#161 – Drunk In….. Greece (Skiathos Edition)

After our mid-pandemic trips to Santorini, Milos and Sifnos in 2020, David and I were hooked on Greece.  And in particular, Greek islands.  I’d always been mildly embarrassed that I had never explored the dazzling isles of my parents’ motherland, but COVID gave us an opportunity to rectify that problem, and in 2021 we added Skiathos, Zakynthos and Naxos to our list of Hellenic conquests.  Today I’ll be talking about our trip to the beautiful island of Skiathos, which I’m not afraid to say is my favourite Greek island (so far). 

David and I arrived on the island after overnighting in Athens, which is something that I just love to do as it’s one of the most vibrant, gritty, crazy and wonderful cities I’ve ever been to (standby for a suitably colourful Drunk In… Athens).  Still slightly hungover when we landed in Skiathos (see Athens, above) we picked up our rental car, a cute little Suzuki Jimny, and made our way to our villa.  I was a little nervous about what we’d find when we got there as I’d broken one of my own cardinal rules of Airbnb, which is to never rent a place that hasn’t already had its cherry popped by other guests.  I usually need to read at least one review.  Also, according to the listing there was no BBQ, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me but it’s pretty fucking close.  I absolutely loved the property though, and during my search for the perfect place I just kept coming back to it.  Torn, I knuckled down and did some serious forensic holiday research, finally coming to the conclusion that being the first guests would be worth the risk.  After all, when I’d emailed the host, Laura, and asked her if the house did have a BBQ that perhaps they had forgotten to list, she told me that they didn’t have one, but she would happily buy one for us.  Now that’s Greek hospitality, people! 

Waiting for us at the villa was our host’s effervescent mother, Katerina, who showed us around the property.  And wow, what a beautiful property it was.  A two bedroom villa set amongst a lush, almost tropical, garden and surrounded by ancient olive groves and countless cicadas, chirping in the hot midday sun.  After the tour, Katerina sat us down and gave us the inside tea on all the cool, hidden places to visit on the island.  Tavernas, beaches and bars that most tourists wouldn’t have a clue about. 

Our beautiful Airbnb. ♥

After Katerina left, we headed out for a walk looking for a yummy lunch, and almost immediately stumbled upon a taverna just around the corner from our place called The Koutsavaki.  We weren’t sure whether it was open or not as it was very quiet.  Don’t forget, this was still in the depths of COVID, and unfortunately during our time on all the Greek islands, too many restaurants, bars and cafes were either closed or empty.  We felt bad whenever we were the only customers at a taverna, but we also felt good that we were supporting them during that difficult time.  We had a wonderful lunch at Koutsavaki, ordering all our favourite Greek dishes, including sardines, skorthalia and greens washed down with delicious white wine served in a half kilo jug.  What a fantastic way to start our island adventure. 

The beautiful midday sunlight at Koutsavaki Taverna.

The food was delicious, and the service was hospitable, but what made that first lunch on Skiathos truly special for me was the song that played half way through our meal.  I jerked up in my seat, wide-eyed and with a broad smile growing on my face as the lyrics rushed back to me.  I was instantly transported back to my childhood, bouncing on my father’s knee as he sang the song.  I used to squeal with delight when my Dad clucked his tongue to recreate the clip-clop sound of the horses trotting in the song (and which you can hear in the clip below).  I hadn’t heard that song in over forty years, and it was exhilarating to unearth it from the memory graveyard of my mind.  Hearing it brought up so many early memories of my beloved family and I got quite emotional, shedding a few tears over my food. 

The jauntiness of the song belies the dark lyrics which speak of two horses drawing a beautiful carriage. One horse is white, like the singer’s pure and innocent childhood dreams. The other horse is pitch-black, just like his bitter and wretched life.

Later that day we walked into town to get a drink before dinner, heading to a place called Borzoi Club.  I used to work with an Emirati guy called Salah who’s been to almost all the Greek islands coz he’s lucky enough to have a Greek girlfriend.  Salah’s a very cool dude, a Teflon-coated hotshot who can smooth talk his way into, and out, of any situation.  He’s also a massive party boy.  He was the one who recommended that we holiday in Skiathos in the first place, and for that I will be eternally grateful.  But he and I definitely have different criteria for what makes a good holiday.  He’s into partying, beach clubs and trendy venues.  David and I are into tavernas, homemade food and isolated beaches.  Cocktails at Borzoi Club, which Salah had recommended, just confirmed the contrast between us.  While the place was super fashionable and the cocktails were tasty, the service was disinterested and everyone in there was trying super hard to be cool.  It just wasn’t our kind of place. 

The next day, after a boozy lunch we walked along the small harbour, admiring the bazillion dollar yachts before climbing up the steps to Bourtzi, a small peninsula which was once an ancient fort.  Built in 1206 by the Venetians, who conquered Skiathos and ruled it for over three centuries, the fort has a turbulent history.  After the Venetians chewed the island up and spat it out, the Turks decided to take over, mercilessly bringing the Skiathians to their knees for another three hundred years.  In 1829, the beleaguered people of the island decided enough was enough and took up arms, fighting the Turks off from the secure stronghold of Bourtzi fort.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of hardship for Skiathos, which had the shit bombed out of it when the Germans invaded during World War 2.  After the war finished, Skiathos was finally left alone and permitted to flourish.  Not much remains of Bourtzi fort, save for a few walls and ruins.  David and I drunkenly frolicked up the hill, stopping to take several photos of the incredibly beautiful sea and to watch a couple of winsome, brown limbed boys on the rocks below, egging them to jump into the crystal clear waters.  They cheerfully obliged and we rewarded ourselves at the top of our climb with glasses of ouzo, refreshing frappés and the extraordinary view. 

Instruments of war in such a beautiful setting are difficult to compute, but the island has been through a lot and it’s good to have the historical artifacts to show for it, even if they are jarring to see.

So, what exactly is a frappé?  I’ll be so bold as to say, more than any other, it is the national drink of Greece.  When shaken with ice, the relatively unassuming ingredients of water and a couple of heaped teaspoons of Nescafé instant coffee produce a delicious iced coffee drink with a thick, glossy crema that will have you licking your fingers; and which is far, far greater than the sum of its parts.  The eagle-eyed among you will remember that I don’t normally drink coffee for coffee’s sake anymore (coffee naps are an exception), but when I’m in Greece I drink the hell out of frappés.  They are delicious, satisfying, extremely moreish and just one frappé will perk you up for hours. 

Look at that crema. LOOK AT IT!!!

The next morning after yoga and a leisurely swim in the glorious pool we decided to try out one of Katerina’s suggestions and drove to Kastro Beach Taverna on the northernmost point of the island.  From the parking lot, the beach is accessible only by foot down a somewhat treacherous rocky mountain path.  But the effort is totally worth it.  On the way down we had to make multiple stops just to soak in the breathtaking beauty of the sea below.  When we made it to the shore we discovered that the taverna wasn’t open yet, so we pitched camp on the hot sand and went for a dip while we waited.  Even before midday, the sun fiercely beat down on us, and we lamented that we were the only ones on the beach without an umbrella.  Mental note to self: get a beach umbrella.  Stat! 

