"I could come back here again...," muttered by mother as we sat by the shore of Makris Gialos beach just hours after our arrival. Sixteen years later, again and again we have come. You see, there is something about Kefalonia which captivates many travellers as soon as they arrive, and it didn't take long for us to find out why.
Although I don't remember much of our first visit, or even the second for that matter, nothing to date has influenced my life quite like this island has. The heat of high summer and the beauty of the place has simply stolen my heart over the years. My first memory on the island was meeting Tasos and his family who own the local shop just down the road from our favourite apartment. Such a welcoming family have now become lifelong friends who have watched me grow up as I laughed, cried, sang and danced my summers away on the island. Another great friend of ours is Andronikos, a generous and welcoming character at a traditional local restaurant. Spending time with his family and being invited to traditional Greek dinners at their home have created very special moments for us, memories which we frequently look back on and cherish when we reminisce over old photos.
So, the people of Kefalonia are remarkable. Tasos and Jackie, Andronikos and Joanna and Anna and Angelos are just a few of the locals who have made us feel so welcome and have become like family over the years. But there's more. Pick any part of the island to visit and you will not be disappointed. For families with youngsters, Lassi is the place to be. Filled with traditional tavernas and a buzz which easily lures the tourists in, there is something for everyone in this lively area. Five minutes down the road is Argostoli, the capital, and the heart of the islands vibe. Sit by the harbour and watch the fishermen come in for their daily trade or take a wonder through the cobbled streets, either will present to you the real ambiance of Kefalonia's working life and highlight the traditional nature of the locals.
A little further afield away from the tourist attractions of Lassi, you will find arguably the island's most beautiful town, Spartia. Traditionally Greek with not a hint of branding, the views overlooking the beach here are something else. Words like "stunning", "paradise" and "breath-taking" come to mind, but Spartia's beauty goes way beyond the cliché. A favourite for the locals at the weekends, it is the ultimate place to relax with Hotel Panas seconds away serving truly some of the best food I have eaten in my life, let alone in Greece. Mrs Panas is yet another one of our friendly acquaintances and her cooking is so deeply traditional that she refuses to give away any of her recipes.
Other must-see places on the island include Sami, Scala and Fiscardo, all of which contain the alluring beauty that personifies Kefalonia and offer something for all to appreciate. The best advice would be to hire a car and take a trip around the island at your own leisure, thereby ensuring that you can take in as much as possible and make the most of your stay while you're there.
Unlike any other place I have visited, Kefalonia has stolen my heart hook, line and sinker. But I'm not the only one. Year after year, you see the same faces arriving at the airport heading back to their favourite spot for another few weeks in paradise. They know why they go back; we know why we go back. Why not come and explore Captain Corelli's secret treasure for yourself? You'll soon know why too.