Yacht Pipit


Friends, family, a fox and other animals - 16th October 2014

Enjoying the sun at Villa Shamballa - and no, I'm not eating a geranium flower...

Apologies to our regular readers who have been lacking that lunchtime reading, but since our last update, we have been fairly busy. As we've said numerous times before this cruising life isn't all sitting in the sun drinking G&Ts and nibbling olives!

Following our last update, my old Falmouth Shout singing colleague Mark made a visit to the Ionian as he was skippering a yacht chartered by Traveleyes, a company specialising in holidays for blind people with support from sighted travellers like Mark. It was fantastic to catch up with him and we had a lovely (and rather late) night over a delicious seafood dinner at Errikos in Vathy.

Pre-dinner entertainment at 'George's Taverna' near Vathy.

During the last fortnight of September and into the first days of October, we enjoyed an end of season tour of the southern half of the Northern Ionian, with predominantly glorious weather, albeit mixed with a couple of spells of the wet & windy stuff. We visited several of our favourite places including Sivota (where we sat out a couple of days of strong winds), One House Bay on Atoko Island, Kalamos Island (where we sat out two days of wind & rain even though it wasn't as bad as originally forecast) as well as a lovely anchorage off Kastos Island, where we've previously only tied up to the quay when we chartered. We rounded off our mini tour beautifully with three days (often in complete solitude) anchored in 'our' spot in Kapali on Meganisi, swimming, rowing Nessie, watching kingfishers during the day and myriad stars at night - fantastic.

Lenticular clouds above the mainland mountains, viewed from Kalamos.

Whilst we were sad to leave Kapali, we were looking forward to returning to Vathy, as it is our chosen 'home' port, but also because we were to move into Villa Shamballa for the winter. We moved in earlier than we would normally have done, as Andy's mother Audrey was flying out to visit us for a week. Since we left the UK in 2010, she has visited us in each of our over-winter destinations; La Roche-Bernard in Brittany, Lagos in Portugal and Marina di Ragusa in Sicily, so this felt like the proverbial 'squaring the circle' to show her 'our' little corner of Greece.

The forecast for two or three days of rain and possibly thunderstorms starting the Sunday Audrey was arriving was disappointing, but we were confident that the latter part of the week would see 'normal service' of fabulous early Autumn weather resumed. The light rain we left Meganisi in on Sunday morning worsened to quite heavy rain, rumbles of thunder and occasional flashes of lightning, so coffee and a light lunch in one of our favourite cafés in Lefkas overlooking the salt lakes didn't provide the stunning views we'd hoped for, not to mention no sightings of the pelicans or flamingos that visit the salt lakes!

Sunday's weather however, was nothing compared with the next two days when we had the longest thunderstorm we've experienced here with the skies almost continually lit with flashes of lightning which at night made it seem like there was an enormous fluorescent light flashing on & off behind the hills to the south. We also had a power cut just as Andy & I were cooking a stifado (a traditional Greek stew made with rabbit or as we did that night, beef, flavoured with allspice berries, black pepper, sultanas, cinnamon & cloves cooked slowly in a sauce of tomato & wine with caramelised shallots). Luckily, the first power cut was only brief, so we were able to finish cooking, enjoy our delicious (if we do say so ourselves, but also thanks to Rick Stein's great recipe) dinner & a glass of wine before the power went off again, this time for the next 15 hours! Such is one of the vagaries of life on a small island, although most power cuts are only for a couple of hours and this thunderstorm was unusually severe, if not in the intensity of wind, certainly in longevity according to the locals! But now armed with a couple of small oil lamps, we'll be ready for any power cuts through the winter. Oh, and although the cooking facilities in Villa Shamballa are all electric, the lovely little wood-burning stove has a hotplate on the top, so we should be ok for a hot drink or pot of soup during any future power cuts.

Morning after a night on the tiles...

Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear as forecast and, with the storm over, we set off in the car (we got a great deal on a hire car for the winter from VitaCar) to give Andy's mother a tour of this beautiful little island. We then stopped for lunch on the beach at Porto Spilia, Babis welcomed us warmly as ever and it was good to show Audrey where we first sailed to together in the Ionian in 2007.

The following day we slow roasted a whole leg of lamb, together with a medley of roasted Mediterranean vegetables and enjoyed an al fresco lunch on the terrace whilst watching the comings and goings of yachts below. In the evening we went to the Summer Sun bar in Spartochori for, as we have mentioned previously, one of the best views in the Ionian and certainly the coldest Mythos on Meganisi! Alas the pink hues cast on the mainland mountains by the setting sun weren't the best we've seen, but still quite impressive.

Villa Shamballa.

On Friday evening we had dinner at the Rose Garden in Vathy, where Hector & Efi looked after us in their usual hospitable style. We were also joined by Anne & Gordon from Sarah Grace who, by happy coincidence, were in Vathy for a night or two. We last saw them in Marina di Ragusa in Sicily where we over wintered in 2012-13, so it was good to catch up and hear of their adventures in Turkey. We were also joined briefly by another regular Rose Garden visitor:

Wear the fox hat...

Thanks to Gordon for the above two photos.

And so on Sunday it was time to take Audrey back to Preveza but, as we had some time in hand, we had a drive up over the mountains of Lefkada and down the other side to return to Lefkas Town via the west coast, a coastline much more rugged than the rest of Lefkas as it faces open sea, next stop Italy! Our arrival back in Lefkas Town coincided precisely withe the 1200 floating bridge swinging, providing a suitable photo opportunity, and then we proceeded to Preveza. We have never seen Aktion airport so empty and, thankfully, this meant check-in took only about 10 minutes, not the usual hour or more whilst the queue snakes its way around the 'departure hall'.

Monday saw us returning to website work and chores and yesterday we had a trip to Lefkas to visit Villa Octavius. Whilst sitting in the car waiting for the ferry at Spilia as it was just getting light we spotted first a robin and then a rabbit at close quarters and then, even more surprisingly, a Scops owl was hopping about on the ground right alongside the car apparently hunting for its breakfast! We hear them many times but have seen one only a couple of times before at dusk, and then some distance away. Villa Octavius is even more stunning than the website we created (!) with numerous 'surprise and delight' touches that make a spectacular holiday retreat truly special.

With some time to kill in Nidri we had a wonderful al fresco lunch at the water's edge at Roots Kitchen, a delicious meze including clearly freshly made (as opposed to bought-in) tzatziki, spicy cheese dip and some funny stuff, houmous... Mussels in wine, dill & saffron sauce, prawns saganaki and crystal wine glasses with something suitable in them all served on linen tablecloths is not what you find everywhere in Nidri...

As we arrived back in Spilia we spotted Sarah Grace on the quay and finding nobody at home, guessed Anne & Gordon might be 'upstairs' at Summer Sun in Spartochori, just to take in the views obviously... So it was that we enjoyed sundowners with them, the perfect end to a perfect day.

Regarding eateries in Nidri, we omitted to mention in our last update that on our previous visit to Nidri with Pipit, we had been to Ta Kalamia, aka 'No Menu'. This has a rather Bohemian feel to it, with eclectic decor and, ah hem, no menus. Their 'concept' is that you choose meat, fish, seafood or vegetables, and you are then brought a succession of dishes dictated by the availability of local seasonal ingredients that day and the chef's inspiration and use of subtle but complex spicing, with a North African influence. Superb and highly recommended!

Whilst enjoying our lovely villa and (at the moment) lovely weather, our attention now turns to the winter jobs list for Pipit, currently running to some 35 items. Some are easy and not too important, some more difficult and vital before we set sail again next season. And then there's also Ionian Webworks...

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