Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Aww, sweet little cutie-pie's, aren't they? Who could resist throwing the odd morsel of a tit-bit out for them, huh?

Humph. Yeah.

I didn't exactly expect them to up and invite all their cousins back to join us, did I? Before we knew it, there we were surrounded by hundreds of hungry impatient waifs, all of whom were more than eager to slice our legs open for a stolen scrap or two from our plate. The girls sagely tucked their feet under their bums and took to loudly shrieking. As if that alone didn't call enough attention to our table, being the only visiting tourists at this place, (sensible Greek folk know far better than to encourage any pesky strays to dine) when the papa of the party about to be seated next to us happened to slip on an errant meatball, there was little as to no doubt as to who the reckless culprits were.

Apologising, I promised we'd behave, kicking the kids hard under the table to stop their giggling, as the waiter (bless his wee cotton socks) finally rescued us by resignedly turning the water hose on to disperse the pride .. all the while, neighbouring tables looked on tutting and muttering, shaking their heads in disapproval.

Here he comes now, Stavros, the hero..

The family owned restaurant spills over the street and on to a courtyard, to where clay pots filled with a colourful climbing assortment of large various blooms trail up and over a large, square wooden trellis, which is in turn surrounded by a dozen or so flickering, open flame torches. The shadow from the flames and the scents of the night all combine with the soft Greek music to ensure a wholly beautiful and enchanting setting.

But a mere short taxi ride from our hotel, it is off the beaten track, and serves nothing but authentic true Greek fare, something we'd been eager to sample since our arrival, well over two days ago. The hotel was fine, but the food on offer proved disappointingly bland and uninviting. The hotel receptionist sympathised and helpfully recommended we venture out some to try one of her own favourite restaurants, which is exactly where we had now found ourselves. We'd been slightly alarmed to find only cash was accepted, but a quick glance through the menu assured us the price range was comfortably affordable, and that we wouldn't wind up washing dishes. I don't think the words "portion control" have ever reached this neck of the woods, one simple dish would have been more than enough to happily keep our family of six going for at least a full week, but hey, better that than to be left wanting for more, eh? Yes, the place was quite a find, we certainly considered ourselves blessed to have discovered it.

I suggested coming back the next day for a leisurely explore through the village, but the kids were having none of it - after all, why immerse yourself in culture when there is a huge swimming pool and a warm beach with a banana boat lying at the foot of your hotel? The eldest, in desperation, offered a trade. In return for holding the fort for a couple of hours, he suggested his dad and I take off there on our own for a couple of hours.


With visions of peace to be able to photograph to my hearts delight, with no nagging, no being left behind as I set up my shots, and no more being dragged along screaming and kicking to yet another tacky tourist shop, I happily tossed my parental responsibilities to the wind and readily agreed to throw the kids over to Matt for an afternoon. (In fairness, we did try to convince Sam to join us, but having just discovered the hotel snack bar, he steadfastly held his ground.) I must add, we have never gone AWOL before, but the prospect was simply far too enticing to refuse.

So it was, around noon the next day, we bit farewell to all and caught a taxi back to the village. It sure was pretty.

And hot.

And closed.

Not a soul in sight. We'd planned on visiting a cafe, sharing a bottle of wine, taking lots of photo's, and eventually catching a taxi back to join the children for tea. Um. Okay, we could improvise. Sort of. We found a closed cafe and pulled up some chairs. A little way back down the road, we'd passed an open doorway with an old man snoozing on the porch, a sign above the door advertised this to be the local village store. Hubby bid me to stay, and he back tracked to risk waking the elderly shopkeeper up for a bottle of his finest. A few minutes later he reappeared with an uncorked bottle of luke-warm white wine, two plastic cups and and a bunch of green grapes (the grapes being a present from the shopkeeper).

Finally, suitably relaxed and refreshed, we packed the camera away and headed back to the store in search of a telephone and a ride home. We spoke no Greek, the owner spoke no English, but through a succession of hand gestures and the offer of our wallet (Of course, I use the Royal "we" here, since it was naturally only hubby's wallet I offered up) we were able to deduce there was only one phone in the village - a public phone - and it was currently broken.

Shit. Now what? Then a vision of loveliness appeared from out of the back - the shopkeeper's small, round and toothless wife emerged clutching a shiny black up-to-the-minute mobile phone between her hands. Glory be, was there ever a prettier sight? I went to hug her. She drew back. I waved Al's wallet - she shook her head. Huh? She shrugged, and waddled back with her phone through to the sanctuary of her private living quarters again, calling something out for her husband to follow. They both disappeared. One minute, five. Ten minutes later we realised they weren't coming back. I contemplated charging through the door to wrestle the phone from out of her mitts, but a vision of her extended family jumping all over me helped to stay my feet. Besides, even if I could successfully mug the old woman, I didn't even know a taxi number, never mind how to order one in Greek.

