All Roads lead to Rhodes
It feels so good to be writing again after this year we’ve had. Not only with the lockdowns and not being able to travel but the whole atmosphere we’ve been set into as a country for these past 18 months. I’ve been lucky enough to get to Crete in September 2020 and 4 times out to Belgium between November 2020 and August 2021.
As most of you know my boyfriend is living and working in Belgium at the moment and so thank God, we managed to see each other under the ‘essential travel’ reasons. However, it was not without stress, excess money, too many cancelled flights and multiple PCR tests. Plus, a whole 4 months apart at start of this year, thank goodness for facetime is all I can say.
That being said, it was all part of the circumstances of this new covid life. The real struggle for me this year and why I have taken a step back from writing for a few months was due to losing my best friend. My gorgeous Grandad Alfie. Now when I say best friend, I mean it. I saw him every day of my life, he was the most kind, generous, funny and charming man you could ever wish to meet. If you’ve read any of my other blogs then you will know about the very special bond, I shared with both my Grandad and my Nan.
Since losing Nan in January 2020, I spent every spare second that I had with Grandad. He was the life and soul of the party, the first one to drag you up dancing any place we went, the kind of grandad who used to take me the pub when he was babysitting me as a kid, the grandad I’d be up jiving with at weddings, the kind of grandad that when I took him food shopping to Tesco, he’d be in the kid’s section playing with hoola-hoops and footballs. I have too many special memories to share of him, if I did, I’d be writing for days.
I just can’t start to write again without a little tribute to my soulmate on this earth, the one person I could go too no matter what and he would instantly cheer me up, the man who will always hold a very dear place in my heart. Our Alfie. Who, I know is running free with my beautiful Nan now, both standing with me on this crazy journey of life. Especially when I’m travelling. I think I get my love of sun, travel and zest for life from them.
So, Rhodes! After having this planned for a year it was finally happening, even up till a week before when Boris made his new ‘red list’ I was anxious it wouldn’t happen but here we go. Again. (Got to throw some Mamma Mia in there).
We flew from Manchester airport with Jet2 direct into Rhodes airport. Perfect, efficient and on time as per usual with them. We flew from the new terminal 2 in Manchester and had a gorgeous breakfast and a mimosa to start the holiday. I flew out to Rhodes with my parents and sister and my boyfriend, T.Jay was flying in from Belgium the following day. We didn’t need any negative tests to enter Greece as we were all fully vaccinated so all that was necessary was to fill in the PLF form which was pretty straight forward.
When we arrived, we had booked to rent a car for the whole 17 days we stayed on the island. We used the company “Efrem” and a rep was waiting for us outside the airport, with the car just in the car park opposite. The whole thing was quick and easy and we were on our way within minutes of leaving the terminal. We stayed in the south of the island, on the outskirts of a quiet town called ‘Gennadi’.
We picked the location due to the feel we got from the town, it was just what we were looking for. Blue and white walls, weaving in and out of each other, locals sitting outside their shops waving as you passed. Real typical Greek tavernas run by locals that lived in the town. A friendly place where everyone knew each other and you were soon accepted into the community. There was a local fruit and veg shop that also sold fresh olive oil in big cans and the most amazing homemade red and white wine. We bought numerous bottles of the stuff.
There was also the ‘South Bakery’ which provided us with our breakfast every day, we would head into the village every morning and pick up fresh bread along with croissants that were the size of baguettes, donuts, cakes and the most amazing baklava. It was gorgeous and so fresh. The supermarket in the town was also so handy and sold lovely cuts of meat in the butchers at the back, the provider of our BBQ’S.
So, we stayed at the Albatross Residence just down the road from the main stretch of Gennadi town. We found the property on Air BnB, there were 3 sister Villas right on the beach front and ours was called the ‘Great’ – neighboured by the ‘Royal’ and the ‘Laysan’.
I cannot not even begin to explain how incredible our villa was, 4 floors with a huge infinity pool with a view of the Aegean just in front.
