We spent 2 weeks volunteering with Giorgos at Paliomylos: http://oldwatermill.wordpress.com/

Day 81 – May 20th – Rovies
First work day – Fiona digs out a bed for some tomato plants. Giorgo, Manu + Gabriela get to work on a new bed, which turns out to be very hard with a big wall buried underneath!  In afternoon Fi helps for a few hours transplanting some small plants, then we go to find the beach. It’s rather rocky, there’s a nice pine forest a bit further down. The sea looks like a mirror, not even a sign of waves, very hazy. Some stone skimming, Manu goes for a swim but isn’t very impressed with the underwater life.

Day 82 – May 21st – Rovies
Manu helps in morning, mulching + planting tomato plants in beds, then we walk to the river for a swim to cool off. In afternoon we go with Giorgos down to his parents house, which is right by the beach so we can leave the kayak there.  Another very still day, on the way home we see dolphins swim very close by the shore, super sunset.



Day 83 – May 22nd – Rovies
Fi helps in morning – transplanting young plants from the nursery (kids helped), planting out some more tomato plants, sieving compost, etc.  Afternoon we go down to try kayak for the first time, but it’s not a great day, quite windy, looks like it might rain.  However, we manage to get out, all 4 of us, without difficulty, but we only stay out for 5 minutes due to the wind and waves. First kayak attempt is classed as a success!

Day 84 – May 23rd – Rovies
Manu helps in morning, all morning setting out automatic irrigation system for vege beds down. Fi + kids go to playpark and a few errands to run around Rovies village. Afternoon we go to beach but it’s very windy so back to the playpark, kids are happy though as they want to go on the swings again, apparently hours of swinging in the morning hasn’t bored them yet.


Day 85 – May 24th – Rovies
Fiona helps – mulching tomatoes, more work on irrigation system, planting beans with kids. Afternoon Manu + kids go out in kayak, more sun this time! Manu launches and gets kids into boat by himself, however at landing time it’s quite a lot more wavy, landing a bit more challenging.

Day 86 – May 25th – Around Northern Evia
Day off, we go to waterfall on mountain, nice, but frozen water!  Full of butterflies and dragonflies.  Manu swims, a picnic lunch, then we drive to beach on Northern side of Evia, stay in the cool shade for a while in the early afternoon, we attempt a swim with Sofia but waves are rough and sea is scummy. Manu swims again, but is disappointed again, Poseidonia beds but lots of scum. Then we drive more North, get lost on little roads along coast, stop for ice cream, stop for tortoise, arrive in Istiea just in time to do some grocery shopping, dinner at souvlaki place, drive back in the dark through mountain road.


Beautiful waterfall, all to ourselves

Family portrait

Family portrait


Nice beach, shame about the water

Day 87 – May 26th – Rovies
Manu helps: pruning apple trees which takes most of morning while Fiona and kids go to town for internet and playground. We spend most of the rest of the day researching flights + travel options for Cyprus, as a last minute place on a cob workshop being held there has opened up. In the end we decide against it.

Day 88 – May 27th – Rovies
Fiona helps in morning: A bit more planting, making natural pesticide with soap, checking over the corn, making some supports for the tomato plants, and sanding down some big pieces of olive wood for future projects.  Afternoon we bike to Rovies, quick icecream stop then we go in the canoe, first nice flat canoeing day.  Giulia + Manu do capsize practice!

Day 89 – May 28th – Rovies
Manu + Giorgos collect + transport soil for cob project back to house, do some work spreading olive waste on another garden-to-be, and fix the watering pipes on the gardens.

Day 90 – May 29th – Rovies
Fi helps – sieving soil, making test cob batches + a model of the future bench in preparation for cob work over next few days. Many bags of soil to sieve! Boys collect stones from the river and lay the foundation for the bench. Manu + girls walk down to the river.
Afternoon we cycle to Limni, 11km up and down but we both agree that it wasn’t too hard a cycle.  Limni is nice, a little port town enclosed in a small bay. Manu goes for a swim then we go to a restaurant for dinner, usual seaside greek fare, tzatziki, xorta, octopus, gavros, dogfish. All very nice and washed down with plenty of Retsina, means the way back home (up + down hills again) we feel rather heavier.  We cycle fast as the sun is setting, but still make it home after dark.

