Crete part 4: phyllo finale

The Crete trip was drawing to a close. We moved along to Rethymnon on Saturday, via the National Agricultural Research Foundation in Messara, where we had a talk from another gracious speaker, Dr Manolis Kambourakis

who talked about some of the issues supporting the growth in organic olive farming in the Messara Valley; the most urgent of which was the degradation of natural resources such as water.

We enjoyed another Cretan lunch,

complete with koukouvaja (rusks with tomato and fresh cheese), tzatziki, halloumi and Greek salad. Afterwards he took us to a viewpoint to see the ancient ruins of Phaistos and the sweep of the valley with its new crop of greenhouses.

On to a cooking demonstration by our evening’s host, Othonas Hristoulakis,
who showed us how our meal would be shaping up. Salad, halloumi, baked feta and lamb with artichokes were on their way, with a lovely little fried pastry with candied oranges to finish.

But first — as we had come to understand, there is always one more thing to see, just as every meal has one more course we weren’t expecting. We navigated a few narrow streets away from the restaurant to watch a demonstration of the noble art of phyllo making. The rounds of pastry have been made in large circles; the fun comes in when it’s stretched in a seemingly effortless process, much like making a bed and tugging the sheets gently until they cover the required space. Forty or fifty years of practice is all it takes…

We had a day off on Sunday, and some of us spent it at the beach in south Crete: first at Palm Beach, near the Preveli monastery,

and then a scary drive along a narrow gravel cliffside road to Ligres, where a fabulous beach beckoned while our seafood was grilling.

And then, by gum, it was our last day. We dropped into the village of Maroulas to visit a herbalist, Marianna, where we bought remedies for all that ailed us,

and then pressed on back to Amari where we met again our friend Katarina the potter, who welcomed us with cheese and raki and biscuits made from wine must, and warm cheese fritters we ate with honey. She showed us some of her wares and let us have a go.

Finally: supper in Rethymnon, the night of Too Much Food…

After which a group of hardy souls managed an hour or two round a beach fire before heading back to the hotel to rest up for morning.

And as if a 4am departure wasn’t enough to tell us it really was over, we had to face this abomination on Aegean Airlines at breakfast time. At least the yogurt was good.

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