Tag Archives: food

Jan 2020: Back to the UK for a while

Back in the Shire.

In mid-January, we arrived back in the UK.  We checked up on Linea in her winter berth at Base Nautica Flavia Gioia in Gaeta with our neighbours there and were assured all was well with her.

After a quick visit to Keira in Oxford and Paddy, Sarah, Sam and Louis in London it was immediately  time to sort out a house that a vacating tenant had left in disarray (to say the least!) We emptied, cleaned, re-painted, re-carpeted and cleaned some more. We were very pleased with the results; especially the kitchen units which we (well Jake!) stripped of vinyl and painted.  They look great. 

Ian delayed his departure back to Gaeta whilst I landed the plumb job of dog and house sitting for Claire and Nick in the Shire.   I was so thrilled to be home and enjoyed some great walks and catching up with people.  Although there was an incredible amount of rain in February; and snow; and wind!  But I LOVED it!

Ian set off back to Gaeta and cracked on with boat jobs.  I completed a couple of proof reading jobs and time flew by.  Most days I drove my friend Paula to Leeds for her treatment and relished the time we had together in the car to catch up and chat. 

COVID 19

On the 3rd March Ian popped back for a quick visit prior to us both returning to Italy to go to the Six Nations Rugby in Rome, and then further developments on the Covid 19 front really began to kick in.  We decided not to go back to Rome for the rugby, which was postponed soon after in any case. We phoned our winter liveaboard friend in the marina and asked them the remove the cheese, yogurt and random vegetables from our fridge!

Our friends for whom we were house sitting decided to come home early.  Over the following two weeks the situation began to worsen and it became clear to us that we needed a longer term solution for our accommodation. Whilst Nick and Claire, were incredibly kind in letting us stay on with them it wasn’t feasible for too much longer.  We started to make enquiries about renting an unoccupied holiday home.  No one seemed interested.  We put out feelers on facebook and in the post office window and finally, a landlady in Kettlewell agreed to have us to stay.

Whilst all this was on going we were concerned about Erin and Josh in India.  We knew that they had just arrived in Delhi because they were staying briefly with the son of an old family friend.  Thank you, Cam.  They then planned to take a train to Jaisalmer and other areas of Rajasthan. On the Monday 16th March they caught the night train to Jaisalmer, half way there we sent them a message to suggest they come straight back! 

They stayed long enough to complete their overnight camp in the desert and then they returned to Delhi.  The train was deserted.  Lock down was beginning in India.  In the meantime they tried to book flights.  All too quickly, they were booked by someone else prior to them getting to click the ‘book’ button themselves.  It was all quite stressful.  With some luck they did book a flight with Emirates via Bahrain and were on the last flight to leave India pre-lock down. 

So, we now had a place to live for the foreseeable, our youngest on her way home, and our eldest saying she would like to come up north for lockdown, if it happened. 

Ian drove down south.  He picked Erin and Josh up from Josh’s parents and whisked over to Oxford to pick up Keira.  They arrived back on the 23rd March about 5 mins before Boris Johnson’s lock down broadcast on TV!

It was a massive family reunion.  We had not seen Erin and Josh for 18 months as they had been travelling and working in Australia, Sri Lanka and India.  We had a wonderful time. This is all recorded for posterity on Erin and Josh’s You tube channel The Travel Tapes.

Soon Ian had secured a job with Tescos working in the on line orders team.  Erin and Josh soon followed working as pickers.  Keira was beavering away at home in the cottage in Kettlewell using the ironing board as a makeshift table!

Once Paula’s treatment was completed in April I too would begin to look for work.  I found a job in housekeeping at a local care home.  So we were all gainfully employed but found Kettlewell a little far away and so we were lucky enough to find a lovely cottage down at Linton Falls which meant that I could walk to work, and we were more back in our own welcoming community.

On our first day there I found a note stuck to the windscreen of the car demanding that we go home, as tourists and visitors were not welcome!

Needless to say we were a little shocked.

Ian found out who had written the cowardly note and gently explained our provenance and our situation but things were never overly warm and friendly between us and our new neighbours after that.

Time flew by.  The weather was amazingly good.  We had virtually no rain at all.  We missed seeing our friends but we did manage a Thursday night quiz with the Wharfedale gang and Saturday night quiz with friends and family spread around the world. 

There was talk of allowing some travel.  Josh went down south to see his parents.  We needed to get back to the boat as the prices were set to hike up to level ridiculous in July.  So we booked a flight for the 21st June.  (I was sorry to be leaving the nursing home but had been suffering from some dreadful eye and facial allergy and it was being exacerbated by the warm working conditions so it was time to say goodbye.)

It all went ahead.  We moved out of Linton Falls.  Keira packed up the little car we had bought and drove down to Oxford, re-packed and then set off to France to be with Sam, her boyfriend, who had been living there since the end of his season in Val d’Isere.

Our time together was coming to an end.  It had been such a good time; good weather; good food, good walks, games, virtual quizzes, jigsaws, cooking, sour dough, V E Day street party, neighbours, old friends.

The Dales.

Terra firma.

Bliss!

Heading for the North Greece and the mainland

After being fortunate to find a bar showing a couple of the Lions games which we thoroughly enjoyed at the very civilised time of 1030hrs over a coffee or two, we sailed away from Skopelos towards Alonissis, the next island along.  We anchored in a little bay and walked over the headland to the nearest big village, Patitiri. There we visited a exhibition about the severely endangered monk seals (Monachus Monachus) which inhabit the most eastern islands of the Northern Sporades and are protected by a Marine National Park.  Such beautiful creatures. 

