Saturday, 1 May 1999

1 – 6 May 1999 – Zakynthos : A week on the Flower of the Levant

This was Nat’s first foreign holiday although given that he was only Twenty Months old it’s unlikely that he remembers it. We travelled to Zakynthos, the flower of Greece, during the first week of the holiday season so we had the place more or less to ourselves. We stayed in Alykanas which can be seen on Here on Google Maps
As the days passed more and more people arrived until by the end of the week, as we were leaving, it was beginning to feel crowded. This has to be one of the nicest and most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I certainly got a number of things out of it; I discovered Greek Honey and Greek Olive Oil and loved both. I had always hated the taste of British honey and Italian olive oil but the Greek stuff blew me away. The place was a bird lovers paradise with swifts forever swooping around your ears. The restaurants were fantastic as was the food they served and the people were incredibly friendly. I spent one evening getting seriously out of my head on Ouzo in an empty night club next to our hotel discussing the Kosovo situation (this was the time when Britain, as part of NATO, had sent in troops and planes in order to prevent the Serbs from massacring the Albanians – touchy because the Greeks were supporting the Serbs) with the owner. I don’t think I paid for a drink after my first… God what a hangover that was. Given that we were only there for a week we managed to see quite a lot; in part because Nat and I were up with the larks an d we rarely got to bed before midnight. Nat and I walked every morning to the Harbour

accompanied by two largish dogs while Deb, who was pregnant with Katie, tried to get some “I’m Pregnant and need my rest” sleep whilst we were out walking…wimp!
We could see the Island of Kefalonia out of our bedroom window which was odd because Deb had brought “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” with her to read and this novel is, of course, set on wartime Kefalonia. As it turned out she couldn’t get into the book (being put off by the second chapter which contains nothing but Mussolini ranting to himself) whilst i couldn’t get into the book I’d brought (Peruses Spur – Julian May) so we swapped and I though that Captain Corelli was one of the best books that I’d ever read.

During the week, while we were I was relaxing at the pool bar a little girl of four joined us (Sophie) and took charge of Nat. I keep trying to remember her name but I can't recall it. she was there with her Mum and Dad but Mum had MS and was somewhat restricted because of her wheelchair. She never stopped asking questions (particularly WHY) and was a delight. everyday she joined us and took Nat to the pool, which was immediately adjacent to the bar so that wasn't a problem. The bar kept it's glasses in a freezer and when you bought a beer it came in an ice cold glass crackling as you held it. During the week we booked two excursions, the first was to see the north of the Island and the second to travel to the main town of Zakynthos. The first trip was to the north of the Island and our first stop was at the famed blue caves.

The Blue Caves - Nat was sick on the coach just as we arrived. Thankfully, everyone was very generous with tissues and such like. Cleaned and wiped we exited the coach to walk to the harbour where we embarked on some small craft to travel out to see the Blue caves. They are called this because of the varying colours of the water caused by the combination of sun and shade.

It was spectacular, at times you felt you could reach out and touch the bottom of the sea. Sophie, the little girl  who was joined to us at the hip, was on the same boat with her Dad but found the noise from the engine very frightening and cried her eyes out until we were back on land. A cruise ship pulled up alongside whilst we were out there, talk about feeling dwarfed!
These two beautiful arches are located near the Blue Caves at the north end of Zakynthos. After this we re-embarked on the coach and continued the tour; among the sites we visited was the famous ship wreck in the bay that had no land access. As you can see from the photo below you get there by boat or you don't get there. This is how we saw it from the cliffs above:
The Mill; along the beach road the was a side road branching off and at the end of this lane was The Mill. A club/pub/bar/restaurant run by a Greek man and his English husband. They had two sons around five and seven. the Mill was a find the owners were fantastically hospitable and the kids showed Nat the local lizards and how to bounce on their bouncy castle. For a child under 2 years he took to both activities like a duck to water. Further up the beach road was a restaurant where we ate on a number of evenings. We were served by Dennis (on Zakynthos everyone is called Dennis...why see below) who became something of a friend and would sit and chat with us while we were there. He, along with every other adult, dote on Nat and we discovered first hand the Mediterranean love of children; how so unlike paedophile obsessed Britain!

Our second excursion, with the same tour company, was into the town of ZakynthosDennis's. The church was shut so we couldn't see inside but the rest of the town was absolutely smashing, even though no building there was over 50 years old (due to the earthquake in the 1950's that levelled Zakynthos and the surrounding islands) in either the town or anywhere else on the island. This was why there were so many half completed houses with steel rods sticking out of them. Every building on the island is now constructed from reinforced concrete. You'd need a tank to demolish these structures. One of the few downs were all the gypsy beggars and their children perched on the kerbs. It's little wonder that the Greeks support the Serbs because they associate the Albanians with the war and the beggars. In town I managed to buy large packets of pistachio nuts. I also saw the new Tom Clancy Book Rainbow Six, Deb wouldn't let me buy it so when we got home I had to wait a further six months before it was published in here.
We had a fantastic week, it seemed longer which in itself is very unusual, and did a huge number of things.  I wandered the town at night, while the other two slept, and met scores of interesting and friendly people, most of whom I shared a drink with, which gave me a holiday of my own. Eventually all good things come to an end and with our bottles of Olive Oil in our hands we left Zakynthos and headed home.
Zakynthos...I Love You!!!