Kiri and


Greek sun

August 31st, 2022 (by Steve)

Finally, we made it to Greece. It might have taken two years for it to happen, but we made it there in the May half term. And it’s strange how much things can change in two years – hold luggage for small child… no longer necessary. Masks suddenly mandatory. Crazy queues at Bristol airport due to staff shortages with the 3rd (4th? 5th?) wave of Covid. But we did it – with a minor delay where we had to go back to the house to pick up a bag with nappies in. I tried to convince the kids as we turned round that they’d just had the holiday, but they weren’t buying it. We were off to Greece!

The journey to Greece was a blur – a cabin bag audit for the 11 of us to maximise use of space, an alarm set for 0245, removing a pair of compasses from cabin luggage just in time, a Casio watch with broken strap sacrificed at security checks, a very early coffee and sausage butty, a bit of a funny turn (my body played the “nope” card just before check in – if you don’t know what that means, it’s worth playing the game “Exploding Kittens“), mixed mask messages… and then suddenly out into the hot dry air of Zakynthos.

A stamp in the passport marked our arrival; the first travelling we’ve done post-Brexit… but old habits die hard, and nearly everyone on the flight wandered through the “EU” channel. Then the pace changed. A basking lazy lizard, darted into the shadows of the car rental place. We meandered around Greek roads (Kiri driving on the right!) until we reached a steep side road down to our villas for the week. And then? The swimming pool welcomed us. This wasn’t to be our usual brand of adventurous holiday; instead a chance to just be. Good food (thanks Jake!). Good company (thanks family!). Good weather (thanks God!). The only downside were the noisy peacocks on a nearby hillside. Who knew they sang so badly?

The next few days blurred into one – waking up, throwing open the shutters at the end of our bed and watching the sun rise as swallows darted over the pool. We lay on various beaches, swimming in the clear waters with the kids and snorkelling with the fish (we were the ones wearing snorkels… not the fish, obviously). We shared amazing food – souvlaki, tzatziki, hummus, olives, pitta, moussaka, oranges straight from the tree, baklava. Oh my, let me pause on the baklava. We bought a huge one from a bakery, where I could only manage a sixth. It had sweet, deep, floral flavours and it’s only been this good when friends have brought it back from Egypt. The 3 generations swam and played in the pool (I lost the game of pool chicken with my nephew where we each tried to be the last one to get out!). Then evenings were spent with the older ones playing games, chatting and listening to the playlist in the dusk, punctuated with the odd “Is that one of our kids? No, just a peacock”… or a random moment where the playlist was playing Ruby and suddenly the phone assistant piped up “Item added to shopping basket”. There was no TV (there was one, but the best I could get in tuning it was the Disney channel in black and white and in German), but that didn’t matter.

We did have a few low-key adventures though. One day we piled into a coach in Argassi (the nearest settlement… which I was convinced for the first few days was called “Gassi” and people were just saying “Our Gassi”) to be taken to the other side of the island. As we drove through the nightclub district with pizza houses, chicken houses and McDonald’s the conversation turned to tourism; something that has sat uncomfortably with me and Kiri throughout our various travels. We totally get the need for trade and tourism as a source of income, and I guess it’s only natural to give punters what they want, and many punters want their British home comforts, but with sun. But it’s not really us. I accept that we are tourists. I’d like to think that we seek authenticity though… but then that leads to unanswerable questions about what it is to be authentic!

In any case, an hour later as I clambered up a ladder into a boat with one hand, clutching 4 Cornettos, a small child and a bag of wet swim gear in the other I realised how much I was rocking the tourist look. We were on a turtle boat trip, where we saw a turtle through the bottom of our boat (it was glass bottomed, rather than leaky), experienced Whitney Houston played at full volume in a sea cave, swam in clear waters (not with the turtles this time) and refused to sing as we passed the island that features in the film Mamma Mia.

On another day we wandered through the streets of the city of Zakynthos. We saw the plush thrones, gold leaf, ornate carvings and intricate murals inside an Orthodox Church, where many were taking the non-Covid-safe choice of kissing paintings. We were offered a “very best price” coffee and milkshake in one of the squares and we marvelled at how “pedestrianised” seems to have a different meaning in Greek when it comes to streets. Our plan had been to eat at a taverna in town, however having earlier in the week eaten at our “local” taverna (Agnadi) to celebrate a big birthday, we realised that we’d be hard pressed to beat it for view, quality of food, or welcome. We also bought a stunning olive wood bowl that had been turned by one of the owners and made a promise to our future selves to work with wood.

