It was time to cross the Thermaic Gulf to the beaches of Halkidiki, whose three peninsulas pierce the Aegean like a trident just below the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Our destination was the middle prong. Sithonia is just far enough from the city to avoid being overrun by weekend visitors, and without the ban on females imposed by the monks who control the third peninsula of Athos that we would see across the water.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather swim with bikini-clad beauties than bearded monks any day.
Our base was the hilltop village of Agios Nikolaos, where we found the perfect Air BnB flat, run by a friendly local couple whose family occupied apartments that filled rest of the large house.
The village is surrounded by olive groves, and a cluster of unpretentious tavernas serve typical Greek Macedonian food into the early hours of the night. If you go there, try Gerodhmos for outstanding baked aubergine and perfect pork souvlaki.
We took a drive down the peninsula that first day, to check out the picture-perfect rocky coves the region is so famous for. But those swimming spots were overrun by visitors from nearby Eastern European countries who drive down each summer to set up camp by the sea.
We would find ourselves drawn back to the broad empty sweep of the “town beach” right at the bottom of our hill.
It’s coarse coral ‘sand’ was clean and pure, and the water was so clear I could still see bottom even very far out.
It was never crowded, either. Especially early morning and late in the day.