Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Carol and Kim's Excellente Adventure - Ostuni and Lecce


Terry spent the day in that time-honoured cruising pastime of ‘waiting for a bloke with a new part’, this time for our temperamental bow-thruster, so Kim and I set off for a day out in Lecce, the capital of the Puglia region. After purchasing our tickets in flawless Italian, we downed a wake-up cappuccino then hopped trustingly aboard the 10.17 leaving from Platform 3 for Lecce. Or so we thought. About 20 minutes into a pleasant journey through aged olive groves, the conductor arrived to inspect our tickets. “No Lecce,” he informed us with a theatrical look of dismay, “This tren to Bari!” Well we didn’t want to go to Bari, having just gone to all the trouble of sailing from there to Brindisi, so we hopped off at Ostuni, the next town, to make our way back. Small problem, the station-mistress told us with a tragic look not unlike the conductor’s, “Next tren 14.00” – about two and a half hours! She consoled us with a suggestion: “Look Ostuni (expressive gesture) Very nice!” So we decided to look Ostuni. We became aware of another small problem as we left the station and spied the sparkling white town of Ostuni atop a distant hill. The station was in a fairly deserted industrial area a long way from the town, but we happily encountered a friendly African trolley guy outside a supermarket who told us where to wait for a bus. Then he called the bus, which arrived minutes later “special for you!” The bus driver was another delightful friendly Italian who was very concerned for our welfare and gave us repeated, increasingly loud instructions on how to get around town and to catch the return bus.
Ostuni in the distance

Ostuni was a delightful surprise. It is a very old town with some fine buildings and a beautiful sunlit piazza. We naturally gravitated to “Kim’s Ristorante” where we enjoyed an excellent lunch of pasta, prosciutto and the awesome local cheese, “burrata” which is like “mozzarella on the outside, stracchiatelli on the inside”. A magnificent building of the type where you imagine Mussolini waving from the balcony towered over the square, and well-dressed folk with bundles of important papers kept arriving and leaving – clearly a place of civic authority. We had a bit of a wander but decided eventually to call a taxi back to the station. Antonio arrived in his black Mercedes and we enjoyed the scenic views back down the hill – troubled by the niggling thought that our bus driver was probably cruising the streets of Ostuni looking for us still…




So, back on the tren to Brinsisi, then on to Lecce. Kim had a bit of a kip while I chatted to a Pakistani-Italian jeweller called Mario/Muhammed, who suggested a few places of interest in Lecce (including, of course, his shop). The old town of Lecce was quite attractive, though it was the depths of siesta-time and not a lot was happening anywhere. We eventually found our way to the famous Baroque cathedrale, taking directions from several people, including a tribe of kids who took great delight in escorting us personally to the site. The cathedrale is the very definition of Baroque, with all sorts of bizarre creatures cavorting alongside solemn popes, saints and archbishops around its facade. Grimaldi described it as a “lunatic stonemason having a nightmare” – harsh, but you can see what he means! A quick prayer, a look around the creepy crypt and we were back on the street seeking directions to the stazione. “Dritto, dritto, dritto to arco, then poco, poco destra to semaphora, sinistra to stazione” accompanied by flamboyant gestures and mimes. Yep, we’ve got it, grazie!


Playing statues in the courtyard

Weird mummy figures appeal to the Madonna in the crypt...

Amazingly, the railway station eventually appeared in front of us and after several double checks, we boarded the tren back to Brindisi. When the conductor appeared, we looked smugly sympathetic as one poor guy discovered that he was on the wrong tren – he wanted to go to Bari! A rather tedious wait at the grotty bus station for the Number 5 to the Marina, a hair-raising ride back and we were ‘home’ in time for Aperols and a great meal at the marina restaurant.
Dritto, dritto...

Sometimes the best days happen quite by accident! Thanks, Kim, for being such wonderful company and remember that your Common Sense T shirt entitles you to come aboard any time, anywhere.

Monday, 13 October 2014

A small slice of the Adriatico (guest blogger Kim)



I was excited and a little anxious as I left to meet Carol and Terry on board Common Sense. I had had an amazing stopover in Dubai staying with lovely Lisa and her boys – what a fantastic city! A night in Rome was noisy and a good introduction to life in Italy.


