Our brief sojourn in Paxos may be over, but it certainly illustrates that it can sometimes be well worth your while to open those unsolicited emails that land in you inbox, rather than hitting delete.
It came about when Mrs P did just on a quiet Friday morning when Thomson Holidays successfully enticed us to take advantage of one of their late offers.
On the face of it, it sounded too good to be true. A week for two in an island villa, including flights, ferry transfers and car hire for the duration and all for £378 all in. We half expected some of those mysterious ‘extras’ to bump up the price, but the confirmation through at the price quoted, so off we went.
Even so, I figured that at the price, the accommodation couldn’t be up to much, but I was wrong again. After a three-hour flight and a 90-minute ferry crossing, we collected our car at Gaios harbour and drove to the Amygdalia Cottage which turned out to be one of the most delightful places we have ever stayed in.
Amygdalia means almond tree in Greek which I discovered via a Nana Mouskouri song of that title (you can listen to her singing it if you wish). If you click the photo above, you can just about make out the almond tree in question next to our car parking space.
The cottage itself has been converted from an older building and very Greek in design with its thick walls and small windows designed to keep out the heat of the day. But while the interior was perfectly comfortable, it is the beautiful tiered garden that steals the show.
The photo above shows the patio at ground level, but there is another eating area above with a brick-built barbeque and then a further level with a private L-shaped pool. It truly was idyllic, especially as we were fortunate enough with the weather to enjoy the sunshine on its terraces on each of the days we were there.
Paxos is the smallest of the Ionian islands at just eight miles long by two miles wide, so getting to see its sights isn’t difficult, although driving can be an adventure. Many of the roads are no more than narrow strips of poured concrete, while those that are tarmacked often narrow for no discernible reason and no road markings to speak of. I think I managed to engage fourth gear on only three occasions.
But the island is relatively unspoilt despite the tourism. A couple who we met had last visited Paxos 42 years ago and, apart from the mopeds having replaced donkeys and new villas blocking the path of their favourite walks, it was very much as they remembered it.
I won’t blather on too much about the places we visited except to say that it made me realise how unaware I was about the later Greek history. For example, there is a war memorial in the main square in Gaios for the fallen from 1912 to 1922. I knew nothing of the First Balkan War between the Christian Balkan League and the Ottoman Empire, the Second Balkan War when Bulgaria attacked Greece and Serbia.
The rest of the world joined in in 1914, but while peace came in 1918, Greece carried on with the Greco-Turkish War that only ended when the two agreed to swap Christian and Muslim refugees leaving both states exhausted.
And I certainly hadn’t heard of George Anemogiannis (left) the local hero and martyr of the Greek War of Independence. He attempted to set fire to the Turkish fleet in Nafpaktos, but was captured, hung and burnt to death.
Paxiots refer to him as the ‘Piropolitis’ or ‘Citizen of Fire’, although whether this is a reference to his attempted act or his certain fate isn’t clear.
There is a statue of him at the entrance to Gaios harbour and another at Nafpaktos. He is also remembered in the now derelict Anemogiannis Soap Factory in Loggos.
I have posted my photos on Flickr as usual, but since there is nothing more boring than other people’s holiday snaps, feel free to ignore the selected gallery below!