cycling3:37:53 38.97 mi (5:35 / mi) +434m5:24 / mi ahr:95 max:168 slept:8.0
Very fine ride from Tripoli to Paralio Astros, from the mountains to the sea. Stopped in the ancient town of Tegea for a while, seeing the museum, the temple of Athena Alea, the ancient theater mostly under the 1000 year old Byzantine Church. Then stopped at the head of a big valley at a small church for a picnic lunch. Wind turbines on one of the ridges, Scotch broom everywhere with its clusters of yellow flowers, olive trees, pretty great. Then a long swooping downhill including a tunnel on what appears to be a new road, with the temperature rising as we got further down. Eventually into Paralio Astros, where there was some harbor sightseeing, some hanging around at an ice cream shop, before the last steep climb to our beautiful inn. The climb was advertised for quite a while, and most of the folks were intimidated enough not to try it. I would say not quite as steep as our own Devil's Elbow, but maybe twice as long, so definitely a challenge. Interesting that the more gentle climbs play hob with my R quad, but a steeper one like that actually feels pretty good (at least when it is over). Beautiful suite, with balconies on 3 sides, sitting room bathroom and two bedrooms (a little overkill). They met us on arrival with beer, wine and snacks. Pretty nice.
cycling3:12:42 30.65 mi (6:17 / mi) +275m6:07 / mi ahr:91 max:153 slept:6.0
Loop ride, mostly flattish, starting and ending from the Palatino Hotel in Tripoli and heading out to Manteneia. Quite a few lengthy stops along the way. Beautiful day, springlike. A little worried about sun exposure, but kept re-applying sun screen and it worked out ok. First stop was at a strange church, apparently built by a somewhat mad visionary about 50 years ago, a mixture of styles, classic Greek, Roman, Byzantine, his own ideas. Then off to the archaeological digs, part of the old city state of Manteneia, one of the four oldest city states of the Pelopponese. Some more riding, and then a trip to a pretty fine looking cave system, where we got a pretty extensive tour. Then a wine tasting and lunch at a small local winery, with a presentation on the wines by the sweetest young lady, daughter of the proprietors. Lunch was what sounds like pasticcio, but is more like a lasagne with macaroni noodles instead of flat ones. By now my R quad was throbbing quite a bit, so kept to my lowest gears on the way back from there.
Dinner was buffet, not really remarkable, except for the dessert, a walnut honey cake which we garnished with a bit of yogurt. Fabulous. Even the ordinarily dessert averse Rhonda was having some, and with enthusiasm.
Interesting conversation last night. Our local guide Christos was talking about Greeks going on vacation, said "activities" like biking, running, hiking were not all that popular. I mentioned that the most successful long distance runner of modern times is Greek. He said, oh, Yannis Kouros? He lives in my town, I know him. And then had a few anecdotes.
cycling1:46:11 10.8 mi (9:50 / mi) +388m8:51 / mi ahr:110 max:156
First half of today's ride, from Vytina to Piano. Very cold, a little spitting, alpine conditions. Started with a pretty vigorous climb for about 4 miles, switchbacks through Alpine forest with thick conifers, then a descent until we went by the small road up into the town where we stopped for lunch. Beautiful countryside, very green, not at all what we had expected from Greece, and wearing all the clothes we brought. Nice views of the valley from a balcony behind the church. We saw a bent old lady with her donkey, going up the steep hill to the upper town holding onto the donkey's tail.
We are eating a fair amount. Lunch included spanakopita, skewers of grilled pork, lots of feta, yogurt, olives, a greek salad, etc.
cycling1:29:33 13.55 mi (6:37 / mi) +159m6:23 / mi ahr:109 max:157
Then the rest of the ride down to Tripoli, our lodging for the next two nights. Down for quite a bit, then a fairly stiff climb up and over a ridge and the final descent to town, riding together through the city streets to the hotel.