I also spent a happy hour at the private museum in Patitiri which houses an incredible number of artefacts from life gone by on Alonissos, when the island life was hard and goods and products had to be made on the island itself.  The exhibition showed tools of each trade; the cobbler, the joiner, the farrier, the copper, the rope maker, the iron monger, the boat builder, the saddler, the weaver, the potter, the baker, and so on.  The attention to detail was brilliant.  There was also an exhibition of old charts of the Aegean from 500 years ago, showing extraordinary accuracy for the time.  The pirate and World War exhibitions were also equally fascinating.

So, after an educational day, we made the short hop to the next island and anchored in Peristeri bay.  The sea was flat as a mirror throughout the day and evening.  We had been in bed for about 20 minutes when I was alerted to a rapid rise in the wind speed by the vibrations from the wind turbine above my head.  Ian leapt out of bed and just as well he had been so quick because our stern was gently brushing up against the bow of a French boat that had come in late on and anchored far too close to us.  In the non-existent winds of the earlier it wouldn’t had been a problem but in the stronger gusts of the thunder storm passing overhead, it was an issue.   We put our engine on and attempted to wake the people in the boat.  Finally, they came on deck and let out more chain but since we were swinging on more chain we soon found ourselves back in the same predicament.

So, the only thing for it was to up anchor and head out into the night.  We donned life jackets and wet weather gear because by now the rain was lashing down. We travelled the short distance back to Patitiri and with the lightning illuminating the way, reversed into the last remaining spot on the quay.  The wall was exceptionally high so I had to hoist myself up about a metre to get the lines secured.  Good thing my back was feeling better.

By 0300hrs we were snugged back up in bed and snoring.

Next day, we motored to the top of the next island –  Panayia.  We planned to anchor in this remote, deserted anchorage with two large bays and a narrow north facing opening.  Once inside this bay the water is completely still.   We found a perfect spot and were swimming in clear waters within minutes.  We never did solve the mystery as to how three knackered old chest freezers had ended up on the beach.  The island has one monastery and one monk guardian and no other inhabitants whatsoever!

A fresh North Easterly wind had been forecast for the Tuesday so that was a good day to sail north to the mainland.  We tonked the forty odd miles north across to the second finger of Halkhidhiki province and found yet another amazing anchorage.  An almost totally enclosed large bay with a lagoon at its southern end.  We anchored off the jetty in fairly deep water but we’re confident that with our new 100m of chain out we would be fine.  And indeed we were.

We went ashore to explore the area and walked all around the bay and round the lagoon.  The following day we walked the other way and found a Byzantian fort and numerous goat tracks winding around the olive trees and shrubs on the head land.  We passed pistacio trees which I have never seen before. 

Our nephew Sam and his friend Rory arrive on Monday and so we are now prepping for their arrival and positioning ourselves to pick them up in Thessaloniki.   Then the plan is to head south again and round towards the third finger and Mount Akti (huge!).

 

 

Mary Poppins!

Gosh, Greece is vast!  We’ve been sailing now for six weeks around Greek waters and have still only touched a minute fraction of its coasts which apparently stretch to some 14000km.

How pleasant an experience it has been, too.  Not just because we are more familiar with the boat and parking techniques but because the harbours, bays and town quays are set up for visiting yachties.  There is usually some welcoming person to help take your lines, to organise refilling water tanks, to arrange for a mini tanker to deliver diesel and camping gas and yer man, in his laden pickup, will generally call by in the morning, baskets overflowing with delicious produce; announcing loudly over the microphone mounted on the cab, ‘Pataatas!’ (I say, ‘Potatoes!’)

Which leads me to contemplate the food available here in Greece. In tavernas we have eaten well.  Chicken and tarragon, pork with plums, lamb with wine and vegetables, beef with baked whole onions, Greek salad, olives and olive oil, grilled squid and octopus, marinated sardines, fava bean dip, (‘Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh!’  as Hannibal Lector would say!!) cod’s roe and tomato dip, grilled courgettes and aubergines and all manner of fresh fish and seafood.

All washed down with reasonably priced wine which now comes in far more sophisticated vintages and blends than the rather ghastly retsina of old.  (We bought a bottle by accident and used it, rather effectively, I might add, to de-scale the kettle!!!)

The wealth of edible vegetation in the Northern Sporades is amazing.  Plums are a speciality around Skopelos but there is such a wide variety of vegetation.  From the conifer crowded alpine slopes of the high ground to the lush vegetation lower down.  We have seen walnut, hazelnut, chestnut, pistachio, vine, cherry, fig, plum, lemon and apricot trees.  Nearly every home has some kind of kitchen garden.  Recently, we have eaten a kind of samphire seaweed which looks a bit like lavender but is much more succulent.  It grows on the sea-waters’ edge and is vaguely salty in a perfumed kind of way.  An intriguing seaweed full of minerals and phosphorus, apparently.

Bakeries are another joy, with cheese pies, spinach pies, honey soaked sponges, mille feuilles filled with nuts and coiled rings of stuffed filo pastry that you just know are not going to change shape much when they land on your waistline!  As well as that, there is a fantastic variety of healthy brown, rye, spelt, oat and wholewheat breads.

But, Godliest of Greek goodies, Olympus of oral gratification, the Oracle of the olfactory, the pinnacle of provender, has got to be the humble gyros.  Simple, compact, substantial, tasty, balanced and healthy.

A comforting spongy pitta, (don’t think of those dry oval slippers from home)  cozily encasing grilled slices of chicken or pork, garlicky tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber dip, lettuce, succulent tomato and crunchy onions.  Hmmmm hmmmmm! (Most places now seem to add chips as an added extra but they are completely superfluous to requirement!)

At between €2.40 and €2.80 they are a meal in themselves and extremely good value.

Together with an Alpha, Fix or Mythos beer (€3.40/4) it is Mary Poppins!  –  Practically Perfect in Every Way!