The second day of the Tour du Péloponnèse continued where I left off in this post – driving from the mountains of Dimitsana down to the coast on the Eastern side of the Peleponnese to Monemvasia. After passing through the village of Kastorion – where we paused for fuel for the car and a cheese pie for the driver – we descended towards the city of Sparta and the nearby ruins of the Byzantine city of Mystras.
Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mystras was once the capital of the principality that ruled the Peleponnese, with its heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries. Though the weather threatened during our stop there, we had a short but very sweet tour from our accompanying guide, and got to see several of the wonderful churches that dotted the Byzantine city.
The dark clouds loomed, however, and as we were finishing the tour the clouds broke and most of us were soaked. We ran back down to the parking lot, where our cars were waiting forlornly in the downpour, and took an extra unplanned break at the cafe nearby, desperately imbibing hot drinks in an attempt to get warm. That was only marginally successful, but the team also shared with us the results of the rally-style regularity stage from earlier in the day. The father-daughter team driving the 1965 Panhard 24BT had come in first! (That was us, by the way..) So, despite being soaked to the skin and somewhat dreading the 70+ km drive to Monemvasia, Dad and I (and Pierre, the car!) set off in good spirits.
Leaving Mystras, we were among the few teams not to miss a tricky navigation point that involved driving into what looked – for all intents and purposes – like a pedestrian square in the middle of a village. The road book said to turn, though, so turn we did, and managed to cut ahead of a lot of the pack. We only realised we had made up some distance later when we had pulled into a service station and six or seven cars that had started ahead of us, passed us again. Perhaps about 10km into the drive, the rain began again, and so commenced a somewhat terrifying battle between us and the windshield wipers and the condensation inside the car and between the two panes of glass in the windshield. At one point, the driver’s side windshield wiper simply fell off, and I spent a good hour methodically wiping the inside of the glass so dad could see – also while keeping my window open to minimise the condensation. Not terribly fun, but we survived.
Eventually we arrived at Monemvasia, where most of the rest of the group were waiting in front of the giant rock, and once we made it to our hotel inside the castle we were most ready for a glass of wine.
We settled in to our beautiful hotel, Malvasia, and enjoyed the view of the storm which was, by then, far enough away for us to enjoy it.
And with that, the second day wound down. The third day of the Tour we woke up ready to tackle mountain roads up the coast to Nafplio, inspired by the dawn over the sea. Unfortunately, it was not to be for us, as dad and the slippery rocks had an unfortunate encounter that sent us back to Athens for knee surgery rather than to Nafplio with the Panhard. All in all though – we had a wonderful few days, and wish we could have gone on to the finish. Who knows, we may have won!