Breakfast

 

What do you have for breakfast?  Rick Stein recently  commented that his favourite breakfast in Greece was the yoghourt with local honey!  I cannot but agree.  This combination was SO good and I enjoyed it most days!

Toast, coffee, tea!  Fresh fruit in summer with Greek style yoghourt or rolled oats in winter with brown sugar with condensed milk (a favourite from my childhood) or a weekend bacon and eggs or today’s trendy avocado on chargrilled sourdough?  Or grab a muffin or croissant and coffee to go.

Breakfasts have changed over the years!  In fact almost anything goes! Cake! Sure or like one of my sons did not eat anything till morning tea (or recess) at school!

My preference is a slice or two of organic lemon with hot water which was something I inherited from my mother.  Something about getting rid of the toxins in your body I remember her saying!  No idea if this is correct but hopefully it can’t hurt!

Then depending on the day I will have some poached or fresh fruit and yoghourt ot toasted sourdough with honey or peanut butter!  Am not a fan of jam though I gave a notorious sweet tooth (always checking the dessert section of the menu before looking at entrees or mains!  So don’t judge me).  If I am hungry or have had a light dinner the previous evening it will be scrambled eggs or mushrooms on toast.

Fairly standard fare!

So when I travel overseas I am curious at the selection of hotel breakfasts or what the locals eat.  An expresso with a custard tart standing at the cafe counter in Portugal!  Pomegranate juice freshly squeezed with a sesame semit or bagel in Turkey..

Breakfast was included in most of out hotels served buffet style.   Olives, cheese, bread, tomatoes,  cucumber, sometimes sliced meats, bread, jams, butter, honey, pastries, yogurt, cake even and juice, tea and coffee.  It was convenient to have a hotel breakfast but it would have been fun to try a less international spread.  Some shakshuka perhaps or cilbir….the cold yogurt with garlic and a poached egg and butter.  Shakshuka is a great weekend brunch with a spicy tomatoes and capsicum stew with eggs added.  Both served with Tutkish bread.

Hotel breakfasts in Japan are fascinating and lovely with various little bowls of assorted food from rice, egg, fish, pickles, and miso soup.  I love it.  Congee is popular in Asian hotels which is a kind of rice porridge and very nutritious often served with egg or mushrooms.  I clearly remember a young Japanese student cutting up a slice of toast with a knife and fork. Fortunately he didn’t have to see me with chopsticks!

Scandinavian breakfasts too are delicious with their  crispbread with cheese and rollmops, pate, sliced meat, yogurt and fruit.  I find them very healthy and nutritious not to mention them delicious.

Next month I will be travelling….visa permitting to Russia, Georgia and Armenia.  What breakfast food will wait for us there.  Stay tuned!

 

 

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Kardamyli

 

 

Our last stay in Greece.  It was a stunning hotel in the village of Kardamyli where we enjoyed a cooking class.  The drive from Kalamata to Kardamyli was not for the fainthearted as it was a windy two lane road but worth the journey.  The cooking class featured some stuffed tomatoes and capsicum, some cheese pies and a dessert with yoghourt.  We needed more cooking classes!

The following morning we were advised not to wear a colorful clothing as our visit included a trip to an aviary (bee keeping) and olive groves.  Who knew bees did not like colours?

But first breakfast at our lovely hotel.  I could not believe seeing a friend from Australia.  Anne ..with whom I used to play tennis with about ten or more years ago.  I mean had I known Anne was staying here and with her identical twin I would have dressed up for the occasion.

Not only did I play tennis with these women  (of course I was a better player) but Anne’s son worked for my eldest son in Sydney and  her daughter is best friends with my daughter in law to be!  They were staying at the hotel celebrating their older sisters significant birthday.   What a delightful surprise!

Previously I had come across at an laundromat in Lisbon a young Aussie guy who had attended the same high school as did two of my sons in Sydney.  We had a great chat.  The world is getting smaller….

