We very rarely see deer out in the open at midday, but this doe was sheltering in the shade of an olive tree, with her fawn under another when we walked back up to the house from a very acceptable lunch at Il Porto on Kiotari front (more info on this page) the other day. We decided that their search for moisture/water was most likely the reason for them being out and about in the daylight hours.
We don't get to sit in Il Porto as often as we'd like. The summer just seems to whizz past us. But since we're taking a couple of weeks "off" and having a "holiday from home" we at last had the chance to walk down there for Sunday lunch. It was while sitting there waiting for our chickpea rissoles, green salad and toasted haloumi cheese that my wife started examining the basil plants in the planters all along the terrace balcony.
"How come every time we see someone's basil it looks so healthy?" She exclaimed. It's true, we've tried growing it so many times and every time it's died on us. We've had it in pots, in the ground, in shade, partial shade and full sun. We've put it in "black soil" (gathered from under the "strawberry tree" bushes that grow wild on the hillsides around the house) and we've used fresh compost. The result has always been the same. It starts to look ill, then all the leaves drop off and we're left with a sorry-looking skeleton of brown sticks. Hmph.
Since at this time of year the place is usually quiet, in fact Anastasia and Tassos will be closing for the winter any day now, my beloved was able to have a natter with Anastasia while Tassos prepared our lunch. She asked her how come her basil was so flushed with health and what ought we to do to emulate it.
Of course the reply was what we've come to expect. Something like "Oh I just do this and that and it grows." It's never as simple as that though. It can't be. If it were you wouldn't be able to see our house for huge basil plants and, to be honest, it's very visible. Of course too, this is toward the end of October and Anastasia told Y-Maria that the best time to put basil cuttings in is April. Nevertheless, following some pretty persistent remonstrating from my better half, she set about one or two of the annoyingly healthy plants and brought us a couple of cuttings, which she gave us with strict instructions:
"Put these in water for at least a week. Then, when you see roots shooting, put them in some good compost." Right then, a trip to the nearest garden centre is now scheduled in.
I have to say that, even if these latest attempts at growing basil don't come to anything, at least they graced our table with a nice scene and a heavenly aroma while we ate our delicious lunch...
|In case you're wondering, yes I did have a beer too! It's just out of shot. The better half of course, ever virtuous, plumped for tonic.|
|Traganou Beach. Only minutes from Faliraki, but a world away.|
As I said above, we're having a "holiday from home" and thus have been doing some excursions. We've compiled a list of places we've either still not visited in over 11 years of living here, or last went to such a long time ago that they merit a re-visit. One of the former is Traganou Beach, also rather inexplicably called Traounou. To be honest, we loved it there, but were rather hoping that there would still be a couple of sun beds and umbrellas available, but they'd already been cleared away for the winter. So, I snapped a couple of photos and we made a mental note to come back in November/December when the sun is bearable without too much shade and then I can investigate the caves that we've heard so much about.
|Traganou again, caves at the far end, still unvisited by yours truly.|
Thus, on this particular day we decided to decamp to Agathi. We'd attempted a few hours on this beach when our friends Mary and Kim were here in September, but not carrying a shoehorn with us we'd not been able to even park the flamin' car, so we'd aborted that particular mission. Agathi is a truly beautiful, safe, sandy beach. It's quite a ways from anywhere, but that doesn't stop it from getting extremely busy during the high season. There are three restaurant/bars on the beach which all get dismantled and taken away during the winter, when the beach returns to its natural state, which resembles the kind of place I always imagine in my mind's eye when thinking about desert islands.
At one end too is a beachcomber's paradise, a gently tree-dotted slope that leads up to an old church set into the rock. It's a fab place for the kind who like to snap photos that capture the "essential" Greece. Here are a few of my attempts...
|That's Feraklos Castle on the headland, the very last foothold of the Knights as they evacuated the island in August of 1522. (It's the tour escort coming out in me...)|
|When we went to Agathi, one of the three "Kantinas" had already been dismantled, but the one near which we decided to "camp" sold Fix Dark [I love the clumsy English on such Greek websites]. What a result. It's still pretty difficult finding this beer in eateries and bars, which annoys me no end. It's freely available in most supermarkets these days, but when I'm out and about it usually has to be the blonde version. Yet, here, in a prefabricated beach bar, they had it in their glass-fronted cold cabinet, thus making my lazy afternoon virtually perfect. The only thing that detracted was the fact that we had to pay €10 for two sun beds and an umbrella. Still, we are on 'holiday' after all.|
Another excursion we've done was a 'hinterland' wander. We wanted to re-visit the village of Apollona, which we'd only fleetingly experienced many years ago, so we plotted a route from Lardos up to Laerma, then from there to Apollona. When you reach Laerma driving up from Lardos, you see a tight right-hander a hundred metres or so before you enter the village itself and you take this. As you begin to climb the very twisty-turny route, you begin to catch glimpses of the new reservoir, which is formed by the recently constructed Gadoura Dam [see this post for lots of photos].
