Tuesday – Early morning call
Siggy and I get up at around quarter to four in the morning to get a taxi to East Midlands Airport. The airport is surprisingly busy but security doesn’t take too long. The flight is on time and uneventful (no yobs on board). The coach transfer to our hotel (a 15-minute walk from the beach which feels more of a slog in the heat) takes an hour. We are met by a nice Greek lady with whitened teeth and what looks like the remains of a black eye behind her mirrored shades. She proceeds to sting us for around 180 Euros (E) for 2 weeks of aircon and use of the safe. My first impression stays with me, which is a shame because I’m sure she’s very nice.
The hotel, Alykes Garden Village is high up on Trip Advisor for the location but is a bit underwhelming inside – it feels a bit grubby and dated – but we were spoilt last year with four star pads in Santorini and Skiathos. That said, the other places on the same road all look worse than our hotel. We agree to call it cheap and cheerful, remember how much less it cost than last year’s holidays and move on, but it’s a telling moment when Siggy doesn’t take a photo of the room.
Once we have unpacked some stuff (I decide to operate mostly out of my suitcase because there simply isn’t enough storage for both of our stuff – god knows how families cope), we walk from our resort Alykes to neighbouring Alykenas alongside the green looking canal that bisects the two resorts.
We have a quick drink and watch a bit of World Cup action in Bonkers. Later we go to Zorba’s taverna. I have a mixed grill with a crumbly burger, nice pitta and the usual odd sausage. Then we go to Spikey’s Place for cheap cocktails (5E each) and more football. The bar is decked out in England flags and has a number of screens, and they give us free salty popcorn with our drinks. I look over at Jungle Bar and decide it’s not for me. Which is odd because I spend a lot of time there and very little time in Spikey’s as it transpires.
Wednesday – Football focus
We spend all day lounging on the beach. The sea at Alykes is crystal clear and the fine sand goes out surprisingly far at waist height – probably further than Tigaki beach at Kos and therefore great for kids. I carry on reading Sharpe’s Honour by Bernard Cornwell – it’s a small book perfect for taking on a plane and it’s obligatory for me to read at least one Cornwell book while I am on holiday. I may do a little review of each book I read while in Zakynthos in separate post. I watch a bit of football at Sugarbush with a cheeky Mythos while Siggy stays on the beach.
Due to the excellent scheduling of the World Cup group stage matches, I am able to watch large chunks of almost every game – the last twenty minutes or so of the three o’clock match on my own while Siggy stays on the beach, the last bits of the first half and all the second half of the six o’clock match back in our room while she faffs about before we go out for food (using half time to have a shower), and at least the second half of the nine o’clock match after we’ve eaten.
In the evening we go to Fidelio which is on the main junction in Alykes opposite Spikey’s. I have a chicken kebab with tzatziki, pitta and a generous portion of Greek salad. I accidentally snap the tap on the ladies’ sink trying to turn it off after I think someone had failed to turn it off properly. Then we go to Sugarbush for some Amstel Radlers and cocktails. We watch the football and on another screen VH1 is showing music videos. We try to guess the year, getting increasingly confused, not realising that the ‘guess the year’ show has finished to be replaced by a mixture of random music videos. When we get back to hotel we find that the toilet in our room has stop flushing.
Thursday – Fixed flush
We report that the toilet is broken (we’ve been chucking a washing up bowl of water down it to get it flushed out. We laze on the beach – which is good because the hotel is noisy – we’re in the second floor in a three floor block and I don’t think people realise how much noise they are making at night or simply don’t give a shit. I put the Cornwell book to one side because I want to take it home with me to give to someone at work when I’m done with it. So I start reading Lee Child’s Worth Dying For instead. The toilet is fixed by the time we get back to our room.
In the evening we go to Nossos which is next door to Fidelio and I have a really nice beef stifado. We then have tasty and well-mixed cocktails and watch football at Heatwave where a lizard makes a few brief appearances from behind a surfboard they have up on their wall. We also meet the barman Vince for the first time although we don’t really get to know him until later in the week.
