My husband and I decided that getting married in the UK was a recipe for a stress_filled, over expensive affair, so we both took the decision to get married in Rhodes. As the most popular of the Greek islands and situated in the beautiful Aegean seas, Rhodes was the backdrop not only to our wedding, but to a wonderful holiday destination steeped in gorgeous views, fantastic historical sites and the usual Greek hospitality that is renowned the world over.

Our accommodation was through a private let called the Olive Grove Villa which is situated in a little village called Pylona, approximately 10_15 minutes drive from Lindos. Well, we certainly weren’t disappointed. Our villa had three bedrooms and two bathrooms decorated in the traditional whitewash stone walls with a modern twist that had a woman’s touch – Yorkshire linen voile curtains, plush dark solid furniture and a modern Italian influenced kitchen greeted us. To our utter delight the piece de la resistance was the hot tub on the roof terrace accompanied by luxury garden furniture to while away the hours in the sun. The villa also had a pool, but April swimming is only for the brave, as my husband and brother_in_law found out to their detriment! Colin and Jennie who owned the villa are based in the UK and were only a quick email or call away the whole time; we could not fault how helpful they were, and the bottle of champagne to welcome us on arrival was a very sweet little touch that was more than appreciated.

Pylona itself consisted of a little bar called the Village café, which is opposite the beautifully traditional village church. Here is where you can access your emails, have a drink, play pool and watch the sport on TV if you so wish to. There are a couple of restaurants, Eucalyptus which is an Italian pizza and pasta place – very small inside, but wonderful pizzas including the mighty Calzone which brought me back for a second time to the restaurant to try and defeat it! Also in Pylona was the restaurant with no name. You would think it was someone’s house but you walk in and find tables, exquisite local food and more local retsina than you could care to drink in an evening. We asked for the chef to create us a meze of his best dishes, and we were not disappointed; stuffed vine leaves (dolmadakia), patates, Greek salad (horiatiki), souvlaki and pitta with tzatziki all went down a treat. Then he brought out Kotopolou me Feta which is, essentially, chicken and feta…but my goodness, I have never tasted chicken so tender and with such wonderful flavours as I did that night. I am salivating at the thought even now! None of the venues in Pylona have anything to write home about as far as décor is concerned, but as they say in Greece, they like to focus their energy on the hospitality and the food, not what the place looks like. Especially during these times of severe austerity for them, you cannot blame them for adopting this attitude. Cleanliness was never a problem at all and to be honest when the food is as delicious as we sampled you don’t care that you aren’t in plush surroundings.

Lindos is the nearest major town, and it is important to remember that Lindos is a town which must be explored on foot due to the narrow streets, something my parents who have joint problems did find difficult. However for us Lindos was beautiful; dinner on the roof terraces over looking the Aegean and the famed Lindos Acropolis; seeing the famous donkeys carrying their passengers around the village streets and exploring all the traders delights pedalling all of the usual tourist stuff that you would expect from a resort but also some beautiful artwork and linen which, if you can afford the space in your luggage, would certainly be something to take home. The only disadvantage of Lindos is it was rammed with tourists and it is not somewhere you would go for some peace and quiet. However there were more than enough restaurants and bars and for some it would be an ideal place to stay as well as visit; for us we wanted some tranquillity so it was perfect as a day visit.

Lardos is the next village to Pylonas and has everything you need including a bank and a coffee shop. This is also the home to Valentina’s restaurant which was just divine. We ordered mushrooms Hellenic for starters, which were button mushrooms cooked in a tomato and oregano sauce with feta; they were just incredible. For mains we ordered Kleftico (lamb shank) and swordfish and neither of us were disappointed. This was a busy restaurant in the off season, so in the height of season I would imagine it would be extremely busy, but as far as local tavernas go this was the one to beat.

To the northern most point of the island, Rhodes Town itself requires more than one visit – parking can be a bit of a nightmare so be prepared to play with the traffic and pop into a space at the last second. The harbour makes for a beautiful walk and visitors should be prepared to see some spectacular views. On a clear day you can see Turkey as it is not far away. The biggest attraction to Rhodes town is her castle; this is no Tower of London, this is literally a mini city. You enter the castle walls from several points around Rhodes Town, and from there, if you decide to walk its perimeter, you should wear comfortable shoes as you will be a good 2_3 hours minimum. Inside the castle itself is spectacular and history buffs will be delighted with its stories and historical significance. It is worth a read of a tour book beforehand so that you can know and appreciate exactly what you are seeing.

The main shops are in Rhodes Town and this is where West meets traditional Greek, with Zara, Sephora, Boss and Benetton all within a stones throw from traditional Greek jewellers and, of course, the usual tourist market. Stop for a Gyros pitta at George’s in the square near the Bank of Greece – it’s cheap and cheerful, but you won’t find a better Gyros in these parts and they don’t rip you off like they will elsewhere. Just be prepared to have lots of cats at your feet while you eat!!

About 5 minutes drive out of town on the east coast road, as recommended by our wonderful wedding planner, was a little restaurant on a corner of a road called Ya Ouzaki. If you blink, you will miss it. But here you will find the most delicious red wine that you will ever taste – so much so that we asked them to order us a case and we took it back to our villa!! The food was delicious and the portions were so much more than any one person could muster; and as for value for money, the entire bill for 7 covers came to €84 including drinks. We could not complain, and nor would you. Delightful Greek food at its best, and very popular with the locals. We wouldn’t have known about it were it not for our wedding planner.

Finally, a mention must go to our wedding planner. Jane of Ionian Weddings in the UK was fantastic from start to finish – there are not many people who would book a wedding venue from just a photograph, but Jane made it seem like the most secure and safe thing to do and we were not disappointed when we were met by our beautiful little chapel on the hillside in Kallithea overlooking the sea. Margharita was her Greek counterpart who met with us several times to ensure everything was ready for us, and also gave us some local tips on places to go. They both made our wedding the wonderful day that it was, and our reception at the Nefeli beach taverna in Lindos is something I will never forget and certainly somewhere we will go back to eat when we return as the food, once again, was delicious.

Rhodes has so much to offer that we were not able to see because we had a little detail called a wedding to deal with – but we plan to go back this summer to go and explore some more. The butterfly gardens open in June to September and are very popular. The Waterpark and Kallithea springs are tourist hotspots in the summer months but for good reason. Rhodes Casino beckons from the seafront with its grand stature and beautifully maintained gardens. There is a multitude of spas that have opened throughout the island and they are certainly something we will be exploring on our return. The west side of the island is the side that gets more waves and so perfect for those who have an appetite for water sports. The locals tend to go to the west in the summer and the east coast in the winter months where the sea is calmer. Faliraki of course is a place that you might find the 18_30s crowd and if that takes your fancy then there are more bars than you can shake a stick at. But Rhodes is so much more than that, and if fully deserves its accolade as the best of the Greek islands which would offer something for families and couples alike.

By Nicky Vangalis Stobbs

Canny Van