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Abigail Flanagan and family fall in love with Lefkas

Pool “Wow!” yells my five-year-old son, Joe. “This place is totally wicked.” And he’s spot on. The first thing that hits you about Villa Pollox (and its sister property, Villa Castor) is how much bigger (and better) they are than Simply Travel’s brochure photography would suggest. I mean this place is enormous. Admittedly, we’ve just spent a week in one of the neighbouring properties at Mousses which, whilst lovely, was a lot smaller than this, our new gaff – but there’s more space here than there is in our own home… and it’s better equipped. In fact, I could quite happily move in here for good.

As Joe runs around madly, high on the excitement of having, “Our own pool in our back garden” (and not just any pool, but one that is actually bigger than our back garden back home) my husband, Paul, tries to ignore the pathetic sounds I’m making on spying a dishwasher (yes, you’ve guessed it, we are the only family in South West London without one). Over the next seven days he will watch me get desperately excited at the prospect of putting it on to wash just three coffee cups – but he doesn’t know that yet.

This is the second year running that we’ve made the pilgrimage to Aghios Ioannis. The first time was as a direct result of babygoes2’s recommendation and a lengthy phone conversation with Amanda that convinced me that Lefkas was worth a try. She was right. A haven for families with young children, there’s something quite magical about this ancient olive grove and the family who have brought about its transformation. Our only complaint was that, at one week, the magic just didn’t last long enough. No surprise then that we booked to come again, and this time for two weeks. The surprise came later, when we discovered that a computer glitch meant that we were double booked and had no holiday - until an apologetic Simply Travel came up with the solution of offering us one week in Mousses and one week here. Last year Castor and Pollox were still being constructed, but even then they looked mighty fine and well worth the hassle of having to pack up and shift our suitcases a hundred yards or so to the other side of the grounds. So we said yes.

Kittens! And, oh boy, did we make the right decision. (Thank you, thank you, computer glitch.) Identical in layout and almost in décor, Villas Pollox and Castor both offer fab’ family accommodation. The extremely spacious, bright and airy open-plan living room is both stylishly and amply furnished – and roughly the size of the ground floor of my terraced house back in Blighty. At one end is the seating area, complete with two comfy sofas, a decent CD stereo system and satellite TV that, as luck would have it, picks up various English language kid’s shows – so it’s the perfect lure for when it’s 40 degrees in the shade, you know the kids have had too much sun… but they don’t agree with you. At the other end there’s a good-sized kitchen area - complete with full sized oven, fridge-freezer, coffee machine, microwave, ample work surfaces and all the bits and pieces you need to whip up a souvlaki or two. (Alternatively, if you’re lazy like us, you can just nip over the road to the mini-market and ask the nice chap there to make you some. But be warned, depending on how many you’re catering for, you might be a while – his barbecue is rather small but he is a dab hand at getting it going with the aid of a hairdryer.) In between the two areas is a massive dining table that would comfortably seat eight – and there’s still plenty of room to swing a cat, albeit figuratively speaking. (Eleni and Andreas, the owners, are big feline fans which is fortunate as the local cats are big fans of theirs – don’t miss feeding time next door at Mousses and make sure you give the kittens a kiss from us.)

Pool Three bedrooms sleep up to six people – the master has a double bed and large en suite bathroom and there’s an equally large twin. A separate shower room with loo is also home to a washing machine – hoorah. (There’s nothing worse than spending half your holiday hand washing small children’s smalls.) However, the second twin with en suite shower room can only be accessed via a separate entrance to the side of the villa. Whilst perfect for large family groups travelling with, say, either teenagers or grandparents who will prefer the extra privacy that it affords, this annex room is – in my eyes – unsuitable for younger kids. You won’t hear them if they wake up in the night – and they won’t be able to get to you without having to go outside – although depending on which school of parenting you fall into, this might be a good thing. My only other criticism is that, if like me, you are a soft Southerner used to sleeping on an even softer mattress, you might find the beds rather unforgiving, possibly brutally so. That said, we did find that the really rather decent local wine seemed to aid sleep.

