cucinanicolina

The Island Life

24 August 2007

I slipped under Greece’s skin this time round — and it under mine — so effortlessly I am still a little bewildered that I am now back in my lovely (and shining clean!) apartment in San Francisco rather than toasting my toes on a rocky beach by the Mediterranean with some of my favorite people.

It really was the most perfect vacation.

From the moment I stepped off of the plane in the newish Athens airport and whisked my bag through customs to hug my brother for the first time in six months, I capitulated, wholly and utterly, to the dusty hills (the heat on the subway down to Piraeus didn’t bother me a bit, even), crowded streets, and sparkling, seductive water.

When I bought my ticket to visit Spetses, I wondered if nearly two weeks away would be too long. Would I miss my beloved Pacific Ocean and long for San Francisco’s long, cool mornings? Would I be OK with the … different … plumbing system? Could I handle the long plane trip? Would I miss tofu too much?

Oh, silly me.

On this, my third trip to Greece, I fell hard, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake it. Leaving in the early morning dark on the 6:05 ferry to Athens, I instead wanted to dig in my heels and plant my feet firmly there, along the rocky shore of the Mediterranean Ocean, for as long as I could bear to stand in the water (read: forever, please). Even the bus ride from Piraeus to the airport — all through the dry, hot city — was not as unpleasant as it might have been because oh! I was still there, even if just for a few more hours!

I definitely have a tendency to romanticize, but like all newly-infatuateds, I want to twirl in the streets and shout it from the roof tops: I am in love. I absolutely cannot wait to go back next July.

I have to thank my brother and his girlfriend, Emily, for giving me one of the best vacations I’ve ever had — full of sleeping in, swimming, sunning, hanging out, and eating. A few nights we cooked in my little apartment kitchen (details to come), while on others we went out. The highlight of our eating-out was at a beach taverna about four miles (we biked) from town; we swam immediately upon our arrival because it was hot, and then sat for at least two hours eating a late lunch before biking home. About that I will say initially that I never knew spaghetti (‘macaroni’) with a simple sauce of olive oil and tomatoes and cheese could taste quite … so … good.

We had some simple and very delicious lunches, too — Emily’s way of preparing feta made me love it, truly, for the first time (they are both very good cooks). Sometimes we drank wine at noon and sometimes just bottles of the ever-present — and necessary — water; and every day, always, at least one frappe (a Nescafe with milk and no sugar, because I’m cheap, accompanied breakfast). I ate my beloved baked beans, lots of stuffed tomatoes, gorgeous and thick yogurt, bread and cheese, fruit, pastries …

Mostly it was hot: blazingly, burningly, gloriously hot, and I swam at least three times a day (still, not enough) in that amazingly clear, warm water to which I think I’ve become addicted. I ate a lot, walked a lot, sweated a lot, bike rode a bit, saw a horse farm, met Kurt’s friends, jumped off a rock into the deep sea, and rode three to a mykanaki (moto) through the narrow little streets, holding on for dear life. There is of course lots more, but that’s the start of it; I’m trying to recover from the trip back to SF (over 24 hours) and am going to a party in Pt. Reyes tomorrow, so I must get myself to bed early. More food stories will follow soon.

Here’s the thing: if you have a chance to go to Spetses, go. And go now, or as soon as you are able (though if you are a swimmer, June-September is the best time). Even if my brother has moved on by that point, it will still be more than worth the long journey.

What can I say? I told you I was in love, and I’m not selfish about sharing.

Emily’s Feta

Take one block feta, and cut in lengthwise slices. Put a good amount of olive oil (she says at least 2 tablespooons) in a pan over low heat. Cook the cheese until warm but not melted. Put the cheese on a plate, pour the warm olive oil over it, and scatter just-picked oregano over the top.

Eat with lots of bread or pita to soak up the olive oil, but it is quite permissible to eat the cheese with your fingers.

Thanks, you guys! I miss you already!

  • bea at la tartine gourmande 6 September 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Makes me want to go to Greece too ;-) Lovely place and vacation. Thanks for sharing.

  • nicole 30 August 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Rose – did you make it to Spetses? I am yearning to go back already :) And I do get back to Sebastopol from time to time; it’s a great escape from the city.

    Casey – thank you for the kind words!

  • Casey 30 August 2007 at 4:05 am

    How beautifully written this post is–love the slipping-under-the-skim image.

  • Rose 25 August 2007 at 9:17 pm

    That sounds lovely! Only my only trip to the Greek Islands, a number of years ago, my brother and I extended our trip day by day until we had spent several weeks. This post makes me yearn to go back.

    P.S. Cheers to Sebastopol – do you ever get up there now?