Yacht Pipit


Christmas on Meganisi - 31st December 2013

Vathy in December - we've had plenty of days like this, as well as the thunderstorms and torrential rain.

We've had a really lovely Christmas, but before that, we'll backtrack a week or so...

Our initial intention of catching the ferry to Lefkas for a big shop once a month has so far not gone quite to plan. This hasn't been due to being unable to do sufficient shopping, but because we've had long overdue appointments with the optometrist and dentist, the latter of which has involved a couple of return visits for both of us. To maximise the value of each visit and attendant car hire cost, we did go shopping on each trip, thus keeping the freezer and cupboards well stocked. We tried to make an appointment at the hairdresser's for one of the dental appointment days, but this not being possible meant a separate ferry trip to Nidri. This proved to be a nice bonus as post haircuts we walked to the waterfalls in Nidri under blue skies and sunshine. Following the heavy rains we'd had in November, we figured the waterfalls would be more impressive than they were when we visited with Samir & Lesley in September, and so they were, even though it hasn't rained for a few weeks. In fact it would probably not be possible to see them immediately after heavy rains, even though they would undoubtedly be more spectacular. We had to wade through a couple of inches of water as it was, as well as negotiating several rock falls on the path, and we have subsequently been advised that it can be dangerous to visit after heavy rainfall - we can quite believe this.

Wild iris.

We'd had superb weather for over three weeks, crisp cool days with brilliant blue skies and sunshine but very chilly nights, so as well as regular short walks near Vathy, last weekend we walked to the east coast of Meganisi and discovered a stunning little cove which we think is either Barbarezou Beach or Loutrolimni, where there are three or four sets of steps at different points leading down to the crystal clear water. The calm weather had also given Andy the opportunity to give Pipit's engine an oil change and to arrange a top-up of diesel.

Who are those people in the mirror?

Barbarezou Beach, or maybe Loutrolimni.

We planned our final shopping trip to Lefkas Island for the Monday before Christmas and hoped, since we both had dental appointments first thing that morning, that we'd not be drooling our way through the supermarkets for the wrong reasons. We had spotted frozen turkeys, ducks and geese in Lidl about a month previously, and so hoped they still had some left. Sadly, they'd all flown the Lidl coop, so we moved to Plan B. We actually had several menu alternatives for each course of our Christmas lunch, as we weren't sure what ingredients we'd be able to find (this is one thing about the UK we do miss - there is virtually nothing you can't get in even a modest UK supermarket at any time of the year). Although our initial preference was for goose, we were actually happier to find fresh turkey in another supermarket - they also had fresh ducks, so we bagged one of them for New Year's Eve dinner. As in many countries around the world, turkey has become popular for Greeks at Christmas, but more traditionally they have roast pork. We saw some enormous joints with plenty of skin for great crackling - there were also half and whole suckling pigs, but that really would be a step too far for us, even in our full-size oven! Perhaps one of the large joints with crackling in the New Year if they're still in the shops...

So between the three supermarkets we visited we returned to Nidri with two birds in the hand, three varieties of cheddar cheese and some chestnuts, as well as some Lefkadan wine and Tentura from the wine shop in Lefkas town and some traditional Greek Christmas biscuits. The one thing we couldn't get were sprouts, but Ann thought this might be A Good Thing...

We also have some fish - well two to be precise, but they're not on any of our Yuletide menus. We are goldfish-sitting for our friend Rebecca whilst she is away in the UK, although we're not the only ones keeping an eye on them:

A regular morning visitor to our sunny window sill.

Cat on a hot tin roof. Actually it's galvanised steel...

We spent some of Christmas Eve preparing food for the Big Day. Christmas morning dawned grey and we had some rain, but after our traditional Christmas breakfast of smoked salmon & scrambled eggs (and some fizz) it soon cleared allowing us a brief walk around the harbour whilst our turkey roasted in the oven. This Christmas was the first one since 2009 that we haven't spent at least some if not all of Christmas Day aboard Pipit. Daft as it may sound we were feeling slightly guilty, so passed by the marina to wish her "Happy Christmas".

Upon our return to the villa we lit the fire and although we didn't sit down to eat until late afternoon, we enjoyed the full works, all bar parsnips and sprouts (substituted with a cabbage dish), washed down with a bottle of good quality Lefkadan red wine, having hints of vanilla that even our overworked palates could appreciate... We'd managed to find chestnuts, so these had been added to the stuffing mixture, although we have kept a few back so we can roast them over the fire. The other night I told Ann my chestnuts were roasting, and she told me not to stand so close to the fire...

