Trapezaki Bay Hotel has been a favorite of foreign press. Travel-related magazines and websites consider our hotel one of the top hotels in the Ionian Islands.
Saturday February 8, 2003 – Guardian Unlimited
Emma Brockes finds Captain Corelli’s island refreshingly unspoilt by its time in the hollywood spotlight.
By rights, the Greek island of Kefallonia should be monstrous. Eight years after Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was published and a couple of years on from the film version, Louis de Bernieres’s small island setting should be in the final stages of colonisation – swamped by Britain’s authenticity-seekers in the manner of southern France after the success of A Year In Provence.
I first visited the island two and a half years ago and found it braced for invasion. On the single-lane roads, goats skittered out of the way of convoys of cement mixers, and small plots of land were being cleared for a blaze of new apartments. This wasn’t devastation on the scale of the Spanish resorts – Kefallonia is too awkward geographically to enable much major development – but it seemed likely that the thrilling emptiness of the place would be lost. The word among those reading Captain Corelli by the poolside was that “their” island was about to be ruined by, horror, a load of movie groupies who hadn’t even read the book.
The film bombed, but not before lots of inviting publicity shots (Penelope Cruz looking thoughtful in an olive grove) had been flashed around the world and the island’s profile raised considerably. When I arrived there last October, there had been rain and the ground was green and storm swept. There are terrifying mountain roads in Kefallonia, but no motorways or snarly roundabouts so that even the feeblest driver can pick up a hire car at the airport and two seconds later find themselves serenely commanding an empty road. I wondered if all that had changed.
Early signs were encouraging. As our car wound down towards the small town of Trapezaki, in the south of the island, the only other traffic we met was tractors and local taxis. The airport was still at the end of a narrow country road, as if it had fallen out of a tornado and landed at random. The scenery still scooped away from the coast and reared up into mountains. We passed a few stubby concrete ruins with steel girders poking out of them, but by the time we reached the sea, it became clear that most of the nascent apartments hadn’t risen beyond their foundations. The goats had taken back the roads.
If Kefallonia has resisted change, it is due to a combination of modern history and ancient geology. In 1953, an earthquake flattened the island, killing 476 people. As a result, structures can only be built two storeys high. Tourism flourishes in small-scale apartments and family-run hotels, and Kefallonians look with pity at their over-developed sister islands. The suggestion that the only profit model for tourism in Greece is to suck in the greatest number of visitors, is met with “you must be crazy” eye-rolls and a languid wave of the hand. In this place so comprehensively smashed, first by the Germans, then by the earthquake, preserving what remains of the past is taken seriously.
So it was that the Kefallonians regarded the Captain Corelli phenomenon with detached amusement, laughing at the film for its schmaltziness and leaving commercial exploitation of both it and the book largely to the foreign tour operators. In the bigger towns such as Sami, the port, you will find a few Captain Corelli theme cafes, but they will serve strong Greek coffee or cappuccino (the island’s Italian legacy is heavily reflected in its food and drink). Those – and there were several in the group – who mistook the place for a coffee bar in central London and asked for their milk to be frothed into latte, were stared at as if they have ordered a cup of liquid fish. There are no Starbucks on Kefallonia.
On both visits I stayed in Trapezaki, which is cradled expertly between the mountains and the sea. It is a half-hour drive from the capital Argostoli, and like a lot of Kefallonia it encourages visitors to submit to the goatherd fantasy – irresistable in this case because there are just enough services in Trapezaki to save it from feeling like the middle of nowhere. It has a quiet, sandy beach, a few good bars and restaurants, and a lot of unmolested vegetation. After the rains, the palm trees and outbursts of hyacinth around the Lourdas beach bar are positively Caribbean, and on a clear day you can see across to the neighbouring Greek island of Zakynthos.
I stayed at the Trapezaki Bay hotel on my first visit, more recently in a newly completed apartment run by Direct Greece. They are different types of holiday. The first is for people without kids, since the hotel doesn’t allow them. The quiet around the pool is heavenly – there are no crocodile-shaped lilos or little bodies snorkelling in the shallow-end. The hotel is bright white and perched on a hill, burning in the sun like a plantation house, is a 10-minute walk from the beach and has cool marble interiors and a good restaurant. The best things about it are the owners, Nikos and Sofia, who built the hotel from scratch four years ago and run it with a sort of parental devotion. They lived for years in New York and are ruthlessly hospitable, loving nothing better than to chat with the guests – Nikos while sneaking a crafty cigarette out of sight of his wife at the pool bar; Sofia on patrol in the garden or restaurant. A lot of their guests are repeat visitors who regard the place as less of a hotel than the home of dear friends.
01/06/2002 – The Sunday Mirror
We stayed in a wonderful clifftop hotel where nothing was too much trouble. The owners, Nikos and Sophia, had lived for years in New York and brought back with them a rare combination of Greek charm and American efficiency. The pool overlooked the sea and the restaurant overlooked the pool, so we could wach our children swim at night while we ate an drank too much. It was quiet, safe and idyllic and within walking distance of our lovely beach, although I would recommend hiring a car as it would be criminal not to explore or visit the busy capital of Argostoli with its museums and fabulous open market, where my major achievement was to find parking spaces on each visit.
05/13/2000 – The Evening Standard, Travel Section
That evening we ended up at the Trapezaki Bay Hotel, run by returned Cephalonians Nick and Sophia, who had been jewelers in New York. The Trapezaki may have been spanking new, but it reminded me of a colonial plantation house in the Indies, a whitewashed bulwark against a sea of vineyards and olive groves that threatened to slide down the island’s steep southern shore.
06/07/1999 – The Mirror Travel
We stayed at the brand-new Trapezaki Bay Hotel which was still clearly suffering from first night nerves (no signpost to the hotel, no shower by the pool, no bar, a shortage of pillows and paltry storage space in the rooms), but it should come into its own given time.
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