Carol and Terry met me at the station in Bari and we took the bus (first of many!) back to the marina. After settling into my cabin, we went off exploring in this interesting port city. In the first few days I must say “Eataly” with its astonishing array of Italian products, the old guys playing poker at improvised tables all along the waterfront and my first swim in the Adriatic would be highlights. I was immediately reminded that the Italian people are friendly, warm, laid back and very expressive. 




A "small" selection of Eataly's Formaggio

They don’t mind squalor, cigarettes and dog-poo infested environs as long as they can eat good food and laugh a lot! Carol and I took a trip to Polignano where we enjoyed a superb four course meal, then spent a couple of days recovering from it. 



Domenico Modugo - born and lived in Polignano, writer and singer of "Volare"

We also took a tour to see the fascinating ‘cave city’ of Matera, once the ‘shame of Italy’ for its terrible poverty and mortality rates, now a site for tourism and movie sets. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was filmed there, and a Ninja movie was in progress while we visited. 



The oldest, continually inhabited town in Europe

Next up was Alberobello, with its cute conical stone houses known as tulli. Apparently these were constructed so as to be easily dismantled when the taxman came to visit. “House? What house? This is just a field of rocks!”


Gianluca and Kim in Alberobello


Trulli

We motored to Monopoli (wind on the nose - what Terry calls a #$%# Noserly) a walled town of many churches and a central cathedral. In the café in the piazza I was introduced to my new favourite drink – Aperol Spritz – and enjoyed one or two each evening from then on. We got lost in the narrow, winding streets, finding all sorts of interesting things but not the cathedral we were looking for! We swam in a lovely little bay and watched a local guy clean his daily catch of about two dozen octopus. More good food – seafood, pasta, gelato, cornettos, cheese, bread …

The inside harbour of Monopoli


The back streets of Monopoli

We headed off to Brindisi, unfortunately in rain and quite a heavy swell – still no real sailing. There is a good sheltered marina here where I enjoyed my Aperol each evening and a swim every morning. We dinghied into town for a wander and some shopping, and Carol and I took the train to the regional capital of Lecce – with and accidental side trip to Otuni [see the next blog for this story].

The evening's aperitif - Aperol Spritz

All in all, an amazing holiday. I feel very relaxed and would certainly join you again aboard the good ship Common Sense. Fantastico! Arrivederci Italia and grazie Carol and Terry!


 Polignano dessert

Friday, 26 September 2014

Adriatic Cruise - Chris's Journey Aboard Common Sense


Terry and Carol have kindly welcomed me into their life on the boat 'Common Sense' and it’s been a truly wonderful experience. I will cherish the fond memories of exploring the streets of Otranto, Brindisi and Monopoli, sharing meals on the boat, shopping for local food, finding hidden treasures just around the corner and so much more. Thank you for allowing me to photograph every food experience before we bought it, prepared it, and ate it, so that I could continue my Italy food blog. Mostly I just enjoyed their lovely relaxed company. Thank you both so much.
This is my experience of life on their boat sailing in the Adriatic Sea.

Sunday 21st September - Sailing from Otranto to Brindisi
 Up at 730, brekkie, pack up, check out with Guardia Costiera who really were not interested.

Set off at 9:00.  It’s a very calm flat day and we had to motor all the way as there was not enough wind for sailing. Common Sense needs about 15 knots to sail by itself. Today we have got minimal sail up just to assist in stabilising the boat. It’s interesting to watch all the different size vessels pass by. Terry and Carol have this amazing chart plotter system that also provides info on position of ships, name, size, what type of vessel, cargo, coordinates, where they are heading to and all contact details, a radar detects all small craft and the automatic pilot steered us all the way to Brindisi complete with ETA.

We had tea and chocolate topped digestive biscuits (Carol's favourite) on the way. After a couple of hours of motoring, still no wind we have a simple lunch of salad, bread and chicken on the deck and afterwards we all snoozed, read and updated our emails etc.  It was calm, warm and an easy, pleasant trip. We arrived at Brindisi marina at about 400pm about 7 hours of motoring.

Settled in at the Brindisi marina, had a real shower and then Terry's famous 'chicken stew' served with croutons spread with truffle paste. On the morning before setting off on a long sail Terry prepares some chicken pieces, lots of carrot, celery and onion, it all goes into the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes and then rests in the sink covered by a towel. It's ready to eat after a long day at sea mmmmm food for the soul.

