09 November 2011

Sunshine Rhodes

Sunshine Rhodes

Relaxation beckoned as we landed in Rhodes and we were in for a wonderful surprise! Sunshine all the way in Rhodes with a great start at the Car Rental. The chap took us all the way to "Sunshine Rhodes" as he felt we could get lost from the airport. What wonderful service and a great start to our holiday! The resort is huge, is fully inclusive so it's marvellous for a truly "let your hair down" type of holiday. Situated right on the beach with various swimming pools, buffet style food and plenty of it. The pool bar is situated next to the beach so it's truly decadent to get into the queue for drinks in your bathing costume and then head straight back to your deck chair for a thirst-quenching long drink. What a way to relax - first breakfast, then unwind while you lounge in the sun, swim if the mood takes you and the water feels warm, pre-lunch drinks (anything from water, fruit juice, beer, wine, fabulous looking cocktails) then, heaven help us, lunch is upon you again. A short snooze after lunch before heading to the beach or pool again, then tea and cakes, another swim, then woe betide me, it's time for drinks again! Just set your clock by the length of the queue - if it's drinks time it's very long! So relaxing drinks either at the pool bar or still on your deck chair and then it's time to change for dinner. The huge dining room was packed but we always managed to get a table in the corner away from the madding crowd! With many French and Dutch couples/families it was a great "people watching" experience. Even though we could not always understand the conversation, just the hand signals and exuberant way of talking was entertainment in itself! All shapes and sizes abound so it's not a train smash if you don't have that perfect bikini figure!

The kids are well looked after by the club and the evening entertainment was good. Truly a place to relax after a busy year and unwind before setting forth to tour the island.

Lindos is a gorgeous "white" town with it's acropolis reaching 116 m above sea- level. There are huge parking areas above the town as this tiny place is a huge tourist attraction. No cars (except small delivery vans) are allowed  in the town - however, motor bikes and donkeys are allowed and you can try a donkey ride to the Lindos acropolis! IF you are brave enough!

The donkey rides are very popular but look quite scary, especially going downhill! This town begs to be explored and the little lanes are have interesting shops, roof-top restaurants, pebbled walkways and it has not yet been spoilt by having hotels dotted all over. No hotels may be built in Lindos and the village is beautifully preserved and dazzling bright! The bays are stunning and offer water-sports so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. The maze of shops can be quite overwhelming so take your time and do some bargaining. Summer time is good for these shop-keepers but there are still bargains to be had. Lovely goods are on sale and we bought a painting of Lindos to remember this ancient village. The shops stock a huge variety of goods - don't leave the town empty-handed. The temperature can be at least 10 degrees warmer than elsewhere on the island and the walk back to the car park is quite steep!

After the hot walk and exploration of Lindos we headed towards Glyfada Beach which is off the normal tourist track. It's a very pebbly beach and can get rather windy at times. I struggled so much to advance into the sea that I decided going backwards would perhaps be a better option. Alas, I ended up with my legs in the air and looking like a total idiot! However, my embarrassment was short-lived as there were only a few people on the beach and the water was so gorgeous that it was worth the effort. The bay is surrounded by hundreds of trees and this gives the sea rather a unique colour. The drive back along the west coast was very windy so we were pleased to get back to the Pool Bar for a spot in the sun before dinner.

The resort had a Greek evening one night in the Pool Bar which was most entertaining with excellent music and dancing. The group of French tourists sitting in front of us were in hysterics as one of their party fell fast asleep in the midst of all this noise and clapping. Obviously too much sun and far too many blue cocktails! Many photos were taken of this bloke so he may live to regret indulging so much! After the show we were all sitting enjoying the balmy evening when some bloke lit up the most disgusting smelling cigar. Even the French party wrinkled their noses in disgust but that did not stop him from smoking it to the bitter, stinking end! Live music at the Pool Bar was always good fun and we managed a number of dances despite James' bashed and bleeding toe from a stone in the sea! There was a young honeymoon couple from Holland who wanted the band to play "Imagine" for them as this was "their" song. Everybody cheered and clapped and we hope they enjoy a wonderful marriage!

