As you know, I like to keep busy. For one week of the year, however, I permit myself to relax. This is called my summer holiday, and I spent the past week enjoying said holiday by lazing around on the beautiful Greek island of Lesbos. Incidentally, I first went there three years ago, and it was while lying semi conscious on one of the island’s lovely beaches that I first decided to start a blog. Oh, and get off my arse and actually do something about my ambition to live in New York. So, it’s a place of good memories for me, and a place of inspiration; both my blog and my adventurous year in the Big Apple have changed and enriched my life enormously in so many ways. Without the complete rest and relaxation the practically deserted beaches, endless sunshine, stunning views and crystal clear waters of Lesbos provide, I may never have sat still for long enough to work out what I wanted to do with my life. So, I have a lot to be grateful to Lesbos for.
I am delighted to report that my holiday this time around was no less idyllic. We stayed in the beautiful village of Molyvos, whose ochre and terracotta houses are built higgedly piggedly up the sides of a steep hill topped by the ruins of a massive Byzantine castle. The houses spill down from the hill to the sea and the ridiculously pretty harbour, which is a hive of activity all day long and a perfect place to sit and have a nice long drink, watching the fishermen come in and out on their brightly painted boats. Our hotel, the Sea Horse, is perched right in the middle of the harbour, and we loved having our breakfast on a little table out the front, listening to the lively conversation of the locals and throwing bits of our food to the swarms of fish in the water beneath us. It was such a lovely start to every day.
Molyvos has a pebbly beach that is practically empty; we spent a couple of days just lying there, sunbathing, reading, swimming and allowing ourselves to totally relax. The most stressful part of our day was deciding on which of the excellent local restaurants to go to for lunch, where we ate huge and wonderfully tasty salads of local tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives with homemade crusty bread, washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice…divine. In the evenings we strolled up into Molyvos town, which is a maze of winding streets that get steeper and steeper the nearer you get to the castle. The views from up here are magnificent, as are the glimpses you get of traditional island life. One local resident explained to us how the rubbish is collected in Molyvos; the streets are so narrow and steep that no cars can make it up there, so a horse comes once a week to pick up the household waste that is left in bags on posts outside the houses at horse-head height. What an ingenious solution! The main street of the town is filled with lovely little shops and restaurants and is covered by a canopy of wisteria to keep it cool. Being in the town felt like stepping back in time, especially when you stumble out of the street and into the path of the huge castle which once protected the harbour and town from ruthless marauders. Looking down from up here, you can see acres and acres of olive groves, clusters of lovely Neo Classical stone houses, remains of the Roman acqueduct and the sea sparkling away as far as the eye can see. No skyscrapers, no resorts, no blights on the landscape at all; a rare thing to find nowadays.
On our other days we explored a little. We caught the local bus – always an adventure – which wound its way along hair pin bends to the neighbouring town of Petra, which has a long sandy beach and a lovely old town filled with impressive 18th century houses and geranium laden balconies. While we were hat shopping, we were befriended by a little old man who took us to his garden, which turned out to be an orchard of orange and apricot trees. He picked some fruit for us and we did a lot of miming and smiling while I had fantasies of living in a beautiful tumbledown house with an orchard out the back. One day. On two other days we took a boat trip to Skala Sikaminia, which is a tiny fishing village an hour’s sail away from Molyvos. It is so beautiful; above the harbour sits a white and blue painted church on a rock, and along the front is a pretty cluster of old buildings, converted into fish restaurants and little tourist shops. A short walk takes you to the entirely deserted stretch of tree lined beach where the water is crystal clear and you can see nothing but the endless sparkle of the sea. We sunbathed, ate grilled sardines and still warm tomatoes while watching the fishermen work and poked our head into the little church where we were delighted to find a sparkling chandelier hanging from the ceiling and some stunning paintings.
Lesbos has plenty to see – there is a huge wildlife reserve which attracts birdwatchers from all over the world, apparently, a petrified forest dating to the days of the dinosaurs and a capital city, Mytiline, which has amazing 18th and 19th century mansions which are slowly crumbling in the most picturesque way possible. If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful holiday in a beautiful and unspoilt location, this is definitely the place. Plus, it’s so close to Turkey that you can go over on a boat for a day trip. If you can peel yourself off the beach, that is. The island is suffering from a drop in tourists due to the shaky situation in Greece at the moment, and this is such a shame. The locals work so hard and are some of the friendliest and warmest people I’ve ever met. The sense of community is wonderful and I hated to hear how worried many of them are about weathering this recession. If you haven’t booked your summer holiday yet, do consider going to Lesbos; I can promise you won’t regret it!
ps. I got a record amount of reading done – 6 books! Reviews will be forthcoming when I have time to write them!