“Remote retreat on Odysseus' mythical island, where nature-lovers, honeymooners and frazzled families escape to recharge”
Comfortable and cosy, but far from plush, all 4 cottages have the same layout and design: an open-plan living/kitchen area with flagstone floors, primrose walls, and simple wooden furniture; a modern, tiled bathroom with 'Levendis Naturals' home-made homeopathic toiletries; a rather sparse twin bedroom with stone-built beds; and a slightly grander master bedroom draped in old-fashioned lace curtains and a muslin mosquito net. Storage space is basic: wire shelves and some hangers, screened by a curtain. Black and white prints of bygone Ithaca, wildflower bouquets, collections of sea shells, tea lights resting among pebbles, and battered sun hats add a personal touch to otherwise functional décor. There’s no AC, sound system or TV – just a radio, a fan, and bug-proof screens so you can sleep deeply with the windows open.
This simplicity allows the breathtaking views from the verandah and garden to do the talking. Sun loungers shaded by a mulberry tree look down on the gin palaces moored in Aphales bay; wooden tables beneath brilliant bougainvillea are perfectly placed for sundowners.
There are a few eco-friendly touches: a swinging branch for drying laundry, energy-saving light bulbs, and compost bins.
Kitchens - each cottage has its own - are well-equipped, including a kettle, toaster, Villery and Boch crockery and Bodum coffee pot. There's an electric oven with 4 hobs, a fridge/freezer and plenty of crockery, pans, cutlery, glassware etc. On arrival, your kitchen is stocked with organic treats including home-made muesli, sheep’s milk yoghurt, Ithacan thyme honey, fresh bread and preserves, (plum and sage, lemon and ginger), local wine, and extra virgin olive oil.
Every morning, guests may help themselves to seasonal treats - cherry tomatoes, plump figs - hung in baskets outside the Coffee Shop, a wooden shack where Marilyn and her daughter Katie whip up delicious, nutritious breakfasts: excellent coffee, fruit smoothies, vanilla waffles with cinnamon butter. They will even make up picnic hampers for the beach or a boat trip, or marinade meat for you to barbeque, accompanied with mezedes like persimmon chilli chutney and red pepper and feta dip. Don’t worry about the washing up: the housekeeper will take care of it.
There’s no restaurant, but you can order ‘room service’ (24 hours notice), delivered by live-out chef Nadia on her moped. The Mediterranean menu reflects her diverse (Jewish / Lebanese / Belgian) background: maybe tomatoes stuffed with rice and feta, or sweet and sour chicken with basmati.
The nearest restaurant, Yefyri in Platrithia hamlet, is – happily – the island’s best. Bangers and mash and sublime cheesecake are a welcome reprieve from taverna fare. Bustling Stavros has several grocery stores and restaurants. Try Margarita’s crumbly kolokythopitta (courgette and feta pie) or dinner à deux in Polyphemus’ pretty garden. For fresh fish by the sea, your best bet is Remezzo at Frikes, where Kiki’s super-market stocks Marmite and Crunchie bars for homesick Brits.
This is a perfect place for a family holiday, and a safe haven for kids of all ages. Send kids off to help Spero feed the sheep or Mal harvest vegetables, or take advantage of the flexible babysitting service. Wherever possible, bookings are arranged so children of similar ages coincide. Mal and Spero also have 4 (older) children of their own.
Children under 2 years old are free. Ask about car seats for the rental car that comes with the cottage when you book.
Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
The family friendly cottages sleep 4 in 2 twin beds and a double bed; all cottages have a folding sofabed in the living room which can accommodate an extra child (extra cost).
Babysitting available by arrangement. The babysitter when we visited in 2006 was delightful – friendly, polite, and great with kids.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
There's a full kitchen with fridge, barbecue and oven; don't worry about the washing up - the housekeeper does it! You can help yourself to seasonal fruits and picnic hampers can be made up at the cafe. Have a night off and book the services of a local chef ('room service') with 24 hours notice if you like. Children missing the taste of bangers and mash will find it at Yefyri nearby; there are plenty of nearby eateries and grocery stores.
There are some stone steps in the garden. It's not an easy place to get to - you will be met by the Levendis chauffeur after your charter flight, who will transfer you to the Estate by car, boat and car (an additional 90 minutes). On-call doctor who can be on-site in 10 minutes, plus staff are qualified first-aiders.