Day 91 – May 30th – Rovies
Cob morning – Some more stone moving to finish the foundation, then we all help to make the first cob mix, then Fi + girls go down to Rovies to get bread + play on the swings (yet again!).  First layer of cob on the bench seems to be a success.  Afternoon we go down to the beach, a bit of work for Fi and then another trip in the canoe, this time we go towards Rovies but we don’t go very far as it’s quite late.

Day 92 – May 31st – Rovies
Cob morning #2 – plenty more cob batches, we manage to make 2-3 batches and a pretty decent layer of cob on the bench, which is starting to look very bench-like now!  Unfortunately the cob from yesterday has cracked quite a lot*

* Giorgos found out later that cracking was caused by drying too fast in the hot weather, solved by covering with a wet blanket and plastic sheet.


Evolution of a bench

Day 93 – June 1st – Rovies
Canoe trip: We lod up our kayak and head south along the coast.  We get to Katounia, the end of the road, so launch the kayak from there. It takes us quite a while to load all of our stuff, towels, spare clothes, manu’s leg, water, picnic etc, but eventually we are away. A nice paddle along the coast, under a very high steep cliff then some little beaches. We paddle for about an hour or so, and decide to stop as we hit a patch of strong headwind.  Super beach with pines behind, completely inaccessible apart from by sea, nice big shady patch for our lunch.  Then we try to have a little rest but kids are not very sleepy yet!  We re-load the kayak and decide to try out the canoe-sail as the headwind we fought against to get here is now our tailwind as we go back.  A bit of a fight to get the sail installed, but soon we are away, Fi + kids hold onto the sail and Manu steers. A great success as we get back fast and with no paddling!  Quick stop in Limni for cake and internet, and on the way home we see a fox and her 2 cubs, right next to the road.

Around Paliomylos


Looking back – In Katelios

In Katelios we stayed with Angeliki and her nice family at Dreams:


Day 76 – May 15th – Katelios
At court all morning, fixed with Makis. See Stacey + bump into a few other friends during the morning in Argostoli, we also see turtles and a pipefish in the lagoon!

Day 77 – May 16th – Katelios
Sofia quite ill, high temperature, so we postpone departure by a couple of days. Morning drive by Mounda, see volunteers, house in Ratza, collect our very old and mouldy post – nothing important – then to Skala.

Day 78 – May 17th – Katelios
Lazy day around village, Fiona goes to see Louisa + new baby Elena, without G+S who are both a bit coughy. Manu + kids stay at Dreams and play with Marisa.

Day 79 – May 18th – Katelios
Afternoon swim on Mounda, saw a turtle! “Last supper” at Garden restaurant, takeaway pita gyros.

Day 80 – May 19th – Katelios-Rovies
Long drive and 3 ferries to get to Evia: Poros-Kyllini in the late morning, drive to Rio, take ferry across to Antirio, drive through Itea, up towards Lamia then another ferry from Arkitsa to Edipsos. Arrive in Rovies and stay with Giorgos.

A second start; old home to old home (Bologna to Katelios)

Day 73 – May 12th – Bologna-Ancona-Igoumenitsa
Get up early to finish packing, load the car -we’ve managed to trim to 2 main bags of clothes now – and mount the racks. Putting kayak and bikes on top of car requires quite an effort and some help. Whole family is up (or is forcibly gotten up) on Sunday morning to say goodbye. Fast drive to Ancona, get on ferry, all smooth. Apart from a small wobble from G, who wants to stay longer, Giugiu and Sofia don’t even blink that we’re leaving again, it’s natural. Ferry goes by quickly.

