Summer Holiday

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!

34 comments

  1. thanks for the recommendation. I have always wanted to go to Greece but don’t know much about the country – which island to stay, etc. Just back from Italy and dreaming where we will go next…..maybe greece?

    1. You should definitely go to Greece! Lesbos is very quiet compared to other Greek islands – if you want pure relaxation it’s perfect. If you want things a little livelier but still want a relaxing break, go to Skiathos – it’s beautiful, and a short boat ride away from Skopolos, where Mamma Mia was filmed – you can do a tour of the scenery from the film if you so choose!

  2. One week is not enough, Rachel!😉

    This place looks quite magical…sometimes it’s hard to believe such unspoilt places still exist. I’m glad to hear you had such an idyllic time.

    Oh my, all those books! Not typical beach reading😉 Can’t wait to read your reviews!

    1. I know, I know, I need more time – I’m now at home sick with a post-holiday cold actually so I am relaxing today anyway!

      Thank you – it was idyllic indeed!

      No, I like to keep my brain ticking over…now I just need to find time to write about them all – no mean feat!

  3. Although I’m of Greek background (on my mother’s side), I’ve never been to Greece myself, but have always wanted to. These photos and your beautifully expressed description looks like a little bit of heaven from where I’m sitting. I don’t know how you managed to bring yourself back from such an idyllic paradise after only a week. Truly beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Rachel.

    1. Well, unfortunately I had to go back to work!

      I hope you get to go to Greece one day, June – it’s important to see where you have come from!

  4. Dear Rachel, how I enjoyed reading about your Grecian idyll; the beach, the fresh food, the shops, the views! I can almost smell the fragrance of incense in the church you visited – and I can feel the uncertainty that currently haunts the villagers whose livelihood rests so precariously on tourism.

    1. Thank you Penny, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I thought of you often while I was there and the stories you have told of your parents and their Greek traditions. It’s a special country indeed.

  5. J.E.A.L.O.U.S. Currently stuck in front of computer surrounded by piles of books, papers and, strangely enough, a packet of seeds for pickling gherkins. No idea where that came from!

    I think Greece should be let off all its debts on the grounds that it is such a beautiful country. Let the Germans, etc, make the money and be serious and businesslike… We need a happy, relaxed welcoming Greece!

    1. Hahahaha! Sorry to make you jealous, James! But I’m stuck at home with a cold now, so that serves me right for bragging!

      Oh absolutely – it’s not the Greek people’s fault, certainly!

  6. Rachel it still sounds like you did alot for a holiday of doing nothing. Lovely to escape momentarily on holiday whilst reading this post.

  7. You lucky so-and-so! My front garden looks like a blitz site as we are restructuring the whole thing and to top it off it’s 38C today…that means sweat! What I wouldn’t give for a dripping glass of something yummy, a shade umbrella, lovely scenery and a stack of books. Could you please work on your review of the Woolf book sooner rather than later, Rachel? It sounds right up my street!

    1. Hehehehe I am lucky indeed – though I’d take 38 degrees over the cold and rainy June I got back to in England!

      Your wish is my command, Darlene – I know you’ll love the Woolf!

  8. Beautiful photos…glad you had a wonderful break. Have you read My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell? Durrell’s autobiographical book (also made into a movie — see first 10 minutes here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3P0GKvYwG0) and the movie Shirley Valentine (Tom Conti — very rascally but excellent hair!), form about 95% of what I know about a “Greek holiday” and it sure sounds fabulous!

    1. Thanks Margaret! No I haven’t ever read My Family and Other Animals but I do love Shirley Valentine – Greek holidays are certainly a different breed!

  9. I’ve never been to Greece but have wanted to go ever since I saw ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. My ‘must visit’ list is getting ever longer.

  10. *Sigh* Nice evocative tale, R. Been to Greece about 6 times I think and this makes we want to go back. Such a lovely combination of simple blue, and white, and more blue, and blue, and good simple food, and nice folk. Interested in your views on Hotel du Lac. AB used to be a fave.

    1. Thanks Bop, glad you enjoyed it! I think I’ve been to Greece 6 times as well – Kefalonia twice, Skiathos, Nidri and Lesbos twice…I just can’t get enough! I want to go to Santorini next. I will eventually get around to writing my review of Hotel du Lac…I did enjoy it very much!

  11. Wish I was there, ages since I’ve been to Greece … my perfect bliss island was Ikaria. If I close my eyes, I’m standing under a white mulberry tree and it’s one of those perfect days that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I’ve been thinking recently of people I met there and hoping they were alright.

    1. I have never even heard of Ikaria, Mary! I shall have to look it up. It is sad that so many of the islanders are being affected by the drop in tourism…I hope they will be ok and able to ride it out.

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