When I look back I had more beach holidays with my father than I have had with Ines. In Greece they were a real treat. A few days at the beach offset 6 weeks in the village and appeased us. Later on we used to holiday for two weeks at Tolo just near Nauplion. Eventually my father built some apartments in Astros, a bit further from Nauplion. Astros is the chosen beach spot for people from our village and Tripolis. The Arcadians drive the 90 minutes along winding mountain paths through orange orchards with giant fans to keep the frost off the fruit in autumn and past monasteries along a coastal road to an ancient village on the hill with a seaside resort on the beach.
When we were children my father budgeted strictly. He was really good at saving. So the holidays were not luxurious. But the exchange rate from the South African Rand to the American Dollar was more par than the R8, 00 required to buy a greenback now. So we were not treated to any luxuries at the beach. When we used to start our holidays at Voulagmeni near Athens we would occasionally hire a pedal boat and go out with my father. One year my father’s cousin Panayiotis collected me with his brother Basil and took John and me windsurfing near Kineta. The breeze was blowing along the shore and I ended up 2 km away. Poor Basil had to swim all the way to drag me back. Since then I learnt how to tack.
After that we started going to Tolo. It was a beach resort town with an old world charm. We always stayed at the hotel Solon in the same rooms and my mother even had her own pillows and teapot stored there. We would hire a pedal boat once or twice and pedal around the island in the bay. The island was about 150 meters across, quite hilly with a small church on it. There were big rocks to suntan on. There were always topless German and Swedish woman worshipping the sun, and it was fun to pedal past. The last years we were at Tolo I used to windsurf there. I would hire a DuFour windsurfer every afternoon after siesta time when the wind would pick up and go into the bay. The bay is well over 5km long but got quite rough in the afternoon. I would return exhausted in time for a shower and dinner on the hotel veranda, under open pergolas, just ten meters from the waters’ edge.
One year in Tolo my father bought John and I a small inflatable rowing dingy. We were thrilled. You cannot imagine the joy we felt in being able to leave the inflatable ready for paddling at the hotel courtyard enclosed by the louvered change rooms. At the end of the holiday we would rinse the salt off, dry it and store it safely in the cellar at the village.
Tolo has changed now, even before the crisis. It was developed and built with no respect for the bay and beach. It has become run down and full of nightclubs. The old hotels on the edge of the beach seem to be subsiding.
And the pedal boats and windsurfers for hire look tired and unloved as they wait for happy children to take them into the water.