Up, up and away
I am off to Zakynthos, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea with Solo Holidays after a good night’s sleep at the Premier Inn, which does everything it says in the advert. An ideal location for departures from Gatwick North Terminal as the entrance is directly opposite the moving pavement up to check in.
Whilst waiting in the check-in snake, the lady in front of me turned around and said, “Are you travelling with Solos? “ We chummed up, and she told me she had travelled with them before, so that was a good start. Gary Haskins was to be our tour leader, and he found us all at the flight gateway as promised. It was as easy as that.
Zakynthos airport is small and ours was the only plane on the runway, so the arrival procedure was very easy. The group gathered around the Solo representative, all seemed very friendly and ready for a holiday. We introduced ourselves and boarded the bus to Tsilivi and the Alexandra Beach Hotel.
First impressions were of a green hilly island. The hotel is positioned above Tsilivi on a hill. The rooms at the front of the hotel look out to the Ionian Sea. All rooms have balconies. There are also bungalows set in the very attractive grounds. Most days we could see Kefalonia (known for the film Captain Correlli’s Mandolin) and mainland Greece.
My room was at the back of the hotel, overlooking a villa with a dog who was competing for the ‘Bone of the Year Award’ and never stopped or lost his bark. Working on the basis that I would not be in my room much I stayed put, but others requested a move and Gary made sure it happened.
The rooms are spacious and clean with twin beds. There is a fridge and air conditioning /heating unit which is needed in the evenings when the temperatures drop. All rooms have ample cupboard space with extra blankets and pillows. There is a TV but reception in my room was not great, I was not on holiday to watch TV and did not want to watch the bearded transvestite singing for Austria so that did not bother me. The bathroom was again clean and seemed new with a shower over the bath and a hairdryer. There is WiFi in the reception area plus a big TV screen and a bar.
Buildings in Zakynthos are built for a hot climate with marble floors throughout. In summer temperatures reach 40 degrees. In early May we enjoyed a very pleasant 21 degrees. The hotel staff are very friendly and helpful and speak good English.
Our holiday was on a half board basis and so after we had all settled in we met in the pool bar before dinner. A nice touch by Solos was that Gary greeted us and arranging our first drink, it took away that awkwardness of entering a bar alone. My ‘before dinner tipple’ was ouzo with water and ice. Two chaps in the group were well versed on wines and assured me that there was a very good selection of both wine and beer in the pool bar.
Our group consisted of 6 men and 6 women. Ages ranged from 53 years old to 62 years old. We hailed from Scotland to Guernsey and all got on really well straight away. Conversation and humour flowed.
Dinner was buffet style served downstairs in the restaurant where Gary had arranged two tables next to each other again looking out to the Ionian Sea. The chef is from Patras and new to the hotel this year. We applauded him as the food was consistently excellent.
We made a point of sitting next to different people at each meal and so bonded very quickly. In fact by day 2 when one of our group had a dental problem we were all concerned. Gary whisked him off to a dentist and he was fine that evening.
The Solo tour leader, Gary Haskins, was excellent. He was unobtrusively, always on hand to help us have a good and safe time. He communicated with each of us really well and sensed if the group wanted a competitive game of boule on the beach, or an evening drink in a local taverna or just wanted to absorb the sun around the pool. He arranged a quiz each evening after dinner and competitive banter flowed. We cheated unashamedly!
Gary said we were the best group of the season – we were also the first!