In the first half of 2000 work was getting onerous and less enjoyable and I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm for working for a company (Onyx UK) that was financed by public taxes but was providing an ever deteriorating level of service. I had a new boss who I didn’t get on with and I needed a holiday so at the beginning of June I went to the Ionian island of Kefalonia with mum and dad and son Jonathan. As it happened it turned out to be the last time that I went away with dad because he became too ill to travel soon after that.
Tag Archives: Greece beaches
“But it has got something, Kos and can already claim a number of distinguished addicts: I know several people who come back for holidays year after year.” Lawrence Durrell
Kim was up early this morning and went off on her own to explore while I had a final hour of sleep. After she returned we had what turned out to be a very poor breakfast and then we set off to the village together to examine it in daylight.
We walked the parallel shopping streets lined with shops all selling more or less the same things and now and again bumped into late night revellers only just setting off for beds and a wasted day ahead.
I like almost everything about Greece so I suppose I should mention the beaches. After Spain (511), Greece (387) has the second most Blue Flag Beaches, but to put that into perspective it does have almost three times as much coastline so has only one award winning beach every thirty-five kilometres compared with Spain at approximately ten (Portugal, by the way, is the best with a blue flag beach every six and a half kilometres). Personally I don’t think Greek beaches are anywhere near the best so lucky for me then that I am not really a beach person.
Psili Ammos, Serifos
The plan was to walk out of Livadi and visit Psili Ammos beach just a short way out of town, which in Serifos they claim to be one of the top twenty beaches in the Mediterranean. Our guidebook said allow an hour and don’t do it in the middle of the day but we paid no attention to that and set off anyway even without a map.
This turned out to be a really mad thing to do especially because there was a perfectly good beach right next to the hotel and if we waited an hour or so there was a bus that went there anyway. It turned out to be much further than we estimated and a couple of wrong turns didn’t help. There was no proper road, just a rough unmade track that meant that hiking boots would have been more appropriate than our sandals and when we came to a sign for Agios Sostis beach we abandoned the attempt to reach Psili Ammos and settled for the alternative instead.
It was pleasant enough, a rough sandy beach and a sheltered rocky cove but it wouldn’t have made the top one hundred let alone the top twenty beaches but there were only a few people there and crucially there were some trees for shade. Kim collapsed from exhaustion almost immediately and being restless I went for a snorkel where I came across a seabed littered with dead fish which was a bit off-putting and then went for a walk along the shoreline and came across some monstrous washed up jelly fish struggling to return to the sea. They were a beautiful translucent blue but I didn’t fancy swimming with them so that was the last time I went in the sea this morning.
Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia
The road took us towards the narrow northern peninsula and as it did so began to rise up and down and twist first one way and then the other as it clung to the side of a mountain that tumbled precipitously into the sea whilst looking down on beautiful beaches and azure blue sea.
Eventually we arrived at Myrtos, which is the most famous of these beaches, a major tourist attraction and an automatic inclusion in any top ten beaches of Greece list. I don’t know about that but it has won several awards including ‘Best beach in Greece’ for several years running and third ‘Best beach in Mediterranean’. Myrtos is the beach all the brochures boast about and the island’s postcard pinup and from the roadside high above the scene was nothing short of breathtaking. A seductive crescent of delicious white pebble beach, gentle surf and brilliant blue water and nothing was going to stop us making a perilous descent down an incredibly steep road to the long ribbon of gleaming stones backed by pale yellow, vertical cliffs.
Although it was hot it was very pleasant this morning but in the high season there can be days of crippling heat as the bleached west facing stones, pale cliffs and turquoise sea combine to turn the entire beach into something resembling a slow roast oven. Actually once at the bottom it didn’t feel as special as it should have when compared with the view from the top. The pebble beach dropped very sharply into the sea, the stones were rough and there was a lot of tar about. We walked along the length of the beach to the naturist end in search of amusement but there was nothing remarkable to see so we returned to the car and made the tortuous return journey back up the stupendously steep hill.
Valmas Beach, Ios
And this is my favourite beach in the Greek Islands:
Valmas doesn’t look very much it has to be said, just a small quiet bay with a shingle beach and a sea bed littered with rocks that makes access to the sea quite difficult. As I have said, I am not much of a beach person but this is very nice indeed, not a tourist beach at all and most of the other people there were local people and those who clearly just happened to know about it. I know about it now as well so that is why we go back every year.
Lying on the rocks about a hundred metres away were three naked women all enjoying the sun on their bodies and manoeuvring themselves into precarious positions to maximise the tanning effects of the solar rays. Having what I consider to be a healthy interest in naked ladies this naturally intrigued me a great deal and on a sort of Jacques Cousteau pretence of snorkelling and looking for rare species of fish and other marine life I swam closer and closer until I could achieve a better view. Now, let this be a lesson to all men with deteriorating vision, because believe me on closer examination this was not a pretty sight at all and in the quest for a voyeuristic opportunity I have to confess a hugely bitter disappointment. On closer inspection this was really not worth all of the effort and it left me lamenting once again that super models never seem to be the ones who go naked sunbathing.
Beach on Koufonisia
Stretching north from the village there was an almost continuous string of beaches like a rope of sand holding the island in place, a golden halo of wide open shore line punctuated with rocky coves and private sheltered spots . The sea was clear and the sunlight on the surface created leopard skin patterns in the shallow water, turquoise at first turning to violet and then almost mauve the further out into the distance and quite unlike any sea colour that I can recall elsewhere.
