The Five Star Greece Inspection tour hits Paros. accompanied by our new Parian colleague Dimitris, whose enormous family seems to run Paros, and is clearly the key to the island. People wave and smile as we pass by. “I am beginning to feel like the Queen” I say. Dimitris gently puts me in my place “The Queen Mother, you mean…”
Paros is a lower key Mykonos; the same dazzling white and brilliant blues, the same picturesque villages of cubic houses, but more family friendly and less of a hip scene – unlike Mykonos, there are proper fishing villages, some greenery, a famous pottery, and no Kardashians.
We look at a large and luminous group of suites on the brow of a cliff facing the sunset, where a band I have never heard of but are famous, called Maroon Five, stayed and behaved like perfect gentlemen. Luckily my daughter is travelling with me and is suitably impressed when the owner tells us. Tiesto was hired this year to play at one of our villas in the Ionian by guests there, and I had never heard of him either, so I have some homework to do…
On the gentler south coast, near Ysterni, we see a small gem of a house which oozes style and charm, perfect for honeymooners and long term renters wanting a retreat with room for a few guests. In sheltered Voutakos we admire the new pool built at one of my favourite houses on the beach, which makes it probably the perfect house now for a large group or family with an easy barefoot ‘n’ bikini lifestyle, and, like truffle hounds on the scent, get wind of some very interesting new houses that I am sure we will eventually convince the owners to rent.
This time we stay at Naoussa, at the cosy and friendly Stelia Mare hotel. Naoussa is quite simply one of the most beautiful villages in Greece – the Naoussans do not put a foot wrong – the bars are cool, the shops are inviting, and tavernas are picturesque with vine-draped arbours, excellent food, the service is genuinely warm and painstaking – in one taverna, Mario’s, in the beautiful port, (owned by one of Dimitri’s cousins,) I ordered fish, but left a bit of it on my plate – “something for Mr Manners” as one used to be told… With the usual complimentary thimbleful of Mastiha, the fragrant liqueur made from the Mastic tree, and little cake squares and ice cream, the waiter brought the bill with a 10 euro discount as I clearly hadn’t enjoyed the fish enough.
The elegant French tourists and Athenian weekenders, who all know the locals as they come every year are still in evidence, though many seem to be leaving, embracing their local friends, saying “Tou chronou, ke kalo Himona” – “till next year and have a good winter,” the bittersweet Greek salutation with its smell of autumn closing in, dry leaves, cold winds howling down the Aegean, and olive wood fires crackling in the fireplaces.
My daughter takes her 200th picture of the hip Naoussa cats and I think of a title for the book that she clearly has to do – Felin’ Greek, Greek Felines, Miaouwssa, Purros.. (all titles rejected as cringe), and teaches me how to do Instagram; the Fivestargreece account will show many cats to begin with, but I will soon get the hang of it….
We lock ourselves out of the hotel by mistake, and my daughter scales the walls and shimmies down the trees behind like a pro – “You didn’t think I learned anything at boarding school, did you.”
So that was money well spent then….