TR....NOT Skiing, but Rhodes....early season getaway
Trip Report: Pefkos, Rhodes
I was looking for nothing more than a four night trip to chase some sunshine and switch off. No short break culture or stuff, no cities or towns to negotiate, no hordes of tourists. Just some peace, quiet, sunshine, beach/pool, handy bar or two and downtime to do some reading and to recharge.
Where: Pefkos, Rhodes
Resort Accommodation: Matina Pefkos Aparthotel
When: Saturday 5th May to Wednesday 10th May (4 nights/3 full days and 1 evening).
Travel Operator: lowcostholidays.com with easyJet as carrier and Hellenic Holidays providing transfers
Cost: £236pp for flights, transfers and accommodation. Airport parking additional £45
Flights: Gatwick - no problems really – 30 minutes late outbound. Paid for priority boarding at £13pp – it was a full flight, so nice to get on and secure the extra legroom seats for the 4 hour flight. No need on the return (departed on time) as flight half full and still managed to get the extra legroom seats.
Transfers: Hellenic - obviously they coordinate the transfers for several operators at this low-season time. Consequently we a) waited for 90 minutes for a couple who were expected to arrive and either didn’t make the trip or decided to take a taxi, then b) had a longish transfer as the coach driver went from hotel to hotel dropping a guest or two off at each.
The return was hell though – 2.5 hours of a rapidly becoming rather late coach and stressed out driver weaving his way around narrow towns in and out of hotel driveways that would have suited a dolmus rather than a full-on coach. Never used the term “malaka” used to frequently at pedestrians, other road-users, hotel porters and stationary, badly parked vehicles. We eventually arrived at Rhodes airport with 1.5 hours to spare, so plenty of time and the airport was quiet with no queus to speak of.
The “round the houses” did provide an interesting insight into some parts of Rhodes that were eye-opening…more on that later.
Matina Pefkos Aparthotel: given the choice of places we could have picked, and given what I saw from the coach, this looked like an inspired…..er…..guess. Although a relatively large complex, it was separated into smaller areas so one never got the sense of being on a sprawling development.
It was exceptionally well-run by a mix of Greeks, Brits and Poles who were all friendly and helpful. Everywhere was clean, tidy , well-decorated and maintained. We had a self-catered apartment that was huge! Comfortably big enough for 3-people, so voluminous for 2. Big bathroom, shower with a head of pressure that you have to hold on to something to stay upright, decent fridge, loads of power sockets and a North-facing balcony (no direct sunlight to heat the room to roasting temperature) that overlooked a very smart pool area (one of 2 on the complex).
Pool: sort of kidney-shaped, large and easy to swim around. Children’s shallow pool separate and adjacent. The whole area bordered by flower-beds. Usual flotilla of sun-beds and umbrellas around the pool. Bar and dining facility at one end.
Food: If not self-catering, the food was actually pretty good. The open-plan kitchen was spotless and they employ a qualified chef…allegedly!!
We had breakfast there once – varied choice from typical English to Continental, to Greek. Also has lunch once – mixed Gyros with salad and fries, pitta, tzatziki etc. €9.90 for two which was really good value.
A pint of Mythos was about €2.80 and a bottle of Alfa (Greek beer) €2.70, Mojitos at €6 a go.
All in all, I’d recommend the place if a pool holiday is your bag. For kids (young) there was a decent play area. For older kids a large games room.
There is an on-site supermarket that was only a few cents more expensive than the independent up the road. The bar area was pleasant enough, as was the main restaurant and the other less formal options.
If one prefers the beach…it’s 200m away. A narrowish, sandy affair, pleasant enough…..served by quite a nice bar/restaurant.
Weather: although the official temperature guide was 21-23 degrees…..in the shade at the airport….it hit 30 on 2 of the days and 24 on the other. One morning (OK so after a skin-full), it was almost too hot to go out…..
Anyway, glorious – just what I wanted. Slap on the oil, sizzle and get a bit of a tan plus have a decent excuse to drink ice-cold beer from time to time.
Pefkos: Hmmmm, I think the apartment complex represented a bit of an oasis midst quit an indifferent resort. It wasn’t really bad, but after a while the bar restaurants all seem to merge into one – nothing really unusual. The main drag was probably the worse (we were on a smaller road leading just to the beach and that was actually not too bad in all fairness). Similar bars, similar menus, similar drinks and way, way too many widescreen TVs and adverts for UK football. Not that there seemed any takers outside of what looked to be a fairly strong Brit expat community – overweight, moaning wrinklies in the latest “God’s Waiting Room”
The other faintly odd thing was the number of those foot bath places where you sit with your feet in a tank and have fish eat away your dead flesh…..weird! The 3rd, in what isn’t exactly a big resort, was just opening. The largest was bigger than most of the bars… Perhaps someone was sailing by with a job lot and did a bit of “off the back of the boat” dealing.
Nowhere was really busy, but everyone was friendly…except the English couple running their dream bar called….Bamboozle…. ….arrrggghhhhhh…..pub quizzes, 1980s furniture and shoite attitudes….
Again, if you want a beach and pool holiday without any culture, some almost guaranteed sunshine and Sunday Roast for €7.90, Pefkos is your place. I wouldn’t go at a peak time, but I would recommend for out of season. Price-wise this place was much more what I expected of Greece.
