It’s the first package holiday we’ve ever taken together, booked through Thomson Holidays and the first time we’ve taken a break in a hot climate since our trip to Salou in Spain nineteen years ago. Back then our good friend Joan Baiget loaned us his flat overlooking the sea and we went that time with our children Alex, James & Emma during the extreme heat of August.
Unfortunately Debbie got badly bitten by mosquitoes and suffered an allergic reaction which had rather put us off hot climes until now. Back in those days we relied on airline mileage points to fly us around due to an acute shortage of funds. Believe it or not we flew to Barcelona and back via Vienna in order to use my accrued United Airlines mileage! Debbie bites were so visible we nearly got refused boarding the plane back to London as they suspected bubonic plague but we made it home in the end.
Our change of mind to try with “hot” holidays by the sea again was triggered by friends Sian and Alan from Merthyr Vale who’ve been holidaying in Pefkos twice a year, normally in May and October, which although out of season is actually really hot and excellent value for money. Booking before Sterling’s recent slide against the Euro, we paid only £310 each for a weeks bed and breakfast accommodation in the Amphitriti Hotel, including return flights to Cardiff.
What a bargain, although of course on top of that was the pre-booked car parking for the week at £77.99 in the short stay car park right next to the terminal as well as spending money for food, drinks and extras probably £1000 for the week. I must say having flown from Cardiff with Emma to see her off to Glasgow University for her Masters, the difference between the experience at a regional UK airport and Heathrow is amazing. One uncrowded terminal, few cars, easy to park, with no delays for take off and landing – incredible!
In any event here follows a brief log of our sojourn to Greece and many happy memories of the holiday. One point I must mention is that Alan took most photos on his Samsung Galaxy S7 phone (thank goodness not the recalled Note) which has a much better camera than our own iPhone 5c’s. He is without doubt the most enthusiastic taker of selfies and food photography I have ever seen…
Wednesday 5th October
Deb and I got up fairly early and decided to go into town and I treated myself to a hearty all-day breakfast at Luigi’s as I remembered the one at the airport departure lounge was well below par. We then went shopping for snacks in our local Waitrose ready for the four hour flight to Greece.
We left Llanfoist at 10.30am having packed our suitcases the night before and having weighed them to our 15kg limit with some portable digital scales sourced from Amazon. These were a good buy as the luggage limits were quite strictly enforced on departure check-in. I drove to Merthyr Vale to pick up Sian & Alan in bright sunshine arriving bang on 11am as agreed. I then drove slowly to Cardiff airport near Barry as the prepaid parking only kicked in at noon and we had plenty of time before our flight TOM 6382 pushed back at 14.40.
All went smoothly at the airport and we pushed back on time for an almost immediate take off and settled down for the 4 hour plus flight.
Touchdown in Rhodes was in the dark and we were taken to arrivals by shuttle bus after the pilot mentioned that he’d never seen so may planes on the ground before, in fact 5 planes had just landed from the U.K. and chaos with luggage retrieval ensued as only one conveyer belt was working. I ended up standing in the island between the moving belts trying to spot our luggage and aiming to hand them to Alan who was trying to stay as close as he could amidst the heaving crowds.
This was not an auspicious start to the holiday but despite the delays we finally got all our luggage safely and we headed off to coach number 55 which had our hotel as the first stop. The car to take us to the hotel from the Pefkos coach stop was driven by a grinning Andreas who seemed very happy to see Sian and Alan again, we found out later he doubled as the hotel security guard. We were the first group of four to be taken to the hotel as the road was too narrow for the coach to go down & I felt a bit guilty as we left our fellow travellers behind.
We finally made the hotel just before midnight local time, rather than 10.30pm as expected. Checking into the hotel was easy and done by Kate, who owns the hotel with her husband Eric, I’d promised Debbie earlier that I’d pay the extra 55 Euros for air-conditioning in our room and that turned out to be a wise investment as combined with our “Jungle Juice” anti-mosquito plug in we were able to keep the balcony patio doors to our room closed and we suffered no bites at all during our stay.
Heading down to the pool bar Mike was still serving so after a few drinks of Guinness & dry white wine we followed his recommendation of walking a short way into town and going to Alexandras for some chicken gyros and a small carafe of white wine before heading back for some well deserved sleep.
