Memories of Greece's Ionian Islands:


     Once again we enjoyed a wonderful trip, with the following being our fondest memories:

  • our stone house with views from our terrace to the water and north side of Ithaki at Villa Anna
  • dinner at Alati on Kefalonia, including pasta with fresh burrata, tuna and an excellent wine
  • dinner at Anemos, Kefalonia
  • Myrtos beach and the beaches to the north of Myrtos, Kefalonia
  • Kavalikefta beach, west coast of Lefkada
  • Antisamos beach, east coast of Kefalonia near Sami
  • staying in and strolling about Old Perithea, north Corfu
  • traditional Greek tavernas, especially in Old Perithea
  • dramatic mountain drives in the north of Ithaki
  • the clear turquoise waters of many of the Ionian beaches
  • the boat tour to the west of Paxos and Antipaxos
  • hospitality of our hosts - Angela / Xarhs, Helen / Nick, Petros / Vania, Yannis, Michaela, David / Marieke
  • lentils in Englouvi, Lefkada
  • the mountain village of Anogi, Ithaki
  • harbour towns of Fiskardo (Kefalonia), Vathy (Ithaki), Lakka (Paxos) and Syvota (Lefkada)
  • the green of the islands with the cypress, olive and pine trees
  • the species of (very) old olive trees with their gaping holes
  • music on Paxos - Dolos and Lilas
  • Lilas Taverna (Paxos) - Nicholas and all the locals playing their music
  • old Corfu town with it pastel coloured Venetian buildings
  • the pool at Pelecas Country Club, Corfu and our private pool at Villa Anna, Eumaeus Villas, Ithaki
  • the narrow roads / drive of the south-west coast of Corfu
  • sadly the overflowing bins and garbage along the roads of central and southern Corfu
  • goats in the hills and on the roads
  • our longer stays - four to six nights - with the opportunity to relax
  • baklava and orange pie
  • Greek 'gifts' and generosity
  • lunch at The White House
  • eating along the harbour side of Vathy (Ithaki) and Syvota (Lefkada)
  • the many other travelers we met - Brits on Paxos; hikers at The Old Merchant's House
  • daily swims
  • finding out we are going to be grandparents (while at North Point Rooms 1953)
  • leisurely and delicious breakfasts
  • vegetarian moussaka; fava; Greek salads; saganaki; lamb; sausage and octopus among other dishes
  • French fries fresh, especially at Kohili, Ithaki
  • Norm's jellyfish sting (Antipaxos)
  • the earthquake (south Kefalonia)
  • our excellent choices of places to stay
  • fresh orange juice, including personally squeezed at Villa Anna (Ithaki)
  • (swimming with) the fish in the sea
  • gelato in Corfu
  • mastic ice cream reminding of Chios
  • tapas breakfast at Olivemare
  • just connecting to the ferry in Igoumenitsa thanks to the efforts of Yannis (Rent Car Igoumenitsa)
  • wine and tapas at Zakspitaki B&B
  • the unbelievable abundance of high-end sail boats
  • the benefit of airport lounge passes

Favourite islands:

Here are our favourite (scenery, beaches, towns / village, where we stayed) Ionian islands, in order.

Interestingly we ranked each the same.


              Gayle                       Norm


1            Ithaki                        Ithaki

2            Kefalonia                 Kefalonia

3            Paxos                      Paxos

4            Lefkada                   Lefkada

5            Corfu*                     Corfu*

* albeit Old Perithea and The Merchant's House were wonderful



Finances / Expenses (based on average exchange rate 1 euro = $1.454 Cdn):


Here are the costs of our 34 day trip:


$    439           airfare (internal to Greece)

$ 8,422           lodging ($248 Cdn $ per night) - including breakfast (tips in miscellaneous)

$ 2,367           food ($69 per day for dinner of which $15 per day was for wine - breakfasts included in lodging)

$ 2,430           vehicle ($1,973 or $60 per day) plus fuel ($393), tolls ($9) and taxis ($55)

$    318           ferries

$    127           Paxos island tour

$    158           miscellaneous, including lodging tips

$14,261           for 34 days

$  2,734           airfare (from Canada), including seat selection

$16,995           

$      96           souvenirs - plate, beach blanket, capers and (five) tea towels

$    100           Duke

$17,191


The total cost excluding airfare from Canada, souvenirs and Duke (i.e. lodging, food, entrances, vehicle and miscellaneous) was $14,261 or $419 per day, primarily attributed to higher lodging costs.


Following are the average costs of our six previous trips to Greece.

  • $242 in 2015 (24 days)
  • $341 in 2017 (26 days)
  • $307 in 2018 (18 days)
  • $285 in 2019 (30 days)
  • $354 in 2022 (34 days)
  • $419 in 2023 (34 days)
The majority of the increase can be attributed to higher lodging costs (see below) in large part due to choosing to stay at nicer places.

In euros the average costs of lodging, food and transportation (internal flights, car rental, fuel, tolls and ferries) expenses per day have been as follows.  Of course some of the increase can be attributed to inflation but some is certainly due to our decisions to stay in some nicer places.


                                    Lodging                   Food             Transportation

Greece 2015                    78                          44                       42

Greece 2017                    97                          46

Greece 2018                  106                          45

Greece 2019                    95                          42                       47

Greece 2022                  144                          48                       59

Greece 2023                  170                          49                       64

______________________________________________________________

Spain 2018                     147                          64

Spain 2019                     146                          68

Spain 2023                     178                          79*                     27

______________________________________________________________

Italy 2022                       135                          61                       88


* 53 euros of which was food with the balance of 26 euros being wine with dinner - Spanish wine is really good!


Lodgings


     Lodging ranged from a low of 120 euros to a high of 232 euros.  All except Villa Anna included breakfast.

     Here is a list of where we stayed, the amount we paid (in euros) and a link to their website.


Cost             Lodging                              Town / Island                                   Website / Link


228 euros     Pelecas Country Club          Pelekas, Corfu                                 www.country-club.gr

185 euros     Zakspitaki B&B                    Kangatika Village, Paxos                  www.zakspitaki.com

130 euros     Thealos Village                    Lygia, Lefkada                                  www.thealosvillage.gr 

195 euros     North Point Rooms 1953     Markandonata Village, Kefalonia      www.northpoint.gr

170 euros     Olivemare                            Katelios, Kefalonia                            www.olivemare.gr

170 euros     Eumaeus Ithaca Villas         Vathy, Ithaca                                     www.eumaeusvillas.gr

122 euros     The Merchant's House        Old Perithea, Corfu                           www.themerchantshousecorfu.com

183 euros     Siora Vittoria                       Corfu Town, Corfu                             www.sioravittoria.gr

     

     As is our practice we communicate and book directly with each lodging.  In doing so we save the establishment the booking commission.  As well often we are known to owners / staff when we arrive.



Souvenirs   
      
     We have quite a collection of pottery etc. from our trips over the years.  As such we tend to purchase less these days.  We were given the North Point olive tree as a gift when we left.  Otherwise we bought these few things along with a number of dish towels as each island has its own branded towels, and a beach blanket (that got a lot of use).


A gift from North Point Rooms 1953.




An olive wood fridge magnet.



A plate purchased in Lefkada (although from Crete).



Gifts:


     Another of the reasons we love Greece so much is the generosity of its people, often expressed through 'gifts', of which we received many

  • after buying a map and tea towel, which I then proceeded to leave somewhere when we returned to repurchase the shop owner just gave us a tea towel - no charge
  • the 'olive tree' from North Point Rooms 1953
  • a bottle of wine from Thealos Village
  • a bottle of wine from North Point Rooms 1953
  • a ball cap from Pelecas Country Club
  • a travel pouch from Pelecas Country Club
  • a reduced parking fee (5 euros rather than 8 euros) as it was late in the day
  • a 42 euro reduction on the cost of our extra day at Thealos Village
  • the ornament from Sotiris and Clea (Petres Hotel) brought back by Bill and Linda
  • the shot of ouzo from the waitress in Corfu when I stopped to ask for directions, plus
  • the nearly daily desserts and / or drinks (ouzo, tsipouro) offered before and after our meals


October 02, 2023 - Corfu => Athens => Montreal => Halifax   
      
     Sadly we were unable to enjoy what no doubt was an excellent breakfast as we had a 9:00 am flight from Corfu to Athens.  Fortunately the Corfu airport is essentially in the town, only a 10 minute drive from the hotel.  We had arranged a taxi but still had to leave by 7:30 am.  We were downstairs in time for a cup of coffee, a glass of the fresh squeezed orang juice and some of the breads, but not for anything more.  Knowing we had to leave early the hotel made each of us a 'box breakfast' that we had at the airport and on the plane.  

     All our flights were on time - a one hour flight on Aegean from Corfu to Athens; followed by a 10 hour flight on Air Canada to Montreal and finally a 1 1/2 hour flight to Halifax.  A lot of time in airplanes but that's the cost of being able to travel to faraway places. 
 

A portion of breakfast being put out just as we were preparing to leave.



October 01, 2023 - Part 1 - The Merchant's House, Old Perithia
                                drive to Corfu Town   
      
     This is it.  Today we leave Old Perithia and The Merchant's House.  

     Once again during breakfast we met another couple of hikers - Vojtech and Jana from the Czech Republic.  Jana is actually from Moravia near where Norm's grandmother grew up.  It can be a small world.

     We said our goodbye's to Marieke and David, and their two adorable rescue dogs Razee and DeeDee.  As mentioned when we first arrived we did wonder whether five nights in this isolated mountain village would be too long but it turned out not to be the case.  The drive to the coast was not that bad once one got accustomed to the road and the peaceful vibe of the village was wonderful.  Even the tourists who stopped to explore the village were never overwhelming.  We were also a bit apprehensive about The Merchant's House given the price for a 'suite'.  But our room(s) were great - actually a separate bedroom; the grounds were wonderful with lots of places to sit and read / relax; access to the tavernas was only a very few metres down Gabrieli's Steps; parking was easy and the village historical and interesting.  Delicious breakfast each morning; the opportunity to meet and chat with other guests; and wonderful hospitality from Marieke and David made for an absolutely great stay.  Highly recommended.

     The drive to Corfu Town was so much easier than the drive to The Merchant's House - one because it was during the day rather than partially in the dark, and two because we knew where we were going.  We did stop along the way at an olive wood shop where we bought a few things.  After paying as we were leaving we noticed an olive wood Corfu fridge magnet.  While holding it and considering whether to buy it the shop owner said to just take it.  Gotta love the Greeks and their gifts!

     We found the car rental return office near the airport; dropped the vehicle off and then were driven to our hotel in the centre of Old Corfu Town.  

Read and see below for the rest of the day in Corfu Town.


Another of the old stone buildings in Old Perithia.


Rosemary grows easily here in the mountains.                                                    Vojtech and Jana.


Where the work gets done - in the Reception.


David, Marieke, DeeDee and Razee.


Soaking in the sun just before we were about to leave The Merchant's House.


Another very old olive tree.                                                Nearby which were a flock of sheep.





Gayle thinks these are Jerusalem Artichokes.  They certainly brighten the roadside.


Near Acharavi is this pretty taverna - Mythos.  We did not eat here but stopped for a number of photos.





The traditional blue colour works perfect with the bougainvillea.




October 01, 2023 - Part 2 - Corfu Town   
      
     With an early morning flight we decided to spend our last night in Corfu Town.  Everyone we encountered spoke very highly of Corfu Town ... and they were right.  While we had only one afternoon and therefore did not have the opportunity to visit the forts or any of the many museums simply strolling through the cobble stone alleyways, amongst the Venetian buildings and numerous churches was a great experience.  

     Corfu Town is the capital of the Greek Island of Corfu, or Kerkyra.  It is known for its cobblestone streets and pastel-coloured Venetian architecture.  To the west, the Venetian-built 'New Fortress' has a network of tunnels underneath.  The 15th-century 'Old Fortress' overlooks the town from the east, and features a small chapel and mosaics.  The harbour is separated from the town by The Esplanade, a large park.

     A bit of history.  The ancient city of Corfu (also known as Kerkyra) took part in the Battle of Sybota, the catalyst for the Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 B.C.), the largest naval battle between Greek city states until that time.  Corfu was one of the three great naval powers of the fifth-century B.C. Greece, along with Athens and Corinth.  Medieval castles in strategic locations across the city are a legacy of struggles in the Middle Ages against invasions by pirates and the Ottomans.  The city has become know as Kastropolis (Castle City) because of its two castles.

     From 1386 to 1797 Corfu was ruled by Venetian nobility, with much of the city reflecting this era with its multi-storied pastel coloured buildings and narrow lanes, when the island belonged to the Republic of Venice.  The Old Town of Corfu has clear Venetian influences.  In 1537, 1571, 1573 and 1716 the city defences proved themselves time after time because of the effectiveness of the powerful Venetian fortifications.  As a result Corfu was the only part of Greece never conquered by the Ottomans.

    In 2007 the old town was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List.  The municipal unit was a population of more or less 40,000.

     We chose to stay at Siora Vittoria Boutique Hotel, just on the edge of the historic centre of Corfu Town.  Blending beautifully with the city's Venetian architecture, this 1823 aristocratic townhouse has been restored by the descendants of its original owner, Loukas Metaxas - a Corfiot entrepreneur who lived here with his family since the early 1900s.  In 1988 the building was listed in recognition of its considerable architectural and historical merit.  After years of experiencing the boutique hotel scenes of London and New York, Metaxas' heirs set out to convert their ancestral family home into a boutique hotel, enlisting the help of renowned Greek architect Vaggelis Stylianidis.  Christened after their beloved grandmother - a piano virtuoso contessa born in 1901 the Siora Vittoria  was opened in 2005 as the first boutique hotel not only in Corfu but in the Ionian islands.

     With Italian furnishings, oak floors and antique details like the brass door knocker, this heritage hotel 'oozes' refined nostalgia.  High ceilings and original wooden beams along with elegant marble bathrooms result in classically styled rooms.   We were very pleased with our room, including its high wood ceiling and bathtub (nice after a few hours of walking through the town).  As well there is a pleasant quiet outdoor area, a very relaxing spot in the middle of a bustling town.

    For dinner we chose the nearby (only 150 metres down the hill) restaurant Bougainvilea where we enjoyed a our final meal.  We knew the restaurant was a 'step above' when our relatively expensive (11 euros) house wine was delivered in a beautifully painted vase.  But you generally get what you pay for as we both very much enjoyed the wine.  Our choice of restaurant was based on the menu that included a vegetarian moussaka with aubergines, potatoes and bechamel sauce for Gayle and Roast Lamb Kleftiko (fresh lamb with potatoes, carrots, green peppers and feta cheese slowly cooked in the oven) for Norm.  Being our last night we finished our meal with an order of Baklava with ice cream. 


We chose Siora Vittoria, a small boutique hotel right in the old town, convenient to the maze of alleyways, churches, museums and shops.


The room key.


Our room - Marena, with its beautiful wood ceiling and a bathtub - in Siora Vittoria hotel.


Cobble stone road and alleyways abound in Old Corfu Town.                            Busy alleyways.


Porticos.                                                                                                        And church towers.


Sights in Old Corfu town.


A government building - The Decentralized Administration of the Peloponnese.


Beautiful buildings throughout the old part of Corfu town.


Papagiorgis Patiserie-Gelateria, approaching 100 years since opening.


A midday gelato - we each had raspberry and chocolate, a very nice combination.


Church bells.                       Drying blankets                   The Corfu Museum of Asian Art.


Corfu town has many narrow pedestrian only alleyways.


Pastel colour painted buildings with iron balconies.


Venetian style buildings with porticos.





Just about everywhere one looks there are pastel coloured Venetian buildings and church cupolas.


A number of church towers.


The priest after a afternoon service in one of the many churches in town.


Greece is known for its history of sponges, and of course its' olive wood - these are two shops in Corfu Town.


The outdoor garden area at Siorra Vittoria.                        The hotel as seen from the garden.


We ate at Bougainvillea, a restaurant with the prettiest wine pitchers.



Pita bread.                                                                           Moussaka Vegetarian.


Roast lamb kleftiko.                                                             Baklava with ice cream.



September 30, 2023 - The Merchant's House, Old Perithia
                                   Sidari Beach (west of Roda)   
      
     We have often mentioned Old Perithia as a historic village - in fact it is the oldest in Corfu.  When we booked The Merchant's House we had no idea as to the history of Old Perithia.  

     Although Corfu is popular for its beaches, crystalline waters and picturesque seafront towns and villages life on the coast was not always so attractive.  There were marauding pirates and disease-carrying mosquitos which in order to avoid many islanders headed for the hills where they used the plentiful stone to build agricultural villages at a safe distance from the shores below.  One such, and practically the only surviving example, is Old Perithia.

     Old Perithia village was built in the 14th century when the island was under Byzantine rule on the northern flanks of Mount Pantokrator (the highest mountain in Corfu) about 650 m above sea level.  With the surrounding land being ideal for both sheep farming and the cultivation of olives and vines Old Perithia soon became relatively prosperous.  In fact there were eight churches that served the village's 1,200 former residents.

     However by the 20th century times became harder with tourism beginning to bring wealth and jobs to Corfu's coastal areas.  As a result the villagers were drawn back down the mountain in search of work.  By the 1950s Old Perithia was all but abandoned.  Today the village, a protected site, has 130 houses many of which were built in a Venetian style. 

     But what had become a ghost town is now again coming to life.  The Merchant's House, restored in 2010,  provides accommodation for travelers, many of whom are hikers as the Corfu Trail passes through the village, along with a number of tavernas have breathed life into the village.  There are now a number of privately restored homes, with other ruins available to purchase and restore.

     Old Perithia is also a magnet for visitors seeking insight into Corfu's history with crumbling stone walls, trees and wild flowers growing within the ruins, broken window shutters and old gardens with cracked flowerpots dating back many years.  It is a fascinating stroll through the ruins for a glimpse of history.  What is impressive is the restored central square accessed by Gabrieli's Steps, a lane of rough cobble-stones that at the end one finds three tavernas and one shop of local goods.

     Old Perithia is certainly a tourist stop with many day visitors and even buses making their way up the mountain for a visit, a stroll through the village and a meal.  It was certainly neat to have stayed in the village for a number of days rather than simply passing through.  Although initially we questioned our decision to spend five nights here in the end it worked out well, a very nice and relaxing place to effectively end our trip.

     Like Harald and Andrea yesterday today we had a nice chat after breakfast with another couple of German hikers - Hannah and Dani.  The Merchant's House certainly serves a need in providing a comfortable bed for hikers passing through the area.

    Marieke suggested we try Sidari beach, 15 minutes to the west once we reached the coastal road, past Acharavi and then Roda.  With very easy parking and nothing but sand the shallow waters were very warm.  On top of that the beach was not at all crowded.  As was our custom we enjoyed an hour to two swimming (and for Norm napping) in the warm waters and sun.

     Upon returning we had perhaps the toughest decision of the week - which of the three tavernas to return to.  Each had their pluses - the ambiance with its large plane tree in Old Perithia Taverna, the great service from Vassili at Evdokia and the location of Foros at the foot of Gabrieli's steps.  Swaying our choice was the fact the lamb dish (that Norm wanted) at Evdokia had onions whereas the one at Foros was in a lemon sauce.  Add to that Norm could get a 1/4 litre of retsina at Foros and that's where we ended up.  We started with Saganaki after which Gayle had Zucchini Balls (fried grated zucchini with crumbled feta cheese and fresh herbs) - actually more like fritters, and Norm Greek meat balls followed by the Lamb in Lemon Sauce (stewed lamb in lemon sauce with olive oil, garlic and fresh lemon).  Afterwards we were presented with a piece of Karidopita (walnut) cake with a scoop of (mastic) ice cream.  Mastic is a resin from the mastic tree, native to Chios, creating a marshmallow texture.  We knew we had ordered too much food but enjoyed a very typical Greek taverna meal.


Today's fruit bowl.                                              Crazy about Plum Jam                              Bread, honey and jam.


In addition to David's bread there was banana bread today.


Two more German hikers we met and chatted with - Hannah and Dani.


Most buildings in Old Perithea need repairs.


Yet at the same time some buildings have been refurbished as private residences.


There are a lot of comfortable places at The Merchant's House to chill.


Relaxing, in a very colour co-ordinated way - even blue pants / shorts with the blue chairs, let alone the blue iPad.


Buildings in need of some TLC.


The Church of St. Spyridon.


