God Better be with Me
Updated: Mar 24
It’s always a good idea to ask locals about what you should do on your journey.
It's also a good idea to ask other travellers their advice.
It’s an even better idea to believe locals and other travellers when they tell you.
I certainly fall prey to thinking I’m smarter than the average Joe when it comes to booking my travels.. but often, it turns out that I am not.
Take Zanzibar for example… I read a multitude of reviews about this idyllic Tanzanian island. Every single piece of travel advice out there encouraged me to only stay 1-2 days (MAX) in the historical district of Stonetown.
I ignored all of it.
ALL OF IT.
I knew better… and I planned to just relax while exploring this wonderful, magical place.
I booked a total of eight nights at the hotel... and guess what happened?
I was bored out of my mind.
So bored, in fact, that I actually began to hate the place.
Not a fan of Stonetown at all anymore.
And now... what do I do?
Anyone that I ever hear of that is remotely interested in going there, I strongly advise them to only stay one day. No more!
"Take pictures of some cool doors... do some shopping... and get out!"
Anyway... in regards to Greece, I consulted Aliki on what to do with my itinerary.
She recommended changing my plans from five days in Zakynthos to one or two. She also recommended renting a car.
I wasn’t entirely sold on her recommendations, but I explored the options with an open mind... and for the first time… I followed her advice.
Renting a vehicle gave me the liberty to explore. Greece’s biggest treasures are her natural beauty and picturesque villages. With my own transportation, I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted, whenever I wanted…
Seemed like a win-win.
But this freedom came with a price tag.
… and it wasn’t cheap.
The car rental companies tend to lure you in with their unbeatable low prices, but then ding you with hefty insurance costs. Sure… each rental comes with a bare minimum, but it’s definitely not a package I would feel comfortable driving off the lot with. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am 100% prone to bad luck… so there is no possible way it would be advisable for me to forego additional coverage.
The more insurance, the better.
The more insurance, the more expensive.
I’d heard that the Greece was full of unmaintained roads, potholes and horrendous drivers.
Eeek… Insurance was definitely mandatory.
Not an option for me.
There were about five package tiers offered, ranging from silly to outright absurd. They were actually mind-boggling. One covered dings, but not windshields. One covered all glass, but not tires. One covered tires, but not scratches. It’s inconceivable to imagine what might possibly happen out on the open road… and terrifying to think that I may be held responsible for something out of my control. I almost cheaped out, but quickly rethought my decision. I laid my credit card down for the entire kit & caboodle.
Give me all the insurance.
Load me up.
A road trip wasn’t as budget as I had originally imagined.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I was without WIFI. The silly ESIM data I’d purchased and downloaded still failed to work. I had contemplated getting a Greece SIM card, but figured I could probably do without if I secured a rental with a built-in GPS.
It would have been brilliant… if the built-in GPS actually worked.
The rental company girl tried numerous times, as did I… but neither of us could figure it out. She finally resolved that it needed to tie into my WIFI in order to work properly?
How good is a built-in GPS that doesn’t work unless I have a phone on me, with functioning WIFI? Isn’t this something they should have specified upon request? It didn’t make sense to me at all, considering the vehicle was able to GPS the speed limits throughout the country and alert me when I was going too fast or too slow.
Then… to add insult to injury… the sound system would only allow my phone to tie into the system if I plugged it in, using a power cord. That ‘blue’ my mind, as isn’t the entire concept behind bluetooth... short-range wireless technology???
Of course, I got a lemon.
So already, I was starting off on the wrong foot. Already I was annoyed.
How the hell was I supposed to maneuver my way out of crazy Athens?… let alone all over the Peloponnese? I looked into the immediate future and saw nothing but a navigational nightmare. The girl, bless her simple soul, kept insisting that everything would be fine because if I made a wrong turn, my phone would just recalibrate my route.
My phone would what???
Thanks, tips… but may I repeat… I have no WIFI.
This was really happening to me… *insert eye roll.
THEN she threw her arms in the air and told me not to worry about a thing, because God would be with me. He would guide me.
I can’t make this shit up…
It wasn’t exactly the answer I was looking for. Nor was God the road trip companion I had been actively seeking. BUT… if that’s all I got, then he’d have to do. In fact, I think God has accompanied me on a few of my excursions… purely for entertainment purposes.
So God it was.
Before God and I pulled out into traffic, I made a note of pointing out that the petrol tank was only 1/2 full. Seemed silly that I was expected to fill it up upon return if they didn’t have to bother. Scoundrels!
And with that… God and I were off…
Let the road trip begin!
Did I take any wrong turns?
Did I get lost?
Did I curse the built-in GPS?
Yes. A lot. I even hit it once. Or twice.
Did I curse the ESIM download I’d purchased that didn’t work?
Did I finally figure it out and find my way out of the city?
Damn straight I did.
Once I was cleared of cosmopolitan, the rain began.
I was having quite the day!
At first it was just a drizzle, but it didn’t take long before it was absolutely torrential downpour.
