Sarah, one of our travel agent partners from Westway Travel in Wickford, Essex took a holiday with us in June to the beautiful island of Kefalonia. Read about her stay on the largest of the Ionian islands.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Getting up in the morning has become hard work. So has falling asleep. You have no time, no energy and you seem to sigh a lot. For me, it was when responding to a text became an effort that I realised I was badly in need of a break from routine. And if you’re nodding along while reading this, then chances are you do too.
Normally a holiday for me involves visiting multiple places, sightseeing, venturing out and travelling around. But for the first time I was craving something new. I wanted to do nothing. I didn’t want to have to go anywhere or be anywhere. I didn’t want to be restricted to times or tied to an itinerary. I wanted to read. I wanted to lie on a beach with the sun on my face. I wanted to swim in crystal clear waters. I wanted rest.
Greece was an obvious choice from the outset, with its short flight times, reasonable rates and deep blue seas. And I knew that I didn’t want an all- inclusive resort that would mean I would have to be present at times, not set by me, for meals. It would also mean a certain amount of socialising and small talk that I just didn’t have the energy for. I had loved the idea of our own villa since our self catering trip to Majorca last year. There was something enjoyable about venturing out to the market to buy local produce, then taking it back to our own space to prepare, cook and enjoy it. I found that villas weren’t as dear as I had anticipated. So I set about looking for a house that would be a pleasure to spend time in, as well as being near the beach and a town, so hiring a car wouldn’t be essential.
It was a tall order, but the Villa Noctiluca in West Kefalonia ticked every box. Picture a white wash house within a quiet, gated neighbourhood, thick with trees and the sound of crickets. Two of its three bedrooms had views of the sea. The light and fresh living room was dotted with the owners own paintings, and had patio doors to bring the outside in. A small and perfectly usable kitchen lead out on to a wide sun-dappled patio, where you can sit and listen to the Ionian Sea. There’s no pool and no need, as a hidden path takes you maybe 200 steps down to the golden stretch that is Lassi beach.
We headed out in early June and spent a week in perfect weather: hot in the day and cool at night. After a 3 hour flight, our Greek Island Club Rep met us at the airport with the keys and a cold bottle of water. Ten minutes later we had arrived. Noctiluca means sea sparkles, something I could see clearly on my first night as we sat out on the terrace drinking wine and eating olives. My shoulders came down by two inches.
I slept deeply that first night and woke up mid morning in crisp white sheets to the sound of the waves. I ventured down from our mezzanine floor bedroom to the kitchen, which had been filled prior to our arrival with tea bags, bread, milk, jam and even a bottle of local wine. Tea out on the balcony was then how we started everyday, whatever time we woke up. A ten minute stroll brought us into town where we hired a car and headed out to St Georges castle. We walked amongst the ruins and took in the view high up over the countryside, before choosing restaurant with a grape vine covered terrace for a Castle salad and a cold local beer.
Later, we stocked up at the supermarket with the ingredients for the evenings dinner. I asked the girl behind the counter if she had any pine nuts
‘No. The tourists don’t want them. My Mum uses them when she is cooking Gemista’
‘That’s what I’m cooking!’
She makes a phone call and five minutes later she has them for me.
Back in the kitchen and I’m simultaneously preparing stuffed tomatoes and peppers while drinking wine and singing along to the stereo. Something I haven’t made time for in a while. Dinner is delicious, if I do say so myself.
Our Greek Island Club Rep popped in to check we are happy and to suggest various things to do. Cheryl has spent a year here and knows the bus services (unreliable) ferry times to Lixouri (faster than driving) the most scenic walks (a lovely 3 mile circuit to Argostoli) and the best wine (Robola). She leaves her mobile number and even pops back later to tell us which bars are showing the football that night (unforgivable).
The next few days are spent in a wonderfully lazy fashion. We venture out, or we sunbathe. We eat in, or we walk into town. On an unusually overcast morning we drove the two hours up to Fiscardo. It’s mountainous, hairpin-bend driving, but worth it to emerge on to one of the prettiest ports I’ve ever seen. This is the one place on the island that survived the earthquake in 1952. Pastel coloured Venetian buildings arc around the harbour offering refreshments, several of which are mentioned in my Eye witness guide. We have brunch at La Passage and watch the sailing boats come and go. We enjoy an hour or so browsing the boutiques before heading back.
That night, a lady in a local shop tells me she owns the restaurant next door and offers me a 10% discount. Zorbas is sandwiched between her shop and a road. It’s one of the more simple and unassuming restaurants in town, but it turns out to be one of the best meals we had. The portion sizes are enormous, we should have turned down the bread basket and the family sized starters. The calamari is excellent, as are the meatballs.
The local food is indulgent. We try Kefalonian meat pie, Kleftico, mixed grills, mezes and sea food. Another particularly enjoyable meal was at a quirky place called Butlers House. I recommend having a table towards the back with a view out to sea, past the antique gun display and the water feature with the canaries. If you go, order the Little Shoes. It’s aubergine stuffed with mince and it’s wonderful.
We spent a couple of days on the beach in amongst the other holidaymakers. Eight euros secures us a couple of sun loungers and a parasol for the day, and we don’t even need to head back up to the villa as there’s a large cafe and clean WC’s right there. The sand is soft and hot and leads in to the sea without a rock or pebble or piece of seaweed in sight, just the occasional fish. I can walk out a fair way, but the tide gets stronger in the afternoon. Swimming in the sea rather than a pool is so much more exhilarating.
We read. We eat. We swim. We talk. There’s no rush hour traffic, clock watching, paying bills, housework or any other kind of work. We relax. I thoroughly recommend it.