To our right were carefully tilled small holdings. Each one had a simple concrete house, roughly built with a small patio; some with pergolas from which draped vines. A simple plastic table and chair set finished the picture. Some had garden hoses coiled to outside taps. The surrounding small plots Held goats, chickens, a few small olive trees, delicately shaped and pruned, the base of their trunks painted white. Some fields had watermelons, huge green or yellowy green. In some, chrysanthemums were grown. A few plots were left to weeds, the occasional abandoned small truck frame, poking through the scrub.
The soil in a ploughed field strip was well tilled, soft, crumbly and well tended. The furrows were straight and deep. This was earth that had been tilled and cared for for generations. Think black hosepipes ran along the furrow ditches......irrigation a must for crops to thrive. As we ambled along, the occasional small holder would stop from his toil and flash a smile or a quick wave.
Half way along two teenagers stepped forward and politely proffered a leaflet advertising their parents beachside taverna 700m away. Their big smiles, polite approach and thanks afterwards won our approval, their manners impressing us immensely.....and so we meandered the roads to search out 'the golden sands taverna'.
Our lane ended at a 't' junction where we found some market stalls selling fruit and veg straight from the fields behind. A huge net had been sprung high on poles to provide shade across the road and locals pulled up their cars to go buy fruit. Simple wooden tables were piled high with tomatoes, melons, onions, aubergines, figs, peppers; in fact a whole array of produce. Behind the stalls elderly Greek men and ladies sat nattering on upturned crates or plastic chairs under the dim glow of a single light bulb hanging from its wire. Scattered everywhere were crates of produce and plastic carrier bags. Four kilo of tomatoes for one euro. Fresh tomatoes picked that day. Back in the UK we'd pay over ten pounds!!
Turning past the small church the road ran along the beach and past two tavernas with beach bars. They didn't appeal. There was something too touristy about them. We carried on and our persistence was rewarded. As the lane petered out, a small beach bar appeared on a raised deck beneath canvas pergolas. Behind it under the shade of eight giant eucalyptus trees was a car park and a children's play area and beyond that, the taverna we sought. "The Golden Sands Taverna". There beneath the eucalyptus and four giant palms we found shade and respite from the humid evening air.
We had chosen well. No tourists but a few locals. Some men chatted animatedly under the canvas pergola; just beyond were the women. A few youngsters played on the white stone terrace patio.
Our hosts were gracious, cheerful and good humoured. A lovely table under the palms was ours. Complimentary bread and olive oil promptly served. As dusk descended and one or two more Greek families arrived our food was served hot. A menu of simple dishes but tasty, washed down with iced bottled water, Pepsi and ouzo! As we were allowed to languish at our table and darkness descended, garden lights were switched on to provide a lovely ambiance. Greek radio played softly in the background. Laughter came from kitchen staff and our hosts and insects started their evening orchestrations. A few Greek teenagers sat on the taverna low garden walls and chilled out. Teenagers are teenagers across the world. These teenagers were good natured, chilled out and impeccably well mannered.
As we chilled out, the taverna owner bought us a plate of complimentary figs........cold from the fridge and so fresh. She good naturedly showed us how to peel them efficiently and left us to our figs..........there are insufficient adjectives; succulent just doesn't do them justice!
A very simple taverna, nothing flash, run by local people, for local people but welcoming all the same. I am so glad we held out for the last taverna along the beach road!
The return walk home was peaceful. With few street lights at all, our eyes adjusted to the night. The stars appeared on cue, undimmed by light pollution. The International Space Station passed overhead, a bright moving star across the sky. Under the dim orange glow of the occasional street light, bats swooped and pirouetted, their shadows flitting across the light grey Tarmac road. The evening breeze bought a welcome coolness and rustled the bamboo thickets, from which emerged periodically the odd solitary cat, out on its nighttime patrol.
From one of the small holding brick huts came the sweet smoky smell of burning olive wood, its heavenly scent filling the night time air. Someone somewhere was cooking supper over an open oven or grill. As the road rose slightly, the sweeping bay illuminated by the twinkling amber glow of hundreds of tiny street lights of small coastal communities spread away into the distance.
Tranquility......what a lovely end to a lovely evening.