But here on our visit to learn about bees and olive oil we enjoyed a simply delicious treat with our coffee.  Freshly made galaktoboureko!  Still warm from the oven.  It is still on my list of ‘ must make’ back in Australia.  Heaven on a plate and I could have eaten the whole dish.

Our final dinner at the hotel was equally delicious including a cooking class in the kitchen.   Delicious food and wine and friends made.

It was a four hour comfortable bus trip back to Atlens with a stop at one of the most incredible man made canals one could imagine.  Having a fear of heights it made it difficult to me to photograph successfully especially with the wind….let alone bungy jump from this location.  I felt relieved that my youngest son wasn’t here to share this experience as I am sure the jump would have appealed to him.  The canal itself was built in the last century from Hungarian engineers.  The view was stunning however.

Onto Athens and overnight at the hotel where our trip started from ten days ago.  Drinks from the rooftop bar with a view of the Acropolis in the distance. New friends and cherished memories and a list of new dishes to make on our return.  Just the long trip home to face up to the realities of a normal life until next time.  Goodbye Greece!

 

 

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Kalamata…market and lunch

This perhaps is what I have been looking forward to most.  I love visiting markets in foreign countries and when you have a local showing it to you it is so much more interesting and fun!

But first a coffee and visit to maybe the prettiest sweet shop I have seen in a long time.  I chose a tin which was beautiful and contained chocolate coated fig and walnuts.  I could have done serious damage here but was mindful of my expanding backpack.  There were other cakes, biscuits and sweet treats.  Just add well we were being dragged off to the market!

We had samples of local produce….cheese, olives and bread washed down with some rose and yes maybe 11 am.  The produce from the vegetables, meats and freshly caught fish was starting to make us feel hungry and we headed back to lunch.  Our guide for the trip was called Sylvia and this was her family run and owned restaurant so it was special for all of us.  Her lovely mum, Anna was the chef and I think one of Sylvia’s brothers was the manager and owner.  I asked Sylvia how the financial situation in Greece affected their restaurant.  She said business was still good though customers perhaps had takeaway instead of eating in as they could could still have good food and would perhaps add a salad to their takeaway.  She said everyone really had to work harder for less.  Maybe the world over though I am pleased that Greece is a lovely country and tourism probably is what is keeping the country going.

Onto lunch though and the moussaka was as promised the best in Greece.  We shared some delicious vegetable dishes and the saganasi was more morish.  Wine was served in interesting metal containers which I purchased a few of to use as vases at home.  Dessert was perhaps my favourite of the trip and something I must learn to make when I return but only when I have friends to share it or I might eat it all.

Such a lovely lunch on a beautiful sunny day in a wonderful part of the world but we aren’t staying here.  Our last few days will be spent on the coastal town and we are off.  Next up Kardamyli on the rugged coastal region of the Mani Peninsula.  And a surprise awaits!

 

 

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Nafplio

 

When a friend asked me where we were going in Greece and I told her one of the places was ‘Nafplio’ she told me she had been there and it was lovely!  And it was!

But it was a day of visiting ancient sites and I have to come clean here.  History …particularly of the ancient kind is not my thing and I do feel guilty that I am not really interested in it.  Was one of the reasons the ancient history teacher I had in high school made it SO boring that I would gaze out the window.  I should have done something more suitable but even the ‘ home economics ‘ teacher was not much more my cup of tea.  So sorry to my parents for spending a fortune on my boarding school fees which could have been put to better use.

So I am sorry that I did not appreciate one of the best preserved theatres of ancient Greece but my travelling companions really enjoyed the day.  But I did enjoy visiting the museum and preferred going onto Mycenae to visit the Treasury of Atreus also known as Tomb of Agamemnon.

 

Nafplio was our next stop and it was very charming.  Our hotel was centrally located and a short walk along the waterfront.  After an orientation walk and an Italian icecream (mine was flavoured with sour cherry) with even more cats sunning themselves we headed to an ouzo tasting.

