‘How to ride your scooter on the wrong side of the road while drinking a frappe and talking on your phone, with your dog on the back.’
Rowan, one of our fellow traders here in Old Isleworth has recently returned from a Sunvil holiday to Skopelos. Here she recalls her experiences from her holiday on the Sporades island.
Skopelos is a lovely, much underrated island in the Aegean sea and the largest island in the Sporades group. It’s a green isle – wooded with pine, oak and plane trees as well as the obligatory olive groves, and famously windy, so I’d advise travelling outside of the height of summer to avoid the ‘meltemi’ and to make the most of the low season energy and genuine open heartedness of the locals.
Swimming and a fish taverna:
I’m happy swimming and snorkelling off shingle and rocks but my main prerequisite is a good taverna right on the beach. The little beach/port of Agnondas has probably the best fish taverna right on the beach and they are kind enough to provide sun beds for their replete customers to collapse onto after lunch.
Under a big thick leaved green tree you can sit at the water’s edge and try and pretend you never have to go home. We had a huge platter of the house salad, mounds of fresh green spinach with tomatoes, onions, a tangy molten goat’s cheese, croutons, lemon juice and the local olive oil. Probably one of the nicest things I’ve eaten in Greece.
Then there is the ‘Mamma Mia’ cliff, a semi-detached promontory on the mountainous side of the island, famous from the scene in the film Mamma Mia; it features a pretty little chapel perched high on the rocky semi island.
Skopelos Town; her attractions and tavernas:
Skopelos Town is absolutely beautiful and probably your idea of the archetypal Greek town, it is protected by the government as a site of historical value. There are blinding white houses, blue shutters, pots of geraniums, bougainvillea and oleanders. Winding stairs, alleys and lanes, vertiginous drops into the sea, tiny white washed chapels perched on headlands and more boutiques than even I know what to do with.
If you’re eating on the harbour go to Molos, the best lighting – (golden globes rather than fluorescent strips), the most interesting menu and a guitar and bouzouki player. Also the best obligatory after dinner freebie – a small glass of delicious herby local wine and light berry filo pastries. The night we went there were two dolphins playing in the harbour in front of the restaurant. Up in the town go to Anna’s, a flower filled courtyard as well as a proper indoor restaurant and some decent vegetarian menu choices – the butter bean paella was particularly interesting.
For a snack go to Skopelitikes Triopites Mixalis, known as the pie café. For obvious reasons, they just do pies, specifically the famous ‘Skopelos pie’ (recipe here). A long snake of filo pastry filled with feta, the pie is fairly standard throughout Greece but what makes it a Skopelos pie is that it is fried and not baked. At the Pie Café they do two types of ‘salt’ pie – cheese and chicken or cheese, tomato and green pepper, and two sorts of ‘sweet’ pie – custard cream or chocolate cream. The pies are made on the premises by Mama and served up by her very charming son. We had two of cheese, tomato and green pepper ones and they were very hot, very fresh and very delicious. The chocolate one was very good too. Perfect with large bottles of Mythos.
There is a particular generous charm to the Skopelite character. One morning my daughter and I were making our way very cautiously in the car down the vertiginous, winding road into town when we were flagged down by an old chap making his way uphill. He passed a plastic bag of greengages through the car window with a beaming smile, kissed his fingers and with a vigorous ‘Yasous’ waved us on our way.
The goat herders were particularly delightful. We came across two carefully tended flocks on our travels across the hills above the town. One truly ancient man, who relied on a big olive wood staff (and sometimes a mule) to get about and who lived in a very neat little shack on the slope below our villa; and another younger man who had a larger herd further up the hill and was always delighted to see us, waving to us happily and earnestly trying to move his recalcitrant goats out of our path.
The goats themselves were rather beautiful, glossy and sprightly with alarmingly full udders by the late afternoon. You could tell the time of day by the goat bells! We knew it was time to start thinking about the evening meal when the old man and his herd made their slow and erratic way back along the old road that ran beneath the villa, oddly resonant chimes marking their progress
Excursion to Alonissos:
For me a lack of sightseeing attractions is a definite plus, if there’s nothing to see then you don’t need to feel guilty about not going to look. Especially when it’s blisteringly hot and there’s a beach to snorkel off, a bottle of Fix to be drunk or a pool to lie by. Having said that the walks, thanks to the many goat tracks and old roads, are exceptionally good. In the spring and early summer the wild flowers are a delight and to sit in an olive grove and watch the sunrise above Alonissos is worth a pre-dawn start.
On the last day we went on a boat trip to Alonissos and on the way back the crew used a whistle and called a little school of dolphins. The waters around Alonissos are a marine park and home to several protected species, including the monk seal, the island mascot that graces many a fridge magnet.
For our holiday on Skopelos we stayed in the House of Dimitris, with two huge, air conditioned bedrooms with cunningly placed windows to catch the ever present breezes and gorgeous views in every direction, modern bathrooms, a proper well equipped kitchen, lovely big living room with two huge French windows onto a terrace with a beautiful pool. The outside space was exceptional and the best thing of all a brick bread oven and barbecue where we could cook homemade pizzas and grill the delicious local vegetables.
You can see Mount Athos from the hills above Skopelos town. Our villa was perched about as high up as you could go with spectacular panoramic views across the island and down to the absurdly photogenic town, but no sight of the famous monastery; just fireball sunrises and mesmerising vistas across olive groves to the Aegean on the other side of the island.
And yes, everyone rides beat up old scooters, no one wears a helmet, everyone uses at least one hand for something else other than steering and if they can overtake you at fifty on a blind corner they will. Dog is optional!
With limited development, this largest island of the Sporades group remains beautifully green and wooded, with pine, oak and plane trees hiding some fine beaches along the sheltered west coast. See Sunvil’s range of accommodation on Skopelos for this summer.
Written by Rowan (South Street Cafe)