A tale or two : Zakynthos (Zante)

The harbour at Zante town- pale and interesting?

The harbour at Zante town- the quintessential shot

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!

The beach at Tsilivi

The beach at Tsilivi

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.

A little culture was introduced

A little culture was introduced

Of course, there were distractions for James

Of course, there were distractions for James

The stork seemed quite interested too

The stork seemed quite interested too

Then it was time to eat

Then it was time to eat at Cape Skinari’s waterside restaurant

We hopped back on the tour bus just as the clouds blew in

We hopped back on the tour bus just as the clouds blew in

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.

A lot of hose

A lot of hose

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.

My postcard of the Melissani Lake

My postcard of the Melissani Lake

And the Drogarati Cave

And the Drogarati Cave

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.

Kephalonia's stunningly beautiful scenery

Kephalonia’s stunningly beautiful scenery

The quay at Argostoli

The quay at Argostoli

The island of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin remains for me an untarnished memory.  Our first Greek family holiday was a resounding success.


  1. Hey Jo! I have heard a lot of good things about the Greek Islands and you just confirmed them for me. I have never visited any of them but at least now know how great they will be when I so in the future!! You have a great blog filled with lovely writing and beautiful photos! Will be on the lookout for your next post!

    1. Thank you so much, Janaline. I expect they’ve changed a little in the 20 years since I was there but I have no doubt they’ll still be beautiful. Many thanks for following me. I try to entertain.

  2. I loved that movie, and your holiday sounds absolutely idyllic, Jo. Lovely relaxing photos, and love the postcards of Melissani Lake. It looks like a must see if we ever get to Greece again. 🙂

    1. It was such a relief to be abroad again, Ad. We waited till James was eighteen months. It’s been wonderful looking back at all the pics. Couple of posts still to go.

  3. Zakynthos was the first Greek Island we went to (1987) and loved it so much we returned to about four others over the years. Never made it to Kephalonia but loved Cpt Correlli’s Mandolin. Lovely photo reminders, thank you 🙂

    1. You don’t need to scan all your oldies, Suze, and you wouldn’t have time with all the zipping about (and work, of course) Oh, jealous me! (but not the snow- you really can keep that 🙂 )

      1. I won’t mind at all..heheh. Love going with you through all the lovely memories. 🙂 *hugs* and you’re welcome. 🙂

  4. The more I read of your Greek post .. the more I regret that I didn’t use that yacht more often … had 3 months to use up. This is a beautiful post and I love your photos – there is something very special about Greece, most the people I would say. Thanks for bringing me along. My favorite photo is the one with the boats and the clouds coming over the mountains.

    1. It’s a shame they’ve fallen on hard times now, Viveka, but then, so have many of us.
      Every time I walk past a marina I want to hijack a boat. (even in Hartlepool!)
      Thank you 🙂

      1. I know .. and Cyprus … I never fancy Cyprus .. and Malta – what have they been up to. Now my friend is dead since many years back .. and with no children .. wounder how got Coca-Cola??? Beautiful yacht.

  5. Love the photo of James and the hosepipe. Reminds me of children on Christmas morning playing with the boxes and not that actual toys. Great post.

  6. Zakynthos bears a family resemblance to the other Ionian islands I have visited. Have you read Lawrence Durrell’s book on the Greek Islands? Well worth digging out of Bookfinder (it’s probably out of print by now).

  7. Love those old photographs! I have never been to Zakynthos and I understand that it is a bit of a party island now. My dad always liked and recommended it, he was fascinated by the turtles. I have been to Kephalonia and liked that so much I went straight back the next year. I was there while they were filming Captain Corelli and was surprised to find John Hurt taking lunch at a taverna in Sami alongside all the tourists. It sounds as though you had a long day there did you get as far north as Fiskardo? http://anotherbagmoretravel.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/kefalonia-fiskardo-and-assos/

    1. No, we didn’t. I remember reading about Fiskardo on your blog but I’ll pop back and check it later. Ooh, John Hurt- there’s one upmanship! 🙂 I really would’ve liked to go to Kephalonia the following year but the flights weren’t good from our part of the world. Missed my chance now, I think.
      Zante fulfilled its purpose at the time (1991) but I don’t have strong memories so it doesn’t warrant a return. Incidentally, I’ve never been to “party island” Ibiza but I believe there are still beautiful places to visit there.

      1. That’s a good point – I went to Corfu in 1984 and stayed near to Benitses and then to Cyprus in 198 to Ayia Napa and although both were considered party resorts it didn’t spoil things for me – maybe I just liked partying a bit more when I was younger!

  8. Jo, this looks like an amazing trip! And what a good little traveler you are raising up! We started our overseas family travel when the kids were two and four, and they have grown to be happy grownup travelers. I have never been to Greece, but now I want to go more than ever!

    1. James was bored with it by the age of 12 or so, Naomi! One of the reasons we bought the place in the Algarve, but Tavira is not super chique enough for him. We like slightly down-at-heel, and he’s had some terrific hols there too.

  9. we visited Zakynthos back in about 1986 and I vividly remember reading in bed as fiona took a shower when the building shook with a minor tremor. “what was that?” she said. 2Must have been a passing truck” I replied only to discover laterit was an earthquake.

  10. Another two islands for my bucket list!! I haven’t visited either of these and they look fabulous. I watched Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – great film with stunning scenery. Thank you, Jo.

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