Ten Days in May
and Perky went to the beach
With a beautiful morning flooding our room with brilliant sunshine we woke up earlier than we would have liked today. However, instead of struggling against the light we went with the flow and got dressed for breakfast.
Julie wanted to walk down the stairs instead of attempting the lift. They turned out to be a rather swish marble staircase with cast iron railings; by far the hotels' best feature!
Breakfast was also a nice surprise.
It was small but what they had available was good. I was immediately attracted to the large tub of thick strained yogurt from which I dolloped large scoops of the creamy joyness into my bowl and then drizzled it with a deluge of honey. I was happy.
The only bit that let it down was the coffee. There was a proper Nescafe machine on the counter. I pressed no.5 which was vaguely labelled Nestle Nescafe and it turned out to be Hot Chocolate. Not even nice Hot Chocolate, all watery and powdery.
So I tried again with no.2 clearly labelled Espresso but this also tasted atrocious. I should have known never to trust Nescafe to make a decent espresso!
I tried again, No.3 Single Filter which was a splash black coffee topped up with a lot of water but this was utterly undrinkable. So I gave up on getting a decent coffee and went for the fruit juice instead.
Fed and watered we checked out, paying €55 for the privilege. I know our room was very basic but Hotel Mirabel had enough going for it for us to think that it was a fair price.
We wheeled our little suitcase down to the harbour to our car which we were relieved to find was without a parking fine!
Ferries left for Lixouri almost every hour but we didn't have to wait that long. Cars were already in place waiting for the next boat to come in so we joined them.
Within ten minutes the boat came in. We were shocked as to how much it could carry. Off came a coach, a large lorry, over a dozen cars and several people on mopeds.
The moment the last passenger disembarked we all began to jockey for position.
There didn't appear to be any rules as to who should board first. We were laid out in four lanes all edging ourselves closer, waiting for a "start boarding" wave from the staff. If I'm truthful I have to say I was feeling a little anxious. "This is a new car with no scratches" I muttered to myself.
When the wave came I went for it, pushing my way before other hesitant drivers. I then latched onto the car in front and tailgated it on-board. We were directed to drive down the left side to the end and then turn around to drive back down the right to the front, ready to drive off at the other end. I was trying to work out how the coach and lorry managed it!
Parked up, we got out the car and went up to the top deck for the views.
It was interesting to see how the local foot passengers were sat downstairs in the shade. They weren't bothered with the views, of course they would have seen it every day.
That familiarity does water down the wonder. With Snowdonia on my doorstep I've been guilty in the past of not appreciating my surroundings.
It was a quick turnover and with everyone safely on-board we set off.
As Argostoli slowly drifted away I thought perhaps we should have spent a little longer exploring what it had to offer. There was an Archaeological Museum, a few churches and a memorial to the massacred Acqui Division that would have been interesting.
Anyway, there was no going back now.
We looped around the Argostoli peninsular. It stretched out for some distance. It must have been 2 or 3 miles at least out of Argostoli. "I'm so glad we didn't try and walk all the way to the lighthouse!" said Julie.
About half way through our journey we finally got to see the attractive lighthouse of St. Theodore. It was really striking.
We slightly regretted not driving over to see it yesterday.
It was built by the British in 1828 which I found surprising. It had the look of some ancient Greek temple of light, ornamental, cylindrical with marble columns, surely it was far too pretty to be British!
What stands there today is a faithful reconstruction after it was totally destroyed by the 1953 earthquake.
As we sailed beyond the Argostoli peninsular someone came around collecting the fare for the crossing. It was only 8.60. Not a bad price considering.
Within two minutes another member of staff came around to inspect the ticket we had just bought. I found it annoying as I hadn't paid attention to where I shoved the ticket. I didn't think I would be needing it again.
After a few minutes of desperate rummaging I eventually found the strip of paper stuffed deeply into my back pocket. I huffed my discontent as I handed it over to be checked.
"He's only doing his job" said Julie, calming me down.
By now Lixouri, the second largest town on Kefalonia was getting closer. Being in Argostoli's shadow for centuries has fostered a rivalry between the two. As the poor relation drew nearer we all returned to our cars and got ourselves ready to disembark.
