"There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere . . . "
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Your first glimpse of the bleak towers of Meteora can knock the breath right out of you. As per our usual vacation strategy, Ben had no idea of what awaited us over that next hill as we drove the convoluted route from Metsovo to our hotel in Kalambaka, at the foot of these behemoths. When the cliffs of Meteora first slipped over the horizon, I waited for a reaction, but Ben, fixated as he was on the rain slicked highway, remained oblivious until I directed his gaze up and over toward the strange edifices. Then I think he swerved a bit.
You cannot be unimpressed. I mean, the place got its name from legends that claimed the angry gods hurled down "meteors" of rock that lodged in the earth (and presumable took out a bunch of sinners along the way). This is not a topographical feature most of us see every day.
The drive had been a rough one, with more random map extrapolation, lostness and foundness and a rainshower once we clambered up and out of Metsovo. After hiking back up the hill from the monastery, we'd had our lunch then, after deciding against the lone tourist trap museum, we bid the village farewell (but we should have stocked up on the local wine first, foolish us.)
Along the way, we found ourselves atop Katara pass, the highest in Greece, where Ben wandered off for a nature hike and I stumbled over (literally) page after page of porn - glossy nude photos fluttering against strategically situated bricks that pressed them to the earth. The porn led across a field of dry grass to another small mountain, but I cared not to follow; nothing at the end of a roadside Grecian porn trail could be good.
(see that white stuff on the ground? lower right corner? yeah, porn.)
At the car, I fought with some bees (I swear they could smell the venom that lingered in the hard little lump on my arm), then we were off again, unsure of our way since, on the map, the way to Meteora did not traverse Katara pass in the slightest.
Somewhere along the way we pulled over at this tiny picturesque roadside cafe, where we replenished with an assortment of coffees, water, semi-chilled soda and squatty bathroom breaks. Ben declared this to be the best coffee in Greece. It took me an hour to scrape hyperactive little bits of him off of the ceiling.
No one else stopped in while we lingered. The proprietor, a rangy old man with an intricately be-studded beard that suggested he had not looked in the mirror for days, took excellent care of us wayward travelers. What he lacked in personal hygiene, he compensated for in the upkeep of his little shop. Everything was so clean and shiny that it squeaked (which is rather annoying when your squatty toilet squeaks at you, but it's better than the alternative, which I did indeed run across at other rest stops later in Greece).
Although he spoke no English and we no Greek (other than beware of the killer spiders!) , "coffee" is understood unilaterally. He chased us around with little cups and napkins and checked on us relentlessly, smiling encouragingly as though he might squeeze something besides a "yassis" from our mouths if he poked at us enough.
This was our Meteora (actually Kalambaka, which is kind of like a suburb with monks) hotel and I cannot express how wonderful the experience was to stay there. If you go to Meteora, stay at Dupaini House. Oh, and Ben wanted me to tell you that he was RIGHT (for once) when he made that left turn up the hill. Despite the distinct, "despair all ye who enter here" feel of it, the dubious road did, in fact lead directly to the drive way (that first photo of the post is Ben gloating in the parking lot. It's luck, I tell you.)
Here were some of our hosts:
We counted at least 5 affectionate Siamese in all, including a wee kitten. And I suspect with Grecian cats, where you see one, ten others are lurking in the shadows. There are plenty of worse things to be found in shadows - I like knowing I have kitty friends in there looking out for me.
Spacedlaw gave me quite the run around with this one, since I had no clue what type of creature a "stock cube" might be.
Who knew "stock cubes" are actually that bouillon my mom ladled up as "sick" soup when I was a kid.
"Drink your bouillon up, baby. It'll make you hurry up and get all well, like medicine."
I remember suffering down bowl after steaming bowl of salty tea-colored liquid that scorched my raw throat with each reluctant sip. I usually didn't really want to hurry up and get well ~ I far preferred diving under my layer of flannel blankets to consort with a novel (fever, headache and all) to plodding around the uncongenial school hallways in a travesty of "education", or sitting alone by the playground swings, digging my toe into the dirt through another torturous hour of recess. I could feel the tingle of each bouillon spoonful healing every bit of me against my will and soon I would shake my head and collapse back onto my pillow, pretending I was just too weak to swallow another drop, hoping I'd cut off the soup before did its damage.
I'd forgotten all about bouillon, or assumed it went the way of the ST37 my grandmother swore by ~ on your deathbed, my Nanny would douse you in that stuff, sure it would cure all ills or at the very least shoot you straight to heaven all disinfected and fresh. She put ST37 in my cuts and scrapes, rubbed it into bruises, poured it over hangnails and then made me use it as mouthwash. I caught her sneaking some into the dogs' water bowl once, although she denied that right to the end.
