Saturday, June 2, 2007

What a Week! India, Dubai, and Kefalonia

Some weeks, you seem to be doing the same old thing every day. Not this week! During the past 7 days, we have slept on trains in India, enjoyed an extravagant seafood buffet in Dubai, toured the Acropolis, and settled into a villa on the Greek Island of Kefaloni with our daughters. Now it is time to slow down a little bit and relax.
While most of our trip until now has been somewhat unstructured, this part has been planned since day one. Sally always wanted to spend her 60th birthday in a villa on a Greek Island with her daughters. And now, thanks in part due to a chance encounter at Moira Glick’s SFU retirement party late last year, she is going to do so.

At the party, I was telling some people about our plans for the year when someone suggested I talk to John Pierce. “He’s building a villa on Kefalonia” they said. “Maybe it will be ready in time.” It didn’t take me long to track John down to find out about his plans. “It should be finished in May” he said. “Well if it’s ready by the first week of June, we would like to be your first guests” I replied, knowing that construction projects are rarely completed on time in Vancouver, let alone on a small Greek Island.
Six months later, we met up with our daughters at an Athens hotel. They had been traveling around Greece for 10 days and were delighted to stay in a place where they didn’t have to wear sandals in the shower! The next morning, we took an early bus and ferry, arriving in Kefalonia around 4 pm. Within minutes of our arrival, we were sitting next to the ocean, enjoying glasses of Retsina and Robola, the local white wine, along with calamari, salad, and various dips we usually have on West Broadway. An hour later, we were exploring a beautiful villa that we couldn't believe would be our home for the next week.Thanks to Jan and John’s extraordinary efforts, it had been finished a few hours before our arrival! (Well, there are a few plants still in the pots waiting to be planted!)

Just as Luang Prabang is the sort of authentic town every tourist hopes to discover, Kefalonia is the sort of Greek Island we are all seeking. It hasn’t been completely overrun by tourists, but has the beauty and charm of the better known islands. It is one of the Ionic Islands, to the west of mainland Greece. Ithaka and Zakynthos are short ferry rides away. One’s first impression is of a very verdant place, with old gnarled olive trees, vineyards, and tall cypresses that stick up in the air. While the buildings are not all white like Mykanos or Santorini, they seem to fit in with one another, and the island offers vistas of brilliant blue waters like those found on travel agency posters. As a result of a tragic earthquake in 1953, none of the buildings can be more than 3 stories in height. It’s quite different than Dubai.

Since we had been eating in hotels and restaurants since January 1, we decided to spend our first dinner together cooking ‘at home’. Neither of the girls eat meat, so Claire and I set off to buy some fresh fish. “You’re too late”, said the man in the fish store. “For fresh fish you have to come in the morning.” At that point, a colleague walked in with a large fish in a plastic bag. “Do you want some swordfish?” he asked. “I’m afraid it’s frozen.” Claire said yes, it was her favourite fish, and we both stood there in amazement as he put the large fish on his band-saw and cut off four steaks. “Don’t pay more than 20 euros”, whispered Claire who watches her money carefully. We were charged 7 euros for a kilo of fish.
It was a bit more of a challenge finding charcoal and a French-style folding grill that we use at home to grill fish, but eventually we succeeded. Thanks to our daughter’s culinary skills, later that evening we had the best meal of our trip. Ok, so it was enhanced a bit by a few more bottles of Retsina and Robola.
Now we are planning to change the pace a bit; to hang out around the pool, read some books, do some exploring, and seek out local olives, cheeses and wines. We have traded in the Indian trains and Emirates flight coupons for a cute little yellow Hyundai 4 door. If we become too relaxed in our beautiful new tranquil environment, we can always turn on the satellite TV and find out what’s happening in the world. But we’re not planning on doing that for a few days. After all, we’ve seen enough of the world during the past week!


Anonymous said...

Hello Michael & Sally,

We are glad you made it through the 3rd class train ride to Jesalmer... and India in general...

It was a pleasure to meet you ... at Alsisar Haveli in Jaipur...

Take care. We'll be following your adventures. Ciao.

Giorgio & Cindy

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