There is a lovely walk along the sea towards Rhodes Town although the humidity can make it rather unpleasant at times. Unfortunately, we had not thought to walk with our bathing costumes so we could not cool off along the way. The sea is the most amazing colour - see below.

Ancient Kamiros, lies on a hill with stunning views of the sea. Extensive excavations over many years have revealed this ancient city and you can view the entire lay-out from the top of the hill.
There are notice boards with historical information and if you are interested in how the people lived hundreds of years ago, do visit this site. There is a small entrance fee.

Walk to the top and admire the views facing inland as well as those facing the sea - the ancients truly chose a magical spot!

We stopped at Skala Kameiros, a small village with a tiny harbour.

We chanced upon a family run restaurant, named "Amythita", where we stopped for a lovely lunch surrounded by locals. Always a good sign, away from the more touristy places. The food was very good, the service attentive and we were given the most gorgeous orange peel dessert - yum, yum, yum! The toilets were spotless which is always my benchmark when visiting public places. I would have no hesitation in recommending this restaurant

Kritinia's Castle was our next stop. We were stopped at the bottom of the road by a "Greek" Gypsy who claimed that she kept the castle "clean" but was not paid for this work so therefore she wanted us to buy liquor, lemons or coke from her! We said we would see her on the way down as this sounded like a bit of a tale. The old Venetian castle is partially in ruins and there was no entry into any part of it, so we were left puzzled as to what this lady actually cleaned given the abundant growth of weeds. The views are great so the stop was certainly worth while.
A small portion of the castle does appear occupied but there was nobody around to ask if anybody did live there or what that section was used for. We didn't believe the gypsy lady who cornered us on the way down again and then got most irate when we refused to buy anything or give her money. So we sped off before she could damage the rental car - she was that angry!

The Folklore Museum at Kritinia was extremely interesting with many old implements, old jars, beds, traditional dress and other relevant items of yesteryear. Some Greek villages still appear so steeped in the past that it is easy to imagine how life must have been hundreds of years ago. The village of Kritinia is one - the roads are narrow, one feels like an alien who has stumbled upon some small spot in the universe where you are truly not welcome. the widows, all dressed in black, watch you with beady eyes and it's best to just move off onto the main drag again!

To be fair, not all villages give off this air of "you truly don't belong here" vibe and the next one on our route was very welcoming, very tourist orientated and colourful. The road from Kritinia was very winding and seemed to go on and on....! 

Siana is a tiny village, very well known for it's honey and olive oil but there are also shops selling other goods. The shops have information re their honey and olive oil and many appear to have been in the family for generations. It's a welcoming village and a good place to buy goods if you don't have a weight issue with your chosen air-line!

Our next visit was to the Valley of the Butterflies - this is a lovely walk through the valley but unfortunately the butterflies are only out from mid-June to end September so we only spotted about 3 butterflies. The butterflies come to this valley to mate - it certainly is a very peaceful spot. There were many huge spider webs all over the trees and foliage - feast for the spiders during the busy months of the year for butterflies? It seems rather awful to think that brand-new, gorgeous butterflies will be grabbed by spiders before they have a chance to enjoy life! But that is nature and we must not disturb the cycle. Keep your eyes peeled along the walk as the butterflies are very difficult to spot. We also saw a huge crab who was very well camouflaged. Everybody wanted a photo of this proud specimen of a crab and eventually he got fed-up with all the flashes and scuttled back into the undergrowth. The scenery is beautiful and serene so we enjoyed the walk despite the lack of butterflies.

From butterflies to fish.......the aquarium is fairly small and is fitted out like an underground cave. Some tourists never cease to amaze me - signs are not meant for them, it appears and they totally ignore the likes of it "Please do not use Flash" We stared, aghast, at a family who took flash after flash photography, upsetting the fish all in the line of "I was there" What sort of message are they passing on to their children? I shudder to think! So that spoilt our experience of the aquarium which focuses on a number of issues such as research in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, awareness of endangered species and education of students. The staff are proud their aquarium, despite it's small size. 