Monday 22nd - Brindisi Marina
I'm in heaven waking up to the sound of water gently lapping on the side of the boat. It's quiet here apart from the occasional plane flying over, a speed boat passing by. It's a hot steamy morning looking out over the glassy water and there’s not a breath of wind.  The silence is broken with the sounds of Jimmy Buffet playing in the background while we chat and have brekkie on the deck.


Trip to the shops in Brindisi
Terry is busy hooking up the dinghy to winch it from the deck and down into the water. The heavy outboard motor is carefully manoeuvred down and Carol secures it to the dingy ready for our trip into Brindisi. It's the equivalent to getting into the car to go the shops, same but very different. Everything is harder and takes much longer on a boat. We putter out of the marina past the castle on the point, two large Grimaldi liners are docked amongst the cargo ships and we go past a UN distribution depot. The wake of passing boats gently rocks us. We pull up on a small jetty near three large tugs which become a familiar sight constantly going in and out of port several times a day.  We set off looking for a sign to the Centro. An old lady waves us in the direction 'dritto, dritto' straight ahead.

 The smell of bread baking draws us into a little bakery where we purchase some pane, panini and some little baked olive snacks. Across the road Carol is getting some peaches, an avocado, tomatoes, and she is carrying a large bunch of pale asparagus mmmmm I am thinking ahead maybe some pine nuts to go with that. The streets are narrow, dirty and run down we avoid walking under some of the shutters and balconies, they look like they could fall down at any minute. We look up at some beautiful old stone carvings set high up on a corner of an old building. The ornate rusted balconies look stunning against the old stone, there are the occasional bits of greenery, these are much sparser than the abundance of greenery in the north of Italy in Spoleto.

We go into a little 'enoteca' and Terry buys some salami and prosciutto while Carol and I practise our Italian and ask for some fresh pasta.  Packets of orecchiette and other pasta are brought out to us, pale, mixed sizes and shapes, wholemeal, organic, flecked. Terry in the background 'not that wholemeal s.....' . Some fresh ricotta and other cheeses of different consistencies, goat or cow’s milk, we decide to try the goat ricotta . The lovely friendly shopkeepers help us and another customer joins in with the Italian/English interaction and after a few photos we leave. The Italians are encouraging and helpful in our attempts to converse with them in their own language; equally some like to practise their English. There are still many that don't speak English and my limited Italian has been useful. I will continue my classes back home.

We stop in at the Farmacia to buy some fish oil and we get some directions to the Vodafone  shop. Finally we find it at 1.10pm and it has just closed for siesta time, in Italy everything bar a few cafés close between 1:00pm and 4:30pm for siesta. It can be quite frustrating when you are trying to sort something out.

We are getting hungry and decide to head back to the boat to have some of the yummy food we have bought for lunch. Not before one more stop at the Conad supermercato to pick up some radicchio, Parmigiana and I found some All Bran!

We wind our way back to the waterfront through the narrow little streets. Then into the trusty dinghy and we chug past the ships, some large tugs follow us on their way out to pick up a ship. Lunch on the deck with Dreher lemon beer, my new favourite drink. It's the perfect refreshing low alcohol drink, it would go down well in Australia.

Lunch:

Radicchio salad with avocado, capsicum and ripe Roma tomatoes.
Goats cheese ricotta.
Prosciutto and salami
Crusty bread drizzled with local peppery EVOO.



Sounds of Afternoon siesta.

It's quiet here. The water gently laps on the side of the boat. I love the clinking sounds of boats, masts swaying and creaking, mooring ropes squeaking and straining against the jetty, I lie here listening to the sounds of a marina full of boats and settle into the soothing and gentle rocking of the boat. Turkish towels pegged above us to stop the afternoon sun sneaking into the siesta space on the deck.  Occasionally I hear a voice reminding me that I'm in Italy, a young girl calling out 'bella', a man in the distance calling out sailing instructions in Italian, his pupils in their small yachts trail behind him linked to each other in a line. It's bliss!

Carol’s washing is turning into an all day affair with both the washing machine and dryer taking hours! I see Carol's ever calm demeanour where nothing is a problem.

After drinks in the marina bar we head back to the boat. A few drops of rain and more expected tonight. I cooked for the first time on the boat in the very compact but well equipped kitchen. Everything has its place there are little cupboards in every possible space, a fridge space, several pantry nooks brimming with supplies, a pot cupboard, cutlery, crockery even a garage with every possible tool, nuts and bolts you name it they are prepared for anything. The emergency life raft and supplies sits under the table. There are gas detectors....everything clips shut so there are no loose bits and pieces floating. Another new cooking experience that requires some efficient use of space and utensils

Dinner
 Fresh pasta with truffle paste (from truffle hunt near Citta di Castella) and parmigiana  

Asparagus  drizzled with truffle infused balsamic  sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and shaved parmigiana.  