Although ouzo is not a popular drink in Australia except if perhaps your family is from the Mediterranean we were looking forward to hear about the history and family producing this special drop.  Remarkably this family business was started in 1869 so this is the fifth generation producing the drop.  Usually served with half alcohol and half water which makes it cloudy it is enjoyed as an aperitif with maybe some olives or cheese and bread.

Flavoured with herbs like fennel, star anise, coriander, cardamom or ginger it is a perfect summer drink.  My preference is with some ice and there is no need to refrigerate. Hopefully I will do a blog on the ouzo later with some of the wines we tasted from local wineries during our tour.  And yes I did purchase a bottle to bring home which yes sits  next to the mescal from Mexico.  What a souvenir!

Dinner that night was  ‘ fast food Greek style’ and I have never tasted the sort of kebab which is popular with the generation who stop for a snack on the way home from a night on the town at about 3am.  For a few euros we enjoyed a beer with a souvlaki or gyros.  Perhaps this place was a bit special for me as the owner gave me a souvenir of a paper table cloth which was written in Greek and depicted recipes of the food…all animal food!  No vegan food here.   I was happy to roll it up and bring it home in my hand luggage.  If has now been framed and awaits being hung in my kitchen.

We leave Nafplio and head to Kalamata.  Our guide promises us a tour of the local fruit and vegetable  market and a visit to a special restaurant – her family restaurant  and where she works when she is not a tour guide.  She is also a chef!

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Hydra

A day trip to Hydra is a gem of the Saronic Gulf and is the only island where there are no vehicles except for the rubbish truck! So no cars or scooters just donkeys to transport tourists luggage up to their accommodation.   And I was pleased to see the animals looked to be in good health.  It was a 45 minute ferry trip from Poros so we enjoyed a lot of walking and window shopping before a beautiful  Sunday lunch of lamb, potatoes and tomatoes slowly cooked and wrapped and served in baking paper.  Our restaurant was on the waterfront under a canopy of wisteria so it was a pretty setting with lots of locals enjoying family meals.  We also enjoyed an eggplant dish, a fava bean dip, bean salad and two delicious salads.  And did I say the best chips ever. Washed down with local beer and wine.  Always eat where the locals eat.   Good advice the world over.

There was a cruise ship berthed on Hyda from Athens on a day trip for an hour and a half which dispersed day trippers from many different countries.  This always upsets the balance of a place and we were not upset to see them leave.  Mid summer must be like this all day and every day so we were happy to be here in May.  Our guide did point out that the day was busier than usual as it was voting day and many people returned to the island to lodge their vote.  And politics is a subject that I avoid!

Window shopping is something I don’t usually enjoy but there were some very pretty shops with lovely quality gifts and souvenirs and I don’t think anyone left empty handed.  Being mindful of the extra luggage I had accumulated so far I showed considerable restraint in purchasing some locally woven scarves.  There was some exquisite pottery and jewellery to be lovingly adored though.

But it was time to catch our ferry back to Poros for tomorrow we have to leave the islands behind as we head to Nafplio via Epidaurus the ancient site and UNESCO  World Listed area.

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onto Greece

It is always a little haunting arriving at a foreign airport on your own with customs, security, locating your luggage and hoping like crazy that your prebooked transfer will be there to take you to your hotel.  You are likely to be exhausted already from an early start so I know it is an extra charge but for me worth it rather than finding a taxi rank or even an airport bus or metro.  When you see that person holding a sign with your name on it you breathe a sigh of relief!  Or maybe that is just me!

Athens was no different as you almost collapse into the back seat of the vehicle and the driver seems to be able to find your hotel amidst crazy traffic and drivers.  A quick check in, a shower and off to the roof top bar to find your new best friends…at least some of them…for the next ten days.  A glass of wine and a view across to the Acropolis and you begin to relax.

After meeting our guide the following morning we take the train to Piraeus and catch the ferry across to the island of Aegina the first of the islands where we are lucky to stay.  What can I say?  The water is a blue and beautiful as you see in photos and a an hour later you are transported to your hotel for the next few days. Our lunch was a series of shared plates prepared by a lovely Greek woman who cooked with love and great flavours.  It has been tough with the financial stress faced by Greece but tim and time again over the next week I admired the resilience of these wonderful hard working people.

Pistachio products abound and we are off to visit a pistachio farm.  I have never seen a pistachio tree though I have now discovered there are pistachio farms near where I live.  I was somewhat bemused when the owner of the farm announced he had four hundred trees…one for each of his sons.  It seemed that daughters did not enter into the equasion!   When I told him I knew a local farmer where I lived who sold his pistachios at our farmers market had ten thousand trees he really couldn’t comprehend that number.  I purchased some pistachio products which made it successfully back to Australia through customs.  They were a pistachio butter and a paste.  I am sure they will go into a cake, biscuit or frosting in the near future.

The following morning we headed down to catch another ferry this time to get another gorgeous island.   This time it was Poros where we had a fabulous view from our balcony.  It was also where we had our first Greek salad at a restaurant overlooking the water.  And the piece of feta was maybe the largest on any salad I have seen.  Beers went down very well with the squid salad…maybe the best one ever.

Dinner that night was down town with views of the water and very expensive boats!  And I mean very expensive.   How the other half live but I enjoyed being here in the middle of May as I imagine July and August it would be very busy and quite hot.  I had moussaka for dinner in spite of it being a seafood restaurant.   It was nice but quite heavily flavoured with cinnamon!  Our guide the amazing Sylvia promised me that I need to try her mother’s moussaka which we would be able to try in a few days visiting her family’s restaurant.  And I did and it was excellent.

On the water again the following day with a day trip to Hydra.  Stay tuned!  It is beautiful!

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Lisbon

I had been to Lisbon before!  It was a few years ago and I had met up with my youngest son who had joined me for a few days after his trip across Africa on a motorbike alone.  So it was something I was really looking forward to though on the last day I was pickpocketed and had my bag stolen with passport, credit card, cash, phone and camera stolen!  Had it not been for Hugh I am sure I would still be crying in the hotel room.  He took me off to the police station to give a statement, arranged for me to get an emergency passport (I was flying home the following day!) and lectured me of course.

So with that in mind we arrived in gorgeous Libson and were happy with our centrally located hotel in the heart of the city.  Off on an orientation walk I held onto my (new) backpack tightly.  We were warned about pickpockets in many large cities….Athens, Barcelona, Paris….

However, we were determined to enjoy the last days of out trip.  Trying the best Portuguese tarts, riding the No 28 tram which covers ten kilometers of some of the cities main attractions on the way, visiting the Time Out market which is one of the cities most popular venues for good food.  But we were headed out for a taste of the highly alcoholic sour cherry brandy called ‘ginya’  on route to listening to fado, a genre of Portuguese soul music which originated in Africa and as evolved to the streets of Lisbon.  The musical accompaniment was an unusual looking guitar which provided an amazing but almost eerie sound.  It was very entertaining though the words were sung in Portuguese.

And as boring as it sounds it was time for me to find a laundromat close by to the hotel to attend to some much needed clean clothes.  There was only one other person there at the time.  He looked like a young backpacker and I started chatting with him only to discover he lived in the next suburb to where my family did in Sydney.  And even more interesting he went to the same high school as my sons and where I worked.  He said ‘ I thought you looked familiar but thought it couldn’t be.’  Though perhaps a more interesting coincidence occurred in Greece but that will come later!

For me it was a 3am wake up call for an early taxi ride to the airport for a flight from Lisbon to Athens via Brussels.  Just one of the ten flights for my month in Europe from Australia.

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