Our 8 days and nights on Lipsi have gone by so quickly. Towards the end of our stay, we decided to re-visit Platis Gialos Beach this time travelling by taxi where we were able to enjoy it without the trauma of hire car incidents! This really is a special beach. It is almost away from other forms of civilization and with only the beach bar and taverna there providing services. That gives it a certain sense of tranquillity despite the number of other people on the beach. I’m not talking hordes here – I mean that every tamarisk tree on the beach has been taken along with all other sources of shade.
During this period of high temperatures, shade is absolutely crucial so we ensured that we were at the taxi rank by 8.30 in the morning. We waited about ten minutes for a taxi and ten minutes later we were at Platis Gialos Beach. We arrived in plenty of time to stake a place under a tree, pre-empting the trajectory of the sun and therefore the shade. We don’t plan to move from this beach for the rest of the day!
I mentioned that Platis Gialos has a sense of tranquility but it is by no means quiet. Up in the Tamarisk trees are cicadas – lots of them! When I hear their high pitched screech my active imagination conjurs up an image of little Pixies sharpening their knives on tiny grindstones. Cicadas don’t look fairy-tale-like at all. These brown and rather plain-looking insects move slowly along the branches of the tree shrieking out their mating call to the females with little respect for those wanting peace and quiet.
They are curious creatures though and we get out the old Google to find out some facts about Cicadas. The Tennessean website is a mine of information. Male cicadas have sound boxes in their abdomens. They make their sound by expanding and contracting a membrane called a tymbal. They use their sound to attract females, which make clicking noises when they are ready to mate. The hotter the day, the louder the male cicadas make their sounds. Crikey no wonder they are making such a racket!
Did you know that female cicadas lay eggs in trees. When cicadas hatch, they drop to the ground and begin burrowing. They usually keep digging until they are about eight feet underground. They live there for either 13 or 17 years. They will then tunnel their way to the surface. Once the adult cicadas surface, they linger for about five weeks before they start to die off.
Well, now I know that I certainly don’t begrudge their mating calls and their last attempts to procreate before dropping dead.
I also read that in literature, the Greek goddess Eos had a lover named Tithonus who was granted eternal life by Zeus. But because Eos neglected to ask Zeus to keep Tithonus young, he aged and aged until he turned into a tiny cicada. Not such a humble little insect after all!
The day is broken up by taking lunch at Platis Gialos Taverna. We also walk to the tiny little chapel that sits just beyond the back of the beach and just generally lounge around. As the sun pushed towards the surrounding hills in preparation to set, we lay comatose on the beach listening to the final throws of the cicada chorus and watching wind-battered butterflies play chicken with the steadily encroaching waves. Eventually, we haul ourselves off the beach and call for a taxi to take us back to the hotel.
Our last few days on Lipsi also included another lazy day on Lientou Beach a stone’s throw from our hotel. On this particular day, we noticed that the space under one tamarisk tree was cordoned off. We were curious as to why. “Baby turtles” said Peter. “A private party maybe?” I hazarded a guess. Neither were in fact correct. It seems that a children’s event had been arranged. At some point during the day (we weren’t clock-watching) we watched a lady drag over bags of equipment followed by a cumbersome speaker. The next time we looked up a large group of kids of various nationalities had gathered on the beach. The enthusiastic, bikini-clad lady wearing a sporty sun visor, led them into a kind of water aerobics routine in the sea. The children’s song blasting out on the crackly speaker was in Italian but most of the kids seemed to know it and the accompanying dance moves.
Later, beach-based team games were organised. A game involving plastic hoops and more teamwork took place this time to the tune of the Benny Hill theme – a sound track that transcends all languages. After about an hour the children have all disappeared from the beach and the lady hauls the equipment back into storage.
If asked which of Lipsi’s beaches are the best I suppose the response would be rather subjective. I will say that one of the best beaches for children is Lientou Beach. The beach shelves gently out into the sea. The same can be said of Platis Gialos and Katsadia. For those who want solitude and don’t mind a rocky beach there are plenty of these scattered around the coastline. Whatever type of beach you want, you can find it on Lipsi.
During the evenings when the temperatures dropped a little, we were spoilt for choice for places to eat. If we’d eaten during the day and didn’t have much of an appetite in the evening, we would eat at one of the Ouzeries. One evening we decided to go for a few plates at The Rock on the harbourfront. We’d noticed their octopi drying on a line above the bar’s balcony earlier in the day so thought that we’d give the place a try. (8 days isn’t long enough to try all of the eateries Lipsi has to offer).
I noticed that the waitress that took our order was English. Always curious how Brits can make it over to work and live since Brexit I ask her how she came to be working on Lipsi. She tells me pointing to a man behind the bar – “See that man?” “Yes” I reply. “He’s my dad” she says. She then goes on to tell me that her father owns the Rock and she is working there for the summer having just returned from Mexico. When she finishes here she plans to go to Canada for the ski season. She is certainly living her best life!
