Sunday, 10 June 2012

Off to the Greek island of Meganissi

There is more recent blog entry on Meganisi in June 2014 - you can find it using the index on the right hand side of the page.

We are not great fans of the package holiday but after the tribulations of the past few months, a packaged week to Meganissi booked through Ionian Island Holidays is intended to provide a gentle return to our travelling life.

Although its name translated into English means “big island”, Meganissi is small and that is why we have chosen to go there again (we were last there about seven yeas ago) and in this case, small also means quiet, at least it did last time. As a general rule, there are too many places on our travelling list to be able to indulge ourselves with two visits and so the fact that Meganissi gets a second visit can be regarded as significant.

Over the millennia, the island has had many owners. Since the Neolithic era (the first traces of a settlement), “ownership” of the island has been claimed by the: Corinthians; Romans; French; Turkish; Venetians; French (again); Russian-Turkish; Imperial French; British; and finally in 1864 – the Greeks. It is surprising that so many nations have owned such a rocky place which cannot be argued to have a strategic importance.

Mythology says that King Tafios (one of Poseidon sons) was the founder of the town of Tafion. In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses is recorded as giving his fleet to Mentor, the king of Tafion when he left for Troy and Tafion is the island known as Meganisi.

The nearest airport is at Preveza. Having got there, you then have to drive south about 40km (or 1 hour) to the town of Nidri on the island of Lefkada (connected to the mainland

by a causeway) from where the ferry leaves for Meganissi (except on a Sunday when there is no ferry service).

Google Earth shows its peculiar shape quite nicely. Maps of the island are hard to find image
and when you do find one, there is not a lot on it. Roads are few and far between, one petrol station is shown.
The “main road” goes from Vathy via Katomeri to Spillia – a distance of about 6 kms. There are also a few unmade tracks in the top of the island leading to some coves and beaches. There is nothing going down the leg of the island and that area is only visited by those sailing around the island.

Depending on whose statistics you believe, there are just over 1000 permanent residents on the island, two hotels, one bus, no ATMs, no secondary school, no discos, and no almost everything else. Essentially, it offers an idyllic Greek island style of peace and quiet. The official website for the Island does not provide much information - it really is a small, quiet and calm island, particularly so in June.

Monarch Airlines Boeing 757-200 (757) Seat MapFor us, most of the journey to Meganissi is to be endured rather than enjoyed and starts at 4 in the morning with a two hour drive to Gatwick going around the M25 (notorious on weekdays for traffic jams but not so very early on this Sunday) and then down the M23 to the airport.

Monarch Airlines (who are flying us to Preveza on a rather ancient 757) no longer include meals
in the price of tickets and therefore our own home made picnic provides a far better lunch than we were ever likely to get on the plane. Passenger reviews for Monarch grade it 3* and as with many charter carriers, it is not much more than that. Never-the-less, the crew perform there duties efficiently and effectively and we are both of the view that we have flown with far worse carriers in the past.

SeatGuru advises that the seat pitch is 28 to 29 inches for all but the premium seats in the front cabin, that there are only few seats best avoided (red) and even fewer which it thinks are the best seats (green).

Our flight takes off roughly on time and three hours later we arrive at Preveza having followed the standard route down to Greece.  The
Flight to preveza
weather is worryingly cloudy for most of the route but about 30 minutes before we are due to land, the cloud suddenly goes and we are flying through blue skies.

Preveza is a small airport, and as is often the case in Greece, it doubles up as a military airport and hence photography is forbidden. It has few facilities and has difficulty in coping on Sundays which is the change-over day for the region – eight flights arrive from Gatwick alone during the morning plus quite a few more from other major European cities. It also seems to us that the airport is suffering from the nationwide “austerity measures” which seem to affect the state sector in Greece – there is only one immigration officer on duty for the 2000+ passengers who will arrive today and scarcely more working on baggage and there are no customs officers to be seen anywhere.

A coach then takes us to a quayside near Nidri and from there a
Speedboat (rather than the official ferry which does not run on a Sunday) takes us to the port of Vathy on Meganissi.

On the way, we pass the island of Skorpios (population count of 2 in
the latest census) which was owned by Aristotle Onassis and is where he married Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968. As one might expect of the residence of a reclusive millionaire, little of what is actually on the island is visible from the sea.

We are staying at the Hotel Meganissi and it has sent its van down to the port to collect us.
Hotel Meganissi
If you check the hotel out on Trip Advisor (the hotel website is a bit rudimentary), its almost
universally great reviews give an indication as to why we are staying there again. We are welcomed at the hotel with an ice cold beer (the temperature is 37C here today so it is really appreciated) and all of the owner’s family are there to shake hands with us and welcome us as old friends (how they can remember us, we are not sure).

Hopefully we will find it just as good as it was last time and also as good as the majority of the reviewers have done over the past few years.

And so, some 10 hours after we closed our front door in England, we open our hotel room door ready for peace, quiet. swimming, Greek food, Greek beer and not much more and the chance to sit on a balcony which we think has one of the greatest views we have seen
View Centre
from any hotel room in Greece.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pat and Paul ... I am Still following your Blog ... Good to see new posts here.