My trip to Sifnos was to look at villas that Evi had seen but not me. Well, any excuse really to hire a fire – engine red, open-top jeep, head for the islands in their May magic, and delay returning to London…
Sifnos is a wonderful island that really showcases the best of the Cyclades in a completely genuine way. Sifniots have always been famed as excelling in whatever they do – cooking, ceramics, farming, sailing, fishing, embroidering, the Scots of Greece but with better food, (Sifnos provided most of the chefs to the Sublime Porte and the Pashaliks during the Ottoman occupation), and a much better climate. Funnily enough, the mountainous landscapes cut with blue bays and dotted with white crofters cottages do bring the Highlands to mind – but as I said, with better food and sunshine, and water you can actually swim in without going blue and numb and shrivelling up and dying.
Paved paths lead from mountain-top church to mountain-top church, from beach to beach, and the island attracts visitors who love nature and have a touch of the bohemian about them – One lady makes essential oils from her lavender, another has a small business making organic jams and honey, cottages are all a-tapping with writers working on their novels, Reiki and Shiatsu practitioners can be surprisingly easy to find, donkeys and shepherds with flocks of sheep still wander along the roads, and I am told there are unique flora and fauna on the island.
First stop was a village house in Exambella, one of those tiny white-washed villages with pots of flowers, laundry hanging on lines, stout ladies sitting on their doorsteps watching the world go by, and eagle views down to the sea. The house is magical I am glad to say. Ask us about it. Costas, the guardian takes me on a walk around the village – “And here is the old bakery where the villagers used to bring their bread and cooking pots to be cooked in the days before they had no kitchens”
“And here is the church where there was a marriage yesterday.”
“But Costa, it has pink baptismal ribbons wrapped around the doors,” I said.
“Well first they got married and then they baptised the child,” said Costas, “Young people nowadays you know…”
Two very different houses afterwards on the hillside facing east over a dramatic sky full of huge cumulus clouds towering in the distance.
One is an exquisite house with vintage fabrics and a bohemian vibe – repeat clients here are from the fashion and design world unsurprisingly – owner is half French and tres tres chic.
When it grows up, it would like to be the other house, which has an impressive architectural pedigree, amazing gym, extraordinary pool, a sleek, black speedboat with captain, an excellent cook and a cat called Socrates. Both however share the same glorious view.
Thank goodness there is a house I haven’t seen on Koufonisia, which will be my next stop. May in the islands is magic, and one just wants to keep on sailing into the blue.