Travelling around the Greek Islands on ferries, I regularly encountered families cheerfully hopping on board, the youngsters tote-ing their mini backpacks. I truly admired them, but wasn’t sure how well equipped I’d be to cope with the “joys” of new motherhood on the move. Still, I was desperate to get back to Greece after a wet week by the Crinan Canal had reminded me that Scotland is very beautiful. But wet!
Zante seemed like a good family-friendly place to start. Sitting in the Ionian Sea, the island was ruled by Naples and then Venice in the period from 1185 right up to 1797, with just 5 years of Turkish rule breaking things up. Italian influence was such that the wealthiest families sent their sons to Italy to be educated. My James wouldn’t have minded. He was always a pasta boy!
Unfortunately the island sits right on a fault line and in 1953 four huge earthquakes reduced most of Zakynthos to rubble. The rebuilding used strong antiseismic measures, very necessary as there have since been numerous tremors, including an earthquake swarm in 2006.
Fairly oblivious to all this, we occupied the beach at Tsilivi and it was back to the days of sand pies. It was no great hardship. Michael and me were by nature beach bums! If James was happy… you know how it is!
Except that you know I always had my restless streak! So after a day or so of exploring the immediate vicinity, I was seeking broader horizons. A trip to Zante town on the bus was quite straightforward, but to go anywhere else on the island meant route-ing through the capital. Not so good with a sometimes fractious toddler. It was late September and still hot.
Compromise meant joining an organised island tour, a pleasant day out which also gave our skins a bit of a rest from the sun.
You know it was back to the beach for a day or two after all that! I always had my nose in a travel book and the little resort of Kalamaki sounded appealing. A taxi into Zante town and a bus didn’t sound too hard. Did I tell you that James had a preoccupation with hosepipes? You can guess what the highlight of his trip to Kalamaki was.
I had just one more outing that was crying out to be made. I couldn’t come all this way without venturing to Kephalonia, the largest island in the group. It might make a good base for another year!
It was, in fact, my favourite day of the holiday, although a long one. Waiting for the bus at 7.45, James was still snuggled in his pyjamas. From Zante, a 2 and a quarter hour ferry crossing took us to Poros. A very smart resort, with a lovely promenade, from there it was up through beautiful mountain scenery to a monastery. My floral shorts were not at all the thing, so I was draped in a scarf and floor length skirt to look the part.
The Drogarati Cave next, and then the highlight of the trip- the Melissani Lake, in Greek mythology the cave of the nymphs. The boat sailed into the cave and natural light poured in through the huge circular hole in the roof.
On to Argostoli, one of four main harbours on this large island. By this time we were all wilting, but I left Kephalonia, as I often do, wanting to see more. There are various spellings of Kephalonia, but I’ve gone with the Wikipedia one. If you follow the links you can find out much more about these enchanting islands.
The island of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin remains for me an untarnished memory. Our first Greek family holiday was a resounding success.