Kefalonia, Greek Islands – July 2016

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Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia

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Deep mediterranean-blue skies, cypress covered hillsides, olive groves, bee hives buzzing with activity in fields of wild thyme, rocky coves with crystal clear ultramarine and turquoise waters, a gorgeous fishing village draped with bougainvillea and pink and white oleander trees radiant with bloom… a more perfect location for the wedding of one of my oldest friends, Kate and her charming new hubby Damion, than Fiskardo in Kefalonia would not have been possible to find 🙂

We were here for a week getting our annual “Europe fix” and also to kill two other important birds with one stone – firstly, obviously, to attend the wedding and secondly, to have a vacation with my brother Paul and our sister-in-law Katie who we just don’t get to see often enough 😦 As luck would have it though, we actually managed to kill another third unexpected bird with the same stone – one of our best friends Gary and his wife Tracey were finishing up their vacation on the island and we managed to spend our first afternoon (and their last) with them re-acquainting ourselves with the delights of grecian food as the sun glinted on the bay behind us in Agia Efimia. It was quite lovely 🙂

Having lured our family to Kefalonia to join us with the offer of the second bedroom in our hillside stone cottage we were relieved to find that the local town, Fiskardo, is absolutely beautiful. Fishing boats, yachts and catamarans bob around in the harbor, the waterfront is filled with shady cafes and restaurants where we probably spent far too much time dining upon cheese (feta, saganaki, haloumi… pretty much any cheese really – baked, raw, wrapped in filo pastry, decorating the top of a greek salad, drizzled in olive oil, herbs, nuts or honey), freshly baked and herbed pitta bread dipped in tzatziki, taramasalata and hummus… and way too many meals were finished with slices of sticky, pistachio-filled, honey soaked baklava. During our lengthy over-indulgences at the table we pondered ad-nauseum how we could afford to buy a 48’ catamaran (with all necessary mod-cons) between us and spend the rest of our lives floating aimlessly in the coves and bays of the Mediterranean 🙂

Whilst the cottage in the hills above Fiskardo was very pretty – with a vine-covered terrace on which we sipped our morning tea – and a sun terrace (overlooking the Ionian Sea glinting in the distance) with large comfy chairs at which many glasses of vino were sipped at the end of the day – the beds were clearly de-commissioned stock from Alcatraz and all 4 of us, although sorry to leave the island, would not be sorry to get back to a more comfortable sleeping arrangement – even if, in our case, that would be the BA business class beds on our return transatlantic flight which were far from comfortable either 😉

However, it wasn’t all relaxation, sleepless nights on a steel gurney and over-consumption! Katie and I started each day with a refreshing dip in one of either of our 2 favorite beaches – Foki or Emblisi (once or twice the boys also deigned to get their feet wet). The choice was tough – clear turquoise water with shades of ultramarine straight from my paintbox… or clear turquoise water with shades of ultramarine straight from my paintbox 😉 For some reason bobbing about for 30 minutes every morning seemed justification enough to potter into town for brunch and later we would grab the map and head off onto the open road to explore the island. By that I mean we would take to the terrifying hairpin bends, sheer mountainside cliff drops (most with no protective barriers whatsoever) and narrow, winding country roads where you were more likely to have to make an emergency stop for a herd of roaming goats than for an oncoming vehicle.

…and so we wound through the mountain roads with their spectacular backdrops of white cliffs plunging into the sea, marveling at the bright white pebble beaches far below us (the most famous being Myrtos Beach). We visited Assos – a bijou jewel in Kef’s crown and the only town other than Fiskardo to have been spared the ravages of the 1953 earthquake which all but razed the island and its old venetian architecture to the ground. In case there is any room for doubt, the views from the road winding up through the mountain pass and ultimately descending to the village of Assos are nothing short of jaw-dropping and on a tranquil day when the sea is calm, the bright white cliffs of the peninsular opposite reflect into the Ionian like a mirror image. The sea is so clear here that you can see the seabed from any vantage point way up on the pass.

We also drove south through the countryside to Agia Efimia where the best restaurant – Sea Rock-ws – and the best bakery – Strawberry – on the island can both be found. Conveniently, all roads on the island pass through Agia Efimia (at least they do when I’m map-reading 🙂 😉 ) so we managed to squeeze in a few repeat visits to enjoy a peaceful stroll along the marina… honest guv 😉

