Report by David Wakefield
It was good to be here. And yet….
Having finally arrived on the Greek island of Lefkas with my wife and daughter the feeling was a mix of relief and disbelief, and, would you believe, a touch of guilt?
The truth is that we didn’t know whether we would be able to go until only a few days before departure. If I’m honest I only believed it was happening when we stepped on to the aircraft at Gatwick.
And the guilt? We just felt sorry for so many people we knew who had had to postpone holidays, or move them on.
Usually, booking a summer holiday enlivens those dismal post-Christmas months; it lights a hopeful way towards precious days of relaxation. Such were our thoughts back in February when we booked – before Coronavirus well and truly entered our lives and hit the holiday market for six.
Flights to Greece had been banned until the middle of July – about five weeks before we were due to depart. Then there was the constant threat of quarantine on return….a lot to worry about. Cancelling, or moving it on would have meant, at that late stage, swingeing fees.
So why did we finally decide to go?
Lefkas, we discovered, had a very low infection rate – so, safer than the UK. We had booked a self-catering villa, with a hire car as part of our deal. We reasoned that once we arrived in Greece and picked up our car we could be as isolationist as we wanted.
Thankfully, none of this was necessary, although we did enjoy the villa’s barbecue on a number of evenings.
Otherwise it was a 2km drive along a bumpy track into the nearby port of Sivota where the outdoor lifestyle was a perfect antidote for our fears. All restaurant staff were wearing masks; tables were immediately cleaned down when free, and were sensibly spaced. We only needed face coverings in shops and supermarkets, all of which had sanitisers available.
There were any number of pleasant quayside restaurants to choose from, although it was obvious to us that the visitors just weren’t there in numbers, and getting a table for dinner was always easy.
The Ionian is a great sailing area, for individuals, and the many flotilla-based holidays; and although the little harbour seemed crowded, some of the restaurateurs told us that numbers of sailing tourists were well down.
Greek tourism relies a lot on UK visitors, and the threat of quarantine coming into force was another factor of discontent. “We’re waiting for your Boris to make his next move” said one waiter, ruefully.
Lefkas is about 30 miles from top to bottom. It is served by the airport at Preveza, on the mainland, and you cross a causeway to get on to the island.
There is a reasonable road network, albeit of varying standards, so a car is a good option to explore the island’s delights.
The attractive port town of Vasiliki was 20 minutes drive away, with a good selection of restaurants and some attractive shops and a nice beach. Nidri, about the same distance in the other direction, was much larger with a wide range of shops and bars, and a very attractive purpose-built seafront.
The capital town, Lefkada, was only 45 minutes away, but it was here that the Covid effect was most noticeable. Row upon row of restaurant and bar tables along the waterfront were empty at lunchtime.
The island has some spectacular beaches (reached by some spectacular drives!). Although we wanted to visit the famed Egremni beach, said to be the island’s finest, it is difficult to reach by car (and with 325 steps down – and back up!). You can get there by boat, but we never did discover how!
We did make our way to a similar beach at Porto Katsiki where the milky blue sea laps on to white pebbles, with shelter provided by high limestone cliffs. It has plenty of car parking and a mere 84 steps to the beach. I did manage these, with the reward of a pint of ice-cold Mythos beer at the top!!
So, after all our fears, it was a good holiday. One of my main concerns was the flight, but I have to say that EasyJet managed it extremely well in both directions. Everyone wore masks, and passengers heeded advice not to wander around, except for using toilets. And the usual scrum getting off the aircraft was avoided by leaving row by row.
All in all, I’m glad we went. Will 2021 be a better holiday year? I hope so, but am not holding my breath.