Day 74 – May 13th – Igoumenitsa-Vassiliki
Arrive earlyish in Igoumenitsa, quick drive along nice coast, some rain. We stop at Nekromanteio to visit the oracle of the dead, not much to see but a nice heavy rain shower just as we arrive! Quick play on playground, then set off again. Arrive in Vassiliki at lunch time to find out afternoon ferry to Fiskardo is not going due to “wind”; weather doesn’t look so bad to us. We decide to stop for the night and hope it goes next morning so find a surfers hotel on the beach. Manu and Fiona sleep while kids stay awake after lunch! Then we go to the beach to fly the kite. Pasta for dinner.

Day 75 – May 14th – Vassiliki-Astakos-Katelios
Sofia coughs most of the night, she’s not very well, 5 days in Bologna were enough to get a cough. When we get up in the early morning it looks windier than yesterday, so we’re not very suprised to learn that ferry from Vassiliki is not running today either. Drive to Astakos, great stretch of coast between Preveza and there, especially around Mytikas. Ferry ride is not bad, a little choppy but nothing serious. Arrive in Sami and drive straight to Katelios. Very weird to be back. We stay at Dreams where they welcome us nicely. We go to the beach, Agia Barbara, in the late afternoon, Manu goes for a swim, water not too cold, see some Pinna nobilis, attempts equalizing technique learned from Flo.

Bologna in the springtime

Day 68 – May 7th – Bologna
Easy day, the only thing we really do is make a trip to the supermarket late morning, where G manages to lose her new sunhat! Chill out around garden in the afternoon.

Day 69 – May 8th – Bologna
Manu spends morning looking for roof rack and seeing Niccolò in bank. Then we go see Lolò’s bees. Play some ping pong with Usi.

Day 70 – May 9th – Sasso & Anzola
We take Sofia and Giulia to Sofia’s school. After some initial resistance, they’re happy to stay and they’re happy to see them so we leave them there while we go to Decathlon for some clothes shopping.
Afternoon we go see Niccolò, Stefi, Dani and Giada in Anzola’s park, then have dinner with them.

Day 71 – May 10th – Puianello
In the morning we buy the kayak! Which is missing two covers, so we get a super discount. Then we go to Puianello with Lolò where we have lunch with Gabri, Chico, Fra, Luca. See Giova in the afternoon as well. Family stories. Giugiu sleeps straight from 5pm to morning while Sofia has a bath. Some more ping pong.

Day 72 – May 11th – Monte S.Pietro
We drive to Monte S. Pietro to see a house that Lolò and Auri are interested in. A great location on top of a hill, somewhat far, and a very big house. Davide joins us and we go for lunch all together to Matarrozzi, good food and crescentine. We drive straight to supermarket for travel food, then go back to do some packing. Mounting roof rack and bike carriers takes longer than expected, so we haven’t really finished when Macca, Paola, Lorenzo and Francesco come and join us for evening and dinner. Eat last dinner with them, then also Leti arrives. Go to bed latish to finish some packing.

Visiting friends in Spain and France (Cullera – Bologna)

Among many other things, Flo is a great underwater photographer:



Day 63 – May 2nd – Cullera-Barcelona
Another long drive. Set off in the morning after breakfast, arrive for dinner. Take a long detour around some nice mountain inland area -Tirig – apparently an important Paleolithic area for cave paintings, but miss the guided tour time so we can only see museum. In Barcelona for the evening, nice to see Cavuz and Elisa who give up their bed for us in their apartment in Poble Sec. Pasta and ice cream for dinner.

Day 64 – May 3rd – Barcelona
Walk around in the morning towards Mont Juic. Our plan is to take the telecabin down to port, so we cajole the kids along with stories of flying cabins, but when we get there, it’s not running today! We hang around on the panoramic terrace for a while, have our picnic lunch there, then walk back. Spend the afternoon mostly in house, then an evening walk out to urban playground with Cavuz, G+S are a little intimidated by the playground, which is full of boisterous Latino kids, but they eventually warm up enough to try playing a bit. Dinner with tapas in small cava place, we order a lot of stuff, nice but heavy.