During our week we probably drove almost every road on the island (at least every road which passed in or out of Agia Efimia 😉 ). On our travels we passed through the capital Argostoli (very quickly as we struggled to find anything appealing there to actually stop for) and through both Sami and Poros (similarly, we struggled to find any highlights of note in either!) and on to the most southerly town of the island, Skala (highlight – the Sunrise Fish restaurant whose culinary fishy delights were sampled whilst watching the sun set on the sea). The village of Peratata way up on a hill above Argostoli was quaint – if for no reason other than there is a particularly good cafe called Kastro Cafe which is literally in the shadow of the Castle of St George. We stopped here for sustenance and for Katie to cuddle a cat which caused some amusement. Barely had we taken our seats in the garden with a view over the sea and mountains when Lucifer (the cafe’s ginger tomcat) leapt onto Katie’s lap (presumably with the full psychic knowledge that Katie isn’t the world’s biggest fan of our feline friends) and proceeded to roll around blissfully on her lap as if she were his long lost mother 🙂

Closer to the airport is Svoronata – another very pretty old town with a fish restaurant called O-Milos on a cliff overlooking the sea which is conveniently positioned 2 minutes from the airport and has no doubt been the location of the last meal of many a glum tourist heading back to the grey skies of their various northern homelands.

Just to add a frisson of excitement to our otherwise typically lazy, typically mediterranean island vacation, Geoff thought it would be fun to ignore my suggestions (several) to fill up with gas on our long journey home from the deep south to the far north of the island. He preferred instead to keep driving – winding up and down the hills, navigating the (probably) hundreds of steep hairpin bends as we traversed the mountains late at night in a country barely renowned for its work ethic (which – just to clarify – in my mind equated to little to no chance of finding a gas station open at 10pm on a Sunday night in the middle of absolutely nowhere).

Unfortunately, once we had left the coastal town of Agia Efimia (the town through which all roads pass 😉 ), with (according to the driver) 1/4 tank of gas left, the gauge suddenly plummeted to empty almost immediately we had embarked upon the steep climb north into the hillside boonies. Our map was useful enough to show the location of gas stations across the island and as designated map-reader I knew that it was going to be a very long time before we found any more gas stations – open or otherwise! I shared this factoid with anyone who would listen and sat po-faced in the rear of the car with my fingers crossed 😉

Now, our sister-in-law Katie is very fit… she has swum the English Channel and is constantly humiliating the competition in national swimming races and local running competitions. At one stage, the suggestion was mooted that (once we had finally run out of gas on a blind bend in the dark somewhere) she might be able to run to the nearest town (which I don’t doubt) to find someone who could rescue the idiot tourists from the side of the mountain. Luckily, it didn’t come to that and by some minor miracle, we puffed on fumes into a bright, shiny and totally unexpected gas station (clearly newer than the edition of the map we were using!) with many glorious options of gas available and even a nice Kefalonian man to dispense it for us – about 8 miles from home 🙂

And now on to the very purpose of our transatlantic voyage to Greece – the wedding of the year – Kate and Damion’s big day. Having looked forward to the day and incurred considerable expense in transporting ourselves across the Atlantic and then halfway across the Mediterranean to attend the nuptials one can only imagine my disappointment when I say that the specially acquired silver, bejeweled sandals which took me weeks to find for said big day received precisely 90 minutes of airtime before they were packed away again in tissue paper and replaced with flip-flops back at the cottage 😦

To avoid too much embarrassment to the party guilty of bringing “my” wedding day to an abrupt halt I shall gloss over the worst of the gory details. Suffice it to say, we were lunching somewhere quite delightful with Paul and Katie in town at 11.30 with 3 hours to go before having to ruck up at the chapel in our finery when Geoff turned quite grey, rushed away from the table and returned 15 minutes later in a pool of sweat insisting that we pay the bill forthwith and head home with some urgency. Unfortunately, we weren’t moving with quite sufficient urgency and we were all treated to the return of his breakfast and lunch under a tree at the side of the road. Oh dear… only 2 hours to go and Geoff is curled up in bed with food poisoning (we suspect the octopus he had eaten for dinner the night before). To give him his due he donned his wedding outfit and we made our way through the impeccably manicured grounds of the Emelisse Hotel to attend the chapel service which was gorgeous and mercifully brief. My friend Kate would look radiant in a paper bag so needless to say she was no doubt the most beautiful bride of the year and hubby Damion scrubbed up quite well too 🙂 Unfortunately, that’s about all we saw of the proceedings… poor grey Geoff survived the line to hug the newlyweds on the terrace overlooking Emblisi Beach and then darted off again to avail himself of the facilities… and that was pretty much it for the wedding! Another hasty rush home, a return to bed and I spent the rest of the day mopping a sweaty brow and clearing up the bathroom floor before my brother and sister-in-law returned from their afternoon out!

Aside from that excitement and a minor collision with the wall of the cottage next to ours (the less said the better perhaps 😉 ) the rest of the trip passed mercifully without incident and all concerned had a thoroughly lovely grecian vacation 🙂

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