In a similar vein, one evening we went for a meal at To Pefkos, also on the harbour front. We were greeted by a friendly man who seats us at a table overlooking the bay. “Where are you from?” he asks us. “UK” we reply. “Whereabouts?” he continues. “Northwest” is our response. “Whereabouts in the Northwest? “Warrington, in between Manchester and Liverpool” is our answer.
“Do you want to play a game?” he asks us. “Well it depends on what kind of game” I say hesitantly. “OK – if you can guess where I am from you will win an ouzo!”
It is clear that the gentleman is Greek and he is not asking us what part of Greece he is from. He has inferred that he has spent time in the UK and we have to guess where. My first guess is Liverpool. “Correct” he says but that isn’t the answer he is looking for. He wants to know what part of Liverpool so we begin churning out every town and village that we know, from Speke to Sefton and Kirby to Kirkdale we try to guess. It isn’t long before Peter claims Crosby and gets an affirmative “Yes!”
A few minutes later a mop headed teenager who wouldn’t be out of place in Merseyside band the LA’s comes over to take our order. I recognise his accent as a local one to us and assuming that this is a father and son affair, I ask if he’s from Crosby too.
“Yeah, I am, but despite what he’s just told you – he’s not!” he replies dryly. Well, I hadn’t assumed that he was a native Northerner! The young man goes on to tell me that his mother is from Crosby and he’s working here for the season with his dad. I watch as he goes from table to table conversing in English one minute and then fluent Greek the next. It’s really impressive.
We have a lovely meal of dakos salad, grilled sea bream and bakaliaros tiganitos – fried cod with skordalia – one of my favourites!
One evening we decide to pay a second visit to Manolis Tastes. Not only were we so impressed with the menu, we had hope that Manoli’s dad who’d helped us out of a pickle at Kamares Beach would be there. It would be nice to have said thank you to him again and bought him a drink or two. Unfortunately, Manoli’s dad wasn’t there that night. Manoli who usually makes the rounds of all the tables in his bright red chef’s uniform complete with red chef’s hat, had told us so. We told him about how his dad had helped us out and asked him to pass on our heartfelt thanks to him again. Manoli was amused at this and shared the story with the waiting staff who found it equally amusing (at least I think they did!)
We had pre-booked this table a few days ago so were now able to dine in the inner sanctum of the restaurant and not out on the street (which isn’t as bad as it sounds). Again we had another exceptional meal.
One evening there was a musical event in the main square. We had seen the posters up around the town. Although written in Greek I could make out the date, time and location so we made sure we were there!
The evening started quietly with people seated in and around the square. As the evening progressed, people got up to dance and by the time we left the town square was jumping! There were people who knew the steps and there were others who just joined in made up their own. It didn’t matter, it was just getting up and having a good time that counted.
One thing that I didn’t manage to do whilst on Lipsi was visit the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary, Archipelago. This isn’t something that you can just rock up to – you have to make an appointment to visit beforehand. I had been in communication with the Marine Ecology Research Assistant and Supervisor and we had made a provisional appointment. The marine sanctuary itself is a difficult trek to make on foot. It is set away from external disturbances in a deep fjord to protect the work that they do. A walk up and down a steep hill is required. Because of the high temperatures, I made a judgement call and had to cancel it. This is definitely one for the list for my next visit to Lipsi.
The work that they do is absolutely incredible. Their research team do groundbreaking work in biodiversity conservation research through innovative habitat enhancement techniques such as artificial reefs and replantation of seagrass meadows. In addition to this, they have created a rehabilitation centre for sick and injured marine animals. They also provide long-term care and a refuge for dolphins that have been displaced due to the closure of marine parks.
You can read more about their work here:
In addition to the work done by the marine sanctuary, the island’s municipality along with the island’s residents have a clear vision for their island. Along with their ambition to achieve water autonomy and have 0% water wastage, they have also pledged to shun applications for the building of swimming pools (why would you need a pool with these beautiful beaches?) and to keep their beaches natural and free of sunbeds and the other paraphernalia that usually accompanies them. A lot of credit goes to the island’s mayor Mr Fotis Mangos who has lead the way for the island to become self sustaining. Right now, we are reading about the clamp down on illegal sunbeds and the sheer profiteering by some businesses on islands such as Naxos and Paros. (My view of what I saw on Naxos last year is well documented). Let us hope that these larger islands can take a leaf out of Lipsi island’s book and appreciate that returning beaches to their natural state would be an asset.
And before we knew it, it was time to leave Lipsi. Our time here came and sent so quickly that I immediately feel that I need to return again in the near future.
For now Lipsi – thank you. You have been incredible. Farewell for now.