The evening brings an invitation from Theologos Mangos, the mayor’s brother, to come fishing for calamari on board his boat, which is named, in truly Greek tradition, The Alexandra. The squid, with their disconcertingly human-like eyes, come flying into the boat on the end of the lines thrown out by Theo and his crew and it’s not long before we’re smugly chugging back into port with a cargo of cephalopods ready to be prepared (the mollusc has a plastic-like backbone which must be removed before cooking) and served to us by Nikos and Louli at their dockside ouzeria whilst Fotis, our multi-talented mayor, plays guitar and serenades us into the night with a selection of his self-penned ballads.
For a such small territory, the choice of accommodation is surprisingly good but to stay anywhere other than in one of the studios and apartments of Helios Lipsi is to miss out on the quintessential essence of this island. Located a 5-minute walk from the harbour and the hubbub of Kairis Bakery, yet rural enough to enjoy being awakened each morning by the gentle ringing of bells worn by the island’s goats as they make their way down the adjacent slopes, the real beauty of this place is the owner and manager, Giorgis Chloros, whose love for what he does is clearly apparent. The apartments themselves (which cost from €70 per night and sleep up to six) are spacious, well-appointed and spotlessly clean, but what marks Helios Lipsi apart is the way that Giorgis looks after his guests. New arrivals are met by him in his Jeep at the ferry and brought with their luggage to the rooms where provisions (milk, cheese, bread, fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee, water, juice and even a couple of beers) are already waiting in the fridge…all at no extra charge. Business-wise, he’s probably missing a trick with his overly generous gestures but is possibly banking on the fact that rare touches such as these are what make Lipsi uniquely special and keep holiday-makers loyally returning each year to enjoy its genuine hospitality, rather than going to slicker, mass market resorts where guests are ‘processed’ on an industrial scale for profit extraction. As Tom and Jean, a couple from Farnham in Surrey who have been summering in Lipsi for 19 years straight, remark to me one evening across the tables of the Calypso restaurant: “What draws us back here each year is the peace and quiet…enough tavernas to be fun in the evening, but without ever being hectic”. It’s a rare combination and one of the key attractions of Lipsi as a late or early summer destination for those wanting to kick back in the sun and relax in a slow, simple and uncomplicated style. Just don’t tell too many other people; let’s keep it our own private secret island!