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It felt like a blissful interlude of limbo, a week on the island of Paxos that I timed for the final run-up to Britain’s EU referendum. Luckily the clear Ionian waters, welcoming tavernas and a gathering of art-oriented people raised my spirits – until I returned to London and Brexit, but that’s another story.


Tiny Paxos (only 30 square km), an hour or so by fast-boat from Corfu, is eminently European in flavour thanks to a nucleus of well-heeled French, Italian, British and Greeks who wisely choose to spend long lotus-eating summers there. Their villas dot the hilly, thickly wooded interior, where cypress trees spike the blue sky between overgrown olive groves, the limbs of their trees stretching gracefully but not exactly productively. Beneath is a carpet of grass and wildflowers.

So. There’s a global fish shortage? Well that was easily confirmed when I was in Greece last week where smack in the middle of the blissful Aegean the only fresh seafood consisted of sardines, squid, cuttlefish – and sardines again. But thank god for the Greek spirit that even after decades of mass tourism can still lob a joke and a large dose of charm – even if the waiter turns out to be Albanian.

From Athens it takes nearly four hours to drive across the Pelopponese peninsula (via a region by the name of Arcadia – what expectations…) to the south-western corner, near Koroni. This is where my partner and I hid out last week, holed up in a pretty little place swamped by olive-groves while temperatures outside rose and rose – and rose again to 40•. Scorching, but compensated for by stunningly clear, cool and calm waters of the Gulf of Messina down below. Here’s a watery view on a rather hazy morning, The outline of the Taygetus mountains of the Mani peninsula opposite is just visible. That’s for the next trip. Next minute (or 15) I was down there, afloat in the transparent water – bliss.

Don’t worry – that’s not the new museum below. Patience. The first time I went to Athens I remember selling my blood. Those were my 1970s student days of drifting across Europe and running out of money – it was pre-credit-card and pre-email, so no quick emergency funds. All very footloose and fancyfree and it does make me sound like a dinosaur. However what everyone savvy knew at the time was in Athens you recouped your finances by selling a litre or so of haemoglobin, which we did on the way out and the way back. Very naughty. The other budget ploy was to sleep on a hotel rooftop for a few drachmas. I can’t remember how or where that was, but it was comfortable enough to give us a couple of days seeing Athens’ sights before we hit Piraeus, the ferries and the sybaritic islands.