One thing I love about coming on holiday to Zakynthos, is that in just a few hours you can be transported from cloudy skies of Manchester to the vibrant colours and intense heat of Greece. Only an hour after stepping off our flight with Jet2.com I’m walking down the lane between the houses in Argassi to the small sandy beach that’s closest to my sister’s Windmill Bay Hotel. We lie on the beach with water lapping at our feet and occasionally plucking at the towels, while I chat to my sister and catch up with family news.
Behind us are a couple of old hotels that have been taken over by the banks as a result of the recession here in Greece and are now boarded up. These pension style hotels thrived in the good years when there was not a spare bed to be found on the island in July and August. Now times have changed, guests expect more modern features and despite the fantastic location overlooking the sea, they have gone out of business and no-one wants to take them on.
The following day we wake up with a perfect view over the bay from our apartment, set up on the hill. Although we come to visit my sister every year, we never tire of waking up with the certainty of blue sky, geraniums spilling over the teracotta pots and the olive groves below the house. My day on holiday in Greece starts with a plate of fruit, since my bikini figure needs a little work, although the childrens’ favourite is a bacon roll from the pool bar at the main hotel. This afternoon we join my niece for a drive to Ionian beach at Vassilikos, where all the cool Greek kids like Sophia and her cousin like to hang out.
The sandy beach stretches into the distance as far as the headland, when it turns into St Nicholas beach where all the watersports are based. The beach is protected by sand dunes where building is restricted due to the nature reserve, so the beach is natural and unspoilt with only a few tavernas and beach bars. We park above the stone built Ionian restaurant with terraces of sunbeds below which are free so long as you buy drinks and snacks in the bar, although they charge in high season. The girls order a Frappuccino, a favourite Greek iced coffee drink, a cross between frappe and cappuccino and then we go for a swim in the sea to cool off.
We compare notes on beach fashions; the bikini style this year is for mismatched top and bottoms although my daughter maintains that it’s just because teenagers are always losing things, including their bikinis. My Greek niece Sophie and her cousin Tolya are favouring brightly coloured oversized sunglasses while mine are retro vintage (or should I say charity shop?).
Next day we arrange to go with my niece to the beach at Marathias that she’s never been to although we have a vague memory of going there years ago. We drive towards Keri at the far end of the island, where the coastline starts to rise making high clffs and sea caves that the boat trips will take you to. Turning right at Keri harbour we drive up the steep hill, skirting the coastline until we find a couple of tavernas with parking places. Walking down the rocky track through the olive groves we reach a small pebble beach with a few small boats bobbing and an enormous super yacht moored offshore.
We secure our sunbeds (€7 for two since you ask) and settle down for a couple of hours of swimming, sunbathing and reading. We speculate who might be on board the super-yacht which is flying a Swiss flag, although Guy maintains that it will be chartered either by an African arms dealer or a nice man who made his money in dry cleaning. Sophia once saw an enormous yacht at the north end of the island and when she checked the name online found that it was owned by Russian super-millionaire Roman Obramovich.
The yacht is moored right in front of Turtle island, so called not only because it is shaped like a turtle but also because of the turtle nesting sites there. Many boat trips stop there for a swim in the sea caves on the rocky side of the island, but it’s forbidden to land on the sandy side where the turtles nest, although plenty do. No wonder the turtle centre at Gerakas counts declining numbers of turtle nests every year.
I swim out with my niece Sophie who asks me how I like the beach. “It’s lovely” I say, ” but the stones are a bit hard on my feet”. “But I prefer the pebble beaches” replies Sophia, “the water is clearer and cooler because it gets deep closer to the shore. We Greeks care more about the water quality than whether the beach is sandy”. I’ve learned that the Greeks associate the sea with health and wellbeing and prefer to swim in the sea than in an unhygenic pool where they share the water with everyone else’s germs!
Three days, three beaches, each with a different character and story to tell. Which beach would be your favourite?
More tales from Zante
Thanks to Jet2.com for providing flights for Heather’s trip to Zakynthos, Greece. Jet2.com runs weekly flights to Zante from Manchester and Leeds Bradford and flights from many other local UK airports to your favourite holiday destinations. You can follow Jet2.com updates on their Facebook page
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