We are sitting with an ice-cold beer on the Greek island of Antiparos. A large oak and deep scarlet bougainvillea shade us and the clink of backgammon dice is the only sound.
Depending on your definition of an island, Greece has anywhere between 1,200 and 6,000 of them. The growing numbers of visitors to the most popular of these have lead to accusations that some of the islands are losing their unique flavor. You can visit in the off-season when there are fewer tourists, or you can eschew the more developed isles altogether and head instead to somewhere less famed such Schinousa, Irakleia or Antiparos.
Antiparos is only a 20-minute boat ride from Paros, with just one small village and miles and miles of sand – including one of Greece’s only nudist beaches. The raw beauty of the island has attracted the like of Tom Hanks, Madonna and a whole host of Greek shipping magnates who have homes here.
We hire a car and drive to the other side of the island, to the secluded beach of Aghios Georgios, home to a few houses and the famed Captain Pipinos taverna, right on the sand. We dive straight into the water, its sharpness taking our breath as we wash off the dust thrown up by the dirt road approach.
Then it is straight to a table covered with a disposable paper table cloth, held in place by a long piece of elastic and a couple of well-placed oil and vinegar bottles. Octopus and red mullet, caught this morning, hang to dry in the sun. Plate upon plate arrives: huge chunks of white feta cheese, shallow-fried whitebait, mountain greens with lemon just plucked from the tree and slabs of rough-hewn homemade bread.
Service is at a leisurely pace and Pipinos himself, with his peaked black cap and face lined like the cliffs of Santorini, looks every inch the old seadog as he rocks back on the heels of his chair and gives his worry beads a satisfying twirl. There are no large hotel groups on Antiparos, no all-inclusives – just a smattering of bars and a solitary nightclub. The island is as close to ideal as you can get.