Kastro beach. Wow! Just wow!

Keeping an eye on the taverna, we made a beeline for it as soon as it started showing signs of life, and claimed a table in the middle of the rustic porch.  Two cute boys with big smiles and bleached hair expertly weaved between the chairs and tables to take drink orders and serve the food.  Hot from the sun, we rehydrated with a couple of beers before ordering our usual ouzo and white wine.  And then, of course, we moved onto the delicious traditional fare.  We spent a couple of hours there, under the large driftwood shade, just chilling, reading, talking and enjoying the great vibe.  For real, Michelin can just suck it.  This is the good stuff, right here. 

Piss off Michelin, this is where it’s at. Kastro Beach Taverna.

So, David and I are weirdos (in case you didn’t know), and we like to celebrate not only our annual wedding anniversary on the 23rd September, but also the occasional monthly wedding anniversary.  Coz why not?  So, if we happen to be on holiday on the 23rd of any month, we’ll usually do something special to mark the occasion.  And since we were in Skiathos on the 23rd June we celebrated our 177th month wedding anniversary at a restaurant located in one the oldest buildings on the island, a windmill originally erected in 1880.  The view from the top balcony, which I’d booked for romance and privacy, was magnificent.  The setting was super intimate, the service was impeccable and the food was delicious.  But I needn’t have spent the extra cash on the honeymoon table as, once again, we were the only patrons there.  Sad face.   


The next morning we set out in our little Jimny intending to take her on an off-road adventure to a beautiful, isolated beach called Mantraki.  Unfortunately, shortly after turning off the main road, a big-ass van got bogged on the dirt track in front of us and we couldn’t get around them.  We waited half an hour to see if they could get out (they couldn’t), and then changed our plans and headed to another of Katerina’s beach recommendations called Kriffi Amos, which translates from Greek as Hidden Sands. 

The beach was beautiful and secluded, hidden away from the mountainous road by trees and brush and accessed by walking down a very steep, uneven dirt track.  We fell in love with the super chilled vibe of the beach taverna, not much more than a shack really, constructed of driftwood and dried palm leaves, and decorated with old fish nets and buoys.  The rambunctious owner of the taverna, Maria, took a particular liking to David (of course), doling out compliments, winks and raunchy jokes followed by rasping howls of laughter in between puffs of her cigarette.  After we’d ordered lunch, she suddenly reappeared at our table wielding a large tablespoon of tzatziki, giving us each a generous taste.  She explained that her chef was making up a new batch and he wanted our opinion on how it tasted.  Feeling a little sassy, we told her that it was perfect… for public consumption, but that we personally liked it with a little bit more garlic.  She took that information back to the kitchen and when our lunch came out, the tzatziki was garlicky as fuck!!!  Hell yeah!  We spent the whole day at Krifi Ammos beach, heading up to the taverna every now and again for a refreshing ouzaki, frappé or ice water.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the goddamn life. 

The stunning beach from our happy place at Maria’s Taverna.

The next day we drove to a beautiful taverna at the top of the hill at Mega Gialos for lunch.  We were warmly welcomed by the lovely host and seated outside on the deck that wrapped around the restaurant, overlooking the stunning blue water and the neighbouring island of Skopelos, which you might remember from the movie Mamma Mia!  We had delicious food and delicious wine and we chatted with the friendly host, telling her we were planning to hike down to Mega Gialos beach after lunch.  She shook her head and said we should go to nearby Nikotsara instead.  Fine by us!  Anytime a local recommends something, we listen.  And we were handsomely rewarded for followed her advice because when we got to Nikotsara we discovered a stunning little secret cove that we never would have found by ourselves.  The only other people there were a couple of wrinkly, leathered German naturists on the other side of the beach, and they took off after a few minutes so we had the whole place to ourselves.  We set up our umbrella, took off our kit and splish splashed the afternoon away.  Happiness. 

Private beach! FTW!

A couple of days later, we went back to Mega Gialos, determined to check out the famous beach despite the waitress’ word to the wise.  From the taverna at the top of the mountain, it’s a difficult 20 minute trek down through thick brush, prickly shrubs and cobwebs, and you definitely need proper walking shoes to do it.  When we got to the gorgeous beach we were thrilled to find that once again we were the only ones there.  Unfortunately, we soon realised that the reason for that (apart from the horrendously difficult hike) was that the water, which was the most beautiful, most crystal clear water I have ever seen in my life, was full of bastard baby jellyfishes. 

Up the road to the right is the taverna, down the road to the left is the overgrown track to the beach. Across the sea is Skopelos.

We deliberated on it for a long time, and finally decided to risk a swim.  We carefully waded in, the sun glistening like diamonds on the salty water which felt like velvet on my skin.  I gazed up at the intense blue sky, and smiled at David.  I got comfortable.  I got complacent.  And I got stung.  I’ve never been stung by a jellyfish before and I did not handle it well.  Screaming like a banshee, and comically wind-milling my arms around, so as to thrash the water (and other jellyfishes) away from my body, I hightailed it onto the pebbly beach thinking I was going to die (don’t forget, I am Australian).  I melodramatically implored David to piss on my arm, and he fell over laughing (no, I had not been aware that was just an urban myth).  It stung like hell, but in the end it wasn’t actually that bad.  Certainly not as bad as I’d expected.  Sulking on the beach under our excellent umbrella, which was doing a phenomenal job of reflecting the powerfully strong sun, I felt pretty resentful looking at that beautiful water, knowing that it was infested with electric devil spawn.  There was no way I was going back in so we didn’t stick around much longer, and the hot and sweaty climb back up the mountain felt all the more gruelling for having been for naught.  When we got to the top we stopped off at the taverna to quench our hard-earned thirst with an ice-cold beer, which is when David told me that he had also been stung by the jellyfishes, multiple times.  And he’d never said a goddamn word.  My husband, the tough guy.

Stunning beach, but sadly unswimmable. Great umbrella though!

On our way home from the beach we decided, against our better judgement, to spend the rest of the afternoon at Koukounaries, apparently one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and one that my colleague Salah had raved about.  In Greece, beaches are classified as either organised or unorganised.  Organised beaches are maintained and have sun-loungers and umbrellas for rent, public toilets and usually a taverna or beach bar to buy food and drinks.  We prefer unorganised beaches, which are exactly what it says on the label.  There usually aren’t any facilities at all, though you can still find tavernas at some unorganised beaches

Knowing that Koukounaries was definitely not our style of beach, we turned into the carpark anyway and crawled around for 15 minutes looking for a spot amidst the hundreds of vehicles.  Not a good start.  We grabbed our stuff and shuffled unenthusiastically towards the busy beach.  As we approached the sand, the distant sound of muffled doof-doof music became louder and doofier, the number of tourists in a variety of shades of sunburn varying from light pink to deep lobster became greater, and the revving of jet-skis became even more obnoxious.  We saw signs for €30 (front row) lounge chairs, waitresses serving blue cocktails, kids running around screaming and what seemed like thousands of people crammed into a narrow strip of sand.  No thank you.  We turned around and legged it back to the car, deciding that an afternoon in our gorgeous pool was a much better proposition. 