Lindos – only €8 taxi ride to a truly pretty town where you can add 25% at least to your bill. I’ve been before (2 years ago). Then I thought everyone was pretty surly and obviously hacked off by the financial plight. Prices were sky-high and the general consensus was that bar/restaurant owners were charging like wounded rhinos with no thought for those who might come back.
It felt different this time. Less surliness, more genuine chat and much less aggressive tactics to get you into any of the many establishments. We decided to eat at a particular favourite from before. Definitely better service, more friendly chat and a good 20% cheaper – still pricey for Greece IMO, but for the ambience and charm, much better value than before. My favourite, Lamp (should be Lamb) from the Oven was a huge piece of shank that just fell off the bone – genuinely one of the best bits of lamb (lamp) I’ve had.
Lardos - €8 in the opposite direction. An in-land town where local Greek people live and go about their business. Not at all touristy, though tourists do stay there. We ate in a recommended place called Valentines. What a fabulous experience – a friendly bar in the middle of town where you can site, eat, drink and watch local life whizz by in Greek style that is at once frenetic and laid back. Couples out walking, kids racing around on bikes, adolescents out on their mopeds, taxi drivers hanging out at the roadside, cats and dogs ambling around….none of the “kiss me quick” brigade.
The aubergine salad dip was amazing (freshly grown and prepared). The kalamari was stunning (easily the best I’ve had) and the lamb kleftico again, the best I’ve had. The whole affair washed down by 2 bottles of a local Rhodes Sauvignan Blanc – extremely good, Greek coffees and liquors…€64…the wine was at the top end at €18.50, so all in all, pretty good for a 3 course meal with excellent portions and service in a lovely location….oh and they gave us a dessert to share "on the house".
So, what of the Greeks and their plight…..?
Amazingly, and in contrast to my last trip 2 years ago, everyone was pretty friendly and positive. Of course, one is somewhat cocooned from the worst, but I detected a view that people realise that if they want tourists to return and keep returning, they need to make people welcome and not feel that they are being squeezed by short term pricing. The restaurant and bar prices seemed reasonable, the food generally pretty good.
I like talking to local people and chatting about things, and found that the Euro/Drachma split was about 50:50 with no discernible split by age. They all acknowledge that prices/costs went up on the change over and almost universally wish they’d not taken the € up.
Interestingly, I was chatting an English girl who is semi-naturalised there now and been settled for 4 years. She is employed by the resort for 7 months of the year. She is then laid off, at which point the government pays her €500 a month. This is normal. The deal is that no-one is supposed to leave the country. Most do and either work part-time/full-time elsewhere or travel....apparently. Even she said it was incredible....but then if everyone was able to do it....why not.
The coach journey, as mentioned, wound through several towns, stopping at hotels to pick people up on their way to the airport. Being high-up one gets to view things from an interesting perspective….here are a couple of mine.
Heading into one town, we passed what looked to be a fairly new Carrefour supermarket, all gleaming and prominent on a prime piece of real estate – the face of the new Euro economy, all bristling with cosmopolitan confidence……and an almost entirely empty car park where the parking bay lines gleam white in their freshness and dust eddies provide the only movement.
A kilometre on and we slowly pass a Lidl supermarket, hunched tightly in a cramped area on the edge of an industrial estate, almost having to fight to be seen….you couldn’t see the parking bay lines and the only dust eddies were caused by people passing one another both entering and exiting in number. I know where I’d be putting my money if I hadn’t spent so much of it trying to personally rebalance the Greek exchequer…
One stop off was to pick up a couple who’d been staying at an hotel in Faliraki…..I appreciate that the nocturnal nature of the place means that no-one ever considered the view from a daytime perspective. But its dramatic fall from the hedonistic capital of Europe, the economic slump, the short termism regarding chucked up accommodation, hotels, malls, clubs, bars etc etc and the resultant lack of any unified approach to planning or subsequent maintenance has left the place looking like Beirut……just without the bullet holes.
Seriously, the place is partially abandoned with areas where whole streets are neglected and in partial ruins. There are odd pockets where some businesses attempt to put on a decent show, where they’re desperately trying to stem the tide of lack of investment and the fast loss of status as the place to go for the young and uninhibited.
That maybe a good thing, but it is like Beirut and the bulldozers probably couldn’t come swiftly enough to raize the sprawling, mostly abandoned place to the ground. I’ve really never seen anywhere like it without there having been a war going on.
And finally, if you’ve managed to get this far….Mosquito’s…..
I’ve always accepted that they are part and parcel of one’s likely experience in these warmer climes….so, by word of warning, from someone that may usually get 2 or 3 bites a holiday…..Rhodes had quite a damp winter for them.
This has provided an ideal breeding frenzy for the pesky mozzie. The Greek government has, usually, had a spraying policy to control numbers as best as possible. That seems no longer to be the case owing to the cutbacks. Net effect? A significant rise in the mozzie population. I ended up with 10 or more bites, the SO about the same (in spite of regular douses of repellent) and some people were really quite badly bitten.
If you are headed that way, it may be worth bearing in mind.
And, absolutely finally, for those that can't accept a non-snow orientated report has any place here....we flew back along the Dalmation coast, across into Italy, over Switzerland and into Franch airspace. Obviously this entailed crossing the alps. Man are they still covered - really totally covered and still relatively low, I guess. Ahhhh, it'll have to keep me going for another seven months or so