It was a 3-bedroom property with a large double in each, all 3 equipped with their own en-suite. My sister had the basement bedroom, the coolest in the house with a massive walk-in wardrobe. Mum and Dad had the first-floor bedroom with a balcony and bright beautiful décor. Then me and T.jay managed to swing the top floor room, the smallest of the bedrooms but with the most incredible view and best of all a hot tub style bath out on the balcony. We spent many a night sat in there with a glass of wine just watching the stars, I couldn’t think of anything more romantic.
We had a well-equipped kitchen and living room on the ground floor that led out onto a huge terrace that had stepping stones across the pool and down to the beach. It was stunning, clean and even had a lift inside to take your luggage up or down to your designated bedroom.
When we arrived, we were met by a lovely lady called Donna, she gave us the grand tour of the house, provided us with recommendations of places to go and places to eat and also told us about the local wildlife we could find in the area. She was on hand during our whole stay, anything we needed all we had to do was text and she was back to us in minutes with advice or the answer we needed. She even helped us book a covid test for t.jay at the local doctors, as he needed a negative PCR to return to Belgium. And on our last day she managed to arrange a late check out as our flight was not until midnight and the usual check out time was 10am. We spoke to our lovely neighbours and they mentioned how lovely and helpful she was to them too. True 5* service and experience, I cannot recommend them enough.
Safe to say after travelling I was straight into that inviting pool and then down to the beach. The beach is pebbled and the water is crystal clear, I could not see another person for miles and miles, it felt like our very own private beach and I fell in love with the place right then and there. The first night we just wanted to chill and enjoy the place that we had rented for the holiday, we had bought gin in the airport so were well equipped. We went along to the town and got two huge take away pizza’s from a local taverna called ‘Mamas kitchen’ – which I will tell you more about later and just chilled out around the pool.
Tavernas in Gennadi
The next day T.Jay arrived so after picking him up from the airport we went out for a lovely meal in a local taverna. So, we ate in numerous places during our stay but im going to tell you about our 4 favourites, that we loved so much we returned to them multiple times.
Mama’s was the first place we ate at and went back another 2 after that. They were set in a beautiful garden setting, underneath tree’s and on a lovely patio. We tried the pizza which was amazing but trust me, only order the small as even that was hard to shift.
The soutzakaki was delicious and my sister loved their seafood spaghetti, it was her favourite. The staff were lovely and friendly, every time you walked through the restaurant to the bathroom, the kitchen staff would shout hello and make sure you were enjoying their food and you always received a little ice cream as a free desert.
Sergio’s was a gorgeous restaurant with a lovely ambience, Poppy was the hostess and she was so lovely and welcoming, often pulling up a seat at our table to chat, plus her desert that she offered for free was amazing! Homemade moist brownie with a milk chocolate top, I want the recipe.
The pizza, pasta was so tasty, I loved their spag bol and the spaghetti napolitana. My boyfriend had the pepper steak every time we visited and he said it’s one of the best steaks he’s had in his life, plus the peppercorn sauce was delicious.
It was a lovely place, with top notch food and beautiful people, definitely worth a visit.
Me and my boyfriend ate lunch here during our recent trip to Gennadi and we also went one evening as a group too!
The setting at lunch was just stunning, we were on a beautiful, romantic table with a view of the sea. We had the house white wine, which was so gorgeous and fresh and so nice, that we ended up having 3 1/2 litre jugs!
We ordered the sharing platter which consisted of sardines, fresh olives and numerous dips like tzatziki and humus, it was stunning and we also shared a sea bream fish… which was hands down the nicest fish I have ever eaten! Fresh, tasty and huge it was just stunning!
During our group visit in the evening we also tried the red wine which was just as amazing and the swordfish which I also highly recommend! The thing that also made this place so special was the lovely family who run it, they were so smiley, kind and welcoming! We even heard one woman speaking 4 different languages to different tables speaking English to us, French to another, Spanish to one and then to Greek!