Koukounaries. No. Just no.

We went out a lot for lunches and beach adventures while we were in Skiathos, but our villa was so beautiful, and the pool so inviting that we stayed in most evenings.  It was so lovely to just jump in the pool whenever we needed to cool off in the intense Greek summer heat.  Also, we did get a fantastic BBQ provided especially for us; it would have been a travesty not to use it.  Every day we’d go to the local supermarket and pick up whatever meat looked great, usually lamb but sometimes pork.  We’d also get some olives, dips, tomatoes, lemons, local cheese and fixin’s for David’s special tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber and lots of garlic).  And wine, obvs.  David is a master chef on the BBQ so we ate like Greek gods.  Afterwards we would read or play backgammon and listen to music.  And we would always, always, finish the night with a midnight swim.  Always, always accompanied by shots of mastiha, a delicious sweet liqueur made from the resin of mastic trees.  This has become a tradition for us now, and we will always, always drink mastiha while skinny dipping in our pool late at night whenever we are in Greece.  You should try it sometime. 

We loved the villa so much, we bought it!  Actually we couldn’t afford it, but it’s nice to dream.

One night we did have dinner in town and afterwards walked along the harbour to a bar right on the water called Gin Fish, which was totally vibing and absolutely packed with tourists and locals alike.  I suspect that Salah would have loved it, but unfortunately, the service was spotty and the drinks were overpriced. Disappointed, David and I started walking home through the town when we discovered the much quieter Andersson’s Bar which was superior in every single way.  Tucked away in a quiet courtyard, it had amazing service and super delicious cocktails, in a very relaxed atmosphere.  We went there so many times after that first visit, that when we dropped by on our last night to say farewell, the owner Ullis Andersson gave us each a big hug goodbye. 

So Salah and I might have different ideas about what constitutes a fun holiday (remember Koukounaries), but there is definitely some overlap in our interests.  David and I wanted to get to Diamantis beach, another of Salah’s recommendations, but it’s only accessible from the sea, so we drove down to a local boat rental place to enquire about hiring a boat for half a day.  When the guy suggested that he take us there himself, we quickly took him up on his offer.  Being water-limousined was great because it meant that we could drink as much as we liked and didn’t have to worry about drunk driving a boat home.  We just called the guy up when we were done and he picked us up 15 minutes later.  This worked out perfectly and was a fraction of the cost of renting the boat ourselves. 

Diamantis beach was amazing.  Set in a tiny little cove, there were about ten lounge chairs for guests of the taverna and a cool upstairs beach bar built into the treetops, where we had beers and frappés and cocktails until the restaurant opened.  The food was trying a little too hard to be fancy (I mean, c’mon babes, don’t mess with perfection), but we had a really fun time, and finished the afternoon lounging around in the sunchairs and going for several swims in the gorgeous (jellyfish-free) water.  Bliss.  

Is this heaven on earth?

One of my favourite tavernas on the whole island was Taverna Ligaries located by the sea in a very remote part of the island.  But we almost didn’t make it there.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Google maps has been acting kinda loopy lately, sending us down roads that aren’t roads at all and choosing routes that are unnecessarily way off the beaten path.  This is what happened to us and our trusty Suzuki Jimny on the way to Ligaries, one dirt road in particular becoming steeper and steeper, until at one point we were almost vertical trying to crest a ridge and it felt like a minor miracle that we didn’t flip backwards.  We made it over the ridge but, instead of opening up, the track narrowed even more and the tree branches closed in around us, menacingly scratching the side of the car and threatening to completely envelope us.  There was no way we could go back, but it didn’t seem like we were able to keep going forward either.  According to google maps, we were on the right track, but the situation was fraught with danger.  Gripping the car handle with white knuckles, I actually thought we were going to get stuck and probably lose the Jimny in the overgrown jungle vegetation. 

I tried to keep my cool, but my heart felt like it was going to pound right out of my chest, and every now and then I’d burst into hysterical, nervous laughter.  Also occasional screams, which I attempted to stifle because I didn’t want David to feel as scared as I was.  I didn’t want to put him off his driving game which, incidentally, was magnificent.  I was in total awe of his skills behind the wheel, and of how cool he stayed, even when things got really hairy.  With my crappy navigation and David’s incredible driving we eventually popped out of the jungle and onto the paved road that we probably could have been on the whole time.  Thanks for nothing google maps.

With the adrenaline still coursing through our veins we eventually made it to Taverna Ligaries and gratefully sat at a table under the shady, vine-covered pergola.  We ordered a few of our favourite dishes, and before we knew it the place started filling up with big parties of local guests enjoying themselves and getting happily rowdy.  After drinking a kilo of white wine, we were getting happily rowdy ourselves.  The food was delicious, the service was friendly and relaxed, and the taverna was filled with laughter and shouting and backslapping and table banging.  All the wonderful Greek vibes.  Afterwards we walked to the beach where we paid €2 each for beach loungers and an umbrella, and sobered up by alternating between lolling in the shade and swimming in the beautiful, clear, warm water of the Mediterranean Sea.  

Good times at Taverna Ligaries.

I never expected to love Skiathos as much as I did.  I was taken aback by how at home I felt on the island.  At how seductive I found its extreme serenity, rugged beauty and spectacular, isolated beaches.  How charmed I was by the friendliness of the locals, their willingness to help and their quickness to smile.  And at how captivated I’d become by the technicolour palette of the island, the fresh salty air, the hypnotising thrum of cicadas, the rustic and easy way of life where nothing is really so important that you actually need to worry about it.  I could imagine living out my life here, just like this.  Yoga, nude swimming, delicious Greek food, wine served in ½ kilo carafes, siestas, cicadas, writing, living.  I left Skiathos a changed person.  I left a Skiathan. 

Ejo #146 – Drunk In….. Milos and Sifnos

After coming back from Santorini, David and I were hooked on Greece.  We had some more leave coming up, so I immediately started researching some more Greek islands that we could explore.  I’d read great things about Milos, and did a deep dive on Airbnb, looking for an amazing villa to be our home base.  Perhaps because Greece had just come out of an extended lockdown, I really struggled to find any properties on Milos that ticked all my boxes.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some really nice places.  But mama wanted a pool, and mama was gonna have a pool.  It’s me, I’m mama.  Airbnb tried to be helpful by offering up pool villas on neighbouring islands, but I wasn’t interested as I was super keen to stay on Milos.  But no, Airbnb belligerently insisted that I just take a look at this one place called Asteria on Sifnos, the island next door.  Fine, I said, stop hassling me already, I’ll take a look.  And the rest is history because the villa was absolutely perfect, ticking all my boxes, and then some.  And that’s how it was decided that we would do a double feature and get drunk in….. Milos and Sifnos!

