Charmed by Serifos…

Some would say that Serifos is a desolate place, barren and dry with few amenities.  I have found the opposite to be true.  It has just the right amount of  mod-cons for me.  It has one bank, one petrol station, wonderful and accessible beaches, excellent hiking, beautiful vistas, local grocery stores (no franchises) and a very friendly and hospitable local population eager to help an intrepid traveler from across the sea.  There are many restaurants, most of which fall into the middle-of-the-road category, a few that are trying to impress and at least one where I wish I had been eating all along.  First, the bad news…

I ate at ‘Aloni’ last night.  This place is situated on the hillside just below the Chora, overlooking the harbor. It is a lovely view and the restaurant itself is relatively new having opened in 2007.  I was pointed in its direction by a local business owner and I must admit it has many qualities I found enjoyable.  I sat outside and ordered simply: saganaki and a half-kilo of lamb chops with fried potatoes. The sagankai was perfect-crispy on the outside and gooey and hot inside.  I didn’t need to ask for lemon as it was served with a large chunk on the side, same with the lamb.  This, for those who don’t know, is something I have had to ask for on both Ios and Milos.  It is traditional.  The lamb chops were alright, a bit overdone, but the fat was crunchy and the meat still tasty if a bit dry.  The potatoes were decent.  Now, the downside.  I chose to sit next to two Greek men about my own age who were loud and boisterous, always on their mobiles and every third word out of their mouths seemed to be ‘malaka’.  I know it has multiple meanings and was probably being used in an affectionate and friendly manner, but I don’t need to hear it all through my meal at such a high volume.  Plus, how do I know it was being used affectionately?   In any case, back to the meal.  After finishing my entree I sat for at least 35 minutes with no sign of the waitress (not uncommon, and normal, so no big deal) but when I called her over she disappeared into the restaurant and returned with my check, which I had not yet asked for.  I guess I wasn’t having dessert.  I paid the bill and left, feeling as if I had been given the ‘bum’s rush.’  I was let down, to say the least.

Tonight, however, I found a secret restaurant, hiding in plain sight.  Next door to my hotel is the Hotel Cyclades.  The Hotel Cyclades is located away from the main cluster of the port restaurants and not in Chora, so they seem to be a little in the background of the hustle and bustle that is downtown Serifos.  I was overjoyed at being able to have a starter of melitzanosalata (acidic and rich) then a mixed dish of gigantes, imam and roast pork in lemon sauce.  I even ate the bread, which I usually try to avoid.  It was the best I have had here, chewy and flavorful.  The dessert was a traditional sweet cake and they brought me an excellent double espresso to wash it down.  Really superb and my kind of Greek food.  No pretense, no flash and no trying to ‘out-restaurant’ anyone else.  Just good Greek home cooking.  I cannot speak of their rooms but I imagine that they are as basic, clean and neat as these kind of family establishments tend to be.  Next time I visit Serifos, I will try to eat there more often.

As I sit outside at the Serifos Yacht Club, listening to a mix of world groove and enthusiastic action from the European Football League playoffs on the big screen I am washed in a balmy breeze from across the small harbor.  The parade of life that is Serifos on a Friday night wander past, off to dinner, cafes or coming home from one of the same.  I have yet to pack my bags for my short boat ride to Sifnos tomorrow at noon.  I have to return my trusty Suzuki Vitara in the morning and pay my hotel bill.  Yes, I will say ‘ephcharisto para poli’ and ‘yassou!’ to Serifos but only for a short time. I am looking forward to returning, perhaps in the fall when the crowds have thinned out and Serifos is once again the Serifians.  I will hope to find some sun in the gradually shrinking days of autumn, dine at the Hotel Cyclades and find a less aggressive light in the whitewashed streets of the Chora to photograph.  I will bathe in the sea, still warm from the summer heat and count my lucky stars that I have been able to experience this place, this small island of Serifos.


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