Tag: Voidokilia (page 1 of 2)

KateRina’s traditional Greek cuisine hits the spot

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KateRinas Taverna

KateRinas Taverna

Exterior views of KateRina’s Restaurant in the Romanos area of Messenia, a short drive from Voidokilia beach and the town of Pylos

 

Late lunch: We felt famished after our hike to the Old Castle of Navarino and a long walk during our visit to Voidokilia beach, and all of us agreed that a hearty lunch of traditional Greek cuisine would really hit the spot. KateRina’s Restaurant near Romanos had been recommended by several reliable sources, and was only a 10-minute drive away, so we piled into the car and headed right over.

We arrived shortly before 3 in the afternoon, so the lunch crowd had moved on and the few customers still in the taverna were all close to finishing their meals. Restaurant proprietor Katerina greeted us with a warm welcome and showed us to a table at the edge of the veranda where a light breeze — plus beer, wine and water — helped us cool off after our half day in the hot sun.

 

KateRina's Tavern Restaurant

The main entrance to Katerina’s Restaurant

 

KateRina's Tavern Restaurant

Tables in a cozy corner of the open-air dining veranda

 

Given our ravenous appetites, we weren’t sure how much food to order, but KateRina assured us that our selection of Greek salad, tzatziki, zucchini balls, meat balls and a local pork dish would be probably be just the right amount for four hungry people.  So we sat back to relax and enjoy our beverages while KateRina and her kitchen staff prepared our lunch.

The taverna was celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary in 2017, and once we tasted Katerina’s traditional cuisine we immediately understood why her restaurant has been highly recommended for so long: the food was superb.

The zucchini balls — a house specialty which has long been a customer favourite  — were delicious, as were the pork (served in a yummy tomato sauce) and the tender, juicy meat balls (accompanied by a heaping side of scrumptious fried potatoes)We also loved the large horiatiki , which included two ingredients we’d never seen before in a Greek salad: cooked beets and potatoes. (They added nice flavours and textures to the dish.) Then there was the restaurant’s signature tzatziki, served with a platter of grilled bread. It was simply outstanding. Tzatziki has never been one of my favourite starters, but KateRina’s version was almost to die for. 

 

KateRina's Restaurant

Katerina’s tzatziki was divine (and the portion was huge, though it’s not obvious in my photo)

 

KateRina's Restaurant salad

KateRina’s Greek salad includes chunks of tasty beets and potatoes

 

The service was excellent and Katerina was a delightful hostess. At the end of our meal, she took time to join us for some conversation about her taverna and the local area before returning to the kitchen to prepare for a very busy night — a group from a nearby resort had booked the entire restaurant for dinner.

 

 

If you’re travelling in the southwestern Peloponnese, plan to stop by KateRina’s for a lunch or dinner of fabulous Greek cuisine or delicious fresh fish. It might be wise to make a reservation, though, since the restaurant is quite popular with tourists visiting the nearby town of Pylos or Voidokilia and other close-by beaches. Large groups from the five-star Westin Costa Navarino and Romanos Luxury Collection Resort often bus over to the taverna, as well, so the place can get very busy or even completely booked out.

Contact information and hours of operation are indicated on the KateRina’s Tavern website.  If you want to read what other people have said about the restaurant, check the Katerina’sTavern listing on TripAdvisor, where more than 250 customers have posted reviews.

KateRinas Restaurant

A red marker pinpoints the location of KateRina’s Restaurant on this Google image of the Navarino Bay area of the Peloponnese. The taverna is very close to the Westin Costa Navarino Resort (top left) and is a short drive from the town of Pylos (bottom center).

Crumbling walls, perilous terrain & postcard views: Our climb to the old Castle of Navarino

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Navarino castle

Walls on the southern side of Palaiokastro, the Old Castle of Navarino, which was built in 1278 near the town of Pylos in the Peloponnese

 

Old Castle of Navarino

Though parts of the castle walls have collapsed, you can walk atop some of the remaining sections, such as this one high above the Ionian Sea

 

Old Castle of Navarino

Walking inside the walls can be difficult — even perilous in places —  if you stray off the main trail or try to take a shortcut from the west wall to the east, as we did. The castle’s south yard is overgrown with shrubs and prickly bushes, and the ground is covered with loose rocks and stones that wobble and roll underfoot.

 

Old Castle of Navarino

The big payoff for those people who make it all the way up to the northeastern corner of the castle: The incredible views of the Ionian Sea, Navarino Bay and the beautiful Messenian coast …

 

Voidokilia beach

… and, most impressive of all, the stunning Voidokilia beach

 

Scenic trek: Built 740 years ago, the Palaiokastro / Old Castle of Navarino is certainly showing its age.