Tuesday 23rd


5:00 am. Woke early this morning to the sounds of a wind change, wind had picked up through the night and there was some banging and unfamiliar noises. Terry and Carol were up in a flash and realised that their boat had been pushed back from the front mooring line (lazy line) and was now drifting back into the jetty. They worked hard to secure the boat, a marina person helped and another experienced yachtie came on board to help. After lots of winching and tying down of ropes in 40 knot ++ winds with gusts of 46-50 knots they finally managed to secure the boat. Lots of other boats around us were also having problems. These winds were not forecast and caught people unawares. This weather will pass around 11:00am to 1:00pm today, the rest of the week is forecast for light winds.
This really is something else sitting in and feeling the brunt of every wind gust, it certainly heightens your awareness! Banging, clanging, straining ropes and the wind whistles as it pushes boats and masts around. This is new experience that I haven't been aware of when comfortably surrounded by four walls in a secure home.
We spend the day reading and sleeping until the wind passes.

This evening we bus it into the town centre with a couple of recommendations of where to eat. In typical Italian fashion the city and shops come to life at 4:30. Passagiatta is in full swing, Brindisi is a lovely city, lots of interesting old buildings, a palm lined town harbour where yachts can moor placing them right in the centre of the city. Lots of interesting little alleys and enotecas and great shops too.

We find the lovely little Italian fish trattoria Siamo Fritto in the piazza Mercato, looks great, we decide to eat there. And what a treat it is, so much to choose from. We order some beer, half a litre of rose and with it comes the complimentary bread and olive taralli biscuits.
We have some delicious marinated anchovies drizzled with lovely green EVOO and a touch of pesto, the dressing begs to be mopped up with some crusty bread. Then some crispy fried calamari followed by a seafood risotto which has my undivided attention as I wade through the tasty sticky rice clinging to the mussels and prawns. Terry has pasta with tuna and tomato. We all finish with a cleansing limone sorbet and I can't resist a glass of limoncello. All up this cost us approximately 21 euros each (about $30).

Our bus driver is obviously in a big hurry to get home, he races through the streets and doesn't have time to take our fares, just waves us off the bus.

Wednesday 24th - Brindisi

We dinghy into Brindisi, this time we moored right on the central town dock placing us close to everything.
Shopping - we sample and buy some local fresh cheese, baked bread and a few supplies. Terry's shopping list is 'lollies, chips and hot salami', I suggest 'fruit and veges'. This stirring of the dietitian continues. I suggest a chickpea and tuna salad for dinner, Terry says sausages or pork chops. 


Sitting in Piazza Cairoli waiting to meet Terry and Carol I have an unbelievably creamy and delicious amarello gelato, another heavenly food experience. 

We visited a few historical sites including the Palazzo Granafei where we stumbled across an amazing photographic exhibition by Salvatore Valente. His stunning photographs were of scenery, portraits and of people from all over the world.  Keryn's motto of 'take 3 more steps' paid off once again with this unexpected discovery.

It is siesta time and the city closes down. We find a little bar to have a snack.
Mini tomato and mozzarella pizza and a lemon beer.
Two old Italian men sit at the table next to us, chatting, smoking, sipping an espresso and they eat some kind of cream filled pastry. I watch them thinking I must try one of these.
After asking 'che cosa il dolce gli uomini mangiare'  (what are these men eating) I am served a  brioche like cornetto filled with creamy custard dotted with dark liqueur soaked raisins that oozed out with every heavenly bite I took. OMG how am I going to survive when I have to curb my eating heaven.

It's now 4:30 and the city is coming to life again. We stop in at a little jewellery shop that keeps drawing us in. They have these lovely necklaces with little Puglia dolls typical of the area. Carol and I can't resist making a purchase. We then head back to the boat on our dinghy.

Back on the boat Carol and I snack on the local cheese and taralli biscuits that we bought along with a glass of Greek rose left over from Terry and Carol's time in Greece.  It has that typical retsina flavour which is a bit of a shock after the Italian rose however a few sips later I am not even noticing it. I prepare one of my versions of chick pea salad for dinner.