There are 6 e-bikes on the trip and 8 clients on regular bikes, plus the local guide and the tour operators Chuck and Judy on their tandem. Christos the guide is pretty much the strongest, although one woman Kate from Oklahoma might get away from him if given the chance. We are fairly strung out. I am the next strongest on the uphills, but when they are long some of the e-bikes come and pass me. None of them are catching Kate, though. On the downhills, John from LA is close to Kate, and I am next but a ways back. The e-bikes are a fair amount slower on the downhills. Then not too far back from me are Rhonda and Kate's husband Cade. Chuck and Judy are very strong, but they keep the rear to make sure everybody is making it.
Dinner was a rather dragged out affair, little local place several blocks from the hotel, lots of rounds of salad and appetizers, greek salad, lettuce salad, some baked cheese, very hot, zucchini fritters, french fries, some other things. Then main course was pureed eggplant with stewed beef and shaved cheese. OK, not that compelling to me. By then the smokers were in full force in the restaurant and we felt pretty chased out. Good because it was late anyway. According to Christos, the EU has tried to crack down on indoor smoking, but the Greeks won't have any of it, won't pay the fines, won't modify their behavior, etc.
We are also getting quite a bit of Greek history from Christos, getting lots of info on the war of independence from the Ottomans in 1821, seeing the monuments to the local heroes of the war, etc.
Transition day. Van transfer first to Tripoli where the others were fitted for bikes, and then up into the mountains to Vytina, where we assembled our bikes and pretty soon it was time for dinner. The bikes take about an hour each to assemble (and of course an hour each to disassemble at the end). Lovely to have them once we are riding, but I'm not sure I am up for transporting them again on some future trip.
Dinner was pleasant, getting to know the other riders, a congenial bunch. Turns out that one of them (from Denver) knows Jonathan, our daughter Jess's husband and his parents and siblings.
So dinner. Spanakopita, olive tapenade to spread on tasty bread, some really excellent orzo and mushrooms, excellent salad with tasty local lettuce, balsamic and feta, beef with mashed potatoes, and a yogurt and honey dessert with pistachios. Fine, but we are still wanting fish!
A more thorough exploration of Philoppapos park, including the Pnyx, cave of Pan, observatory, road through Koile and Koilon. Nice walk.
Hike2:00:00  5.0 km (24:00 / km)
After a pleasant lunch at El Greco, where we split a Greek salad and grilled sardines, followed by a complimentary piece of ketaifi custard that totally charmed Rhonda, not usually one for desserts.
Explored the Areopagus, hill between the Acropolis and the Pnyx, and then crossed over by the Roman Agora, through the gantlet of shops and restaurants and then S of the main street in the area to Hadrian's Arch and the massive Corinthian columns of the temple of Olympian Zeus.
In the shops area there was a business that allowed one to sit with one's bare feet in an aquarium where small fish nibbled on the feet, presumably quite entertaining judging from the customers' expressions.
From the hotel, mostly to the E of the Acropolis, taking in several of the other archaeological sites. We had bought a combo pass that covered about 7 of them. They do blend together after a while.
The R leg is not doing well, so returned to the room to dose myself with advil, stretch and roll it.
Hike1:15:00  3.5 km (21:26 / km)
Back out with the general intention to walk through Thyssion and around the Acropolis. We got distracted by a nice looking Byzantine church, and then by a back entrance int the park that contains the hills of Pnyx and Philopappas. That was really a nice walking place, lots of archaeological excavations, but one needs a fair amount of imagination to understand what was there in antiquity. Rhonda was hungry, so we repaired to our new favorite restaurant.
Hike1:15:00  4.3 mi (17:27 / mi)
Then back out for a more thorough exploration of the park of Philopappas, some great views, particularly from the eponymous monument, and many, many ancient places including the old road through Koile, the so-called prison of Socrates. And by then getting tired again, so we went back to the hotel. Some of the other bike trip people appear to have arrived, but we won't meet up until tomorrow.
Padding around a bit of Athens from our hotel. Hot and very bright. Little shade on the Acropolis. Then back by the excellent El Greco restaurant, where we had roast sea bream and giant prawns in a sauce with tomatoes, capers, feta, roast vegetables, all perfect. There was a large family party going on. Mother's Day, or just Sunday. All the women, young and old, dressed in black. Man of the men, too, now that I think about it. And then back to the hotel to nap off the jet lag.