Welcome to Greece, my home for the next two weeks, home to one of the greatest cradles of civilisation for millennia.
But with a whole new alphabet, it is not a simple task to get around this place.
The heat hits you, the sun, I feel alive again… this is summer.
Greek families are everything you can imagine and more – so welcoming, such great dynamics.
Even from the first night, we sat together at the table, eating and talking late into the night.
I am instantly at home here, the food is so fresh, so simple, so full of flavour.
Everything is about showcasing Greece, as we all know everything that is good or the best in this world is originally Greek!
As I discover, the kalamata olives are from their family farm in Kalamata. The olive oil is extra virgin, of course, first press, cold, and is as green and peppery as your wildest dreams. The Greek oregano is generously heaped into the perfumed oil and we eat loads of bread dunked into it together with cubes of fresh greek goats feta bought direct by the cart load from the goat farmer.
We eat the classic cheese pie, eggplant dip, potato salad and have barbecued meat washed down with chilled Greek white wine.
I was so full from eating all the starters for an hour that by the time the meat was served I was absolutely full.
“You don’t want no meat? Are you a vegetarian?” it is was said with such paternal concern and care, as well as real confusion, it was like my dreams coming true – in truth it is not only a line from a great movie, but actual reality!
Heading out into the wealthy suburb of Kifisia for a drink at a relaxed bar, we also enjoyed ambling through the area. After not having been home for two years and all that has gone on in Greece, my friend is shocked, all the stores are having massive sales, closing down, or are already abandoned.
We wake up very early for the first boat to Tzia, the sun is bright and white riding low in the sky and as we lounge on the top deck of the boat for our hour long journey to the closest Island to Athens. The summer home to many Athenians, Kia is not the usual destination for a tourist, but I am so excited to be arriving for a week with my friend and her great family.
The island, previously home to ancient thriving settlements, Tzia’s rocky hills are populated by olive groves and oaks, as well as little villages. We drive up from the port over the hills to our secluded hideaway of a family home on a small bay.
I’m exhausted and can’t wait to just settle down and melt into the tranquillity of the moment – the sounds of the sea, the salty breeze, the cool water, the warm sun, the heat, a towel, a drink and a good book – who could need any more.
We head down the stone steps carved and set into the wall, to a rocky outcrop astride the magnificent Aegean ocean, it’s cooling salty waters rejuvenating from the dry heat.
It’s the perfect cycle, warming in the sun as I read an engrossing and touching book about Paris and pastry, and then periodically plunging into the waters by my side.
Dinner was on the patio overlooking the sea and as we enjoyed our meal the moon rose from behind the hills. The bright rays of the moon created a carpet of stars shimmering on the surface of the black water.
We all sat back in our chairs laughing and chatting about the world whilst looking over the incredible view of the island.
The midnight blue sky and yellow moon, the cool breeze and a glass of champagne – together made the perfect end to a wonderful day.
Our days consist of visiting rocky beaches, lounging in the sun, eating wonderful meals of traditional Greek foods and enjoying lots of moments filled with laughter and passionate discussion.
We regularly drive like an off-road rally car, across the mountains and down winding dirt roads to find ourselves on remote and nearly deserted rocky beaches. We also drive across the island to visit tavernas and eat leisurely meals of local dishes.
The days were centred around food, family and friends. Some days we ate well into the night always enjoyed with a digestif of various knockout strong alcohols such as masticha and tsipouro.
The epitome of these meals was the huge suckling pig eaten at midnight on the patio of amazing house with an unforgettable view overlooking the bay.
The breakfast by me, of Pain Perdu with oven roasted nectarines served with a caramel, tart Greek yoghurt and fresh nectarine salad was an interesting diversion having been made with the local spiced bread like brioche laced with cinnamon and masticha; but realistically could not compete with the truly special creations from the hands of my wonderful Greek hosts.
Leisurely days on Kea were interspersed with swimming in the cool waters, resting and eating.
The sunsets as always were a winner and made even more special when combined with sipping cocktails in unforgettable bars – a particularly inspired ending to one of our adventurous days.
Sunsets were of intense oranges, blood reds, cool blues and the pale pinks famed in these parts.
But what counts most of all is the time we spend with amazing people – I can’t say thank you enough!
Saying goodbye, we moved ourselves to another island, for a differing view of the windswept islands.
The heat hits you, the sun, I felt alive again… this is summer.