A taste of the real Greece

Sivota Bay

I think it’s fair to say what made a Greek holiday of the 70’s and 80’s special wasn’t the quality of the offering, but the charm of the people and the warm welcome they provided.  In these times of all-inclusive 5-star, 5-restaurant, 5-everything hotels my hopes of recapturing those rose-tinted memories seemed remote.  

Let me take you to Lefkada, an Island where you really do get a bit of that old fashioned Greek hospitality …….

We landed on Sunday lunchtime at a rundown little airport on mainland Greece called Preveza. Our taxi driver was waiting and it was soon clear he had entered the local Grand Prix. The white-knuckle ride to the South of the Island took about 45 minutes, although it would be a good hour if taken at sensible speeds.

When you see Sivota for the first time a warm feeling sweeps over you. This pretty little village with sailing boats bobbing in the bay is a picture postcard. First appearances do not disappoint and as a base you could not ask for more. The variety of restaurants and bars is very good and they all appear to be locally owned and managed which is refreshing.

You immediately appreciate that Sivota’s micro-economy is built around the daily visits of small yachts hired by predominately older couples Island hopping. They are a gentle breed and made the place feel safe and laid back. It was fascinating observing this yachting community and I gleaned several of the rules of the sea according to these once a year adventurers;

 

  1. Men (the senior crew member) must wear a red jacket as worn by Robert Knox Johnston at all times.

 

  1. Female crew must never touch the wheel of a ship under any circumstance.

 

  1. All menial duties must be carried out by Mrs Pugwash while the captain in his red jacket holds tightly to the wheel helpfully pointing to the next task.

 

  1. Ladies must be on hand to prop-up their husband on the nightly stagger from the bar to the harbour edge.

 

I digress, back to the village where one establishment, The Sivota Bakery, deserves a special mention. From artisan breads, pastries and cakes through to well make cocktails they seem to do it all. In a way the owners are perhaps a little cheeky competing with virtually every other business in the row, but their secret is simple…. quality.

It wasn’t possible to try every restaurant in just a week, but without exception we found variety and good value. When a litre of delicious local wine served from the barrel is just 8 Euros it is clear although the audience is somewhat captured, no one is being ripped-off.

Part of the thrill of Greece is meeting and chatting with the families who run their own tavernas and bars. They make you feel like one of the family, how often do you get that sensation in Nando’s? And unlike the former they seem to know if “you’ve been to Nando’s before”.

Although you could very easily spend a week chilling in Sivota it seems a shame not to have a mosey round Lefkas. So with a sense of trepidation we hired a car for a few days.

The scenery of the Island is breath-taking with mountains, vast bays and tiny coves combining in a kaleidoscope of greens and whites and blues. The mountain roads are not for the faint hearted with many a cliff edge to test the steering and your nerves, but the rewards more than compensate.

The towns of Vasiliki and Nidri provided us with an easily accessible change of scene. Vasiliki is Sivota’s larger next door neighbour and boasts an array of harbour front of restaurants and a range of quirky craft shops. It does lack a little charm, but then comparing anywhere with Sivota is harsh.

Nidri to the west of the Island is a full on town with a promenade of eateries, cocktail bars and more boutiquey style shops many with high quality fake designer goods. Of course it’s wrong, but the thrill of picking up a bargain cannot be underestimated.

It was on one of our little motoring jaunts that we had the experience which probably defined this holiday and Lefkas as a place. After getting hopelessly lost we turned a corner to be flagged down by a young woman in a wide-brimmed sunhat standing in the middle of the road. I pulled over and she produced a tray of doughnuts offering one to each of us. She explained that the taverna to our right belonged to her family and that the menu was made up from their own farm produce of meats and vegetables. Then with a cheery wave see saw us on our way.

It took us about a minute to unanimously decide to turn around and give her restaurant try. The experience was truly wonderful. From the reluctant, but quite charming waiter to the grandmother at the barbeque preparing the flavoursome kebabs, this was the authentic real Greece I remembered.

These were lovely people oozing a generosity and courtesy that seems lost today. I doubt I could ever find the place again if I’ve tried, but perhaps that’s the point. I will return to Lefkada safe in the knowledge that around the next corner something truly amazing will be waiting for me.

 

(Victor travelled to the Greek Island of Lefkada (Lefkas) with his partner Lisa and daughter Chelsey 05JUN16).

About the author

Co-owner Victor is the driving force behind the formulation and development of Golden Ticket Travel. His 30 years of self-employment have seen many personal highs and lows, but his appetite to make things better has never diminished. Now in his 50's his attitude to working life in general has softened as he watches his two daughters set off into their chosen careers and the world get a little crazier by the day.

Errors and omissions excepted.

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