Tuna in oil, chick peas, olives, cherry tomatoes, blanched green beans, rucola, quartered eggs and dressed with EVOO and lemon juice.

Thursday 25th - leaving Brindisi for Monopoly

Up at seven for an early start. Over brekkie and checking the weather report we see storm warnings forecast for later today and strong winds settling in for the next couple of days.
The plan was to get to Bari in two legs with a stop in Monopoli. Each leg is about a 6-7 hour day sail.
I need to be in Bari in 3 days to catch my train to Milan and Terry and Carol are picking up another friend in Bari the day after I leave.
Terry is reluctant to sail today with the storm warning so it looks like we're stuck in Brindisi for a few days with the back up plan for me to train it to Bari if needed.
Terry checks in with the marina staff and another local experienced sailor who suggests that today is our window of opportunity to make a move before the strong winds set in.
A decision is made - we pack up and set off for Monopoli and hopefully we beat the storm.

It's calm, cool but not cold, and overcast as we sail out of the marina and through the ever busy port of Brindisi. A large Grimaldi ship is coming in followed by a rescue ship, military aircraft fly overhead, tiny fishing boats dot the harbour and we plot our way to Monopoli. Onto auto pilot, after a while there is enough wind to partly put up the genoa and main to help us along, though not enough wind to sail independently. The boat needs about 14 knots of wind to get it moving and are currently getting about 5-6 knots. We are travelling at about 6.7 knots with a combination of wind and motor. It's calm and flat and no sign of any storm.

All along the coast there are settlements, pockets of Greek style white buildings, probably beachside holiday towns.  Plumes of smoke dot the landscape all the way from Brindisi. It is the season for burning off and cleaning up of the olive groves. I also saw this from the train as I was travelling down to Brindisi from Lecce.

Sailing/motoring like this is very relaxing, I write my blog, do Facebook, Carol reads and draws, we have morning tea and then lunch (left over tuna and chickpea salad) and there's time to chat and snooze. We arrive in Monopoli at 3:00pm. 
The end of my holiday is getting closer and I will be sad to leave this idyllic lifestyle, however I have two precious friends and some wonderful memories to look back on. 

Thank you

Otranto - Back in Italia


Otranto was our first landfall in Italy, after a moderately challenging passage from Ithaca.  Just a couple of hours later, those ‘moderate’ conditions turned decidedly nasty as a thunderstorm hovered over the brooding Aragonese castle in true Gothic style, and several boats arriving later had a major challenge finding space and docking in the heavy rain and swell. But it passed, as all things do, and a string of fine warm days ensued.

Speaking of Gothic, has anyone read The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole? I usually try to read books about the places we visit, or books by local authors, so it made sense to download a copy of what is generally believed to be the first example of gothic horror fiction in English. It has all the elements – a haunted castle beset by a curse, a villainous/ attractive antihero, TWO fainting virgins, a hero who turns out to be the illegitimate – no wait, it’s OK, they WERE married – son of a monk, dungeons, torture, secret passages, madness, comical faithful retainers and decaying aristocrats. If you’re thinking, hey that sounds interesting, don’t bother! It is truly awful, one of the worst-written novels I’ve ever read, with great long passages of explanation for the absurd plot twists and pious moral reflections that are clearly there to try to balance the lurid fantasies of the author. No wonder Jane Austen parodied the fad for this sort of stuff in Northanger Abbey. Horace Walpole did the Grand Tour, so I thought that the descriptions of the castle might at least be interesting, but the setting could have been anywhere (with a dungeon and a secret passage to the monastery).


The real castle is remarkable. It has existed in some form since the ancient Greek empire, and has been modified or rebuilt by the Romans, Byzantines, Normans and the Aragonese.  It has suffered earthquake damage, sacking by the Ottomans and Napoleon and use as a prison. Since 1986, a restoration and excavation programme has revealed its outer walls, system of moats and bridges. There is a whole town within the walls, and pleasingly, people live here above the shops and restaurants that line its winding cobbled streets. We really enjoyed seeing local people hanging out washing or watering gardens on their balconies, or the occasional glimpse inside a tiny room furnished in dark wood and hand-made lace.

