I usually blog as I go along. That’s very easy to do whilst travelling solo and quite an indulgence. However, as I’m on holiday with my nearest and dearest, I try to take a few handwritten notes instead. Looking at my notebook, there aren’t many entries for the first four days of our stay on Lipsi and that’s because of several things.
The first reason is that I’d always planned this to be a relaxing holiday. I’m not very good at relaxing but Peter really deserves a good break so that bit is going exactly to plan. The second reason is that apart from staying close to a near-perfect beach, the heat has really dictated how we spend our time. The heatwave is now in full force and hovering around the forty-degree mark. Sometimes a little above and sometimes a little below but that big Four Zero is a constant.
We have been left with no other choice but to spend most of our days trying to avoid overheating. The best way to do this was to sit in the shade on a lovely beach and regularly immerse our bodies in the calming turquoise waters. Lientou Beach is sandy and set in a deep horseshoe bay. Along the shoreline, there is a patch of pebbles which does catch some people off-guard. The first time I walked into the sea you could have been forgiven for thinking that I was having some kind of funny turn. The discomfort of the stones underfoot, relayed a reaction through my body resulting in my arms flailing in all directions. As much as I’m used to walking barefoot at home, I find it impossible to walk on uneven pebbles. The wearing of beach shoes really does help to provide a more dignified entrance and exit to the sea. The sea was warm and ever so occasionally passing seacraft would send waves of cooler water into the shallows. Do you know what else is in the shallows? Fish. Biting fish!
The first time one of these pesky piscine creatures decided to munch on my leg I let out a shriek that rang out between the surrounding hillside. Heads slowly turned and then returned with a knowing expression. “Yes, the fish got her too!” I soon learnt to act like the proverbial swan, perfectly calm on the top half whilst kicking my legs under the water.
Lientou is a popular beach (and I’m talking small island standards here) and the only shade is a row of tamarisk trees that still have a lot of growing to do. We soon cottoned on to the fact that it is wise to get to the beach early to secure a spot. On the odd day when we didn’t do this, we found ourselves squeezing into the tiniest patch of shade that was clearly marked out as someone else’s temporary pitch. Nobody seemed to mind and it’s a far cry from the sunbed wars you see at some Spanish hotels. On the days that we did get to the beach early enough, we’d choose a small tamarisk tree under which to spread our towels. It would have been greedy to take a big one when the beach is used by so many families.
We’d arrive as the tide went out and we’d still be there when it peeled back in again. We became experts in judging the trajectory of the shade cast by the tamarisk trees and watched it almost turn 360. We even became quite inventive on how to create additional shade using a fine cotton sarong tied to the sturdier branches of the trees. We saw the Dodenanisos fleet call in once or maybe twice a day along with the odd tour boat from Patmos. I even saw the little Leros Express make an occasional appearance (boat nerd alert!). This was pretty much our view for those first four days.
At one edge of the beach, there is a whitewashed concrete platform. I guess that it’s a small jetty for the dingies of the yacht goers that occasionally set anchor in the bay. However, it seems to be used mainly as a sunbathing platform. I did try to walk on it barefooted one day and it was akin to walking on a hot griddle (not that I’ve ever walked on one!). As it filled up with bodies throughout the day I swear I could detect the smell of fried bacon in the air. Crack a couple of eggs and you have breakfast sorted! Honestly, I have no comprehension of how people can lie out in full sun in such high temperatures. My fair skin just cannot cope and even Peter who’s spent most of his life in the dry heat of Egypt struggled.
Anyway, talking about breakfast, a typical day would start by taking sustenance at either the Aphrodite’s cafe bar in front of the hotel or one of the other establishments along the harbour front. On a couple of occasions, we did also buy a few supplies from the supermarket and bakery to self-cater. As good as the paid-for breakfasts were, I loved our makeshift breakfast the best. Crusty bread from the bakery, cherry jam, Greek yoghurt, honey and fresh fruit with our little terrace providing a lovely view.
Around the third day, a small breeze made a welcome appearance. By day 4, the breeze became a strong wind felt more markedly on the beach. The gusts licked our skin in waves and it was delicious. It did on occasion give us a false sense of security and tempted us to go out and explore. However, once away from the vicinity of the beach, the heat intensified and we were beaten back. The wind wasn’t a cool wind. Although it offered some respite on the beach, especially after just returning from a swim, it was hot and akin to being in a tumble drier.
One morning however, we did venture up into the village above the beach to go and look at some other properties that we work with. This is definitely not a working holiday but it is too good an opportunity to miss. The first property that I set out to see is Rizos Villas run by a lovely English lady called Anna and her Greek husband. We have worked with them for many years and I wanted to at least get a sense of where the accommodation is located. Google maps never makes this very clear and certainly doesn’t give any indication of hills. Just as we reach the plateau of the main road leading up from the back of the beach, I notice that we are right next to the second property I wanted to see.
The entrance to the Niriedes Villas (Lipsi Houses) is through a large set of wrought iron gates. The first thing that strikes me is the beautiful gardens which must take an incredible amount of work to keep looking so vibrant in these temperatures. There are beds of roses that although slightly wilting in the midday heat, are exuding the most heady aromas.
I’m conscious that I have turned up here unannounced so loiter on the periphery of the garden looking for any signs of life. From behind the jewel-coloured flower beds appears a lady dressed in a brightly coloured kaftan that floats on the breeze. I know immediately who this is even though we’ve only conversed on the phone. Poppi is the very stylish owner of the Niriedes Villas and she greets us with a friendly smile. After introductions, Poppi invites Peter and me to join her for refreshments on her terrace. We discuss some upcoming reservations and she tells me that if we can wait for ten minutes she can show me the houses. Of course, I take her up on this offer.
The Niriedes Houses are 4 independent houses set in this beautiful garden. The first thing that I notice is how quiet it is up here. Not that there is a lot of traffic on Lipsi, but the only sound from the garden is that of cicadas chirping in the trees. From the garden, you have views down to the sea but you get a real sense of peace and tranquillity up here even though it is just a 5-minute walk from the beach.
These are not cookie-cutter houses. Each house has its own unique design varying both architecturally and also aesthetically. Poppi tells me that her daughter Mary who is a structural engineer helped her to design the houses. The finishing touches are all her own work and every element of each property shows such attention to detail.
What a stroke of luck to be able to see these beautiful houses. Before we leave, Poppi invites us to visit the little chapel at the end of the driveway, built in dedication to a local saint (I forget who) and who she tells me has blessed her and her family in many ways. Blessed she truly is though with as much talent and creativity as divine intervention.