At one place where we caught sight of the lake, we could see how low the water level had become owing to our drought of the past 12 months. If you click on the photo below and look at it in a larger window you can see how far the water level is below what it should normally be.
Further on up the road towards Apollona you get to see and cross this quirky bridge. It amazed us that there was still some water flowing beneath it. It reminds one a little of Devil's Bridge in glorious Wales. Not anything like as grand, but if you check out that link I'm sure you'll see what I mean.
When we got to Apollona it was frappé time, so we parked up and wandered up and down the main "street". We sat in a bar at the top end of the village, right across the road from the bakery. It was ten minutes to midday. Already in the bar were two or three Greek youths, all doing the usual, tapping away with their thumbs on their mobile phones and only occasionally talking to each other. We must have turned up just in time for "to steki" (the "hangout") hour though, because as we sat there, kids who looked to us to be anything from seventeen to twenty and not much more than that, began turning up almost by the minute either on foot, on mopeds and one even in a souped-up old car.
Before much after 12 noon there were a dozen youths, some in their strangely baggy trousers, you know, those ones with the crutch somewhere between the knees (what is it with those?), some in jeans that had that many rips in them that I've have thrown them out a couple of years ago and all in hooded fleeces. Well, it was only about 25ºC and they don't want to get a chill.
As they turned up and flopped down around a knot of tables, often not a word was said. To a 'man' they whipped out their phones and got on with the thumbing job. Eventually some form of conversation began, about sport of course. Another 'of course' was the inclusion of the word "malaka" with every other syllable, but what do you expect, eh? We still found ourselves warming to these village lads. Every one of them, we knew, would treat us with due deference or respect (which in fact they did as we had to squeeze past them to get inside to visit the loo) and they all were drinking coffees. Some had a sandwich too.
When we got up to leave they all joined in a "Kali sas 'mera" as we exited the place for a stroll around the village. Quite what they do for a living or whether they're still studying we didn't fathom.
|Centre of the village of Apollona. Turning thru 180º from this shot there was a nice little taverna/bar that we'd probably have sat in had we known it was there before we went to the boy's hangout. Worth a look down this street.|
|The "old boys' hangout. Most had set off for home where their lunch was no doubt on the table by the time I snapped this one.|
Setting out from Apollona we wanted to pay a return visit to the Elafos Hotel at Profitis Ilias, somewhere else that we hadn't been for many years. You can go either of two ways because it's the other side of the mountain from Apollona. We chose the Eloussa route and, as you near Profitis Ilias, you pass this little church all on its ownsome along the lane...
I was dead keen to wander up to Mussolini's House once we'd parked up at the Elafos Hotel. It's still amazing that nothing is ever done to make the place a tourist attraction. There aren't even signs telling folk that it's only a short climb up from the Elafos car park. One could visit the hotel, have a drink or a meal and leave and never know what was just up the slope...
We opted for smoked salmon baguettes a tonic and a Fix beer. OK, one only does this rarely, which is just as well because that little lot set us back over €22. Yes, I gasped too.
In fact, in the interests of perspective and all that, last night we ate out (on our way home from a trip to Symi - more about that another time) at the fab, trad, Savvas Grill in Lardos village. We ordered green salad, chickpea rissoles, big beans (gigantes), oven potatoes and grilled Haloumi, plus a 500ml bottle of Retsina. Bill? €22. Needless to say we left Basili, who served us, €25.
|At the Elafos Hotel. Take a well stocked wallet.|
As a final stop on our way home we wanted to visit Monolithos. We'd been there just last year when my wife's niece Chloe and her fella Elliot were over for a holiday, but even then we never made the climb to the castle on the monolith itself. We've never done it in fact. So, taking the Sianna route we turned up at Monolithos at something like 3.30pm and set off up the steep path to the castle and the tiny church within the perimeter wall. There were quite a few other visitors there, but they'd already closed the little café in the pines at the foot of the rock, which seemed to us a little shortsighted. Especially as we'd have happily killed for an ice cream at the time.
|The views from Monolithos rival those from the top of Tsambika Monastery on the east coast.|
|Those strange folk who love to pile up mini-cairns have gone AWOL at Monolithos. Why did we get this really strong urge to run through them knocking them all down?|
|As I said, the summit is "cairn-city".|
Heading back home along the road to Apollakia, we were brought face to face with the damage done by the most recent fires. The photo below doesn't even give you 10% of the charred landscape you'll see along this road.
All in all a splendid excursion. I'd recommend it to anyone with wheels. From Lardos, through Laerma, Apollona, Profitis Ilias, Embona, Sianna to Monolithos, then on to Apollakia and across to Gennadi, where you take the coast road back up to Lardos, can easily be accomplished without rushing in a day.
Just be sure to bring your camera. Oops, that gives my age away doesn't it. Ought to say phone, tablet, whatever. At least though, when you snap a loved one, you do still ask them to say "cheese" though, yea?