A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Sundays in Primrose Hill

Ah! Primrose Hill...when the sun is shining makes you fall in love with London all over again!
No filter needed! Uninterrupted views all the way to financier's beehive a.k.a. Canary Wharf from the top of the Hill!

On Sundays you must always make time to provide decent fuel for your tummy! You'll often catch me saying that if you want a decent Sunday roast, you'd better head out of London to the Cotswolds, or to one of the villages along the Thames, or even better stay home and make one yourself! But I also think that the roast pork belly in The Engineer fits the bill just fine! Unfortunately it doesn't come with Yorkshires but it does come with roast potatoes and apples, buttery curly kale and root vegetables.
This buzzing gastro pub was full of natural light last Sunday and we were luckily sat next to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows that let the sunshine in; it brightens the mood and enhances your appetite, not that mine needs particular enhancing... but it's Sunday, you have to give yourself a break. Do book in advance because we got there around 1ish and the place was already full. A little boy from a neighbouring table decided we were appropriate audience for his magic trick and he just walked over to our table to impress us with shaking a glass jar with two big dice to - magically - turn them into four smaller dice. "Oh bravo sweetie", you'd hear me saying. "It's a very expensive trick", he says..."one pound each", he says and he didn't even blink! eerm..."What's your name sweetie, have you had your lunch yet?" me trying to hide my surprise and secret admiration thinking...this kid will be successful in life. 

Off to burn off the roast with a brisk walk around this colourful little London village. Vibrant home fronts and sunshine around Chalcot Street and Chalcot Square.
So...if Mary Poppins met Alice in Wonderland for tea it'd look something like this...
You can run away abroad in search of your perfect yoga spot but I love this area because strolling around the quite streets makes you slow down and take time to appreciate your surroundings; isn't that the ultimate (realistic) goal for us weekday-yoga enthusiasts? A bit of a welcoming feel and tranquillity around your everyday routine. x

Achaia Claous Winery, Patras

Whether you arrive in Patras by car or boat you can't miss Achaia Clauss Winery; the jewel in Patra's crown. Literally.
Its' stone towers stand tall since 1869 on a hill above the city, with very impressive views over Patraikos Bay.

When I was little this was a real-life castle, where the sun was always shining, as far as I was concerned. 

Driving up the hilly sides of the Clauss estate you catch a glimpse of the original vineyards that produced the famous Mavrodaphe.
Here's a romance for you. 
Legend has it that the founder of the winery, Gustav Clauss, was in love with a local girl who had black eyes and hair. Her name was Daphne, hence the name of his first wine: Mavrodaphe, "mavro" being the Greek word for black. 
Nowadays grapes are brought in the winery from various places around the area as demand is great and this little original vineyard is not big enough to produce all the quantity needed. 

And I'll have you know that "Mavrodaphne" is also used for Communion in church. You guessed right, there is a barrel with the archbishop's stamp on it too!

Walking around the heart of the estate in the old courtyard,  surrounded by stone buildings and orange trees is pure bliss, especially on a sunny day.
Summer weddings are often hosted here and I can tell you that sitting under the stars, surrounded by so much history is just superb!
You'll even notice a lot of barrels left out in the sun, apparently this is a special treatment for Mavrodaphe wine that enhances the fermentation process and helps create this sweet, ruby-coloured potion. See if you can taste the sun in every sip!

Give your eyes a minute to adjust to the dim lighting when you enter "Cava Danielida", a crooked old building made of stone and wooden beams, where wine tasting takes place.
It looks more like an old German brewery than a winery; massive arched fireplaces divide up the room, tables and chairs are made out of old barrels, colourful bottles have been lodged into the walls and give the place vibrant red and orange twinkles, every time the sun shines on them; once you soak in the atmosphere find the tiny balcony at the back, with the best view over Patras and its' bay;
try spotting the ferries sailing to Italy and enjoy the vastness of this landscape for as far as the eye can see, into the Ionian Sea.