Disheartened, parched from the wine and wilting in the sun, we set off for a long and weary walk back to the hotel. But the fates were with us, on the outskirts of the village we stumbled across a small mini supermarket. Sure, the owner was snoring in his seat, but when has that ever stopped us? We decided to purchase a pot of Greek yogurt (more about that later) in an effort of good will. He nodded enthusiastically and pointed to his phone. Sadly, proud as he was to own one, that didn't necessarily mean it actually worked. Ah well. We turned to leave again, but were called back. In his pity for our plight, he had us stay until the bus pulled up outside his store, and with much arm flailing and loud negotiation, we deduced the driver was willing (for a small donation) to drop us back to our lodgings. The passengers seemed amiable enough to the cause, and we soon found ourselves blissfully ensconced in air-conditioned heaven, being given a door to door ride back to our much sought after hotel again.

The only complaint the kids had was that we arrived back much more early than expected. Matt was cheerfully lost to the internet room, leaving Beccy free to flirt with the local talent by the pool. Abby and Sam were on their twelfth ice-cream by the snack bar. Fair enough. We took ourselves off for a much needed nap and vowed to eat locally that evening, which we did. Turning in for the night, we looked forward to hubby's birthday the following day, fairly certain of a wonderful time come the morn.

Oh boy, do we ever learn?

(To be continued..)


Mushy said...

Great photos, well, except for that first one!

Jay said...

Ah! I'd heard of the multitude of stray cats in Greece that descend on you if you so much as drop a crumb, but I'd hoped they were a thing of the past. :(

Lucky for you that Greece appears to be free of urban rabies, huh? Still, I wouldn't bank on them being completely disease-free.

Looks like a beautiful country, with friendly people ... apart from Mobile Phone Woman!

BRUNO said...

You'll make it back safe, indeed---provided you don't lose your wallet...!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Shrinky. (shaking head) Resist feeding the strays! (chuckle) Sounds like it wasn't dull and you did have an um, interesting time... so far.

Alex L said...

Good to have you back, So greece has stray cats... good to know, lucky you werent in spain there choice of stray animal is dogs apparently. Now this Greek yogurt, I'm intrigued.

Maalie said...

I guess all those cats had tails?

SJ said...

Welcome back! We are happy to have you back and the Greeks happy to have sent you back :)

And I DEMAND a pic of the 100+ cat pride and a photo of the papa lying on the floor. You write well but your photo choices leave a bit to be desired.(Just kidding!)

Akelamalu said...

We didn't feed the cats. We fed the birds and guess what, everytime we sat down for lunch they arrived in their hundreds!

Love the photos and I so enjoyed reading about your 'escape'!

Where exactly did you stay?

RiverPoet said...

Poor kitties!!! I'm such a softie for the cats, that I would be followed by them everywhere, I fear. I'll have to remember the cautionary tale when I get there (sometime in the future). Greece is on my list of places to go.

I'm happy to know that you finally made it back to your hotel in one piece.

I'll be back for the next installment - Peace -D

CJ said...

What a wonderful post. I love reading about your adventures. Why isn't that fridge filled with Greek wine?

Hilary said...

You do more for Greece than any tourism ad. I want to hop a plane a feed stray kitties.. no, eat yogurt.. no, drink wine.. fine.. all of the above. Looking forward to your next post.

Les Becker said...

Well there you go again with the "to be continued" crap. Snarl..*

You should have packed up all those cats and sent them to Dale from Passion of the Dale ( ) ... he's making mittens for winter.

pat houseworth said...

Usually the best part of a vacation,is getting home.

Another great read!

david mcmahon said...

Er, can we have the next instalment, please?


mrsnesbitt said...

I love holiday adventures.....and the greek yoghurt installment is yet to come. How good does the day get?

Great stuff! Welcome Back!

Carol said...

Carol...I thoroughly enjoyed this post and pictures...yup...even the first one! (hope Suldog reads about the cats!) You're right: it was worth twelve ice cream sandwiches. I'm anxiously awaiting your next post!

jay said...

I see this hasn't been continued yet. *Taps fingers*


The explanation about Billy Connolly's balaclava is up if you're interested.

Tricia said...

I'm not sure what I would have enjoyed more, the cabana or the food. Oh how I love Greek food. Great photos.

leslie said...

I'm so glad David nominated you for your post. He told me how much he enjoys your posts when we met in Vancouver last week but I couldn't find your blog. Yay! Now I have it and I can see why he likes it so much. I will be back for the next instalment. :D

CrazyCath said...

Oooh I am jealous! I love Greece, the food, the people, just... everything! Even the cats. But I learned not to feed them. Very hard for a cat lover.

Welcome back.
And how much yoghurt is in that fridge???

Scott from Oregon said...

It's all Greek to me...

Shrinky said...

Thank you everybody for all your great comments, I apologise for not answering individually, but as you'll see from my next post, I'm too bloomin' feverish to be fussed right now (sorry). xx

Anonymous said...

Cat Scratch Fever?

Suldog said...

Good tale so far! Anything involving large amounts of Greek yogurt is bound to be funny, so I'm looking forward to part two.