Its hilltop exposure to the elements, plus hundreds of years of neglect, have taken a severe toll. The outer walls are crumbling — some sections have collapsed, while others appear ready to tumble anytime  — and only ruins remain of the buildings that once stood inside. Those structures have been reduced to rubble; the former walls and foundations are now boulders, stones and rocks scattered across the ground. The two castle yards are almost entirely overgrown with shrubs, prickly plants, tall grasses and trees that obscure most of the fortress’s interior. It’s possible to walk on some of the outer walls, and dirt paths wind through parts of the grounds, but it can be dangerous to step off the main trails —  the  rocks underfoot tend to shift and wobble as you walk over them, so there’s a constant risk of slipping and falling or twisting an ankle.  

Because of the ancient castle’s derelict condition, plus the ever-present possibility of loose stonework falling from its weathered walls, the Palaiokastro is supposed to be out of bounds to visitors. There’s no fencing to keep anyone out, and no security guards to stop people from entering — just a solitary sign warning that “The Castle of Navarino is closed due to serious danger.” But that doesn’t deter thousands of tourists from visiting the site every year. 

For most, it’s the breathtaking “must see” views that attract them — especially the castle’s unrivalled vantage points for photographing the incomparable and immensely Instagrammable Voidokilia beach.

That’s the main reason why I climbed up to Palaiokastro during our trip through the Peloponnese in May 2017  — I wanted to experience, in-person, the outstanding Voidokilia beach views that had fascinated me in many travel photographs and videos I had seen over the years.

 

 

To be honest, I didn’t know the castle was closed, and I also didn’t see the “danger” sign at the bottom of the access path. (My hiking companions did, but they never mentioned it.)  I had read about Palaiokastro on a few travel websites, and knew that it consists mainly of defensive walls enclosing crumbled ruins, but none of the articles had said anything about the castle being closed or possibly dangerous to visit. Some sites even described it as a not-to-be-missed historical attraction. I figured it would take some effort to reach, since it’s situated atop a craggy hill a few hundred meters high. But once up top, I expected that it would be relatively easy to walk around, like the marvellous Methoni Castle which we had visited just the day before (see my post: A walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle for an account of that.)  So when we found the castle access path at the northwest end of Divari beach, I was eager to head up for a look around.

To continue reading and to see more photos of Palaiokastro, please click on the link under the video below to turn to page 2.

 

This video by AllMessinia takes you on a short flight above Palaiokastro, while subtitles provide historical information about the monument

 

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A bucket list visit to Voidokilia, the extraordinary Ω-shaped beach in the Peloponnese

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Voidokilia beach

I got my first in-person peek at beautiful Voidokilia beach from this breathtaking vantage point in the ruins of the Castle of Navarino …

 

Voidokilia beach

… and shot this picture two hours later while walking along Voidokilia’s amazing arc of soft brown sand 

 

My Omega moment: I’m a big fan of beaches, as you’ve probably gathered from perusing my blog posts. I love looking at them, walking on them, and of course taking photos of them. It doesn’t matter if they consist of soft sand, pebbles or stone; are situated in secluded coves, scenic bays or along lengthy stretches of coastline; or face onto calm water, rolling waves  or rough seas — they all make me happy. I can’t explain exactly why, but there’s something about beaches that makes me feel surprisingly calm yet incredibly invigorated at the same time. (Mountains have the same effect). It’s no wonder I love Greece so much: since the country is blessed with myriad beaches on its islands and mainland coasts, I feel great wherever I go. (Greece has mountains aplenty, too, but I’ll write about those another time.)

Although there are dozens of must-see places on my Greece travel wish list, only 13 are beaches per se (though many of the other spots are located at or near beaches I’d love to visit). All are stunning, some are world-famous, and each has  a unique appeal, distinctive feature or superlative natural beauty I want to witness in person at some point during my lifetime, even if only briefly or from afar.

My beach bucket list (no pun intended)  includes five on Crete — the Balos lagoons, plus Preveli and Vai, Matala, and Stefanou/Seitan Limania;  Navagio (better known as Shipwreck Beach) on Zakynthos; Porto Katsiki on Lefkada; Myrtos on Kefalonia;  Simos on Elafonisos island in the Peloponnese; Manganari on Ios; Papafragas on Milos, and Agios Demetrios on Alonissos. Though not technically a beach, the Giola lagoon on Thassos is right up there, too.

Until last spring, there had been 14 beaches I particularly wanted to see, but last May I finally got to visit the incomparable  Voidokilia in the Messenia region of the Peloponnese. 