So, you know how I just said I couldn’t find the perfect place to stay in Milos?  I’mma backpedal on that, because I did find somewhere that was absolutely breathtaking.  OK, so it didn’t have a pool, but when you see it, you’ll understand how truly special it was.  It was a tiny house, called a syrma, dug into the rockface right on a secluded beach.  Traditionally, syrmas were built to protect fishing boats from the wild Milos winter winds, and were later adapted to provide housing and shelter for the fishermen themselves; or turned into small summer houses for locals. 

Our syrma is located at the other side of this super private beach.
A close up of our studio, dug into the rockface.
Inside the beautifully renovated syrma, looking out at the sunset and the exclusive beach.

The syrma that we stayed in had been beautifully renovated by the most welcoming hosts we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on Airbnb.  Giannis and Anna, treated us like family right from the beginning.  Giannis met us at the beach and carried my ridiculously heavy suitcase 130m across the sand from the carpark to our little house.  They regularly kept us topped up with fresh water bottles and provided us with eggs and olive oil from their farm.  Even though we were there for just four days, I totally fell in love with Anna, who reminded me of my beautiful aunt Toula.  Her visits totally made my day, watching her wave and call out to us as she jogged across the sand with various local delicacies that she’d made for us.  One day it was a delicious halva cake, another it was watermelon pie.  I was avoiding carbohydrates but still tried all her offerings because it felt like they were made with love.  And I would do it again. I choose to eat the way I do because it makes me feel better, and because I know it’s healthy.  But food still has a special way of connecting people, and of transcending nutrition.  Food is a means of communication, of showing emotion and of bridging gaps.  If someone offers me something that they made for me, I will eat it.  Firstly as a show of respect, but secondly because I choose to partake in the ritual which is being performed.  I want to be involved, and I choose to be open to new experiences.  I want to experience it all.  It’s one of the reasons I love to travel so much. 

My new BFF Anna. One of the warmest, most loving humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of being hosted by.
The delicious semolina halva that Anna made for us. ♥

Giannis and Anna’s syrma was absolutely gorgeous.  It was small, but perfectly formed, and more than spacious enough for the two of us.  And the best thing about it by far was that it was literally right on the beach.  We slept with the doors open every night, falling asleep to the sibilant sound of the waves lapping on the shore.  I feel so lucky that we had the opportunity to stay in such a beautiful place.  We swam in the crystal clear waters of the private cove several times a day.  We were in heaven. 

Right outside our door.

Our first (and last) dinner in Milos was at a seafood restaurant called Astakas, located right on the beach.  I remember the first dinner far more clearly than I remember the last, but more on that later.  I might have already mentioned that when you go to a taverna in Greece, you can get some pretty good house wine, which is normally ordered by the kilo (or half kilo).  I really love this concept because it totally smashes the illusion of wine snobbery.  Wine ordered by weight.  What’s not to love about drinking wine from a barrel.  It’s what I grew up with, and (after dipping my toes into some wine snobbery myself) it’s a philosophy I’ve come to fully embrace.  And when you’re in the right place, a place like Astakas, you can actually get some incredible local wine by the kilo, and that includes Assyrtiko, our favourite Greek grape.  After our Santorini trip David and I learned the trick of ordering a bottle of sparkling water, two glasses of ouzo and half a kilo of white wine as soon as we sat down at any restaurant.  Boom!  Take note and make sure you do the same next time you happen to find yourself on a Greek island.  The few times we were told (down a waiter’s nose) that wine wasn’t served by the kilo and that we had to order a bottle of wine instead, we knew we were in the wrong place.  Greek food isn’t fancy, it’s not supposed to be fancy.  It’s simple.  It’s delicious.  It’s food for the people.  And the people want wine by the kilo. 

Astakas restaurant by the sea.

After a blissful night’s sleep, we awoke to the sound of the waves at our front door.  Serenely beholding the beach that we had all to ourselves, we waded into the sea for a swim.  And it was glorious.  The syrma was truly one of the best places we’ve ever stayed.  It was simple, but still so special.  Honestly, money can’t buy that kind of exclusivity.  We spent the morning on our deck, overlooking the water, soaking it all in and taking it easy.  For lunch we headed to Medusa taverna, a short, ten minute drive away, where we were treated to a fantastic meal overlooking some of the clearest and bluest waters I’ve ever seen in my life.  Once again the taverna was a simple, family run affair but they served what I think is the best food on the island.  We indulged in fava, a Santorini classic dish of mashed yellow split peas, drizzled with a phenomenal olive oil and served with onion slices, fried local goat’s cheese smothered in the lightest honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds, freshly caught mackerel cooked on a charcoal grill and drenched in lemon juice and spectacular grilled eel and octopus.  We ate to bursting, kicking back and enjoying the vibe of sitting at a beach taverna with nowhere to be and nothing to do.  And then, when we asked for the bill, they brought us a generous serving of loukoumades, a Greek dessert which is basically deep fried dough soaked in honey syrup.  Can you believe I managed to refrain from eating these tasty treats the first two times we came to this fabulous restaurant, allowing David to demolish them all himself.  I am happy to admit that I did try them on our third visit, and OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!  They were scrumptious. 

Beautiful Medusa restaurant, our favourite taverna on Milos.
Tender and delicious grilled octopus.
Freshly caught, grilled sardines.
Local grilled goat’s cheese, and split pea fava (bottom left)
Delectable grilled mackerel.
Complimentary loukoumades. Eight of them, 😉
Very happy customers.

After lunch at Medusa, we walked down a dirt track to what I think is perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life, Tourkothalassa beach (which translates to Turkish beach).  There was hardly anyone there, so we stripped off (as we are wont to do) and waded into the spectacularly clear water.  I remember treading water and looking around me and thinking that I was in the most beautiful place on earth.  And I became emotional. About being in Greece, and loving it as hard as I did. About finally connecting with my heritage in a way that I’d never been able to do while my parents were still alive. About losing both of my parents. I ached for them to see me there, to know how much I loved their birthplace. I ached for them to be there with me, floating in paradise.

The view from Medusa’s carpark – you can see Tourkothalassa beach on the far left.
The number of deserted, essentially private beaches in Greece is what converted me from being someone who was never really into beach life (ugh, I hated sand) into a real beach bunny. When the beaches are like this, how on earth could you possibly resist?

