2013 cruising season was one of markets, coastlines of islands and heat…

It began in Italy rebuilding the boat after a yard period, a quick workshop in Tuscany, a regatta then to the islands south Sicilia and onto Croatia, to the mainland in Italy down to Montenegro, and then Greece… Oh my Greece it was so good to be back there for the later half of the season, well July onwards. I can never complain of being in Greece, mind you I can say that about Italy and Spain also. My 3 favourite countries in Europe, all individual in their own ways but oh so similar in others ! It was a good season with plenty of traveling and different cultures to enjoy. The islands in Greece were as always great, the white and blue theme is spectacular against the blue of the Aegean and the blue skies. It was good to be with crew that had not experienced that part of the world before so they were able to enjoy the simplicity of life over there. It was also good to go back to my old home, Rhodes where my Greek family have a wonderful fish taverna. I used to help out there and learnt so much about Greek food, the history of Rhodes, the way the locals ate from the land during the wars, which is so interesting and so good to know. I wish I had it all written down and maybe one day I will.  Last year I went back into the BBQ area and helped cook the fish for a party of 80 that came in for a special dinner one night. It was great and always brings back memories of years ago when I was in their regularly helping out. It is now good to see the young boys in the family help out their grandfather, learning how to clean the fish properly, how to BBQ the fish, learning how to prep up their mothers famous desserts, or watch how they cook the shrimps, mussels. One of the four boys will surely become a chef and take over the restaurant !

But those 3 countries, Greece, Italy and Spain all instill a happiness inside me that is hard to describe with their  smells, senses, tastes, noises, their colours, the land, the turquoise seas around them. They have so much to give via their lands, via their people and their food yet being the oldest of our European countries they appear to falter at the realism of what the world is today and have sadly struggled with the crisis. However saying that they are surviving, people are finding new ways and they are becoming more self sufficient in many ways. The markets move me each time I visit them where ever I am. I am a market freak… having to find the local ones where ever I am making sure I am there on the day to explore what goodies they have to sell. It means the freshest of foods, the foods that are in season, not the ones flown in refrigerated containers, no the foods that are ripened by the sun. The foods that actually have flavour that you can actually close you eyes and bite into and know exactly what it is … To me this is so important to be able to have that first taste in my mouth as I bite into say a nectarine, a plum, cherry tomato, cucumber… It does not matter that the fruit or the vegetable might be mishapened, or small at least they are from the place I am buying them and they have the flavour I am looking for.

Anchored off Portisco, Costa Smeralda I have my granny trolly ready and bags as on Thursdays I go ashore to the market in San Panteleo , this week excited at the thought as I have not been up there for almost 18mths. I have to get up there before 9am as the parking becomes chaotic with people coming to visit not only the fruit and veggie section, the deli stalls, the nougat man but also the hippie stands…

San Pantaleo market, local strawberries and blackberries

San Pantaleo market, local strawberries and blackberries

It was chaotic, so full of people it was hard to walk around all because we were a little late, due to not finding our new rent a car ! oh well there is next week but I cannot complain as we cam away with a basket of figs, tiny cherry tomatoes, wild boar loin, great local pecorino, local strawberries and much more.

Then on to Olbia market on Saturday mornings, which can be very busy so again I hope to get in their early so I can park close to the market area. This market is full of local fruit and vegtables, wonderful meats and cheese stalls, also selling local olives, oils, honey, local nougat, one man just selling figs and garlic and then there are the clothing stalls, the kitchen wear stalls and the odd stalls selling all sorts of things. This week I managed to go to Olbia on my own and in my own time so had no rushing around trying to purchase food for the boat, it was more strolling through the market trying to find the people I used to buy from, and looking at the produce available, talking to the stallholders, finding new bio cheeses, or grapes. It was certainly less of a fruit and vegetable market this time, but lets hope it grows again after the summer craziness of tourism dies off a bit and people need to eat, rather than eating little to look good on the beach ! I had a wonderful time wandering around slowly absorbing what was on offer and what people were buying as it is always interesting to watch the locals buy. They only buy for a few people and maybe only for a few days, unlike when I shop and buy heaps. I am sure I am looked at strangely at times as I buy kilos of fruit and vegetables, hardly the amount for a normal household and then can barely lift the bags. One stallholder asked me why I was so interested in taking photos of his cheese, and I told him about blogging and sending the photos to family and friends telling them about this wonderful stall full of pecornio, some bio some regular and how it was fun to listen to the people and hear what they are going to do with their cheese, or as on other stands listening to what they would do with the fruit and vegetables… It is such a great way to shop and one I hate to miss where ever I am. It is so much better than just doing the normal supermarket run where the fresh foods have generally traveled for miles and always in refrigerated containers…

My bags are taken into the tender and I am driven back to the boat where I unload them and start to think of things I will make with the foods I have just bought. It is always a fun part of the day after the market deciding on what to give the crew or guests… They need to taste the cheeses and meats I have bought, the local sardinian bread that is so thin and crispy flavoured with rosemary or chilli. The olives, which sadly none of them are really interested in ! I have a few days to enjoy the foods that are now back with me onboard until I venture out back up to San Pantaleo next week and this time get there earlier so I can get the best of the best as well as be able to take a few pictures without the crowds shadowing me.

Olbia market... Pecorino and more

Olbia market… Pecorino and more

Olbia market wild boar meat selection

Olbia market wild boar meat selection