My first week of school (now somewhere in the distant and murky past) began on a high note. Rather than spend the first few days before the full time work began resting at home, I joined my aunt and uncle for a small adventure outside Athens. They picked me up from orientation at school on Friday, and we were on our way.
Destination: Porto Xeli. A seaside town about 200km from Athens that honestly doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend itself aside from a handful of incredible waterside tavernas, an excellent pastry shop, and a small harbour with a very convenient location. It was this harbour that brought us there – my aunt and uncle keep there little boat there during the summer, and also rent a lovely summer place.
We drove out of the city onto the National Road that leads to the Peloponnese, and paused for a brief visit at one of the tiniest yet loveliest churches I’ve seen yet.
The caretaker of this little church leaves it open all the time. He wasn’t there this time around, but he owns a tiny shop right next the church, which my aunt says is a like relic from her childhood. I would have loved to explore inside, but I did spy through the door.
We headed back to the road and eventually reached the boundary between Attica and the Peloponnese – the Corinth Canal!
After this point, the drive became pretty incredible. We left the national road and wound our way through the mountains of the Peloponnese, towards Epidavros.
I couldn’t quite believe how green and lush everything was. Despite pretty frequent visits to Greece as I was growing up, the geography of these trips was pretty limited. I’ve spent a lot of time in Athens, and several Islands. (I also had been to Porto Xeli once before this, but I remember next to nothing). After the stark landscape of the Cyclades, the forests we drove through were even more beautiful because they were unexpected.
Near Nea Epidavros we stopped for a coffee and to enjoy the view. Although not a huge fan of sticky sweet things, my family knows how to get me to eat, so I found myself presented with a plate of Saragli. These are a bit like baklava, just rolled up in phyllo rather than layered. I only managed one of these – they were good but very sweet!
The potential sugar coma was definitely worth it for this view.
The road continued to bend and wind above the sea, clinging to the side of the mountains. As a result the views most of the way were breathtaking.
Sometime later we stopped at a little bakery off the main road. ‘Authentic’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. A table of people sat on the porch outside, clinking worry beads and drinking who knows what. They greeted us as we approached, as did a very strong odor of anise seed. We picked up a fresh (still warm) loaf of incredible bread, and cheese (feta and graviera) – and sampled all in the store. If you ever find yourself driving through the easternmost finger of the Peloponnese, please, stop here.
By this point in the drive we were in the interior of that eastern finger, and the landscape was again different, but still dramatic.
Almost to Porto Xeli, we drove through the ‘Kefaloxori,’ a kind of district seat, called Kranidi.
We arrived in Porto Xeli just as the sun was setting, and headed up to the house for a quick swim before dinner.
Dinner was a quiet taverna in the harbour.
Greek salad and octopus.
Caprese, Greek style with haloumi.
The main event – fried barbouni (red mullet?) in the background, and a gigantic fish that I can’t remember the name of in the foreground.
Om nom nom..
All finish off with the perfect desert!