The lady at the tasting centre is one of the sweetest people I've encountered and will show you around the warehouse with the old barrels in a short notice, free of charge. 
If you like sweet wines ask to try "Melissaia", a white desert wine made of sun-dried grapes. 
The intricate barrels date back to 1800s and have constantly been topped with wine since! They are not opened or used regularly; only at special occasions the winery releases limited number of bottles for collectors. 
These barrels are swollen with age and pressure and drips of wine have run down the sides throughout the years, releasing an intoxicating aroma... close your eyes and imagine the stories these barrels have to tell...x

Vouraikos Gorge, Peloponnese

Breathtaking! That's what this trip is.
What comes to mind when you hear about holidays in Greece? Probably some beach-side story and certainly no mountain resorts, skiing and snow. 

 this area is rich in water; it leaves its' mark even on the hardest rock surface

Climbing up right next to Vouraikos River

The mountain town of Kalavryta is lodged at the end of Vouraikos Gorge and although it can be reached by car, we opted for the whimsical two-carriage cog railway.  
The track is so integrated with the natural surroundings that feels like it's always been there.

Cog tracks are part of the scenery

The last time that I took this little train I was with my girl-guides group erm...quite a few years ago; Things haven't changed much it seems: this time around the little station in Diakofto was buzzing with boy scouts waiting to board the train! It's a popular destination for nature-lovers, hikers, skiers and that attracts brownies and scouts too. Notice how I use "small" a lot? This is the narrowest cog track in the world, just 75cm wide! The new carriages are clean and shiny but I did hope for the older ones that used to squeak and shake all the way up the gorge. I guess safety comes first. 
The trip up to Kalavryta is wonderful. Within five minutes everyone is going oooooh, aaaah and wow! Why? Because the tracks run parallel to Vouraikos river, crossing over from side to side, giving unique view of the foaming waters right below! The rocks are close enough to touch and tunnels open up to what looks like an abyss, but a tiny track appears around the corner and the journey up continues...

Spot the old train bridge? 
Zahlorou village pops up halfway, half-hidden amongst massive maple and chestnut trees. Steps appear amongst the branches leading down to the river bank in an elf-like setting. Magical!

Mid-way point: Zahlorou Station

Zahlorou village on the sides of Helmos mountain
Kalavryta's main road has been pedestrianised and is filled with goods from around the local mountains...wild tea, oregano, rosemary and chamomile.
Fill up your bags for a touch of mountain air and fragrances for when you are back home. 
Wild herbs and potions for good health, flavour, fragrance, you name it! 
On the way up the gorge you'll spot herds of sheep and goats climbing up the steep sides of the mountains. Some shepherds seem to use natural caves formed on the sides of the rocks to house their herds even now, keep an eye out for hawk-like settlements. Dairy products have always been popular in this area, so try "mizithra" cheese for grating over pasta and barbecued vegetables and "formaela" cheese for frying.  There is a local producer's shop right across the railway station in Kalavryta. 

Food is very rewarding too, try lamb cooked over vines or wild boar stewed with shallots in a red sauce, "traxana" a fresh dough and milk soup, wild greens pie and rich cheese pie. Walking around the town you'll spot patisseries serving baklava and walnut cake, kataifi (vermicelli tangled with ground nuts soaked in syrup) and a sweet crème similar to crème brulee made of the ever so popular local milk. You must stop and try some sweet delicacies along with Greek coffee, prepared on wood  fire.
herds of goats on the banks of Vouraikos river
If you are looking for a place to stay, the newly opened Kalavryta Canyon Hotel & Spa is a modern boutique hotel with interesting décor and lovely bar for après-ski drinks around the log fire. Remember to pack a small bag if you are taking the cog train up, there is no room for large suitcases, if you plan to stay longer you are better off driving up. 

 Kalavryta's train station blends in with traditional mountain-style stone buildings

The elegant lobby in Canyon Resort & Spa
Tsipouro - a highly alcoholic aperitif - and log fire: we're staying right here! 
On the way down prepare for a lot of train whistling;
Quite a few people choose to hike alongside the tracks to Zahlourou, sometimes just so that they can have lunch there! Talk about working up an appetite!
For part of the route hikers walk on the tracks as there is no other place to go, rocks tower up vertically on one side and the river bubbles dangerously on the other! Others hike the whole way down to Diakofto, a good three hour route. 

waterfalls pop out of rocks; keep the train window open, the sounds are amazing...
I have promised myself that I'll dare walk through this enchanting gorge at some point in my life! x

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