Category: Messenia (page 1 of 5)

Where to dine, drink and shop local in Kyparissia’s Old Town

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Palia Agora in Kyparissia

Street view of Palia Agora, where a selection of scrumptious mezes topped off our enjoyable visit to Kyparissia 

 

Fab food & drink: Take us to a town or village with sensational views and scenery, and we will probably like it. If there are archaeological sites, or historic buildings or places close by, we will certainly like it even more. Picturesque streets and interesting architecture?  Beautiful beaches, majestic mountains or scenic seasides in the vicinity? A relaxed setting and laid-back atmosphere? Those are guaranteed to tick off even more boxes on our “like” list.

But a destination won’t completely win our hearts if we don’t go home with fond memories of restaurants and cafes. (We’re not foodies or wine snobs by any stretch of the imagination, but we do like to eat, we love good coffee, and we enjoy sipping some nice wine as well.) Since Kyparissia has many of the characteristics that make us happy on holiday — plus really good food and drink in particular — we couldn’t help but love our short visit there in May 2017.

What impressed us on the food & drink front were three places we discovered in the charming Ano Poli (Old Town) district of  Kyparissia:  a shop selling a wide range of local food items and other Made in Messenia products, a comfortable cafe-bar; and a delightful estiatorio – mezedopoleio. Conveniently and coincidentally enough, all three establishments were located  just a stone’s throw apart on Eleni Chameri Street, the main road of Ano Poli.

Here’s a closer look at each:

♦ Palia Agora

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

Palia Agora’s beautifully decorated bar and dining room 

 

A late lunch at Palia Agora was the highlight of our afternoon in Kyparissia. We took one of the tree-shaded tables in front of the restaurant and ordered wine and a selection of cold and hot mezes (small plates perfect for sharing),  then sat back and relaxed while our meal was prepared. The local wine was delicious, and the food was amazing. In fact, it was one of the best meals of our spring 2017 vacation. Some of the standout dishes included the grilled pleurotus mushrooms, local sausage, pork slices accompanied by potatoes and pieces of oranges, the fava with olives and onions, and cheese balls rolled in chopped pistachios. Equally impressive was the friendly and efficient service. We would go back to Kyparissia just to have another meal here, the food was that good.

Not surprisingly, Palia Agora is ranked as the #1 restaurant in Kyparissia by TripAdvisor, and it recently received the 2018 Gold Award for Quality and Taste from the leading Greek gastronomy website estiatoria.gr

You can read over 200 customer reviews, and see more than 100 photos of the restaurant and its tasty dishes, in the Palia Agora listing on TripAdvisor.   There are dozens of additional photos on the Palia Agora Facebook page.

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

The grilled pleurotus mushrooms (left) were divine.  Also tasty were the cheese balls rolled in chopped pistachios, and served with a salad and  pita. 

 

Palia Agora restaurant Kyparissia

From the restaurant’s Facebook page, a photo showing the Palia Agora sign, entrance and part of its streetside dining area

 

Palia Agora restaurant in Kyparissia

If you visit Palia Agora for a meal but sit outdoors as we did, make sure to take a peek inside the restaurant to check out the lovely decor and the interesting interior design details, like the light fixture above. 

 

♦ Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar

 

Algorithmos cafe bar

Street view of Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar, which occupies the ground floor of this beautiful building on Eleni Chameri Street

 

Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar in Kyparissia

In addition to its streetside tables and indoor seating area, Algo-rithmos has an open-air balcony out back, where customers can enjoy views of Kyparissia and the sea

 

We stopped at Algo-rithmos for two coffee breaks during our walkabouts through the Old Town and to the Castle of Kyparissia. We sat at one of the tables out front, next to the street, both times, but we could have chosen to sit inside or on the town- and seaview veranda at the rear of the building had we preferred.

Though we only ordered coffees and tea, the cafe has a full bar serving beer, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Snacks and light food dishes are available, too. The shop interior is cozy and comfortable, with an eclectic interior design (there’s a bicycle, musical instruments and several bookshelves mounted on the walls, and a stack of hardcover books suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the room.)

The service was friendly and prompt, and we liked the music that was playing.

You can read more about the cafe-bar in the customer reviews posted on the Algo-rithmos listing on TripAdvisor.

 

Allgorithmos Cafe Bar in Kyparissia

This image, which Algo-rithmos provided for its listing on TripAdvisor, shows part of the cafe-bar interior

 

♦ Messinia Gi

Travelling shopaholics won’t find many stores to browse in Ano Poli, but they will find it worthwhile visiting  Messinia Gi, especially if they like to support regional artisans by “shopping local” for food, fashion accessories and other items to give as gifts or to take home for personal use or souvenirs.

