Today was one of those days when you are glad not to be Richard Branson because then you would have to holiday in Mustique, and who in their right mind would want to holiday in Mustique when they could, like us, live in Crete?
Starting – very early, before the crowds - at Moires market, to fill up with a small football of a mini karpouzi, with blossomy courgettes the size of my finger, the first plums, and a small home-made anthotiro from Mountain Man. The tab for the coffee break is picked up by a friend of my companion, who is related to half the Messara. “That’s Sophocles. Some kind of a cousin”….
Then on to do a bit of business in an unfamiliar village in the back of beyond, thinking about a second coffee and hoping there’d be somewhere with a loo, so delighted to find a nice cafetereia where an espresso freddo and a Galliko with fresh milk, both made from the best coffee and accompanied by home-made cake, cost three euros. Toilettas exemplary, too..
Ten minutes down the road to Kalamaki, favourite resort a world away from vulgar neighbour Matala. But the forecast 3 Bofor turns out to be a fierce 5 gusting to 6, so the kimata precludes a swim and we only manage an hour’s sunbathe in a sheltered spot before the sand-blasting becomes annoying.
Where next, when the day is still young and we have all of it to play with? North to the mountains,where a summer wind is exhilarating rather than exfoliating. So up, up and up to the flank of Psiloreitis, On to the lovely contour-line road that girdles the mountain from Zaros to Kamares, where we pick it up, and on to the Amari via ancient hill villages, backs to the cliff wall, garlanded with the bougainvillea which seems to grow happily at great heights in Crete.
Between each settlement, the kind of cultivation that doesn’t require watering, or tilling or any kind of regular human presence. Lots of unpruned vines and half-hearted bits of garden. Mid-afternoon, hardly a sign of life but a lit candle in every chapel.
Many stops on that road, just to enjoy the wild buffeting of that warm wind, to look down at glimpses of sea, thousands of feet below, and, I confess, to scrump. My companion who knows these things says you are allowed to take anything that hangs over a fence, anything you can hold in your hands – so a plastic bag would be considered unsporting if not downright illegal.
But the trees which are clearly wild, the vineyards long overgrown, are fair game, and there is nothing in the way of an audience apart from the odd goat, so we fill ourselves and a furtive bag with overhanging trusses of grapes and with figs – fat green ones, small golden ones, and the the smallest purple figettes,
Down to the Amari floor and, the figgy first course having failed to satisfy a healthy mountain appetite, on to what used to be the Best Secret Taverna in Crete but has had sadly to be renamed because it’s no longer a secret, thanks to flaming foreign tourists and social media.
Fame hasn’t changed it a bit – it’s still the prettiest and most inviting of places, with some of the best food. They’re old friends there so there’s a fair bit of hugging and and news-swopping and juicy gossiping before we have what has now become a teatime feast – moussaka for me, yemista for Companion who is observing Little Lent but not counting the half share in a large Mythos and a large dollop of ice cream. All that, with the home-made bread, olives from the trees out back and nibbles of cheese from Yiayia, costs 15 euros.
On the last lap home, great thickets of faskomilia demand that we stop, get out the pruning knives and fill first the ever-present plastic bags and second, the car with the scent, so powerful that every journey for days to come will be herb-scented.
Home now, the face is wind-burned, the kolokithakia have been steamed ready for tomorrow's salad, and the fridge is groaning with fruit. I can hear them tuning up for a long summer night's music-making down in the village centre but tomorrow's a working day and they'll have to dance without me. I'm off to bed, smiling.