Pretty rough cobble stones known as Gabrieli's Steps.


More abandoned dilapidated buildings in Old Pirithea, including a bread oven on the left.


Deedee (or Razee?) and                                   Razee (or Deedee?) and                                  Marieke.


Sidari beach.


Gabrieli's Steps Taverna, on the way down the steps.        Evdokia taverna.


Lots of choice of tavernas in the old village.



In the end we chose Foros Tavern.


Where we had a 1/4 litre of red wine and retsina.  



And Saganaki.


Greek Zucchini Balls (more like fritters).                              Greek meatballs.


Lamb in lemon sauce.                                                         Karidopita cake with (mastic) ice cream.



September 29, 2023 - The Merchant's House, Old Perithia
                                   The White House
                                   Syki Bay Beach   
      
     After a brief chat yesterday this morning at breakfast we spoke more with a German couple, Harald and Andrea who were hiking here in north Corfu.  

     This area is very popular with hikers, many of them spending a night at The Merchant's House.  The Corfu Trail, established in 2001 is 220 kilometres from the south to the north of Corfu, primarily meandering through the central countryside.  Landscapes change frequently providing great variety for hikers, of whom we met a number.  In the north the trail encounters mountainous terrain, passing across the 'Karst Plateau' - Corfu's wildest scenery and under the summit of Pantokrator, Corfu's highest mountain.  The trail then descends to Old Perithia before on to the sea and the end of the trail at St. Spyridon Beach.

     While admiring those with the youth (and knees) to experience hiking such as this we were happy to have our rental vehicle.

     Today we decided to drive a ways down the east coast with the final destination being The White House in Kalami.  The White House is where Lawrence Durrell lived during the 1930s.  The Durrell family has been made popular by the British series chronicling the family's life in Corfu.  Partly filmed on Corfu, it is loosely based on Gerald Durrell's autobiographical books about the family's four years (1935 to 1939) on the island.

     Although a bit 'up-scale' and certainly more sophisticated food than the taverna meals we often enjoy we decided to have lunch at The White House, situated directly on the sea.  Bread, normally a euro or two was four euros but we ordered anyway, and very glad we did.  Fresh warm rolls served with Extra Virgen olive oil, a delicious tomato paste and a few olives.  Gayle then had the Strawberry gazpacho and Norm the risotto with fennel sauce and mushrooms - expensive at 17 euros but really how often does one get to eat at 'The White House'!  Gayle enjoyed her meal with a delicious glass of Ktima Lantides (Nemea) white wine.  A very nice experience we were glad we stopped for lunch.

     On the way back we stopped at Syki Bay Beach for our daily swim.  Syki is a small, completely secluded beach with white pebbles, turquoise waters surrounded by vegetation.  The beach is accessible by a very short walk down a small hill along the seaside road that connects Kassiopi to Acharavi, just before the village of Apraos and Kalamaki beach.  The beach was deserted when we were there, leaving it all to ourselves.

     After our swim we returned to Old Perithia and The Merchant's House.  Having had lunch there was no need for dinner but we did open a bottle of wine available in our room that we enjoyed sitting outside in the evening air.


Harald and Andrea.                                                              A framed portion of a wall - quite creative.


The one house in Old Perithia damaged by the fires.             Other sights in Old Perithia.


Rosemary in bloom at The Merchant's House.


As one drives down the mountain one is constantly reminded of the fires that covered the area in the summer.


In-spite of it being late September there were colourful flowers along our drive - likely (according to Mr. Google) Pyrostegia venusta on the left and lantana camara on the right.


The White House in Kalami on the north-east coast where Lawrence Durrell lived in the 1930s.


Vine covered entrance to the restaurant.                           Tables on the water looking back to the mainland.


Sure it cost more but the bread and accompanying dips and olives were very nice.


Tomato paste.                                            Extra virgin olive oil.                          Olives.


Strawberry gazpacho.





Risotto with fennel sauce and mushrooms.


The Durrell's is a popular British series about a family's life in Corfu in the 1930s.  The White House was the home of Lawrence, the eldest son, during that time.


Syki beach is a quiet spot at the end of a pretty little bay.  We had it all to ourselves.



Some of the aftermath of the fires as seen on our drive back to Old Perithia.



September 28, 2023 - The Merchant's House, Old Perithia
                                   Agios Spyridon Beach   
      
     Another relaxed and quiet day spent mostly at The Merchant's House. 

     After breakfast, including a nice chat with David we spent the late morning and early afternoon working on the Travel Blog and Gayle's Eblog or just sitting around.  Gayle went for a bit of a stroll through the village, while Norm stayed closer to home.

     Late July north-east Corfu experienced a number of serious fires (photo from media coverage), including considerable impacts on the historic village of Old Perithia where we are staying.
    

      The fires started on Sunday, July 23th, the hottest day of the year after temperatures exceeded 40 celsius the prior week.  In total there were 82 reported wildfires.

     Sadly, in spite of the high temperatures, it was also reported the fires were actually the result of arsonists, making it, if true, all the worse.  

     It was believed the fires were brought under control on Monday but a number then reignited on Tuesday.  They entered the village of Old Perithia late Tuesday night with essential services such as power and water being shut down.  

     The fires throughout north-east Corfu were finally brought under control on Wednesday, July 26th but not before nearly 2,500 residents were evacuated.  While the firefighting efforts, including four water bombers and a helicopter, saved most buildings a few were destroyed, along with most of the vegetation in the area.  In fact Lucy's (The Old Merchant's housekeeper) home in Loutses, a nearby village, was damaged to the extent she and her partner had to be provided alternative housing

     As can be seen from this media photo the fires were so intense that 100 + year-old olive trees burned from the inside.  

     David told us olive trees damaged to this extent will not survive.  These olive trees will need to be replaced, impacting the livelihoods of a number of residents.

     Being concerned with what we had read we wrote Marieke in early August.  She replied:

"Yes, we were affected by the recent fires.  We had to close and evacuate at some point.  Thankfully the majority of the buildings were unaffected in the village and everyone is fine and safe.  The village is still very beautiful and nature will recover itself very soon."
   
     The nearest beach, Agios Spyridon was recommended by Marieke as being easily accessible and nothing but sand.  She was right.  Although < 8 km from The Merchant's House to the coastal highway it was 15 minutes each way.  But it was then < 2 km to the beach which was shallow, and therefore very warm with views across to Albania to the east.  A bit crowded but we found a spot and enjoyed a wonderful time in the water.  Gayle then went for a lengthy walk to the far end of the beach and beyond while I - yes you guessed it - napped.  A wonderful afternoon.

     We returned to Old Perithia tonight choosing the 3rd of the tavernas - the Old Perithia Tavern, with its huge plane tree in the middle.  Gayle went back to a Greek Salad accompanied by fresh chips.  Norm had a portion of lamb chops as well as an orange pie for dessert.  As traditional a Greek meal as one could imagine.


The Merchant's House, including one of the numerous pieces of artwork.


Clearly Gayle did receive the memo re today's colour of table cloth.                  Marieke's scrambled eggs.



Lots of outdoor seating at The Merchant's House.
  

A couple of chairs on the entrance to Gabrieli's Suite.


On the mainland Albania reaches south nearly to Corfu Town.  Here in the north of Corfu we are directly across from Albania which you can see here.


Agios Spyridon Beach on the north shore of Corfu.


Consequences of the July 2023 fire in the area.


Scrubland on the mountain around Old Pirithia.                                                    A Corfu guard rail.


The Church of Theotokos in Old Perithia.



One of the traditional Corfiot tavernas in Old Perithia, including a typical menu.


A couple of abandoned buildings in Old Perithia.


A few more sights around the village.


A couple of views of The Merchant's House.


The Old Perithia Taverna including the resident cat and a massive (too large to get a decent photo) plane tree in the middle of the taverna.



Greek salad.                                                                         Fresh chips.


A portion of lamb chops.                                                      Orange pie.



September 27, 2023 - The Merchant's House, Old Perithia   
      
     We enjoyed breakfast in the lovely outdoor area around The Merchant's House.  Breakfast (each day) included coffee (or tea) of course, fresh orange juice, a large bowl of yoghurt, local honey, a variety of fresh fruit, Marieke's granola, fresh mini-loaves of bread (that changed each day) and an egg dish - either David's fried eggs with peppers and herbs or Marieke's scrambled eggs with tomatoes and feta.  Generally being the last ones to eat David and Marieke were often finished with other guests and as such spent a considerable amount of time chatting with us.

     There are six rooms at The Merchant's House.  We were in Gabrieli's Suite.  This refined suite is named after a well known local character who lived here in the 1920s.  The stone steps at the top of the village square are still called the Gabrieli's Steps, leading straight to the residence.

     "Every aspect of the interior has been orchestrated to create a modern haven of peace and relaxation while preserving the spirit of the suite's history - from the wrought-iron bed in the master bedroom to the liqueur cabinets and stylish cushioned sofas to the original bread over still recessed in the limestone walls of the right and spacious living room.
 
     Cleverly curated artworks and artefacts tell centuries-old tales - each more enchanting than the other"
   
     A bit about he Merchant's House itself:

     "These three houses that comprise the House were built in the 1800s, being passed down within local families for generations until the 1950s when the village was abandoned.  In 2011 they were all lovingly restored and transformed into six independent suites.

     Originally the three traditional houses were built by hand side by side with a small path to the rear.  A walled garden to the front and side, and stone steps led to a cobbled road winding its way down to the 'village square'.  The upper floor rooms were used as accommodation, while the rooms below held local crafts and trades.

     The first house was last owned by a local doctor, who had a 'village grocery' selling sugar, coffee, honey and dried fish.  The middle house was once owned by a carpenter who had a weaver on the ground floor, while the last house belonged to a local farmer who had a 'kafeneion' with its own baking oven.  Their collective name and restoration as 'The Merchant's House' began in 2010.  

     During the renovation a traditional stone seat from the Doctor's House was discovered with parts having carefully been moved to the garden.  An old millstone, most probably used for grinding wheat was also found, now displayed in the Weaver's Suite.  A traditional 'weaver' used to make woollen clothes and rugs from local sheep's wool was one of the finds in the Carpenter's house.
     
     All three houses have been painstakingly and lovingly restored using local limestone and wood, recreating them exactly as they were originally constructed, in accordance with the regulations of the archaeological department."

