We booked this holiday, our fifth Thomson/Tui Sensimar (adult/couples only) holiday in February as we saw that it was advertised as a new 5* Tui Sensimar hotel for 2018, the Sensimar concept we like very much for a relaxing holiday. The hotel was the Caravel at Tsilivi, we also booked taxi transfers from the airport (we don’t want to wait while the smokers have their first fag after the flight, or trailing around other hotels). Manchester airport was chaos, we had checked in online and the bag drop is now very much do it yourself but the queues were longer than ever so breakfast was a bit rushed, and then we had a long wait until we boarded, and then 80 minutes on the tarmac until we could take off. And we had got up at 3am, can’t they sort out their timetables with air traffic for better timings? So after the less than ideal start courtesy of Tui we were on our way. Had read some less than complimentary reviews of Zakinthos airport so were steeling ourselves for more chaos, but in fact it was the smoothest arrival ever! Bags arrived pretty quickly, someone met us, directed us out and then someone directed us to our taxi driver and we were off, great start. The island from the air had looked very green with a beautiful blue sea and golden beaches, and we did drive through cultivated olive groves and vineyards, it did look lovely and ‘unspoilt’. Then we got to Tsilivi, the taxi driver was telling us of the good restaurants there but the appearance of it was endless tourist tat with overcrowded roads. Anyway, then we swept up to the Reception at the Caravel Hotel which did look very nice indeed. I know the march of All Inclusive hotels have a limited positive effect on the islands but they do satisfy a requirement for some holiday makers so I make no apology.
Our fortnight there passed very agreeably, the weather was a bit hotter than we were expected but there was a bit of a breeze which just took the edge off, kept humidity down and made it very pleasant indeed. I walked along the beach towards Tsilivi passing a few tavernas, some apartments, families having fun on the beach, Planos? It looked lovely. I walked as far as the headland and looked into Tsilivi from the seaward side and it looked very pleasant, I had intended on another day to walk all the way there but never quite got round to it (it was very hot!) The sea was the most extraordinary colour and so clear. No signs of the rubbish or jellyfish we have encountered elsewhere. I attempted a couple of swims from the tiny beach attached to the hotel but there were lots of very uncomfortable rocks to walk over to get into the sea, and it was so shallow! Another day I walked in the other direction to the little fishing harbour on the other headland, I passed a beach bar or two, one attached to some kind of accommodation, all very charming. There was a public beach near the harbour with more families having fun, it had such a lovely undeveloped look about it, with trees etc up the hillside, such a contrast to the town of Tsilivi we had driven through.
We had a couple of lunches at the Agostos? Taverna, fabulous situation overlooking the blue blue sea, great service and atmosphere, possibly the best whitebait I have had anywhere (and I consider myself something of a connoisseur), the first time of course we overordered ridiculously but it was all great, as was the lovely rose wine of the island.
During our second week we hired a car, headed into Zakynthos for some cash and then on to the Vasikios peninsular, such a contrast en route of awful tourism development and beautiful countryside, then back and to the very north of the island via Zakynthos and some grim ribbon development, but once out of that again it was green and cultivated with pretty villages. Stopped at a café for fresh orange juice and a view, then the lighthouse and then the windmill. Back to Nisi Miko for lunch at a superb destination, Les Suenos, food on reflection not the best but the setting amazing and a nice place. Lovely gardens. Headed back getting a bit lost but it was all worth seeing, and in fact we were a bit sorry we didn’t have the car for a second day, the north of the island is lovely. And it was good to get out for a day.
Our last couple of days were a bit wet, the high temperatures had led to thunder but we were ok with that. We took a taxi into Zakinthos town and were dropped off at the Byzantine museum, only the ground floor open but I think it contained most things, religious art rescued from churches destroyed in the 1953 earthquake. The photos of the aftermath of the earthquake were actually of more interest to me! It must have been cataclysmic. We dodged the heavy showers to go to the Library, to find a piece of string hanging across the stairs saying it was shut (we think). There were a couple of people in an office who refused to make eye contact or any other contact, so we didn’t see the library. Instead we had a very nice coffee at the coffee place nearby and debated whether it was worth staying in town. Fortunately the rain eased, there was a bit of blue sky so we headed for the main shopping street ‘Alexandrou Romanou’ which seemed a mix of fairly high end clothes shops and every day grocery and hardware stores. Not a lot in the way of decent souvenirs, though we did buy an umbrella… we called into a couple of churches, didn’t get the name of the first one, fairly central, and then on to Agios Dionysios church which was fantastically decorated and well worth a visit. We also found a postcard shop nearby but all the usual types of souvenirs that you see everywhere, someone is missing a trick in not having a shop with items from Zakynthos in it. We admired the campanile, we had spotted a few on our drive around, presumably a hangover from the Italian days. After a look at the harbour we realised dark clouds were massing again so made it to Nostimon imar , choosing the built part of the restaurant rather than the umbrellas, a good move as it turned out as there was a spectacular thunder and lightning storm a bit later. We had another excellent meal, as ever could eat about half of what we ordered but it was excellent and I recommend the restaurant. The waiter called up a taxi to take us back, a satisfactory expedition despite the weather.
We did enjoy our holiday on Zakynthos, I hope the island is going to upgrade itself a bit, the tourist centres are truly terrible but the island itself lovely with lots going for it. There is obviously some sort of problem with rubbish disposal which does it no favours. We rarely return to holiday destinations as we are at the time of our lives where we go where we haven’t been before so are unlikely to return but we did enjoy it a lot.