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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 

Vacations

It's only May but already people are talking to me about diakopes (vacations) for the summer. As always in these conversations, it seems mandatory that everyone will share at least one vacation horror story in the effort to dissuade another person from visiting a particular location to prevent them from wasting their money and time while another person who claims to be an authority on the locale will refute that person's claims of bad service, overpriced lodging and substandard substandard local cuisine. It's a rare thing when everyone in the discussion will agree on a particular place as worthy of a visit.

For instance, a friend of ours had always tried to convince people to visit the island of Kefalonia since his family was from there and therefore, not a year goes by that he doesn't spend at least a week on the island in the family's summer home. 4 years ago, we decided to see what all the fuss was about especially since I had read the book Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Although it's a beautiful island, and bougainvillea decorated just about every stone wall and terrace, I can't say I enjoyed myself. No matter where we ate or what time it was, when it came time to order, half of what the menu offered was not available so we would spend at least a half an hour trying to find substitutes that we could eat. After the third day, we became so accustomed to not getting what we ordered that we just told them to keep the menus and tell us what they actually had in the kitchen which, didn't amount to much more than a couple of pork chops, tzatziki, french fries and Greek horiatiki salads...all overpriced. A glass of milk cost me 5€ in the main square!

We had rented a nice little apartment with a great view of Argostoli but in the 10 days I was there, not once did they change the sheets or clean it. Twice I had asked the owners to change give us clean sheets and towels, and twice they dumped the linens in my hands and told me to do it myself. We complained to the Tourist Police and they told us that the owners could be fined for not adhering to the standards set out by the tourist board. When it came time to pay the bill, the owners were told to give us a discount or be fined by the Tourist Police.

The only thing that saved our vacation from being a total waste of time was the beautiful beaches and the Melissani Caves.

At least we didn't experience an earthquake there like we did while on vacation in Zakynthos and it wasn't so overrun by tourism that we could still order Greek food and buy Greek magazines which was next to impossible on Zakynthos.

My favourite island so far is Milos. It's still very Greek and has the best beaches I've ever seen. Santorini is also well worth the trip. It's everything you're lead to believe from travel brochures even if ordering seafood does cost you an arm and a leg.

Every island has its own character but if you can't find a decent place to sleep and are constantly being disturbed by noisy and drunken tourists on low-cost vacation deals, then your vacation can soon become a horror story.

When booking your dream vacation it's always best to do a bit of research and request some photos of the rooms of your prospective hotel from your travel agent. I can't tell you how many times we've paid for A class lodging only to find out that once we arrive, the A class designation was given to the hotel in decades ago by EOT (Greek Tourist Board) according to the standards of that time and was never reclassified because EOT never got around to it. So we ended up paying A class prices for a room without modern amenities like air conditioning or a fridge and the decor of a 1950s rural farmhouse.

Since most Greeks vacation in August, you can get better room rates if you go in June, July or September not to mention vacant beach chairs with a bit of space between you and the next person.

If only it were July now, I'd be on a beautiful Greek island beach instead of at my laptop blogging.

ZARDOZ SAYS:

HARD FACTS,, YET TRUE.

PERSONALLY I WAS INFORMED
THAT SERVICES ON KEFFALONIA
ARE DENSE AND NONEXISTENT.
ALL TRUE.

EVERY WAITER I MET TOOK
AT LEAST TWO HOURS TO MAKE
COFFEE, very dense peoples.
FOOD IN THE END WE cooked
on our own. only place that
had good service was FISKARDO.
and not "tasias" overrated.
anyways the show of stupidity
by the ceffalonians was actually
"COUNTRY QUAINT"
RING A BELL
TO ANYONE THATS TRAVELLED
FROM ILLINOIS TO LOUISIANA..?
THEY HAD TO BE CEFFALONIANS.

ZAKYNTHOS WAS EXCELLENT ON
SERVICE ,BEAUTY ,EVERYTHING
EXCEPT LAGANAS,too english
for my TASTE.

just the same ill stick
with milos paros crete
ithaca , ikaria , samos
and favorite kalymnos=z=

Ahhh yes...golden sun, white sands and azure blue seas. It's all coming back to me now. Although I haven't visited all the Greek Islands, I must say that of the ones I visited, Patmos and Rhodes stand out as my favourites. (Mind you...I was totally surprised to see a tacky snake museum there. It's only a matter of time before Ripley's Believe it Or Not opens up a franchise there.)

Mykonos was postcard pretty but my travel agent neglected to tell me that it was VERY popular among the gay community. Which is fine if you're single and gay. (I'm not.)

I must say, however, that my rooms on the island were cheap and cheerful--not to mention very clean. Met a lot of party-lovin' Germans on Mykonos too.

ZARDOZ SAYS:

with a name like QUEEN BEE
what did you
expect your travel agent
to send you....if not mykonos.


sorry but ,choked up laughing
QUEEN BEE.

i'm joking of course. =Z=

I guess the "different strokes for different folks" applies here. I love Kefalonia, and have actually visited it twice for summer vacations. My kids were younger and we rented an apartment with kitchen facilities (both times) so we ate out rarely but had no complaints (or at least none that seemed important enough to stick out). We changed beaches every day and loved the diversity of the settings (red sand at Xi Beach, pebbled beach at Skala, etc). I love that Kefalonia (and Zakynthos and the rest of the Ionian islands) are green. The Aegean islands are beautiful too but a scenery without trees and greenery makes me very thirsty and uneasy about water supply (I have my quirks).
I have experienced inexistent or bad services (e.g. linen changes) everywhere in Greece so I come prepared with my own bed sheets and towels. The past 5 years I've noticed an improvement in services and I think the tighter money is for Greeks who have cut back on their vacation days, the more aimable the hotel and room owners will be.