Amazing! This place not only was in the most beautiful setting, where you can sit in the street in gorgeous Gennadi, it had the most tasty, incredible, fresh food but it had the best atmosphere and the loveliest staff!
In our two week holiday we visited numerous times… always ordering the house wine which was delicious! Starters consisting of Greek salad and meatballs or Rhodian pitta – all highly recommended. The mains me and my boyfriend always swapped between was the chicken souvlaki and souzakakia – the quality of the meat was amazing and the taste was out of this world… some other favourites in our group was the mushroom risotto, beef stifado, pork chops and the fresh fish.
Now the meals are very generously sized so the fresh fruit they serve you for dessert is perfect! However, on one of our visits we decided to go with our hearts instead of our full stomachs and order the baklava for dessert and it did not disappoint! Homemade and the best I’ve tried.
The staff are honestly what makes this place so special, always smiling and happy to help! Even on nights when we tried a different restaurant and just walked past they would wave and say hello! On our last night we went back and they made our evening so special, even giving my boyfriend a “Zorba’s t-shirt” and a bottle of ouzo! Special shout out to the chef as he not only made the most delicious food but he was also was one of the happiest, kindest people we met on our visit!
Although not a restaurant this was our favourite place to grab a drink after our meal. The staff were so friendly and always greeted us with a big smile and a hug, after just one night of drinking there, the barman knew all 5 of our drinks order perfectly and didn’t get them wrong at all.
They had live music most nights and we found ourselves dancing to ABBA in the streets on numerous occasions, literally feeling like I’d been pulled into a Mamma Mia movie. We had free shots every time we went there, although one morning I swore I never wanted to see another Jager bomb ever again!
But if you’re looking for good quality drinks at a very reasonable price, a place to dance and have a laugh with lovely people then this is the place to go.
Just south of Lardos, around a 20 min drive to us we headed to explore Glystra, a sandy beach with clear shallow waters. We rented sunbeds here which for 2 with an umbrella and also a lockable safe attached to the brolly, only cost 12 euros. Not that we used the sunbeds all that much but having the safe to keep our phone and money in while we went snorkelling was nice.
With it being one of the first places we explored on Rhodes all we wanted to do was get in the water, so within minutes we had our masks on and were diving in. My boyfriend could snorkel all day, we call him Jacques Cousteau. I do love it but he’s amazing, constantly calling me over to show what he’s found. Glystra was amazing for snorkelling, it was there we first saw the blue-spotted cornet fish which originally was never found in the area and got to the Aegean and parts of the Mediterranean by swimming through the Suez canal, we saw a couple more during our stay when exploring other parts of the island.
We hugged the rocks and spent hours snorkelling that day, looking in every nook and cranny for an octopus or some kind of wildlife. There were hundreds of gorgeous fish, swimming in massive shoals, a sunken car and many shallow parts home to crabs even quite far out into the sea.
Little word of warning though, as my boyfriend and sister found out the hard way, the mossy looking seaweed that covers most of the rocks is not friendly. After a good hour of snorkelling T.Jay and my sister Danielle sat themselves on a big rock, covered in the stuff, while they re-adjusted their masks. I continued to tread water and didn’t touch it and within a few minutes both of them started to complain that they had been stung by something. Now, I’ve been to Greece multiple times and never once saw a jellyfish, and the only thing they had come in contact with was this moss on the rock. After the stinging subsided which they described to me as a kind of nettle sting feeling, it began to itch and my sister even went red and blotchy. Nothing serious but nice to be avoided if you can.
Once we finally dragged ourselves out of the sea we headed to the little beach café on the front. It was small and so we grabbed a table and ordered 3 mojito’s and some hot cheese and ham baguettes. The baguettes were lovely and cheap, but the mojitos for the 7 euros we paid were not worth it, was too sweet and had none of the usual fresh lime or mint you would expect to find in a mojito.. we left them and got ourselves a mythos instead, which hit the spot after hours of sea exploring.
