I know what you’re thinking, and it’s true. I am. So to try and put things right, I took my little Anita on holiday to Kefalonia back in September, partly because that was the only time she could get some time off work and partly because it’s one more Greek island to cross off the list. We do like our Greek island holidays.
It all started very well when, sitting on the train to Gatwick, I realised that after charging my camera’s power packs and making sure I had a spare memory card, I had then proceeded to place the whole kit in the bottom drawer of my bedside cabinet. Where it still resided. So Dixons at Gatwick did quite well out of me that day. I’ve got a(nother) lovely new camera though folks!
Then on arrival at Kefalonia airport, I picked my suitcase off the carousel and found a huge rip down the side of it. Anita was pestering me to report it for the insurance, but I just wanted to get out of there, I assured her that it was nothing that a bit of gaffer tape wouldn’t fix and I really couldn’t be bothered with all the fuss and anyway the Goldair handling office was deserted and I started walking out of the airport. Anita then grabbed hold of a quite hot looking blond who worked for the travel company and told her about my damaged luggage, and the hot blond told me I’d better report it, don’t worry she’ll call Goldair, they’d sort it out. And then Anita sort of tweaked me in a quite unnecessarily vicious kind of way, spiritually speaking.
‘Have you actually looked at that suitcase?’ she asked me. I did. It dawned on me that although yes, it was a black case, and yes it did have a lime green luggage strap around it, no it really didn’t, when you looked at it more critically than I had so far, look anything like my current suitcase, which, upon looking back through the airport window, I could now see going round, unclaimed and quite lonely on the carousel.
I told the hot blonde that everybody makes mistakes, even me, and I ran the wrong suitcase back inside, put it back on the carousel and grabbed mine. Then I made a run for it, quickly. Anita does tend to sigh a lot, sometimes.
Our first two days were spent lazily wandering around the town and we spent both mornings in the sea, swimming in the lovely sandy bay. There were some strange little fishes which seemed to be quite curious about what was going on above water, as they kept hurling themselves out and flipping back into the water. I decided to get me a snorkeling set so as to become a bit more at one with the underwater world. I bought a set on Tuesday, knowing that I wouldn’t have a chance to use it until the Friday, but that’s me, living wild and close to the edge and playing hard to get with the future.
Food? Monday night we started with a dish of courgette fritters which I followed with a stuffed squid while Anita had roast lamb, and we washed it down with a jug of the lovely local red wine.
On Tuesday we shared a dish of assorted dips which should have been enough, which was enough, but then I had to have a sea bass and Anita forced down some lamb chops which were too much for her so I had to help out by eating a few. Then we had some Galaktoboureka, which was gorgeous! We drank Mythos.
During the afternoon on Tuesday we took the long walk to Argostoli, having been told that there was a scenic two hour walk and a more businesslike twenty minute walk, which we were looking forward to for the return journey. Nobody had told us that you have to go half way to the other end of Argostoli to find the short route back. Anyway, the long scenic walk is very nice and long and scenic. You go past the Fanari lighthouse, built by the British and with its lovely 19th century concrete Doric columns, you see the katovothres sink holes and the replica water wheel, and you can visit the Italian war memorial. We did all this, on the way there and again on the way back. Anita got a blister on her toe. She wasn’t very happy. Somehow it was all my fault and the sighing had been replaced by a chilly but temporary silence
So, Wednesday dawned fair and sunny so we took the coach to Vathy and hopped aboard a boat headed for the lovely green nearby island of Ithaca. You want to know the villages we saw? We went to Frikes, and Kioni, and Stavros, where I tried the delicious local rice and honey cake, and stole the recipe but haven’t got around to making it yet, and also visited the church of Joachim the Ithakarian where I stole nothing, especially Joachim’s bones, sitting in a beautiful chased silver ossuary, then we returned to Vathy, back to Sami on Kefalonia and on to the studio. A lovely day indeed.
We dragged ourselves out to the Nefeli taverna and had mixed mezes to start followed by the lovely Kefalonian meat pie and some chicken in a pepper sauce. More red wine!
Then it was Thursday’s turn. We’d booked to go on a round island trip, which took in Myrtos Bay, followed by a couple of hours in Fiskardo, which every guide book will tell you was the only town on the island to escape unscathed in the 1953 earthquake. They keep telling you that, until you feel obliged to repeat it on every possible occasion. Then we went down to Asos, a lovely green peninsula with an old stone prison building on its slopes which were still remarkably pretty. We wandered around the tiny village, sat on the tiny harbourfront watching some very active tiny fishes, then we had some huge yemistes and a Greek Salad and some Mythos.
