My mom’s dad’s family came from Aia Ephthimia (spelled atrociously, I’m sure, but that’s how it’s pronounced), which is a small village overlooking Delphi. We went to Delphi to see the ruins, which were spectacular, and also got to meet my grandfather’s cousin Tommy and his wife Maria. Of course, great eats were involved.
We started with hotel buffet breakfast in the early hours, then hopped the bus for our overnight stay in Delphi. On the way (while traveling through the GORGEOUS Greek countryside) they made a stop at 10 am or so, which coincided with the traditional Greek coffee break.
I was actually feeling queasy—I haaaaaaaaate sitting still on long bus rides- but my Mom got a frappe.
I drank many, many, MANY frappes in Greece. Other than, obviously, Greek coffee, they are the most popular beverage (though portucalata, fresh orange juice, is also up there). They involve Nescafe and an espresso machine frother. I WILL figure out how to reproduce them at home, because the foam… oh the gritty coffee-y ever so slightly sweet foam. HEAVEN!
Ma and the sis also got a pastry to share, of which I had maybe two bites.
Then to Delphi! We saw the museum, which was both seriously impressive in terms of the statues and frescoes, and also seriously packed in terms of tourists. Still, seeing the bronze charioteer in person was seriously amazing.
Then we romped around the ruins themselves.
There is a reason the ancient Greeks thought Delphi was the center of the universe. The mountains are crazy awe inspiring.
You could also get really really up close with everything- the temples and so on- in a way that we couldn’t at a lot of the other sites, like the Parthenon and whatnot. So cool!
The ancient sports arena mandated dorky tourist pictures of my sister and I “boxing”.
Following the trip we were hot and sweaty and just wanted to hop in the hotel pool, which is precisely what we did. The view from the hotel pool, incidentally, was one of the most glorious things I have ever beheld. Massive mountains, olive groves, all sloping down to the Gulf of Corinth. Heavenly!
We didn’t feel like a real lunch, so we just had tiropitas (cheese pastries!) we grabbed at a bakery and fruit poolside.
The fruit in Greece was uniformly perfectly ripe and delicious. After recouping for a bit, our family came to pick us up. We met up with my grandfather’s cousin, who he had always referred to as “little Tommy”. Hahaha, here he is now, on the far right.
Where that picture was taken was actually a really sad place. Tommy’s wife, Maria, was born and raised in Greece (Tommy was born in America and went back) in a village called Distomo. When she was 3 years old, during World War 2, the Nazis came through and massacred almost the entire village. Men, women, children, BABIES, the old, pregnant women. It was brutal and senseless and horrible. They’ve built a memorial now, and just had the 65th anniversary, and there was a huge event with German dignitaries who came to formally apologize for what happened. It was a sad place, but it was kind of amazing to see the resilience of the people who’d lived through it, and all the hardship in Greece after World War 2.
Then we went to Aspra Spitia (“White Houses”), the town where Tommy and Maria live for part of the year (they go back and forth to California. Sounds like a pretty sweet life, eh?). This is the view from their back deck.
My little sister promptly passed out in the deck chair, and the rest of us caught up and chatted. At a certain point I realized Maria had been gone for awhile, and went to check up on her in the kitchen. She’d been making a “little snack”. Here’s PART of it:
Homemade kalithopita (spice cake), 3 different kinds of cheeses, watermelon, honeydew and oranges. There was also paximathia (like Greek biscotti), fresh squeezed orange juice, and coffee. Hahaha, oh “little snacks”.
Then, yknow, they took us out to dinner.
Here were the APPETIZERS (sorry the picture is terribly dark, we were eating at 9, which is EARLY by Greek standards. The place was just beautiful, outdoors, next to the bay, with happy families walking by).
From left to right, that’s fried eggplant (oh my GOD it was good- not greasy at all), khoriatiki salata (otherwise known as Greek salad. The American version is such a bastardization of the real thing, it’s horrible! Real Greek salad has no lettuce- it’s just perfectly fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions of some kind, and a few olives, with a SLAB of feta on top- none of that crumbled rubbish- with lots of oregano, oil and vinegar. It’s HEAVEN!), grilled octopus (soooooooooooooooooo flavorful! I don’t know what they did to it but man it was great), and calamari.
Then our entree (sorry for the flash).
Cause, yknow, in case we didn’t get enough food already, each person got their own FISH. This was no sardine, either, it was like 8 inches long. I can’t even begin to describe how good it was- the blistery skin, the perfectly fresh fish (it had likely been caught that morning- Tommy and Maria say a lot of mornings they’ll just go down to the harbor and buy the fresh catch). They gave us, on the side, a dressing for it, which was mostly olive oil and oregano. HEAVEN!
At this point we were stuffed. STUFFED. And it was late. But my adorable, spry relatives, despite the fact that they must be in their 80s, were just getting started. We went back to Destomo, to the town square, and hung out in an outdoor cafe.
This was the point that I started to really realize that the Greeks, at least in the summertime, really start living once the sun sets. During the day, it’s HOT. You have to work! At night, it is cool and perfect and you go out and hang out with your friends and neighbors and linger over meals (the way waiters hustle you out of a restaurant in America is absolute heresy in Greece). We had so much fun talking to Tommy and Maria’s friends, and of course, there just HADN’T been enough food, according to Tommy (who liked to tell us we had to bring some of Greece home with us and pat his stomach). So they brought out the loukomades.
Crispy and doughy, dipped in honey cinnamon syrup. YUM! I was soooooo stuffed so I could only have one.
The hilarious thing is, because the food in Greece is so freakin’ good, the group we were with thought the loukomades were sub par! They made a comment to the waiter! The Greeks are sooooooo laid back about everything else (like, uh, punctuality, and stop signs), but when it comes to food, they are PERFECTIONISTS. My oh my are the results wonderful.
So yes, we stayed out with our 80something year old relatives til the wee hours of the morning.
The next morning, we slept til 11:30, hahahahahahaha. OOPS! The hotel had a free breakfast buffet, but we missed it. However, an incredibly sweet hotel employee brought my Mom and I (my sister was still asleep!) breakfast, which we ate on the deck with the spectacular view.
How BEAUTIFUL and PERFECT is that?!?!?!?!?!?
More DELICIOUS coffee. The milky stuff I wasn’t quite sure what it was (other than seriously yummy)- my mom’s guess was evaporated milk.
The orange juice was fresh and heavenly, and that bready stuff turned out to be sponge cake, DEFINITELY homemade, and so moist and tender and PERFECT! Between the quality of the food and drink and the experience of being on the deck overlooking the spectacular view made it one of the more special breakfasts of my life.
It was absolutely nothing like my normal gotta-pack-in-the-fiber-and-watch-the-sugar breakfasts, and it left me perfectly, perfectly saaaaaaaaaaatisfied.