Best family holiday? So many to choose from, but I’d have to plump for Greece. It was a clan get-together in the mountains of the north. My wife and I had been touring Europe in our caravan, our daughter and her husband and children (aged four and two) had flown out from Manchester, and our son and his fiancé had driven over from England. We all met at my sister-in-law’s house just outside Athens, then set off for northern Greece.
Our destination was Molivdoskepastos, an Epirot village clinging to the hillside high in the mountains on the Greek-Albanian border. We were there because my brother-in-law Mike was born and bred in the village, and had invited us to attend celebrations for the Feast of the Assumption on 15 August. We’d taken four rooms at the Bourazani Wild Life Resort, a hunting lodge in the valley below the village, with gruesome animal heads mounted on the log-cabin walls and a tree growing up through the centre of the building. We all settled in with much noise and laughter.
The next morning I walked the lanes around the hotel. Cloud lay snagged on the sharp mountain-tops, Alpine flowers blew in the valley meadows. Anglers cast into a fast-moving river that slid between high bluffs. Not the Greece of the postcards, but Greece nevertheless.
Preparations for the all-night vigil were well underway at the monastery – a dais constructed, bread baked, a huge pan of beans cooked on a wood fire. Then it was up the long hill to the village, where we ate at the taverna, before having tsipuro and cake at Mike’s family home.
Returning to the monastery later that night, we found he field next to it packed with cars, and its courtyard heaving with people. The priests chanted, incense smoke drifted up into the mountain air. My grandchildren started to get restless, and everybody (with the honourable exception of my brother-in-law) rushed to volunteer to take them back to the hotel. There’s only so much local colour you can take. The kids (protesting vigorously) went to bed, the rest of us convened in the bar.
On the following, and final, night we drove over to a dance at the next village. A live band played mountain music, beer and food were delivered to plastic patio tables in supermarket baskets, and everybody (except us) joined in the wonderfully intricate Greek dancing. The sense of community was palpable. Allowed to stay up so late at night, the kids were incoherent with delight.
Two memories stand out from our family get-together. Our grandchildren erupting into the arrivals hall at Athens airport, pulling their little suitcases-on-wheels, shouting Yiayia (Greek for grandma) and Taid (Welsh for grandad), and throwing themselves into our arms. Surrounding travellers smiled and clapped. Then the three-car cavalcade driving back towards Athens being brought to a halt for half an hour as our granddaughter sat imperiously beside the road on her potty. You can’t rush these things!
On their way back to the UK, our daughter and her family missed their connecting flight in Milan. ‘The kids had been sick,’ my daughter explained, ‘We had to clean them up’. Our grandson told a different story. ‘Mummy and Daddy went shopping’. I know who I believe.
Read more about family holidays in Greece.