I'm in Barcelona, with my family this time, and while I loved my time here in January when I wrote nearly a whole novel (and I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything), it feels more whole to be with Mary and Lukas in our favorite Spanish city.
We got here yesterday, flying in from Athens after spending a week in Kardamyli and a week in Nafplio, Greece.
In Kardamyli, we loved the town. It is a quaint little town on the edge of the Peloponnese. It is full of tourists, but they are a different kind of tourist. When you see their faces walking the very few streets that make the port town, their eyes say, "What a discovery," because it is. The food, as our guide Rick Steves wrote, is good in every restaurant. From the lamb in the oven to the octopus to the traditional Greek Moussaka, every restaurant we went to served up rich food and great hospitality. Owners sat down with you to discuss the menu, took you into their kitchens to show you the fresh meat and fish, and did their best to make your five-year-old boy happy. This food -- absent of souvlaki and gyros and lemon rice on the menu -- was rich, flavorful, and a great introduction into Greek food. I came to Greece not really too fond of Greek food, but Kardamyli changed my impression. Am I surprised? Not really, the Americanized version of any food tends to homogenize taste.
I think of the documentary The Search for General Tso. If you haven't watched it, you should. It chronicles how the Chinese food that we eat in the heartland of America today came to be, even though the food is barely a shadow of authentic Chinese food. I'm guessing the same Americanization of food happened to Greek food because the food we had in Kardamyli was truly fantastic, simple, and gyro-less.
In the heart of the week in Kardamyli, we took off for a day and night trip to Olympia to see the ruins of the first Olympic games. While the town of Olympia was established just to host tourists and is full of pizza, gyros, souvlaki, cheesburgers, and shawarma, the ruins themselves and the accompanying museum was worth the price of admission. I got to stand on the starting line of the first Olympic sprints with my son and race him across the flat course -- he won of course -- and this will forever remain in my memory.
In Nafplio, we loved our villa, hanging 10 kilometers above the town of Nafplio in direct view of the Viennese castle that sat directly above the city. Lukas entered every prison room in the castle and asked what we thought the prisoner did to deserve the dank darkness in the stone room. Then, of course, he pretended to be the recently revived mummified version of the prisoners, chasing us around the prison room, and to me, personifying the eerie feeling that the old keep gave off. The food in Nafplio, a much more touristy area than Kardamyli in feel and personality, was just so-so, but I believed that is mainly because we were given such a rich introduction to Greek cuisine in Kardamyli.
More about our trip to come...more detailed stuff...