Countless are the times that during my decades of travel around Greece since the late 90’s I tugged at my hair in despair, gritted my teeth, bit my tongue or just went ahead and ranted. The cause? Seeing the immense and singular, rich and unabashed potential of my country being neglected, overlooked, unseen, and worse still, by its own people.
Having grown up in Rome and followed a British education surrounded by children from everywhere in the world, I never felt I belonged in Greece, or even understood it, for a very long time. The gift that came from this experience was that I was able to see from the outside in, and coupled with an eagerness to get to grips with my own, often paradoxical yet unboundedly beautiful land only intensified as I travelled across it. Writing mainly for Fodor’s Greece & Greek Islands Guides during these extensive travels, I was imbued with a deeper and stronger, intimate affection for Greece as I travelled across her lush mountains and tumbling rivers, villages and cities, coasts and fields.
But as my love deepened so did my despair. Because when I found myself in a magical forest or striking archaeological site and noticed rubbish left behind after a picnic, or when I went to a restaurant perched over a black velvet sea sprinkled with diamond stars and then had the spell broken by unpalatably rude staff, I despaired. When I stayed in a ‘5 Star Hotel’ with cracks in the wall and fake orange juice at the breakfast buffet, or came across countless entrepreneurs with a self-centred, two-dimensional vision of how they could earn by cutting corners, I despaired.
And that despair was only heightened when the age of the internet bloomed in earnest in Greece, when hotels, restaurants and other hospitality or gastronomy professionals dumped the fax machine and got online. Excited to explore their websites, I often found myself cringing yet again, seeing that online presence was yet another example of how, certainly an effort has been made, but that it lacks conciseness, perfectionism, and above all future vision. Like the legendary misspelt Greek taverna menus that any tourist in Greece can have a chuckle over, that include dishes like “lamp chops”, “little shoes” and (truly) “morning suck”, these websites evidently had not been Made with Love and Care.