I'm gonna talk about my most recent holiday because it was the first time we broke the record of going to the same hotel consistently. This year, we ventured to the newly built sister hotel to Oceania Club and this one was called Ikos Olivia.
We'd heard about it from the big man himself and one of our oldest friends Timos and his wife Rudy about it's development back when we were in Oceania in August 2014. So when it finished early this year, we decided to go and see what this new and more prestigious hotel would look like. It didn't disappoint!
Sadly, I left during the most busiest period of work (I couldn't help it, Dad had booked it in advance), anyway, as usual we stayed over at Nana & Grandad's house in Horley and ventured the following morning at the crack of dawn (4.00am).
Our flight took off for 6.10am and we arrived in Greece by 11.15am (9.15 UK time). After touchdown, we got treated to a nice shuttle bus with leather seats. It was around 15-20 mins longer journey to Olivia (Polýgyros) compared to the usual 45min journey to Oceania (Thessaloniki).
As we pulled into the hotel, we looked up in awe at the high level block and were already curious as to what laid inside and beyond.
After getting sorted, we were shown to our bungalow on the caddie (yeah, it's that fancy), and I looked at the map and it was a little like a suburb condo resort.
Our room was heaven, it had everything, big TV, shower and bathtub, separate rooms and a patio with 2 sun beds and another area with 2 sofas and a table, we had a prestigious Deluxe Suite.
Our first day was relaxing by the pool (after un-packing) and we did say Hello with an open hug to several staff members who had come from Oceania to work here now. And what we were all most looking forward to... was seeing our oldest friend since our first year in Greece, Giannis.
Him and his children have grown up with us over 10 years and we know each other too well and love each other so much (more onto that later).
What made our first night a mental (and an experience for me in both tired and uncomfortable surprises), Giannis took us all out to a festival on it's last night which we had been meaning to go to since Greece year 1, he took us to Agios Mamas Panigir (a Carnival/ Festival).
That night, we got a lift with him after a while of hugs/ banter and catching up all the way to a field where there were spotlights, loud music and lights everywhere. There were carnival rides, sounds, music along with stalls everywhere with all sorts of jewellery, food, clothes, toys, you name it! We went to a nice restaurant and met Tereza again (along with her Mum, Marta), and we all tucked into rounds and rounds of awesome meat and drinks.
Now what made that night a little (I mean a lot) uncomfortable for me was the fact that there were so many... so many gypsies, street performers and people who invaded our privacy with instruments and children who couldn't take a hint (even from Gianni) and wouldn't leave us alone or stop playing their instruments in our ears (well Gianni did pay em a little to play in Dad's ear for a laugh). Dad actually recorded it all haha. I was so on the edge that I was almost tempted to smash a bottle and threaten them to go away because they couldn't take a hint, but I didn't.
Later on, his son and my Greek bro, Nikos turned up which helped comfort me in this loud atmosphere. I did walk around for a bit and did purchase an interesting Hoodie (which was hoodless and instead had a scarf/ balaclava like neck) for €15.
Mum, Dad and Becca along with everyone else drunk a lot whilst I was sipping on cokes waiting to go home from having been awake now for almost 24 hours, yeah! However looking back on it now, it was nice (would have been better if it wasn't the first night) but I'm glad our first night was eventful and everyone danced, laughed and drunk to our hearts content. Thank you Gianni, Tereza and Niko for showing us Agios Mamas Panigir!
I won't go into detail about each day since that will just drag this on and on for your people to read
tirelessly. So I will just go into detail on the highlights whilst overloading this post with pictures haha.
The restaurants were exquisite and had a variety of buffet in the Main and Greek Taverna at Breakfast and Lunch and in the evenings had interesting choices to order and the same for the Asian, French and Italian restaurants in the evenings.
We were most pleased that Thomas and George were working in the restaurants (they came from Oceania) and have been looking after us and filling us up with the best food and full of quality banter and kindness (we have known them since Oceania opened up, after all).
My main routine was the Greek Taverna or Main Restaurant by the beach for Breakfast for Pineapples and Toast along with English Tea (yeah my combination was weird but satisfying) along with my meds and some melon on the side.
And then we all booked to go to the Greek/ French, Asian and Italian once or twice during our stay to try out the lovely dishes that the smashing chefs had on the menus. I even tried some a few new things but couldn't get enough out of a few things in all the restaurants including Kalamari, Cold Tomato Soup in a Martini-like glass, Roast Duck.
Oh and me and Rebecca (more than once) enjoyed a night in the room with my Mac plugged into the TV watching Adventure Time, The Amazing World Of Gumball and Regular Show whilst chowing down on delicious Room Service, her with Spaghetti Bolognese and me enjoying Grilled Beef Steak Tagliata, Sautéed Mushrooms, Onions and Greek Salad and let's not forget the Chips and a Chocolate Brownie each (we even licked off the Icing Sugar), Perfection!