Getting on down in Rhodes Town
Now my parents had been to Rhodes in the 80’s when they were dating and wanted to re-visit the area and I was desperate to see the medieval village, so when my lovely friend got in touch that she was going to be in Rhodes town for the day we thought we’d combine the three.
As many of you who have read my other blogs know, I have been on numerous Celebrity Cruises, and in 2017 I went on one around Vietnam, where I met my lovely friend Anastasia who was working onboard. We kept in touch after the trip and always tried to sync our cruises to a ship that she was on, but never managed to cross paths. So when she text to say the Celebrity Apex was docking in the town while I was on the island, we had to go and see her.
So, the first port of call (‘sea’ what I did there) … was to the pier where the ship was docked, where we did a running hug and were reunited with our friend.
Afterwards we walked through the walled city. The medieval city is located within 4km of walls, and is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe and forms part of the UNESCO world cultural heritage network. An intricate network of winding, cobbled streets filled with restaurants, shops, ice-cream parlours and more. You could get lost in its wonder for hours.
Medieval buildings, mosques, fountains and gothic churches are all scattered throughout this beautiful, intricate city.
There are around 200 alleys/streets some of them not even named, and had a strange mix between Turkey and Greece for me. We spent a few hours weaving in and out, browsing the little shops with handmade jewellery before deciding to stop for lunch. At one of the entrance archways, we found this beautiful Italian place called ‘Il Bourgo’ …. Me and T.jay always order two meals and share so we can both try more things. We ordered some white wine and Spaghetti Bolognese and a Tuna Pizza, both absolutely gorgeous, we sat for hours enjoying our drinks and watching the hustle and bustle of the streets wander by.
Afterwards we wandered around the harbour, a sea of old Greek fishing boats and big posh super yachts. The vibe in Rhodes town was just lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed soaking up every part of it. For the rest of the afternoon, we headed to the beach, after wandering round in the heat all we wanted was a dip in the sea.
It was packed, there was not a spot to be had on the sand. We found a tiny square to dump our bags and we dove straight into the refreshing water. Me and T.jay were straight out to the diving platform, which Mum and Dad confirmed was there in the 80’s. It was so much fun jumping for me, diving for t.jay, off the different levels. To top off our perfect day, we watched the Celebrity Ship sail away and waved to our friend up on the bridge.
A Lovely day at St.Paul’s Bay
Now the plan this day was actually to visit Lindos, but after driving to the top and attempting to drive down into town in a heavy stream of traffic, only to be turned around by traffic wardens when we got to the bottom. There were hoards of people, like ants, weaving in and out of the cars, fighting their way down the hill. We decided it was a no go and we would try again another day, or another way.
So back up at the top we noticed a car park that you could walk down to the gorgeous St. Pauls Bay below, just the next cove round from Lindos. With a view of the Acropolis up to the left and the turquoise blue water just below, I was so excited to get down and explore.
It took about 15 mins to descend down to the sand and when we got there it was pretty much taken up by big luxurious sunbeds. We managed to find a small rock to balance our stuff on while we went for a snorkel.
For such a lovely blue bay, it was quite a shock when I first got in the water. At first, I thought it was my goggles that were steaming up, but when I caught up with Jaques Cousteau, he said his were the same. What we actually come to realise was that it was pollution. There was a lot of boats in the bay, doing trips and tours and it seemed like the top level of of water was actually fuel. As you dove deeper it became crystal clear again.
A little Shimmy over to Symi
Now I was so excited about this, as I love to tick as many places off my list as possible and getting to add a whole new island to it was amazing. Symi is a place I’d heard so much about and a place I’d dreamed of visiting for a while. It did not disappoint.
We booked a trip over from Rhodes town. We originally looked at hopping on the ferry but after weighing up the two options we went with a faster, more fun speed boat with a stop in Symi for an extra swim. It cost 35 Euros and that was getting you from Rhodes town to Symi town in an hour, whereas the ferry took 2. It was only 7 euros more expensive than the ferry and to gain the extra 2 hours was well worth it for us. We were dropped directly in the town and picked up 3 hours later to travel further down the coast for a swim in a gorgeous bay.