One of the most famous of Milos’ beaches is Sarakiniko, a whitewashed rocky beach resembling a desolate lunar landscape that was formed by strong winds and waves sculpting Milos’ unique white volcanic rock.  We swam in the deep, frigidly cold channel but didn’t stick around for too long.  Being such a stunning spot, the beach was overrun with couples and groups taking videos and photos of themselves, and each other, to post on social media.  It lent the place a kind of circusy vibe which was at odds with how beautiful it was.  Don’t get me wrong, we took plenty of photos of ourselves.  To be honest, I probably would have stuck around if there had been a tavern at the beach, but since there wasn’t and since I was getting hungry (and thirsty) we decided to take off and head back to our fave taverna, Medusa for some more delicious food and wine. 

Spectacular Sarakiniko

Since we were in Milos for only four days we didn’t really get to explore the whole island, especially as we spent so much time at our syrma, chilling on our own beach.  I’d definitely love to go back to the island sometime and get to know it better.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that we only went to one bar on Milos, and that bar was Yankos.  Oh my god, Yankos was nearly the end of me.  It’s not a fancy cocktail bar at all, more like an all day dining joint that has a very dangerously strong cocktail happy hour.  At €6 a pop, we sat down for drinks one afternoon, and when I got up several margaritas later I could barely walk.  I don’t remember much of what happened after that but I do know that we walked up the road to one of the best seafood tavernas in town for dinner, Mikros Apoplous.  I’m not super proud of what happened next, but in the interests of transparency I’ll recount it as best I can.  We sat down and ordered a few small dishes and a whole grilled fish.  I was pretty drunk, but I’ve been drunk before and I know how to comport myself when I’m in that state.  Usually.  This time, however, I was not able to comport myself, and the world just kept on spinning, very dangerously.  I guess I decided that the best course of action for me to take was to leave, because I just got up and took off down the road, shouting something about having to go home.  I have no idea where I was going, I just knew that I had to go, selfishly leaving David to deal with the aftermath.  He graciously explained to the concerned waiter that I wasn’t feeling well and that of course we would pay for the meal but we had to go.  They told him that the fish was nearly ready to serve and would we like to take it home with us.  And so we ended up back in our syrma, me feeling much better, standing over the kitchen bench and absolutely devouring the magnificent grilled fish with our hands. Not a bad end to the night, all things considered.

The next day I woke up, appropriately feeling like arse.  There’s always a price to pay.  I know that, I’m not an amateur.  I sucked it up as we packed up, checked out and headed into town to pick up our ferry tickets to Sifnos, the next destination on our adventure.  When we arrived at the ticket office we were told that the only ferry of the day to Sifnos had been cancelled.  WHAT???  Ferry schedules are notoriously unreliable in the Greek islands, and we’d known that when we booked.  But Sifnos doesn’t have an airport, so ferry was the only way of getting there.  Feeling pretty dejected we sat under a tree in the town square trying to figure out the best course of action.  We needed to find another place to stay for the night in Milos as the syrma wasn’t available.  And we’d have to ask the car rental company to extend our rental by another day.  I also had to contact Philippos, the host of the gorgeous villa in Sifnos, to let him know that we wouldn’t be there until the next day.  It was all a little stressful.  I am not the most spontaneous traveller in the world.  I schedule a lot of time for spontaneity, but the framework of my holidays need to be in place well in advance.  I’m talking about tickets, and I’m talking about accommodation.  Of course I can handle a minor glitch like a cancelled ferry, but it does stress me out. 

David had the wonderful idea of going to Medusa taverna for lunch, making it our third visit!  And it was perfect.  We ordered our favourite dishes and plenty of wine and, feeling more relaxed, I set about trying to find a solution to our problem.  It was actually Philippos who offered to get in touch with a friend of his who owned a speedboat to come and pick us up from Milos and take us to Sifnos later that day.  The cost of this private charter was an extortionate €300.  David and I debated it for about two minutes and quickly decided, fuck it, let’s do it.  I mean yeah, we could have saved some dough and caught the ferry the next day, but that option felt lame.  Catching a ridiculously expensive speedboat was way more badass and when faced with the option of doing something the lame way or the badass way, you can bet I’mma pick the badass way. 

Happy badasses. Bye-bye Milos, hello Sifnos!

So, we arrived in Sifnos, rented a four wheel drive and made our way to our very secluded villa, in the middle of nowhere.  Oh my god guys, this place was just astounding.  We were staying in a five star property in one of the most barren, wild, isolated places I’ve ever been to.  I’m not sure if it was because of covid, or because it was the end of the tourist season.  Or maybe it was just Sifnos.  But I think that for the entire ten days we were there we spoke to only a dozen people.  It was serene, it was peaceful, it was quiet (oh, so quiet).  It was magnificent.  And I wish we were still there now.  David loved it so much that he seriously contemplated buying the adjacent villa that was for sale next door.  Sadly we didn’t have a spare €700,000 lying around.  Oh well, it’s nice to have dreams. 

Desolate, but beautiful. You can see our villa (and the one next door) at the top of the olive tree on the right hand side.
The stunning Asteria (which means stars, in Greek).
The view from the pool, which we spent hours and hours swimming in, often accompanied by an ice-cold bottle of mastiha.

Because of all the reasons I already mentioned, we didn’t go out to eat that much.  Most restaurants had either not opened at all, because of covid, or had already closed for winter.  So we ate at home a lot.  We picked up some portable, single-use BBQs at the general store and we’d grill some local pork, eating it with some homemade tzatziki and locally grown tomatoes.  I was in my culinary element.  And we drank our body weight in mastiha, a specialty Greek liqueur seasoned with mastic resin, giving it a unique flavour.  Mastiha, glorious mastiha.  So much mastiha.  Mastiha for breakfast, mastiha for lunch and mastiha for dinner.  That’s how we do! 

The ubiquitous mastiha shot glasses by the side of the pool.

We made the trek to our local beach a few times during our stay.  Unlike Milos, where we could step onto the beach directly from our accommodation, the beach in Sifnos was a 20 minute steep walk from our villa.  Totally worth the sweat.  Normally there are two tavernas that operate on the beach, but they were both closed for the season so most of the time we had the entire place to ourselves, which allowed us to indulge in some skinny dipping (coz you know how much I love to take my kit off!!).  There’s truly nothing like feeling that somewhere as special as Vroulidia Beach is exclusively yours.  And it’s completely free.  A billionaire might spend a shitload of money trying to achieve the same level of privacy and exclusiveness and never find anywhere near as exceptional or unique.  We were living large. 

Swanning around in my canary yellow kaftan. Told you we were living large.
A hard earned thirst deserves a refreshing Greek beer.

There was a small fishing village about a ten minute drive from the villa that had two seafood tavernas still operating late into the season, and we tried them both during our stay.  Both sourced their seafood from the daily catch brought in by the local fishermen.  On our first night in Sifnos we tried H Ammoudia, and had a fantastic meal, complemented by super friendly service.  We ate at Cheronissos Fish Tavern a few days later, trying the home made fish soup (just like my Mum used to make!!!).  It was divine.  So comforting and delicious.  It made me so happy to be sitting on the shore’s edge, eating food from my childhood.  Sadly, at each restaurant we were the only customers on the night, and I felt so sorry for the owners who must have really suffered during the covid lockdowns.  I know that a lot of places never re-opened.  It felt good to know that we were doing our part to help the economy by eating and drinking and being merry in Greece.  We were always welcomed with open arms and treated to the warm and generous Greek hospitality that I grew up with and which David has come to love and embrace. 