Lefkas in high summer can be absolutely baking – during our stay it regularly hit 40 degrees in the shade. I once spent an equally sweltering holiday in Zakynthos, having to resort to 3am cold showers in an attempt to get some shut eye – but fortunately Pollox is fully air-conditioned throughout, with separate units for each room. Plus there are decent fly screens on all windows and doors, although mozzies don’t seem to be a major problem. (But do take some Waspeze with you – I managed to get stung on my bikini line… a holiday first.)

But enough of the villa’s interior – you don’t come to Lefkas to hang around indoors. (And if you do, you shouldn’t.) Large french doors open out from the living room directly on to the terrace, garden and pool – which is only yards away. Having a fish for a son, this proved ideal for us, although parents of non-swimmers and young kids will need to keep a careful eye out at all times, particularly as the shallow end isn’t particularly shallow. At 11m by 6m, the pool’s a decent size and just right for lilo wars and dingy invasions – and, as Joe quickly became an integral part of the Mousses mini-mob, these were very much part and parcel of every day. Indeed, the phrase “Mum, can David come to play?” vied for pole position with, “Please can I have an ice-cream?”

Relaxing Outside there’s yet another full sized dining table and numerous sun loungers and seats. The roof overhangs the length of the house, providing copious shade, so whether you want to cool off with a good book or sizzle by the poolside, the choice is yours. Oh, and there’s a good sized brick barbecue – so it’s worth taking advantage of the good fishmongers and butchers, just five minutes drive away in picturesque Lefkas town.

It’s this “best of both worlds” set up that make the villas such great family properties. Situated just behind the main pool and bar area at Mousses, they’re moments away from all the fun and action – which you’re perfectly entitled to partake in if you so wish. Yet, set in their own gardens, they offer a real sense of seclusion and privacy – particularly Pollox which is the further away of the two. Shielded from neighbouring Villa Castor by judicious planting of fir trees, and looking out over olive groves, the peace and calm of Pollox is palpable… particularly during the kids’ club opening hours. But it’s still nice to know that an ice-cold beer and a Greek salad are just seconds away – and can be delivered to the villa if you’re feeling anti-social!

Idyllic Lefkas offers a seductive mixture of lazy holiday pleasures. You can while away time on countless picturesque beaches, breaking only to stuff yourself with fresh sardines at a seafront taverna. Lefkas town, largely pedestrianised by night, has a good selection of shops and restaurants, or you can just people watch from one of the pavement bars and cafés. If it’s quiet you’re after, you can explore the mountainous interior; with its timeless villages where tourism is still very much a recent addition and local honey and olives represent the sum total of the “souvenirs” on offer. There are boat trips and ferries galore to neighbouring islands – definitely worth a day out. Or you can just watch the kite surfers risking life and limb at nearby Milos beach – home to Milos Beach Bar and the best seafood spaghetti I’ve eaten outside of Tuscany – and then spend the afternoon trying to burn off some of those calories by “wave jumping” the big rollers that come in.

That we did feel like socialising so much of the time was largely testament to “Mousses’ magic”. (That and the fact that, bizarrely, our neighbours at Villa Castor – David and his family – live, literally, around the corner from us in England and turned out to be cracking fun. Our friendship continues to this day.) Could be there’s something in the crystal clear Ionian waters, but this place definitely brings out the best in both adults and kids; for within days of arriving, most families seemed to be on first name terms and many a late afternoon around the pool merged into a relaxed evening around the bar. There’s something immensely joyous about watching kids just being kids – space and safety are always such an issue back home. To be able to do so, armed with an aperitif, while the pink evening light so particular to Greece draws in, is, in my mind, the definition of bliss. As our collective offspring ran wild through the grounds, enjoying their apparent independence but never really out of sight of a watchful pair of eyes, all seemed exceedingly well in the world.

More information: To travel to Lefkas click here for more info – listing your party size and dates, if relevant.

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