Day 65 – May 4th – Barcelona-Rayol sur mer
Breakfast then “bye bye Cavuz”: then 10 hours in car later we arrive in Rayol around 8pm. Another nice welcome from Flo, who makes us a great dinner (much appreciated as we have only snacked in car all day) grilling a huge grey mullet he fished himself for the eggs! We set up our tent at dusk, takes a while to inflate our many mattresses with our tiny hand pump, but the end result is great. Kids are very excited about sleeping in the tent (it’s the first time we use it), but eventually we get to sleep in our little campsite.

Day 66 – May 5th – Rayol
Manu + Flo swim in morning, long time to get ready with full wetsuits, weights, fins. We see a spirograph (big worm), big octopus, cuttlefish, flat fish, weever. Manu gets cold quickly so we don’t stay long. Also feels very cumbersome with wetsuit and visibility bad. Still a good swim. Fi + kids play on beach + in park, it’s cloudy and intermittently rainy but still warm, so we picnic at beach with Flo’s special home made bottarga. Afternoon we go for a little walk around house along old train track, very nice place. All tired at night.

Day 67 – May 6th – Rayol-Bologna
Long drive, set off earlish after breakfast and goodbye to Flo, quiche and baguette for lunch. Drive is smooth, narrow lanes and long tunnels, past Genova to Pistoia then get off highway and cross the Apennines on Porrettana. Another very long day, we make short stops every now and then, and finally arrive in Bologna at dinnertime. Lolò bought gnocchi! Tired but happy.

Going East again, through Spain (Granada + Cabo de Gata)

Day 60 – April 29th – Tenerife-Seville-Granada
A very early start, we eat our breakfast in the dark at the bus station, then another tenerifian sunrise as we travel to the airport. Flight to Seville is much better than coming, Sofia sleeps all of it, no turbulence this time. Collect our beloved Doblo and we’re back on the road, destination: Granada. Kids sleep in car, and we’re there by about 3pm. The weather is a bit of a shock to the system, it’s pretty freezing, there’s still snow on the mountains in the background, and we’re used to the Canarian temperatures of 25+!We wander over towards the moroccan quarter / Sacromonte, following the river, play a bit in the square overlooked by the Alhambra, dinner at La Cuevita and back to bed.

Day 61 – April 30th – Granada-Cabo de Gata
Short drive to Almeria/Cabo de Gata. Manu’s heard about this place from a friend, apparently a lot of interesting fish, a good place for snorkelling. When we arrive it’s nice and sunny but very windy, no swimming for us!

Day 62 – May 1st – Cabo de Gata-Cullera
Long day, mostly in car. We visit a nice beach after Cabo de Gata in morning, but it’s very busy and very windy. Later we realise today is a holiday day, that explains the crowds at least! Arrive in Cullera by late afternoon. A tiny dog on the beach attempts to terrorise G+S, very funny scene as they cling to each other while this dog (who comes up to sofias kneecaps) yaps at them! Then we make friends and all ok. Cullera’s pretty ugly. We have high hopes for a good Paella for dinner as we’re close to Valencia, unfortunately we get a 1 hour wait for a thin and dry pan of rice 🙁 Manu gets to watch the football though, Barcelona get slaughtered by Bayern (for the second time).

La Gomera

Day 55 – April 24th – La Gomera
Leave the kids to entertain their grandparents, we rent kayaks in Playa Santiago. After some discussion, we decide to go West, towards the cliffs. With some lunch from the bakery, we set off merrily. Stop at the first beach on the way, just under an hours paddling. The beach is extremely steep, as Brian (the English guy who rented us the kayaks) had warned us, with clearly some understatement. Luckily the waves are small. Short stop for banana, Manu goes for a quick swim then we set off again. On the way to the second beach: our destination, we start feeling tired. We visit a little cave then we see an osprey on the cliff above us, surrounded by gulls and a nest perched on a rock. We land with some difficulty, this beach is even steeper and the swell more serious. A bit of fighting to pull the kayak up out of the reach of the waves and we retreat to the shade to munch our picnic. The beach is home to an abandoned fish factory which makes for an interesting landscape. We see a flying fish which flies for about 20m in front of us. Swimming, Manu sees trumpet fish, parrot fish. We go for a short walk into the valley, then time to set off, we know there’s a very long paddle ahead of us. Just as we’re losing hope, we see a turtle (loggerhead) right next to the kayak, which gives us the boost we need. We get back to Playa Santiago late, with lobster-red legs!