Your('re) nuts m'Lord...

Given the number of power cuts we had during the thunderstorms of late November, we were slightly worried we'd have an outage half way through cooking our turkey, so it was ironic that thousands of homes in the UK were without power for days over the Christmas period.

With no pudding basin and the uncertainty of availability of ingredients, I wasn't able to make a Christmas pudding, so opted for a kind of tiramisu trifle that I invented using mascarpone mixed with an orange posset, layered with savoiardi biscuits dunked in Tentura (a Greek liqueur made with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg) and orange juice, grated orange zest and chocolate, and topped with segmented oranges. The last of our Pedro Ximenez sherry we bought in Jerez was a fine accompaniment.

So all in all lots of delicious food and plenty of leftovers for turkey sandwiches, bubble & squeak, etc. We'd also cooked some bacon joints (well, kind of chunks of unsliced bacon) on Christmas Eve by just basting them with honey (a Tom Kerridge recipe) that we had on Boxing Day with some crunchy coleslaw laced with tart apple. As Tom himself would say - lush...

Honey roasted bacon.

We were kindly given some homemade Melomakarona by Effie from Palmos supermarket and have been treating ourselves to these with coffee, along with Kourambiethes. These are two types of biscuit regarded by Greeks as musts over the festive period. Melomakarona are full of typical Christmas flavours - orange, honey, walnut, cinnamon and clove. Kourambiethes are rather like crescent shaped and very thick shortbread with the addition of chopped walnuts or almonds and dredged in icing sugar.

Traditional Greek Christmas biscuits, Melomakarona and Kourambiethes.

We managed to make the villa look a bit festive with a mini tree and lights.

Boxing Day saw spells of heavy rain and thunderstorms in the evening, so we stayed in and grazed our way through the day. We did likewise for the following couple of lazy days while the weather was a bit dull and the skies grey.

Sunday was forecast to be dry and bright, so we set off on a walk towards to east coast to savour the sunshine and work off some of the excesses of Christmas. We walked to Katomeri, then out to the east coast to Barbarezou Beach, Loutrolimni, Elia Beach and Limonari Beach. Just past Limonari Beach, we clambered down to a sloping rock platform and basking in the sunshine we ate our turkey and stuffing sandwiches. We then walked back towards Katomeri and tried to find a shortcut to the path that leads to the tail of Meganisi. We didn't actually find the right path, but planned an attempt at finding it on our next trek.

Not a bad spot to enjoy a turkey & stuffing sandwich.

Limonari Beach.

It's a tough life...


When Monday dawned bright and clear, contrary to the forecast, we decided to don our walking boots again and hike towards the tail of Meganisi. We knew from a paper map where the main track leaves Spartochori, but Google Earth gave us a better picture of some alternative paths, so off we set. The walk along roads from Vathy to the beginning of our chosen path near Spartochori took 45 minutes and once on the path, we didn't see a soul for the next 3 hours, save sheep, goats, cattle and birds of prey circling overhead. The path was easy to follow but care was needed in places as there were plenty of loose rocks and in the shaded parts the ground was quite wet and slippery. There were also plenty of significant changes in height to test us. We eventually joined what we believe to be the main track from Spartochori to the tail. This is a graded gravelled road and, via the steepest climbs of the day, took us further towards the tail and our lunch stop. We estimated that it would take at least another hour to reach the end of the path near the tail, and having already walked what we later confirmed as being over 10 km, we headed back. So in total a walk of 21 km, the toughest since our regular walks in Lagos two years ago and Gibraltar (including the Mediterranean Steps), but we felt good - sort of! Another time perhaps we'll drive to Spartochori, thus knocking off an hour and a half of road walking, and this would give us the time (and energy!) to reach the end of the path at the tail.

Our target.

Moo. Surprisingly adept at rock climbing.

Our lunch stop was just past the track off to the right.

21 km there & back.

To be able to walk out of our front door into scenery like the above is one of the reasons we are living on Meganisi - days like yesterday make the slight inconvenience of living on an island worthwhile. We know the quietness of the island isn't for everyone, but it suits us, and the locals are exceptionally friendly. Just popping out to the shop, the café, the boat or simply out for a stroll liberates cheery greetings and enquiries of how we are liking living here for the winter - this makes us feel very much at home.

So what does 2014 hold in store? We're not sure, but we have a few ideas - we shall see which of these come to pass. Whatever your plans, we wish you a Happy New Year! Meanwhile, it's time for us to light the fire, get the duck ready to roast and prepare to see in 2014!

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