Thursday 6th October
We woke up to some bright sunlight and I was a amazed to see to the rear of Pefkos a really huge steep mountain, something that we’d missed on arrival as it was so dark. We made our way to the pool dining area where our first buffet style continental breakfast was enjoyed, it was so nice tucking into coffee, orange juice, slices of ham and cheese, olives, sliced cucumber, toast, butter & marmalade along with Greek yogurt we never bothered with a cooked breakfast all week.
After lazing round the pool and looking at the adjacent strip of runway for a light aircraft that seemed to be undergoing some maintenance we walked down for lunch for what was advertised as the coldest beer in Pefkos and Alan’s favourite “village sausage” which was like a smoked but meatier saveloy. Debbie went for a chicken salad favoured with cumin herbs, I decided on a plate of garlic flavoured mussels which was probably a mistake as it attracted swarms of wasps so we ate as quickly as possibly and left the remains on another table to try and act as a diversion…
We then continued to the Mingos supermarket further up on the main road where we bought, as all good Brit holiday makers do, a dress for the Greek evening for Debbie, a pair of flip-flops for the beach and some milk for the refrigerator in our room. Returning to the hotel we got changed into our swimming costumes and I braved the pool very slowly as it seemed awfully cold in contrast to the heat of the afternoon sun.
After several dips in the pool Alan and I held a competition called “Intelligence Corps vs. Welsh Guards” which started as who could swim the fastest length and continued throughout the rest of the holiday as a running joke. After drying off we headed to the beach which was less than a two minute walk away from the hotel where we took this selfie whist paddling for the first time.
Eventually we headed our for our dinner and made our first visit to the huge Kouros restaurant which was newly converted from a couple of eateries – we ordered three T-bone steaks (15 Euro each) with some pasta for Debbie who was the only one not to feel tired after the late night the day before.
Due to increasing tiredness we drank only bottled water during the meal, so we finished the evening with a last trip to Mike’s pool bar and some more Mythos and Alpha beers for the men and wine for the ladies, before we “poured” ourselves into bed & a good night’s kip.
Friday 7th October
After breakfast Alan & I decided to make our way to the sea for our first attempt at fishing. Debbie and Sian accompanied us in support, but alas not for long, as the path to the spot necessitated a rather steep climb over rocks & a discarded fish head crawling with wasps! Sensibly after a brief foray over the sandy beach the girls retreated to gin & tonics by the hotel pool while the hunters manfully got to work with preparing rods, reels & bait which consisted mainly of crusty bread mixed with blue cheese.
After a number of minor disasters like both loosing floats to rocks (although a passing frogman threw Alan’s back much to my surprise) I threw one last cast and much to my amazement caught a small German fish. As I reeled it in Alan shouted a warning that the spines were poisonous and he came over to help unhook it with a small hand towel. Sadly there is no photographic record of my mighty catch for some reason, perhaps leading to a disagreement with Alan over the size of the fish afterwards… Int Corps 1 Welsh Guards 0
Feeling rather chuffed we then returned to the hotel where the girls were busy sipping gin & tonics. After a cold beer we decided to head back to the beach for a paddle & swim. Although quite rocky narrow channels had been “dredged” to clear a way into the deeper water but I was glad to be wearing my new flip flops.
I even attempted my infamous “beach olympics” by building stone castles in the air and dredging a moat, something I used to do with the kids at West Wittering when they were young. Debbie looked sanguinely on the spectacle while Sian and Alan looked on incredulous at the sight.
After drying off we all felt thirsty (and I felt peckish) so we headed towards a cafe overlooking the beach where I ordered 4 giant prawns…
Feeling rather full we then made our way to Pefkos car hire where Sian & Alan arranged to hire a Nissan Micra four door with air conditioning for 4 days from Saturday morning to Tuesday night for only 109 Euro in cash, no credit card required! We contributed half of the rental but neither Debbie nor I felt confident to be a named driver in a left hand drive vehicle as we didn’t fancy the stress…
Saturday 8th October
Bright and early after breakfast we picked up the car, but not before witnessing the two seater monoplane taking off from the runway next to the hotel. It was quite funny seeing people behind the plane as it started down the runway getting covered in sand and grit form the propeller, but nothing prepared me for the sight of the pilots door missing and a rather nervous passenger taking to the skies for 50 Euros. Safety means something else methinks in Greece but it did look thrilling.
