#20 Greece: A blue & white paradise

We stayed at the Lindos Blu, and blue was indeed a glorious hallmark. Not in the hotel itself, which was mainly a minimalist white, with splashes of vivid colour in the soft furnishings of the guest rooms. But the views! The dazzling blue Aegean sea, sometimes as still as a finely cut piece of stained glass, sometimes ruffled with the white crests of waves. The sky arcing above, either an unmarked blue, or studded with fluffy clouds, or softly streaked with pink, orange and violet at sunset. And that deliciously unmistakeable Mediterranean smell of sun burnt soil and vegetation. Idyllic really.

Looking back, I’ve been to Greece more times than I realised. Obviously the prospect of sunshine is compelling, the people are warm and friendly and I like Greek food. Most of all, I love the dazzling blue and white views that have become stereotypical postcard shots but are nonetheless frequent and always captivating. I’ve been to Athens several times, where, like everyone else, I never fail to be overawed by the splendour of the Acropolis. Squatting majestically above the city, its graceful columns and the deep sense of history, the small peek it gives us into an ancient civilisation, are beguiling. I love the hilly streets of the Plaka, the oldest area of Athens, where you can sit at small tables wobbling on the stony slopes of tiny cafes under huge swathes of bouganvillae and eat fresh vine leaves wrapped round rice (dolma), savour tiropatikia, deliciously crispy filo pastry parcels stuffed with sharp, salty feta cheese and indulge in baklava drenched in sweet honey.

I’ve been to Naxos, one of the islands of the Cyclades, in the southern Aegean, twice. The first time, while inter-railing, we slept on a golden sand beach and spent the days basking in the sun, trying not to get too sunburned in the relentless heat. The second time, on an unexpectedly chilly Easter walking holiday, I spent most of the time huddled into the folds of an oversized fisherman’s sweater, an emergency purchase in Athens before boarding the ferry, once it became clear that the warm temperatures of my first visit would not prevail this time. Both times I visited the impressive 28 foot kouros, an impressive reclining marble statue of a young man just outside Naxos Town.

I’ve also been to Crete, relaxing in the easy-going harbour town of Chania, admiring the ancient ruins of Knossos and trekking the Samaria Gorge. And I’ve made less memorable trips to the Pelopennese, a peninsula to the south of mainland Greece, full of amazing sights that we somehow contrived to miss. Plus a holiday to an island whose name I can no longer remember (possibly Zakynthos?) which involved a stay in one of those ‘half-built’ hotels in a slightly scruffy, half-hearted resort.

My most recent visit, to the sun-soaked island of Rhodes and the Lindos Blu, was certainly the most luxurious and also the most relaxed. It was tempting to just stay at the hotel and soak up the sun, the hotel’s incredible blue and white panoramas and indulge in the delicious food and drink served in the hotel’s various bars and eateries. However we managed to drag ourselves away to take in a few of the island’s sights. The acropolis of Lindos is impressive and the bright white village of Lindos below, with its winding, cobbled streets, is charming. Our visit to Rhodes Town was brief, affording us the chance to walk on the top of the massive walls around the medieval city, as well as explore some of the streets and palaces of the old city itself. But our favourite sight was the ancient city of Kamiros, nestled at the edge of the sea, parched in the sun and well-restored to give an authentic sense of what life in the city might have been like around the seventh century, when it was built. Far less visited than the acropolis of Lindos, we strolled peacefully around the temples, marketplace, old streets and houses. A real Grecian gem.

The more I relive my memories of trips to Greece, the more I realise what an astonishingly beautiful place it is to visit. I can’t wait for my next trip there, whether to one of the places mentioned in this post, or to somewhere I haven’t discovered yet. I’d love to go back to the Lindos Blu, but this indulgent, tranquil oasis is adults-only, so with the imminent arrival of the new member of the family, I suspect this may be off-limits for a while! I’m sure those blue and white views will wait though …

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HIGHLIGHTS

Natural highlights – the sea, the beaches, the varied landscapes from forest to scrubland to parched hillside

Cultural highlights – the Acropolis in Athens. After that, there are ruins, temples and statues everywhere: take your pick!

Food & drink highlights – you can’t beat a Greek mezze as a way of sampling some of the tasty traditional dishes. In Lindos, the Melenos Lindos hotel restaurant is romantically sited and serves very good food. The Five Senses restaurant at the Lindos Blu is pretty unbeatable for food, service and views. It’s too long since I’ve been to any of the other places to remember any specific suggestions – so I’d love to hear yours!

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