Just wanted to drop you a quick line from Gytheio, Greece. We are staying right on the Mediterranean about 20 miles south of Sparta in a beautiful, beachfront resort. Yesterday we drove up to Sparta with the bride and groom for a few errands. At the apex of the main street, Brendan and I sizzled our hands while posing with the statue of Leonidas (the guy from 300). You literally could have fried an egg on his foot. We were tempted to go on and see the ruins in Sparta, but opted out due to the absurd heat and a story one of my companions told me about a giant snake coiled in the rocks there the other day. Instead, I tried to find an American-style bathing suit (you know, the kind that covers your butt) and we sat in one of the many open-air, shaded cafes sipping fresh fruit juice and icy, whipped coffee. We nibbled on delicious cheese-filled fried toasts while listening to stories Nikki’s uncle shared of having arrows shot at him by a tribe in Papua New Guinea who had never seen white skin before. Fortunately he and his eight porters were saved by the guide who spoke their language and gave them gifts of tobacco.
After breakfast, we passed by one more chiseled-ab Spartan statue, buck naked except for his shield and sword – this is art everyone can appreciate. I’m sorry I didn’t snap a picture to share with you… too star-struck in the moment I guess. We drove the winding, narrow road through olive orchards back to Gytheio for a day of playing poolside and topped that off with a swim in the warm Mediterranean Sea at dusk. Under a full moon, six of us headed into town, an oceanfront, cobbled street lined with outdoor cafes and fishing boats, for a traditional late night dinner.
The food is amazing! Last night, however, I had the unfortunate accident of ordering a scary seafood platter. I’m just not a fan of eyeballs, heads and veins still attached to my prawns. Plus there was one dubious piece of smelly silver fish that had somehow slipped onto the plate and was in a rare state. Sardine perhaps? We had lost our Greek-speaking Nikki to an evening dinner with her soon-to-be Mother-in-Law. Without our translator, things weren’t as smooth as our previous eating adventures. Before we even ordered the seafood mishap, we had mistakenly grabbed the menus off an open table and then sat ourselves at another adjacent table. Turns out, there were three restaurants operating under the same awning, all squished together in the same little square. After pointing out our faux pas, the waiter simply turned away and disappeared. We looked around and realized that indeed, every 15 feet the chairs and cloths on the tables changed color and shape – oops! Eventually the waiter did come back and we ordered a feast, first (unsuccessfully) by word of mouth, and then by pointing and nodding our heads. Side note: Communication in Greece made more difficult by the fact that their ‘Yes’ (neh) sounds like our ‘No’. Anyway, the other seafood was fresh and delicious, especially grilled octopus – yum! Everything is drenched in lemon and olive oil and every meal is accompanied by fresh vegetable salads, good bread and cheeses. Brendan’s pasta was so good that we ate it even after he dumped the entire dish in his lap. To his credit, not a noodle fell to the floor. And if your mind’s in the gutter right now, he returned his food to the plate before we finished eating it.
Greece is a food paradise, but the most remarkable thing about the restaurants here is probably the fact that they’re full of little children eating out late with their parents and often falling asleep in the laps of chain-smoking adults. You might be horrified, but actually as I looked on last night the smoke always seemed to curl up and away from the kids, into the twilight.