I'm pleased that we got to see Artemis before she had to leave for Bulgaris to finish her last year in uni, her mum Maria and us wish her all the best!
Our pool by the Deluxe Area was a nice long p shape (a little) with a bridge walking over midway leading from one end of the pool to the other.
The staff there Viola, Vlad, Spyros, Julieta and Sontiris were all top class men and women who were always there to cater to everyone as well as chat to socially. I rather enjoyed their company whenever I walked up to the bar which was too frequent when I was ordering my fizzles and the endless Gin & Tonics for Mum and Dad haha.
We did have a couple rainy attacks (1st was Monday 7th ->)
and it was like the Great British weather had followed us on holiday "duck off"!
Unfortunately, because we had decided to come during September (and after the Summer Holidays), quite regrettably Rebecca and I had no chance of making friends our age during our time.
You see, every year, I'm used to making friends with either the children/ younger kids of the parents that Mum and Dad become friendly to so I'm like Peter Pan and look out for the Lost Boys and Lost Girls (that means I put on films for them in our room and sometimes play games in the pool with them). What? I am a child at heart!
However this year looking back on it, I understand why (obviously) but in a way, I'm actually thankful because every year during our travels, we have met new and recurring friends and we have a laugh, make memories and then that's all they become. I'm not saying I regret or don't care about any of them, I just can't help but feel self-pity because of my easy attachment to people because of who I am and failing to understand that some people just come and go in life and all we can do is treasure the time we had with them. I guess it's natural for me to feel this way (I wonder if they do too)?
So for this year, we either spent almost equal time sunbathing (I try not to burn) and I have to time it one side and then the other (OCD alert) and in the room watching stuff, I'm okay with it since I did come back a nice colour in the end.
The thing to take away from this year is something so privileged, so honourable and unforgettable is the fact that I got taken to the rooftop to see my holiday from high above. Thanks to my *advertisement* of taking pics and sharing on Instagram and Facebook, Timos decided to reward me as well as help show his beautiful hotel from a whole new perspective. So I joined him through the hotel and made our way to the rooftop as well as him sharing new ideas to help make his hotel flourish even more.
Once we found the metal staircase outside and carefully climbed over the barrier, we ascended to the top. And when I saw the steps getting shorter and the sky becoming clearer (as if I was climbing up to heaven *okay that was an exaggeration*). I slowly and carefully with his support walked over to the edge and stopped and gazed whilst supported on the unit as I looked onwards and downwards on his creation.
To see Greece from this height... it was remarkable. I felt like I was superior or even matched Timos's authority (not really) but to stand side-by-side with a powerful man, it really felt amazing and special. To have this honour was something that I will cherish and treasure forever along with maybe over 20 pictures and panoramic pictures too of the corners, distance and horizon that Ikos Olivia displayed for us! We even looked far across to my area to see Dad (faintly) waving at us haha.
A cute thing that we discovered during our stay were KITTENS!
Yes siree, we found two bros living outside the Main restaurant and we were their frequent strokers.
They were a bit wild and far from domestic but enough to share a good stroke with a bit of biting but not too hard. I must have looked like a right numpty to always be seen by other stroking these little devils (Rebecca too) but who cares?
After all, we have two devils at home and we couldn't stop thinking about them. Luckily they were in fantastic care, Thank you Katy!
We also saw some at some restaurants outside the hotel too, they were everywhere really.
Our time was filled up mainly by Gianni, Tereza, Martza, Nikos and later after the first week we were graced with the wonderful return of Aggelos and Doukeni (remember, they stayed with us back in February).
We went out several times to restaurants and bars where everyone drank (except me, ya know Crohns reasons) but for all of us to be re-united after a year at last, it was and felt perfect.
This has been our usual plan year after year, we are spoiled rotten by Gianni and his family haha. We did the same for Aggelos and Doukeni when they stayed with us for 4 days but we are far from equalising the amount of money that Gianni has so graciously spent on us all (he rejects our money whenever we contribute) haha *dumbass*.
The last thing to mention about my time this year is the perfect 3 day return to Ikos Oceania (it used to be called Oceania Club) where we saw all our friends again since the hotel opened more than 5 years ago.
We got permission from Timos for us to pay for a Taxi to the hotel over 3 days during our last week (Gianni gave us lifts back). It was the best thing to have made this year possibly the best ever because we had been to two hotels during our stay.
I liked the travelling part cause I photographed the landscape and the hills/ houses and roads as it was different to the usual countryside I get back home.
We had a lot to look forward to and lots of friends to look out for! We were welcomed by Maria and Tania at reception along with Xristos (in charge of Bars, I got a pic with him on the beach on our last day) and it was the best warm welcome/ return ever.
We got on a Caddy and got shown to the new French restaurant which had a Pool next to it too, nice!
