Lake Garda, Italy

Lake Garda came highly recommended from a number of people. It seemed that there was something there for everybody. We weren’t disappointed! I’d also been told that it was an expensive place to visit but I think it depends on your tastes and where you stay. We had some really nice food and wine for a lot less than you’d pay in the UK.

We arrived at Verona Airport at about 11am with the temperature already in the low 90s. The transfer to the hotel took about 90 minutes even with several drop-off points along the way. The tour rep did his thing en-route to the hotel which I thought was a good idea – saves time having to turn up to an orientation meeting the following day. However, I’m not sure everyone appreciated it so soon after the flight.

The family-run hotel was really comfortable. The room didn’t have air-conditioning but it was still quite cool with the wooden blinds kept shut. The en-suite bathroom was tiny and a bit cramped but it served it’s purpose well. I thought that being next to the main road around the lake was going to be a problem. The road can get very busy during the day but I can’t say I really noticed any traffic noise from the room. The restaurant had some really nice food albeit very simple. Overall, it gets a thumbs-up!

The cable car from Malcesine is the easiest way to get to the top of Monte Baldo. At over 2,200 meters, there is a path you can walk up/down but I wouldn’t recommend it; the heat would zap the energy from all but the toughest walkers. From the top of the cable car, it’s an easy walk to a platform where the views are spectacular. From there, you can see for miles and miles in every direction. Not far from the platform, there’s a cafe where you can sit and take in the view. Even in full sunshine, it can still be cold if the wind picks up.

We decided to be a little more energetic and do some hill walking along the ridge. We’d bought a walkers map of the mountain range which showed a path further along the top that leads back down to Malcesine. We walked for about 3 hours, covered 2 peaks and still didn’t find it. We didn’t want to get caught out on the mountain in the dark so we turned back in the end and got a cable-car back down instead.

To get to the lake from the hotel, all you have to do is cross the road and you’re there. I tried to do a few early morning swims but failed miserably for 2 reasons:

  • the water’s freezing first thing in the morning ; &
  • the lake is taken over by wind-surfing and 1 or 2 kitesurfers

Both sports are very popular around the lake shore in the morning. On the eastern shore, the sun doesn’t rise above the surrounding mountains until after 9am. As a result, the early morning is fairly breezy. Once the sun does rise, the wind dies down completely but it means the wind-surfers have the beach to themselves for most of the early morning.

Fishing on the lake doesn’t seem to be very popular around Malcesine. There are fish in the lake; some of the restaurants have a speciality fish dish. It’s main ingredient is a cross between salmon and trout and it’s very tasty!

There’s a lot of boating as you would expect. Boats are continually zig-zagging the lake with a number of car and passenger ferries crossing the lake at various points.

There are a number of organised tours of the lake, visiting places like Tòrbole – the most northern point of the lake – and Sirmione on the south shore.

Malcesine itself is quite a nice little town. I don’t know how busy it is in the winter months but in the summer, it’s packed. Lake Garda is close to the Swiss/Austrian border and it would seem that people from these countries ( and Germany ) get away to Lake Garda in the same way as people in the UK go to Blackpool for the weekend. However, the nightlife in Malcesine isn’t quite the same. There is a nightclub but it’s nothing like those of the UK or other Mediterranean resorts.

Advertisements

Kefalos, Greece

Kefalos is a beautiful resort on the southern tip of Kos Island. To me, it is the smallest but not necessarily the quietest of the 3 main resorts on the island; the other 2 being Kos Town and Kardamena.

We stayed at the Antonis Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis. It’s a nice hotel at the western end of the resort; it’s a bit basic but comfy, with it’s own swimming pool. The quality and variety of surrounding facilities are very good. The only time we spent in the hotel was to sleep and eat breakfast. However, we did spend quite a bit of time by the pool too.

Kefalos boasts a 2km pebble beach which is just wonderful with tons of stuff going on. It’s the perfect spot for wind-surfing; every day we were there, there were surfers zipping up and down the coast. Obviously, some days were busier and/or better than others but they were always out there. There’s a number of places to go water-skiing. You can hire jet-skis or the more sedate pedalos.

I tried paracending for the first time while I was there. It was excellent! It’s really peaceful up there and, for me, it was the best way to have a look around the resort. Be warned though! If you get Georgis to take you, he’ll dunk you in the water on the way back down so don’t take any cameras, etc. up with you. Getting dunked isn’t really a problem because the water is so warm and you’ll dry off by the time you get back to shore.

NOTE: You should check your own travel insurance before doing any kind of water sports while on holiday. The organisation providing the water sports may be insured but I get the distinct impression that it’s insurance against being sued for compensation so heads up, people!

For other kinds of activities, it doesn’t seem to matter which tour company you go with. They can all provide you with tickets to numerous social events. From a traditional Greek Night with all sorts of food and free-flowing wine to a VERY blue comic who takes the mickey out of EVERYBODY; himself, the DJ Lance, all the people there and of course all the usual Irish, Scots, Welsh, American and battle of the sexes jokes. If you’re broad-minded then you’re missing out if you don’t see him. But, if you’re easily offended, give this guy a WIDE berth.