The Blue Flag Beach awards for 2010 were announced in May and the total number of beach awards increased by one hundred and forty-one. Sadly the United Kingdom did not make a contribution to this improvement as the total number of blue flag beaches in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reduced by thirteen (nearly 10% of the total) to one hundred and thirty-one. Spain increased by twenty-nine and still tops the list by a long way (one hundred and one) from Greece who only increased by two this year. Included in the twenty-nine was a deserved reinstatement of the blue flag for Benidorm’s Poniente Beach, which was temporarily lost last year during improvement works.
The biggest improvement was France with fifty-eight new beaches. I think they must have made a special effort this year as this was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the award scheme that was started in France in 1985under the name “Pavillon Bleu”. To commemorate this special occasion a celebration was held in Mers-les-Bains in northern France on the 28th May and twenty-five blue flags were raised by the beach and the biggest Blue Flag ever welcomed the numerous guests. I was interested in that because next month I have a holiday in France and Mers-les-Bains is on my list of places to visit. This improvement was enough to move France from fourth to third place in the overall list of countries, in doing so overtaking Turkey, who did well themselves with an improvement increase of thirty-five beaches.
In the United Kingdom I was pleased to see Lincolnshire do well with three beaches at Skegness, Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea but overall the performance has to be seen as disappointing when eighteen out of thirty-nine countries improved this year and only five slipped back. This has helped me make up my mind to keep travelling to the clean beaches of Europe for the foreseeable future.
Top ten Blue Flag beaches in 2010:
With the Suzuki jeep returned we spent the last full day and the last part day waiting to go back to the airport much as we spent the first day of the holiday. On the beach and around the pool, walking into the village, drinking at the Italian bar and ocassionally watching the European football. On Thursday it was my forty-sixth birthday so I spent a bit more time than usual in the Italian bar that day but the evening soccer match was a dull 0 – 0 affair between Sweden and Turkey.
We drove south past the airport and the further we got away from Argostoli and the tourist strip of Lassi the more we saw the devastation caused by the earthquake. All along the road there were abandoned villages and houses and buildings that were destroyed by the quake and just waiting for time to take over and their turn to fall over completely. The 1953 disaster caused huge destruction, with only regions in the north escaping the heaviest tremors and that is the only part of the island where houses remained intact.
In the first half of 2000 work was getting onerous and less enjoyable and I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm for working for a company (Onyx UK) that was financed by public taxes but was providing an ever deteriorating level of service. I had a new boss who I didn’t get on with and I needed a holiday so at the beginning of June I went to the Ionian island of Kefalonia with mum and dad and Jonathan. As it happened it turned out to be the last time that I went away with dad because he became too ill to travel soon after that.
The Blue Flag beach award was originally conceived in France in 1985 where the first coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag on the basis of criteria covering standards relating to sewage treatment and bathing water quality.
Two years later, 1987 was the ‘European Year of the Environment’ and the concept of the Blue Flag was developed as a European initiative by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe to include other areas of environmental management, such as waste disposal and coastal planning and protection and in that first year two hundred and forty four beaches from ten countries were awarded the new Blue Flag status. Twenty-two years later in 2009 when the updated list was published in June there were two thousand seven hundred and ten (up by ninety-eight from 2008).
Thirty-eight countries are currently participating in the Blue Flag Programme: Bahamas, Belgium-Flanders, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and Wales,
Spain has more blue flag beaches than any other participating country with four hundred and ninety-three along almost five thousand kilometres of coastline. Andalusia has the most kilometres of blue flag beach but in absolute terms, Galicia is the community with more blue flags (124), followed by Catalonia (108), Valencian Community (101), the Balearics (85), Andalusia (83), the Canary Islands (35), Murcia (16), Asturias (12), Basque Country (3) and Ceuta and Melilla (2 each).
The United Kingdom by comparison, has only one hundred and seven in nearly twelve thousand five hundred kilometres. Sadly this is thirty-seven beaches down on the previous year, which means we must be getting dirtier. Greece has the second most blue flags at four hundred and twenty-five (down five) and the most in the Mediterranean Sea. Even though France increased its successful beaches from two hundred and thirty-eight to two hundred and sixty-three it has been replaced in third spot by Turkey, which has increased by fifty-one to two hundred and eighty-six. Portugal completes the top five list with two hundred and twenty five beaches.
What is interesting however is to put this into context by relating success in terms of numbers to the total length of coastline because that reveals that Slovenia has a blue flag beach every six kilometres, Portugal every eight and Spain every ten. In the United Kingdom you have to travel one hundred and sixteen kilometres between each blue flag beach and that puts us twenty fifth out of the top twenty-five. That is even worse than our annual performance in the Eurovision song contest! Mind you would have to travel a lot further in Norway because it has only three blue flag beaches in eighty-three thousand kilometres of coast (including all the fjords of course).
To be honest I am not really a beach person, I get quickly bored and I think that sand is completely incompatible with the intimate nooks and crannies of the human body but one blue flag beach that I have visited and enjoyed is Jurmala in Latvia (in the picture above receiving its blue flag in 2007).
The first time that I saw Jurmala was in June 2006 and it was a real eye opener because this was a very high quality beach with miles of scrupulously clean sand, three blue flags and a clear Baltic Sea stretching out over the Gulf of Riga towards Sweden over the horizon. I had expected the sea to be grey and forbidding like the North Sea of my childhood holidays but instead it was a serene denim blue and looked genuinely inviting. There were a few holidaymakers on the beach but not many in the sea because I suspect that looks were deceptive and that the Baltic remains fairly inhospitable for most of the year.
Under the Communist regime up until 1991 this was a popular destination for high-level Communist Party officials and it was a favourite destination of Russian Presidents Brezhnev and Khrushchev. I cannot help finding it ironic that Blue Flags should be awarded to a Red Army beach.
Some nice beaches that I recommend: