The afternoon is fading as I wander through Corfu town’s tired alleyways. Past shop owners puffing on cigarettes and hot air, the shelves behind them crumbling with unwanted souvenirs. And restless in a country where every day feels like Sunday, we sail a few hours south to Paxos for its white pebble beaches, emerald bays and relaxed island lifestyle.
Our tiny boat is flung towards the village of Lakka by waves dark and furious. But as we turn into a bay of hills rich with pines, the sea glistens pink, calm under the soft light of a Greek sunset. The peace does not last, the storm has tailed our boat. We anchor down and ricochet amongst luxury yachts and fishing boats, as the sky blackens and sea water skids onto the harbour’s street.
The wind chases us through rustic streets too narrow for cars to pass, into a village that ends almost as soon as it begins. Our napkins dance in the wind, alongside George the waiter at Pounentes, as he plays a celebratory song on the trumpet for our friend’s birthday. Four months without a day off, yet still part of the sea of contented faces around the village square. Wine splashes from glasses, an attempt to forget the Mediterranean’s vicious face a street away.
We fall back into the Neilson yacht and listen to the wind lick the boat’s edge, whispering us to sleep. The gale still blows bumps on our arms the next morning, and the skipper smiles taut at his guests, 'No sailing until tomorrow.’ My sea legs smile.
Yoghurt and honey at Fanis on the quay. I swap my book at Planos Holidays and, like everyone else , read One Day on a whitewashed stoop, sheltered in the breast of a hill. Old women smile as they struggle past carrying fish and potatoes for lunch with their family. Then my world becomes the book, and I am late for lunch on deck. Freshly cut feta from the square’s shop, warm baker’s bread and a beaded bag from the boy, courtesy of the hippy bazaar on the waterfront.
Forty degrees for the past four days, the sea spray revives me, and I wander away from the burnt-orange roofs of the village, past gardens crumbling under star-shaped pomegranate flowers and heart-shaped vines. I climb through delicate olive groves that have weaved round Lakka’s hills for over two thousand years.
Their crippled bodies are how the Greeks who run the tavernas feel this year. Higher tax, fewer tourists. Complaints rumble round the coast. From the hilltop, I view the sea charging towards the mainland in great white wisps, refreshingly clear of flotsam. And I realise that despite its problems, Greece is a beautiful country.
I fish by Akis, Tom Hanks’ favourite restaurant for seafood, next to children selling seashells for fifty cents. They have more luck than me. But I do not feel it. Because it is the perfect Sunday.