Sat in the car waiting to dock we recalled the last time we had driven a car off a ferry. It was to the Isle of Man. What we remembered the most was damaging the exhaust whilst leaving the boat.
We drove off very carefully.
Back on dry land we turned right and parked up at the first opportunity. There was a car park on the harbour which again didn't seem to have any way of paying, so we pushed our luck again.
We walked towards the main square, back to where the boat had docked.
Along the way we saw a Post Office and as we needed some stamps for postcards we popped in. Several minutes later still in the queue for the counter we were regretting our decision!
There was some argument going on between a customer and staff. It was getting quite heated. I thought someone was going to get a slap in a minute. At least it made the time pass.
They took it through to the manager's office which was still in full view of us all. The drama continued inside only now we couldn't hear them.
Eventually, after ten minutes, we got to the counter and bought our five stamps. However our escape was not so fast. We had to wait a few minutes more as the teller struggled with her little dot matrix printer to issue us with a receipt. I did try to say that it was fine, we didn't really need a receipt but she was insistent. Although pleasantly so.
Back out on the streets we soon came to Platia Ethnikis Antistaseos where a large old tree held centre court. It was surrounded by tables and chairs of cafes spilling out onto the square. It may have been smaller than Argostoli's main square but it did have a certain charm about it.
We sat down at the Zodiac Cafe Bar for a drink and to write our postcards.
Postcard writing is a bit of a dying art these days. Why go to the effort of sending a card with the immediacy of communicating with friends and family through the internet, especially when the postcard doesn't arrive until after you're home! However, we do like the fact that there's something physical and permanent about them and that they don't just disappear into a virtual data blackhole never to be seen again.
In a hundred years' time I like the thought of my grandchildren's children could still read our postcards but our posts on Facebook will be long gone! (That's why one day I'm going to print all these rambling travelogues into a paper format - just one vanity copy for myself.)
I decided to give the famous Frappe another try. This time I got the real thing, iced coffee made from Nescafe instant. I really struggled to drink it though. It was bitter and so well, so instant coffee!
I have to admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to my caffeine intake. There was a bonus of very nice sponge cake that came with the coffee so it wasn't a complete disaster.
Whilst sipping down my cold brown Lixouri elixir we read a few suggestions of what to see and do in town and further afield on the Pali peninsular. To be honest there wasn't much in the town itself but there were plenty of beaches nearby.
Next to the cafe was a pharmacy which reminded Julie about her irritating insect bites. We popped in to find some kind of soothing cream.
We couldn't find anything familiar on the shelves. Although I did come across a cream called Perky and wondered what it was for and where you would rub it in!
Once we stopped tittering to ourselves Julie went to the counter for some assistance. She didn't have to speak, she only needed to raise her arm to show the red pusy bite marks and the pharmacist immediately reached for an anti-histamine gel.
We left the square and made our way back to the car along a different route, walking through the town's back streets.
The only things of note amongst the characterless concrete boxes were two churches, both brightly coloured in yellow and white. Ekklisia Pantokrator was situated on one of the main streets whereas we stumbled across the other church down a narrow alleyway.
We soon returned to the waterfront where I found my pigeon-like awareness was not as sharp as I liked to think. We had overshot much further down the harbour than where our car was parked.
Luckily Lixouri was not a big town and within a minute or two we were tootling our way towards our next destination. The guide book has recommended a beach it said rivalled the famous Myrtos for its dramatic location.
It was called Petani and was on the West coast of the Pali peninsular that we were on.
The distances involved were surprisingly short. With the lagoon on our right we soon turned left inland after the village of Livadi, just after a petrol station. It was almost at the point where the peninsular joined the main island.
The road then gradually rolled up a few hills as it cut across the peninsular. As we reached the top we disappeared into the clouds. Not that it was especially high over these hills but the clouds were certainly being attracted to the peaks.
It had become noticeably cooler and most un-beach like weather but unperturbed we carried on our way and at a small sign for Petani Bay we turned down towards the Ionian sea following a narrow twisting road.
The condition of the road was poor. The surface had broken up quite badly and much to Julie's consternation there were several areas of subsidence near the edges.
