JUST days after our first dance to the Boney M song “Sunny” at our wedding, it seemed fateful to watch a tribute band perform the exact same song on the first night of our honeymoon.
For weeks before our big day, our four-year-old son Alex had been dancing enthusiastically to the 70’s hit in our kitchen and was just as excited when he heard it in our hotel.
We stayed at the modern, minimalist Gennadi Grand Resort on the island of Rhodes and because we had told easyJet Holidays it was our honeymoon, the hotel staff had left flower petals on our bed and champagne on ice and upgraded us to a room with a private pool.
We had arrived during last month’s heatwave before the fires broke out and at 9pm it was still 30c.
After the band did their job, we tucked Alex into bed, popped the corks and tried out the cooling pool.
It was the perfect start to our honeymoon on the largest Greek island in the Dodecanese.
While the fires caused the popular Greek island to grab the headlines for all the wrong reasons, just a month later everything is back to normal.
Our hotel was located in Gennadi, a small, quiet village in the southeast of the island, close to Lindos and its large Acropolis.
Both were not damaged by the fires.
Our base was perfect for the relaxing honeymoon we dreamed of and after sleeping like babies in our huge bed we were ready to explore.
There are 266 rooms at the hotel – many with pools like ours.
We stayed in a suite with a large terrace.
A bathroom separated our bedroom from the living room where a sofa was converted for Alex.
This, too, was modern, with recessed lighting hidden in wooden walls, a flat-screen TV, and a Nespresso machine.
The bathroom featured marble, opaque glass, Korres toiletries, and fluffy bathrobes.
We started the day with breakfast in the light and airy main restaurant.
We were half-board, but some guests were all-inclusive — although you’d never have known as there wasn’t a bracelet in sight.
A friendly hostess named Michaela greeted us, entered our room number into an iPad and was told what plan we had.
Then, after giving Alex a high five, we were shown to a table.
I had sworn not to overeat, but the fantastic buffet, which served until 11am, was too tempting and my biggest weakness was the pastries, particularly a warm treat layered with feta and tomatoes called tiropita.
The hotel had five pools with huge, squishy loungers, but we stuck to our mini pool and watched Alex build his confidence day by day in private, until – unassisted and full of enthusiasm – he jumped in the water.
During the day, I only left the pool to go to the gym, take part in yoga and meditation classes, or go to the kids’ club with Alex, where he painted bricks, played Lego, and made friends under the supervision of qualified staff.
Everyone seemed to really love children.
Our room cleaner Ella cuddled Alex every morning, made animal shapes out of towels on his bed and gave him a friendship bracelet.
Outside the hotel it was no different.
Gennadi is a 20 minute walk or 13 euros for a taxi.
In the middle is a cobbled street with a handful of restaurants, a bar, a supermarket, and a bakery with myriad types of the filo pastry dessert, baklava.
Our favorite restaurant was Zorba’s Greek Taverna with pretty blue and white chairs, friendly cats and good wine by the carafe.
My husband had local fish with grilled veggies, I had a broad bean dip with mounds of flatbread and Alex had chicken nuggets.
With a free shot of ouzo – and apple juice for Alex – the bill came to 37 euros.
Since we were able to use our half-board option for lunch at the hotel, we were able to explore the area and eat out without any financial loss.
We also had some fantastic dinners at the hotel, both in the main restaurant and in the a la carte restaurant.
In the upscale Greek taverna overlooking the sea, we indulged in an unforgettable mezze of cheese balls, ceviche and beef souvlaki and discovered a very fine Sauvig non Blanc wine from the Mega Spileo Estate on the mainland.
Our hotel was on a pebble beach and Alex was keen on building sandcastles, so armed with buckets and spades we headed to Pefkos – a 20 minute, €30 taxi ride away.
While he was building his towers we enjoyed an amazing sunset.
There are many tourist restaurants in town but we found a gem called Kerasma with a great local menu.
Mussels in ouzo
Also sold were fig jam, olive oil and honey, and melekouni – small squares of nuts, cinnamon, seeds and honey given as wedding gifts.
Since each of us had a generous 23kg of luggage on vacation, I stocked up on Christmas presents.
On our last night we had planned to take the bus from the hotel to Lindos which cost 2.80 euros each way to visit the Acropolis but it was so hot they closed the bus for safety reasons.
Instead, we squandered our budget on a fancy meal at Stefano in Kiatora, just 15 minutes from the hotel.
Yannis at the front desk told us it was expensive but had stunning views and some of the best fish on the island.
He wasn’t wrong. Within minutes of our arrival, the restaurant staff dragged my stunned and delighted son into the kitchen and showed him all the fresh fish that had been caught that day.
It cost us almost 100 euros but we devoured appetizers, a whole fish, mussels in ouzo, freshly breaded fish with fries, ice cream and wine.
It was a wonderful night that will be remembered forever.
But the next morning I opened the doors of our room and smelled smoke.
Fires had broken out in the center of the island and hotel staff had tried to help stop the fires.
Unfortunately, as we all now know, their efforts failed. Just hours after heading home, our hotel was evacuated along with many of the places we had visited as fires swept across the island.
It was horrifying to think of all the warm hearted people who were afraid for their lives, their homes and their livelihoods.
Fortunately, I have now heard from those with whom I am still in contact in Gennadi that everything is back to normal and tourists are welcome again.
One of those tourists will be me, as I have already made a deposit with easyJet Holidays to return to Gennadi next year – and am once again paying for this private pool paradise in installments.
The holiday was flawless, the staff was amazing and the locals – who depend on tourists like you and me – need us all more than ever to visit this island.
ARRIVAL / OVERNIGHT STAY: Seven nights bed and breakfast at 5H Gennadi Grand Resort Rhodes from £1,196 per person including flights departing Gatwick on 31st August, 23kg luggage and private transfers.
Seven nights bed and breakfast including flights to Manchester on 7th September from £1,144.
For next year, seven nights bed and breakfast including Manchester flights on 8th May will cost £818 per person.
All include private transfers and 23kg of luggage.
To book go to easyjet.com/en/ Holidays or call 0330 365 5005.