     We spent the entire day on-site 'recovering' from our travel day yesterday.  During the day we met Lucy, our enthusiastic house-keeper from Poland.  Lucy told us about her home being damaged during the summer fires and the temporary home she and her partner Vassili were provided.

     As mentioned there are three tavernas open in the evenings (plus two more during the day).  Without any reason not to spread our business we ate tonight at Evdokia where we started with a 'gift' of a glass each of 'tsipouro', a strong (40-45% alcohol by volume) un-aged distilled Greek spirit.  Tsipouro is produced from either the pomace (the residue of the wine press) or from the wine after the grapes and juice have been separated.  Not our favourite but it is hard to turn down a 'gift'!

     Our waiter turned out to be Lil's partner Vassili.

     The welcome drink was followed by garlic bread and a grilled sausage.  Gayle then had the Aubergine Rolls (eggplant rolled with feta cheese, red sauce and yellow cheese) while Norm tried the Beef Burger 'Giaourtiou' served on pita bread, smothered with yoghurt, peppers and a spicy sauce.  Norm enjoyed it very much, i.e. it worked!  Although very full after the meal there was room for the refreshing and light watermelon provided a s yet another 'gift'.

     A short stroll back up Gabrieli's Steps (< 1 minute) had us back to The Merchant's House.



Yoghurt, Marieke's granola and fresh fruit. 


David's daily fresh bread, honey and homemade jams.


Barista Gayle.


David.                                                David's fried eggs.


The original bread oven.                                                      Lace curtains.


The interior of our Gabrieli's Suite - sitting area, separate bedroom and high wood beam ceiling.


A clay pot and a wall of flowers make the exterior / gardens of The Merchant's House very attractive.


There were a couple of chairs outside that we made great use of.


Lucy and Vassili.


Evdokia taverna including artefacts and plants on the wall.



Another night; another cat.


Even before our meal we were offered a gift - tsipouro - a strong Greek distilled spirit. 


Aubergine Rolls.                                                                 Grilled sausage.


A burger on pita bread smothered with yoghurt.                 Tonight's other gift - watermelon.
 


September 26, 2023 - Eumaeus Villas, Vathy, Ithaca to
                                   The Merchant's House, Old Perithia   
      
     Today was expected to be a long travel day ... and it was, with a little excitement thrown in for good measure.

     We awoke early in light of our 9:00 am ferry to Astakos on the mainland via Sami, Kefalonia.  We were up in time to have a coffee and squeeze the last of the oranges for a couple of glasses of fresh orange juice.  We were out by 8:00 am.  Although the port is on the west side of the island it is a short drive from Vathy, providing time for us to detour into the town to pick up a couple of cheese swirls and a chocolate croissant at the bakery.  The short drive to the port had us there by 8:30 am, in plenty of time.

     Expecting the ferry to arrive in Astakos at 12:05 pm as scheduled we booked the 3:30 pm ferry from Igoumenitsa to Corfu.  We thought building in an hour of 'cushion' should be enough.  The ferry (the Ionian Pelagos) left perhaps 10 minutes late but then took a long time to make the turn-around in Sami as a considerable number of large trucks were loaded.  Whether due to this or other reasons the ferry was over an hour late arriving in Astakos with us not disembarking until 1:10 pm.
 
     This was important as it was the entire 'cushion' we had built into the plan.  

   Given the drive from Astakos to Igoumenitsa is indicated at 2 1/2 hours and we had to return the car once arriving in Igoumenitsa we figured catching our booked ferry was unlikely.  The good news was that there was another ferry an hour later.

     But we tried, driving pretty much straight.  Fortunately, other than around Prevezza it is an easy drive on a very good wide road, the only distraction being the sea and the mountains, and the animals (goats and cows) at times on the road.  Beyond a couple of really brief photo stops (for the goats and cows) and a fill up of fuel we drove straight through.

     The closer we got the more convinced we were there was no hope of catching the 3:30 pm ferry unless it was late.

     Sadly as we entered Igoumenitsa at literally 3:30 pm we saw the ferry at its dock.  Upon arriving at Rent Car Igoumenitsa we had given up.  But Yannis / John jumped in the car, said let's try and off we went to the port.  We arrived just as they were about to raise the ramp.  Yannis said something in Greek; the ferry workers were yelling; Yannis said "hurry hurry" grabbing one of our bags; I madly scrambled to get the other bags out of the trunk; did I say workers were yelling?; and we jumped on literally seconds before the ramp was raised.  As we caught our breath we noticed a number of passengers on an upper deck watching our scrambling.  What they were thinking who knows as we were focused on just getting on board with our bags. 

     Although we will be back in Corfu Town the last day of our trip (more then) included here are a number of photos of the 15th-century Old Fortress, featuring a small chapel and mosaics, that overlooks the town from the east and to the west the Venetian-built New Fortress with a network of tunnels underneath.  The harbour is lined with beautiful pastel-coloured homes of Venetian architecture.

     Unfortunately it turned out to be a little more difficult than expected to find our car rental office.  However, with the help of a waitress who kindly called Sunrise Car Rental for us (and then proceeded to pour me an ouzo - gotta love the generous people of Greece) who then picked us up it all worked out.  But with the search and the paperwork it did add time resulting in us not leaving until well after 6:00 pm.


     The consequence being the drive took us nearly two hours with the last section up the mountain to Old Perithia and The Merchant's House being pretty much in the dark.

     Fortunately we saw the sign to Loutses where when we asked we were directed another 3 to 4 km up the mountain.  At least we knew we were on the right road headed in the right direction.  

     The road was narrow and by now there were no lights other than the stars and moon.  But we continued on at times wondering why we had booked up here where there apparently was nothing.  We were reminded of Arodamos, our first stop in Crete that involved a similar 'where are we going?' drive in the dark.

     But we kept going and voila, around a corner there was a church and a parking area.  Soon after we saw the sign for The Merchant's House and exhaled a sigh of relief.
     The drive to the Merchant's House in the north-east of Corfu is indicated as approximately an hour and 15 minutes.  

     Perhaps so IF one knows the way.  However it may not surprise one that signage in Corfu is generally lacking.  As the sun set seeing the intermittent signs became more and more difficult.
  .

   We were met by Marieke and quickly checked in with advice that if we wanted some food we should hurry down to the village.  Village?  What village we thought?  But we followed the cobblestones down from the Merchant's House where in less than 100 metres we found three open tavernas.  We sat ourselves at the first one - Foros - where Gayle had a Vegetable Pie - somewhat overdone but the filling was tasty and Norm the Moussaka, accompanied by a 1/4 litre of red wine for Gayle and retsina for Norm.  After a 'gift' of a piece of walnut cake we climbed back up the small hill and, after a very long day, fell asleep immediately.


Our last morning at Villa Anna.

We were off early to catch the 9:00 am ferry.  But that did not get in the way of a coffee and squeezing the remaining oranges for a couple of full glasses of fresh orange juice.

On the way we detoured into Vathy and the bakery to pick up a couple of spinach swirls and a chocolate croissant. 

We arrived at the port on the west side of Ithaki - only a 12 minute drive from Vathy - in plenty of time.

From Ithaki the ferry made a stop in Sami, Kefalonia before continuing to Astakos on the mainland.

Breakfast on the ferry.                                                         Rest on the ferry.


The coastline approaching Astakos.                                    Our ferry the Ionian Pelagos.


As a driver in rural Greece one has to always be expecting the unexpected - actually goats on the road is not all that uncommon.





Bright yellow thistles, goats on the side of the road against the blue sea - typical Greece.





A short video of the goats on the road - listen for the bells.       But not only goats - there were cows as well.


Approaching Corfu town one is first struck by the massive fortresses.


Typical Venetian buildings painted in pastel colours.



One of the numerous towers in Corfu town.


Corfu is a very popular cruise ship stop.


Old stone building adjacent to Foros.                   A couple of tables set on the other side of the alley.


One of the ever present cats - generally very polite.            Vegetable pie with spinach, onions, feta and herbs.


Lamb moussaka.                                                                  A piece of walnut cake - tonight's after-meal 'gift'.




September 25, 2023 - Eumaeus Villas, Vathy, Ithaca
                                   Paleochora, Minimata beach and Anogi   
      
     Our beach destination today was Minimata, a few kms north-east of Vathy.  But first we decided to drive to Paleochora, a medieval town with defensive architecture built on Mount Merovigi to the south-west of Vathy.

     Paleochora, literally meaning Old Village, used to be the capital of the island during the middle ages and the beginning of the Venetian period.  The village was abandoned in the 16th century, today containing little more than ancient ruins.  Houses in the village were built of wood and stone with narrow windows, like little fortresses, as a defence against the pirates.  There are apparently some ruins of those houses and old churches with fine Byzantine frescoes but we guess we didn't search hard enough as we did not discover any.  The diversion was not a total waste as we were provided some great views looking down to Vathy from the south side.

     After descending back to Vathy it was a very short drive to Minimata beach, another pebbled beach in the little cove of Skinos.  

     Like all others on Ithaki the beach has crystal clear waters.  

     It was easily accessible only metres away from convenient parking, which given Norm's knees is always a good thing.

     Like the other beaches we visited we didn't stay a long time (generally an hour to two) but once again enjoyed a relaxing time, both swimming and for Norm napping on the beach.

     After our time at the beach we returned to the Villa where we decided we had short-changed the north of the island.  Being less overcast we concluded the views would be a bit better and we wanted to stop and explore the village of Anogi more.  As well we decided to eat at a restaurant we previously passed along the way.

    The drive, with views to the sea, the numerous bays, the south of the island and the town of Vathy were indeed again spectacular.  Anogi is a small village along the east road to Stavros, built on the eastern slopes of Mt. Niritos.  The village's history dates back centuries, having been a human settlement for more than 6,000 years.  During the Middle Ages Anogi was well populated due to its location at 830 metres providing protection from pirates.  There is evidence of an ancient settlement with ruins of an ancient people, dating back to the Hellenistic period.  Today there are abut 45 permanent residents in the village although it receives many visitors during the summer months.  At the heart of the village is the church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, quite unique for its historically important Venetian bell tower.  Paintings and icons in the church date back to 1680.

