One of my favourite films is Shirley Valentine, the story of a woman who has a life changing experience when she goes on an unexpected holiday to the island of Mykonos, so it was inevitable that I would have to visit there one day.
I wasn’t expecting it to change my life in any similar dramatic way however when we visited the island in July 2005 and went for a two week holiday to the tourist resort of Ornos Bay on the south coast of the island. From the moment we arrived the sun shone continuously and we had a long lazy fortnight baking under the Aegean sun and walking back and forth from beach to apartments located about two hundred metres behind the busy coastal strip of bars, shops and tavernas next to a strip of golden sand decorated with beach umbrellas and brightly coloured beach towels.
We stayed at the Anemos Apartments and they were excellent, pristine white with tiny balconies and brown shutters, in a quiet location of the main road that led in one direction to the wide sandy beach and in the other towards a busy road that went to the lively party town of Mykonos, or Chora.
We didn’t stay in Ornos all of the time of course because Mykonos is an interesting and lively island with plenty of things to do and see. First of all we had to visit the nearby beach of Agios Ionnis, which was the principle location for Shirley Valentine with the hotel she stayed at, the beach where she enjoyed wine and sunsets and of course Kostas’ taverna where she worked after staying on beyond the end of her holiday. It was all fairly recognisable but this was ten years after the film had been made so there had been one or two changes here and there and it has to be said that the taverna with the proud sign outside looked completely different following an obvious refurbishment and make-over.
Mykonos town is a lively place and one of the top tourist attractions in the Cyclades, not as spectacular as Santorini, as historical as Naxos or as dramatic as Ios but with an enviable location facing west with the town rising up from a gentle shelving crescent shaped bay full of traditional fishing boats competing for moorings with pleasure boats and rich men’s yachts. In the typical Cycladic town of narrow streets and whitewashed houses there was a generous mixture of expensive cosmopolitan shops and cheaper tourist stores, pricey restaurants and affordable tavernas, chic modern bars for young people and tourists and traditional cafés for the local men.
The most famous residents of Mykonos are the pelicans which waddle around the streets, their wings clipped to prevent then flying away, going from one restaurant back door to another in anticipation of fishy scraps from the kitchens and stopping every now and then in a good natured and obliging way to have their photographs taken with the holidaymakers.
Mykonos is one of the most popular of the Greek islands and the down side of this is that it is more expensive than most and that is especially true of the most picturesque part of the town, a collection of old fishermen’s houses built right up to the edge of the sea and known as ‘Little Venice’. Fishermen don’t live there any more because these gaily coloured buildings are all bars and restaurants and to use them and enjoy the stunning views one has to be prepared to pay elevated prices. We weren’t of course but we did eat at an adjacent taverna with a good view of the houses on one side and Mykonos’ famous windmills on the other as we sat at the same table as Shirley did in the film and enjoyed an evening meal with moonlight on the water and gentle waves harmoniously rearranging the pebbles on the beach.
The fortnight in Mykonos was a good holiday and maybe I will go back one day but for now I am happy to backpack and wander among the islands using the ferries to transport me around rather than be organized on traditional package style holidays.