Part 1 here
The heady dusk of Skopelos played first host to our nights out. The town has bloomed since the filming of Mamma Mia on the island and you can take a taxi to see the hill-top church. We chose instead to start the day with a dawn swim off the little pebbled beach, then wonder the pale, stepped, and meandering streets. As the sun rose above our heads we revitalised with a cold drink (cappuccino freddo became a personal favourite but only brave it if you like your coffee bitter) and headed back to the boat for lunch.
As the evening came, we headed up the winding streets in search of dinner. Anna’s is a little open air courtyard, serving traditional Greek food along with a few specials. A dish unlike any other is their Agean paella. Served on a base of potato rather than rice, the whole dish is totally unexpected. Chunks of sweet, melting chicken and mixed with salty seafood and tangy broad bean purée to make an intense, complex and satisfying dish.
Somewhat later, we found ourselves in The Hidden Door. Our group of perhaps twelve packed out the tiny bar and we sat and chatted as the bar tender flicked through the playlist on the laptop precariously balanced on a shelf behind him. The cocktails were stunning. A little pot of wooden clothing pegs was used to decorate the glasses with sprigs of fresh herb, I was blown away with my mastic tale, a herby, tangy cocktail with an after taste of rosemary.
But in the long English winter, the memory of one place will linger on. Once the daily hassle of anchoring and mooring was over, we all sat back to appreciate the beauty of Stenni Valla. It is little more than a waterfront line of tavernas in a picturesque bay. We washed off the heat of the day by swimming straight off the back of our boat. Next we headed to the mini-market, as rumors of free showers went around – a luxury after a week on the boat. The owner of the market and the little cafe next to it is one of the friendliest people I have ever met. Kostas Maverik owns the market and cafe Ikarus, the diving school behind, curates a museum in the nearby town of Patitiri, and has published his own book on the history and folk-lore of the islands. He is also a lovely human being. Though we only stayed a couple of days in the hamlet, it quickly became my favorite place in Greece.
Though there is a ridiculously disproportionate number of tavernas for the permanent population (I wonder whether I could count the people on one hand..?) we somehow managed to choose a fantastic one for our first nights stay. Tassia’s serves a wide range of mouthwatering home-cooked delicacies and good wine. Though I had stuffed myself silly on a dish of sausages and peppers in tomato sauce and a drop too much white wine, I couldn’t resist an extra treat when our bill came with complementary mini ice creams!
The night became cloudy and overcast as we headed over to Ikarus cafe and ordered cocktails. The menu isn’t extensive but the mojitos are good. And as we sat under the awnings, playing cards and sipping cocktails, a storm blew up around us. Finally, slightly tipsy, we headed back to our boat to snuggle down with the sound of the wind and the rain outside.
Though our long and languid days seemed to stretch on for ever, all too soon we found ourselves back in Orei. And from there, an all too early coach trip and ferry ride to the airport and the flight home. I had expected a holiday of relaxing and getting away from it all. I never expected the spirit and people of Greece to stick in my heart as much as they have. Sailing is by far the best way to see these beautiful islands and meet their warm welcoming people.