 

 

Voidokilia first enthralled me in 2011 when  the Greek National Tourism Organisation published an aerial photo in the Beaches Album on its Visit Greece Flickr page. Voidokilia’s semicircular arc of light brown sand, strikingly similar in shape to the Greek letter Omega Ω, seemed surreal and almost other-worldly.  It looked too perfect to be natural. I instantly wanted to see it, but didn’t foresee having the opportunity anytime soon. We had been hooked on island hopping at the time, and didn’t have a Peloponnese holiday in our near-term plans. But in 2016 we finally made our first foray into that part of Greece, visiting several places in the eastern Peloponnese, and we paid the region a return visit last year to explore some of its southern and western reaches. I was excited when I discovered that Voidokilia was one of the top attractions on our scheduled driving route along the Messenian Gulf coast.

Since Voidokilia was the first bucket list beach I was going to see, I nervously wondered if it would live up to my lofty expectations.  But it  didn’t disappoint. If anything, it made an even better impression than I had imagined. I gasped when I first observed Voidokilia from a lookout point in the Navarino Castle, and when I later walked along its soft brown sand a short time later, and gazed  across the sparkling turquoise bay it encircles,  I felt like I was living a dream. I was utterly gobsmacked, as some Brits might say. I now like to describe the experience as a personal OMG moment — though I pronounce it O-Me-Ga instead of Oh-My-God (pun intended this time).  I savoured every second I was there, and now consider Voidokilia one of my favourite beaches anywhere in the world. I will go back again.

I did take plenty of photos, of course, but I’m not entirely happy with how they turned out — they simply don’t make Voidokilia look as stunning as it actually appears in person.  I suppose I was just too busy enjoying the moment and the captivating scenery around me to pay more attention to what I was doing with my camera. I have posted some of the images on page 2, so you can be the judge. But I really think you should just go and see Voidokilia for yourself. It truly is a marvellous sight.

Below is a video that I believe does do justice to Voidokilia’s striking beauty. Beneath that is a link to page 2, where you can see our photos as well as a few more videos of this fantastic place in the Peloponnese.

 

This 5.5-minute film from Studio Gaël Arnaud features stunning drone views of Voidokilia as well as the hilltop Paleokastro (Castle of Navarino) from which I shot some of my Voidokilia beach photos in May 2017.

 

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Greece 2017: Our 4-day road trip in the western Peloponnese

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Voidokilia beach

Omega-shaped Voidokilia, in the western Peloponnese, was one of many beautiful beaches that took our breath away in 2017

 

All-new experiences: Two trips to Greece in 2017 gave us opportunities to expand our horizons and see diverse regions we had never visited before, including parts of the Peloponnese, one of the Ionian islands, Central Greece and southwestern Crete.

Our first vacation, from May 22 to June 7,  gave us impressive introductions to the western Peloponnese, Kefalonia, and Central Greece. The second holiday, from October 19 to November 6, took us along the spectacular southwestern coast of Crete.

With the exception of our arrival and departure days in Athens, plus a 4-night stay in Chania (which we had seen briefly during our first trip to Crete in 2004), every place and region on our itinerary was completely new to us, offering a tremendous variety of first-time experiences for accommodations, activities, dining and sightseeing.

Our travels took us to several spots we would absolutely love to revisit, along with many more we would be happy to see a second time if we find ourselves in the area once again. As for the few places that didn’t quite catch our fancy, our mixed feelings were simply due to the time of season we happened to be there — now we know when to return to enjoy them better. Happily, there wasn’t a single destination we disliked.  

 

 

Our spring vacation began with a  4.5-day road trip, with friends, through the Messenia and Elis regions of the southwest and northwest Peloponnese. We covered considerable ground in that time, moving at a much faster pace than we usually travel, but the goal was to give us a peek at a number of different places so we could find favourites to revisit for longer periods in future. After the Peloponnese segment of our holiday, a week-long visit to Kefalonia island and six days in Central Greece gave us time to relax and to comfortably explore towns and sites on foot rather than by car. 

On page 2 of this article, I have posted photos and brief descriptions of the main locations and key attractions we got to see during our car tour in the Peloponnese.  Pictures of the places we explored on Kefalonia and in Central Greece, and those we visited during our fall holiday on Crete, will appear in separate posts. Future articles will spotlight specific destinations in greater detail, and will profile hotels we stayed at and restaurants where we dined.

Please click on the link under the next photo to continue reading on page 2.

 

Kyparissia

Red-roofed houses in the attractive mountainside town of Kyparissia

 

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