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Disappointment turns to delight in Rhodes

December, 2010

It was my second time in Rhodes. Thirty-eight years ago I had come by ship from Israel with a boyfriend and his motorcycle. Rhodes was a one-day stopover on our way to Istanbul. I remembered nothing but riding around the island.

This time was different. My present boyfriend and I arrived by ferry from Marmaris, Turkey. We had spent a wonderful week in Antalia and Kas, two lazy southern towns with beaches and lots of good food. We had booked our hotel in Rhodes online, thinking it was a hop and a jump from Rhodes City. But when we tried to hail a cab from the port, the cabbies all demanded $60. We laughed at them and turned our backs, only to discover that Pefkos, the site of our hotel (population 60 families), is 1½ hours by slow bus from Rhodes Town.

After Irwin held the bus for me while I scrambled to find a toilet, I ended up sitting on his lap behind the driver, squeezed in by more and more people as the bus stopped to let them on. I didn’t know a bus could carry that many passengers. And was it ever hot!

I arrived grumpy and exhausted to find we had to walk about half a kilometre from the centre of town to the Pefkos Garden Hotel (50 euro a night for a double). The hotel buffet had just closed, so we hit the sack and hoped the next day would be more fun. It was. We skipped the included poor-looking breakfast and trekked, bathing suits on, along the winding roads leading to the centre of the village of Pefkos.

Little known to us at the time, Pefkos is a popular, if not somewhat empty, resort with beautiful beaches and 10 or so hotels with pools where you can enter freely and swim at your leisure. Most of the visitors were Brits on package tours. After having a sandwich at a Wi-Fi bar and trying hopelessly to plan the rest of our trip online, I had a revelation. Why not consult a travel agent about our plans to visit Santorini, Syros and Kos before returning to Turkey? Better than watching Irwin fume and fuss on the Internet reservations!

From the minute we stepped into the air-conditioned travel agency, Rhodes Direct, smack in the middle of the village square, we were in Panagiotis Ioannidis’s hands. Known as the “Greek Specialist,” at least on his outside sign, he and his partner, Philip Tzogias, spent the next 30 hours, or so it seemed, planning the rest of our vacation including hotel and ferry reservations from Rhodes City to Santorini. Then on to Syrus and finally rest in Bodrum, Turkey, where we would take a plane (also reserved by Rhodes Direct) back to Istanbul.

The bookings took the entire day and some of the next. In between we went to the gorgeous beach, a short hop down the road, and bathed in the crystal blue bay. The highlight of the day was dinner at Panagiotis’ brother’s restaurant next door to the travel agency. Terpsis is a marvelous and reasonably priced place with views of the sea and town from its terrace. The name Terpsis comes from ancient Greek, meaning “the feeling you get when the food goes from the mouth down to the stomach.” We did get that feeling, and how!

Irwin loved his braised lamb dish (9€), which came wrapped in tinfoil. A side plate was laden with rice, potatoes and asparagus. Our Greek salad was the best I’ve eaten, in a toasted pita bowl with the most delightful spices and the freshest, tastiest feta seasoned with oregano and, of course, Greek olive oil. It was a meal in itself, with olives and chunks of crouton-style black bread (4.30 €). We also tried the stuffed sweet red pepper with feta (5 €) and the crispy but delicate fried zucchini with tzatziki. Oh yes, the olives. Irwin insisted on a separate order. Very fresh, big, not drowned in brine, about 30 of them. We were treated to a small lemon sorbet at the end and two very good candies. What a treat!

I know, I know. I tend to go on about food, but after reading Paula Butturini’s memoir about healing on love and food in Italy, Keeping the Feast, I don’t feel so guilty about making food an integral part of my travel memoirs.

After another morning of strolling on the beach we were off on the slow bus back to Rhodes City to visit the synagogue in the Old City. The hotel was full of Swedish teeny boppers playing horrible music. We had to call the desk to quiet them. The next day we were off on a ferry to Santorini, where our friends had booked us four nights in a gorgeous place with a huge courtyard pool. It was spectacular.

Fourteen per cent of our bookings went to Rhodes Direct, money that saved us time and frustration. It was fun to spontaneously plan the second half of our trip in that faraway place. I highly recommend Panagiotis Ioannidis and his partner, Philip Tzogias, who suggested Island Blue as a good hotel. Philip also told us that Pefkos has the cheapest food and drink prices on the island.

As much as we loved Pefkos, this will probably be our last visit — unless they add a few more direct and air-conditioned buses.

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At December 19, 2010 at 9:09 AM , Blogger Irving said...

Hi Barbs
Still travelling the world!!How're you doing..We're here in Windsor, and loving it..Hope the family are o.k. Amy visited Sue a few weeks back, but we were away at the time and missed her..Sue's two kids are great..We're watching them grow..Keep up the good work you do for the seniors...
Joan and Irving


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