Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Convalescence in Crete

Pension Kasteli (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in) Private Collection

I'm sorry to have neglected posting on Boogie Street for such a long time. Things have been going on, some of them good, some not so good.

Just as I thought I was getting over the effects of the eye operations, I got hit with a a mystery illness which left me without any energy for more than a month. I had to decamp to Pat's house for a while and my thoughts and energy (what there was of it) had to be directed to things other than my blogging.

Gradually, things improved and my energy slowly returned. What helped immensely was a week in Crete in May, when we simply walked about, sat and had drinks or food and just enjoyed ourselves.  I took a sketchbook, but the muse wasn't with me.

It was really, really hot when we got to Crete and the day after the sirocco, the hot southern wind, kicked in and made it even hotter. Then the wind changed and for the rest of the week we had (mainly) sun, but sometimes a really cold wind, especially at night. The resourceful tavern owners now have sections of windows to put in place to screen the wind and, of course, the handy patio heaters. Our enjoyment was never spoiled.

The place we were staying in (Pension Kasteli) in Chania hasn't changed to any great extent and Alex the owner is still garrulous and full of stories about Moroccans stealing stuff at every opportunity. The room we had last time (seven years ago!) wasn't available, but we had a bigger one at the front with a nice balcony to sit on and watch Alex wander up and down the street looking for people to talk to.

The people in Chania were still as warm and welcoming as ever, always prepared to ask where we were from, and talk generally about all sorts of stuff. The food was almost uniformly excellent, only being let down a bit by a taverna that seems to have hired a Scottish chef, in that everything on a meze plate we ordered was deep fried and the kitchen paper must have run out. But we soon found a couple of regular eating places - one on the harbour front where we had breakfast and some evening meals, and another in the town where we had the best most garlicky tzatziki I've ever tasted. We also had some lovely prawns cooked in ouzo at a restaurant we'd been to before. It's an old derelict building in which tall trees have grown, but with the help of some canopies it's a really nice restaurant where two musicians (guitar and bouzouki) play and sing great Greek and Cretan folksongs. 

Every day I was finding myself able to get about more and more, strength recovering. Mostly we just walked round the narrow streets of the town, looking at stuff, and sitting down for a drink or lunch. Last time we were there, it was a regular that they'd give you a free drink with the bill, but now (as a consequence of the economic downturn and the need to compete for money I guess) we were given ice cream and raki, ice cream, cake and raki, and on our final night, baklava and raki.

One of the things we've done in the past was to walk round the coast a bit to a cove which had once been quite industrialised (still not sure what they did in the stone built warehouses) but which seemed to be undergoing something of an uplift, a kind of gentrification, so I wanted to see how things had gone in the intervening years. Once I felt up to it, we went there again, but if anything, things have gone back a bit. More run down than the last time, certainly, though there was still a brave taverna with tables out.

On the way back we passed a taverna we'd visited last time. On that occasion we'd gone in for a drink and maybe a Greek salad, but were offered fresh fish caught that day. It couldn't happen again, could it? But it did. We had 11 red mullet, a Cretan salad (includes rusks) and some chips with a small bottle of quite drinkable Cretan white wine. 

Sometimes you can go back.

(Photo: Pat Mailer)

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