Our final hoorah on Paxos – a week has flashed by in the blink of an eye – and all the gang have gathered to wave us off.
A mixed-age gaggle of schoolkids, perfect strangers just a few nights ago, have made a tiny paved square sandwiched between two restaurants in the pretty harbour village of Loggos their venue for a nightly brouhaha. Friendship – and some highly-choreographed dance routines – has flourished on these honeyed paving stones.
The smallest of the Ionian islands, Paxos, an hour by hydrofoil from Corfu, is just eight miles from tip to toe; meaning you might get lost once… but you soon get the measure of this hilly Grecian idyll.
Jo Tweedy steps off the flight map and boards a hydrofoil from tourist hotspot Corfu to the tiny isle of Paxos. Above, an aerial shot of the island’s iconic small port and fishing village Lakka
A water taxi to Paxi please! Jo takes a multi-generational gang – including her daughters Belle, seven, centre, Cleo, five, right, plus nephew Alex, seven, left – to the smallest of the Ionian islands, a one-hour hop from Corfu
Jo says the stunning east-coast village of Loggos is ‘little more than a dozen fabulous restaurants garlanding a beautiful fishing harbour… but you’ll struggle to find a prettier vista in the Ionian isles’
Jo and her family find themselves on the same boat as soap star Sally Dynevor, who’s Sally Webster in Coronation Street
It seems positively cosmopolitan compared to the tiddler of an isle that lies just 1.2 miles across the water. Antipaxos, a popular day-trip, doesn’t boast many people but if you’re looking for Caribbean-style alabaster sandy beaches in Europe, you’ll find them here.
A couple of days after our boat docked on Paxos (or Paxi, as the Greeks call it) from Corfu, where we flew into, we realise that a) we’ve left the tourist masses firmly behind and b) those who took the boat with us, we’re about to see everywhere we go.
Somewhat hilariously, one of those passengers is the actress who plays Sally Webster in Coronation Street.
The majority of our family group – there are 11 of us, from granny and granddad down to the youngest, Cleo, who’s five – are northerners, and the sight of a soap stalwart tickles us.
We decide early on not to say hello; Sally, her name in real-life too, has picked a far-flung island for a reason – but we do get a daily laugh when Mrs Webster seems to follow us wherever we are. No sign of ‘Our Rosie’ though…
In the evenings, you see, almost everyone heads to one of the three divine harbour villages dotted along the east coast.
At the top, there are swish yachts galore in Lakka; the middle is Loggos, a tiny half-moon bay with a string of beautiful – and reasonable – restaurants.
The busiest retreat is the capital, Gaios, where the ferry boats come in, right at the bottom.
Our base for this holiday is the four-bedroomed villa Andromeda (in Greek mythology, Andromeda was the wife of Perseus who, spoiler alert, meets a grisly end after being sacrificed), a five-minute drive from Loggos in the flick of a village that is Kagkatika.
Haven-ly: A sunny view of Loggos, which is one of Paxos’ smallest ports
A view of the crystal clear waters at Monodendri beach on Paxos, which is fringed by pine trees
The sign that leads visitors to northerly Lakka away from the yachts and up a secluded coastal path to Harami beach
Rurally set, with olive, lemon and orange trees shading us from the sun, we have the privacy to cause merry mayhem on the giant inflatable unicorns we picked up from one of the tourist shops; and when my niece’s boyfriend plays The Specials too loudly, only my dad, 71, complains.
In May, the pool is bracing but the sun is hot and we’re grateful for the cold bathing and our party’s three kids – all under seven – are immune to the chill.
In the mornings, we fling open the shutters to an unfettered – and blinding – view of the sun arching above the Ionian sea; 12 hours later, the light reflecting on the white-washed exterior is amber as it sinks again.
Of course, the best swimming pool that Paxos has to offer is the one that laps back and forth against the secret grottoes, the pebbly beaches and the easy-on-the-eye harbours.
From land, the Ionian Sea comes in a vibrant turquoise close to shore before ebbing into a deep cobalt blue.
