Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Beaches, Baking and Building in Limnos

Our first week in Greece was an exhausting one – trying to fit in everything we could during our time in Athens combined with the heat, swollen feet, sunburn, eczema, stomach upsets, lack of sleep and thoroughly enjoying ourselves despite all the negatives, left us both feeling quite drained by the time we got to Limnos. I also expended quite a bit of blogging energy in that first week and I've found it hard to motivate myself to get back to the computer, especially when the beach keeps beckoning Tony and I to go for a swim. I really must try and catch up though; this holiday will be over before we know it and the blog won't even be half way through it yet!

This is Tony's and my third time in Limnos together. We are getting to know this island very well. Each time we come here we can expect blue skies, warm breezes and calm beaches. We know we will spend the time here indulging in wonderful food and preparing family feasts using fresh produce from the lush mediterranean garden. There is also the opportunity to participate in the various projects going on around the old neo-classical house which is undergoing eternal construction and renovation.





"We're in Greece!" Tony Greek dancing in the driveway.



We have been here for just over a week and have already enjoyed many of the expected activities and experiences that we come here for. We could do them over and over again and still not get sick of the things that draw us back here again and again.

One of our favourite things to do is take a five-minute stroll down to the beach from the house, relax in the sun for a bit then go for a swim in the warm, shallow water of this Limnian beach known as Riha Nera which literally means "shallow waters".




The beaches in Limnos are very well organised. Most of them have "beach bars" right on the sand that service the patrons of the beach. You can order beer, wine, ice creams, frappes and snacks and have them brought to you right there under your umbrella. On the sand there are rows and rows of large umbrellas, each with a pair of banana lounge reclining sun chairs, and a small wooden table. These set-ups are free to use and provide the perfect retreat for sitting in the shade and watching the gentle waves while sipping on a cold frappe or drying off after a swim.



Another favourite activity of ours is to cook and to watch others cook. There are six of us staying at the house at the moment – my dad Takis and his wife Julia, my dad's brother George and his wife Koula, and Tony and I. We've set up a cooking roster for the time that we'll be here – our cooking days being Tuesdays and Fridays. Last week we introduced the family to our cooking antics with Limnian Keftethakia (fried meatballs) served with Vegetarian Youvetsi (risoni in a rich napoli sauce), a tomato and cucumber salad with mint and lime juice, Fava (split pea dip) and a garlic-free Tsatsiki (yoghurt and cucumber dip). The recipes for these will be posted separately on the blog in the next day or so.

The food went down an absolute treat. Takis, who is notoriously critical of everyone else's cooking but his own, was particularly impressed with his daughter's vegetarian take on Youvetsi which is traditionally served with lamb. Tony's meatballs were also a hit, the recipe taken from a local Limnian cookbook, Syntages Limniakis Kousinas ("Limnian Kitchen Recipes") by Ourania Vayakou.

Apparently we set the standard pretty high that day and there's now fear amongst the other cooks of the house. Koula fought back with a very tasty vegetable stew and Galaktoboureko (custard and pastry dessert) on Wednesday, and Takis and Julia did very well with their chicken and rice casserole and beautiful Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) the following day. But I'm afraid our BBQ of chicken souvlaki and Loukanika (Greek spicy sausage) and Special Stanton Salad (with "avocado", a fruit not ever seen before by George) on Friday has put us back in front.

Meanwhile, one of the major projects happening at the house this year is the installation of a bathroom on the top floor. Takis and his trusty personal handy-man Anesti have been working furiously in the heat of that part of the house where the temperature rises to the high-30s during the day. Tony and I should know because this is where our bedroom is situated this year – on the top floor of this three-storey house. Last year we stayed in the guest room outside which is a lovely traditional villa that overlooks the lush and expansive garden. Lovely as the outlook may be from the villa, the spectacular view of a Venetian fortress and the Aegean sea from the top floor bedroom is worth withstanding the extra heat we have to endure. And pretty soon we will have our own bathroom as well!




Below is a photo of the guest room villa we stayed in previously. When Takis and Julia first started working on the house in 2004 this building was just a pile of rubble with only a few clues as to what it may have been. Behind the building was a still-standing "furno" or wood-fired oven and it was determined that the adjoining building was a maids' quarters or store room. Both the furno and maids' quarters are now fully restored, built from the ground up with only the stones that were found in the pile of rubble.



Below is the view of the garden from the guest room villa.



This is the upstairs room we are staying in this year. It is on a corner on the top floor of the three-storey house and receives the afternoon sun and evening sea breezes through beautiful shuttered windows and French doors that lead out to a balcony.




This is the view over Androni from the balcony:



And this view:



There has been an unseasonal heatwave over the mediterranean parts of Europe this year. For about a month now Athens has been experiencing many days in the low 40s. Since we've been in Limnos it's been about 35 degrees every day which is a bit more bearable but still much hotter than usual. There's also quite a bit of humidity this year which of course makes it feel hotter than it is.

So the projects around the house are moving at a slower pace this year with the heat, and we are spending more time at the beach, sleeping in the afternoons and taking early evening rides on the motor scooter when the sea breezes come in. Yes, we have hired a motor scooter again this year, but that's another story.

It's now approaching 2pm and almost time for lunch. Anesti is slapping on the last bits of mortar on the bathroom walls before the batch dries up, Takis is in the kitchen stirring the bolognese sauce, Julia and Tony are upstairs positioning some old family photos on the wall and George and Koula are outside relaxing with their Komboloi (worry beads). After lunch we will rest for siesta, then it's off for another swim. It's 37 degrees today, the hottest we've had in Limnos, so the lethargy is building again. The forecast is predicting some better blogging weather by the weekend.