Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The sea was sapphire coloured, and the sky Burned - My Trip to Zakynthos

Well, August is always my favourite month of the year, as it is usually always guaranteed that I will be visiting my favourite country: Greece!. This year was no different and we took a family trip to the beautiful Ionian Island of Zakynthos or otherwise known as Zante.




Above you can see a video of our two-week trip and below I will add pictures and provide a little breakdown of what we got up to.

Agios Dionysios Church 

So Zakynthos is the third largest island of the Ionian, and this trip was our 5th visit to the island. The last time we visited was around 9 years ago, so we were not quite sure what to expect; whether the place we were staying had changed dramatically. We stayed in the resort of Tsilivi, also known as Planos, which is situated on the North East coast of the island.

Tsilivi Beach

The main reason for our trip was to attend and celebrate a friend of the family's wedding day, which they had decided to have at The Balcony Hotel . This hotel was beautiful for the day and had amazing views of Tsilivi, which we found breathtaking. It really was a perfect spot for the lovely couple to get married. There was a restaurant part to the hotel where you could visit just for a meal if you liked and did not need to be a hotel guest.
Now the day was brilliant, and the sun truly did shine, at this time Greece was experiencing a heat wave, so it was incredibly hot waiting outside for the bride to arrive, but the drinks offered before and after the reception definitely helped with this. Luckily there was a bit of a breeze too, which helped in cooling us down. As the day went on, in the distance you could see the orange glow and smoke clouds of the many wildfires that were ravaging the north side of the island. We were told at one time there were around 15 wildfires happening at the same time, with some of these having been started deliberately. 
The wedding day was our second full day in Zakynthos so we were acclimatising well to the heat at this point, and I think my little trip to Parga definitely helped prepare my skin for more Greek sun.

During the reception, the bride and groom had organised for Greek dancers to attend for those of the wedding party who have not experienced Greek dancing before. As always I somehow ended up involved in the dancing, being selected to dance on several occasions. It was the most fun, and luckily for me, I was not selected to be lifted and spun around as I have at previous Greek dancing experience.
The bride and groom asked for no pictures to be shared on social media until they have (and as it has taken me so long to prepare and write this post), luckily they have already posted one or two pics; so here are a few from the day. I have decided not to post of the happy couple but rather the scenery and maybe the odd one of myself :



 

 


Greek Dancing

Greek Dancing

Fireworks - If you look closely you can see the glow of the fires in the distance (Top right of picture)

So after the wedding, we had practically two weeks of relaxing and doing a little bit of exploring. As this was our 5th visit to the island, we did not visit the attractions that Zakynthos is most probably famous for - Navagio Beach (Shipwreck), the blue caves and turtle island/turtle spotting.

We were staying in a different part of Tsilivi and discovered that there was a little harbour filled with fishing boats and boat rentals. It was a lovely walk along the beach and around to this part. There was also a ruin of a building up on the hill, which you could see from way down on the beach, and we decided to aim for there. I have since discovered that this was Venetian watch tower. The views back over Tsilivi beach were beautiful, and we even discovered another little bay with what looked like a hotel in the centre.

Since our last visit, there has been a water park built just on the outskirts of the centre of Tsilivi. It is connected somehow to one of the bigger all inclusive hotels. We had a great day out here and I loved the lazy river going around part of the water park and the large bucket that filled and emptied over the children's slides.You could stand nearby and get completely soaked, it's amazing how much fun water can be! The best part was the happy hour though - 2 for a spirit and mixer, which was definitely more spirit than mixer!







During our second week of the trip we organised to go on two trips; Olympia and Bochali/Winery and Zakynthos town.
Both of these trips were wonderful in their own right and were completely different from each other.

Olympia

Since booking the holiday to Zakynthos, I had been planning to take a trip to the mainland to visit the Archaeological site of Ancient Olympia - The birthplace of the Olympics. It is fair to say that this trip did not disappoint! I took so many photos and videos as I was in awe of all the ruins on the site. It is so hard to believe that once upon a time there were people actively training and competing in the games where I was now stood, and I still can't quite believe that I have managed to visit. I don't think I can fully describe the site in this small part of this post, so I am aiming to write a further post just on Olympia, where I can hopefully fully encapture the day we had there, and hopefully recall some of the histories of the site.
Here are a few pictures from the trip:





Zante Delight by Nefis Travel  - Trip

So this trip was organised Nefis Travel and allowed us to visit a few places in Zakynthos for the evening. We were picked up by the coach at about 5.30 p.m and taken to the first stop...
Solomos Winery
Solomos Winery is located not too far away from Tsilivi, and it did not take us long to arrive.
Now we had already sampled a few of the wines in the tavernas we frequented throughout the holiday and bought a few bottles from the supermarket before this trip, so we knew we would definitely enjoy tasting their wines.
To start you have a tour of the winery, including down into the cellar area where they store the barrels. It was really interesting to hear about the different types of wine that they produce, and how they do this.
The best part of the tour was the wine tasting (obviously). This wasn't your average set amount of glasses with a tiny mouthful sort of wine tasting...this was a pour yourself a glass type of wine tasting. 15 bottles of wines, olive oil to taste, and preserved raisin to taste. It was the best wine tasting I had been to, and it is safe to say everyone on the trip left with a big smile on their faces (and maybe a slight wobble in their step). I would highly recommend visiting this winery, and if not at least purchasing a bottle or several of their wines available in the local supermarkets.






Bochali Village

After the winery, we were taken to a beautiful village called Bochali (Μπóχαλη), or sometimes known as the Balcony of Zakynthos. The views from this little village are truly beautiful and breathtaking, overlooking Zakynthos Town and even down to the village/ resort of Argassi.
We stayed here for about half an hour to take in the views, grab a refreshment and/or have a look around the beautiful small church Panagia Chrysopigi.  This church is dedicated to The Virgin Mary and has beautiful icons dedicated to her. I am always amazed at how beautiful the churches are in Greece, both inside and out.
Here are a few pics from Bochali:






Zakynthos Town 

So after the lovely Bochali village, we headed on down to Zakynthos Town. We have visited here a few times before, but again as it had been a while since our last visit, a lot appeared to have changed. The buildings in Zakynthos town are of Venetian design, however, most of the buildings you see today are quite new, as a very powerful earthquake hit in 1953 flattening all but a few of the buildings. 
There are a few squares to visit in the town- Solomos Square and San Marco Square and of course a handful of beautiful churches. The biggest church is St Dionysios (St Dennis), who happens to be the patron saint of Zakynthos. We sadly missed the annual festival celebrating which is held on 24th August where his preserved body is paraded around the town in a glass coffin. Another church in town is St Nicholas, which withstood damage from the 1953 earthquake. Apparently, the Patron saint served in this church, and one of his robes is preserved there.
There are also several references to Dionysios Solomos around the town. He was a famous Greek poet whose Ode to Liberty is now the National Greek Anthem.

We had a bit of a nosey around the town, looking through the vast shops that are always open late into the evening. I was in need of a new purse as mine was falling apart at the seams as the holiday went on. I found a lovely one in one of the shops, and I think this will be my new holiday purse. along the way we were greeted with a busker on the street, where we decided to have a little break from the shops, choosing to sit in a nearby cafe to watch the man perform. He was great to watch, and you could tell he was passionate about his music.

We were informed by our guide that one of the restaurants had a singing owner 'Greek Pavarotti', who normally serenades his guests whilst they eat. We thought we would give this place a go (can you tell we like a bit of live music!). The food here was lovely and the singing owner even better. My favourite is the famous "la la la" song of Greece- Siko Xorepse Sirtaki.



 

Agios Dionysios Church



So that was a bit of a round up of my trip to the beautiful Greek island of Zakynthos. I took hundreds of photos from the trip and it was so hard to choose which ones to post here.

Hope you enjoyed reading and looking at my antics from the holiday. Here's to the next trip away!
Have you had a trip to Zakynthos? What did you think of the island?



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