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Running a Taverna By the Sea in Greece

Taverna by the Sea
Taverna Anemos (wind) where the author worked last summer. Credit: Jen Barclay

Taverna by the Sea is an enchanting, funny and poignant memoir about answering the call of adventure by taking on a challenge: helping to run a taverna beside an idyllic beach in Greece.

British author Jen Barclay describes how during a walking trip on the South Aegean island of Karpathos, a chance encounter with Minas, an unconventional Greek-American hotel owner, resulted in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Must be comfortable in beachwear,” reads Minas’ ad for a waitress. Thinking it sounds dreamily perfect, Jen drops everything, returning with her dog to the remote bay that will be her home for the summer.

Taverna by the sea
Credit: Jen Barclay

Though the season begins peacefully, life at the taverna soon becomes absurdly busy and challenging. There are days of no running water, mad guests, collapsing ceilings, and a goat tied to a tree.

Taverna by the Sea reveals what happens in a peaceful paradise

Yet, it is exhilarating: waking to a pink dawn over the olive grove; swimming in the moonlight; listening to music under the stars; feasting on freshly baked bread, sampling local honey and warm figs; and consuming wine on tap.

With a colorful cast of characters, Taverna by the Sea reveals what happens behind the scenes of an apparently peaceful paradise, capturing both the difficulties and the magic of remote island life.

Alongside a cast of characters from farmers to fishermen, mad guests and a wicked witch, meet Minas the hotel owner, a creative, unconventional Greek–American with the ability to fix anything mechanical and create money out of thin air with food, plus a penchant for drinking, singing and falling asleep.

Experience days full of music, days of no running water, and days with a goat tied to a tree – but also nights when the overworked taverna manager awoke convinced there was a large fish in the tent, and customers outside waiting to be served

This travelogue offers a rare account of life in the north of Karpathos, an island in the South Aegean famous for its traditional community and dramatic, rugged landscape.

Taverna by the Sea
Musicians at Taverna Anemos in Karpathos. Credit: Jen Barclay

An inspiring call to live life to the full—and even escape the rat race—it also conveys the life-affirming importance of trusting one’s instincts, taking risks, and grasping opportunities.

After graduating from Oxford, Barclay spent a year in Athens and traveled widely throughout the Greek islands; she worked along the way, once cleaning hotel rooms in Santorini wearing only a swimsuit.

She worked in Canada, France, and England as a literary agent and editor before going freelance and settling on Tilos, a small island in the Dodecanese, in 2011. She helped in a beach cantina run by her fisherman boyfriend before the summer at the taverna by the sea.

Currently an editor, she still lives on Tilos, surrounded by hills and sea, with her dog.

Taverna by the Sea by Jennifer Barclay is published by Bradt Guides.

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