Friday, March 30, 2012

APRIL is at the door and spring has sprung.

On my walk in town I spotted daffodils in full bloom outside an office building.

I've been growing my Easter grass and enjoying that perfect spring green it brings into our home. My grass means hope and new growth and sunshiny days. (Yep, it's uneven after I trimmed it once and now I'm letting the blades grow as they please.)

As for growing things outdoors, I may be jumping ahead a couple of months. Planting season in these parts isn't here just yet, but I have noticed my neighbors prepping their fields by clearing and burning the old and making way for the new.

One of my favorite springtime memories is from Virginia a number of years back, when my Mom was visiting and she and I were excitedly preparing to plant a backyard garden. Her thumb is a lot greener than mine and I was glad to have her help in getting some vegetables started.
My little boy wanted in on the action. He sprang into the house and a minute later sprang back outside. He scraped and dug a bit and then we heard him exclaim, "Look at my garden!"
Turning around, we saw he was giving the finishing pats to his planting -and he already had a crop of CARROT! 

Are you getting ready for yard work? What's your favorite springtime/garden story?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Part Two: Exploring the Island

While on the gorgeous Greek island of Kefalonia, we wanted to take a day and just drive around exploring. The 60 euros we paid for one day of wheels seemed a bit steep, but it turned out to be well worth it, as we packed in all these breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.  


Our first stop was Sami, a port town about half-way up the eastern coast of Kefalonia. Ferries for island tours depart from here. Here's also where most of the movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin was filmed. Lunch was delicious at this cafe that carries the film's title. 


Heading north, not too far, we saw signs for an underground lake on the side of a tiny road and followed them on a whim. Good call! Lake Melissani was amazing! It freaked me out a little to be inside a cave in a small boat, with gross sticky vines and drippy rock formations right above my head (or neck, as I had my head tucked), and the scene reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean (minus the skeletons). I am SO glad I braved it, though, because look how cool it was!
                                                                     photo by Ulla

 photo by Ulla

Our plan was to drive to the northern tip of the island and back before dark. The roads were curvy and narrow and
a good part of the trip followed along the mountainous coastline, which meant that our car tires edged on steep drops on one side and a straight wall of rock on the other.  

 Myrtos Bay 
We stopped here to snap pictures and chatted with a couple from Australia. They were touring all of Greece on a motorcycle.

These miniature churches are everywhere on the side of the road. Each one holds a candle lit for a particular saint.

Next we made our way to the northern tip of Kefalonia, the village of Fiskardo, which is the only village on the island that remained untouched by the 1953 earthquake.


We had our swim suits and made use of them along the way. One of the many lovely beaches is in Assos Bay, a steep descent off the main road. This is another quaint village and above the bay stands the Assos Castle. We enjoyed an early dinner here before reluctantly heading back.

                                                            photo by Ulla

We had one more stop to make. Myrtos Beach was on our itinerary because it's breathtaking and famous among photographers (see Myrtos Bay picture we snapped on the way up) and apparently the explosion scene in Captain Corelli's Mandolin was shot here. At this point we were pushing our luck on daylight hours (to make the treacherous drive back), but couldn't resist lingering on this gorgeous beach to watch the sunset.
Wouldn't you have lingered, too?

                                                             It was so lovely.

Somehow we made it back to Skala in one piece, deciphering the road signs in the dark. 
A few places I've seen in my travels have kept a piece of my heart and this is one of them.
Beautiful, beautiful Greece!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Part One-  SKALA

The Greek islands have to be some of the most gloriously beautiful places on earth. My goodness. 

When my two besties and I got off the plane in Kefalonia airport, I immediately got chastised by security for whipping out my camera. My first thought was you weren't supposed to snap pictures of the airport building (?), but the real reason was No Electronics near the planes that were getting fueled up! Yikes!
(And I'm always so careful not to use my cell phone at the gas pump!)

The first thing we noticed on the island was the sweet-scented breeze. It was lovely from the start and it continued to be a literal breath of fresh air throughout our stay.

Being a part of a tourist group came in handy right away, because we were herded through customs and onto a waiting bus. It was a relief not to have to mess with finding transportation on our own to get to the village of Skala, an hour's drive away.
Those bus rides are not for the faint at heart! Several times we came around corners, barely missing the oncoming bus or truck, and it felt like we nearly took a plunge a time or two down the cliff on the other side. Oih! I forgot to enjoy the ocean views!

But we made it. The bus driver beamed at his success in the speedy delivery.

          Our hotel, Mi Abeli, in Skala
The entry held books and beach umbrellas for the guests to borrow! 

Our balcony in the back was greeted by banana trees!

Less than a hundred yards from the hotel was the beach, which naturally made for a pleasant stay.

The salt concentration in the Ionian Sea is so high you can float with practically no effort. We tested this out as soon as we had dropped our bags off in the room.

Our first evening meal was at the hotel restaurant. The staff was so friendly and accommodating, we felt we should start there, to return the kindness. (The hotel manager was also the head waiter and left in the middle of waiting tables to come fix our air conditioning.)
To try something local we chose mousaka. I was surprised by the doughy breadiness of the crust, and it wasn't my favorite. 

But everything I ate for the rest of the trip was heavenly! Lots of chunky salads with tomato, cucumber, and feta. Great fish. (And, I confess, I had pizza. In Greece. I know.) For breakfasts, we ended up stopping by the small grocery store two doors down from the hotel. Let me just say: Greek Yoghurt.

The village of Skala has developed into a nice tourist destination with restaurants, tavernas, and souvenir shops all within a three-block radius. The beach is clean and water skiing and turtle-watching are available. But what we really enjoyed was the chance to mingle with the locals. You only had to walk a few blocks out to be able to watch their comings and goings...

                                 ... Some of which proved to be in very tight spaces! 
                                        A common scene, we soon found out.

                   Walking around in Skala was lovely, lovely, lovely.

I enjoy exploring churches wherever I go. I feel there's such a richness in that.
Churches can tell a lot about people and places.

                                                                      random chair

Skala is what has been rebuilt after the old village was destroyed in the earthquake of 1953. Old Skala is on top of the hill. Locals claim it's an easy walk (or that's what we thought they told us), but we sure were glad we drove, as it took a good ten minutes by car on steep, narrow roads.

            From the top, there's a sweeping view of the town below 



              with a view   
                                                                                              ... and roots above ground!

I wanted to learn Greek dancing and the last night we were in Skala we spotted a restaurant with a band that played music just for that purpose.
The owner came out and taught us the footwork, which turned out to take a bit more coordination than I had anticipated. One of the waiters took a knee in the corner to keep beat. It was a fun-filled evening to wrap up our stay in Skala.

            Leaving town, to go north, the road hugs the ocean in  
                                     places. Beautiful vistas!