Within the walls is another treasure of Otranto, its Byzantine cathedral. The floor here is a single massive mosaic created by the presbyter of the church at the time, a man called Pantaleone. It depicts a huge ‘tree of life’ bearing the whole known history of humanity and the creation. The tree rests on the backs of two elephants (obviously not based on live observation) and included are Biblical stories, astrological signs, mythological creatures, King Arthur, Alexander the Great, Dante’s Inferno and all manner of angels and demons. Originally frescoes covered all the walls, but they were destroyed by the invading Ottoman Turks who left only the images of the Madonna intact.




Behind the altar is a grim reminder of the real tragedy of Otranto: three glass cases hold the skulls and bones of 800 men and boys, the Martyrs of Otranto. In 1480, the people of the town held off the invading Turks for almost two weeks. When they were finally defeated, the survivors were rounded up and ordered to convert to Islam or die. 800 men suffered martyrdom by beheading on Minerva Hill, outside the castle.  A church commemorates the site, which retains an atmosphere of melancholy even now, under its brooding trees and overgrown walls. The town never recovered, but last year the Pope canonised all the Martyrs of Otranto.  As you walk the streets, you can imagine the few women, children and elderly people left behind after the massacre, grieving in the silence. It’s a relief when the evening passagiata brings tourists and locals out to enjoy a stroll, a drink and a conversation, like an affirmation of life.
On a lighter note, it’s great to be back amongst Italian food too, and good wine. And new – or old favourite – beers. Some good finds have included Dreher lemon beer, a 2% brew that is a really refreshing hot-weather drink, like a less sweet lemonade with a very slight bitter edge. Arancini for quick take-aways, lovely pastas and the local snack specialty, biscuits called taralli that are good in both their sweet and savoury forms.

We’ve been busy clearing out the second cabin aka the storeroom, ready to welcome Chris aboard. She is finishing up a month-long ‘eating tour’ of Italy and we’re looking forward to welcoming her and hearing about her adventures.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Ithaca


Did Odysseus, or someone like him, really set sail from this island back in the earliest memories of western civilization? Looking down on the dazzling deep blue of Vathy Harbour from the mountains that encircle it, it is perfectly possible to imagine a fleet of “black-prowed ships” heading off on a sea journey of over five hundred nautical miles to Troy. Achilles was Homer’s great hero of the Greek forces at Troy, but Odysseus was always my favourite, famed for his cunning and his skill with words, the hero who brought the war to an end by strategy as well as strength. The Odyssey relates his ten year struggle to return home after the war; it is our great archetype of the epic journey in western literature.
 
The Odyssey World Tour T shirt

No-one really knows the route Homer had in mind. Some places were clearly real, some probably seafarers’ tall tales, most have had many changes of name in the last two and a half thousand years, and of course modern tourism demands that any vague link be exploited to the full. Some scholars claim that Odysseus’ home was actually Lefkas or Cephalonia, but Homer’s words could certainly describe the island of Ithaca:

A rugged land, too cramped for driving horses,

But though it’s far from broad, it’s hardly poor.

There’s plenty of grain for bread, grapes for wine,

Little rain but healthy dewfall.

Good country for goats, for cattle too.

There’s stand on stand of timber

And streams that run throughout the year …

Ancient olive tree
 
Vathy harbour was a beautiful sight on a fine morning: well sheltered, the bay surrounded by pretty Venetian-style villas in pastel colours, mountains covered in pine and olives beyond that, and a constant stream of yachts coming and going, enjoying the closing weeks of the sailing season.
The harbour of Vathy
We hired a scooter (€15 a day) to check out the rest of the island – awesome views of the whole of Ithaca and its neighbours from the roads skirting the mountainsides; olive groves and fine villas; an ancient church in the Paleohora with its Byzantine frescoes still intact; and of course the vivid blue Ionian – Homer’s “wine-dark sea” - on every side.
The ancient church
 

 

And finally it was time to leave Greece, the land of legends, where Western culture was born. By my calculations we have visited 25 islands plus several places on the mainland and the Peloponnese – which leaves about 1375 islands still to see! We met an erudite gentleman from Orlando, Florida (though he’s British) in Nisyros last year, Mr Miles, who had a goal of visiting 100 inhabited Greek Islands.  He was up to 95.
  

The people you meet (Terry)
We were dining in the Trehantiri, a much-lauded “Lonely Planet” restaurant in Vathy, Ithaca, discovering for a second night why people rabbited on about it.  It was A-1 Excellent.  First night I had the lamb, which had been stewed and roasted in some order, for what seemed like two days because I could eat it with a fork.  I added mixed vegetables to this, zucchini and eggplant and potato, and it was superb.  Unfortunately, the remainder of the dish had been booked by others in the know (a table of about 12) so only one portion was available and Cal had to have the chicken, which was no bad second prize.  As a consolation, she got to have the roasted Artichokes, which were unbelievable.