Day 56 – April 25th – la Gomera
Still tired from kayak day and very sunburnt. Easy morning by pool/around apartment complex. In afternoon we walk down to playa Santiago, Manu swims with barracudas, we see lots of big crabs on port rocks. Out for dinner, good restaurant with local cuisine.

Day 57 – April 26th – la Gomera
Morning at hotel, afternoon we rent kayaks again, planning to go Eastwards this time. Sea is much choppier today so paddling is harder. We stop at end of first bay after Playa Santiago for a swim. There’s some rainbow people living in a cave on the beach and their super hamo-made kayak/raft sitting on the only part of the beach that’s possible to land on (i.e. right next to where we land). Again we see trumpet fish and other cool ones. We also see a Portuguese Man-o-war, fortunately from the kayak! (We only realise later what it was, when Manu looks it up…..) It gets a bit cold but scenery is still very nice. We resolve to get a double kayak for the summer. Get back late, by the time we’ve got groceries, ice cream and walked up, barbecue with grandparents and kids is unfortunately missed!

Day 58 – April 27th – la Gomera
In the morning grandparents rent a car and we drive all together to Garanjonay mountain/national park in the middle of island. Visit visitors centre which has lots of interesting info then on to laurisilva forest in Laguna Grande for a picnic. Roads are nowhere near as bad as we expected, how fast was the bus going on our first day?? After siesta hang around hotel, a bit of minigolf, then drive down to dinner, same restaurant as 2 nights ago, very good again.

North of la Gomera

North of la Gomera

Day 59 – April 28th -La Gomera – Tenerife
Quiet morning at hotel, kids play near the pool with Nana + Grandpa, Fi catches up with work. After lunch and short siesta we head to San Sebastian to take the ferry back to Tenerife. The sea is full of white horses, we’re a bit worried as we board that it will be a rough crossing. In the end it’s not too bad, we stay outside and see dolphins again, this time they are right next to the boat! We eat a very yummy and plentiful dinner at a chiringuito next to the port accompanied by a band and a bunch of waltzing old people. Then we get a bit lost finding the hotel, a long walk, we finally arrive in time to fall straight in to bed at 11pm.

the many faces  of Giulia

the many faces of Giulia…

sofia has just the one

But sofia has just the one

Further into the ocean (Olhao to La Gomera)

Day 52 – April 21st – Olhao-Sevilla
Take it easy in the morning, check out from campsite, set off for Seville, smooth drive on the quiestest motorways we’ve ever seen leaving Portugal. Find hotel then go straight to lunch, at crazy tapas bar “el Patio”. Walk to Cathedral right after lunch, see Cristobal’s grave, go up Giralda tower, huge bells, plaza de toros, have some ice cream on the way back, all knackered. Go out again just for dinner, get to river by Triana bridge, more tapas, Fi not well, grumpy night.

Day 53 – April 22nd – Sevilla-Tenerife
Breakfast in hotel reception, then drive to airport for our first flight of the trip. Nice Ryanair flight attendant gives us 2nd front row, so Manu sits with kids while Fi enjoys some peace and legroom. Sofia does not like turbulence and we have quite a lot of it, she cries for most of the descent. Cool to see Lanzarote and Fuerteventura from above. In Tenerife we take bus to los Cristianos, which is hot like hell and extremely ugly. Hotel is the same, no airflow and no a/c. We take siesta anyway, then go out to the pool but it’s closed already, so we go to kids games. Walk to beach which is cooler, then have dinner at hungarian restaurant, nice goulash but waiter fights with employee who calls people in from the street so it takes one hour to get the bill.
Night is hot, we sleep badly, looking forward to getting out of here.

