Thursday, 7 September 2017

Greece: a taste of the good life

The long days of summer are shortening and the sun has lost its satisfying sting. My kids are back at school and, after a month off, I have prised open my laptop once more. I just love the summer - walking the dog in grassy, overgrown fields, coasting down the river in the late afternoon and al fresco suppers (occasionally) in the garden. Most of all, I love escaping to the Continent for a few days and savouring life in a Mediterranean climate with olive groves, swimming pools and warm, turquoise sea.

This year, for the first time, we holidayed in Greece, near the small town of Horto on the Pelion peninsula, a hooked stretch of coastline between Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki. The region is part of the mainland, but it felt like an island with its steep, windy roads and wraparound views of the sea. We rented a villa set in two acres of olive trees and perched on a hill above the Pagasetic Gulf, a lagoon-like sea. Five days into the holiday, I would still glance out of the kitchen window and stop dead in my tracks to drink in the view.

View of Pagasetic Gulf, Pelion, Greece
The mesmerising view from our villa

Our favourite day out was an expedition across the peninsula to Potistika beach on the other side, facing out into the Aegean Sea. The waves were a lot rougher here and after nearly drowning the kids, I was forced to curb my natural instinct for leaping headlong into the surf. We broke up the day with a tasty meal at Climax, a restaurant overlooking the bay. My husband got carried away taking photos of the beach and its dramatic cliffs.


Potistika beach, Pelion, Greece
Potistika beach after the waves had calmed down...
Credit: William Lam

Another highlight was visiting the inland town of Lafkos with its old village square, shaded by plane trees (a recommendation from my friend Cathy). As my husband embarked on another photographic frenzy, the kids and I disappeared into a lovely boutique just off the south-east corner of the square (I've forgotten its name). We chatted to the teenager behind the counter (Greek mum and British dad) who told us that her mother made the range of herbal and honey-based remedies on her shelves. 


Lafkos, central square
The kids enjoying a drink in the square at Lafkos

Steps up to central square in Lafkos
Lafkos: a shady haven
Credit: William Lam

Incidentally, this was pretty much the only shop we came across, other than the odd mini-mart and a few touristy stores in Milina. Laden with presents for our grannies back home, we emerged into the dappled sunshine and wolfed down some local cuisine at the cafe next door - fried meatballs, stuffed peppers and aubergine encased in sticky layers of cheese.

Other restaurants we enjoyed were En Plo (where you can also hire a pedalo) and Elia Tis, in Milina, as well as Martha's Cafe, in Horto, all with tables nestled beside the sea and beautiful sunsets laid on in the evening. I particularly enjoyed watching the locals bobbing about in the warm sea well after the sun had gone down.


View of sea from En Plo restaurant, Milina
Eating out at En Plo in Milina
View of the sea from Horto
The sunset at Horto
Credit: William Lam

This area of Greece felt tranquil and unspoilt, reminding me of Ibiza thirty years ago before the uber-cool crowd moved in. Some of the buildings on the seafront looked a little rundown, but this was part of its raffish, easy-going charm. I hope to be back one day to sample a little more of the stuffed aubergine and a slice of the good life.



Books to read in Greece:


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (partly set in Pelion!)

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (set in Kafalonia)

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (set in Corfu)