    After continuing on to Stavros we circled back taking the west coastal road.  Unfortunately the sun had pretty much set by the time we reached the west coast but still a great drive.  As planned we had dinner at Chani, a bar / restaurant in an old building of the 18th century.   Set on the side of Niritos mountain this 'chani' has been operating since 1800 when passengers accepted water, loukoumi, coffee, bread and cheese from the flock of old man Dimias, his son Konstantis and bride Baggeloylas.  Because of its position the location was used as an observatory during WWII.  Today the grandchildren have expanded the coffee-bar with a restaurant.  Indeed this is certainly more of a restaurant than a taverna with a variety of interesting dishes.  We started with nice grilled bread and the Fava with aromatic oil.  Gayle actually had something different tonight, i.e. not a Greek salad but Halloumi cheese souvlaki with grilled vegetables in a balsamic sauce - interesting / quite good.  Norm had one of the specialties, the Ithacisian recipe <<Tserepa>> lamb with potatoes and fresh tomato sauce flavoured with local herb <<sapsichos>>.  A nice meal with wonderful views to the lights of Vathy but it felt a bit weird with only one other couple in this large restaurant.  Clearly we are reaching the end of the season.


The view of Vathy from Paleochora, wtih Minimita Beach just over the hill where the sailboats are.


A few sights in  Paleochora.


The west side of Vathy harbour.


Minimata beach.



Someone apparently was throwing small stones at Norm to wake him up.  It didn't work!


The sun setting over Kefalonia as we begin our drive of the north side of Ithaki.


The land on the south-east side  of Ithaki stretching out into the sea.


Vathy, with Paleochora on the hill (top-right).


The rock strewn Mt. Niritos.                                                 Rock walls are common place.


Sights within the ancient village of Anogi.


This one is perhaps not that old as those below.


Old rock carvings and the church bells of Anogi.


Attractive colourful Amaryllis belladonna.


Looking over the sea to northern Kefalonia.


Some of the attractive items on display at Chani.


                                                                                              Grilled toast to start.


Fava with aromatic oil (and way too many onions).             Lamb <<Tserepa>>.


Halloumi cheese skewer in a balsamic glaze.                     Walnut cake with ice cream - another 'gift'.



September 24, 2023 - Eumaeus Villas, Vathy, Ithaca
                                   Skinari beach   
      
     We are now in a routine here on Ithaki.  Up in the morning - coffee, fresh orange juice and yoghurt followed by a swim in the pool and time on the terrace just admiring the view down the hill to the bay, the island and across to the mountains on the north side ... and pick out a beach destination.

     Today that drive / beach was in the north-east, between Frikes and Kioni.  The drive up the mountain provides wonderful vistas across Kopos Molou bay to Vathy and the south side of the island.


     On the way we passed the Kathara Monastery.  The historical Monastery of the Panagia of Kathara looks out over the whole island of Ithaki from a height of 556 meters on the south-eastern side of the Homeric mountain of Niritos.  


      The history of the Monastery begins around 1696 although the icon to which the Monastery is dedicated is considerably older, shrouded within the age-old tradition of the island.  The icon was apparently discovered in the ash of the burning 'kathara', a word that in the local dialect is used for dry twigs and brush that are cut and burnt so as to clear an area.  

      
       While we do not understand or grasp the historical and/or religious significance of most of churches / shrines / monasteries that we encounter along the way, in some cases we do stop to take a closer look and are inevitably amazed at the fact these cherished places were built when they were, and their ornate nature and astonishing architecture.

     The drive was spectacular, particularly on the south coast of the north mountain, looking back to Vathy and the other bays along the coast, along with our villa.  We passed through one small mountain village - Anogi - along the way before reaching Stavros.  From there we headed to Frikes, a (very) small harbour village and then on to Kiovi.  Along the way we saw a small beach at the end of the bay - Skinari beach, at which we stopped on the way back.  The one other couple on the beach when we arrived left soon after leaving the beach to us.  Another stony beach but once one gets in the water all is great.

     On the way back we stopped in Frikes, a village first inhabited in the 16th century when the locals of the surrounding hills began to use the natural harbour as their fishing base to trade with Lefkada and mainland Greece.  The picturesque fishing village is now a significant tourist destination.  During the summer there is daily boat service to and from Lefkada.  Frikes serves as a great base to visit nearby beaches, and during the summer the local, northwest winds create ideal conditions for sailing and windsurfing. 

     We ate light - tzatziki and saganaki before returning along the equally dramatic west coast with views across the water to Kefalonia. 


We know - same old same old but with this view from our terrace why not?


The beautiful turquoise water as we rounded the end of the bay.



Looking back to Vathy (unfortunately it was a bit overcast / cloudy).


The road, on the left of the west side of the north.              And on the right of the east side.


Kathara Monastery.





The wild rocky wasteland is the perfect home for goats.


Skinari beach between Frikes and Kiovi.



A fishing boat in Frikes harbour.                                         Our taverna on the waterfront.


Tzatziki.                                                                               Saganaki.



September 23, 2023 - Eumaeus Villas, Vathy, Ithaca
                                   Myprosta Aetos beach   
      
     Life is great - we woke to another hot sunny September day enjoying a scaled back breakfast on our terrace of coffee, freshly squeezed (by Norm) orange juice, wonderful Greek yoghurt with fruit if wished (Norm yes; Gayle no) and a chocolate croissant.  Perhaps not the 'full' breakfasts we have become used to at the other places we have stayed but certainly sufficient.

     Late morning we enjoyed a swim in our pool.  How nice to step out your door and voila, there is your own private pool.  Yes we gave up breakfast to be here, but in exchange have this pool.  Pretty fair trade-off we would say.

     In the afternoon we took a drive up the west coast of the north of Ithaki.  There was a small road, even closer to the coast, although not right on it, that admittedly did have a sign that said 'dirt road' but really how bad could it be?  Well let's just say we were very grateful we did not encounter another vehicle coming in the other direction.  Passing would have been a serious challenge.  But we did not meet any and all turned out good.

     On the way back we stopped at Myprosta Aetos beach at the end of the bay.  Another nice beach very pleasurable to swim in ... except for the flying fish.  Every so often there would be this splash.  A quick turn of the head sometimes noticed a significant number of 'flying' fish.  After a few times we noticed the presence of a predator, i.e. a larger fish headed towards the school.  Then - there they were out of the water.  Very very cool.

     Sadly the Wifi / Internet is still down (and given it is Friday will no doubt be down through the weekend) meaning to get access we needed to head down to the harbour to one of the restaurants that provide 'free' Wifi.  We returned to Kohili where we enjoyed a nice meal a couple of nights ago.  Arriving around 4:00 pm, well before dinner we ordered a half litre of white wine and a retsina.  As dinner hour neared we started with a large plate of fava, traditional tomato balls and French fries fresh - did we mention Kohili makes the best French fries fresh?  Norm then had the Soutzoukakia, or Greek meatballs with red sauce.  The food was again very good and the opportunity to catch up on emails etc. much appreciated. 

     We returned to Villa Anna where, in-spite of somewhat cooling temperatures, we made use of the pool for a late night dip.


Breakfast of freshly squeezed (by Norm) orange juice, yoghurt, Norm's with fruit and our chocolate croissant.


Plus of course coffee.                                                          The baklava was a snack later in the day.


A portion of our large and comfortable outdoor area.


Our pool.                                                                                                              Gayle enjoying our pool.


Looking down from the parking area...                                                                  ... and looking up (28 steps).


We can't say we weren't warned.


Near the end of Kolpos Molou bay.


Clean clear water at Mprosta Aetos beach.


With flying fish!


Cypress, olive and pine trees predominate Ithaki.


Vathy harbour, full of sailboats.


Beautiful buildings line the harbour of Vathy.






Settling in for dinner again at Kohili.


Fava and fries (we have concluded Kohili makes the best fresh french fries).


Tomato balls although more like fritters.                                Soutzoukakia - Greek meatballs in a red sauce.



September 22, 2023 - Eumaeus Villas, Vathy, Ithaca
                                   Filiatro beach   
      
     Last night we were able to buy a few things in a bakery shop (a spinach pie and a chocolate croissant) for breakfast but were unable to find a market with coffee or other goods we considered (yoghurt, oranges etc.).  But we did have Nescafe instant coffee with creamers so we did have some coffee, and the spinach pies and chocolate croissant were very welcome - perhaps not the breakfast we were used to but we knew this would be our experience at a villa.

     We are in Villa Anna, one of three villas on the property, named after Michaela's husband's mother.  Sitting on the terrace looking out over the bay, with the small island, and on to the mountains of the north side of Ithaka is something we could do day after day, morning, noon and night.

     But Ithaka is known for its beaches so out we went to Filiatro, recommended by Michaela.  The beach is perhaps three kms to the east of Vathy, reached by a narrow (but paved) more or less one lane road.  But the reward is certainly worth the effort.  The bay is beautiful with the turquoise water very enticing.  Sure the beach is comprised of small stones but Gayle has come to actually prefer that.  Norm will still take the sand.

     It is hard to say this but we were actually a bit tired of large Greek meals so decided to scale it back a bit and order a pizza to share.  But we did break down and added a tzatziki to start.  We ordered a 4 Seasons Pizza - mozzarella, tomato, mushroom and bacon and proscuitto on (Norm's) half.  The tzatziki was excellent, very garlicky and flavourful and the toppings on the pizza were plentiful and good, but the crust left a lot to be desired.  It was really nice to enjoy the pizza at a table right on the waterfront.

     We returned to Villa Anna where Norm had a quick dip - the temperatures do cool off in the evening - before calling it a day.
     

We bought a spinach pie last night that we had for breakfast.


Again, the view from our terrace.  This is never going to get old.


Our attractive stone villa.                                                      As seen from the road.


Filiatro beach, the gorgeous water and the rock faces on each side of the bay.


A cave along the shore.


No words necessary.


A pebble beach for sure, with sunbeds etc. available from the taverna.


Here we go again - an enjoyable swim in crystal clear turquoise water with the stones in the water clearly visible with hardly any distortion.


Views of Filiatro as we were driving out.


An elderly gentleman passing time in Vathy.


The sun highlighting the buildings on the east side of Vathy's harbour.


Pizza on Vathy's waterfront.                                                Very garlicky tzatziki.


A 4 Seasons Pizza 



September 21, 2023 - Olivemare, Kateleios, Kefalonia
                                   to Eumaeus Villas, Vathy, Ithaca   
      
     Moving day again.  We leave Olivemare and Kefalonia today, ferrying to Ithaca for our next stop.

