When I’m asked what I miss most about the UK, I often say ‘Greece’. Having Greece on our doorstep when we lived in London made it so much easier to cope with the rain and the greyness. Here in the US a lot of people look at me as if I’m crazy. When Americans visit ‘Yurrup’ they seem mostly to visit the big three – the UK (and Ireland), France and Italy. Greece is hardly on their radar.
Which is a shame as it’s a beguiling, magical place of blue skies, crystal clear seas, old stones and bouncing sunlight and beneath the touristy veneer, the mopeds and the (few) nightclubs, there are glimpses of a landscape and a way of life that hasn’t changed much since Homer was a boy. Every port is full of fishing boats, you’ll be given eggs straight from the chicken for breakfast, tomatoes fresh off the vine for lunch and if you’re not quick a super cute stray cat will swipe your freshly killed and grilled octopus at dinner. No need to revive local, seasonal eating here. In Greece it never went away.
The relaxed vibe suits me to a T. Apart from a few super cool bars on a few super cool islands no one cares if you’re wearing this year’s sunglasses or carrying this year’s It bag. Being a slob, with tousled sun-dried hair and salt-encrusted skin is accepted, nay even encouraged, and days are spent drifting aimlessly from beach, to sea, to taverna, to bed, with the occasional walk or boat trip thrown in.
The Greek ferry system is gigantic and complex, with the hundreds of inhabited islands served by a myriad of small ferry operators. The Husband and I have been island-hopping several times before, not planning too far ahead and putting ourselves at the mercy of the ferry schedules and love how the spontaneity seems to enhance the romance and sense of adventure.
So we were super keen to share this way of travelling with the Minx, who knows much more about the inner workings of luxury boutique hotels than should be healthy for a girl of six, and who is becoming much more portable as she grows older. So we booked flights from the UK to Rhodes, the biggest island in the Dodecanese.
We don’t normally hit the big and more touristy Greek islands, but we loved Rhodes, even though there are bits like Faliraki that need to be avoided. It has glorious beaches, astonishing views, delectable food and, as the erstwhile headquarters of the Knights of St John, a pretty kickass medieval walled city and some excellent castles.
We stayed here three days and wished it could be more (but then I always feel that when I’m leaving a Greek island). After a mix up in hotel bookings (of which more anon) we’d ended up at a big resort-y hotel with an enormous swimming pool which the Minx was very unhappy to leave. But we had adventuring to do.