In the first half of 2000 work was getting onerous and less enjoyable and I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm for working for a company (Onyx UK) that was financed by public taxes but was providing an ever deteriorating level of service. I had a new boss who I didn’t get on with and I needed a holiday so at the beginning of June I went to the Ionian island of Kefalonia with mum and dad and son Jonathan. As it happened it turned out to be the last time that I went away with dad because he became too ill to travel soon after that.
I had been to Corfu in 1984 but with an area of three hundred and fifty square miles the island of Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece. The island is named after the mythological figure Cephalus, who was the head of a great family that included the hero Odysseus and there has been recent speculation that this may well have been the actual home of Homer’s mythical warrior hero and archeologists are now busy trying to prove it.
We arrived in Kefalonia and this being a package tour we were met and transported the seven kilometres to the four-star Hotel Mediterranee in the holiday resort of Lassi. It was a big modern hotel were with an entrance down a driveway off the busy main road and past some tennis courts where some guests were making hard work of a sluggish match under the hot afternoon sun.
Inside there were marble floors and lobby furniture for sitting and chatting, lots of people looking more important than they really were and, once checked in, a nice enough room but without a sea view. Outside there was a large swimming pool and a covered sun terrace with a view over the bay towards the town of Lixouri and beyond that there was a private pine fringed sandy beach, crystal blue waters and most important of all a well stocked beachside taverna.
Lassi was the first resort to be developed on Kefalonia and tourists have been going there for several years and being the largest resort on the island it is also the most commercial. It is one of those tourist ribbon stretches that develop wherever there is a sandy beach nearby. There is no village as such, just a narrow stretch of road flanked by tavernas, rent-a-car outlets, tourist shops and the odd mini-market. The two beaches at Lassi are Makris Yialos, which means long beach, and Plati Yialos, which means wide beach.
Even though it is the biggest resort on the island this was not a problem because this didn’t mean that it is a heaving, noisy, lager lout sort of place and although it was a bit scruffy in that untidy Greek sort of way it turned out to be really rather nice. After we had found our way about the hotel and walked around the pool in that conspicuous pasty legged sort of way that new arrivals do we set about doing the usual things that you do on the first day of a holiday and we went back up the entrance road and out onto the main village road.
The main street also happened to be the main route from the capital Argostoli to the airport and the south and was therefore rather busy and all week we had to keep an eye out for blood sport motorists every time we crossed the road. The street had bars, shops, restaurants and tavernas (that we wouldn’t need because we were staying half board at the Mediterranee) and we made an inspection both to the left and the right and made a mental note of the likely looking places for a drink later on. A shop at the end of the hotel drive had cold beers so I filled a carrier bag and took them back to the hotel for pre dinner drinks on the balcony.
The evening meal was adequate without being exciting and we finished the day with a quiet drink in the village where the bars were preparing big screens for the start next day of the European Football Championships that were being held in Holland and Belgium.
Saturday was our first full day and we didn’t plan to do a great deal except go to the beach and later to the terrace swimming pool. This didn’t take a lot of planning. After buffet breakfast we walked through the gardens and past the pool, down some steps and through the beach side taverna and onto the beach. We were quite early so we got to pick a spot that suited us best and selected sun-beds near the sea where there was a gentle cooling breeze and we settled in for a day of doing absolutely nothing except for the occasional swim in the water to cool down and a little walk to the taverna for a top-up Mythos and then walk awhile and cool off in the shade of the nearby pines and cypresses, the slender holm-oaks and the statuesque aloes.
The beachside taverna served a good lunch and Jonathan, who was still a bit of a fussy eater at thirteen, had his favourite combination of French fries and strawberries (yes, very strange) while the rest of us had our first Greek salad. We didn’t really do a lot else except for a bit of snorkelling and a swim in the pool and then when dad went for his afternoon nap the three of us went back to the village for a late afternoon drink.
Unknowingly we had established the routine for the rest of the week. We had found an Italian bar/taverna that had already become our favourite and we went back there again after dinner where the atmosphere was getting lively in anticipation of the football. We watched while the hosts, Belgium, beat Sweden 2 -1 and when we left the barman told us to be sure to come back tomorrow because Italy was playing Turkey and anticipating a win there was going to be a party!