It certainly wasn't for the faint-hearted!
Each twist, turn and bump dropped us down nearer to the sea. After countless dramatic sharp bends we eventually reached the bottom.
There didn't appeared to be a car park, in fact all the vehicles seemed to be parked randomly. We tried to restore some order by sensibly pulling up on the side of the road a short distance from the end.
The steps down to the beach fell between two restaurants. In the blue corner and to our left was Ksouras then to our right, in the red corner was Erasmias.
Their sun loungers spread out from the middle in uniform colours representing each taverna. Without any reasoning whatsoever we drifted left and sat on some of Ksouras' blue loungers.
I then popped up to the cafe for a coca cola light each and we settled down for the afternoon.
It was still quite overcast, not exactly weather for sunbathing but it didn't matter to us. We were just happy to be unwinding and relaxing on our rickety little loungers.
After a while someone employed by Ksouras came over and told us that there was a €5 charge for the use of the loungers. This would be waived if we bought some drinks from her. "We've already bought drinks from you" I explained expecting the fee to be waved but she wasn't having it.
"No, you have to buy a drink from me" she insisted.
"Really? But !?! ..." I knew it was pointless to protest so another bottle of coca cola light each was despatched. I don't even like coke that much!
It wasn't long before the sun broke through the clouds and the white pebbly beach glowed brightly. Sunglasses were essential to stop the snow blindness it was so luminous.
As nice as lying down doing nothing was after an hour or so I began to get a bit restless. Julie was quite happy lounging for much longer than I was.
I got up and went for a walk from one end of the beach to the next with my camera.
When I got back we decided to go in for a dip. Julie tried first but retreated in disgrace as the first cold wave washed over her feet. "Oh my God!" she screeched.
I didn't fare much better but I didn't scream like a girl. With the water up to my shins I gradually became acclimatised to the temperature.
Encouraged by my endurance Julie joined me and little by little we stepped further out until we reached that point just before the cold water hits the testicles.
I stood there, dithering on tip toes, holding myself just above the crest of the swell. There was only one way forward, so with a deep breath I plunged myself wholly beneath the water. When I surfaced I think I let out a little yelp! The shock was certainly invigorating.
I bobbed about and waited for Julie to pluck up the courage to join me. This she did in style by launching herself into the incoming wave and off she swam, shivering in between strokes.
Buoyed by the salt water even I found myself, in short bursts, swimming in the sea. I didn't venture out of my depth choosing to stay parallel to the shore but even so, it felt great!
After all that exertion we had worked up an appetite. We clambered out of the water which wasn't easy as the pebbly beach was quite steep at the point we had decided to exit.
We dried ourselves off and put on some clothes.
Eventhough we were right on the beach we felt it only right to cover up whilst sitting down to eat. Too much flesh at the table might put some people off their food!
Comparing the menus of the two tavernas we decided to eat at Erasmia's. I didn't have a vast choice in either but there were a lot more options available from which Julie could choose. I could have gone either cheese omelette or Greek salad. No contest really.
Their variation on the Greek salad was rather rustic. Roughly chopped salad vegetables were topped with two thick slabs of feta cheese. What it lacked in style it made up for in taste. The feta was stunning, smooth, almost creamy and not too tart.
Julie fancied the grilled 'local fish'.
When she asked what type of fish it was the waitress couldn't answer and just repeated "it's local". Its freshness however was guaranteed as it was still swimming in the sea this morning.
It arrived simply presented on the plate, one decent sized fish with a tiddler next to it. Julie really enjoys fish but struggles with eating it off the bone. Whilst the flesh came off the larger fish quite easily the smaller one was challenging.
"This one's not worth the effort!" she huffed.
Despite her fear of choking on a fish bone she did enjoy her lunch.
The best dish however was the plate of "fried potatoes" we shared. They were less French fries and more British chips with a Greek twist being nicely seasoned with a hint of oregano.
After lunch we returned to our loungers for another hour or so basking in the lovely sunshine listening to the waves crashing against the shore. It was about 4pm when we decided to pack our beach bags and leave Petani.
I don't know why but the twisting turning road seemed even more treacherous on the way back up!