One Halloween, I stole a collection of her empty ST37 bottles (she kept everything and I mean everything she ever got her hands on) to use as levers and dials on my home made robot costume. I glued whole and carved blue bottles all over three cardboard boxes that I'd wrapped in tinfoil. I stuck on some white heating tube for arms, cut out some holes for my body to squeeze inside, taped the mess together with duct tape and waltzed off to school with just my scrawny legs sticking out, shouting "Danger, Will Robinson!" and flailing my heating tubes whenever the spirit moved me. I couldn't see a thing though the tiny eye-slits I'd cut and when I fell down by the water fountain on my way into class, half my "Robot Emergency buttons" popped off.
And I wondered why the other kids always made fun of me...
I did win a special "creative" mention in the costume contest that year, though. But Nanny was pretty mad about those mutilated medicine bottles I'd left strewn across the neighborhood wherever I walked. She'd spent a long time using up all that ST37.
I didn't know they still made bouillon. I tracked these varieties down in the "specialty ethnic foods" section of the grocery store, right between the Van Gilse Schenk Stroop and the Piloncillo(after searching the spices, the gravies, the baking and the condiments sections to no avail).
I'd guess that New Yorkers aren't big on their bouillon. With 1370 grams of sodium per half a cube, I can guess why.
I'll admit I was tempted, but he would probably have exceeded my budget. And I suspect he is expensive to maintain. The fiber fees alone would kill us (and I just mean for the roving!) But he would add a nice homey touch to the foyer and we could always relegate him to storage if space became an issue. I'd love that constant supply of hand-spun.
Ben and I rented a car and drove to Rhinebeck again this year for the sheep and wool festival. We had other errands to run, so an excursion on our own proved the best course of action. By opting for a low-budget car rental, we ended up spending time at a severely sketchy rental agency in a random midtown parking garage early Saturday. My grande latte was cold by the time we maneuvered through the obscure paperwork and I had the distinct feeling that we drove away in someone's Focus from long-term parking. Or perhaps a car inherited from the "organization's" most recent hit.
Of course, we brought no maps and our directions were...creative (which means wrong) and we got all kinds of lost (a nice policeman in Connecticut set us back on our path when we really went overboard with wrongness). But we tend to be lost when we travel (you know) and with the leaves muddling loveliness around us, it really didn't matter.
A mixture of classic country and the '80 revisited on local radio took us to the outskirts, then Party Like a Rock Star welcomed us to the fairgrounds. Yeah, we partied, fried artichoke style...
...which set my diet efforts back about 2 pounds. Once we passed the boards boasting lamb sandwiches, my appetite took a turn for the nonexistent so the damage was contained.
It rained for a minute on the road, but the festival stayed mudless, an improvement from last year. And as far as I know, I didn't get any variety of poop on my shoes.
While I presumably visit Rhinebeck for the yarn and camaraderie, I'm really in it for the critter-petting. And the wine. Ben bought more local wine this year than I bought yarn.
And he made nice with the Fluff. I can't get enough of their sweet little faces. Muwah!
We stopped for what we now know to be our final visit to the B&M Morehouse shop. The business is closing soon; the building already sports a rental sign. Presumably their wares will be available via internet. But it just won't be the same at Rhinebeck next year. I will miss the wassail.
Whoa, I'm sideways kinda. I can only assume Ben was drunk when he took that picture. Gotta watch those wine tastings.
I bought 2 skeins of moody blue Solo yarn from Brooks Farms (that's not the color's name - it only has a number, but it's blue and black and all moody like so I'm naming it - Ben's patiently holding the skeins in that photo up there and you can see some of our wine haul in that carrier to his right) at the festival and, at Morehouse, about 6 skeins of various colors of this yarn for a few of these:
Ben's Charade socks are complete, my first Socktoberfest effort. I plan to finish all of those outstanding socks this month (well, maybe not Lichen - I've no idea where he slunk off to hide).
I created these using a toe-up, knee-high adaptation of Sandra's pattern and they were a lovely knit. I only took so long to finish because I am so easily distracted. Once sock two began to roll, there was no stopping the momentum.
The Jitterbug yarn was fun, with subtle color variations in this shade, and provided superb stitch definition. The colorway blends with fall and suits boys and since this is a boy sock finished in fall, the universe is in alignment.
I added width at the calf by inserting more knit stitches between pattern repeats on the back of the sock.