VIne-clad cottages in Assos, Kefalonia

Vine-clad cottages in Assos, Kefalonia

Thirty years ago Andy proposed to me while we were on vacation in Kefalonia (the Ionian island made famous by the book and movie Captain Correlli’s Mandolin) and we were married three weeks later! (Well he had been asking me – weekly – for quite some time!) So we decided that would be the perfect place to start the celebrations for our 30th wedding anniversary. A splurge for sure, and significantly harder to reach from the USA where we now live, than it was from England, but oh so worth it.

So rather than a typical garden-related post, this is something of a mini travelogue, a glimpse into our summer so far. I’m splitting it into two parts, because our second stop, Milos, deserves a post all of its own.

Grab your sunglasses ….. and welcome to Kefalonia

Olivemare was our home for the first week, a delightful contemporary, boutique hotel set in olive groves

Olivemare was our home for the first week, a delightful contemporary, boutique hotel set amid olive groves

We stayed at the most beautiful boutique hotel in Katelios, a small fishing village at the southern tip of the island. Olivemare only has five guest rooms, each one with a private patio festooned with bougainvillea. Furnishings are kept simple but contemporary, but the food………………

Our breakfast room, fragrant with lavender and rosemary

Our breakfast room, fragrant with lavender and rosemary

Breakfast was our favorite meal of the day, prepared buffet style and eaten in the garden. From orange juice squeezed from the nearby trees just moments before, to traditional savory pastries, tempting freshly made cakes, Greek yogurt, local honey and fresh fruit  you could feast like a King – or try to watch calories as you wished. Everything was locally grown and home-made…..sigh.

The clouds eventually lifted to afford us a glimpse of the distant views from Mt. Aenos

The clouds eventually lifted to afford us a glimpse of the distant views from Mt. Aenos

Of course when you are re-visiting a place that was special after such a long time you do run the risk of being disappointed. Certainly Kefalonia has changed in 30 years, but we found the local people just as friendly and enjoyed re-visiting old haunts such as the underground lake at Melissani Caves and hiking on Mt. Aenos.

Road Trip to Fiscardo

As they say, the journey is half the adventure. So it is when traveling to Fiscardo at the northernmost tip of the island. Along the way one passes the most photographed beach in Kefalonia – Myrtos Beach.

Myrtos Beach - now accessible by road

Myrtos Beach – now accessible by road

Thirty years ago there were no roads to this beach  – and no people unless you arrived by boat. Now there is a winding, switchback road all the way to the bottom of the cliff. Progress? I’m not sure. I rather liked the mystery of it before.

Continuing on, Assos can be seen as a peninsula jutting into the sea.

Assos is one of the most picturesque, secluded villages on Kefalonia - and well worth the drive

Assos is one of the most picturesque, secluded villages on Kefalonia – and well worth the drive

Assos is still a stunningly beautiful place to visit and we spent a few hours meandering through the streets and catching glimpses of what this island looked like before the devastating earthquake of 1953.

Shuttered windows, broken doors and overgrown gardens tell a story

Shuttered windows, broken doors and overgrown gardens tell a story – yet some homes are being renovated in sleepy Assos

Bougainvillea is no resepcter of history, scrambling at will over and through old buildings - Assos

Bougainvillea is no respecter of history, scrambling at will, over and through old buildings – Assos

Of course I'm always interested to see how folks use containers! Assos

Of course I’m always interested to see how folks use containers! Assos.

From here it is a short drive to Fiscardo. We remembered this as an upmarket fishing village, still quaint, but catering to the yachting crowd. Today the number of tavernas and bars seems to have quadrupled, with waves of tourists arriving by cruise ship, yacht and car.

One of the upscale hotels that can now be found in Fiscardo

One of the upscale hotels that can now be found in Fiscardo (Love those urns!)

Thankfully if you look hard enough, there are still fascinating alleyways to explore – and gardens.

Home from home - a bounty of container spilling onto the road and sidewalk

Home from home – a bounty of containers spilling onto the road and sidewalk

Perhaps our only disappointment in Kefalonia was the typical taverna food, which sadly seemed to cater to the extremely large influx of British travelers now that there are direct flights here from at least three UK airports. A “full English breakfast” or a tuna salad – with canned tuna, just don’t do it for me!  More of a reason to enjoy breakfast at Olivemare.

It was still a wonderful start to our vacation, however, and we have no regrets returning there.

We flew from Kefalonia to Athens for one night, staying in the old, historic district at Central Athens Hotel. It was something of an eye-opening walk from the nearest metro station (Syntagma Square) with police on every street corner, graffiti on many of the buildings and folks just perched on the sidewalk stripping an old bicycle for parts. Not to be recommended after dark.

We had something much better planned for the twilight hours, however. We headed up to the rooftop terrace of the hotel where we enjoyed cocktails and a leisurely meal, watching the sun set over the Acropolis. An unforgettable experience and a perfect transition to our second island.

Acropolis at sunset

Acropolis at sunset

 

Early the next morning a taxi took us to the port of Piraeus where we boarded a SeaJet (hydrofoil) bound for the island of Milos. I’ll tell you more about that next time!

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