On my first afternoon in Lindos, I’d arranged to meet Karen and Claire from Exclusively Lindos at the relaxed Skala taverna on the edge of the sandy beach. Looking out across the little bay, we spent the afternoon laughing and swapping stories over a superb lunch that included fried calamari and tzatziki and a Greek salad with capers, plus three excellent cooked dishes: a spicy sausage dish called spetsofai, aubergine in rich tomato sauce, baked in the oven and topped with cheese, and one of my favourites, peas cooked with potatoes, carrots and herbs in olive oil.
As the afternoon wore on we made our way through this feast and drank wine and the sun gleamed on the bay. We thanked chef Giorgos and the team at Skala, sending greetings to owner Sotiris who was working on his new restaurant in Lardos. I waved goodbye to my new friends for now and couldn’t resist slipping into the sea that lapped at the shore. As I swam, a light spring rain began to fall and the soft sunlight that emerged through the clouds afterwards was beautiful.
Just as New York isn’t really America, Lindos isn’t really Rhodes; it’s got a charm and magic all of its own. The village and its immediate surroundings have been protected from development because of the archaeological significance: it was a major trading and shipping centre as far back as the 8th century BC, pre-dating Rhodes town and sending a contingent of ships to the Trojan War. The Acropolis of Lindos with its temple of Athena may be older than the one in Athens, overlooking St Paul’s bay where the Apostle took shelter from a storm; the fortress around it was built by the medieval Knights of St John. The buildings are all in traditional ‘sugar-cube’ style and contained within the old village limits. Built around the edges of a hill with ancient ruins atop it and the sea on three sides, from the 1960s it attracted artistic types from all over the world.
I first stayed in a villa in Lindos in the 1980s with my family; a few years ago I returned in midsummer and sampled the restaurants and bars with my friend Hari. This time, Exclusively Lindos had offered me a stay in a ‘Captain’s House’ in the heart of Lindos for a few days in April. It would be a quiet time, I expected, since the season doesn’t really start until 1 May; and Lindos looked very pretty, the surroundings tinged with green.
The Captain’s Houses were the homes of the affluent merchant seamen of Lindos in the 16th and 17th centuries. Hidden behind high walls and grand doorways, they housed sizeable families and were decorated with Byzantine and Arabesque features and pebble mosaic courtyards. On my previous visit I’d seen the Papakonstandis Mansion. The Captain’s House accommodation offered through Exclusively Lindos is owned by a local family who handcrafted the interior woodwork. Off the courtyard are two bedrooms, a kitchen and the tall, magnificent sala, with its painted wooden ceiling and traditional raised platforms for sleeping and relaxing. To stay in such a place, part of the heart and history of the village, was very special.
The next morning I had Ayios Pavlos (Saint Paul’s) Bay to myself for a morning swim.
My mum was flying over to join me at the Captain’s House so we would make the most of the few days. When she arrived, we went straight down to the bay for lunch at Tambakio, a stylish restaurant on the water’s edge. The tambakio was a tannery (‘tambak’ being the Turkish word for leather, apparently); they would slaughter the sheep or goats there and it had been used until World War Two; then converted into a restaurant thirty years ago, and owned by the same man who has two of the most popular summer clubs in Lindos, Antika in the village and Amphitheatro up on the hill. We ate tsipoura, a type of bream which was grilled and tasted delicious with salad and wine.
Later, we were invited to join a wedding reception at Yannis’ bar, and after dinner at Symposio – where we ate excellent lamb kleftiko (and Joanna, the chef, recognised me from my appearance on the Tilos episode of 60 Lepta Ellada!) – we were invited by new friends Giannis and Michalis for drinks and dancing at Socrates Bar, which usually has rock music except for Saturday nights when they play Greek music. It was a warm welcome to Lindos and by the early hours, it seemed it wouldn’t be such a quiet few days after all.
After a late start next day, we spent the day lazing on loungers and swimming across St Paul’s Bay and had lunch this time at the opposite side, the ‘kantina’, where the tiered patches of land around were planted with vegetables and herbs, and the olive oil, coarse salt and oregano were all local. It was another beautiful setting. In the evening as we availed ourselves of the internet connection over a lovely glass of wine at Giorgios’ bar, Joanna, the chef from Symposio, came by to offer us some of her home-made, delicious chocolates. We ate dinner at Calypso: another bream, this time with horta and dolmades. After a few intense days of walking in Embona, I was making up for it with plenty of dinners and drinks...
On Monday morning, I sauntered around the village just as little kids were walking to school, and bread was being delivered, hanging in plastic bags from door handles. Like the donkeys grazing in the car park, it was a nice reminder that in spite of the style and glamour, Lindos is also a simple Greek village. Once again, I had St Paul’s Bay to myself. In spite of a cool spring breeze and some clouds, the sun was warm and the sea beautifully clear.
The weather turned rainy again in the afternoon, but Mum and I felt like stretching our legs so we walked around the coast towards Pefkos, up to the little church of Profitis Ilias and then to the thirteenth-century monastery of Ayios Giannis Meroglitis.
It gave us an excuse to live large again in the evening, with a return visit to Symposio for a wonderful dinner: olives crushed with lemon; succulent kalamari fried whole; bread with tapenade and taramasalata; a salad of lettuce, rocket, tomato, cucumber, pomegranate, avocado and honey-roasted walnuts; a sea bream with a very light lemon-herb sauce; and fresh potatoes with sea salt. We’d had three days of sheer enjoyment in lovely surroundings, eating and drinking, swimming and dancing, with a peaceful Captain’s House to call home, and new friends to visit again.