After lunch we visited the Melissani cave, where we were rowed around the underground lake on a picturesque little rowing boat, and then went to the Drogarati caves, where Anita chose not to enter, she much prefered the idea of sitting above ground in the shade and lapping at a pistachio ice cream but I decided to be a temporary troglodyte and a tall New Zealand lady joined me for the descent and the wander round among the stalagmites and the stalactites. She told me her husband wouldn’t go down with her because of an old rugby injury. I really didn’t know what to say without asking some pretty personal and intrusive questions, so I kept quiet and nodded understandingly. All very nice.
Then we were taken to the New Jerusalem monastery at Ormalos, wherein lies the mummified body of St Gerassimos, the patron saint and healer of the spiritually disturbed. There were some expat Kefalonians in our party who’d lived in Australia for twenty years or so, and the pappas agreed to uncover St Gerassimos’ remains in order for them to do their orthodox devotional bit. A touching scene ensued. All I’ll say about the mummified remains of the saint is that they were surprisingly small but the silver casket in which they are housed is vast and very beautiful. He may just have been a short man. Or he might have shrunk over the years. Then we went to a nearby winery for some free tastings and I bought a small case of various wines to bring home. Lovely stuff.
During our return to the studio we noticed that the sky was clouding over quite dramatically. It’ll pass over, I assured Anita, drawing on my vast knowledge and experience of weather and stuff, I’m trying out the snorkel tomorrow and it’ll be perfect beach weather!
Our travels had given us appetites, so we had kalamari and baked feta to start our dinner, then Anita had a moussaka which she said was the best she’d ever eaten in Greece, and I had chicken souvlaki. More red wine again! It’s gorgeous stuff.
There were some strange lights in the sky as we made our way back that night. It was constant lightning, but with no thunder. We sat out on out terrace with a bottle of wine and enjoyed the show. Still no thunder. Then in the early hours I awoke, with four or five inches of thin air separating me from my bed, as the thunder finally broke and the rain finally started. I’d never jumped in the air because of thunder before but in my defense I was asleep at the time. Bugger me it was loud.
So to cut a long story short, it rained, and it thundered, and the wind blew for a day or so and it got very boring. We walked down to the beach the next day and the beach had been washed away. All day Friday it rained. We walked around the village and got wet. We sat on the terrace with a drink and got wet. I read a book and Anita played on her phone and we stayed dry for a while. We had tzatziki and pork chops for dinner that night and we got wet going back to the studio.
The next day it was still raining on and off. I asked Anita if she fancied walking into Argostoli with me in the showers. She didn’t, so I went alone, and spent an hour or so in the archaeological museum. It’s a very small museum. I wandered aimlessly around Argostoli for a while and then went back. i tried to visit the botanical gardens on the return trip but the rain sapped my spirits and I gave up after getting very muddy and wet on a footpath which was probably a wrong turning.
When I’d got showered and dry, we went into town and bought the usual bits to bring home for the grandchildren and everybody. We inspected the beach and found that the tide had returned all the sand. The ebb and flow of inevitability. You see it everywhere.
We had stuffed aubergine, meatballs, Kleftiko and grilled prawns for dinner that night. We drank another big jug of local red wine and then it rained again as we went back to the studio. Oh how we laughed, carefree and sodden. Then for the first time ever in my life I had a reaction to the prawns. Presumably. They were the only thing that I’d eaten and Anita hadn’t. I couldn’t stop sneezing, my face felt like it was going to expand forever and my airways started to constrict. I kept telling Anita and myself that it was merely a sneezing fit, between the strangled gasps. One benefit of being married to a healthcare professional with strong hypochondriac tendencies is the fact that her handbag contains a selection of medication suitable for treating 97.5% of all ailments known to science. She quickly administered an anti-histamine and the narrowing tunnel leading to a spot of blinding white light faded from existence. I like prawns, so why would they do such a thing to me?
On Sunday we came home.
Our next holiday was going to be a week in Estonia in January. But then I realised that they probably only get about four hours of daylight at that time of year. So I decided we’re going in March instead. It’s all good.