Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Driving to Costa Navarino

After our visit to the Parthenon atop the Acropolis, we returned to Syntagma Square and the Hotel Grand Bretagne to collect our things and make our way to Costa Navarino.

Where is Costa Navarino you ask? Well much like our trip last year to Berchtesgaden, Germany, we like to frequent places that aren't too popular with Americans, but are established enough to have an amazing resort that we can stay for free using hotel points.

But given that Costa Navarino is a 270 km (168 miles) drive from Athens, we decided on renting a car instead of flying to Kalamata Airport. Now, by my math, it should have been a 2.5 hour drive, but the last 60 miles is actually on a winding country roads instead of highways, so it was closer to 4 hours.

The good news, we left Athens around 1PM in the afternoon, we had an iPad loaded with the route on the Maps app, my father's cell phone was activated with international data roaming, and we did manage to get out of the crowded city of Athens after a few wrong turns.

The directions from the Westin Costa Navarino seemed straightforward enough, even though the Greek highway signs were a bit odd at times with the crossing out of certain cities.

From Athens International Airport
1. Head to Lamia on the highway, choose the exit toward Korinthos E94. 
2. Continue on 8A/E94 (signs for Patra/Tripoli/Korinthos) and then E65. 
3. Follow the signs for E62/E952/Kalamatas/Tripoleos and proceed approximately 4 kilometers. 
4. Before Kalamata turn right towards Kalamata Airport. 
5. Drive approximately 45 kilometers towards Pylos. 
6. Follow the directions to Gargalianon/Gialova. 
7. Proceed through Gialova and then follow signs to "Romanos." 
8. Follow the signs to Navarino Dunes.

The bad news, the iPad and my father's cell phone started to lose power right around Step #5 (when the route went from major highway to windy country/mountain/town roads).

We followed the directions as best we could, but it was extremely hard to know if we were on the right roads given these small country roads don't have frequent signs confirming your direction/destination. Plus, the final few steps in the driving directions really did oversimplify the route. In fact, between Steps 5 and 6, it took about an hour with multiple places where you could have gone the wrong way (and we did once or twice).

At one point, the signs lost their English translation, so we were left to guess the Greek words based on my father's high school physics/math knowledge of Greek letters. Additionally, the way the roads curved, it seemed like we were often going in the complete wrong direction only to curve back towards the ocean. But as the GPS on my father's phone finally died, we managed to find a big sign for Navarino Dunes.

From that first sign, it was another 15 minutes of driving down small roads between rows and rows of Greek olive trees.

Confident that we were finally heading in the right direction, we continued down the single road and finally saw the sign for Tragana. Now if we actually reached the village of Tragana, we went too far, but this sign was something people recommended we look for to know we're going the right way.

And finally, we saw the gated security at the entrance of the Romanos/Westin resort complex. This resort is definitely out of the way (though clearly not off the beaten path given the highway and paved roads), but we were excited to be somewhere remote that wouldn't have tons of American tourists the way Rome was completely saturated with them. Russians on the other hand...

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