September 8th, 2010

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What I Did on My Summer Holidays, by Margaret, Age 36 & a Few Days

Mostly what I did was sit on the beach, sit in the hotel bar (looking out at the sea), sit in restaurants eating tasty Greek food :D It was a great holiday! :)

I took a wee notebook & was going to take notes to make writing this up easier, but the notes stop somewhere around Friday, so I'll be relying on memory after that (I may make more notes just for completeness as I've got the notebook after all :) ).

So, 10 years ago we went to Kefalonia on honeymoon and we decided a good way to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary would be to go to Kefalonia again. We booked for effectively a week earlier this time, so that we'd be out there on our anniversary itself (which was last Thursday). And duly set off for Gatwick on Monday - our flight was at 7am on Tuesday so we were staying in the Gatwick Travelodge the night before. Packed at the very last minute as usual, took the cat along to his luxury accommodation (he even got the cabin next to the aviary, live entertainment for him!), then headed off to find that on Bank Holiday Monday the A12/M25/M23 are all full of complete & utter spanners, even more than usual. Still, made it to the hotel with a view of the airport (and some very heavy duty double glazing) & had a not bad dinner there (fish & chips for me, chilli for J) before getting a very early night. Which was a tad spoilt by a wrong number (I assume) call to my mobile that I didn't manage to answer in time but still woke us both up at 10:30pm. I slept like crap anyway, so I don't think that made much difference to me - and we were up at 3am, out the hotel by 4, checking in just after 5 (monster queue!), on the plane just after 6 & finally taking off by half 7, Holiday was beginning \o/

Got to hand it to Thomson, everything was very very smoothly run - from the moment we checked in at Gatwick till touchdown back there again at the end. Transfer to the hotel was smooth & not even the wannabe comedian/chat-show-host we had as a transfer agent could spoil the feeling of "yay!" at arrival. We made the mistake of admitting we'd been to Kefalonia before & J got called up to the front of the bus to tell everyone what he'd thought about it before, which was a tad intimidating for him ... so when the guy asked if anyone had been to the Peloponnese I didn't remotely stick my hand up even tho I went to a conference somewhere in that part of Greece more than 10 years ago ;)

When we got to the hotel (called Panorama) we discovered we'd got possibly the most perfect hotel for us - right next to the beach, and we could see the sea through the pines from our balcony. Right in the middle of the village, near all the restaurants, not that anywhere is far, but this was pretty much the perfect location. The staff were really nice, too. Dino was the main man, and seemed to spend quite a lot of time hanging about in the bar area talking to people (locals, hotel guests, customers for the cafe/bar - anyone really). He'd been born before the quake in '53 & so remembered it, and told us a little about what that had been like one evening. The morning to early afternoon woman who worked in the cafe/bar was Chrysanthe - she served us breakfast every morning (toast & orange juice & coffee), and as she worked till 4pm she also served us a drink or two in the afternoon. And bonus coffees (and even a couple of bonus beers!) - she'd keep refusing to charge us for second drinks, or coffee refills in the morning. She didn't really chat much tho, don't know much about her. Lisa did the late afternoon/evening shift - so served us cocktails in the evening as well as drinks in the afternoon sometimes. She was Albanian originally, and her family had moved to Kefalonia sometime when she was younger. She worked in Skala for the summer (I think in the Panorama for the last 3 years), but in the winter went back to Argostoli where her father & brother were & she would hopefully find some other job for the winter. Evenings were pretty quiet in the bar, so she'd come & chat to us for a bit each evening while we had our post-dinner cocktail.

Most of our days (all except Saturday about which a little more later) followed the same pattern - we got up about 8 (or earlier!) & had breakfast. After which we'd head down to the beach for a couple of hours, then come back to the hotel to wash the sand off before heading out to a restaurant for lunch. After lunch we'd come back to the hotel & hang out in the bar there reading, and drinking beer (both of us) or coffee (J). Then back to the beach for another couple of hours of sun. Then in the evening we'd go out for dinner, and back to the hotel bar for a cocktail or two before bed.

J bought a cheap snorkel, so each beach session finished with a bit of a swim for him - looking at the fish (and even being nibbled on by a fish once or twice!). I paddled twice - in up over my waist, even. However not only can I not swim, but I also found the mask for the snorkel claustrophobic, so no looking at the fish for me! I did read quite a lot tho - but still we took too many books. I finished the one about the Crusades (which I'll write up at some point) & am half-way through one of my birthday books (about Europe between 950 & 1350). We also bought a book of crosswords from The Times & tried a few of them - tried being the operative word. A couple we did OK at, although didn't complete, some were total disasters.