Every morning at around 8am, David and I would be woken up by the sound of bells ringing near our bedroom window.  It was the local goatherd, a wizened old man in his eighties, leaning on his crook and guiding his beautiful goats up the mountain for them to graze.  It was a beautiful way to wake up and start the day.  A couple of times we caught him on his way back in the afternoon, and we would have stilted conversations about the old days and how much things have changed in his lifetime.  It was wonderful to be able to interact with him, despite not having possession of all the words that I wished I could use.  That was the beginning of my desire to better learn my mother-tongue.  What cemented that desire was our wonderful housekeeper Sofia, who was tasked with coming to the villa three times a week to clean up after us and to keep the place tidy.  I don’t know why, but Sofia appeared to fall in love with me instantly.  Perhaps it was because I was Greek-Australian.  Perhaps it was because I could speak a few words of Greek to her.  Perhaps it was because I am pretty loveable.  I don’t know.  But she really took to me and I really took to her, and we got into the habit of sitting down for a coffee and a chat for half an hour before she did her chores.  I say a chat because, even though we were communicating, I found it really difficult.  I KNEW the words I wanted to say, but oftentimes I just couldn’t find them.  Sofia didn’t know any English, but between the two of us we still managed to understand each other, with her offering suggestions when I would get stuck halfway through a sentence.  I resolved then to re-learn Greek so that I would never again feel so helpless when trying to speak my first language.  I’m grateful to Sofia for being so friendly and loving, so generous with her time (and with her freshly laid eggs, honey and home made yoghurt).  I feel so lucky that my heritage offers me the opportunity to experience things in a way that other tourists in Greece never can.  I’m seriously #fuckingblessed, and I know it. 

Hello goats!!!

We ate some tasty food in Sifnos, but if you were to ask any local what dish the island is famous for, they wouldn’t hesitate to say that it’s the revithada.  It’s a really simple chickpea dish that requires the investment of quality ingredients, time and love.  Traditionally it was made by the women of the island who would fill clay pots with chickpeas, olive oil, onions, garlic and lemon, allowing it to slow cook overnight in a wood oven so that the dish would be ready to eat on Sunday after church.  I know you’ve had chickpeas.  Everyone has, right?  But you have NO FUCKING IDEA how good revithada is.  Stop arguing.  You don’t.  Not until you go to Margarita restaurant in Artemonas and try their revithada.  The end.  No more discussion.  Oh, and don’t forget to have a cheeky ouzaki before you order the main course.  It helps to whet the appetite. 

Always ouzo.
And then wine.
And once you’re suitably hydrated: the revithada.
David and I usually order the same roster of dishes at tavernas, but we thought we’d try something different at Margarita,
ordering this beetroot dish which just blew me away with it’s fresh, zesty flavours. It pays to live on the edge kids.

I want to make a special mention of a very idiosyncratic bar on Sifnos.  A place that I would say is my favourite bar in the entire world.  I’m talking about Bar Kavos Sunrise.  One evening we headed to Kastro, where the Church of the Seven Martyrs is located, hoping to find a restaurant open for dinner.  We were disappointed.  Everything was closed and the town was deserted.  But I’d read about a bar in the area and thought it would be worth a shot to see if it might be open.  We walked up many stairs, dodging multiple cats trying to trip us up, and eventually we came upon a tiny terrace overlooking the sea with a spectacular view of the lightning and thunderstorm brewing offshore.  We shooed some cats off a table and sat down figuring that since the lights were out, we must be out of luck.  But astonishingly, after a few minutes a 200 year old man wearing tiny jean cutoffs and exuding a helluva cool vibe sauntered out and asked us if we wanted drinks.  Did we ever!!!  He told us we could order mojitos or mojitos.  So we ordered mojitos.  He went back inside, turned on some lights, and five minutes later we were presented with the strongest mojitos we’ve ever had.  Plus an extra 60ml each of rum in large shot glasses.  I’m not a huge mojito fan, but these were the strongest, tastiest mojitos I’ve ever been served.  I instantly fell in love with this bar, but going to the toilet was what clinched the deal for me.  There were seven or eight cats roaming around in the loo.  There was no lock on the door and there was no toilet paper.  I had to stretch my legs over two or three kitty litter boxes full of shit, and the toilet itself was nestled between four or five cat boxes (some of them occupied).  It was horrendous.  But SO GODDAMN CHARMING!!!  I am so here for places that do their own thing, and do it well.  Our Cubaphile owner/bartender doesn’t give a shit about anything except serving good, strong cocktails.  He doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks, and in the process he’s created exactly the kind of place that stands out in a world full of cookie cutter blandness.  When we paid the bill we tried to give him a tip, but he vehemently rejected the extra money, murmuring “Capitalista” under his breath.  He did, however, accept our offer of buying a round of rum for him and his friend, who’d turned up with some food for the old man.  The four or us did shots together, clapped each other on the back and vowed to meet again.  I intend to keep that promise.  I just need the old dude to stay alive. 

Best bar in the world.
The bar goes through a lotta rum!! Pictured here is the good Samaritan who brought the owner some food for dinner. What a great guy.

Most of the people we saw in Sifnos were at the harbour, at the restaurants and bars we frequented there. We went to Meropi right on the water, a couple of times, and had some good food, good wine and good vibes.  We also went next door to O Simos for a frappé fix and a chance to catch up on our epic, trans-continental backgammon competition, the winner of which is known as Master Of The Universe (I’m winning). 

Lunch at Meropi.
Patates tiganites (aka hand-cut, fried potatoes), bamyes (aka okra stew), kolokithokeftedes (aka zucchini fritters) and some fried anchovies at the back. All delicious.
This shit is serious.

We also dropped in at Old Captain bar a few times, where the hospitality and the liquor were both free flowing.  One of the owners, Yiannis, took a liking to us, free pouring us drinks and insisting that we try his White Russians, which we initially declined, not being great fans of the drink, but then eventually agreed to.  Which is fantastic, because I have never had a White Russian so tasty.  It pays to be open to everything. Good times were had at this bar, but because we usually had to drive home we could never really let loose.  That is, until the last day when we dropped the car rental off around the corner, plonked ourselves, and our suitcases, under a beach umbrella and told Yiannis to keep the White Russians coming until our ferry showed up.  It’s no stretch to say that we were completely fucked up on that ferry ride back to Milos. 

Chilling at Old Captain Bar.
Best. White. Russians. Ever.
Our last day, waiting for the ferry. Two hours later we were three sheets to the wind.

