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On a Sunday in the middle of September we flew from Gatwick on an early morning charter flight to Kalamata with our knees tucked under our chins……or that’s what it felt like. The relief when we arrived at Kalamata!
We were to stay at an apartment by a taverna about an hour south of Kalamata airport.
Rain was pouring down whilst travelling in the taxi sent by Kostas our apartment owner. Thankfully the rain stopped as we arrived at our destination. What timing!
We drove into the grounds of the taverna and were warmly greeted and shown to our apartment. After being shown around we were able to relax after our early start from London.
The apartment had everything we needed for our stay. There were two bedrooms separated by a small kitchenette with a very large fridge freezer and a shower room. It was all very clean and decorated in the Greek colours of white and blue. Having investigated the fridge we were delighted to find a bottle of chilled white wine along with some bottled water, beer and ouzo. A good start to the holiday!
As our apartment was on the ground floor we were literally steps from the beach and the covered terrace of the taverna. Needless to say we left the unpacking until later and went down to the beach to meet Kostas the owner with whom we enjoyed a Greek coffee with the usual glass of water. We chatted for a while as his English was excellent. Having admitted that we were not fish lovers Kostas assured us that we would not be given any at dinner! This was because we fully intended to eat at the taverna in the evenings so that we could stroll back the ten yards or so to our room after feasting on the home-made food!
Looking out at the beach we could see that it was a mixture of stone, shingle and sand but beautiful sand once in the warm, clean sea. Having had our first swim of many we went back to our apartment and unpacked.
The next two weeks went by in a flash. We drove down to Finikounda, a seaside village which has expanded to meet the needs of the tourists and which has two lovely beaches and a very small harbour. We also visited Koroni, a picturesque town overlooked by a castle and with a working harbour. It was only ten minutes away by car so we went there a few times to enjoy the cheese pies at the cafe along the seafront!
Methoni was also well worth a visit. It was fortified by the Venetians and the walls of the fortress, even though in ruins, continue to be impressive. The castle of Methoni occupies the whole area of the headland and is protected by the sea on its three sides. A deep moat separates the castle from the land and a wooden bridge is used to reach the castle. We fully intended to walk around the ruins to help with the digestion after lunch in a nearby taverna but were thwarted by the entrance gate having been being locked at the 3pm closing time. Instead we walked along the harbour and sandy beach.
Going in a totally different direction towards Kalamata there is a roundabout just before the turn off to old Messini. Here there is a huge market selling everything you could think of for households. It was mainly for the locals in the area so was thankfully not at all touristy.We bought some odds and ends and then drove up to old Messini, an amazing site with ruins still being restored by archaeologists. There was also a large, impressive gymnasium stadium which was in the valley down from the site entrance.
However, much of our time was just sitting on the beach reading, staring into the distance at the mountains over the other side of the Messinian Gulf and swimming in the gorgeous water. Bliss! We did have more energetic days when we drove the empty lanes up in the hills where the smell of the herbs wafted through the open windows and the views were breathtaking.
But the meals…….
the home-made food cooked by a lovely Greek lady, Labrina, was just so Greek in a way that normal taverna food is not….. It was food that the Greek families eat. The lemon chicken with potatoes done in the oven; the wonderful stifado; aubergines and courgettes cooked as a vegetable accompaniment to the best pork we have ever eaten in Greece. It just melted in your mouth.
What made our our stay extra good was the kindness of the family at the taverna. We didn’t have to bother to go to the shops for our early morning bread – we could just walk into the kitchen and get our half-loaf knowing we could put it on our ‘tab’. For those who wanted a whole loaf that was fine too! We were given huge bunches of grapes picked off the vine growing over the taverna, large plates of freshly picked figs from Kostas’ tree and even the only rose from the garden when it was my birthday!
We were there at a quiet time of the season and enjoyed the company of some lovely couples from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These couples were more energetic than us and could often be seen strolling along the beach to the village, about 10 or 15 minutes walk away.There were also families of many nationalities who had homes in the hills above Agios Andreas who gave a wonderful skiffle night at the taverna which drew in many people from nearby. Apparently it’s an annual event which is very popular.
On the last day we did what we had meant to do every day……….we set the alarm and went for a swim as dawn was breaking. It was magical. We then lazed around, threw our cases in the car and headed for the airport! But there was one last stop at Petalidi where we indulged ourselves with souvlaki and a cooling beer whilst watching the distant mountains across the sea for the last time this trip.
Our return journey was so different from our journey out in every way imaginable. We flew with Aegean airlines from Kalamata to Athens where we had a short wait for our flight to Heathrow. The flight was only 25 mins from Kalamata to Athens but we were given a drink and croissant and our knees were not tucked under our chins. The longer stretch from Athens to London was 4 hours. However, we had wine, a meal, drinks, headphones to use to watch the film and best of all, leg room!
All we have to do now is to plan our next visit!