We returned East across the peninsular stopping briefly to take a photo of a road sign which had clearly been used for target practice. There was a huge bullet hole just off centre!
It was pockmarked near the hole so I guess it was more likely to have been made by multiple pellet shots rather than one massive shell.
I don't know how much truth there is in it but I read somewhere that the wanted signs to warn for goat's crossing the road but they didn't have any and used this one instead. The signs show the image of a prancing deer but there aren't any wild on Kefalonia.
I'm sure the deer is symbolic of wildlife in general so it's not even an issue. Anyway, we quickly moved on before we came under sniper fire!
Before we knew it we were turning into Divarata but instead of continuing through the village we decided to turn left and visit Myrtos beach. It would have been a crime to have not seen what's often listed in the "World Top 50 Beaches".
It did look very similar to Petani, a broad sheltered bay with a slither of beach and clear blue seas only accessed by a meandering road. At least the one down to Myrtos was well maintained. The only surprise was the lack of a crash barrier. Julie was not impressed!
We reached the bottom and parked up right on the beach. We were expecting it to be busy but there was hardly anyone here. I guess it was late in the afternoon.
The only down side was the noise from the road works taking place high above us on the way to Assos. The thudding of a large pneumatic drill was reverberating around the bay.
Just as we thought it best to leave because of the noise it stopped. It must have been clocking off time.
The contrast was incredible. It was so quiet. We were some distance from the shore so we couldn't even hear the waves either.
The silence was just magnificent.
It felt such a privilege to be on this revered beach in relative isolation. A wave of appreciation of how fortunate we were enveloped us.
It was lovely feeling.
We smiled. We smiled a lot.
We rolled out our towels. With no loungers it was lucky that the beach was made of sand. It was far more comfortable than pebbles to lie on.
Comparing it to Petani the soft sand of Myrtos was a vote winner. Although there were no tavernas on the beach which swung the vote back towards Petani.
Ultimately we patted ourselves on the back and agreed we did it the right way, spending time at both, with lunch at Petani and the quieter end of the day at Myrtos.
"Well done us!"
It was getting near 6pm when we left. At the junction where the road came up from Myrtos there were two tavernas on opposite sides of the road. We weren't hungry but perhaps we just didn't want our day to end.
One taverna was called To Steki Tsi Skouoros and the other simply Alexander. We chose the latter not only because it was first we came to but their garden looked so inviting.
Despite being the only customers, which is often a worrying sign, there was something quite refined about Alexander and anyway, it was late in the afternoon/ early in the evening for most people to be dinning out.
We sat down in the shade of a canopy in the centre of the garden and took a look at the menu.
It had a good choice and some great sounding dishes. We ordered an aubergine dip or salad as it was described. It tasted divine. It was similar to a baba ganoush but not as smoky. The amount of garlic was astonishing and we couldn't get enough of it.
Julie asked the waitress what made it so light. She shrugged and suggested it may have been yogurt or mayonnaise that lifted it.
When the bowl seemed empty we made sure by wiping it clean with some french fries.
Next up I thought I had ordered a Briam, a hearty ratatouille style dish but what turned up was a filled aubergine more like the Turkish Imam Bayildi.
Whatever it was called it tasted exceptional.
The green peppers, tomatoes, onion and aubergine were slow cooked to the point of complete softness. It was drowned in olive oil which served to enhance the flavour and unctuous texture.
We were almost inconsolable when we came to the end. I could have continued eating that dish forever.
Back in the car we drove carefully along the potholed dirt track over Mount Kalón Óros.
Out of nowhere these idiots came racing towards us. The first car we saw in time and we pulled to one side. The other, a large silver Range Rover came tearing around the corner on our side of the road! I do not know how we escaped a collision. Thankfully we also avoided being hit by shrapnel as we disappeared into a cloud of dust.
They weren't locals. I bet they were British!
It shook us up a little and we were happy when we safely reached Assos and parked up at our villa.
After our late snack stop we weren't particularly hungry. We didn't bother with any more food tonight. Instead the pleasant evening was spent outside drinking cheap wine watching the sun set behind the Venetian fort.
We found ourselves falling asleep on the sofa. We agreed that 9:30pm was a perfectly acceptable time for bed.
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