Which brings me back to Astakas restaurant, and the final dinner of our island holiday.  I remember none of it.  All I remember is the tiny little kitten that attached itself to me.  I don’t normally fuck around with stray cats but this little guy was so cute, and so small I couldn’t resist.  He literally fit into the palm of my hand, and I spent most of dinner cooing and playing with him while he sat in my lap.  David was not impressed.  And I was not impressed with the nasty case of ringworm that the little fucker gave me.  Lesson learned.  Another lesson learned?  Don’t take your shoes off and wade into the water outside your accommodation when you’re off your face.  Coz bitch, you’re gonna fall in and get wet.  Good times, drunk in!    

Yes, I am crazy. I did lug a 3kg Sifnos rock back to Dubai in my luggage, starting a trend that would result in a beautiful collection of boulders from Sifnos, Skiathos, Zakynthos and Naxos.

Ejo #145 – Drunk In….. Greece (Santorini Edition)

Can you believe that even after we had to quarantine for three weeks after returning from Japan in March 2020, I still didn’t really comprehend how serious covid would turn out to be? I just thought woohoo, another three weeks off!! I didn’t realise that the whole world would come to a grinding halt. Or that so much would change. Did you? When it became crystal clear that it might be a while before things would get back to normal (a very long time, in fact), I was surprisingly stoic about what that meant for my travel plans. I usually have at least a couple of holidays in the planning pipeline, which is how I keep sane – I always have something to look forward to. For instance, my sisters and I had planned a big fat Greek family reunion for June 2020. We planned to visit relatives that we hadn’t seen for years (and which my youngest sister Pieta has never met, except as a toddler). It was to be an opportunity to grieve our Mum’s death with our aunt and other extended family, and to scatter her ashes into the sea. And it was an excuse for my sisters and I to holiday together in Europe, which is something we’ve never done before.

Guess how that went. Yep, cancelled. We were, of course, all very upset about it but obviously we were let off lightly in the greater scheme of things. My heart breaks to think of everyone who has missed their loved ones’ funerals, or had to cancel wedding plans or missed the birth of their own children. People have really suffered. We’re lucky. We just rescheduled. For later this year. Tentatively. Coz that’s what you’ve gotta do these days, am I right? You simply cannot make firm plans for anything anymore. But at least we’re back to being able to make plans now, even tentative ones. In April of 2020 when there appeared to be no end in sight to the grounding of international flights I was faced with an interminably empty travel calendar spreading out before me, with no end in sight. No plans to travel. Everything cancelled. Stuck, in Dubai. I mean you all know that I’m not in Dubai because I like being there. I’m there because I like travelling. Since our first holiday to Turkey in May 2009, David and I have never spent more than four straight months in Dubai (hey, don’t hate me coz you ain’t me). So would it shock you to learn that I actually handled the mental abyss of no travel prospects surprisingly well. It’s not as if I had a choice. It’s not as if ranting and raving and crying and losing my mind would change anything. I was bravely chilled out and quietly zen in the face of my own personal worst case scenario.

Six months after covid made its global debut, in a wonderful twist, the universe suddenly rewarded me by offering up the generous hospitality of my grandmotherland. You see, Greece is almost solely dependent on tourist dollars for its survival. Six months of global lockdowns caused a lot of economic grief for Greece. So it made sense that they were one of the first destinations to reopen their borders to tourists in August of 2020. As soon as Emirates started flying to Greece again, David and I jumped on a plane and embarked on a pandemic pilgrimage to the country of my ancestry. I was so happy to be travelling again but I did feel super guilty about being able to travel while my sisters were trapped in an endless lockdown loop back in Melbourne. And I felt guilty because I was specifically going to Greece without them, when we had all planned on going together. And then I also felt guilty because I wasn’t going to visit my relatives in Korinthos, choosing instead to go to Santorini. What I’m saying is that there was some guilt. But guilt is a wasted emotion, so I explained the situation to my rellies and made sure that my sisters were cool with it, and off we went.

The flight out of Dubai was virtually empty, and the attendants were all decked out in PPE gear that made them look like they were serving food at a diner in Chernobyl. Being on an aeroplane again after so long felt a little weird, but it felt so right at the same time. I was so happy. We flew straight into Santorini, picked up a car rental at the airport and drove to the tiny town of Finikia. Two tanned and muscle-bound young men met us in the carpark and, quite impressively, hoisted our extremely heavy suitcases onto their shoulders, briskly marching us through a whitewashed labyrinth of twisting, cobbled paths until we eventually reached our beautiful villa, home for the next ten days. Moments later, Marilena, the eccentric manager of the hotel group exploded on the scene in wafting chiffon, jangling bracelets and squeals of “Dahhhling”. She was a little bit crazy, very extra and an absolute delight. The location of Finikia was perfect for us because the madness of Oia, where all the action takes place, was a very calm 20 minute walk away. We could walk to town whenever we felt like it, but our villa was in a super quiet and very secluded part of the island.

Santorini has always been on my list of places to visit because all my Greek aunts and uncles and cousins have, at one point or another, swooned over what a beautiful island it is, insisting that I must see it with my own eyes. However it was never super high on that list because of the famous summer tourist swell. For instance, in 2019 Santorini’s population of 10,000 grew to over three million people. Eww, gross. David and I saw the pandemic as an opportunity to visit a gorgeous Greek island when most other travellers were still stuck at home baking bread and learning how to use Zoom. And it was perfect!

Despite the island being relatively quiet due to covid, Oia still got extremely crowded, particularly in the evenings when shoulder-to-shoulder crowds would throng the streets trying to secure the best vantage point for the extraordinary sunset display over the caldera. Sadly, we were often the only ones wearing masks, and to be honest, the cavalier attitude of the other tourists towards the pandemic made us feel quite uncomfortable being amongst the crowds so we didn’t spend a lot of time in Oia. Finikia had a much more relaxed vibe and we enjoyed many dinners at the local taverna Santorini Mou, which translates as My Santorini. The homemade food was delicious and the hospitality warm and welcoming. It was frequented by many tourists, but unlike some restaurants in Oia the quality and authenticity of the food didn’t feel dumbed down for international tastes. One of the highlights of the restaurant was the live music they played every night, accompanied occasionally by some dancing. It was such a treat to listen to the music of my childhood, and the entire family running the taverna were super sweet to us when they found out that I was Greek-Australian. The singer would often sing out my name in the middle of a song, winking at me with a smile, which was a little embarrassing but also really lovely. Every time we ate there they would greet us by name, as if we were old friends. It was hospitality like this that made me fall in love with Santorini.

The deserted, stark road from our villa to the restaurant.
They were delighted when they found out I was Greek-Australian.
The delicious food. Hand-cut chips, octopus, tzatziki and taramosalata (which is fish-roe dip). YUM!!!

