Our favourite PR man, Peter Horrocks, spends his time promoting the holiday homes marketed by Villas du Monde. His usual stamping grounds are in France, so when he we heard that he was taking a holiday in Greece (staying in Villas du Monde properties, of course) we just had to hear about it.
Villas du Monde have a fabulous range of Greek holiday villas within driving distance of Athens, writes Peter Horrocks.
When the company first started operating in Greece 10 years ago the only destination on offer was Crete, which happened to be particularly popular with French clients. Since then the travel patterns of villa holidaymakers to Greece have changed – particularly with the arrival of low-cost flights offered by budget airlines like Easyjet.
Nowadays the destinations include those within an easy driving distance of Athens airport. and with the opening up of the new motorways that has brought the whole of the Peloponnese to the south into reach – and even as far west as Lefkas. In fact, the Greek motorways are a joy to drive on as they are in very good order, you can’t drive too fast so they don’t seem dangerous, and the toll booths are very well organized and signposted with an obvious and logical passage for drivers with annual passes so they don’t get jammed up.
You hear a great deal about Greece being in financial difficulty, but very little about the major infrastructure projects that are helping the country develop fast. An example is the stunning Rio-Antirio, one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges: we were amazed by it when we drove over it. But perhaps the best thing about driving in Greece now is that you can use Google maps with no extra roaming charges, which makes life a whole lot easier.
Visiting the villas, we were surprised at how authentically Greek the areas were and how unaffected by mass tourism. This is perhaps down to the fact that they were relatively off the mainstream in the past and have largely stayed that way.
The star Villas du Monde property of the last two years is the Villa Elena (https://www.villasdumonde.com/resultat.php?search-button=&reference=GOC1401&p=1). We were lucky enough to spend a couple of nights there courtesy of the charming owner, Denis, who even cooked us a delicious breakfast to demonstrate the type of food clients can have if they take up his catering option. Located in a wonderful setting just over an hour’s drive from Athens airport, near the Corinth Canal, it is on a peninsula which is a nature protected. There are hardly any other buildings on the peninsula except the ancient Temple of Hera at the tip.
Clients love the place, as you can walk to the beach where there is hardly anyone to be seen even in August, or over the hill to a beautiful seawater lake that has rustic tavernas around it serving superb typical Greek food. The villa itself has a private pool and tennis court and as it sleeps up to 20 people it is perfect for special family get-togethers.
Farther south at the tip of the Peloponnese is Stoupa (https://www.villasdumonde.com/holiday-villa-greece/jacuzzi-surplombant-la-mer-en-3718.html) which we also fell for big time. Many Villas du Monde clients from France, Germany, UK, and as far away Australia have done the same. Set at the foot of a mountain range, it as a charming place with a lovely beach and marvellous coastal walks along to the nearby fishing village. We stayed at Mary’s place for four nights whilst I visited the villas in the area. She is the perfect Greek host, and as for her house: quite simply we didn’t want to leave! Perched on the rocks directly overlooking the sea, it is a magical place with an unbeatable Jacuzzi.
We enjoyed Porto Helli too. as we discovered its secret and what attracts the rich and famous to what is a relatively basic port. Just under three hours drive from Athen. it has a lot of very big and fairly expensive villas set in large grounds near the beach. The privacy and exclusivity attract mainly top-end French clients. The secret is that they can take a water taxi, often directly from the villa itself. and spend the evening just fifteen minutes across the water on the delightful island of Spetses: a beautiful place with a fascinating history.
Our farthest drive from Athens was out to Lefkas on the west coast by the Ionian Sea. it was a pleasant drive through the stunning countryside, and motorway nearly all the way. A small bridge connects the mainland and the island. Lefkas is utterly charming though a bit touristy in parts. Quite mountainous, it has lush vegetation and superb sandy beaches and is surrounded by smaller islands that are fun to visit.
Perhaps our most enjoyable discovery was the island of Evia, which is around an hour and a half north of Athens and is also connected to the mainland by a large bridge. There are car ferry services too. We liked it because it is very Greek and relatively unspoilt. It appeals to French and English clients alike. Here you can stay at a very reasonably priced villa with a private pool and a large garden (https://www.world-villa.co.uk/greece-villas/evia-villas/deux-pas-de-la-mer-6468-en-v.html) located just a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach. Bicycles are provided and as it is a flat along the coast it’s a pleasant mode of transport for going to buy the morning’s fresh bread.
In all of these places, we found the Greek people to be exceptionally friendly and hospitable and the food, especially the fresh fish. was top drawer. The rule of thumb in the holiday villa business is: would you like to stay there yourself? Our answer after our Greek odyssey is: Yes, please!