Day 54 – April 23rd – Tenerife – la Gomera
Very early rise, one hour earlier than we intend because we’ve confused the time zone with Spain. Out before light, we have breakfast and sunrise as we walk to port. Ferry to la Gomera is nice and breezy, sunny, not too long, we see dolphins almost immediately! At some distance though, but we’re still excited and happy. La Gomera looks nice, much more so than Tenerife. A rather hair raising local bus ride to our destination, the driver speeding like crazy on extremely windy road up and down steep hills. Sofia cries for most of it: ‘too fast!’, Giulia feels sick too and we’re all extremely glad to get off. In Playa Santiago we go to the black sandy beach, kids play and Manu goes for a swim, nice warmish water. Lunch in the square then we walk to our hotel, up very steep hill, it’s 2pm, sun is beating on us and it’s very hot. Again too much for Sofia who cries the first half then needs to be carried. By the time we arrive, although it ony takes about half an hour, we’re all pretty exhausted. It must show, because the receptionist looks a little concerned and fusses around us a bit! After siesta grandparents arrive, kids play upstairs with them and we all stay around the complex.

Portugal part 2 (More Olhao, Praia Marinha, Sagres, Farol)

Our time with the people and animals at RIAS was great:

Day 45 – April 14th
Praia Marinha and Sagres
We take the day to drive West along coast. We stop in Praia Marinha, a nice beach halfway to Sagres that Manu saw on a postcard. Great views from the top of the cliffs around. Walk down path to beach, play around, big waves. Manu climbs rocky arch and needs help to get down. Then we drive to Sagres, at SW cape. Have lunch on beach bar, visit fortress, long walk around walls. Talk to fishermen. Sofia tired of walking. We go back to beach, Manu goes for a swim, waves are big and strong, thrown around a few times then he comes out, everyone’s surfing with wetsuits.
Drive back, good day.

A good beach day

A good beach day

Day 46 – April 15th
Morning Fi at Rias. Manu picks kids up from school, in a good mood, happy to have been there. Afternoon playground, then dinner of barbecued grey mullets, fresh + cheap, from the huge fish markets in Olhao.

Day 47 – April 16th
Morning together in Rias, Manu cuts the grass in the gull cage while Fi cleans hundreds of syringes. Afternoon we go all together to the vegetable garden to water and plant some more plants, herbs and other seeds. Manu goes to find chamaeleons in the evening, no luck but many azure winged magpies, terrapins in the pond.

Day 48 – April 17th
Morning together in Rias, we finish cutting the grass in the gull cage, a hot job. Fortunately with two of us we’re finished quite quickly.

Day 49 – April 18th
Sofia sick many times last night, she stayed home, Giugiu went to school alone. Afternoon Manu meets Sofia in Rias about EVS and getting volunteers, a good chance to talk a bit more with Fabia about project as well. Later we go for a cycle inside Ria Formosa park to the tide mills. Well hot. Dinner at our favourite restaurant, just outside campsite.

Day 50 – April 19th
Last day in school for Giugiu and Sofia, we go to supermarket just after dropping them off. Manu doesn’t feel well so stays home while Fi goes to Rias to catch gulls. Later joins her to release ‘falcao’ swift.
Afternoon home then dinner at Maria’s with all Rias team. Lots of nice food and conversation about multilanguages, we learn some Olhanese slang. Goodbye to everyone.

Day 51 – April 20th
Take the boat to Farol island mid morning. It’s a very sunny but windy day, especially on the Atlantic ocean side. Manu swims inside the pier, murky but lots of mullets and other fish. We hang around beach on Olhao side, then go for lunch ‘A do Joao’, good fish restaurant that we were recommended. Take ferry back with very chilly wind. We’re all tired from previous night, but once we’re back at the campsite we clean and re-pack all our stuff into the car ready for departure tomorrow. Lots of room with the new system!