And then there was the day of the road trip with banging tunes. First stop was Aristeon olive press where we were introduced to the process of extracting oil from olives – we were fascinated by the business model of farmers paying for the pressing service by the press keeping a percentage of the oil. We were shocked though that the second press of the waste from virgin olive oil uses petrol as a solvent to extract further oil… that’s done on the mainland. With the car weighed down by as much olive oil as we’d be permitted to carry in cabin bags on the return flight, our next stop took us up into the hills to Agrodesmos cheese factory. This clearly wasn’t on the regular tourist trail. A huge rusty saw hung outside an industrial unit and after a short wait, a member of staff bruskly ushered us through a sterile, dark corridor. I thought I’d seen this horror movie before… but obviously not, because at the end of the corridor was a room where feta was being salted. We then got to taste a selection of cheese, one of which had been marinated in Ouzo. We expressed surprise. The straight faced response was “of course”. Well there we go. Feta and Ouzo.

This is probably the time for me to make an admission. I’m conflicted about feta. I don’t know whether I like it or not. As a big slab on top of a greek salad? No thanks. In little bits within a greek salad? Yes please. In moussaka? Take it or leave it. In a spinach pie? Yes please. I think it’s probably a combination of a texture thing (I don’t like crumbly cheeses) as well as a flavour thing (it needs to be balanced with the correct other flavours). Maybe it’s also a quantity thing? Anyway, back to the story – thanks for indulging me.

Our final stop on the tour was Callinico winery. We were casually told to look around and then have a taste. Left to our own devices, we found some bottles that were the same age as us, as well as a violet carpenter bee. Not a violent carpenter bee – that’s something totally different. The guy serving us the tastes of white, rose and red smashed a glass in the process… and then knocked over a couple of bottles. Maybe, like the olive press, he was paid in the wares that he sold? It was the end of the month!

And then suddenly (via an unpleasant moment where I had my face in the sea next to one of our kids and they announced loudly “I’m having a wee!”), we were on our last evening, reflecting on highlights and dreaming about the next family adventure in a few years time. The sweet spot that ticked the boxes of the various families involved sun, sea, good food and culture. So maybe Croatia? Could we add in an extra element of adventure and have a race to get there by different modes of transport?

Our final morning involved consuming as much of the leftover food as possible before wending our way to the airport. Our oldest was swabbed for explosives as we went through security (clearly the most suspicious of our party) and we stocked up on lollies to help with ear pressure on the plane (to clarify, they’re to suck, which helps the ears to pop… you don’t stick them in your ears!). The flight was uneventful – clear skies as we took off and flew north over Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. It was only the beginning of June, but we could see many wide river beds with just a trickle of blue in the middle. The descent was rather more eventful with our youngest not wishing to wear a seatbelt… we apologised to the other passengers profusely for the noise. We were then at the receiving end of an apology at border control after long queues, with the explanation “it’s what’s called Windows 7”.

The kids were both asleep by the time we got home, so we carried them up to bed, checked the garden (the tomato plants had all been eaten, even the backups in the cold frame), appreciated the ability to flush toilet roll down the loo and then settled down to watch a documentary for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I think we’ve turned middle aged!

All posts about Greece

Greek sun

Up Pompeii

Touring, not tourists

Simple life doesn’t mean easy life

On the shoulders of giants

2 Responses

Morning. What a great holiday. I grinned when I read the bit about giving “punters what they want, and many punters want their British home comforts, but with sun.” It reminded me so much of my first trip to Gran Canaria twenty years ago. The menus offered by the restaurants in the main square (can’t remember which one in particular – it was a long time ago) – offered familiar Blighty fayre with chips: spaghetti bolognaise WITH chips; Spanish omelette WITH chips. (I think you’ve got the idea!) We had to search forever to find a non-tourist restaurant! And then the block of villas where we stayed provided a cook full English breakfast, AND punters were able to read a hardcopy of the British tabloids: The Sun and Daily Express. I will admit that I did give in to the cooked breakfast on our last morning. Well, you know, food at the airport costs an arm and a leg!

I went to East Sussex for a week and Belfast for my summer holiday. a visit abroad next year, maybe.

All the best for the rest of the year. S

I reckon I would have been tempted by the daily cooked breakfast… much as I love eating local food, I also can’t resist a full English!

Great to hear from you – I miss East Sussex and Belfast is a beautiful city. Take care

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