Heatwave has a television mounted in a tree and we alternate between that and watching various (typically pink and fat) people go by in the fancy horse and carriages they have in Alykes. One thing that strikes me about this World Cup apart from some great unexpected results is that with the use of this new video assistance surely the referee should be penalising simulation. There’s far too much rolling around by the players like they’ve been shot clutching their faces when the contact, if indeed there is any at all, is a glancing bump to the shin. Book ‘em ref! France plays a good game today – no great score line, but they look tidy and good contenders to do well – unlike their lacklustre opening match.
Friday – Run rabbit
As we have in the previous two days, Siggy and I spend the day on the beach in front of No Name cafe bar run by the very friendly Dennis (7E for sunbeds and umbrella is the standard rate on this nice part of the beach). There’s a friendly couple called Mark and Gill who are there at the front on the end and who are staying in the apartment above the café. Mark is very brown and tall, and reminds me of someone but it’s not until later I realise who.
I finish reading the Jack Reacher book. In the evening we go to El Greco a stone’s throw from the other tavernas we’ve been to near the main junction. It has a well-designed interior and seemingly efficient staff until a mix-up in the kitchen leads to us waiting an inordinately long time (even by Greek standards) for my Zakynthian rabbit spaghetti. When they finally catch the rabbit and cook it, it is delicious and we get a second round of Mythos on the house by way of apology.
Saturday – Spawny barstools
We spend the day on the beach outside No Name again. I have grilled sardines there for lunch (and I’m a bit disappointed that they don’t come with chips or some bread) plus a couple of nice vanilla milkshakes. I read The Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss and start Booky Wook 2 by Russel Brand (although both Siggy and I have a weird sense that we’ve read it before – perhaps fuelled by his reuse of material in his stand up shows).
I watch about twenty minutes of the first match of the day but Belgium have already put it to bed by the time I arrive at the relaxed and airy Jungle Bar across from Spikey’s – they’re leading Tunisia 4:1. The match ends 5:2, I get a Snickers ice cream and rejoin Siggy on the beach. We pop in at Iris Bar, which is next to a mini golf course, on the way back to our hotel for a couple of Radlers and the start of South Korea v Mexico which I finish watching in our room before we go out. We walk to Porto Paridiso on the end of Althea beach. I have a pretty standard portion of moussaka which comes with very nice round crispy chips, and a burnt almond ice cream cocktail. Then we go to the Jungle Bar to watch the spawny barstools Germany scrape an undeserved win against Sweden.
Sunday – We let one in
It is cloudy over the mountains today but it doesn’t stop the sunshine much. I read a little more of Booky Wook 2. For lunch we both have omelette and chips, just like my Nan used to cook me on a Saturday lunchtime, at No Name and then I escape the beach at around 14:45 to find somewhere to watch the England match.
A lot of bars are full but I find a decent vantage point in Jungle Bar and proceed to watch England beat Panama 6:1. What is funny about the game is that we are watching it on a Greek channel whereas Spikey’s has the BBC broadcast which is about 20 seconds slower. It means that we provided live spoilers each time a goal goes in proceeded after the satellite delay by a jubilant roar from the other bar. Three large Mythos, a bowl of free crisps and a bowl of free peanuts make me a bit sleepy when I rejoin Siggy on the beach.
We have our evening meal at The Mediterranean Restaurant near Heatwave it isn’t much to write home about. Sure the pork chop is big and juicy but it’s hardly difficult. For a starter we get a meagre portion of garlic bread with cheese and the tiramisu has none of the coffee pick me up that is the usual hallmark of my beloved dessert. On the flip side service is quick and Siggy’s chef’s salad is good. Then we got to what looks like a rock n roll bar in the form of Enigma which is a little way along the road toward the salt flats. They serve cheap (4E) cocktails and the football coverage is jittery. We move on after a while to Heatwave for more cocktails.