Messinia Gi boasts an extensive selection of food, beverage, fashion and souvenir products made either locally or in the  Messenia region.  Food items on offer include sweets, healthy snacks, honey, packages of handmade pasta, olive oil, olives, herbs and spices, nuts and many more. General merchandise includes jewellery and other women’s fashion accessories, personal care products, and ceramics. (You can view dozens of photos of the shop’s seasonal and regular merchandise in the albums and posts on the Messinia Gi Facebook page, and see additional pictures on the Messinia Gi listing on TripAdvisor.

We picked up postcards and several local food items to bring home for friends and ourselves, including jars of delicious figs stuffed with nuts, while our friends walked out with several bags containing what looked to us like enough food to prepare a week’s worth of meals once they returned to Athens.

The pleasant young lady who was minding the store was very helpful in explaining the contents and sources of the various food items we were considering, and in making suggestions for products to try.  

If you’d like to take home some tastes of Messenia, be sure to visit the shop while you’re in or near Kyparissia.

 

Messinia Gi shop in Kyparissia

If you visit the Old Town, you’ll find a vast variety of local products at Messinia Gi. The made-in-Messenia items make great gifts or personal souvenirs.  This photo of the storefront is from the Messinia Gi page on Facebook.

 

Messinia Gi shop in Kyparissia

Local product displays are shown in this photo that Messinia Gi management provided for the shop’s listing on TripAdvisor. Below is another photo of the store interior, also from its TripAdvisor listing.

 

Messinia Gi  shop in Kyparissia

 

An afternoon at the Old Town and castle in Kyparissia

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Kyparrisia Castle

Houses on the hillside below the ruins of the Castle of Kyparissia, which was built during the 13th Century

 

Impressive introduction: On the fourth day of our May 2017 road trip through the western Peloponnese we discovered another charming town to which we will have to pay a longer return visit sometime: Kyparissia.

We had scheduled Kyparissia for just a sightseeing stop during our drive from Marathopoli to Katakolo, yet within minutes of stepping out of the car we were already wishing we could stay longer than just the afternoon. 

That strong first impression came from the quick realization that Kyparissia has all the key features and characteristics we find particularly appealing in a small Greek town: beautiful scenery and views; a castle and lots of old buildings that convey a strong sense of history; plenty of intriguing lanes and streets to wander and explore; picturesque buildings and interesting architecture;  inviting places to have coffee, dine, and do a bit of browsing or shopping; and a comfortable “I feel at home here” ambiance.

However, with fewer than five free hours before we would have to hit the road again, we knew we were only going to scrape the surface of all that Kyparissia and its surrounding area have to offer. Still, we enjoyed everything we did manage to see and do in our limited time, and we were glad we had included the town as one of the stops on our journey. We would consider Kyparissia to be a “must see” destination for anyone undertaking a driving tour like the one we did through the western Peloponnese, and we think it definitely deserves more than a quick look around.

 

Kyparissia main street

When we arrived at El. Venizelou Street in Kyparissia in late morning, clouds above the nearby mountains suggested we might get rained on. But most of the clouds cleared away, leaving us with bright sunshine all afternoon.

 

Kyparissia former National Bank building

We’re drawn to old buildings, whether derelict or restored, and we found the facade of the former National Bank building — now a historic landmark —  right across the road from where we parked the car upon arriving in Kyparissia

 

a building in Kyparissia

We found this once-elegant edifice near the National Bank, and spotted many more charming old buildings throughout the town

 

Upon arrival in Kyparissia, we parked briefly on El. Venizelou Street in the lower town so we could have a look around and check out a few of the shops. The road was lined with a mix of commercial and residential buildings from different architectural design eras, including elegant old buildings, some of which — like the former National Bank — were in derelict condition, and others that were either in excellent shape or appeared to have been painstakingly restored. They gave us a sneak peak of the wide variety of building design styles and construction periods we would soon encounter in Kyparissia’s Ano Poli, the historic hilltop Old Town, where we had planned to spend most of our time.

Our next stop was Eleni Chameri Street, the main road in the Old Town, where we found on-street parking close to the Memorial of the Fallen. The war monument is situated in a small square with amazing views that include the Castle of Kyparissia off to the right, and the entire town below, extending all the way down the hill to the sea.

 

Kyparissia Old Town

A view along the Eleni Chameri Street, the main road of the Ano Poli / Old Town district of Kyparissia

 

Kyparissia panoramic view

From the square where the Memorial of the Fallen monument is located, visitors can see the Castle of Kyparissia (upper right) and the town below

 

From the memorial we walked to the Castle of Kyparissia, located at the opposite end of Eleni Chameri Street. We strode through the open gate (there is no ticket booth at the entrance) and climbed steps and trails up the hillside to see what remains of the ancient fortress. Apart from the external fortification walls, only a few stone buildings still stand on the site — but none are open to the public.  It doesn’t take long to wander around and explore the grounds, but the castle is worth a stop, especially for its wonderful views of Kyparissia and the surrounding area.

