I know I have mentioned before that the combination of mountains and water gives me a feeling of peace. There is something about soaring heights with lakes, sea or river that forces me to breath deeply, regard the landscape and have a sense of well-being. I have never been particularly keen on woods or forests. Maybe it’s because I was brought up between the Moors and the Dales and I enjoyed the bleakness of those landscapes; or maybe I simply read one too many fairy tale involving kids lost in forests being hunted by wolves/evil stepmother/witch (delete as applicable). Anyway, today is our last full day in Lake Louise. We had a large snowfall last night – about 20 cm / 8″. This is nothing compared to the snowstorm that has brought several north-eastern US states and Canadian provinces to a halt, but it was enough to make last night’s drive from Banff hairy in the extreme, and to potentially stop my activity this morning, a hike through Johnston Canyon.
I had read about the canyon, but had never been tempted to sign up because I incorrectly thought that the suspended walks were like rope bridges, which I cannot walk on because of vertigo. Luckily, in conversation with someone earlier this week, I found out that the catwalks are solid, not very high and don’t wobble. So putting aside my prejudice against forests, at 8.15 am a group of us set off from the hotel, still at that point unsure whether the necessary side road would be passable or not. Thankfully, it was. The hike was only about 4 miles in total and although it did go up and down, it wasn’t taxing, and it was glorious. We were the first people into the canyon and it was a delight to have the various tracks explained – pine marten (sable), red squirrel and mice – and to smell the freshness and listen to the silence. The sight of waterfalls flowing behind the frozen ice was one I will never forget, and although I took photos they don’t do the walk justice.
The whole experience was breath-taking (literally, on a couple of occasions, given that we were over a mile high in altitude), walking on crisp snow through soaring evergreens, and listening to the creek below. I was, of course, in my normal state of fear about falling over, but I stayed upright. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to ignore my hip surgeon’s last sentence of ‘Don’t fall over’ but honestly I also don’t think I’m going to deliberately fall over anyway! Our guide was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and funny – for me, the perfect guide. He also had hot herbal tea and home-made granola bars, so at the moment he is in the running for my favourite person of 2014.
I always enjoyed snow as a child. I didn’t like the ice slides that were made in our school playgrounds – that fear of falling maybe started before the hip operations? We built snow forts and defended them against all comers. At the Grammar School we had epic snowball fights on the hockey pitch. Snow for many people in our school meant leaving early so that the school buses would still be able to take them home. Most of my happiest memories with snow though are when you boys were little. In the winter of 1986, sledging down Primrose Hill with Andrew was wonderful until Dad and I went over a stone and broke his wooden sledge. Andrew wasn’t happy (the replacement sledge is in the garage). Snowmen were always built in the back garden of 197, and even as we speak the parsnip nose of Eric the Snowman from about 2002 is still in our freezer, still with some snow attached. I know it should be thrown out but somehow I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel that when it does go to become compost, it should be Tom or George (Eric’s builders) who throw it away. George and Tom still build with snow in the back garden though not always snowmen.
Cold weather of course makes me think of warming foods – we’ve covered hot chocolate, the ultimate hand warmer; also porridge, the best tummy warmer in winter; and then of course we’re back to soup. Jen told me that Matt doesn’t believe that soup is a meal. Matt, mate, you’re a numpty. Soup can be one of the quickest, most nourishing and most warming meals there is. Today’s recipe is a Greek or Greek Cypriot soup which I used to make quite a lot and which I enjoy with warm bread, olives and cheese. It is Revythia, Greek chick pea soup. I have read many recipes for Revythia and some include rosemary as well as the bay leaf. I suspect that everyone makes it the way their mother did, and then alters to their own taste! Revythia used to be baked in the baker’s oven overnight and probably wasn’t described as a soup as it is often eaten during Orthodox Lent when many Greeks become vegetarian.
Revythia – Ingredients
- 3 cans chickpeas or 250 g / 8 oz dried chick peas soaked overnight, then cooked in boiling water with baking soda for about 30 mins.
- 1.1 l / 40 fl oz / 5 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 150 ml olive oil
- 2-3 onions chopped
- Bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh lemon, cut
Bring water or stock and chickpeas to the boil in a pan. Remove any scum. Add the oil, onions, salt and pepper to the mixture, and cover with lid. Bring back to the boil. Turn down and simmer until the chick peas become mushy.
Serve in warm bowls sprinkled with fresh lemon juice.