     While enjoying another breakfast, this one including a leek pie, mushrooms served with cheese, aubergine salad and healthy chocolate mouse (of dark sugar, yoghurt and cocoa) we, and the others having breakfast, felt a very noticeable shaking and loud roar while sitting at our table.  

     Lasting three to five seconds Norm thought it was a jet fighter passing close by while Gayle thought it was like a subway.  In fact Yannis confirmed it was an earthquake, initially estimated at 4.3 (later downgraded to 3.7).  Anything >4.0 is considered noticeable and may cause some damage.  Earthquakes are not common, but also not uncommon in Kefalonia.  Most are relatively insignificant.  This one was centered 23 km east of Argostoli, at a shallow depth of 15.2 km beneath the epicenter at 10:00 am.  Subsequent reports issued by other seismological associations reported the magnitude as 4.1 and 3.7 respectively.  The quake should not have caused any significant damage but was probably felt by many people as light vibration in the area of the epicenter.  We can confirm it was certainly felt in Olivemare's breakfast area.

     We were in no hurry to leave and Yannis was very generous in allowing us to stay in the room as long as we wanted given the next guests were not arriving until the evening.  It allowed us to enjoy one last swim in the pool.

    We drove the nearly one hour straight to Sami - a very pretty drive through the cypress and olive forests - before heading a bit east to AntiSamos where there is a beach.  Unfortunately our time was very limited giving us only about 15 minutes on the beach / in the water but some time is better than none.  A nice large cove worth coming back to some day.

     Unfortunately our ferry turned out to be 45 minutes late.  If only we knew we could have stayed at the beach longer - darn.

    The ferry ride is only half an hour and the drive less than 15 minutes to Eumaeus Villas where Michaela was waiting for us.  Unlike our other B&B stays Anna Villa is just that - a small stone villa with a private pool.  There are full cooking facilities but no breakfast provided.  We bought lots of oranges for freshly squeezed orange juice, yogurt and coffee for each morning. 

     The place is stunning with a spectacular view down to the water and across the bay to the north mountains of Ithaki.  We are very pleased except for the fact the Wifi / internet was down.  Oh well.
     
     The nearest place to eat is only a couple of kms away in the main town of Vathy.  After a short dip in the pool we headed down for dinner and to access Wifi.  First impressions of Vathy were very positive - lots of sailboats lining the west of the harbour with restaurants on the south side and an island with a small church in the middle.  We chose Kohili for dinner starting with a nice saganaki - some can be rubbery; this one was not.  Gayle then had a (surprise) Greek salad while Norm enjoyed a large tasty country sausage accompanied by excellent fresh French fries.

     Other than the Wifi, which hopefully will be operational tomorrow, we believe we are going to really enjoy our stay in Ithaki.


Another varied breakfast of cake, chocolate mousse, cheese of Olivemare, cucumber and tomato, eggplant kanapes among many other items ...


... when the ground began to shake quite significantly.  Yannis confirmed we were experiencing an earthquake.  Being estimated at >4.0 it was certainly noticeable.


On our drive out of Kateleios we saw bee boxes and these colourful purple ruellia.


Anti Samos beach on the east coast of Ithaki.


Anti Samos is for the most part organized although there is space at the ends for those of us who are not there long enough to warrant renting a sunbed.


Pebbles, clear turquoise waters, scenic coastline - it can't get much better than this.


Our ferry the Ionian Pelagos from Sami (Kefalonia) to Piso Aetos (Ithaki).


The slowly setting sun glistening over the channel between Kefalonia and Ithaki.


The small port of Piso Aetos on the west coast of Ithaki.


To the left the view from our terrace (a portion of which is below).


Our own pool.


Dinner tonight was at Kohili where we shared a saganaki, Norm had the grilled country sausage and Gayle a Greek salad.






September 20, 2023 - Kefalonia - Olivemare, Kateleios   
      
     Another nice day; another wonderful breakfast - today with pancakes with honey and cinnamon (sweets); avocado (kanapes); pepper with feta cheese (grilled/small meze) and spinach pie (pies) along with all the other breakfast items.  Many of the ingredients are sourced not only locally but from Olivemare's garden.

     Not surprising Olivemare has a house cat - generally very friendly but not surprisingly interested in breakfast 'leftovers'.  

      Breakfast is served by Yannis, the owner along with Galini, originally from Kazakstan but having moved to Greece 24 years ago.  

      After our standard 'down' time, and a swim in the pool, we headed out towards Skala and then north along the east coast of southern Kefalonia.

    Last year we decided to visit at least one archaeological / historical site.  After passing Skala we saw a sign for the Archaic Sanctuary of Skala.

     The Doric temple dates from the Archaic Period at the end of the 6th century BC - early 5th, evidence that makes it unique to Kefalonia. Once belonging to the ancient city-state of Pronnoi the temple dedicated to the Greek god Apollo is located near the Roman villa of Skala.    

     Archeologist Spyridon Marinatos excavated the site in 1960, unique on the island as being the only one found like it from this period.  The chapel of Saint George is thought to have been built in 1812 when the nearby Temple of Apollo was fist discovered.  Work continues to be carried out on the site.

     Every year on Saint George's Day the icon of St. George is taken from the Skala church in a procession that goes down the beach following the coastal road to Saint George's little church.  Locals and visitors follow the procession led by proud men riding majestic horses.

     Our first destination was Liminea beach, which we easily found after passing some wonderful coastline, and what looked like a couple of beautiful but difficult to access beaches.  Liminea was a nice long beach with parking right on the adjacent road.  Like virtually all of the beaches in the Ionian it was pebbled / small stoned but actually Gayle has come to really like the pebbled beaches.

     Generally we have found the beaches in Greece to be reasonably clean.  However here at Liminea, although not a lot sadly there was still more garbage on the beach - styrofoam and cups - then there should have been.  To Gayle's never-ending credit she grabbed a bag from the trunk and spent a couple of minutes picking up some of this garbage, similar to what she does at Shubie Park back home.  If only everyone had this attitude and did just a little bit the beach, and roadside, and parks would all be cleaner and more attractive places.

     After our swim (and Gayle's clean-up) we continued north through Poros, west to Tzanata and then north again to Agios Nikolaos to try the pie (and other food) at Eleni's Olive Garden, with a reputation of the best pie on the island.  Eleni's is a small rustic roadside cafe with a very relaxed vibe that along with the dessert pies serves a small menu.  We had the Greek salad and the spinach pie - both good, along with a Frappe cappuccino and a Mythos.  We tried the lemon pie, which while fine did not, in our view, live up to its reputation.  Good, but nothing special.  We will say the service, banter and smiles were nice.  A good stop if passing by but not so sure it is worth a separate out of the way trip.  That said it was enjoyable to experience a traditional ma and pa small operation.


Very local products for breakfast.                    The friendly house cat - before breakfast and after food is served.


Pancakes with honey and cinnamon.                                                                    Pepper with feta cheese.


Spinach pie.                                                       Avocado Kanapes.                                         Galini offering fruit.



Olivemare's breakfast area.
    

The flowers weren't great in the fall.  No doubt spectacular earlier in the year.


'Olive' is in the name for a reason.  These were just in front of our unit.


Our large and comfortable outdoor area, well shaded.


As noted on the website Olivemare is themed in lots and lots of white.


Yannis.                                                                                 Galini.


Just north of Skala we made a brief stop at The Archaic Sanctuary at Skala.



A view of the sea on the south-east coast of Kefalonia.       A rock wall covered with plumbago.


Our swimming destination today was Limenia beach, between Skala and Poros.  Another pebble beach with beautiful water.



Limenia Beach, looking north and then south.


Gayle being socially conscious by taking only a few minutes to rid the beach of some garbage.


The gorgeous coloured waters of Kako Lagadi Beach, just south of Limenia.


The south-east coastline of Kefalonia.



It was suggested we go to Eleni's Olive Garden for her pies - so we did.  Literally a ma and pa roadside operation but kinda cool and certainly authentic. 


We had a Greek salad.                                                         And the spinach pie.


Gayle enjoying the ambiance.                                              And a piece of lemon pie for dessert.


Vangelis was certainly was quite a character, and Eleni.



September 19, 2023 - Kefalonia - Olivemare, Katelios   
      
     Pretty much a carbon copy of yesterday except we added a few hours at a beach in the afternoon.  Nearby to Kateleios are two long sandy beaches - Kamina and Mounda.  There was easy access at Kamina so we stopped there.  Not only was the water remarkably warm, no doubt due to it being shallow for some distance from the shore, but it was a nice change for the beach to be sandy.  There were a few rocks as one entered the water necessitating water shoes but on shore and further out it was nice sand.  Very relaxing.  

     While Norm napped - a common practice after some time in the water - Gayle went for a long walk along the beach.

     For dinner we went to Anemos, a restaurant recommended by a German couple also staying at Olivemare.  Their previous recommendation of Maria's was good so we went with their suggestion again.

    Anemos is set a bit up a hill, providing wonderful vistas over the sea.  In spite of it being very fish themed they did have a grill with meat specialties.  We enjoyed the views of the sea over glasses of excellent red wine before starting with a Traditional Kefalonian Brushetta comprised of cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, capers and herbs.  After that our meal was not 'Greek' but superb.  Gayle went Italian with the Solo Italiano salad - advertised as rainbow cherry tomatoes, although they were all red, fresh burrata, pine nuts (although Gayle asked them to hold the pine nuts - she is not a fan) vinegar and basil oil.  Delicious.  Norm went with the meat special - what turned out to be an 11 oz Black Angus Rib-eye with peppercorn sauce, a (small) piece of corn and fries.  An excellent steak.

     During gaps in dinner we enjoyed a nice chat with Jane and Kev, a couple from Dorset on the south coast of England.


Old artefacts displayed in the common area of Olivemare.


Fresh orange juice (a large glass today) and cafe latte. 



Riganada (bread, tomato, feta cheese and oregano).


Peach and orange marmalade.


Yogurt, granola and chocolate crepe.
  


My 'tapas' plate.
   

Aubergine with feta, cheese and tomato.


Looking back towards Kateleios.


Kamina Beach merging into Mounda Beach (at the top).


Sandy Kaminia beach just east of Kateleios.                        A church along the roadside.