 

Kyparissia Castle view

Kyparissia Castle has excellent views of the upper town  …

 

Kyparissia Castle view

…  the lower town and the sea to the southwest …

 

Kyparissia Castle view

… and the lowlands, mountains and Messenian coast stretching to the north as far as the eye can see

 

After our castle hike we returned to Eleni Chameri Street and made a beeline for Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar, where we sat in the shade at one of the tables out front to have coffees and rest our legs.  Refreshed from our coffee break, we all set out on our separate ways to explore the Old Town and vicinity. There was little traffic and only a few people out and about, so the neighbourhood was exceptionally quiet and peaceful. It was nice not having to jump out of the way of passing cars and trucks, or jostle past other pedestrians, while observing the scenery and taking photographs.  The place is probably bustling during July and August, so we were glad we got to enjoy the town’s scenic streets and lanes without hordes of tourists teeming about.

 

Kyparissia Old Town

The Old Town’s streets and lanes are lined with a fascinating mix of meticulously maintained houses …

 

a church in Kyparissia

… a few beautiful churches …

 

a building in Kyparissia

… and numerous derelict or dilapidated buildings bursting with charm, character and — in many cases — tremendous renovation potential

 

We regrouped back at Algo-rithmos for another coffee break a couple of hours later, then did some souvenir shopping across the street at Messinia Gi, a store which carries an extensive selection of food, beverage, fashion and souvenir products made locally in Messenia. After more walking around, we all agreed it was time to call it quits on sightseeing, and find a nice spot for lunch. We chose Palia Agora, which is located just a few doors down the street from Messinia Gi, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed a variety of delicious mezes. I will tell you more about Messinia Gi and Palia Agora in a separate post.

The fabulous meal brought our brief Kyparissia visit to an end on a high note. We reluctantly piled back in the car for the drive to Katakolo, where we would spend the night before heading to the port at Kyllini to catch a ferry to Kefalonia. We’ll go back to see more of Kyparissia another time. We’ve got to — it’s exactly the kind of place where we enjoying spending vacation time.

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where I have posted more photos of the Old Town and castle, as well as a video of the castle and its views. 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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A Paris icon in the Peloponnese

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Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

The 26-meter Eiffel Tower replica at Filiatra  was a surprising sight we encountered during our road trip in the Peloponnese

 

Oh Mon Dieu!:The most memorable “Stop the Car!” moment of our road trip through Messenia happened while we were driving through the small town of Filiatra, en route from Marathopoli to Kyparissia.

As the car moved along the clean, tidy streets, passing attractive stone houses and some cute small homes, we were chatting about where we might want to stay if we ever had an opportunity to spend all or part of a year in Greece. I remember commenting that Filiatra looked like a nice, comfortable and quiet place that might be suitable — based on what we were seeing through the car windows, at least.

Then we turned a corner and saw an Eiffel Tower looming up ahead.

 “What the … Is that what I think it is?” I blurted. “Pull over! We’ve got to check this out!”

 

Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

This Google Streetview image shows the Eiffel Tower replica in a wedge-shaped parkette at the northern entrance to Filiatra.

 

Whenever we’re on the road in Greece, we see a lot of surprising, interesting and exciting sights. However, most of the time it’s jaw-dropping scenery that suddenly pops into view, a picturesque church in the middle of nowhere, a crumbling castle or a beautiful old building, or a herd of sheep or goats gathered on the highway. We’ve seen plenty of unusual sights, too, but never anything like an Eiffel Tower — and we certainly weren’t expecting to see one on this particular morning. (It had not been mentioned in any of the travel materials I had read before our holiday.)

But there it was, rising from a landscaped parkette near the northern entrance to Filiatra on Highway 9.

We parked the car and got out for a few minutes to take photos, but it wasn’t until we were back home that I was able to do some online searching to find out why the town has a replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Information was rather sparse or roughly translated in the sources I discovered, but most said the replica was the creation of Harry Fournier, (originally named Haris Fournarakis), who had grown up in the area but later moved to the USA to practise medicine as a surgeon. After a successful career in the States, Fournier returned to Filiatra and put his artistic talents to work, sculpting his mini Eiffel Tower in the 1960s. (He also built a fairytale castle in the nearby village of Agrili.)

