It is difficult to think of anything new to say about this mythical island although it didn’t rise from the sea last year so we did see some changes. The airport at the big island we fly to is being “improved” and we had heard worse than ever horror stories from other visitors: 75 minute wait for baggage, 1 hr wait for “special assistance” etc but we got through quickly both coming and going.
After the usual beer and meal in the port we caught the usual ferry, the Owner was waiting to meet us and give us a lift to the apartment. The whole place had been given a refurb by the owner’s son who was going to take over the management and put it on airbnb. He is an accountant so should make a success of it, he has certainly spent a lot of money on much-needed updating.
The first thing we noticed was the greenery. It had been a wet winter and the wild mountain thyme on the hillsides (must be a song in that!) was in full flower and full of bees and butterflies. Most of the goats had been moved further away as locals had complained about them getting into gardens, although one family still visited just outside our balcony. There were also flocks of very tame wagtails on the road and beach. Our friends found a viper on their doorstep one day but didn’t tell the locals who would have killed it on sight. Some locals and guests complained the weather had caused cockroaches , cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers and other insects to invade their premises but our Owner’s fresh paint or anti-bug spray kept out accommodation free. The other rental apartment was empty while they photographed it for their airbnb site so we had the place to ourselves (on airbnb as Aegean Aura I and II) . House martins were also present in several locations.
We were disappointed to see the path to one of our favourite walks had been bulldozed over by people dumping stuff at the local tip. Locals have gradually got the anti-litter message but we picked up any plastics washed up on our section of beach and, worryingly, a fishing lure complete with barbed hooks out of the sand. We visited a viewpoint above the main valley one day and the Hunting Club shelter was surrounded by rubbish. We filled the bin, put the rest near it and put rocks on to stop in blowing away. If we’d got binbags with us we would have taken it away. The bus service hasn’t improved in terms of frequency but there are two new buses donated by an Australian exile which took a year for the local bureaucrats to licence for use.
We were especially pleased to see our arrival coincided with that of a Dutch yachtsman with his bag of harmonicas. He greeted me :”It’s the Hootchie Cootchie Man” and we did some songs with our genial host that evening. An elderly Greek man did his party piece : Molly Malone in English! During the week other yacht crews contributed to the music and regular visitors were requested (yes, even me!) to sing their party pieces. The number of yachts in the bay varied from 4 to 21 over the two weeks.
One day the beach was busy with a group of ladies of a certain age from Melbourne, possibly the Provisional Wing of the Melbourne W.I. The Magician (who also performed in the tavern as is his wont) risked his life swimming near them in his speedos. I feared a Menaiad scenario!
Other large groups included a brief invasion of Norwegians and others , all youngsters who had an icecream and swim, played a boisterous ball game on the beach and left within an hour, and two Turkish gullets who disgorged 30 or so cyclists (in that heat on those hills!) to me picked up again at the next anchorage. We met some of them having a lunch break in another village. One very swish motor yacht : Mia Zoi, “sleeps 9, 5 crew” came in and a tv crew landed to take shots in the taverna. They were from Australian Channel 7, part of a “round Greece” series with an apparently well-known presenter. Later in the week a local tv crew came (on motorbikes this time!).
As we coincided with our friends the Magician and the Writer we shared car hire for a few days and visited some familiar sites and ate at some new restaurants as well as visiting old favourites. One of the places we go to is the Monastery which overlooks the main town and harbour. I was amused to see the sign “No Dancing”. The patron saint was a stern old geezer so I understand that, but wedding groups must be unhappy and what if pilgrims were moved by the spirit? We were able to catch up with other residents and visitors we’ve met before including a Danish hotelier whose boutique hotel in the port gets rave reviews.
Despite church disapproval the midsummer tradition of fire jumping still takes place, sanitised as celebrating the birth of John the Baptist. Even small children get the chance to jump or be carried over, a small fire.
We first came here in 1995 and the two sons of the taverna family, one was a baby, the other a schoolboy. They are now both chefs. The younger opened his own seafood bistro last year in the village after experience on bigger islands in swish hotels. It was interesting hearing their respective plans for their future careers.
Food always figures large in my holidays (but I only put on 8 pounds!). I had a fish stew with lemon and orange I hadn’t had before and an octopus, chickpeas combo that was new to me. There was a series of birthdays (including Herself) and anniversaries while we were there so cakes were often produced. Other freebies included the usual fruit (cherries and strawberries were much in evidence ) and a free carafe of wine was produced a couple of times. We were told by one local cook that only she knew the source of the “rare” local herb, thrimby. However it appeared in other eateries and one, new this month was even named after it! However, their amuse-bouche of tsipourou and lemon with thrimby seeds was astep too far! One day we felt really Greek: we had a pre-dinner drink in one restaurant, went to another for dinner, finishing up at a third for dessert and drinks. I was asked what I wanted for our final evening meal and octopus stifado was put on especially (though not exclusively) for me... and followed by my weakness: loukoumathes. Menu howlers still amuse: lolly salad (lollo rosso) and ladopites (oil & pitta) were two I noted. While we waited for the return ferry the Owner turned up as arranged to collect his keys. He then went to the bakery and returned with bottle of water and a tray of pastries for us to eat on the ferry!
We returned laden with gifts including incense, a rug and a bottle of Metaxa which fortunately didn’t affect our weight allowance. Of the return flight with kiddies running up and down the aisle ,of synchronised screaming ,tantrums, floor deep in sweets and crisps, I’ll draw a veil. It is the price you pay for booking on a flight comprising mainly families on an all-inclusive big resort “children go free” package.
Next, AntiParos in September. We went to Paros in 1982 but never visited the small neighbour.