We then made our way to Eric’s future son in law’s (Costas) “Yannis bar“, somewhere in the maze of narrow streets of the old town, where he treated us to free soft drinks and gave Sian the remnants of a bottle of Mount Gay rum! We ignored the donkey rides and headed off back to the car and lunch at Eric’s restaurant called Dolphins on the sea front. Debs I know had poached salmon but sadly everything else I’ve forgotten and for some reason we didn’t take photos!
Dimitra – Eric’s daughter – had earlier told us over breakfast about climbing some steps up the mountain to see the illuminated cross at the top, so we drove up to the start and made the assault on the “Matterhorn”. Debbie surprised me just how fit she is nowadays by sprinting up the steps like a Gazelle, Alan trailed to the rear more akin to an ailing (Welsh) mountain goat but in the end we made it up there safely.
Apart from the Greek flag and the cross there was a beautiful chapel at the top
Later in the evening we went into Pefkos main street again and had a meal at the Hellas restaurant. I have to admit my Meze meal was too much to eat given the large amounts consumed previously and I really wasn’t that keen on the taste either. Probably the only disappointing meal for me of the entire holiday at probably the most touristy restaurant.
Sunday 9th October
After breakfast we headed back towards Rhodes only this time in the light. It took about an hour and as we passed St. Paul’s bay and Lindos we realised what beautiful views of the coastline and mountains we’d missed on the original coach journey down in the dark.
We arrived at the main harbour and somehow Alan managed to find parking close by after a little local disagreement with a smirking local young woman. I won’t repeat here the Welsh Guard terminology used…
As we headed off into the old town there was a very young lad aged about 4 playing the accordion and singing which prompted Alan to give him a Euro as his collecting hat was empty. Quick as a flash he accepted the coin and hid it in his pocket ready for the next tourist to come by and feel sorry for him. He should have been in sales I thought! 🙂
Wandering through the shops the inevitable thirst and hunger kicked in so we had alfresco some beers and a gyros to keep us going from memory.
On the way back we decided to try and find the seafood restaurant recommended to us by Dimitra that she and her family go to each Sunday. We weren’t trying to stalk them but she said it was away from the normal tourist restaurants and where local people eat so we thought we’d give it a go.
Debbie remembered her saying it was in Stegna bay so after a few abortive turnoffs from the main road towards Pefkos we finally found what we though was her suggested restaurant Stegna Kozas overlooking the sea. It was packed to the rafters with local families enjoying the excellent seafood on offer. We had a laugh when the owner came to take our order and thought Sian seated opposite me was my wife rather than Debbie who was alongside me.
The meal was incredible (if you like seafood) and we had some complementary thinly sliced dark brown bread with what looked like tapenade to accompany the inevitable large carafe of white wine and an Alpha beer for Alan.
I ordered deep fried sardines which arrived with their heads off but you ate the remainder whole. I wasn’t too sure at first due to the bones but they were delicious – much nicer than large whitebait! Sian had the largest calamari we’d ever seen and poor Debbie and Alan shared a Caesar salad to keep us company as we demolished our seafood.
Eventually we asked for the bill and much to our surprise and Alan’s delight they offered us all a free pudding covered with delicious coconut ice cream, everyone was now happy especially when we saw the bill for all of us was only 41 Euros! We paid up and went for a short stroll along the bay which looked very sandy and well worth a return visit someday.
After settling up we carried on in the car exploring the hotel at the end of the bay before retracing our steps (with the air conditioning on full blast) before returning to the main road south towards Pefkos.
That evening Alan & Debbie were feeling hungry so we went on a mini tour of places offering T-bone steaks and we couldn’t believe the variation in prices, from Eur 25 to Eur 20 so we decided to head back to the Kouros for our second visit that week. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? This time Alan was really happy as his was well done just as he likes it!
Feeling very full we made our way back to the hotel and just managed to fit in a few more drinks at the pool bar before heading off for bed.