A statue of famous Paxos seaman George Anemogiannis, who was a sailor during the Greek Revolution in 1821, stands tall in Gaois, the largest town on the island
Jo and her family trek over a small headland path to Lakka’s northerly Harami Beach. She decides to take a dip in the water there and ‘leave the walkers to stroll’
Jo and her family check into Villa Andromeda, which is surrounded by olive, orange and lemon trees
Bring the grandparents too! Jo’s dad Vaughan, 71, pictured in Loggos ahead of another nightly Greek feast
It is crystal clear and an absolute dream to swim in – even if the not-quite-summer sea temperature is invigorating.
When we trek over a small headland path to Lakka’s northerly Harami Beach, I spot that it’s possible to swim around it and leave the walkers to stroll.
‘I’ll meet you at the taverna,’ I shout before wading in and swimming the half-mile; feasting on the sight of the big blue beyond me.
There are yachts moored for perfect days, speedboats returning for lunch, paddle-boarders bobbing along.
A portion of just-fried courgette fritters awaits at the beach bar, and a glass of Mamos beer.
The food on Paxos proves the nicest of surprises; wherever we eat, we’re served up a carousel of delicious dishes – all inexpensive.
The villa is roomy enough for 11, with a mix of single and double bedrooms
WAYS TO WHILE AWAY THE DAYS ON PAXOS
Paddleboard off Monodendri beach: There’s a chilled-out vibe on the pebbles of stunning Monodendri, with sun-loungers and boards free – or at least cheap in high season. Plus a swimming pool if you don’t fancy a dip in the sea.
Shop in Gaois: The pretty Paxos capital has the island’s best shopping opportunities; bag olive and olivewood products, leather goods and hand-made jewellery.
Dine (like a queen) in Loggos: Mid-way up on the east coast of the island, Loggos is the prettiest fishing village on the island. A delicious meal for four will set you back around 60 euros, including wine.
Swim at Harami beach: North of Lakka, this beach promises soul-soothing views and delicious food at the beach bar above it – plus the gift of sublime sea swimming.
We assumed we’d BBQ our way through this holiday but the restaurants are universally good and, every afternoon, the confab about how we’ll eat ends up with a consensus – ‘let’s eat out’.
In Loggos, we try hard not to eat at Nionios, simply because it’s the first restaurant we come across and we feel we should be more adventurous, but, with its winsome view of the harbour and friendly staff, we can’t help but take a pew.
The night ends with a slip of paper asking for 130 euros; which feels astonishingly good value considering 11 of us have devoured dreamy food with lashings of beer and wine.
Before we even order, plates of soft bread arrive alongside hearty portions of skordalia, mashed potatoes laced with garlic.
My dad eats like he did when he visited Greece in the 70s; on hearty stifado stews and moussaka and lamb chops, and says it all tastes just as good 40 years on.
There’s no dessert menu either, instead several bowls of delicious honey-drizzled polenta cake that we all share arrive.
By our final night, a Saturday, it’s packed to rafters but we’re more than happy to wait for a table.
The days are spent following the mantra ‘everyone can do whatever they like’, which sees the 20-somethings paddle-boarding off Monodendri beach; where the sun-loungers and boards are free and there’s a decent restaurant.
Granny takes herself off on a four-hour walk, gleefully trespassing through the gardens of posh villas to stick to the path on the map.
She finds stunning secret coves and Whatsapps photos before hitchhiking back to us with a Spanish couple when a steep hill defeats her.
And the kids – my two daughters, Belle, seven, and Cleo, five, and their cousin Alex, also seven – spend their days thinking about going in the pool, being in the pool or begging to go back in the pool. And dancing in Loggos’ tiny square with their new mates.
Sunday comes and we get the speedy one-hour hydrofoil back to Corfu, which beats the bumpy two-hour slow boat we arrived on. Sally Webster is on board, of course.
Edging back to civilisation isn’t easy and Corfu airport is akin to purgatory with its long queues and delayed flights.
How do I while away the time waiting for easyJet to turn up? I start looking at all the satellite islands you can’t fly to – some that barely register on Google Maps – and ponder what quiet wonders they might hold.
Departing on September 14, 2020, a seven-night self-catering stay at Villa Andromeda in Paxos costs from £883 pp (based on eight sharing – £7,059 total), including return flights from London Gatwick, ferry transfers and two hire cars. To book, or to talk to an expert, call GIC The Villa Collection on 020 8232 9780 or visit www.gicthevillacollection.com.