Upon arriving at the Apostolata Spa hotel in Skala, Kefalonia, I had never felt more homesick. To say it was not a good start to the holiday, would be an understatement! The room was tired, the bathroom wasn’t clean and the balcony only overlooked the sea if you looked at a 90 degree angle over it! I don’t want you to take this as a bad review of the hotel though, as the staff were fantastic and took us via golf buggy the following morning, to a room that couldn’t have been more different. From then onwards, thoughts of home diminished and I began to enjoy the usual Greek hospitality.
The town of Skala was about an hours walk from the hotel but there was a regular bus service. In the town there were the usual array of souvenir shops, along with tavernas and a lovely sandy-ish beach. The old part of town also has the remains of a Roman villa.
Some 16 years ago as a hedonistic 18 year old, my friend and I had visited Zakynthos, another of the Ionian Islands and on a boat trip, the guide had pointed out Kefalonia. From then on I always hoped I would get to visit the island, that was the setting of the 2001 film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and now finally I had now made it there, for a relaxing week with my best friend, my Mum.
The pool at the hotel was so inviting and the first day was spent working on a tan on a lounger by it and swimming in the water that twinkled, like diamonds in the sun’s rays. One of the things I love about a package holiday to the sun is the permission it gives you to lay about doing nothing. This year I decided to try out the slider trend for pool footwear rather than my usual flip flops and I can confirm that I will be sticking to the old faithful in future, as despite looking nice, they are really hard to keep on especially when your feet are wet.
I do like to mix it up and ensure I enjoy some culture so the following day we hired a car. The car was a bit of a wreck that struggled to get out of third gear and driving on the island was quite an eye opener. They tell you to stay off unmade roads but that proves difficult when a proper road suddenly peters out into a dirt track! The mountain roads were also very steep and winding and when driving through Skala, I came face to face with a cow running down the road! Thank god for iphone’s or we would probably still be driving around the island as the map the hire company gave us was about as much use as a chocolate tea pot!
Our first stop was the port town of Poros. We refreshed ourselves with a cool drink in one of the tavernas, overlooking the harbour and watched the boats before heading down to a small beach for some relaxation.
After refuelling at a very cute little petrol station, where an attendant dispenses the fuel, we headed on to a beach I had read about, Kaminia. This was a beautiful quiet beach and we relaxed here for a while and I got into the book of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as having never read it, this seemed like an appropriate occasion to do so.
Lunchtime found us in the pretty village of Kateleios and I enjoyed a traditional Greek salad and moussaka at a local taverna.
Sisson monastery was our next stop. Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived. We then went on a walk in search of views which was probably a bad idea, given how hot the day had become.
The final stop of the day was the Ayii Theodori lighthouse. My Mum loves lighthouses so this was a must have. It was very different to what I would typically picture as a lighthouse but equally as beautiful. It was built in 1829 originally but had to be reconstructed along with much of the island following the 1953 earthquake.
I always try and go on a couple of the organised tours and we had a wonderful day out on the ‘Discover Kefalonia’ tour. We had a brief photo stop in Sami before heading on to the Melissani caves. The temperature dropped somewhat as we boarded a small rowing boat to go into the caves. We had a great guide who sang ‘Just one Cornetto’ as he rowed us around.
The necessity of any sun holiday for me, is a boat trip which was a large part of this excursion. The boat took us around the north-eastern coast of Kefalonia up to the village of Fiskardo – the only town on the island that wasn’t destroyed in the 1953 earthquake. On the way we passed the beach where in the Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Penelope Cruz jumps off the board walk for a swim and also stopped at a little pebbley cove. The afternoon was spent in Assos. On the return journey we had a beautiful photo stop at Mytos beach, which when looking down on it appears to be a white sandy beach but is in fact pebbles. This beach was made famous by Hollywood in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Prior to going to Scotland in May, I had my hair dyed rose gold. While it looked lovely, after a couple of washes it just looked like my usual blonde highlights. I brought with me on this trip a wash in, wash out pastel pink hair dye by L’oreal and absolutely loved the results.
That afternoon we went on our second organized trip to a vineyard by the monastery of Saint Gerasimos. Saint Gerasimos is the patron saint of Kefalonia and it is believed that he can heal the sick. I very much enjoyed the wine tasting and needless to say I didn’t spit it out. I purchased a couple of bottles to take home.
The coach then headed on to the capital, Argostoli. We then had free time to either shop or turtle watch. We spent too long shopping on the beautiful marble street and sadly missed the turtles that others in the party saw but I had seen them before in Zakynthos.
There was plenty of time for pampering whilst we were away. We went to a morning stretch class, part of which involved concentrating on our breathing. This was extremely relaxing, particularly given our surroundings; the sea was lapping gently and the morning sun was cooled by a light breeze. Of course it would have been rude to come to a spa hotel and not use the facilities, so we both indulged in a back, neck and head massage which was so relaxing, I dropped off to sleep. I also had a pedicure done.
Food in Greece is always delicious and one of the best meals we had was at a restaurant called Nautilus. The restaurant is designed to look like a boat and over looks the sea. The staff here were fantastic, with one even boning my sea bream for me!
In Argostoli, I had to try the Kefalonian meat pie, a traditional delicacy which I have since cooked at home reasonably successfully.
As part of our all inclusive package we were entitled to one evening in the a la carte restaurant at the hotel which was delicious and allowed for beautiful views over the bay.
On our final night we followed a recommendation to go to a restaurant in Skala called Sunrise and we certainly weren’t disappointed.
I couldn’t leave the island without bringing a little part of it with me including some olive oil and various herbs, to help me cook up some Greek flavours in the kitchen.
I must admit that the book of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin did beat me – despite the excellent story the book is not quite the easy beach read I enjoy. I was not disappointed by the island the book is set on however and whilst not the best of the Greek islands in my opinion, Mum and I had a fabulous holiday as always.