A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
The Palatino is a pretty hotel in Lixouri on the beautiful Greek island of Kefalonia and, while considering where to go on holiday this year, the Palatino Hotel popped onto my screen at home, from there the choice was simple.
My husband Colin and I stayed at the Palatino Hotel some twelve years ago on our first visit to the island and had a wonderful time.
We generally don't go back to the same places, partly on principle ~ because you never know if it's going to be a good the second time around, but this place is.
Maybe it's the friendly welcome you get in a smaller hotel that draws people back year after year, or is it its beautiful setting, surrounded by countryside, overlooking the small Greek town of Lixouri and the beautiful bay of Argostoli withits majestic re hills that turn into mountains?
We met several couples and families who regularly make the journey back to this charming little hotel, which has two storeys, one lift and forty-two rooms. It also has a small number of self-catering studios and family-sized lodges available.
We first stayed in one of the lodges in 2002 when we travelled with our then teenage son. They were brand new brick built houses with a large living area and two single beds, a sofa and dining table. The vaulted ceiling allowed cool air to circulate and a wooden staircase leading up to another level where two more single beds and bedroom furniture formed a balcony level sleeping area. The modern kitchen and bathroom were just off the main living area and double doors led out to your own private patio.
The walk across to the swimming pool was through a young olive grove with half a dozen or so chickens roaming around on land that filled the central area of the hotel grounds, surrounded by neat pathways – if you wished to use them.
Twelve years on, and this time we stayed bed and breakfast in one of the hotel rooms, with a balcony overlooking Argostoli Bay and the low rise residential area of Lixouri town. The hotel is on a slight hill but if you pace yourself, most people can manage it.
Now in the centre of the hotel grounds there is a mature olive grove, farmed (I think) by the farmer who owns the adjacent land. Throughout the day you can hear the soft clanging of goat bells as the farmer herds the goats for milking and returns them to the field. There are chickens and a rooster in the adjacent field – so don't be surprised to hear him crowing at odd hours.
The feel of being in the countryside easily lends itself to relaxation as life carries on around you at a slower pace and you begin to unwind.
On site, there's a lovely swimming pool for guests to enjoy as you ease yourself into chill out mode and breathe in the fresh air as you soak up the sunshine.
The deep end of the pool has a depth of over 2 metres, while the shallow end is about a metre deep, but be careful as there is a sharp drop about half-way along the the length of the pool. A separate kiddies' pool is situated near the shallow end and is fenced off from the main pool.
Adjacent to the pool there is a shady snack bar surrounded by tables and chairs with sun umbrellas to help you escape the long, hot days of sun worshipping, while around the grassed area nearby there are sun-loungers and parasols. A raffia canopy stands at one end of the pool while a lovely pergola sits near the pool bar with more loungers available ~ which is great for me as, being fair-skinned, I tend to look for the more shady spots while hubby Colin works on his tan.
While we were there a small play area for young children was being constructed using see-saws, slides and swings from a will know toy retailer ~ with a little fence surrounding the area to prevent little ones from toddling in the direction of the pool. There was also a basket ball hoop for older children and plenty of grass to play the occasional ball game.
But it's not all hectic, unlike some resorts we've visited. There never seems to be any competition for the sun-loungers (at least not while we were there in early July 2014) and, if you stayed a little longer, there was that idyllic time of day when you could see the swallows swooping down to take a sip from the mirror-like pool as it caught the last rays of the afternoon sun. Mesmerising.
After a hard day of relaxing, pop back to your room for a shower and get ready for a night on the town.
If you don't fancy the walk into town for your evening meal you can either order something at the snack bar earlier in the day or visit reception and order a buffet meal, which is served in the hotel breakfast/dining room most evenings at a cost of 11 Euros per person.
The Palatino is popular with visitors from Britain, Italy, Holland, Poland and Greece and English is widely spoken on the island. Night life is low key with the occasional Greek night organised by the hotel so you can enjoy the traditional music and dancing ~ have some fun as you join, but try not to fall in the pool.
Lixouri is the second largest town on Kefalonia, but if has a distinct village feel in comparison to the large, sprawling towns and cities of the UK. It has a lovely square where local people gather in the evenings and a myriad of traditional restaurants serving great local food and is only about 15 minutes walk from the hotel.
There is a pretty beach which runs like a ribbon of red sand along the Gulf of Argostoli towards Lepeda Beach and the Ionian Sea about 2km away. The Palatino offers a free shuttle bus service daily to Lepeda beach if you don't fancy the walk. There's also a pretty harbour with swimming holes which you can reach on foot from Lixouri town square.
Alternatively, you can jump on a ferry across to Argostoli, the island's capital and have a lovely day out there. The ferry runs every half hour during the day and costs 5 Euros per person one-way.
Kefalonia is a beautiful island to explore, with beaches, history, cultural and amazing geological formations to discover, so we ususally balance out our out and about expeditions with relaxation days.
The hotel has recently been refurbished and is painted in a pretty terracotta colour ~ although I'm sure it was pink the first time we went there. We nicknamed it the pink palace whenever we caught sight of it gleaming on the hillside as we approached Lixouri from the Bay of Argostoli on the return ferry journey from the capital.
Sentimental, I know, but something keeps calling us back.
We flew to Kefalonia from our local UK airport, Newcastle (NCL). Direct flights are available weekly with Thomas Cook during the summer season (May-October). Flights outside this period may involve travelling on scheduled flights via London and Athens.
We booked independently online to create our own package, however, Thomson and Cosmos also provided package deals to this hotel in summer 2014.