Our Homer Run; Jed Novick and Family Embark on a Greek Odyssey of Their Own - Inspired by a GCSE Course in Classics

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 17, 2011 | Go to article overview

Our Homer Run; Jed Novick and Family Embark on a Greek Odyssey of Their Own - Inspired by a GCSE Course in Classics


LIKE all the best ideas, it was simple and brilliant. We wanted a holiday that would tap into our adventurer spirit and keep the children entertained - a holiday that would be about more than just eating and drinking while we moaned about the kids doing nothing except eating and drinking.

Then came the lightbulb moment: we persuaded our 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, to take Classics GCSE. 'It's just great stories. You'll love it,' we said, and when she came home one day enthusing about Homer's Odyssey, an idea for the perfect family holiday began to form.

We'd make it real. Before having children, my wife and I had been Odyssean travellers, finding our way across the world, bumping into life's challenges and negotiating gods and monsters along the way. A Homeric holiday might bring out the hero in us all. We'd fly to Athens and make our way to Ithaca, home of Odysseus. It would be an epic voyage where we'd face our own challenges, see off our own cyclops, resist the sirens - and if any suitors came looking for my girls ...

Unlike Odysseus, who had ten years to get to Ithaca, we had only ten days, and so we set ourselves one challenge each. Ellie would have to conquer her fear of the sea after too many viewings of Jaws. Loulou, 11, would find the rite of passage that would transform her from primary school kid to a secondary school pupil in September.

We also had the challenge that all one-time travellers who are now family people have: finding uncharted terrain in a world packaged into a tourist's dream while keeping the girls happy.

Like all epic voyages, the first step was the hardest - three hours spent on a budget flight felt longer than Odysseus's seven years of bondage on Calypso's island.

After that, we didn't take the easy path. The adventurer's spirit compelled us to take the more 'interesting' route: we'd drive across the Bay of Corinth towards the Ionian island of Lefkas. Still, it was only a six-hour journey. You need a god or two on a trip like this, and we found ours in the most unlikely place. 'Would you like an upgrade?' asked the Avis person, obviously god of car hire. 'Take your pick - there's no extra cost.' I turned round to thank him, but he was already gone. If he was there at all.

OUR first port of call on Lefkas was Vassiliki Bay, home of Wildwind Sailing. At first glance, it's easy to mistake Wildwind for Neilsons or SunSail or one of the other sand, surf 'n' sail companies. While they've all got their plus points, Wildwind is a different beast.

Smaller, it feels more personal and less structured. There are plenty of instructors - all blond gap-year boys with six-packs - and it's up to you what you do and when you do it. It all feels fantastically relaxed and laid-back.

For the Wildwind folk, Vassiliki has another advantage. in the morning there's very little wind. The water in the bay is soft, the conditions ideal for serious sailors who want to perfect their craft, as well as urban fools who fancy hoisting the main sail and doing something or other with their jib. in the afternoon, around four, the crosswinds kick in, giving everyone a chance to give their sheets to the wind. It's so perfect it's almost as if someone had planned it.

Vassiliki itself is lovely - a small bay, a row of waterfront restaurants and cafes, crystal water, beautiful scenery, and mouth-watering food.

It's one of those places where it's impossible not to come over all Shirley Valentine and pledge to spend the rest of your days eating calamari and drinking Retsina.

But the lure of Ithaca and its mythical welcome were just too much to keep us from moving on, and it was time to hand the ferryman his pieces of silver and set off. …

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