponnese is a magical walled town set on a huge rock... the Gibraltar of Greece.  Good wineries nearby too.

Then, four days in Athens and four days on lovely, unspoiled Milos in the Cyclades chain of islands. Lots of sun, too much good food and wine.  And many good conversations about Greece's political issues and the European Union.  A great trip all in all.

Coffee and perfect 'Chou' on the Ile St. Louis

La Maison du Chou, a gem of a specialist bakery on the Place du Furstemburg in the 6th has opened a second branch on the Ile de la Cité.  Specializing in chou, or puff pastry 'cream puffs' this beautiful little shop is well worth a stop.  They fill the cream puffs when ordered to assure maximum freshness. The cream is made with fromage blanc, vanilla and other goodies keeping sugar to a minimum and flavor to a maximum.  The shop offers a full range of quality coffees to accompany that delicious pastry.

Perfect for a spring stroll!

La Maison du Chou – Saint Louis
5 Rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris
Metro Pont Marie (line 7) or Cité (line 4)