While people are shutting up the summer house, getting kids ready for school and, in most of Europe, getting out the woollies, in Greece summer is far from finished. The sea is still, the temperature high without being stifling and the light is mellow.
Time to get in a few last swims now that the crowds have gone. Still plenty of time for alfresco lunches and dinners, with salads of sun-ripened tomatoes and chilled wine; still ice cream weather.
It’s a good time for walks in the countryside where the dry grasses conceal lizards sleeping on hot stones while cicadas provide the background music – or shall I say din? You feel your forehead damp against your sun hat and you watch your step in flip flops. The heat presses down on your shoulders and the air is fragrant with thyme and oleander.
I’m doing my best to preserve this summery feeling for a few more days – or even weeks, if the weather holds. We usually swim well into October, the sea being far warmer than in May or early June. My strategy to prolong the summer involves the following:
Avoid watching the news as much as possible, and read a book instead – a book with paper pages that smell of ink. A hardback with a bright dust jacket or a paperback that can be tossed into a beach bag with the page corners folded over. I’m deep into The Daughters of Mars, Thomas Keneally’s fascinating story of Australian nurses in the Great War.
If you have teenagers skulking around the house, you can try them with Olivia Wildenstein’s debut book, Ghostboy, Chameleon and the Duke of Graffiti – it’s funny, sad and a cracking good story at the same time (good for sun-addled adults as well). And while on the subject of books, neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks has sadly passed away. He leaves behind a series of remarkable books, such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars. I was a big fan and I highly recommend them – they have inspired generations of doctors while being extremely interesting and easy to read.
Go pick blackberries, if you can find any (on one of the walks mentioned above). The good ones are always too high to reach, your hands get scratched, your bare toes get pricked and dusty. It’s difficult to pick enough to make jam, as they get eaten along the way, but you can mix them with peaches in a crumble, or put them on ice cream.
Have dinner by the sea. Xypolitos, in Loutsa, is a fish shack where they put the tables as close to the rocky shore as possible, and serve the catch of the day. Aromatic fish soup, tsipoures grilled to perfection, or crispy fried red mullet. A smiling moon, zillions of stars and a little breeze. The lapping of wavelets at your feet. Bliss.
Photos by Anna Koenig
Xypolitos tel number: 2294 028342. Best reserve if you want a table by the sea on weekends
Ghostboy, Chameleon and the Duke of Graffiti: Get it at Amazon