The Simple Pleasures in Life | Posted: 27 January 2013
Enjoy simple yet delicious meals on a self-guided walking holiday in Greece
Peter Williamson

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Peter Williamson

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Discover traditional villages on a self-guided walking holiday in the Cyclades

Sometimes with food, simplicity is best – nowhere more so than on a timeless Greek island, in a quiet shady corner beneath a blazing sun...

The menu was written in an old-fashioned school exercise book in pencil; the bare wooden tables and chairs lay scattered beneath the shelter of a gnarled olive tree; a sleepy, yawning cat lay stretched out in the doorway; and the elderly proprietors looked like they’d just come in from a hard day in the fields. And yet this inauspicious start was to culminate in one of the most memorable meals I’d ever eaten.

It was many years ago and I was on a small Greek island in the Cyclades. We’d arrived by fishing boat, traditional bazouki music blaring out as we crossed the bay from the main island, the brilliant white houses of which sparkled and shimmered in the dazzling midday sun. A line of world-weary donkeys took us up the stony track – there were no roads – to a straggling hamlet of small square houses and archetypal blue domed churches to seek refuge from the heat in the only bar we could see.

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There wasn’t much choice so we ordered the fish and sipped a chilled glass of retsina, an acquired taste I’d worked hard to acquire, while we waited for our lunch to arrive. The smiling proprietor soon came out bearing a large white plate laden with a most succulent-looking salad of juicy red tomato, sliced cucumber, vivid orange bell peppers, red onion rings, cubes of salty feta cheese and shining Kalamata olives, all drizzled with home-made golden olive oil.

This was soon accompanied by a loaf of crusty white bread and then came the fish – two plates of grilled whole sardines – no sauce, no garnish – just plain grilled fish – and it was absolutely delicious. We took our time, we relished the relaxed atmosphere and we enjoyed what was undoubtedly one of the best meals I’d ever tasted, in a quite remarkable location.

Sometimes, simplicity is the key to an unforgettable meal, as in this case, or to a wonderful hotel or truly memorable holiday, and Greece has always struck me as one destination where this sort of unhurried experience is part of everyday life.

Let’s face it, it’s not only the unrivalled history and archaeology, and the spectacular landscapes of mountains, beaches and idyllic islands, that make Greece a fascinating place to visit, it’s also the warmth of the welcoming people who draw you into their unhurried way of life, allowing you to become immersed in their traditions and culture, before you reluctantly leave, like I did, with fond memories that have not diminished over the ensuing years.

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