Everybody loves the sunshine: Our new favourite Athens Riviera beach
“My life, my life, my life, my life in the sunshine, hey
Everybody loves the sunshine, ooh, ooh, sunshine, ooh yeah
Folks get down in the sunshine, ooh, ooh yeah
Sunshine, folks get brown in the sunshine, ooh”
The refrain of Incognito’s 2007 cover of the Roy Ayers classic just keeps looping over and over in my mind. It has to be the perfect song to bid farewell to a long, hot Greek Summer.
It’s mid-September and, in Greece, we’re already two weeks into Autumn’s warm embrace.
Returning to work and day-to-day life rhythms after summer vacation spurts that never seem to last long enough is never easy.
It’s always jarring to my ears to hear family, friends and colleagues wish me the customary Greek blessing kalo himona (have a good Winter).
But I’m always quick to remind them that there’s plenty of summer and beach time to spare, with September temperatures remaining in the upper 20s and, occasionally, lower 30s.
Summer might officially be over and pretty much everyone may have returned to work, except for the fortunate few enjoying an extended warm weather break. In the case of the country’s tourism industry folk, they’re now starting to take their long-awaited annual holiday, often beyond national borders.
On Greece’s islands or mainland, beaches have – to a great extent – thinned of holidaymakers, village squares have been reclaimed by regulars, ancient sites previously heaving with visitors have returned to their peaceful status quo and restaurant staff are taking a breather between table settings.
Not that this month is a quiet one. Quite the opposite. Islands like Crete and Rhodes in the south, and even Corfu, where the weather is cooler, are bustling with visitors right now.
Yet, September seems to serve as a sort of salve for the soul for those of us who have to return to the big smoke.
It might be the month when it’s back to work – all heads in and time to knuckle down. But at least we know that we still have the weekends to get our minds off the grind, and play and soak in those last rays of bone-warming sunshine.
Of course, we don’t lack sun in this country. With over 300 days of sunshine on average, we certainly can’t moan about that. Though, like a colleague recently quipped, “we’re not on the equator”.
Living in Athens, we’re fortunate to live on the southern coast – also known as the Athens Riviera – so there are plenty of beaches we can escape to, and we do so mostly on Saturdays, when there are fewer people, and occasionally on Sundays.
In July, we discovered a new weekend beach destination, which has now become our firm favourite.
Our go-to swimming spot has long been out-of-the-way sandy Thymari beach, as it’s one of the few that remains in a fairly “natural” state and doesn’t become jammed with fellow beachgoers on the weekend. The ancient temple of Poseidon in Sounio, at the southeastern tip of greater Athens is just 11km further down the road.
One reason is the lack of umbrella and sun lounger sets for hire and accompanying beach bar, which comfort- and coffee-loving Athenians tend to favour. But if you are looking for that, you can find it on the same beach, to the far right.
Our new hangout is also known as Thymari beach, and is just a couple of hundred metres further south. We pretty much found it by accident, when we noticed purple flag signs blowing in the wind, announcing the location of Castus Beach Bar, which opened this Summer.
While we may like to catch up with friends at beach bars, cafes and restaurants along the Riviera, we generally don’t swim at these locations, mostly because the sea isn’t particularly inviting at most of these spots.
So, we were surprised to find that this new discovery would appeal to us so much.
Warmly welcomed by Dimitris and Gabriel, two brothers who hail from Santorini, to their new seaside space, the first time we plopped onto the big lazy purple beach poufs beneath a military shade cover swaying in the breeze, we knew we had arrived at our new beach home.
The guys have done an incredible job of creating an expansive yet aesthetically-pleasing space where you can splay out on the poufs or gather with friends or family and drink coffee and cocktails at cosy tables on the timber deck next to the bar.
We swim and snorkel in the Saronic Sea, which are surprisingly crystalline at this location, in search of undersea life amongst reefs and rock pools. Beach racquetball aficionados play for hours in a cordoned-off area. For the throngs of kids that gather here, this place is a dream.
But what has really blown our minds is the music. Everyone from the ‘80s dance classics ingrained in our souls, by Giorgio Moroder – recently rediscovered by a new generation – and R&B queen Jocelyn Brown to old-school rap giants like Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five through to ‘90s hip hop soul pioneers such as Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill, we thought we’d been transported to our future paradise.
In July, when we holidayed (and simultaneously worked) on the Dodecanese island of Astypalea and the Cycladic isle of Amorgos, it was easy to find peaceful beaches where we could switch off the urban hum and the tune into the tranquility of the Aegean and simplicity of island life.
Even in the busiest summer holiday week of the year, in mid-August, when we sailed from Athens to the Ionian isle of Kefalonia aboard a coworking, coliving catamaran, we found ourselves casting across the waveless waters of the Corinth Gulf with not a single other vessel in sight.
September came round ridiculously quickly (each year increasingly so, it seems), along with the many responsibilities that come with city life, so we’re excited to be able to return to our idyllic spot to unwind on the weekends. It was literally music to our ears when we heard that the beach bar – which remained open 24 hours a day in the Summer – will stay open on the weekends in Autumn and Winter.
Over the weekend at Thymari beach, as hexagons of sunshine dappled on our bronzed skin, I felt inordinately blessed that the first month of Autumn in Greece always spells an Indian summer, with plenty of soul- and mind-cleansing swimming still to be had. Perhaps, we love this spot so much because it makes us feel as if we are back on the islands.
The colours of September in Greece are softer than they are in the Summer, and the seas have been thoroughly warmed through. The harsh, hot sunlight of July and August has melted away. Sunsets are more interesting as the occasional clouds allow the sun to filter through hues of orange, coral, red and lavender.
It’s the time of year when we feel re-energised, ease ourselves into the frame of mind needed for the cooler months and prepare to tackle the challenges of a new season.
It’s when we look back with deep gratitude at our Greek summer and recall the precious times we spent with each other and our loved ones, the new friends we made, the new destinations we explored and beloved places we revisited and the beautiful experiences we had.