A German couple at Olivemare recommended Anemos as a place for dinner.  An excellent recommendation.


Anemos, consistent with it's fish theme had this great light fixture with hanging jellyfish.


Restaurant decorations.                                                 Traditional Kefalonian Bruschetta.


Solo Italiano salad with fresh burrata.                                  A black Angus Rib-eye.


After dinner 'gifts' of liqueurs.                                              Kev and Jane.



September 18, 2023 - Kefalonia - Olivemare, Katelios   
      
     After our travel day yesterday we decided to stay put today, as in we didn't leave Olivemare except to go out to dinner.

     We started with breakfast served in a unique manner.  The previous evening one fills out a form choosing from an extensive list what one would like.  There are all the standard options - juice, yoghurt, fruit, baked goods etc. but then choices of what we will call tapas items that vary by day.  Today the options were:

Sweets - healthy mousse lemon (ingredients - dark sugar, yogurt, lemon)
Kanapes - fava (hummus salad)
Grilled small meze dishes - mushrooms served with cheese
Pies - feta cheese pie

Each day will be different.

     Otherwise we worked on the Travel Blog, napped, and spent considerable time on this hot day by the pool.  Kind of a perfect vacation day for us.

From the website

     "Olivemare, with its white walls, light grey shutters and unique design oozes authentic style from another era.  At first sight it's a quintessential mansion within the lush greenery of an olive grove.  Yet as one draws nearer, the unique detail that pepper the manicured gardens hint at a contemporary haven within that invites one for a memorable stay in Katelios village. 

Impeccable gardens, an emphasis on local products and a sensational breakfast will make the hustle and bustle of everyday simply fade away.  Add to that the swimming pool and Jacuzzi and you'd be foregiven for spending most of your stay within the hotel's off-white walls." 


     For dinner we went to one of the waterfront restaurants in Katelios - Maria's.  Beautiful setting on the water; good service; good food; nice wine; a bit pricey.  We started with courgette (zucchini)  balls with a yogurt dip - not that attractive but tasty; Gayle then ordered the potatoes roasted in the oven with rosemary but sensed a chicken flavour and as a result left most of them.  Norm had one of his better dishes of the trip - Lamb 'Kleftiko' - lamb in brown sauce cooked in the oven in a clay pot with potatoes, vegetables, feta cheese and aromatic herbs - excellent.


Olivemare's breakfast area.                                                 Freshly squeezed orange juice.



Lots of small (tapas like) servings.                                       Including fava on bread.



Delicious fried mushrooms.                                                  And bacon and eggs.



Each of the five Olivemare rooms face the sea (and the olive trees) with considerable outdoor space including comfy sun (or more appropriately shade) beds.



Olivermare has a beautiful large pool, very much appreciated on a hot day.






Dinner tonight was at Maria's in the village where I struck it good with retsina being available.



Zucchini balls with yoghurt.                                                  A very tasty lamb Kleftiko.




September 17, 2023 - Kefalonia - North Point Rooms 1953                                                               to Olivemare, Katelios   
      
     Sadly we had to leave North Point Rooms 1953 but first a bit on the 1953 Ioanian earthquake, also known as the Great Kefalonia earthquake that struck on August 12.  In mid-August there were over 113 recorded earthquakes in the region between Kefalonia and Zakynthos, with the most destructive being the 6.8 on August 12th.  The quake raised the whole island of Kefalonia 60 cm (2 feet), causing widespread damage.  Between 445 and 800 people died.

     As well as causing major destruction on the two islands the economic impact was far greater.  Many people fled the islands, some temporarily moving to Athens but the majority emigrating to Canada, USA, Australia and the UK among others, leaving both islands and their economy in ruins.

     Earthquakes still regularly affect the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.  There were large earthquakes causing damage on Kefalonia on Jan 26 and Feb 03, 2014 measuring 6.1 and 6.0 respectively with epicenters at shallow depths in Kefalonia.  These were followed by another large earthquake on Oct 25, 2018 measuring 6.8 off the coast.

     As we will mention in a few days we experienced one of these earthquakes while in the south of Kefalonia.

     Our drive took us from the very north to the very south.  Before reaching Myrtos we headed inland and up the mountains - lots of goats and rocks.

     On the way down the east coast we stopped for a swim at a beach between Agia Effimia and Sami - short but refreshing.  

     The drive from Sami to Katelios was relatively easy on a nice road through some wonderful scenic hills covered with cypress and olive trees.

     No problem finding Olivemare where we were welcome with wine along with some water, cheese and spoon sweets. 

     After checking in and relaxing a bit we headed out to nearby restaurant.  By now it was dark so we couldn't see the sea but we did get a nice table on the grassy area.  Gayle had the Gemista - stuffed pepper and tomato while Norm tried the chicken cooked in lemon.  A very nice large piece of chicken but sadly the lemon just didn't permeate it - somewhat of a disappointment.  

We returned to Olivemare were we immediately turned in.


Freshly squeezed orange juice to start each day.               Croissants and other pastries.


Bacon and spinach pie and toast and cheese and tomatoes and cucumber ... and us.


The pool at North Point Rooms 1953 which we never used but it was a nice option to have.


There are three buildings with rooms at North Point, with this being one of them.


Comfortable sitting (and working) areas.


North Point in the village of Markantonata.       Haris, our room.                                              The entrance.



Markantonata's church bells.


Rock strewn countryside, including remnants of the 1953 earthquake along with olive trees on our drive.


The spectacular sea and beach just north of Myrtos.


Same beach.                                                                And a video.


Lots and lots of goats along our drive.                                The road descending the mountain.


We stopped counting at 100.


Just before reaching Sami we stopped for a swim at Agia Paraskevi Beach - awesome.


An elderly lady agreeable to having her photo taken.         Colourful Amaranthus along the roadside.


Like Corfu, Paxos and Lefkada Kefalonia has many cypress trees.


... and roadside thistles.


We arrived at Olivemare to welcome wine, cheese and spoon sweets.


Dinner at Dreamcatcher was Gemista for Gayle ...            ... and chicken in lemon for Norm.



September 16, 2023 - Kefalonia - Myrtos Beach   
      
     After a bit of work on the travel blog under the watchful eye of one of the house cats, we enjoyed another leisurely breakfast chatting with a couple from Australia nearing the end of a five month - yes month not week - trip to Europe and the middle-east. 

     While we can't think of any hosts who have not been wonderful we want to make special mention of Petros and his partner Vania.  Nothing is too much trouble.  Vania is a bit shy but Petros could not be more helpful.  He just has a way about him that makes everything so easy.  We very much enjoyed both. 

     Today our journey took us south to Myrtos beach.


     In theory just over half and hour from North Point Rooms 1953 but in reality somewhat longer with the numerous photo stops along the way.

    Myrtos Beach is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of Kefalonia.  Located in a beautiful area around huge verdant hills Myrtos has gained a worldwide reputation, constantly included in travel magazines among the most beautiful and impressive beaches in the world, garnering awards for its cleanliness and natural beauty.  As a result Myrtos Beach is one of the most photographed places in Greece.

     Every year Myrtos is awarded the Blue Flag, one of the world's most recognizable eco labels awarded to beaches that meet and maintain the highest environmental, sustainability and safety criteria.

     The beach has a semi-circular shape surrounded by impressive white rocky cliffs with lush vegetation on top creating a spectacular setting.  The lush green area, the abrupt terrain, the white pebbles and the crystal clear waters compose a stunning scenery.  A portion of the beach is well-organized with umbrellas and sundecks while space is maintained on each end that is unorganized.

     Being on the west coast of Kefalonia Myrtos is blessed with beautiful sunsets although we were not there in the evening to enjoy one.

    There is a nice 'photo op' site on the road high above the beach providing an opportunity to take some stunning shots.

    On the way to Myrtos we passed the island and village of Assos.  Founded under Venetian rule Assos served as the administrative capital of northern Kefalonia from 1593 through 1757.  The Venetian Senate commissioned the construction of the Assos Castle, one of the largest in Greece, in 1595.  The castle was initially built with the view that it would protect locals in case of an invasion by passing Turks or pirates, but for various reasons such as the absence of natural springs for a water supply, it was never adopted as a fortress, and gradually the grand plan was dropped.  In the 1920s the castle was converted to a prison which housed political prisoners after WWII.  After the 1953 earthquake most people left the island and the prison was closed.  In retrospect we regretted not driving down to get a closer view of the town, island and fortress.  Next time.

     Dinner was at a traditional nearby tavern - Makis.  We ate light - just a Greek salad for Gayle and a plate of olives followed by lamb chops for Norm.  We returned to North Point 1953 rooms and retired.


While working on the travel blog each morning I always had company - if not Benny one of the cats. 



 A new day; a new loaf for guests.


Today's toast - fresh tomatoes and feta with oregano.



A lot of variety for breakfast.


Vania and Petros.


The village of and island of Assos.


Myrtos Beach - one of the most photographed beaches in Greece, seen here from the road above.


Is Gayle feeling my heart beat or covering a stain on my shirt?


Myrtos beach during the 4 km drive down.


It can't get much nicer than this.


Such soothing warm water.                                                 And a video of the beach and surrounding rock cliffs


After the swim.


Gorgeous turquoise transitioning to blue water.


Like most Greek beaches Mykros is full of pebbles (and some larger stones).


A number of roadside goats on our drive today.


Benny taking after me => napping.                                       Afternoon snacks - all included.


A simple dinner tonight at Makis, starting with an order of olives which went nicely with the olive tapenade that 
came with our bread. 


A Greek salad.                                                                      And lamb chops.



September 15, 2023 - Kefalonia - North Point 1953 - Fiskardo   
      
     After a very comfortable sleep we awoke to a nice day.  I started the day with a couple of early morning coffees working on the travel blog and befriending Benny, the resident dog along with a number of house cats.  We enjoyed a great breakfast, complete with fresh orange juice, coffee of course, granola, chocolate croissants, other pastries, cheese and spinach pies, small toasts today with salmon and capers, meats, cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, yoghurt, bacon and eggs.  Certainly no need for lunch.

     In the afternoon we went into Fiskardo, a pretty little fishing village.  Fiskardo is the northernmost port of Kefalonia with a small and diminishing fishing fleet.  The coast around Fiskardo is mainly rocky with numerous pebble-beached coves.  The area, dense with forests, has been declared one of great natural beauty and as a result is protected under Greek law.

