A walk from Ayios Minas

You know that feeling when you don’t want the holiday to end…?

I took the month of May off from my editing and literary agency work, in order to rough out a first draft for a new manuscript which may turn into a book. I worked on it until I was sick of it and thought it was useless, and then I knew it was time for a break. I’ll give it time, letting ideas come to me as I do other things... 

In the meantime, we’ve had people staying in our rooms in Olympos and others coming to the taverna at Ayios Minas beach. It’s not too busy, just like having friends over – from various parts of Europe. Lella and Pierangelo left their car at the main road and walked the few kilometres down the track to the beach in the late afternoon, and sat by the sea for a while. They came to drink some wine and decided to stay for an early dinner. They devoured their salad, saying bellissimo

The man with the beautiful smile, Pierangelo from central Portugal, ate calamari stuffed with brown rice and spinach – Minas’ fantastic new recipe – and Lella, from Milano, ate lamb chops. Then Lella sang happy birthday to M in a voice that was astonishingly operatic.

‘Darling, let me tell you something,’ said M to Lella. ‘It’s not really my birthday. I told you it was my birthday because I wanted to buy you a drink.’

M sang a Greek song for her and they sang Beatles songs together and we laughed and danced, and finally we hugged and kissed and M drove the couple up to their car, Lella insisting she was sorry that she’d interrupted his birthday (which wasn't his birthday). I remembered what’s special about running a taverna here; when you meet people like Pierangelo and Lella, people you’d like to be friends with.

It’s been a lovely month, the sea warmer, swallows flitting around. When I walk Lisa around the valley, I come across families of perdikes (partridges), the tiny babies popping up seemingly out of the dry ground and the parent flying off and abandoning them. On the first day I started to notice them, I also saw an eagle circling – perhaps no coincidence.
In the last few quiet days of holiday, and before the weather gets too hot, I wanted to do some walking. I meant to get up early this morning, but the wine was going down easily last night and the bed was comfortable so I woke up around 8 a.m. I put some cheese and cold sausage in the backpack, a couple of lemon biscuits I made, a couple of big bottles of water and we were off up the hill, Lisa and I.

It was already warm, and still, a bit of heat haze, the sea glassy calm far in the distance towards Apella, as we passed the bee hives with one of the best views in the world. We reached the road and headed south a little until the sign that indicates the start of the footpath to Spoa. Lisa found a pool of fresh water and then some goats, and I somehow missed the start of the path up the mountain so instead we followed the track around the back of the mountain, which was magnificent.

A truck came up behind us and stopped at the little chapel of Ayia Marina (confusing as there’s another Ayia Marina a little northwest of there). We also passed markings for another footpath. I finally checked my map, and saw we were heading to the mostly abandoned settlement of Asia. When we reached the end of the road, amid old stone houses and threshing circles was the truck. An old lady in a white dress and black headscarf was waving her arms around and shouting in an effort to scare some goats out of the barn into a pen, from which they were being wrangled into the truck. The goats were being uncooperative.

Lisa was also being uncooperative. Whenever we reached a bit of shade, she walked in that direction and simply sat down, avoiding my eyes. We had some breakfast, and I decided to leave any footpaths for another day. We stopped at every freshwater pool on the way back, then close to the top of the track heading back down to Ayios Minas, to finish the rest of the picnic. The heady aroma of the pine trees in the hot midday sun made me think of retsina.