Second night, she got in first and said it was her night for lamb.  No joy.  No lamb.  Tonight was goat.  Ok, 2 x goat with mixed roasted vegetables.  With beer.  It was wonderful.  The hubby of the lady who is obviously SWMBO in the place does pretty much as he’s told.  Take this order, clear that table etc etc.  He does all this amiably, as if he’s just happy to play second fiddle to Her with the virtuoso violin.  It works well.  He came over to our table and indicated that the goat was his doing.  I looked in mock amazement and said/mimed “you cooked this? ”  No, he said.  I shot it!  Oh well, it had to come from somewhere.

Alongside us was a British couple from Kent.  It is one of this lifestyle’s damning features that no sooner do you meet people who are genuinely interesting, warm, open and full of beans than they are gone from your life forever.

We met Jan and Peter, from a village in Kent.  For the life of me, I can’t remember its name but it was near Tunbridge Wells and up a hill.  To the world, they looked like an aging Brit couple on annual holiday, enjoying a tourist spot in Greece.  In reality, they were seasoned adventurers of many years of escapades.  For something like 40 years they had Narrowboat tours of the UK, back before almost anybody did it.  They’d been bucketloads of places and lived to tell the tale.  Modest, unassuming and ever so Englishly-polite, they were delightful company.  Jan told me about a book by a chappy by the name of Terry Darlington called “Narrow Dog to Carcassone”, another Brit, his wife and their whippet who crossed the Channel in their Narrowboat and took it to the Med.  Yes, that’s how you build an empire – some of you just have to be up for anything!

Then the heavens opened and Ithaka was deluged.  A large party of 10 needed accommodating, we four had finished so tables were cleared amid much ado and new diners introduced.  Jan and Peter departed for their digs before we could share details and what I have left from the engagement is a downloaded copy of Narrow Dog to Carcassone on my Kindle DX and a pleasant memory of two delightful people from somewhere in Kent near Royal Tunbridge Wells.

We set off north and west across the Adriatic on an overnight sail for Italy.  Not the best of passages, with a sea from the port stern quarter rolling us around every 8 or 10 swells, a wind that rose and died, with sails coming out and going away again, and a constant procession of large cargo ships who all seemed to want the same line that we wanted.  We were glad to finally arrive in Otranto, Italy, to tie up on the dock and be checked in to Italy by a pleasant young Guardia Costiera officer.
 

We only just beat the weather in......

 

The Free Marina of Trizonia


Trizonia  - This is the only inhabited island in the Gulf of Corinth and sits about 1nm from the mainland.

The Marina
 
On Trizonia is a bankrupt marina project, unfinished.  However, it has piers and pontoons and a population of maybe 80 – 100 in permanent mooring there, some being worked on, some being lived on and some maybe one day will be remembered and attended to.  One is on the bottom, and a couple more look like they’re not far off the same.

 Going no further...

We arrived early in an afternoon to a side-to tie up and were helped by some very obliging Germans.  There was no wind and we simply coasted to a stop and put lines ashore but it was very pleasant to have a welcoming committee and set the tone for the next couple of days.

From the marina, you wander no more than 300m to the restaurant side of the island and a nice swimming beach, although you can swim from your boat over into the small anchorage and many do.

 
The restaurants are your standard waterside Greek restaurants with an easy disposition and lovely views back to the mainland and to the small islands on the east of the bay.  A fierce current rips through between the island and mainland and even the powered ferry boat does a quick sashay to the left before a push to the right to line up with where he wants to be.

No power but water is available for a fee.  No charge for the marina – yes, a free marina, though I suppose eventually someone will take it on and begin to complete the facility.

Quite a fierce electrical storm came through on the night we wanted to leave for an overnighter to Ithaca so we delayed departure to see it off.  Then we decided not to leave but around 10pm the world quietened and the wind dropped to zero.  Up and out of bed, into the cockpit, instruments on, lights lit, lines slipped and off we went for Ithaca by 10:20pm. 

Under a full moon, we motored easily down the Gulf to the Rion Bridge and passed three columns to the left, one column to the right, around midnight then wandered off with some wind at last to Ithaca.
 
The Rion Bridge at midnight