Paradise in the Greek isles
SHE'S tall, tan, young and lovely, but not from Ipanema, although when she passes each one goes “ah” (quickly followed by a request for food and drink).
Her name is Anetta and she's from Macedonia, working for the summer on one of the world's most alluring beaches – Psarou Bay on the Greek Island of Mykonos.
Anetta's job is to walk up and down the crowded beach, weaving prettily between scantily-clad bodies sprawled on padded sunlounges, taking food and drink orders. Her uniform is a teeny weeny bikini and a panama hat; her work tool is a little techno gadget she taps her orders into.
“An iced coffee?” she purrs down to lounging guests. “Wine? Evian? A fruit platter?”
All day and into the lingering summer evenings, Anetta walks barefoot and lovely on the warm sand taking hundreds of orders.
This is one sizzling Mykonos hot spot and the well-heeled tourists and rich Greeks (there are still some left) don't hold back.
Within moments of an order being relayed from Anetta's little gadget to the nearby kitchen of the most stylish beachfront restaurant on the island, a beach boy is bearing towards your sunlounge, big silver tray heavy with treats balanced on his shoulder.
We are part of this uber-trendy Mykonos scene even though we ourselves are rather nerdy.
Dazzling yachts anchor beguilingly in the blue bay, their owners and entourages brought ashore by private water taxi to claim a spot for the day right next to us. We watch as the paparazzi patrolling the beach, with their long-lens cameras hidden beneath towels, try to get a saleable shot of a celebrity – a Greek opera star maybe, or perhaps a Parisian model, quite likely an Italian designer. Last year, Valentino stepped elegantly ashore with his pal Ralph Lauren from his anchored yacht.
Celebrity-spotting is rife on this beach but we are mostly ignorant of these European celebrities.
However, the afternoon a group came ashore talking in unmistakable Australian accents, we looked. We were probably the only ones who recognised (or cared about) James Packer and entourage.
Oh, this is hip.
A-listers from all over Europe reserve the sunlounges for the entire summer and happily pay up to $25,000 for the privilege.
Daytrippers pay about $60 if they arrive early enough to secure a lounge. We are always early, and we pay nothing.
It's all to do with Soula.
She owns Soula Rooms, a collection of delightful white-washed villas edging the trendy beach.
Soula was there long before the A-listers, operating her modest business with her husband Timos and twin daughters Nansy and Barbara. When the gorgeous crowd arrived about five years ago and transformed the quiet beach into its fashionable state, Soula just kept on doing what she does: renting out her spotless villas at reasonable prices and claiming ownership of the bit of beach in front of her property. When Soula's entrepreneurial restaurateur/neighbour crammed the beach with luxurious lounges and demanded a small fortune to sit upon them, Soula went into battle. Her guests sit lounge, and they must never pay.
So as Psarou Bay grew more popular with the rich and famous, we just kept on doing what we did – heading back to Soula Rooms year after year and claiming our spot with the wealthy. All day, long sexy music floats out of the restaurant over the beach and across the crystal water. You can swim way out to the dazzling yachts without fear of sharks, rips, currents or nasties, look down through the clear warm water past your toes to the sandy bottom way below, and float gently while listening to Michael Buble.
Late in the afternoon as the restaurant action heats up and the tantalising smell of chargrilled octopus wafts over the beach, the gorgeous bodies lift themselves languidly off lounges to saunter to the restaurant in the hope of getting a table.
Around 7pm, with the sun still shining and the music cranked up to party beat, the barmen try helplessly to keep up with demand for caiprihina cocktails.
Then the dancing begins.
Toned bodies writhe on chairs, bounce on tables, bop on sunlounges. They dance on the sand. They even attempt a boogie in the water. Every bit of space on the beach is filled with a shoulder-shimmying, hip-thrusting beauty. Even we have a little jig.
Beach trends come and go, and maybe one day Psarou beach won't be so fabulously fashionable any more. But we believe for many summers to come, Soula Rooms will always be there.
And hopefully, so too will we.