     Fiskardo has been identifed with the ancient town of Panormos, mentioned as far back as the 5th century B.C..  In 2006 workers stumbled upon a perfectly preserved Roman-era grave complex.  Inside were five burial sites including a large vaulted grave and a stone coffin as well as gold jewellery, pottery and clay pots, gold earrings and rings, gold leaves attached to ceremonial clothing, and bronze artefacts decorated with masks, a bronze lock and coins.  Other excavations have uncovered remains of houses, a remarkably preserved theatre with stone back seats, a baths complex and  a cemetery, all dating to Roman times between 146 B.C. and 330 A.D..  At the time the complex was uncovered a Greek Culture Ministry spokesman said "Nothing else like it has ever been discovered on any Ionian island."  Unlike most of Kefalonia Fiskardo escaped the destruction of the 1953 earthquake, keeping its original architecture.

     We stumbled upon the cemetery with a number of tombs, then wandered along the harbour with many yachts and tour boats, along with restaurants.  Before leaving we each enjoyed a gelato.

     Before returning to North Point we stopped for a swim at one of the nearby beaches - Emplesi.  A couple of kms off the main road the beach was very accessible, with easy parking and fantastic water - warm and colourful.  We certainly enjoy our daily swims.

     For dinner we took Petros' recommendation and went to Alati, a restaurant on the sea with great sunset views.  The sunset tonight was decent, although perhaps not as spectacular as it could have been.  The meal however was superb.  Quite surprisingly the garlic and salted pita breads were delicious.  Gayle had a dish of linguini with fresh tomato sauce, and a huge ball of burrata cheese covered in pesto, which she absolutely loved.  Norm took a bit of a risk on sesame crusted tuna - this after all is a fish restaurant - which also was wonderful, reminiscent of the excellent tuna he enjoyed at Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica.  All was accompanied by the best wine so far, a white Papargyriou.  An excellent meal in a very scenic setting.


Greek yoghurt with bananas and granola.                            Meats, cheese, tomato, cucumber and avocado.


Chocolate croissants, other pastries, salmon and capers toasts and small cheese pies.


Lavender (unfortunately not in bloom) outside our terrace. 
  


Brightly coloured bougenvillia.


Gayle on our terrace and our new friend Benny.



North Point Rooms 1953 with two cypress trees framing the entryway.


The church just outside North Point Rooms 1953.


An old home amongst the olive trees on our drive into Fiskardo.



Honey for sale.


Attractive buildings along Fiskardo's waterfront.


Such a pretty little harbour with turquoise water and a small beach.


A Roman cemetery / burial ground discovered in 1993 containing at least 51 tombs (identified so far) dating from the 2nd to the 4th century BC.



 Many boat tours of the Ionian islands stop in Fiskardo.



Boats in the harbour - this one from Panama.



This one selling rugs.



Flowers adorning a building.


An elderly woman being helped by a bakery employee.


A few sights in Fiskardo.


Emplisi beach, between Fiskardo and North Point Rooms 1953 - very easy to park and access.


The water is very green near the shore, turning turquoise a bit further out and then finally a deep blue.


Today's beach to enjoy a swim.


Enjoying the sunset before dinner.



The cove / swimming area in front of the restaurant.
 

Who knew pita bread could be so tasty?  Add garlic and salt and voila!


Liguine with a large delicious piece of burrata covered in pesto.              


Sesame crusted tuna.


Sunset while enjoying drinks before dinner at Alati.




September 14, 2023 - Lefkada to Kefalonia - North Point 1953    
      
     We left Lefkada today to ferry to the next island south - Kefalonia.  We would say we were more impressed with Lefkada than perhaps we expected.  A very green island with lots of olive and cypress trees.  Our lodging - Thealos Villages - was great; a large unit with separate bedroom, kitchen and a nice outdoor area.  There were a number of pools for our use and an expansive vista across the sea to the mainland.  Although we didn't cook there was a stove with oven and a microwave along with a full fridge.  There are a number of relatively easily accessible beaches (at least compared to Paxos and the west of Corfu), and some scenic drives.  We certainly will consider returning.

Due to the ferry strike that delayed our leaving Lefkada and arriving in Kefalonia by one day we had only three nights at North Point Rooms 1953.  One nice thing is that the Rooms are < 10 minute drive from the ferry, assuming of course one does not miss the sign and drive another five to ten kms further.  But we figured it out, returned, saw the sign we missed and found North Point1953 quite easily.

     We were met by Petros and right away knew this was going to be a great stop.  Petros just has a way about him that makes one feel so very welcome.  He was so accommodating throughout our stay.

     Haris, the owner, and the name of our room, started to build his collection of lodgings first with the Primarolia Hotel in Patras that opened in 1997.  This was followed by the Emelisse Hotel in Fiskardo.  Using his experience, love for the travel industry, and the desire for continuous development he has created new projects in both Ithaca and Kefalonia.  The Perantzada Hotel opened in 2000 in Ithaca.  Then in 2017 Haris added the North Point Rooms 1953 in Markandonata, a small village near Vilapata in north Kefalonia.  The Rooms are a place of total peace and relaxation - six rooms in a secluded area within a marvelous garden providing absolute serenity.  So the website says.  And we agree.  Simply delightful.

     Petros suggested the nearby Old Stone Taverna for dinner.  Gayle had a wonderful plate of grilled vegetables, fortunately not swimming in olive oil.  She loved them.  Norm tried the traditional Kefalonia meat pie, a pork and beef pie that didn't quite work, being somewhat dry.  We did finish with a large piece of baklava that we shared.  All in all a nice start to our stay in Kefalonia.


Breakfast of pastries and cakes, spinach and feta pies, toasts with tomato, cheese and olives, an egg pie, olives and fruit, among other things. 



While I was waiting in the car for Gayle to get our ferry tickets I took this photo of a fellow passing his time in 
Visiliki.


Leaving Lefkada on our way to Kefalonia from another attractive port village - Visiliki.


Arriving in Kefalonia - the pretty port of Fiskardo.


Fiskardo's harbour is crowded with yachts and sailboats. 


Beautiful, colourfully painted buildings along Fiskardo's harbour.


Our room - Haris - named after the owner, and our private outdoor terrace area, surrounded by trees and shrubs (lots and lots of lavender).


Sunset over Antipata.


The Old Stone House.                                                        Which was quite busy / nearly full.



My first Mythos of the trip.


A lovely plate (not too oily) of grilled vegetables for Gayle.


A Kefalonian meat pie.                                                        One can never have too much baklava.



September 13, 2023 - Lefkada - Thealos Village - Mikros Gialos                                     and Ammousa beaches    
      
     Today was out extra day in Lefkada due to the ferry strike. 

     Two more beaches today.  Down the east coast first to Mikros Gialos beach.  Beautiful sparkling water but a bit too organized with 'water taxis' and other 'toys' on the beach.  Still it was a pretty drive through the olive groves and we were fortunate to find a parking spot close to the beach.  Without shade we did not stay too long but did enjoy our stop.

It was then further down the coast to Ammousa beach.  

Somewhat smaller and again with small stones but also beautiful - the water so blue and warm.  

Being later in the day with the sun starting to set we enjoyed a bit of shade.  Parking was very easy and convenient.

As we drove back to the main road we passed a fellow selling a number of products - olives, honey, capers etc.  We stopped for a photo but in the end bought a jar of capers to bring home with us.  After taking a number of photos the fellow handed me a number of figs as a 'gift'. 
 
Love the Greeks!

     Nearby was the charming fishing village of Sivota, or Syvota.  A very walkable village with many restaurants / tavernas lining the port.  We found a nice shop where we purchased a beach blanket, another tea towel and a nice plate, albeit the plate was from Crete rather than Kefalonia.  The port of Sivota is well known as the bay offers some of the best natural protection for boats - resulting in a large marina of fishing boats, yachts and sailboats. 

     The taverna we chose was Odyssey in part due to the availability of a whole grilled octopus, which was delicious.  Gayle had Gemista again - stuffed tomato and pepper; good but not as tasty as the one she had the other night.  After dinner we crossed the road where we bought a couple of desserts - an orange pie and a baklava to have back at Thealos Villages.

     It was a fairly easy half hour drive back up the coast to return to our place.


Another filling breakfast overlooking the water and mainland.


The bay leading to Mikros Gialos beach.              The beach included 'water taxis'                    And Gayle.


The waters just off the beach.


The water sparkled.                                                            The bay leading in to Mikros Gialos beach.


Our second beach visit was to Ammousa Beach.


The somewhat organized beach.                                   Gayle enjoying yet another swim, her second of the day.


Along our drive we encountered a number of sheep, including this 'black' sheep.


And theses two cuties on the roadside.


For sale - honey, olives, capers (we bought a jar) among other products.


The fellow at his stand was very happy to have his photo taken.



And gave me a handful of figs as a parting gift.


There were lots of restaurants / tavernas on the waterfront to choose from.  We somewhat randomly chose Odysseia.


Sitting down to dinner in Syvota.


Gayle had the Gemista.


As soon as Norm saw whole octopus on the menu he knew what he was ordering - and it was delicious. 


We passed on dessert, rather going across the street to a bakery where we bought an orange pie and a baklava that we took back to and ate in our unit at Thealos Village.



September 12, 2023 - Lefkada - Thealos Village - Englouvi 
                                   and Kavalikefta Beach    
      
     Time to explore a bit and start to hit the beaches of Lefkada.  Today we drove inland from Nidri to the mountain village of Englouvi and then on to Kavalikefta Beach across the mountains.


     We stopped for lunch in the village of Englouvi, famous for its lentils.  Englouvi, at 730 metres, is the highest village of Lefkada and one of the oldest on the island.  The name 'englouvi' is due to the village's location, surrounded / trapped in the mountains.  The hard working inhabitants from generation to generation grow crops of lentils on the plateau of the village mountain at a height of 900 metres.  The lentils are known for their unique taste and nutritional value.

     On August 6th each year the 'Feast of the Englouvi Lentil' takes place in the village as the lentils-farmers celebrate their local product.  The Englouvi plateau is listed in the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations as one of the five protected areas for unique aesthetic natural and cultural beauty of Greece.  Englouvi's lentils are cooked according to the traditional recipes and as a result stand out for their unique flavour and texture. 

Photo taken from website