Island in the sun; Meganisi, Greece

The silence is broken as the explosion echoed across the water followed by a dramatic plume of smoke that can be seen billowing across the blue-hued bay connecting the Ionian Islands.

Moments later, yachts and small fishing boats can be seen turning across the still water, heading to help in the baking October sunshine.

Hard to believe life on the ocean wave is not always as idyllic as it seems.

I had travelled to Meganisi, in the Greek Islands, by car then plane then bridge then ferry – this is a place for escaping and for peace.

There are no pubs or rowdy bars here, it is particularly quiet in October at the end of the traditional holiday season in this mecca for sailing trippers and sun-lovers.

This has been a record-breaking year weather-wise,  with temperatures still reaching up to 28 degrees in early October although the storms had set in when I arrived – apocalyptic thunder, lightning and thrashing rain made a fairly brief appearance twice in our week-long stay.

I felt quite smug to be a land-lubber and not a sailor – life on board must be terrifying when the heavens make themselves known.

We stayed at a James Villa at Spilia, the three-storey tiered house (which sleeps six) one of a pair boasting private pools and multiple terraces.

Our home from home overlooked the staggeringly beautiful bay ringed by mountains and green foliage, accessorised by the mooring yachts and tiny tavernas dotted around its shores.

We travelled from Manchester airport with Monarch to Preveza on the Greek mainland before hiring a car from Avis across the road.

From there we drove across the causeway across shallow salt flats and wetlands to Lefkada on Lefkas island and then to the port of Nydri, where we caught a car ferry for the trip over to the port of Vathy in Meganisi through the Ionian Islands, including straight past Skorpios Island, famously bought by Aristotle Onassis and currently leased to a Russian oligarch.

This is where Jackie Kennedy married into the Onassis family – a lot of history for a small green slice of natural beauty perched in azure seas.
Meganisi itself is tiny, boasting a scattering of towns, though I use the word town advisedly.

These are villages of the idyllic variety.

Officially, the hilltop Spartachori is the main hub of life locally, offering tourists a very hot climb up steep steps, charming Greek homes covered in flowers and climbing plants, winding little lanes and a couple of bars – oh, and an absolutely breathtaking vista across the Ionian Sea.

 Spartachori. Pic by @jabberingjourno Spartachori. Pic by @jabberingjourno

There is a viewing point but is best enjoyed from one of several rooftop bars with a chilled glass of delicious Greek Mythos beer in hand – and when I say chilled I mean the glass as well as the beer.

It is from here we saw the exploding boat drama unfold, as friendly locals stared through binoculars, waved their arms and speculated as to who the boat belonged to.

In this small community, everybody knows each other.

Hopefully, nobody was hurt.

Vathy, a 10 minute drive from our villa via an empty, winding, coastal road is the main pull for visiting tourists, mainly from sailing holidays, who moor up to dine at one of the stunning village’s many waterside restaurants and cafes.

Many offer up traditional Greek menus or fresh seafood with a small smattering of fry-ups and burgers for the largely English, Australian and Scandinavian visitors. The Italian influence is also visible.

The majority of establishments have WiFi if you ask. Many tables are dominated by sailing tourists and crews with laptops, Skyping their loved ones and contacting other members of their flotillas.

Sailors of the more year-round variety, many sporting beards and peaked caps a la Captain Birdseye, also fuel up at this water-side retreats while just metres away real Greek fisherman site on the jettison, mending nets late into the balmy evenings.

The restaurants vary in quality (though all priced cheaply) with my favourite – Stavros – run by the man himself and at least two more generations of his family who are very friendly and anxious to make you happy.

Stavros’ service ( which has earned him a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence) extends to him personally mooring up your boat if required so you can take just two steps to your table without incident and scaring off the multitude of cats which follow you around where there might be food.

They are tolerated, not petted upon here and it is advisable not to feed them unless you want to resemble the Pied Piper with cats instead of rats.

One adopted me at the villa and followed wherever I went, purring up a storm.

But the real joy of Meganisi is the peace.

Several days went by where we did no more then potter to the nearby taverna with its stone beach complete with water hammocks and woven umbrellas for a carafe of wine and chicken souvlaki (seasoned kebabs) and to earwig the sailing conversations and tall tales of the sea.

The peace is only broken by the tuneful church bells across the bay from Vathi, the carrying sounds of onboard radio conversations, and the goats which wander the landscape, wearing bells around their neck.

Mosquitoes can be problem, I was covered in bites – best to stock up on repellent and balm to soothe or you spend much holiday time scratching.

But if you knock back a glad of locally-brewed Ouzo  – or two – after your meal, I find it helps with the itching.

This is beautiful place for soothing the soul and escaping to be with yourself. just don’t tell anyone.


– Nicola travelled with Monarch airlines, staying with James Villas at Spilia
– Greek tourism Greece: 020 7495 9300/
– Note Meganisi is sometimes also spelled Meganissi, Vathi can be spelled Vathy
– Maganisi translates literally as ‘The Big island’

 Nature steals a car. With cat. Pic by @jabberingjourno Nature steals a car. With cat. Pic by @jabberingjourno  As appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post October 17 2015 As appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post October 17 2015