Sunday morning in Voula came with plenty of sunshine and a sweet reunion with my best friend from college: my roommate of three years and sister-at-heart. It had been five years and two children since I had last seen her. My friend is one of the most loving beings I know, known also for her signature smile. It was the best feeling to see her again and spend a little time with her, now as responsible adults…
Her four little girls – three curly-haired like their momma, and one with straight black hair, like her daddy – greeted us in the church yard and swarmed as I gifted them with coloring books and colorful hair clips. Their brother wanted nothing to do with them, too busy burning energy by kicking a large yellow ball as hard as he could – and sometimes getting the ball stuck on top of the grapevine shading the benches around the church courtyard.
After a while, we distributed the children to family to watch over them while we drove south of Voula, along the coast. We paused at Okeanis, a restaurant perched atop a beach with the same name. The drinks, as well as the conversation, were refreshing. The waters didn’t seem to be affected by the recent oil spill from a tanker in the area and the beach was abuzz with action. In the distance, a swarm of white sails like tiny sharks were following the instructions of the local sailing school.
Refreshed by the drinks and the gentle breeze coming through the large open windows, we headed further down the coast to Aperanto Galazio, a seafood restaurant on Varkiza beach. We pulled in the sandy parking lot and walked a few steps to a waterfront table. The arugula salad we had was unlike any I had in the U.S. The roka leaves were large and deep green; their mild peppery taste was further augmented by the thinly sliced Parmesan cheese and nicely complemented by olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. The mandatory slices of ripe and juicy tomatoes fanned out to form a bright salad base.
But whenever by the sea, one must have seafood. I savored all that I could from a generous serving of pasta with muscles, octopus, and a giant prawn staring at me from the top of the heap. My husband didn’t say much as he cleaned out his plate of elbow macaroni with octopus, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Dessert was Samali or Greek halva, a semolina-based sweet, toasted in oil and infused with sweet syrup, with delicate aromas of cinnamon and clove.
After a while, we said good bye to our friends and headed to the Voula beach looking forward to a refreshing swim. We watched for oil before going in but couldn’t see any right away, so we immersed ourselves in the comforting waters of the Mediterranean, stepping gingerly over the slippery rocks lying on the bottom. When we came ashore, we figured out why the rocks were slippery: black tar was staining the soles of our feet… It seems that the oil had settled on the bottom of the sea. We tried in vain roughing our feet with sand. Then, I remembered the Dawn duck commercial! Didn’t rescuers use dish detergent to clean up the avian victims of oil spills? I told our host about it but she looked at me a little incredulously, as she hadn’t seen the commercial. Well, I am here to attest that the ad was correct: a drop of dish detergent did the trick and our feet were once again clean!
Next on the agenda was walk to Leoforos Vasileos Pavlou, a street closed off to cars and lined with restaurants and terraces, where everyone congregates for dinner, drinks, and to let their children play until late hours of the evening. But first, we stopped to admire the artwork of senior citizens in the area, who habitually get together to exhibit their crafts – not for profit but to share with the community. Our restaurant choice of the evening was Il Vero, an Italian affair, possibly because our friend is originally from Italy.
And when it comes to Italian food, pizza is a must. And, as our friend insisted, if you want il gusto vero (the true taste) of Italy, you must have the anchovies. So, we split the Napoletana (with anchovies, tomatoes, mozzarella, and a sprinkle of oregano) and Capricciosa (with tomato, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, and artichokes). On the side, we had a slaw salad with a green pepper dressing that was spicy just enough to awaken the taste buds. We relaxed into the evening with great conversations as we sipped on a chilled local white wine – the perfect ending to another day in Mediterranean Paradise…