Even while I’m living in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, there are still occasional home-pangs. But this one is a little more Mediterranean than Blighty.
The Ionian shores of Ithaki have been a holiday destination-come-bolt-hole since I was a nipper, and while I can’t go as often as I would like anymore, it remains where my heart and head find balance. My Homeric geekery (the island is the birthplace of Odysseus), love of calamari and retsina kourtaki all stem from this island. I wish I could add knowledge of the Greek alphabet, but that ship has long since sailed.
Pebbled coves with dip-dye blue waters, bell-clanking goats peeking from the foliage, summertime festivals where generations dance in squares lined with candles ’til sunrise, flaky-filo spanakopita for breakfast, the hot buzz of cicadas. Fortunately for me, it’s still relatively undiscovered, save for the flotillas. But they come and go.
The population remains at around 3,000 — so its no small wonder that I still have the same taxi driver, local baker and I can recognise faces like neighbours (in particular the man who looks like a Greek Ronnie Barker).
Often I go alone, taking nothing but a suitcase of paperbacks (pre-Kindle, which I’m still struggling with), and stock the fridge with Alpha beer and obligatory Gordon’s for post-beach g&ts. I write, I drink, I eat €1 pitta souvlaki; it’s simple and it’s blissful.
It’s a place I’ve shared with people I love, those I’ve since lost, and a haven of memories.
I can attest — as did Odysseus — that, every time, it is well worth the trek to get there.