In order to speak about my love affair with Greece, I’d first like to talk about how it very first started.
It was 2008, and I was 26 and had two weeks annual leave booked from work with no plans. I’d wanted to go somewhere to relax, have fun and ideally swim. Looking online I’d come across Olympic Holidays and a short while later I had found a deal for £150, each for two weeks in Skiathos. At that price who could possibly refuse?
I didn’t know anything about it or if I am honest Greece or what to expect but before we knew it we’d packed our bags and were on route to Gatwick.
I remember taking that first step off the plane and straight into a wall of heat and sunshine, we’d arrived in July and it was baking in spite of it being early evening.
Skiathos airport, I now know is a plane spotters heaven due to it having one of the shortest runways in Europe. As you are landing, you think you are going straight into the sea and at what seems like the very last moment possible the wheels of the aeroplane hit the tarmac of the tiny runway.
Our transfer from the airport to our digs in Skiathos Town was, and still is the shortest transfer time we’ve ever had, approximately 5 minutes later we were dropped outside our home for the next two weeks.
I’m still someone who doesn’t mind basic as long as it’s clean and our tiny apartment was most certainly that. Our postage sized room was without a/c and had a standard issue “hard as nails bed”.
The apartments at that time were run by an exceptionally hardworking woman called Angela who was wildly animated and shouted loudly at people in a kind of angry Nana but still loved you way. From morning to night she’d be tearing around the apartments, cleaning, checking in and checking out guests and chasing birds away with her mop.
The bathroom of our apartment consisted of a hose with metal casing around it and a loo with a tiny box window and no hot water. But hey I was young, carefree and just wanted to tan.
We headed out into the now dimming sunlight and decided to walk up onto the hill that backed Skiathos Town, to get a good view of the place we were staying in. Once we reached the top we found stone stairs heading down to a deserted beach, lit only by only the moon and stars. I practically cartwheeled down those stairs running to the water’s edge to dip my toes in my first baptism of the Aegean Sea.
The next moment is one that will no doubt stay with me until I leave this world, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I at that moment decided to go swimming.
Tearing off your clothes and running without a care in the world, naked as the day you were born and diving straight into the sea is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I remember gazing up at the night sky free from light pollution and thinking, I’ve found my happy place.
Heading back we ended up waking through a Greek Orthodox cemetery, which was lit up by candles throughout and had stunning views of the moonlit sea, it was the most incredible final resting place for people.
The Greek’s working the islands are the most hardworking, lovely people I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with over the years. The islands you visit are vastly different but the central factor which is the warm, friendly openness never changes.
Skiathos is in the Northwest of the Aegean Sea and is part of the Sporades group of islands and during the next two weeks we also spent time on Skopelos, Alonnisos and Tsougria. Each island is very different but equally stunning. The waters are sparkling and turquoise and the white washed houses really instil the picture perfect image of Greece.
Little did we know that during our time there, Mamma Mia had just been released and had actually been filmed on Skopelos (the film with Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep.) We had seen adverts for an open air cinema along the main street of Skiathos and decided to go. Now the Greeks are enterprising people and the guy who owned the open air cinema was no different.
He had converted what was his back garden into the seating arena with green garden chairs lined up, projection screen propped up against what was probably a livestock stables and had filled cool boxes with Mythos and Alfa for sale. Again sitting there in the balmy Greek evening sunshine, howling along (I can’t sing) and drinking an Ice Cold Mythos, I thought does life ever get better than this?
Our basic apartment was going along well and as it was tiny and basic AF, it meant we literally slept a few hours and attempted to hose ourselves down once a day being careful not to spray the dangling electric wires.
We had a kettle which we soon found out would not turn off by itself, so we procured a stick from the garden where we would hit the top of the kettle to turn it off without fear of direct electrocution.
Those two weeks I spent in Greek have some of the happiest and most treasured memories of my life. You may think how on earth can she recall these details but for some reason when it comes to my travels I remember every single thing. Most days I leave the house forgetting my keys or wallet (not my trousers yet, thankfully) but I can talk through nearly every day in detail I have spent travelling.
Since I first stepped foot on a Greek Island over 10 years ago I have now visited the following places; Skopelos, Alonnisos, Tsougria, Corfu, Paxos, Anti-Paxos, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Ithaki, Rhodes, Spinalonga, Parga, Cephalonia, Syros, Symi, Skorpios and Strofades.
Within the next few years I want to visit; Hydra, Santorini, Mykonos, Sifnos and Ios.
Every single thing about a Greek holiday I am in love with and I am just going to give some highlights below.
Breakfast: In the morning go to the local bakery and get some freshly made Spanakopita and a Greek coffee and go and sit yourself down on the beach and enjoy. You can thank me later for this one.
– Touching on Bakeries, this is not only the most economical but also even in the touristy areas, a good way to eat and mingle in the early morning with the locals. Highlights which can be found in any Greek Bakery are; Koubes (Bulgar Wheat and Mince Pastries), Eliopita (Olive bread) and Bourekia (Sweet Cheese and Cinnamon Puffs)
Lunch: is best served beach side in a Taverna with a Greek Salad and large glass of white wine or a beer, which after many trips I recommend, Fix or Alfa. Alternatively take your bakery goodies onto the beach and enjoy lunch with sandy toes.
Dinner: Options are endless and I love nothing more than a lazy, long evening meal in Greece. Favourites include:
Chicken Souvlaki: When done right it’s the best, simply grilled chicken on charcoal with pitas, Tzatziki and salad.
Kleftiko: Interesting history on this literally means stolen lamb from way back when, when they used to hide the meat underground so the smell would not attract invaders to the location. Its lamb, slow cooked in greaseproof paper with vegetables and feta. Best with a chilled glass of red.
Gigantes: Giant butter beans cooked in tomatoes with olive oil and oregano.
Saganaki: Fried Cheese with tomato sauce.
Orzo Pasta: Have it with lamb and a cold glass of white wine.
These are just some highlights but you can’t go wrong. Don’t read online reviews when in Greece; follow your nose and the smaller places are often the best. A little Taverna with no online presence just knocking out home cooked food as they have done for years.
Every Greek Island has its highlights and it’s often hard sometimes to really pin down what is a good beach. Sometimes I love a packed beach for the buzz and the people watching. Other times I want nothing more than a deserted beach with no one around. But to give you a taster:
Anti-Paxos: Water this turquoise you did not think could exist in Europe. It’s just Simply Stunning. The picture below does not do it justice.
Corfu: Get yourself to Paleokastritsa for blue waters and a picturesque setting
Kefalonia: Argostoli is a stunning town with an equally lovely town beach
But whichever Island you choose you can’t go wrong, there is beauty everywhere throughout the Islands.
Over the coming months as I really start, or attempt to start to become a proper blogger, I will do a guide on each of the islands but I thought this was a good starting point.
If you want island hoping, an idyllic island retreat or a hedonistic party, Greece has it all.
In summary, learn a few Greek words, chat with the locals and drink a mythos in the sea.
Oh and please bring mosquito repellent, as if you are like me you’ll be bitten within an inch of your life if you don’t!
My love affair may have started 10 years ago but is far from over.
Thank you for reading and as always if you want any travel help or advice get in touch.
Until next time, Ya Sas.