The Antiques Road Show
At the southern end of the Aegean, about 10 miles from the Turkish coast, Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese group of islands. It’s 48 miles long and 23 miles wide, and promises 300 days of sunshine a year.
There may be no trace of the famous Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but there is still much to see of the long history of Rhodes dating back to the Stone Age.
Waves of invaders - Persians, Romans, Arabs, Knights of St John, Ottoman Turks and Italians - valued this strategic location, close to Egypt and Asia Minor.
The new Holiday Village Rhodes in Kolymbia on the east coast, an all-inclusive First Choice hotel complex, features umpteen pools, water slides and a lazy river, a football camp and non-stop daytime and evening entertainment.
Air-conditioned rooms are bright and spacious and some guests have swim-up rooms with a pool outside, while deluxe villas have private pools.
The hotel complex is split into a number of different areas, one for activities and daytime entertainment. There are pool sessions, with kayaking and raft-building, while the high rope course is enjoyable if you don’t suffer from vertigo.
The football camp, run by enthusiastic coaches with masses of talent, took place on the Astroturf pitch. A branded football shirt and water bottle for each child went down extremely well.
While the kids joined activities on site, we discovered the quieter part of the complex with yet another swimming pool with a swim-up bar. I whiled away hours sipping fruit punches in the cool water. There is also a fantastic spa in the quieter area with a tranquil indoor pool, an ideal escape from the heat of the day. The spa also offered treatments for kids.
But one of the main pleasures was not having to think about food. The buffet restaurant offered the usual European food, with a fabulous Greek section with all the favourites and new ones like feta and spinach pastries, vegetarian dishes with aubergines and courgettes and mouth-watering local produce.
In the evenings, the whole family can enjoy pop shows, bingo, live music and cabaret. Children can go to cinema nights organised by club staff.
To see the island, we hired a car and found that driving wasn’t too difficult if you avoid potholes and locals riding mopeds three deep with no protective gear.
First stop on our cultural quest was the capital, Rhodes, the most northerly point of the island. The medieval old town within the city walls is a maze of narrow streets, arches and old buildings mixing Byzantine churches and Gothic architecture and housing the Church of Saint John of the Collachium, built in the early 14th century and dedicated to Saint John, a patron of the Order.
I wandered around the imposing Palace of the Grand Masters, the largest building in the medieval city, with its majestic stone walls and grand staircase leading the upper floor, paved with mosaics.
The city of Rhodes is a magnet for tourists, but you escape the crowds in shady tavernas in the old town. After that, we headed for beaches on the east coast, avoiding Faliraki in search of some peace and quiet.
Lindos, further south, has a fantastic beach. Although busier than it was 20 years ago, with new hotels along the coast, this area is little changed; two beautiful sheltered bays between a rocky hill, its peak dominated by the acropolis of Lindos, sitting above the whitewashed houses of the village with their pebble-paved courtyards and narrow alleys. It was too hot to walk to the top, but many people take the traditional transport - a donkey - for the princely sum of five euros.
Away from the traffic of Lindos, we opted for the quieter beach of Agathi, 15 minutes south of Kolymbia, which boasts free sun loungers, meltingly soft sand and shimmering, crystal clear blue water which deepens so slowly it is quite safe for children. On another day we found the nearby shingle beach of Stegna, a pretty fishing village near the town of Archangelos, famed for its pottery and carpet-making..
Further inland, past the well-worn tourist attraction of Epta Piges, famed for its pines, plane trees and spring water, we drove through unspoilt villages including Archipoli and Psinthos, largely ignored by tourists.
Inland villages have whitewashed houses and their own churches and squares. Apparently, Greeks don’t like being seen in places without squares, traditionally their meeting point where locals discuss the day’s events.
With so much to do and see, Rhodes is well worth the visit.