Fournier’s creation isn’t a true replica, however, since its design differs in a few major details. As an article on the Wonders of the World points out, Fournier used light grey metal to construct the tower, which he shaped “a little too long.” Fournier also placed the second floor of his tower too low, compared to the original, and changed the shape of the third floor. But to a tourist driving by, Fournier’s version looks like a convincing, shorter copy of the real thing (his stands 26 meters, while the Paris landmark soars over 300 meters high).

 Here are some of the photos we took of the Filiatra Eiffel Tower:

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra

 

Filiatra Greece

The small town of Filiatra is located roughly midway between Marathopoli (middle left) and Kyparissia (top left). If you’re driving through the area and want to take a look at the Eiffel Tower replica, you’ll find it at the northwest edge of the town along Highway 9.  You can’t miss it if you’re driving toward Filiatra from Kyparissia — the tower is visible from a distance outside the town.

Top beach, golf, diving and other outdoor activity attractions near Marathopoli

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Proti Island

Located just one nautical mile from the town of Marathopoli in southwestern Messenia, Proti Island is a popular day trip destination for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, cliff jumping and trekking. This aerial photo of Proti Island is from the website for the Artina hotels in Marathopoli.

 

Lagouvardos, shown in this aerial video by Giannis Mpantes, is a long golden sand beach less than 3 kilometers from Marathopoli. It’s considered one of the top surfing spots in Greece, and also attracts enthusiasts of windsurfing, SUP, canoeing and other watersports. 

 

Surf’s up!: In a recent post I noted that the quiet, laid-back town of Marathopoli is an ideal base for travellers wishing to explore Methoni, Pylos, Navarino, Voidokilia and other popular places in the Messenian region of the southwestern Peloponnese. 

Even closer to the town are two noteworthy destinations that draw active travellers seeking scenic spots for outdoor sports activities such as swimming, surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking and fishing.

Uninhabited Proti Island, which dominates sea views from the town, is approximately one nautical mile away and can be accessed in summer on boat trips from Marathopoli harbour.  The tours take passengers to secluded coves, including Grammeno Bay,  and stop at picturesque Vourlia beach for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling or jumping into the sea from rocks and ledges along the rugged coast. 

 

This aerial video of a boat trip to Vourlia beach on Proti island is from the website for Proti Cruises, which offers a variety of daily “mini cruise” excursions from Marathopoli

 

Proti Island monastery

The Monastery of the Assumption of Gorgopigi is one of the sights that hikers might encounter while walking some of the trails on Proti Island. This photo appears on the websites for Lagouvardos Apartments and other Marathopoli-area businesses.

 

 

Trekkers can explore Proti Island on three designated hiking routes, while rock climbers can test their skills on the challenging cliffs and coastal rock formations. Fishing trips and sunset tours also are available.

For those curious to see what lies beneath the waves, Ionian Dive Center offers scuba diving excursions to such island sites as the Anouar shipwreck in Vourlia Bay, the Tiganakia wall and cavern, the Blue Hole cavern with stalactites, Callens Valley and the  Beacon Cove.

 

This video by Ionian Dive Center will take you to the Blue Hole, one of the sights that scuba divers could explore during excursions to Proti Island

 

Lagouvardas beach

This photo from the official Marathopoli tourism website shows an aerial view of the long strip of golden sand at Lagouvardos beach

 

Lagouvardos Beach is only 3 kilometers from Marathopoli so it can easily be reached by car, bicycle or even walking. The Culture Trip website has included Lagouvardos on its list of The Best Surfing Spots in Greece, while travel publications and online guides regularly recommend the beach for windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), swimming, canoeing and other watersports. Equipment rentals and lessons are available from the Beach Break surf club at Lagouvardos.

For beach lovers and watersports fans who don’t mind driving a little farther afield, some of Messenia’s most beautiful and world-famous beaches — including Vromoneri, Mati, Romanos, Golden Sands Divari, and the incomparable Voidokilia — are situated within a span of just 7 to 15 kilometers. 

 

Vromoneri Beach

Just 7 kilometers from Marathopoli is Vromoneri beach, seen in an image from AllMessenia.com

 

Located about 9 km from Marathopoli is gorgeous Mati beach, seen in this aerial video by KOABeach Pool Bar

 

Additionally, the Marathopoli area is ideal for bicycling and mountain biking, while two globally renowned 18-hole courses at nearby Costa Navarino offer golfers the opportunity to tee off in spectacular settings.

 

Dunes Golf Course at Navarino

Award-winning world-class links await golf enthusiasts at Costa Navarino, just 13 km from Marathopoli. The green pictured above is on The Dunes Course, while the one below is on The Bay Course. Both images are from the Costa Navarino Facebook page.

 

Bay Course golf course at Navarino

More stunning photos and extensive information about the two golf resorts can be found in the golf section of the Costa Navarino website.

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