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Saturday 14th January
RAR 255
COVENTRY'S GBG

Meet at Greyhound, Sutton Stop, 12 noon
Sunday 5th February
HW 55
SNOWDROPS AT ALLESLEY

Meet at The Brooklands, Kingsbury Road, 12 noon.
Saturday 18th February
RAR 256
STATFORD TO WELFORD ON AVON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am (X18 takes 1 hour 35 mins!!)

The No.27 bus leaves Welford at 3:16pm and arrives Stratford 3:29pm (opposite Maypole)
5:50pm arrives 6:12pm
6:09pm arrives 6:46pm

The X18 bus leaves B439 (Binton turn) at 3:19pm arrives Stratford at 3:56pm. This stop is supposedly 20 mins walk from Welford.
3:49pm arrives 4:26pm
4:24pm arrives 5:01pm
4:54pm arrives 5:31pm

The 6:30pm No. 460 National Express arrives Coventry 7:00pm
Saturday 18th March
RAR 257
WELFORD ON AVON TO BIDFORD ON AVON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am

The 11:54am X18 bus from Stratford arrives B439 (Binton turn) at 12:07pm
Saturday 15th April
RAR 258
BIDFORD ON AVON TO HARVINGTON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am

The 11:54am X18 bus from Stratford arrives Bidford 12:11pm
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Greece

SOUTHERN PELOPONNESE

This time we flew out to Kalamata, which has a fairly typical Greek regional airport. This airport is shared with the military and is very small. It is hemmed in by mountains on three sides and the sea on the fourth. The mountains create a natural amphitheatre about 15 kilometres in diameter, which made the landing interesting. The plane took three circles within this amphitheatre to loose height. On the fourth and last circle it flew out to sea, took a wide circle and flew inland towards the mountains, then banked steeply whilst still loosing height, to line up with the runway. It still looked too high to me but made a good touch down. That was real flying!

The terminal is tiny and we caught a taxi into Kalamata town for E 17. The town centre was noisy, but the following morning we moved on by bus to Sparta. This bus crosses the Tagytos mountain range, one of the most spectacular bus rides I have ever experienced. We bought our tickets for E 2.80 and they said Artemisia on them. The bus also said Artemisia on the front, so I reasoned that it this must be the name of the bus station in Sparta. Wrong, Atremisia is the name of a village at the top of the pass in the Tagytos mountains. The bus from Kalamata takes you up there and meets the bus from Sparta before going back. Then you have to pay another fare for the ride down to Sparta. Artemisia is in a beautiful situation at the head of a high mountain valley. I made a note to stay there another year.

The descent to Sparta is even more spectacular, which cannot be said of the city of Saprta itself. It is a modern city (1853) on a grid plan and not at all attractive. The ancient ruins are a little disappointing too, as Sparta was not so much an ancient city as a military camp. It was a grouping of seven villages with an unbeatable army. The modern city makes a great deal of capital out of the film 'The 300' and I had to have my photo taken alongside the statue of King Leonides.

Much more impressive is the Byzantine city of Mystras just outside Sparta, on a well defended hill top. There are churches with splendid wall paintings, the palace of the Despot, and lots of ruins. The last inhabitants moved out after the second World War to the village at the bottom of the hill, Neo Mystras. This looks a lovely little place, with the deserted city on its hill as a backdrop and I decided it was another place I must return to.

From Sparta we continued our travels to Monemvasia. Here there is another Byzantine city, also perched on a hill, but in this case the hill is about half a mile off shore, connected by a causeway. It is still occupied, the population having reached a low point of 37 after the last war, since when houses have been restored and the city repopulated. It is an island fringed with cliffs; there is a lower town on flat ground beneath the cliffs on the south-east side and a staircase of steps winding up to an upper town atop the cliffs. All extremely spectacular and beautiful. For the adventurous there is footpath that circles the island, sometimes almost at sea level, sometimes on a ledge amongst sheer cliffs high above the sea. It rounds the eastern headland over broken boulders hundreds of feet above the sea, very exhilarating and also very scary ! Then as you finally round the headland, there is a lighthouse perched on a ledge. As you wander round the lighthouse, getting you breath back, you find that the only notice on the building is in Braille ! I can't imagine what it is doing there, nor how anyone with poor eyesight is supposed to get there to read it ! We did eat in Monemvasia one night, in the most traditional taverna we could find. We could tell it was traditional, not only because it was run by an old lady, but also because of the dog and cats that shared the kitchen with the chef ! They also had the traditional Greek attitude to the menu. They give you a beautifully - presented menu and then proceed to tell you what they have today, as they don't have anything on the menu ! It was still the best meal of the holiday: my aubergine stuffed with meat and covered in molten cheese was simply magnificent.

The mainland village opposite Monemvasia is called Gefyra. We stayed there, at KRYTIKOS ROOMS, www.nikolaoskritikos.gr or kritikosrooms@gmail.com, which were excellent, whilst the best restaurant in Gefyra is SCORPIOS, scorpiosrestaurant@hotmail, where between 7 and 11 pm you can sit with you wine/beer/meal and watch the turtles in the bay. Eleni Kritikos told us we spoke beautiful English. We were puzzled as we had never thought this, but she explained that she usually hears Americans, or Italians, speaking it, so to her we spoke it beautifully.

The southern Peloponnese is a land of orange groves and vineyards, so there is plenty of wine to drink and oranges to eat at reasonable prices (even free if you a re lucky!), but all too soon it was time for our return journey. This time we did the journey back to Kalamata in one day, learning of the Brexit on the way at Sparta. We spent two nights in Kalamata, where we found the old railway station which has been turned into a charming restaurant complete with a whole collection of old locomotives and rolling stock in a park and also the fascinating old town, difficult to find surrounded by the modern city, but well worth it. Here we were treated to fresh, still warm, home made sesame bars. On Sunday we caught our flight home, which was less exciting than the flight out as it took off straight over the sea rather than towards the mountains. In no time at all we were back in the City Arms, with a pint of British bitter in our hands. Yummy.

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