Monday 10th October
We had seen the bay from the free car park above and it looked stunning, but we weren’t prepared for the fantastic day ahead of us after taking this selfie.
It was quite a steep and windy approach road to the bay and a lovely sweeping walk down to the church where a sharp turn left took us to the sun beds right next to the sea. There were no rocks there and the sea just gradually got deeper with almost no waves which made it ideal for swimming in.
After a swim Alan & I decided to go fishing, this time using flour and water mixed with some blue cheese and very quickly he’d hooked a German fish from the rocks just past the beach restaurant on the left hand side of the bay.
That made us evens and I started to lose confidence in our fishing competition and boy was I proved right later. After 45 mins fishing in incredible heat we headed back to the girls and decided we should get some lunch. The beach restaurant called Tambakio looked very enticing and although the menu was pricy, the location just couldn’t be bettered.
After the meal we headed back to the sun loungers where unfortunately we had to cough up Eur 5 each for the day’s rental but given the location it was well worth it.
Buoyed on by his earlier success Alan suggested we go fishing again but this time to the rocks on the right just below the beautiful church where at least two marriages were taking place that day. My worst fears were realised quickly when in short order he’d hooked two more German fish – damn!
Intelligence Corps 10, Welsh Guards 13
After wrapping up a most enjoyable day by the sea, we headed back to the hotel and their “Greek night” BBQ which from memory was Eur 15 each. This turned out to be fantastic fun with traditional Greek dancers taking us through some steps – the female dancer told Debbie she was very good & I can confirm this, the male dancer after picking up a table with a chair on top with his teeth for some reason then asked for male volunteers and before long I was dancing like Morecambe and Wise round a pole before lying down and picking up a shot of Ouzo with my teeth to the clapping of all the other men who’d attempted it before me.
The food was excellent and the shots of Ouzo flowed freely with Eric the hotel’s owner getting rather boisterous – lighting napkins on the floor, pouring Ouzo over the floor, the dancers and musicians. His future son in law Costas joined in too and it was a miracle afterwards that he made it back to his home in Lindos safely.
In fact it was a miracle Debbie & I made it back safely to our room after a fantastic night.
Tuesday 11th October
This was our last day with the car so after breakfast we made our way out south for lunch at the recommendation of Dimitra to the Pelecanos Taverna in Vati. The food was real Greek and excellent value. I decided on a local delicacy of baby goat which tasted devine and all four of us had a good meal and couldn’t recommend it enough despite the exterior from the road looking a bit tacky.
Feeling sated we headed back to the hotel for more relaxing before cocktails at the Zig Zag bar. This night there was England playing in the European qualifiers which I found interesting as Wayne Rooney had been dropped as Captain and as player until substituted. My memory was a bit hazy after several drinks of whiskey, ouzo and a coffee based cocktail but I think it was a draw. I seem to vaguely remember Scotland lost 3-0 and that I was shocked to see Alan drink so many Jack Daniels & coke…
Wednesday 12th October
Thank God for air conditioning and late checkout was all I can say on our last day in Pefkos. It allowed us to pack without rush although keeping to the 15 kg limit proved more of a challenge than I’d realised and we had to jettison quite a few toiletries and holiday footwear to stay within the limit.
Once packed we then lazed in and around the pool until the heat got too much and then recovered in the room before eventually heading for the bus via the shuttle car back to the airport.
On arrival we all panicked a bit about our luggage weighing less than 15kg and amazingly we all got through OK although the queues for luggage check in and security screening were huge at least they advanced quickly.
Once through passport control we managed two buy some presents and a bottle of Ouzo for Deb & I to drink on our return before gate 10 was announced ready for boarding. This caught us slightly on the hop but before long we were queuing to climb the stairs at the rear of the plane ready for take off and good old Blighty!
Thursday 13th October
We arrived back at Cardiff airport just after midnight and with luggage collected we headed off to the Galaxy and a trouble free drop off of Sian & Alan at Merthyr Vale before feeling rather tired making our way home to Llanfoist where James, Molly & Hamish were waiting to greet us!
It was a great holiday, great location, great company, so great in fact that we’ve just booked to go back together in 2017!