Rhodes Town is still surrounded by ancient walls and entry into this area is via a number of different gates. The walls are only open on certain days and then only in the morning so plan your visit if you want to see the views from these walls. The town is a rabbit warren of streets with shops galore, numerous restaurants and an interesting vibe. It's tourist heaven but also a great way to enjoy local food in shady surroundings during the heat of the day. We decided upon a restaurant called "Rustica" - the service was excellent, the food good and the beer cheap. The Old Town seems to be sheltered from the weather as and we got buffeted by strong winds when we emerged outside.

As we all know, the Greeks are suffering from a severe financial crisis currently. However, despite this, working conditions are still good on the islands. Staff in tourist resorts work from about April to November and then have 4- 6 months off to either work some other job or just relax and enjoy family life. Most seem to opt for the latter and it seems an ideal situation. Unemployment can be claimed during this time - maybe the social benefits have bred a society who is now used to long periods at home with enough to live on in comfort?  Perhaps I am just envious of the long months without stress or the daily work grind which most of us have to endure!! So many other nationalities have settled on Greek Islands - there must be something to be said for their lifestyle, their divine food and the ever-present olive oil! Don't ever be in a hurry in Greece - it's a place not meant for that sort of living! But on the other side of the coin, some locals will say that those Greeks who have left the islands are now better off in other countries around the world like Canada, Australia, parts of Europe, South Africa etc. To be 65 and still working in your restaurant to put your children through university is also no fun. So, as with all things in life, two sides to every story.

Prasonisi, which means "Green Island"  is at the very end of Rhodes where 2 oceans come together. This is worth the drive from Rhodes Town as the beach is huge and you can chose from two sides - east or west! If the one side is windy, the other will most probably be calm and great for paddling/swimming. Crazy stuff! It is known as a great wind-surfing or kite surfing spot and there are rentals available during the summer season. The Aegean sea side has more waves whereas the Mediterranean is much calmer and more suited to the gentle pursuit of lazy paddling. During winter with higher waters, Prasonisi becomes an island but during the lower tides of summer, you can walk across - just beware of the tide time table! You just have to stand with one foot in the Aegean and one foot in the Med - a unique experience! Is there anywhere else on earth where this happens? Just the thought of two oceans so close to each other is mind-boggling and has to be seen to be believed. There are many rooms to let for holiday makers and the inevitable taverna's beckoning you to their tables.

As with all places, one can normally single out a favourite spot and ours was found purely by accident on one of our daily excursions. The beach is called Kathara and is just south of Faliraki. It's a local beach, the kids come dashing down when school is out, the fishermen come down later in the afternoon, the "beach chair" lady watches with a sharp eye so that she can claim her Euro's for the chair hire although she does vanish from time to time - goes home for lunch maybe! Sometimes it seems she has made enough for a day and then she plods home and the chairs are a free for all. This probably does not happen so much in the height of the summer season. The  beach is fairly small, the sea water beyond words and the locals are entertaining. Like the one lady who just got changed right on the beach, albeit with her back to us. And another with really long, droopy "melons" who had these hanging out for much of her conversation with her friend! Just around the corner from this beach was another great find in "Mario's" Restaurant. The waitress was from Sweden originally but has made her life and home in Rhodes for over 30 years now. The food was truly most enjoyable, fresh and tasty with the most divine olives steeped in their special home-made vinegar. I would go back just for that beach and restaurant! Although it was a fair drive from our resort, we kept going back to swim and eat there. However, everybody's needs and tastes are different and you need to find what suits you best so that you bring back great memories of your travels.  

Don't forget to buy your souvenirs before heading back home - these boats in Rhodes Town had the most incredible collections of shells in all shapes and sizes - just browsing on the boat was an experience in itself!

Rhodes Town is busy and parking is a nightmare! There are many excursions from the harbour for those who want to explore further afield.

We felt fully rested, more sun-tanned than when we arrived but, as always, time had marched on and it was time to bid Rhodes good-bye. I can still taste those olives.........!  

© Judelle Drake

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