My first intended stop was going to be for lunch in a quaint seaside town called Nafplion. I pulled into the parking area… and sat there for quite awhile... watching the rain pound on my windshield. I begged it to just stop long enough for me to run over to a café, as I was not dressed for such dreary conditions. I was not feeling adventurous enough to brave the elements. It was way too chilly for my liking.
I decided lunch could be skipped… or at least postponed until another town.
Surely there were be another charming little village, right?
I pulled out of the parking lot… drove down the seaside promenade avenue… through the roundabout… pulled up to the obligatory stop sign before merging onto the main road that would lead me out of town… and then a motorcycle HIT ME.
Are you KIDDING me?
A MOTORCYCLE SMASHED RIGHT INTO THE BACK OF ME while I was stopped at the stop sign.
**I repeat - I can NOT make this shit up.
I hadn’t had the car a total of three hours and already I was in as accident.
What are the chances??
Well… with me… quite high, actually.
I immediately pulled out of traffic and jumped out. The motorcyclist was overly apologetic… and thankfully there was no damage to the vehicle. Nothing I could see, anyway. I was shaking uncontrollably with stress, despair, angst… but I smiled graciously, thanked him for sticking around… and continued on my way.
Should I have gotten his details?
I don’t know how it works in Greece? Man...
I think I shook for an hour.
Well, the rental company girl was right. I guess God was there with me. I’m not a religious person at all, but I looked up and gave a grateful nod.
I did eventually stop for lunch. I found a little café up the road and I sat, dining on grilled feta with tomatoes & olives, while I waited for the rain to ease up. And, it eventually did. Back on the road again… having only started on a half tank of gas, I suddenly looked down and realized I was drifting on nothing but fumes. Drifting with God’s help, obviously…
Ok… need to find a gas station.
I have to say… if there is one thing I love about Greece, it’s the full service gas stations. When I pulled it, the attendant ran right out.
“Regular or diesel?”
Ooooh…I hadn’t prepared myself for these hard questions. He'd completely stumped me.
Regular... I assume???
I figure if it was diesel ~ 1. They would have told me and 2. I would hear it. It took me long enough to find where the knob was located in order to pop the gas cap. The guy must have thought I was a complete dolt… which, granted, I was. I handed him €20, which is the equivalent of about $30. I figured that would make a dent in the tank. It did not. Ok… gas is expensive here too.
Another thing I was not prepared for in my Greece road trip was the excessive amount of highway tolls. There were THREE within less than 40 minutes and all on the SAME road! Each demanded payment ranging between €1.80 to €2.65.
If you take rental fees, insurance, gas and highway tolls into consideration, I really did not pick the budget route AT ALL. Plus, I’d already paid for my non-refundable flight from Zakynthos to Athens.
Have I mentioned how much I love credit cards?
... or how much credit cards hate me?
This road trip was adding up quickly… but I was still loving it.
Not so much the motorcycle-smashing-into-me part… or the rain.
After the crash collision incident, I started to imagine other horrendous things that had the potential to go wrong.
What was God going to do if I got a flat tire?
With all the potholes and boulders on the road, chances are high.Of course, I do know how to change a tire… but I was told that if I use my spare tire, I will be charged an additional €200.
If anything happens with the vehicle, I’m supposed to call their 24 hour line immediately. Except… I don’t have any data… which brings me back to the fun of navigating the Peloponnese. Life sure is an adventure. Picture me driving along the roads of Greece, desperately trying to follow the blue dot on my fuzzy, unfocused Google Maps screen.
I really should have bought a SIM card.
Yes. The rain cleared. The sun came out. And I made it to my destination for the evening.
Monemvasia is an exquisite old village, a medieval fortress AND a magical castle in south-eastern Peloponnese... A castle ON a solitary castle rock. Seriously... a castle built into the side a rock... a rock that actually looks like a castle... IN the ocean. Even driving up towards it and seeing this ceremonious sight. I knew this place was about to exceed all my expectations.
A true fairy tale.
I was right. I was transported into a stroy book fairly tale.
Monemvasia has been pinned one of the most romantic places in the world and rightfully so. It was nearing dusk when I arrived and I had to park quite a ways down the road from the castle itself, and walk myself and my heavy luggage up to the tower entrance. Thank goodness the rain had stopped or it would have been a treacherous and soggy trek.
The castle was absolutely magical.
There is no other word.
I followed the signs for my accommodation, Vecchia Casa Sterna, down the cobbled streets until I reached my little hobbit door. Inside there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat (metaphorically speaking) and it had definitely been designed for a hobbit…
It was snug, but enchanting... and l absolutely adored it.
There had been a lot of driving that day and with it, a lot of accumulated driving stress, so I decided to stay put on the first evening. The rain had started again, so I decided to let any dinner plans go and intead, feasted on the complimentary chocolate croissants left in the room.
Due to my good night’s sleep in my hobbit hole, I woke early, and a soon as I was ready, took off to explore this mysterious little medieval village. There was no one around. I had the kingdom all to myself. Before anyone else was awake... it was so peaceful and serene… completely deserted...
I came across a deserted café where I found a wee nook and dined on a breakfast of yoghurt, honey and nuts. Ah, the bliss of a typical Greek breakfast.
Everything was idyllic.
God guided well today.