When Marilena checked us into our villa on the first day, she went through all the different experiences and packages on offer to us as guests of the hotel. We decided to do two of them. A sunset luxury catamaran cruise and an island winery tour. The catamaran tour was awesome. We were greeted at the port at around 3.30pm and escorted onto our vessel with only three other couples, which was great because some of the other cruises departing that day were really overcrowded. The crew were super friendly and very keen to make the trip as fun as possible for us, handing out snacks and glasses of champagne straight out of the port. We sailed around for a while, checking out parts of the island that are only accessible by boat, and we also stopped at a few different spots so that we could swim, snorkel and explore. It was a lot of fun and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Santorini.

Chilling in the deep blue sea of the southern Aegean Sea.
I made sure to chill only in the shade of the catamaran as I was severely sunburnt.
This is what we came for. A beautiful sunset and free-flowing champagne)

The winery tour was also really fun. A lady picked us up near our villa and drove us around to three different wineries where we did tours of the vineyards and saw how the wine was bottled. It was fascinating. Greek wine has always had a really bad rap thanks to retsina, the resinated white or rosé wine that has been made in Greece for at least 2000 years. It’s an acquired taste, to say the least. In contrast, wine from Santorini is actually world class. The rocky, bone-dry volcanic soil of the island is uniquely conducive to producing incredibly structured, mineral forward wines, and in particular whites. When you think about how hot (scorching) and how windy (gale force) Santorini gets it’s not surprising to learn that in order to produce fruit that can be made into wine, the vines must be trained into characteristic kouloura shapes, like wreaths laid out on the ground. This offers them some protection from the elements and produces marvelous varietals such as our absolute favourite Assyrtiko. If you ever have the chance to try an Assyrtiko, I would definitely go for it, and please let me know what you think. I was blown away that Greece, the place where wine is sold by the kilo at tavernas, could produce such superlative wine.

A typical Santorini vineyard
Some Santorini kouloura vines are centuries old.
At the Argyros winery tasting we tried a rosé, a basic Assyrtiko and also a very special Assyrtiko made from at least 200 year old vines (amazing!!!) and the wonderful Vinsanto.

Another wine that is a specialty of the island is the Protected Designation of Origin dessert wine called Vinsanto, and oh my god it’s so good. It’s produced by taking overripe white grapes (at least 51% Assyrtiko) and laying them out in the hot sun to dry for about a week. Absolutely no sugar at all is added during the maturation process resulting in a naturally sweet wine bursting with the flavour of raisins, figs, honey, coffee and nuts. The wine is matured in oak barrels producing a delectable drop which I just couldn’t get enough of. Of the three wineries we visited, Argyros was our favourite, and in addition to all their wonderful wines, they also sold a block of chocolate filled with a ridiculously delicious, oozing Vinsanto centre. To die for. We ate WAY too many of these but I have zero regrets and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Argyros also produced our favourite Assyrtiko and we bought several bottles from them during the winery tour. In fact, we liked it so much that we went back to the winery two more times on our own to restock.

Vinsanto chocolate accompanied by a very fine Vinsanto.

We certainly drank a lot of great wine on Santorini, and we also ate a lot of good food. My favourite thing about Greek food is its simplicity. I used to be a really big fan of fancy food. Smears, spherification, Michelin stars. Blah, blah, blah. In the end, the theatre of the food becomes more important than the taste of it. Which is how the fancy food movement lost me. Over the years I have gravitated back towards the basic and unfussy food of my childhood. The food my parents fed me. The meals that I grew up with. Simple, tasty, honest food. And so, some of my favourite meals on the island were the ones that we put together ourselves at our villa. Yes, we had a kitchen, but we didn’t do a lot of cooking. When you’re hungry, there’s not a lot that can beat a simple table of local cheese, olives meats, tomatoes, feta, homemade tzatziki (David makes a mean version), bread and olive oil. Accompanied, of course, by a locally made bottle of white wine or dry rosé. A perfect meal. And so, we ate a lot at home, chilling out by the pool or whiling away the afternoon, reading under the sunshade.

Peasant food is best.
Our pool.

It was on one of those afternoons that I got severely sunburnt. I honestly can’t remember how it happened, but I do remember we had eaten a lovely lunch, similar to that pictured above. I do know that a bottle of wine had definitely been consumed, maybe even two. After lunch we’d retired up to the pool area to swim and have a bit of a lie down. I must have fallen asleep in the sun because when I woke up I was burned on the entire upper half of my body (front and back, somehow). I woke up feeling a little sore, but it was only the next day that the extent of the damage became clear. I was in excruciating pain for the next ten days. I don’t want to say that it completely fucked up our holiday, but it’s certainly not much fun being in so much pain that showering or changing clothes or even sleeping is difficult.

This was taken the day of the burn. The redness intensified over the next couple of days and I definitely resembled a stupid lobster. Lesson learned.

We lay low for a day or two after the sunburn because I literally couldn’t do anything without it hurting like a motherfucker. I’m pretty sure I cried. But a couple of days later, we decided to walk to Oia to experience the famous sunset and have a nice seafood dinner by the water. Ouch! Walking into the sun for 20 minutes, even with a hat covering my face and a shawl over my shoulders was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had on vacation. Every step felt like I was being splattered with burning lava. Waaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! But, we made it and we took some beautiful photos of the caldera and the town, stopping off for a glass of wine at Fino Wine Bar to refresh ourselves after the hot walk. After our quick wine break, we decided to keep walking to the restaurant rather than stop and take more photos of the sunset because it felt like 100,000 people had suddenly all turned up at the same time and we just wanted to get away from them. So we took the rocky road made of about 300 steep stone steps down the side of the cliff face to Ammoudi Fish Tavern at the bottom. The taverna is accessible only by those rocky steps, or by boat. It was a little touristic, which is to be expected, but we had some nice food in a gorgeous setting before making the (way more difficult) trek back up the steps.

A well earned glass of chilled white wine.
The stunning caldera of Santorini. Also the brutally fierce sun. Ouch.
The restaurant is on the right, and you can see the ancient stone steps cut into the mountain face. The colour of the mountain is due to rich deposits of iron.
The gorgeous seaside setting. And yes, that really is the colour of the water.

One of the most delicious meals we had on the island was another simple, traditional Greek dish of souvlaki. There are loads of souvlaki joints on the island, but the one with the best reviews, the one that everyone raved about was Pitogyros. So we went along one evening after a day of pretty hard drinking to see what all the fuss was about. After all, everyone knows that souvlaki is one of the best foods to eat when you’re off your face. Apparently many other people were also off their faces because when we arrived there was a long line of people in front of us. I really don’t mind waiting when the reward is a taste of something amazing, and we were not disappointed. Our pork souvlakia came out absolutely perfect, accompanied by salad and chips (which I tried not to eat, but failed miserably). We washed it all down with half a kilo of very delicious white wine.

Perfect souvlakia.

There were a few more places we ate and drank but because of all the eating and drinking I don’t remember the details. Here are a couple more pics from our pandemic tour of Santorini.

Um… check out this ridiculous view. We stopped here for lunch as part of the winery tour. The food and the service were unremarkable but the view was outstanding.
An absolutely spectacular seafood lunch by the sea.