Most days were beautifully sunny & clear skied, but on Saturday it absolutely poured with rain all day - a waiter in one of the restaurants was saying it was the first rain they'd had for months! Because it rained all day we basically hung out in the bar at the Panorama all the time (doing crosswords), with a brief trip out at lunchtime to somewhere else for food (the Panorama did snacks & sandwiches not real meals). It had cleared up again by the evening so we didn't get soaked going out for dinner tho :) Even tho it was wet, it was still a good day, warm & we had somewhere nice to sit & chill :)

On three of the days we got up early - trying to see the sunrise over the sea as the beach at Skala is east facing (well south-east-ish, but close enough). Saturday it was cloudy but with a narrow strip of clear sky in just the right place (and it didn't even quite rain on us!), Monday was clear except a bank of clouds in exactly the wrong place, but yesterday was perfect :D Lots of pics of those were taken, as you might expect.

Thursday was our actual anniversary, but somehow Dino found out on Sunday that it had been our anniversary during the week (I think the Thomson rep told him) & so Sunday evening we got back to the bar for cocktails but the menus were whisked away from us & we were surprised by the gift of a bottle of champagne! Very sweet of him :)

Places we ate (a list which is possibly only interesting to me & J ;) ):
  • La Luna - lunch there twice, I had Greek Salad once & Chef's Salad once (that was cheese, ham, eggs, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, honey & vinegar dressing - bit too much cheese for my tastes), J had Greek Salad once & a pizza once

  • The Pines - lunch there twice, I had Greek Salad both times with ice-cream as dessert (strawberry once, chocolate once), J had Kefalonian eggs once & a Greek Salad the second time with Baklavas for dessert first & Yoghurt with Honey & Nuts the second time

  • The Old Village - lunch there once, service was a bit inattentive tho we were very late for lunch, I had Skala Salad (bright pink potato salad with beetroot in it), J had Greek Salad

  • Mi' Abeli - lunch there once, dinner there once, I had a Greek Salad for lunch (spot a theme?), J had an omlette (I think), I had stuffed vine leaves followed by lamb Kleftiko for dinner (I won ;) ), J had stuffed green peppers then Moussaka

  • Mikelatos Family Restaurant - lunch there once, dinner there once, I had Greek Salad then melon with ice-cream for lunch, J had Greek Salad followed by Baklavas, I had Stamnaki for dinner (I think) and J had stuffed tomatoes

  • Flamingos - dinner there once, we had a platter of mixed starters to share (a little disappointing) & both had Souvlakis to follow, chicken for J & a la Flamingo for me (good, but stealth mushrooms)

  • Aquarius - dinner there twice, the first time on our anniversary when I had pitta bread & dips followed by Moussaka & J had melon then rabbit casserole (he won!), the second time as the last dinner when I had Riganada (a Greek variant of Bruschetta) followed by something I forget the name of (with beef & sausages in tomato sauce), and J had pitta bread & dips followed by lamb Kleftiko

  • Galera - dinner there once, we shared a selection of dips to start, I had beef Stifado to follow, J had chicken Souvlaki again

  • Aspro Aloco - dinner there once, Lisa's boyfriend worked there as a chef so she'd recommended it, I had melon then something I forget the name of (sausages in tomato-based sauce?), J had Kefallonian Meat Pie for main & a starter we can't remember the name of (also sausages in a tomato sauce, but not at all the same as my main)

  • Sugar Lemon - dessert here once as recommended by the Thomson rep, I had dark chocolate, mocha & vanilla ice-cream with chocolate syrup, J had a chocolate soufle thing, very very rich & filling

And things we drank:
  • Coffee was mostly nescafe, just the way it is there, the occasional espresso (or cappuccino for J) tho

  • Mythos is the lager that was on tap most places, very refreshing on a hot sunny day

  • Freshly squeezed orange juice ... mmmmmmmmmm!

  • Wine with dinner - red sometimes, more often Robola which is the local variety of grape used for white wine

  • Cocktails for me

    • Tom Collins - more than once!

    • South Pacific - not in the Panorama & it came with a flamingo & an umbrella!!

    • Tequila Sunrise

    • Marguerita - recommended by Lisa (before she knew my name, too) coz I liked the Tom Collins so much and this is also heavy on the lemon juice

    • something I've forgotten the name of, gin based, with grenadine in, should've photographed the menu!

  • Cocktails for J

    • B52 - more than once

    • Alexander - with Metaxa not just any old brandy

    • Black Russian

    • Panorama

  • Champagne! (still can't believe Dino did that, was very nice of him)

And it all seemed too soon when the holiday was over - but then we booked for just a week with the idea that it's better to come back when you're still wanting more than to stay too long. Thomson again handled the transfer back to the airport well & even the best efforts of the striking French air controllers couldn't delay our flight more than 15 minutes in the end (later for take off but we made up time in the air). The smoothness stopped once we got back to our car tho :/ Wouldn't start, had to call out the breakdown guys - turned out the battery was dead not just flat, so the guy fitted us a new battery and we finally got on the road about 2hrs later than expected. Thank goodness for breakdown cover tho! Knackered yesterday when we got in, so not up for long. And today has shown us with the weather exactly why we'd rather still be in Greece ;)

It was a fantastic holiday - very relaxing. If you're after a chilled out beach holiday I'd definitely recommend the Panorama Hotel in Skala, Kefalonia (I think they only take bookings through Thomson - oh and it's a no-kids hotel, so that'd be a deal breaker for some people).