The change of linen is an issue which raises its head all over the hotels, it appears. When staying at the Glyfada hotel , in Glyfada, my wife had to remind and demand from the staff that the linen be changed. They seem to have a tendency to forget. On one occasion I had to spend 1.30hr outside my room down in the cafeteria whilst waiting for competent staff to be located for the removal of a pigeon inside my room.
Upon arriving one evening I found the balcony sliding door wide open, the wind was blowing, and to my chagrin I found a pigeon, a large bulky one, sitting pretty on the window dressing.

I reported the bird and its droppings, and complained why the maid had left the doors open, to the receptionist who promptly sprung up from his desk to tackle the intruder. Whilst I was having coffee I asked my wife to enquire when can we move to the room. The message that came back was that the clerk tried to remove the bird but in the process was "bitten" on his finger and needed "attention". Since the clerk with the bitten finger disclosed his impcompetency to remove pigeons from rooms, we had to wait for someone else outside the hotel to come in and solve the problem.

I will not visit Mykonos on my own , if I can help it. Sitting in cafes and recreational spot on my own I became the target of very offensive looks, innuendos, gracious smiles and downright obscene invitations.

I wish they would put up notices " Gay Bars", "Gays only" signs, so that us "normal and seemingly disadvantaged" can not be unnecessarily importuned.

My visit to Zakynthos 4-5 years ago was mediocre, since it was full of loud English, service was crap and we had to drive for an hour for a beach that was free of hotel-sewage.

Contrary to this, our stay in Thasos 8 years ago was probably the best beach/relaxing holiday I have ever had. But then again, all I want is a village that is spread in a dingle road, with many restaurants and bars and the beach no more than 50 meters away!

K.

I'm not quite ready for an island again. I'm still working out the nightmares from living on one for a year. While it was a pleasant enough place, I much prefer Mt. Olympus for my summer vacation. My in-laws have a summer house on Chalkidiki so we might go there, but I don't swim and can't take the sun so beachy places, aside from the gorgeous views, don't do me much good.

I'd much prefer vacations if there were no travel time involved. Travel always involves some kind of annoying hassle. Oh, for the days of "beam me up Scottie!" to arrive.

Milos has nice beaches but not as nice as those in Lefkada... And you don't need to travel by ferry to reach it!

zardoz...We experienced the same thing in Kef...including Tasia's Estiatorio. I don't eat seafood but my husband and friends said there was nothing so special about it that warranted the hyperexpensive price tags.
I used to live in Louisiana (Baton Rouge) and I experienced some pretty bad service there as well. The worse one being at a restaurant in New Orleans where the food was absolutely horrible. I ate one bite of what I ordered and asked the waiter to exchange it. I never saw him again for the rest of the meal. I paid the bill and left. The waiter came running down the street yelling at me and threw some quarters at me for not tipping him enough! LOL

bee...I haven't been to Rhodes or Mykonos so I can't comment on them but I think the party-lovin' Germans are everywhere. LOL

zardoz...hahahahaha Too funny!

flubber...I loved the greenery on both islands too. The Melissani caves were my favourite though. I thought about bringing m own sheets and towels on vacation but I'm so stubborn...I want to get away from washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning that's why I take a vacation. LOL
You coud be right about improved services depending upon cash-strapped Greeks demanding their money's worth out of their vacations.

anon...that's a new one for me...pigeons on vacation! I wonder if that hotel has a problem with them or if yours was an isolated case. If it wasn't, then they could have just put some screens on the balcony doors. Sounds like that one pigeon cost you a one day's vacation. Too bad you didn't get a pic of it. Would have made a great conversation piece.

alois...I don't think posting signs would have saved you from unwanted male attention no more than sunbathing on a nude beach would prevent women from ogling and pick up lines. I think you needed to island hop over to Santorini instead. LOL

kostas...I experienced the same thing in Zakynthos...so much so that I didn't even feel like I was in Greece anymore. I haven't been to Thasos but it sounds like my kind of island from what you describe. Every time I hear of a new island I haven't been to, I feel like booking a ticket and hopping a ferry to go visit it. If ONLY I was rich enough to own a sailboat and spend my whole summers island hopping. Paradeisos. *sigh*

Mel..Hey there Mel! As always, living in a place and visiting it are two different things. I can see how island life would get really boring in the off season though. I can't believe you don't like travelling. That's half the fun for me! Especially road trips where I can see the countryside. I only want to get beamed out of government offices...never a vacation. LOL

anon...I've never been to Lefkada but I've heard the same thing from my friend...that it has the most beautiful beaches. It's her favourite island as well and she's been to a lot more islands than I have.

I can´t really comment on this blog because I don´t really do vacations so to speak because I´m too committed to my work!

However, as far as islands go. I absolutely adore Spetses and Hydra for a quiet break and Mykonos, Paros and Santorini for partying!!

never had bad service myself in Canada, but one time my brother was driving a lorie there and apparently in Oregon he had his truck vandalized with gang Graffiti.

Well, some Canadian cop gave him a ticket because he said that Canada is a dual language country and if his truck did not have the french translation for the graffiti.

Even though I am Greek, when it comes to booking accommodation on a Greek island I always resort to the relevant British edition of The Rough Guide. It may sound a bit absurd, but I have to say that it works every time - their descriptions of pensions and hotels are always precise. Just an idea for any future bookings...

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