As soon as we arrived at Luisa and Stelio’s place I was in awe and I knew we were in for a real treat – I could smell it in the air. We drove through the gates arched over with pretty Bougainvillea through to a garden filled with amazing plants. We arrived late in the evening though the lit path toward the house showed a garden that is obviously tendered with love and produces the fruits and vegetables for their life. I was impressed and I hadn’t even walked through their door.
Luisa and Stelio are the parents of very good friend Antonis who is a fellow Bowen (Bowtech) Instructor who took two days off work to show Desley (amazing visiting friend from Australia) and myself around this beautiful island of Crete. It was like a breath of fresh air to meet people who didn’t know any English and who lived with and loved this land. People who’s work wasn’t trying to impress tourists which abound on this island. Luisa was wearing an apron and Stelio had a huge welcoming grin. I instantly felt at home. They reminded me of my own parents.
It was too dark to look around the land so we went inside for what we thought would be a little nibble as it was late, though it was a massive, absolutely delicious dinner. Firstly a few nibbles of the freshest pomegranate, and home grown nuts with some raki which is a local spirit made by absolutely everyone in Crete so it seems, and is ultra strong. Anyway Desley had a bit of a cough so Luisa opened her cupboard and out comes a Thyme cough syrup liqueur drink. It was literally like a tincture that I would use in my clinic, albeit a tad more sugary. It was so delicious. I was fascinated with what other drinks she had in there – my golly she would make alcoholic tinctures from so many things – everything from Apricot kernels to lemon or pomegranate.
There would always be additions of herbs like cloves and cinnamon etc. which would add a lovely taste. I took such an interest that out came many of the dried herbs that they grow or collect and use in the drinks. Fascinating – I felt like I had won a golden ticket to visit ‘Charlie and the Herb factory’.
I shouldn’t have gone crazy on the pomegranates and nuts – as dinner was about to be served. Everything was home grown except some flour to make cheese puffs.
They were a bit thrown back by my vegetarianism which was great cause it meant I could really enjoy lots of the accompanying vegetables. Broad beans with Horta (wild greens), the freshest cucumber possible, Tomatoes that melt in your mouth, fresh green salad, delicious potatoes, and cheese puffs made with their own goat cheese. All very simple, fresh food. It was heavenly.
Desley and the others tried goat, rabbit and duck – all home grown, free range and butchered on site by Luisa and Stelio. Amazingly self sufficient.
What I found interesting to cleanse the palette at the end of the meal is oranges – literally minutes off the tree, sprinkled with a touch of salt. It was quite refreshing.
In the morning we woke to a beautiful day with the crispest of blue skies while we walked around the garden before breakfast. There was so much excitement as we passed fruit tree after fruit tree, laden with delicious fruit. The pomegranates were sweet, the grapes were such a beautiful colour. The oranges were the most delicious I have ever tasted.
Apart from growing all the vegetables they need to live sustainably, Luisa and Stelio grow artichokes for market. There was obvious pride contentment in his words as we walked around and witnessed the fruits of his labour.
It was interesting to see some olive trees literally laden with olives while others seemed bare – all over Crete the olive industry has been hard hit this last year with very little rainfall to what they are used to. They will have enough olive oil for their own needs – I must say it is absolutely so delicious – but they won’t be able to sell much this year. ‘These things happen’ Stelio tells us as he shrugs his shoulders and accepts natures way.
When we returned back to the house Luisa met us with a breakfast almost ready – she wanted to make our eggs warm and fresh. A wonderful breakfast of eggs, olives, fresh tomato and home made goat cheese. Scrumptious! Oh and how could we forget the Cretan tradition of a glass of home made red wine for breakfast. It went down quite well. I’m a big believer in honouring tradition.
Far too soon it was time for us to go and bid farewell to this lovely couple and their garden of Eden. It took us a while to drive off though cause Luisa kept thinking of extra food and other delights to give us to take on our journey. She made me miss my mum who would do exactly the same – you need to factor in an extra 10 minutes simply to drive off. The car backed out through the bougainvillea arched driveway and I couldn’t wait to plan my next trip to see these amazing people. Thank you