The journey over was fun. Me and T. Jay managed to grab a seat near the front and as we left the harbour, we soon realised the waves were out to play and quite big. Being at the front of the boat we were lifting up and slamming back down into the water, we thought it was hilarious, just laughing the whole way. It was like a mini rollercoaster ride and made the time fly by waiting for the next wave and that little tickly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. However, I think some people felt less confident, screaming with every thud back down to the water, others were seasick with all the bouncing up and down, I am so happy I took an avomine in anticipation the evening before.
When we arrived into Symi, it was amazing, the colours, the buildings, the vibe…. It was even better than the pictures. So beautiful and with the water shimmering in the sun, I couldn’t wait to get my feet on land and have a look around.
After having a little look around, walking past the clock tower and round the corner to a more quiet and secluded area, we decided to listen to our stomachs and stop for lunch. We walked into this little Greek taverna (Tholos) right on the waterfront. The smell and the view enticed us in. Me and T.Jay shared a tuna salad and a stuffed meatball which was perfect for lunch and all so fresh. Danielle had shrimp spaghetti, but they were the famous Symi shrimp, I tried one and they were divine.
After our food settled and a few wines later, we walked round the corner to a little place called paradise beach. Now the beach was not much to write home about but the water was out of this world. It was stunning, it was shallow at first but soon went to a big shelf where you couldn’t even see to the bottom. We saw hundreds of fish, of every size and colour. It was amazing, one of the most spectacular diving experiences of my life. I can’t explain how beautiful it was. I didn’t want to leave but we eventually had to make our way back to the boat.
On our way back to the boat in the harbour we spotted quite a large, colourful fish which at first, I thought it was a swordfish but after some research we discovered it was actually a Mahi Mahi, with some kind of hook sticking out from his mouth.
After our stop in Symi, we stopped off at a place called “St. George Bay”, only accessible by boat. It was stunning, entering the cove, engulfed by tall rocks on both sides, the turquoise water glistening in the late afternoon sun and a white sand beach in the distance, home to a herd of goats. How on earth the goats made that beach home I have no idea, just amazing the way those animals can climb sheer cliff faces.
We anchored up next to a swanky superyacht, every one trying to guess who was on board! I was more excited to get back in the water, so me and T.Jay jumped straight off the front and into the refreshing sea.
The ride back to Rhodes was much calmer, with the sun warming our cheeks we were treated to a little show from two dolphins jumping right next to us in the waves. Just incredible. One of my favourite days of the whole trip.
Lost in Lindos
After the first attempt, we decided driving into Lindos was not the best idea, so we noticed one afternoon in Kiotari, the next bay along from Gennadi, there was a boat trip into Lindos. It took 1 hour and 15 minutes for the leisurely little cruise from Kiotari – Lindos, picking up at 2 other points along the way and for a return trip only cost 15 euros per person.
We were picked up from the beach at 9:45am, we got a seat up on the top deck and caught some sunrays while we cruised along. Coming into the bay at Lindos was just stunning, turning the corner to sailboats dotted on the blue sea, bobbing up and down. Looking up to the stone white buildings, shadowed by the amazing Acropolis up on the hillside.
We hopped off the boat and walked across the beach top, scanning the restaurants ready for lunch later on. We started uphill towards the town but first encountered an upsetting scene. A group of donkeys waiting to carry visitors up to the top of the Acropolis, now I’m not judging anyone who has chosen this mode of transport in the past but for me it just breaks my heart. The poor animals waiting around in the blazing sun, with no water or food, just stood in distress waiting to carry people up the steep, cobbled streets. Most of them seemed tormented and were rocking back and two on their little legs. It was so difficult to just walk past, my poor sister was in floods of tears. Definitely something I hope is changed in the not-too-distant future.
So, after a little walk up the steep hill to the village we were soon engulfed by winding streets of white washed buildings, lined with little trinket shops selling blue and white hand-made dresses and jewellery. It wasn’t long before we became lost in the little maze that is Lindos. It was a beautiful day and so lovely just wandering round the winding roads, people watching, taking pictures and soaking up the atmosphere. There were restaurants and coffee shops, crepe houses and handbag stores, all nestled away in this little town at the base of the Acropolis. From a lot of the narrow streets that was in view and it was spectacular.
After a while of strolling around, stroking the local cats, we decided to head back down to the coast to grab lunch. We ate right on the water’s edge at a taverna and I tried a traditional Rhodian salad. It was gorgeous and consisted of fresh peppers, eggs, croutons and sardines all tossed in a garlic oil vinaigrette, accompanied by the crisp white wine, it was perfect.
Afterwards we had a swim, a relax on the beach, before hopping on the boat back round to Kiotari.
Admiring the view over in Grande Blue
Wow. One of my favourite places on Rhodes without a doubt, the gorgeous Grande Blue. It was a more secret place and I only found it thanks to the recommendation of a ‘Rhodes’ Instagram account I had befriended on my page. I asked for some advice before visiting the island and this was their top choice. And it did not disappoint.
We headed to Stegna beach where from there we walked the winding road over the hillside and came to the ‘Grande Blue Seafood Restaurant’. From there we found a pathway of blue railed steps down to the beautiful bay below. It was literally like walking down to paradise.
When we arrived at the bottom, me and Tjay decided to have a climb over the rocks to see what we could find. After a few mins and a very easy climb we came to a pool of turquoise surrounded by rock that looked too inviting not to jump in. Once we were in the water, we discovered there were a few caves explore.
It was incredible, however slightly dark, so we decided to come back when the sun had moved round.
Back on the beach we grabbed our masks and went straight into the sea. It was amazing, we saw so many of the blue spotted cornet fish, huge ones at that. Then I saw what looked like a shawl of fish with noses that looked like elephant trunks, the way they were swimming mesmerised me, but in actual fact when we got closer, I realised it was a group of squid. There were about 10 or 12 of them all swimming in complete unison, it was such an amazing experience.
After an hour or so of underwater exploring, we headed back over to the secret pool with the rest of the family. By this time the sun had moved around enough to shine light through the hole in the roof of one of the caves and sent the water a sparkly green. It was stunning!
We were straight back in the water to investigate. Little word of advice. I was so happy I brought my wet shoes here… I know they’re not the most fashionable thing ever but with the sharp rock edges and huge sea urchins, it was almost impossible to climb out without them. Tjay even put mine on to hoist himself out and threw them back into me so I could then climb out. But what a spectacular day, finished off perfectly by a carafe of wine and a club sandwich at a beach front restaurant in Stegna.
A little trip to the Southernmost Tip
One of our last little adventures was down to Prasonisi. Prasonisi means ‘green island’ in Greek and this little rock of land, in the summer time, when the water levels are low enough, is connected to Rhodes through a peninsula of sand. In the winter with the higher water levels, is a complete island. It’s where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean.
It was a great spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing, so much so that swimming was not allowed. The beach itself was wide and sandy and as it is tidal reminded me a lot of beaches here at home. It was like walking down Formby beach with the sand dunes at the top and the wet sand in-between your toes. It was beautiful and the peninsula was impressive but not being allowed to swim meant we didn’t spend as long there as other places.
I absolutely loved Rhodes; it holds such a special place in my heart. In a year of hurt and disappointment, it gave us fun, laughter and new adventures. But most of all I gained quality time with my boyfriend who its’ been difficult to see much of this year. We now have more special memories together with our family. I ate so much Feta cheese and drank copious amounts of wine, laughed till my stomach hurt and really took in the beauty of that incredible island. Thank you, Rhodes… And my Gorgeous Grandad Alfie.