It was a slow-moving, post-wine kind of morning.
We started the day with breakfast at the villa, overlooking the sea.
Like Zakynthos, Kefalonia had been hit hard by the 1953 earthquake. You could see the remains of buildings deteriorating into rubble everywhere as you drove. However, two historic villages survived the earthquake, both located on the far northern tip of the island: Assos and Fiskardo. Both were rumored to be exquisitely lovely.
After breakfast, we set out for the north end of the island. I found in Greece that the drive was always as beautiful as the destination.
Our first stop was Myrtos Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the Ionian Islands and definitely the crown jewel of Kefalonia. It was a stunner.
Very similar in shape, appearance, and orientation to Petani, it appeared to be lit from within.
We enjoyed a little beach time. Myrtos was as beautiful from below as it was from above. The beach was more white pebble than sand, part of what gave it such a striking appearance from above. And that water....oh that water....
Then it was time to pile back into the car to continue our journey. The views along the coast were show stopping. We found ourselves continually stopping and just getting out of the car to stare.
The next stop was the scenic village of Assos. A tiny and secluded village, Assos sits on a horseshoe shaped azure harbor dotted with waterfront tavernas and shops. It is surrounded by rolling hills covered in cypress trees. The village is dominated by a 16th century fortress that sits atop one of these hills.
Crazy people, who like to hike for an hour in extreme heat, like to walk up the hill to the castle. I am not a crazy person and enjoyed it from afar.
There was a lot of traffic in Assos. We decided to park and walk around, as the village is so tiny, it can be walked in a very short bit of time. It was a fight to the death for parking, but we had the smallest car, so we squeezed into something I wasn’t even sure was a parking space.
Assos was beautiful and felt lost in time with pretty little colored houses lining the streets, small tavernas setting up tables for lunch at the water’s edge, and small boats bobbing gently in the harbor.
It was also CROWDED. SO CROWDED.
And HOT. SO HOT.
As we tried to make our way through throngs of people, sweat started running into my butt crack.
“I’m good to go,” I said to Matt, “You?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” he panted, wiping sweat from his brow.
We climbed back into our little car, which required me to climb in through the passenger window, as we were wedged against a cement wall, and headed to Jerusalem Beach to find Oddysseas Tavern for lunch.
We wound our way down to Jerusalem Beach . The road seemed to snake up and down and around forever. With each turn, I grew more and more nervous that I was taking us down a long road to nothing, where would languish forever and die of starvation, all because I relied too heavily on Google maps in a foreign country.
Before long, we found ourselves rounding a curve with a gorgeous beach view below and one lone taverna near the sand.
Odysseas Tavern was quaint and rustic. Set among olive trees, it afforded an open air view of the beach.
All of the food sounded amazing, so we ordered a feast. We ordered so much that, as I was contemplating adding some fish, the waiter said, “You’ve probably ordered enough.” When the waiter at a Greek restaurant tells you that you have over ordered, you’ve seriously over ordered.
While we waited for our food, we sipped house wine and watched one little kitten with a bad eye beg at the next table for food.
“Awwww, Matt,” I said, “Look at him. He’s so little and he’s got that bad eye. See if he wants some bread,” bread being the only thing we had at that point.
Matt had no sooner tossed down a piece of bread when no fewer than 12 cats came running out of the bushes. Very smart. Send in the gimpy one and then bum rush the diners. They knew we were an easy mark.
We spent the rest of our lunch feeding cats. So many cats.
Our lunch arrived. We had gigantes (giant beans…I kept seeing them on the menu and I just had to know…), a stuffed baked artichoke, stuffed peppers, roast chicken with potatoes, and olive and cheese bread.
That artichoke changed my life.
After lunch, we drove to the historic village of Fiskardo. Fiskardo was supposed to be the most beautiful village on the entire island. I had seen photos of brightly colored buildings with wooden shutters draped in bougainvillea and cobblestone streets lined with eclectic shops and cafes. I had a vision of sipping an icy cocktail and watching the boats nod lazily in the harbor.
My vision was not my reality. When we arrived, Fiskardo had been invaded by a multitude of massive day tripper boats from mainland Greece.
It wasn’t just the volume of people, it was the manner of the people. The delicate little town was overrun by people wearing nothing but swimsuits and flip flops, maybe a dreadful beach cover that would have been better suited for Myrtle Beach on bike week. They were sucking down frappes in gargantuan plastic cups and gobbling down ice cream cones as though ice cream was going to disappear from the earth forever in the next five minutes. They carried bags filled with cheap, ugly plastic souvenirs made in China and wore “I left my heart on Kefalonia” hoodies. My favorite were the women in overly billowy gowns with giant hats and oversized sunglasses and huge wedge heels trying to walk on the uneven stone streets and taking their own photo every 30 seconds as though they were the star of their own reality show, while a husband/child/boyfriend followed dutifully behind taking a video with his phone.
We couldn’t even shop for the multitude of bodies.
We popped into a what appeared to be a fairly empty café, Le Passage. It was smack in the middle of the harbor and provided a front row seat to the freak show. It was a lovely oasis in the midst of hell.
We ordered up some cocktails and settled in to watch.
This is Matt's "Please Stop Taking My Picture" face. It's almost as good as his "Why The Hell Am I On This Ledge" face.
Before we finished the first drink, we heard a long, low horn.
We watched the people scramble to get back to their boats before they got left behind, with nothing to sleep in but a “I heart Fiskardo” t-shirt. They were grabbing their frappes and ice-creams and literally running for the boat.
I sipped my bellini.
Within 30 minutes, Fiskardo was blessedly empty. We didn’t know it, but we had timed it just right. It was so incredibly peaceful after the boats left.
We enjoyed another cocktail, just to be on the safe side, I mean, some of them could have still been lingering around.
Then we enjoyed a tranquil, uncrowded stroll around the village.
We drove back to the villa and spent the afternoon in the pool and enjoying our sunset wine ritual.
And then it was time for our sunset hour on the deck, something we looked forward to every day.
I had remembered to make an actual reservation for Espirides, so we headed to dinner at the sweet little restaurant in the orange grove.
It was sublime.
The front restaurant gave way to a small, intimate courtyard in the back, tucked into the orange grove with one huge orange tree in the center. We had reserved a table in the courtyard and it didn’t disappoint.
Course after course welcomed us: mushrooms, baked sausages in a savory sauce, a lovely salad, sole wrapped in bacon with a blue cheese cream sauce, pork medallions, and their signature orange cake for dessert.
We lingered so long, we were the only patrons left. At that point, the waiter brought out a complimentary shot of Bacardi Vintage Black. We told him we’d only drink it if he had one with us.