Monday, 25 March 2013

The Sunday "Volta"

Sometimes a day does go right. Not often, but sometimes! Sunday 24th March (yesterday) was such a day. It even started with a nice little visitor allowing me to take his picture in the garden. Can you spot him..?

I've lost count of the number of days when we'd planned to go to Haraki for lunch this past winter, but haven't done so due to the weather not having been right. I know I always bang on about how every week in the winter we enjoy some sunshine, but it's true to say that it hasn't been too often on a Sunday during this one!

So today it was brill to wake up to wall-to-wall sunshine, "p'akri s'akri" as our favourite TV weatherman Sakkis usually says when he sweeps his hands across the weather map for Greece during the summer. "P'akri s'akri" is an abbreviation for "από άκρη σε άκρη [apo akri se akri]" which means, "from edge to edge, side to side", or even "end to end". Anyway, whatever, was "p'akri s'akri" yesterday and very welcome it was too. Especially since we hear that the weather in the UK still seems to think it's mid-winter. After washing the car and my wife doing a good stint at weeding the gravel paths in the garden, we hung out a line of washing and headed for our favourite waterfront spot, Haraki. The car's outside temperature reading was a very respectable 19ºC.

Before sitting down at Bottoms Up [see the Ideas page] for some lunch, we strolled all along the lane behind the seafront to the far end and then back along the front itself, all the while with me irritating the missus no end as I whipped the camera out every few yards. Come on guys, when you write a blog you simply have to keep that camera on the hip, eh? After all, this is what we saw along the way...

Ferakos Castle looking superb against the blue

See? I bet you're glad I took the camera with me, anyway.

Arriving at Bottoms Up we found Vasili and his son sitting at a table in the sunshine and they rose together to greet us. Apparently Despina's in Oz at the moment and will be back for the season. I asked Vasili if he and Savvas (their son) had had a holiday this winter and Vasili replied, "Of course we have" whilst gesturing with his hands to his surroundings as if to say, "life here's a holiday" even though for them it isn't really.

We seated ourselves at a table in the sunshine and ordered a delicious smoked salmon salad, a tuna club sandwich, a Mythos for me and a frappe for her. Well, someone has to, eh? I've just read a bit on Tripadvisor about Bottoms Up, and I have to say that one bloke gets it very wrong. He apparently lives in L.A., which I believe is somewhere in America? Anyway, he seems to think that the place only caters for British tourists these days. He obviously came on an off-day. Yea, sure, they do get their fair share of the UK contingent, but arguably the real year-round watering hole for these is Haraki Dreams, and it's none the worse for it. Sitting here yesterday there wasn't an English voice to be heard and that's often also the case during the summer too. Despite being popular with the Brits, Haraki Dreams too gets a full helping of Greeks as well.

I've often said myself that the name used to put me off, but having overcome my aversion to that little problem, I don't need to mention again (but will anyway) that it's simply a great place to have a snack or drink. It doesn't pretend to be a taverna, it's a bar that does snacks.

So, not intending to bang on yet again about how good the food is for the price, I'll show you a little photo. Sorry (in advance), but I did the thing I always used to when I was allowed to play with my dad's old Box Brownie when I was a kid and got a finger in the way when I took this one, but - just to make you salivate...

Smoked salmon salad to the left, tuna club sandwich to the right. Mythos off-picture. Wife's hand(s) just a little further away!
After we'd been there a while the real floor show began, and how we loved it. Sunday is traditional "Volta" [stroll, walk, outing] day for Greek families and this one brought them out in their droves. Before long a less than half-full bar was packed to the gills and we were enjoying the usual Greek custom of parents taking turns to run after their kids, usually frantically.

Most of the women (even those that were evidently the grandmas) were in jeans you could have sworn were painted on, stiletto heels and leather jackets over woollen jumpers. The men sported trainers, jeans or tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirts, plus the occasional leather jacket too. A family of four adults and an indeterminable number of three-to-five-year-olds plonked themselves at the table just behind us and the fun got under way. I say an indeterminable number because the little angels didn't stay still long enough for us to count.

Whilst the adults exchanged seats a few times before finally arriving at an acceptable permutation, the children set about tearing off toward the edge of the promenade, where, of course, there's a six foot drop to the sand and shingle beach. Every twenty feet or so there are steps leading down, but, needless to say, the parents were immediately on edge about the fact that the kids were on the loose and well likely to come the proverbial cropper if left to their own devices.

So, the pleasant afternoon's sojourn at the seaside bar was to be punctuated for the parents by alternative visits to the promenade or beach to return, usually with a toddler in either hand, whereupon, once they'd arrived back at the table the little angels would immediately rush off again. If, say, it had been the mum who'd gone the previous time, then this time, after they'd had a couple of minutes chat, the dad would be up and out of his chair, edge past our table, stand on the front and, cupping his hand to his mouth yell, "Foti!!! get back here!!" Of course, little Fotis would do nothing of the sort and dad would soon be down on the shingle at the water's edge, just managing to catch his son before the child went for a paddle in his Sunday best. Woe betide any cat that decided to turn up at the front today, too. It would soon be racing under tables and behind chairs to escape little hands eager to squeeze the life out of the poor moggie for fun.

It's very entertaining and, this may sound strange, heartwarming. Why? Well, because it demonstrates that the culture is alive and well. Parents don't go off to the pub on Sunday and leave the kids with grandma, or a babysitter. No, grandma and granddad come too and so do the kids. Whenever someone they know turns up it's all stand up, hugs, kisses, "Kalos irthate!" and "Kalos sas vrikate!" and stuff. Wonderful.

Following our exceptionally good first course, I felt a weak moment coming on. Well, a) it was still early and b) we were so enjoying the floor show. So I ordered a crèpe with Nutella and ice cream. Another great touch that's common over here is that, even if you order one dish, they'll often still bring you two sets of cutlery. there's no attitude like "Huh, cheapskates!! Why don't they order one each?" No, they accept that whatever you order is what you want and don't have any problem if you plan to share your dessert. Frankly, when you see the size of the crèpe you get at Bottoms Up, you'll not want one each if you fancy your chances of being able to walk afterwards...

It's at times like this when it would almost be useful to be a Catholic. I mean, a couple of Hail Marys and I could struggle back to the car with a clean conscience, eh?

Ah well, as I type this I'm wondering how many layers I'm going to have to put on come Wednesday, when we'll be EasyJetting off to the UK to visit my mum. Brrr!


  1. What a lovely picture you conjure for us, John. The thing I have always found so delightful about Haraki is the opportunity for people (or rather, greek family) watching. As you say, quite heart-warming.
    As for your trip to UK. I would recommend multi THERMAL layers, it is quite extraordinarily cold in the biting wind.
    Kalo taxidi

  2. PS Was your visitor one of Y-M's 'baby' toads?

    1. Nope, it was a tree frog! Found another one whilst strimming the orchard today too!!