I commend Greece. I’ve travelled a lot and I think of all the places that rely heavily on tourism, the Greek islands does it the best. Often places that depend predominantly on tourism for money can tend to be pushy, full of touts and scammers trying to make a buck. Restaurants on the well trodden tourist trail often serve up pitiful excuses for food barely fit for your dog because they know that you won’t be back so they don’t care. Greece is not like that at all and it’s damn refreshing! Greece is charming and delightful, the people are friendly and open but not pushy and in-your-face, the food is delicious and homely and the scenery around the Cyclades Islands is postcard perfect. On the islands, life is laid back and lovely. There is no hint of the financial turmoil that Greece is experiencing.
We came to Greece for about 2 weeks. Most of this was spent on a lovely single hulled sailing yacht cruising around the Cyclades Islands. We visited Santorini, Ios, Schinoussa, Naxos, Despotica, Antiparos, Kophenesia, Katapola (Amorgos), Siknos and Folegandros either to dock for the night or just to anchor offshore. Being on a yacht was a lovely way to see the small picturesque fishing harbours of the islands as well as take in their barren, rugged and windswept landscapes.
It was a pleasure to be able to explore and wander around the small towns on the islands where we docked for the night. They were really so sweet with their narrow alleyways and whitewashed houses with blue shutters. There were delicious taverns and restaurants for dinner, tiny shops with treasures to discover and bakeries selling yummy Greek feta and spinach filled phyllo pastries.
Greek cuisine is food I can see a family eating at home. It’s not fancy, pretentious or overly played with but tasty, filling and healthy. It’s hospitable, welcoming food served in good sized portions and cooked with love.The food highlights on this trip include
- creamy, garlicky, refreshing tzatziki;
- smooth fava bean dip;
- phyllo pastry wrapped baked feta with honeyed figs – sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy!
- spicy eggplant dip – this was utterly DIVINE!
- greek salad – juicy Greek tomatoes, cucumber, olives and that big slab of feta on the top! (how do they grow these amazingly tasty tomatoes!?)
- Saganaki, deep fried slab of cheese – salty, chewy, lemony. A fat and salt injection to the brain to light it up like Vegas!
- green beans in a light tomato sauce – these were so tasty and juicy. I MUST find the recipe!
- deep fried anchovies – tasty oily fish in a crunchy mouthful.
- tender, falling apart rabbit in a tomato sauce with long pasta (*swoon*)
- skilfully grilled red snapper served with a lemon and olive oil sauce
- prawn saganaki – prawns in their shell cooked in tomato sauce with some feta melted on the top – so tasty because the prawney flavour has leached into the tomato sauce.
- gyros – garlicky tzatziki, tasty meat, juicy tomato and french fries wrapped in soft chewy pita – cheap but oh so satisfying!
Unfortunately, there aren’t many food photos because over and over my brain would light up when the glorious dishes were brought to table and I would be eating and enjoying the food. Only when I sit back full and with a contented sigh do I remember that perhaps I should have taken a few photos for the blog. Ahh next time…then it would happen again! I just love eating and I get so excited when the food comes that I don’t remember to photograph. My base instinct to feed myself comes to the fore!
I was under the totally misguided opinion that sailing between the Cyclades islands would be a calm and predictable affair. I was wrong! The Aegean sea is affected by the meltemi and can be very windy, choppy and stormy at times while at other times serenely calm with barely a whisper of wind. Fortunately we had an experienced skipper on the yacht to navigate the ever changing weather and decipher the inconsistent and unreliable weather forecasts to keep us safe and comfortable.
We organised a few nights in Santorini before leaving Greece. I had always wanted to go to Santorini and I am thrilled to say that it is as beautiful as promised. It is a geographically stunning place and there are striking vistas from so many places. Even a jaded traveller like me has now got a ridiculous number of pictures of the caldera bathed in the reddish glow of the famous Santorini sunset and the white, cubist homes clinging to the black, volcanic cliff face. It’s spectacular stuff, the azure waters, the blue skies, the bright white houses and the black, volcanic sand. Santorini deserves it’s accolades. It is an amazing destination!
As I’m singing the praises of Greece, I realise that the temperature has a lot to do with my good feeling. It’s the end of September and the weather is perfect during the day for sightseeing. It’s t-shirt and shorts weather without being too hot and it cools down at night so sleeping in an enclosed cabin on the yacht was not too hot. September is also the tail end of the tourist season for Greece so the numbers of tourists are decreasing. There are still plenty around, especially in Santorini but I suspect that my Greek experience would not have been so pleasant in the scorching heat of July at the peak of the Greek tourist season.
For me, destinations fall into two categories. There are places you go to tick off on your bucket list. Once you’re done, you have no desire to return. Greece is in the other category. It’s a place I would happily return to for another visit. This is our second visit and it was lovely. See you again sometime Greece!
*I wrote the words on this blog before braving the Santorini airport to leave Greece! It was really bad. Very long queues and disorganised. I really hope they fix this aspect because it was such a disappointment after a lovely trip.*