As soon as we got down to the beach, our excitement began to burst as I ran towards the Beach bar and saw Regina and Tom with their new baby girl Caroline (not kidding, she was the most happiest, cutest and all around cheerful baby I've ever seen!) Plus we saw Gianni, Tereza, "Crazy" Stelios and met the excellent beach staff again including Veronika and some new faces Vitalli, Jana, Georgia, Kateryna and Anastasia. These peeps (especially Jana) were the best beach team for the year and best people to joke around and make perfect drinks for everybody.
We spent most of our time during our frequent visits on the beach catching up with our friends that we've known for years. Caroline filled up our cameras with lots and lots of pictures of her gorgeous smile. It's too bad that Stelio and Konstantinos (Regina's assistants) weren't there like last time however Stelio did see us on our last day for half an hour with Veronica and we got some pictures together before we all headed home for the last time.
We did twice during our time, head back up to the Deluxe Area (it used to be called Building 5) and it's where we booked and stayed every year for a little extra because it's a smaller pool compared to the others and every year it was mainly occupied by the British. We saw Eva and Veronika again and we've known them for a long time. I shared a picture with them after catching up with them for an hour or two whilst they were working, hearing about their lives and loved ones.
One awesome and challenging thing I finally got round to doing and beating was Stand-Up Paddling which Tom helped teach me and then Dad came out with me to help/ tease me. I'm rather pleased with myself to have actually gotten round to it even if it was in the afternoon when the waves were a little tougher compared to the smart idea of doing in the early morning when the ocean is a lot calmer (Ha I beat it)!
We had some awesome grub and were swarmed over by cats everywhere who were a bit feral but nice here and there.
Another amazing thing and honestly an annual thing is that we all had a night round Gianni's where so much meat was cooked and shared at a gathering of two families all united as one. It's always a thing every year.
And the last thing we did with Gianni was on our last night. After spending Thursday 17th in Oceania for the last time, Gianni dropped his ladies back home and then took us to a Country Bar along the main road not far from Ikos Olivia. Admittedly I felt a little embarrassed having been in my swim shorts and a tank top from the day and I felt I was dressed inappropriately. I did enjoy myself slowly and we all go talking about memories, people and the future. On how the fact that our families are so inter-twined that we will be like our parents when we are older (not over drinking or smoking haha), no I mean, on how the fact that our destiny's connected ever since the day that Dad became friends with this "Malaka" at Potidea Palace (he was in charge of the Water-sports back then and then moved to Oceania when it opened). To really see how passionate these men were really helped me realised on how righteous and correct they are. We will remain family forever and will continue to visit throughout our lifetimes!
Speaking of that, I will mention a family who we have grown equally close to over the last 4 years at Oceania, Gavin, Lisa and their kids Will and Megan. Those fun loving people have been our partners in the summer time (sadly not this year as they came earlier) but we have met them in London a couple times (well Mum and Dad have) and they equal to everything just said. I will mention more and share pics when I talk about them another time. For now, I'll leave the link to last year's fishing trip that the fathers and sons of both families shared in the deep blue sea.
We had packed our stuff away on Wednesday evening and on Friday, it was time to leave. I did look around for George and Thomas but couldn't find them at the restaurants sadly (I'll see you guys next time and thank you for your hospitality).
The sea was so calm and flat like a gently lake as it was around 8 in the morning. We couldn't find Timos either but we did see him and everyone else frequently and we know we have thanked them too much, it's just a shame that not all goodbyes are possible (even for me).
Our flight was for 12 so we got a taxi to Thessaloniki Airport (I know how much hell that is every year).
Flight was okay but when we got back to the UK, it wasn't grey (for once) during our return. Popped over to Nana and Grandad's to pick up the car and thank them for their annual help. We actually came back right during the end of the school day so it was tough getting into Horsham with the school kids everywhere and the buses and cars (darn kids haha).
So now, with it being a month already since burning up in summer paradise. I'm reflecting already on my memories as well as the folder in my head full of pictures and moments during a decade of fun in a country which may be struggling, yet it still has a lot to offer and has filled me and my family up with fun, generosity, catering, luxury, peace, hot weather and friendship.
I will get round to sometime uploading a post on more stories (I was going to mix it into this one) but I've been having trouble finding the pictures on the disks that we burnt because our computer has crashed more times than I can count over 10 years and I know they are around somewhere, I just need to find em. Plus if I was to go into detail on here, I'd have over 40+ names to share, mention and talk about and we can't overdue it, can we?
To everyone from Greece or anywhere else who has been in my life every year, I thank you for everything and going beyond the call of duty into something more (which I see on their face books that they do with others which is special). I have no idea how much more this will go on for or if I'm gonna actually go to New York City with Kurt and some others next year or if we'll return again. But thank to Facebook and our friendship and love, it doesn't matter how many times we do actually see each other, we'll find a way to make it work somewhere else, some other year or through a computer screen!