The first time Alkis and I spent a summer holiday in Chalkidiki was 10 years ago. I must admit that we were quite disappointed and since then we had excluded Chalkidiki as a holiday destination. In the summer of 2003, we spent a week in Kallithea situated at the first peninsula (called leg by the Greeks), Kassandra. The beach was terrible and the sea was almost invariably rough and quite dirty, so we spent most of the time at the swimming pool. Although we had a very nice room with seaview at the 5-star Aegean Melathron Hotel, our stay there was quite eventful and frustrating.
The staff were unfriendly and inefficient, the food was average and very expensive just like drinks and coffees. As a result, we decided to have lunch at a nearby tavern where the food was cheaper and slightly better. I'll never forget the day when I ordered chicken fillet and chewed a bone hidden in it! I broke my tooth and had to cancel the cruise to Sithonia and Athos to go to the dentist. The dentist in Kallithea was extremely rude and kept shouting at me because of my fear of dentists! One day at breakfast, I found pieces of glass in the jam but the waitress took it away indifferently without even an apology! On our last day, we couldn't wait to go back home. But when Alkis went to pay, the receptionist made a mistake and said that our credit card was declined three times!! We had to call our bank who called the hotel back assuring the receptionist that there was no problem with our credit card which had been charged three times the due amount!!! That was the straw that broke the camel's back! "Chalkidiki? Never again!", I said to Alkis once we got back home.
But....never say never! Ten years later, we decided to give Chalkidiki a second chance. Most of our friends who had already been there kept telling us about the great beaches, the fabulous hotels, the wonderful people, the breathtaking views and the unforgettable holidays they had spent there. So the die has been cast and we've never regretted our decision. This time we booked a 4-star hotel in the second peninsula called Sithonia, which boasts some of Greece's greatest beaches, like Trani Ammoudia where we truly enjoyed basking in the sun and swimming in those turquoise, transparent waters of the area. I got sunburnt but that was all my fault!!!
We rented a car in Thessaloniki and drove south-east to the peninsula of Chalkidiki. Antigoni Beach Resort is a family-run hotel which is , by far, worth a 5-star. I'll never forget the waitress who picked the rosemary or the mint from the plant near our table in the garden because the chef needed this for our order. Needless to say the food at the hotel was exceptionally good and the service was impeccable. Although most of the staff were not professionals, they went out of their way to make us feel welcome by catering to our every need and special request.
Although we spent most of our time lying on that gorgeous beach of Trani Ammoudia, we also explored the surrounding area - Ormos tis Panayias, Ayios Nicolaos Village, Marmaras. Lagomandra Beach were a few of the places we visited. This time, we took the cruise to the third peninsula - Athos - on board Menia Maria - a pirate ship! We could only see the monasteries of Mount Athos (Agion Oros - the Holy Mount) from a 500 metre distance as the monks of the Holy Mount do not allow cruise ships to sail nearer.
Last Friday, we left Chalkidiki and drove back to Thessaloniki where we spent the weekend before flying back to Cyprus. We stayed at Mediterranean Palace Hotel, opposite the harbour, and we were delighted to meet up with friends and family from Thessaloniki. We loved the food at Ladadika - a few steps away from the hotel - and dinner at Kastra on Saturday night. Naturally, we enjoyed strolling in Thessaloniki, shopping at Tsimiskis Street and Mitropoleos and having a coffee break at Aristotelous Square.
Ten days flew by in a flash. "Chalkidiki? We'll certainly go back again!," I said to Alkis as Cyprus Airways safely landed at Larnaca Airport last Sunday.