After spending a couple of days exploring Rodos, we gathered our belongings and boarded the 9am bus to Archangelos, the fourth largest town on the island. We stowed our bag in the baggage locker, handed over our 6€ combined fare and disembarked some fifty minutes later. Reunited with our belongings, Jon sent a text to our friend George and we started ambling along the three mile mountain path towards Stegna, the idyllic beach village which had stolen our hearts a year ago. Ten minutes later, George pulled up and after exchanging hugs, we hopped in his car and made our way to the Alpha Stegna Sun.
After catching up over a drink in the shade of his exquisite garden, George handed over the keys to the room that was to be our home for the next eleven nights. We unpacked our bag, demolished our complimentary croissants, changed into our swimwear and headed off to reacquaint ourselves with the Stegna's perfect beach. Greeted like long-lost friends by Tsampika*, the biker dude with hair longer than mine, we handed over our cash and secured a pair of sunbeds and umbrellas for the day. Let the beach life begin!
*Named after the saint of the clifftop monastery that overlooks Archangelos, Tsampika is a popular choice of name throughout the area and means "dreamer or bright spark".
Each morning we'd awaken to a room flooded in the sublime pinkish gold of Homer's rosy-fingered dawn and watch as Helios, the Sun God, started his daily chariot ride across the horizon, the bed sheet tangled around our ankles, kicked off during the sultry heat of the night, the sheen of sweat already on our skin.
Breakfast - plump, juicy peaches and super sweet locally grown grapes and full-fat Greek yogurt or bread still warm from George's Mum's wood-fired oven, served with strawberry marmalade, eaten outside in the sunshine.
We'd walk along the beach every morning....
....feel free to join us!
We'd planned to try out paddle boarding but Stegna's award-winning Paddle Paradise was so popular that the courses were fully booked... a great excuse for coming back next year (as if we needed one!)
I know you can learn in the UK but the warm waters of the Aegean are a lot more appealing!
Due to its relative inaccessibility, Stegna remains delightfully quiet and low key. There's hardly any British tourists, the majority of visitors being Italian, French and German. The 3km long beach, bisected by a pretty harbour, is served by one road, flanked by sixteen tavernas, three bars, four mini marts, two car hire businesses, a couple of souvenir shops and a tiny Greek Orthodox chapel. Apart from a single-storey all-inclusive hotel, mercifully tucked away at the far end of the beach, Stegna's tourist accommodation consists of family-owned, self-catering studios.
Sun-dried octopus is a Stegna speciality.
Hornets an optional extra!
From the mini market at the end of the road, we'd purchase local bread, fresh from the Archangelos bakery which, combined with olives, locally grown tomatoes and cucumbers and salty Rhodian cheese, we'd eat on the beach.
A couple of times we swapped the picnic for a freshly baked Bougatsa, a huge phyllo pastry parcel filled with custard and sprinkled with cinnamon (and no, we didn't share, they were too good!)
We also treated ourselves to a Greek salad in the Gorgon taverna, freshly prepared by head waiter, Alex, at our table and served with local bread, tapenade and sun-dried tomatoes followed by a platter of fresh fruit although, at less than £25 (including beer), we didn't really push the boat out!
We'd spend hours in the crystal clear Aegean, swimming through clouds of neons, gasping with delight at the bold fish that swam between our fingers and nibbled at our toes.
A late afternoon beer in the Gorgon Taverna overlooking the sea or from a can brought from the mini market on the way home, would be followed by a shower and a rum & cola served with a wedge of lime filched from a nearby tree before rushing out to sit on the harbour wall totally mesmerised by the stunning sunset, in Lawrence Durrell's words, the successive washes of Prussian blue and violet.
With treats in my clutch bag, we fed every cat we encountered. Admittedly, none looked like they were in need of food but most polished them off with great relish and greeted us with unbridled joy every evening.
Nights were chilled out and laid back. You won't find a nightclub, a karaoke bar, a darts board or a snooker table in Stegna. The food served in the restaurants is Greek as is the soundtrack, bouzouki not Beyonce.
We popped into one of our two favourite bars for a beer and ate at around 9pm in any taverna that took our fancy - all excellent. Most of the time we'd share vegetarian mezzes but Jon had souvlaki and gyros a couple of times.
At weekends families drive from all over the island for long lazy lunches in Stegna's beachfront tavernas, dining on the seafood caught by local fishermen from the clear unpolluted waters whilst the young, hip and beautiful dressed in their finery and paraded up and down the promenade until late into the night.
Lindos and Faliraki might be where the foreign tourists flock to but the millionaire owners of the vehicles who take part in Rhodes' annual Festival of Speed prefer Stegna. We counted seventeen supercars lined up outside the sleepy little Kozas taverna.
George joined us for a few beers. Yamas!
And allow me to introduce you to another Greek friend, Dimitri, the red Opal Corsa we hired for the day.
It was time to tear ourselves away from the beach and explore a little more of the island.
See you soon!