In the summer of 1975 travel changed for my family. Harold Wilson was prime minister, the Bay City Rollers were high in the charts, but, more importantly, my mother was reading holiday brochures instead of novels.
This led to her fascination with all things Hellenic, and in late July, as my school friends set off for Birchington and Bournemouth, my family boarded a plane to the Greek island of Rhodes.
That first trip to the largest of the Dodecanese islands remains a vivid memory and not because my little sister dropped a toy Womble down the pocket of a pool table. It was because my mother cried when we left. She had fallen in love with a place that was once home to ancient wonder Colossus and the conquering Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Going forward, it would be our home every summer.
It would be easier to list what didn’t happen on the magical island of Rhodes during those August residencies when we made life-long friendships, played as kids, partied as adults, and where I will forever have an image of my late father sitting by the shore, smiling.
The joy of those times came flooding back when I returned to Rhodes for the first time in 12 years, accompanied by my husband and daughter – with whom I was keen to share the past and explore the new.
The Amilia Mare Hotel in Kallithea isn’t new but, as part of Aldemar Resorts, it was majorly refurbished a few years ago and now has enough pools, restaurants and daily entertainment to keep its all-inclusive guests very happy.
Our sea view family room with two big bathrooms certainly ticked the boxes, as did the executive breakfast at the Dionysos restaurant, which overlooks the charming private pebble beach with excellent watersports.
With eight eateries offering Greek, French, Italian, as well as buffet catering, it’s impressive that the service is so consistently good and this ‘A’ for effort extends to the Pink Wave team, who do the A-Z of exercise by day (aqua aerobics to Zumba) and cabaret at night.
Ten minutes from this super smart and efficient residence is the old town of Rhodes, with its cobbled streets, tree-shaded cafes and the oldest synagogue in Greece.
The Kahal Shalom synagogue (circa 1557) opens as often as possible and we joined a jolly Shavuot service held by an American Greek chazan on the eve of his son’s barmitzvah.
To see such vitality in this ancient building was poignant, as around the corner, the Square of the Jewish Martyrs has a monument commemorating the 1,604 Jews killed during the Holocaust.
That this centrepiece exists at all is another reason to love the generous people on this island, which is wildly popular with Israelis who live so close and must appreciate the use of Ivrit besides other languages on public signs.
For the second part of our stay, we were at the Lindos Royal Hotel at Vilcha near Lindos itself. The splendid colonial-style architecture that provides footbridges across the winding pool is only outshone by the natural beauty of the Aegean Sea behind.
Our comfortable, but more basic room lacked powerful air con and though the all-inclusive buffet was tasty and plentiful, there were not enough vistas to enjoy while eating.
While saluting the merits of all-inclusive packages for families, there’s a lot to see outside good hotels, and Lindos is the jewel in the crown.
A turquoise bay with white-washed buildings scattered across a hillside topped by the acropolis is the aesthetic overture to a village with a maze of cobbled streets filled with lazy cats, donkey transportation, lush bougainvillea and the best shops.
At night, restaurants stylishly reinventing the national cuisine transform the landscape by hosting on the rooftops and, if you are lucky enough to stay, don’t miss the sunrise.
Celebs love Lindos and we watched David Gilmour of Pink Floyd walk his daughter to her wedding and designer Jasper Conran get angry with his boat, although it’s the warm generous Greeks who are the real stars on this island.
On our last day, we were on Pallas Beach, where golden sand borders the stillest sea and the tavernas are world-class. Reluctant to say goodbye, I waited for the beach to clear before heading up the hill. When I looked back at the view below and saw my dad sitting by the
shore smiling. I can’t think of a better place to leave him.
Packages to the all-inclusive, family-friendly four-star Amelia Mare in Kallithea, Rhodes (aldemar-resorts.gr) are available with First Choice (firstchoice.co.uk) from £578 per person for two adults and two children in a family room on all-inclusive for seven nights plus return flights from Luton on 30 August 2017 and transfers in resort.
For stays at the Lindos Royal, visit http://lindosroyal.gr
For car hire on Rhodes, visit marathonrentacar.gr