Joanna Lumley seems to be getting a taste for travelogues and this series follows her trips to the Northern Lights (2009) and The Nile (2010). She seems to have a real aptitude for this sort of adventure and manages to strike just the right note with an informative commentary matched with respect for the local inhabitants whom she comes across without being patronising. She makes her delivery in quite a measured, but concise style so it does not jar in the way that some other celebrity commentators do when narrating this sort of project.
This time round Joanna is exploring Greece which is regarded as the cradle of our Western civilization. There is plenty of interest from the very ancient to the modern and many aspects of our culture can be traced back here, including medicine, astrology, much of science, and philosophy as well as the concept of democracy. She manages to visit the well known sights which feature on the tourist trail such as Delphi, the Acropolis and Mount Olympus - at the Parthenon we see Joanna perched precariously up high, which shows some dedication as she is known to suffer from vertigo and confessed she was terrified!
She also goes off the beaten track and we get fascinating insights into the lives of the some of the locals including a little old lady who is kind enough to invite her in for a plate of asparagus and a group of villagers whose near extinct local dialect comes very close to whistling. We find out about some unusual events. For example, in Corfu they are very keen on cricket which they play in a local car park and even more surprisingly the MCC have had regular matches with the local side, most recently in June this year!
The Greek islands, which number some 1400 are not ignored and Joanna goes to Poros, a visit to which triggered her love affair with Greece many years ago. However, the better known islands including Crete and Kos and their rich history are not ignored. Again recorded history is mixed with little known facets such as a guided tour of the former leper colony and this is an effective blend.
I think that one mark of a really good travelogue is that the camera work should be of such high quality that you can turn off the soundtrack and still really appreciate the programme. Here, the filming is really outstanding and would certainly pass this test. My only real reservation is that since this series is limited to four episodes, this is really just a quick gallop around Greece and there is so much of interest here that it would have justified a much more leisurely tour stretching to a few more programmes at least. I do wonder where Joanna will be taking us next year!