The sun is blazing and the steep road stretches ahead as I force myself to keep pedalling. It’s almost an hour into the guided cycle trip to the pretty hilltop village of Psinthos in the north of Rhodes and I’m wondering if I’ve made a misjudgment about signing up as it has, so far, been uphill all the way.
At this point, Kate, one of the impossibly fit cycling guides, appears at my side to say cheerfully that we are almost at the top of the 600 metre ascent where coffees and a rest in a taverna in the Greek village await.
My conversational skills are reduced to mere grunts at this point but I’m spurred on and sure enough, others in the group are patiently waiting at a petrol station just around the corner.
In fact, I’m not the last, so I too get a moment or two to catch my breath as the stragglers come in. After a quick briefing on the route towards the village and the location of any hazards that may lie in wait – not forgetting a few welcome gulps of water from our bottles – we push on to the village itself. There we lean the cycles against a rail in the village square, the dozen or so holiday makers and four guides, and push together the tables at the taverna to relax a little.
Half an hour or so later we are back on our bicycles – decent quality Cannondale road bikes for most and carbon fibre ones for those who want to pay extra – and the wonderful feeling that it is downhill and then flat all the way back.
The roads are in great condition and there is very little traffic, apart from the odd Greek Army truck transporting young soldiers to and from the island’s large military base – Greece still has National Service and all males between 16 and 45 must serve at least nine months. We swoop and turn down fast descents, each choosing their own pace, with the hardcore cycling enthusiasts charging off at the front. I’m content to let gravity do its thing and take me down to the coastal road and then back to Afandou and the resort with a real feeling of achievement and a satisfying ache in my legs.
It is day two of our Mark Warner holiday at Levante Beach Resort and we are getting used to its diet of rest and activity. There are morning and afternoon guided trips on either mountain or road bikes on most days, from a very gentle 5km ride along a coastal path with a pitstop at a beachside bar, which we enjoy on our first day, to the rather more daunting Grand Tour, which I pass on. I join the cycle to Rhodes town, which is 65km or so round trip. We learn how to cycle in a group, passing information about hazards down the line, and perhaps because I have got a bit fitter during the week, it really isn’t too difficult to complete as the pace is geared to the middle aged and active, who account for the majority of holidaymakers. Bikes not being used on a tour are available to take out so you can complete your own stage at race pace if you like, or, in our case, tootle along to explore the nearby villages.
There is a similar level of activity at the tennis centre. Novice to expert can generally find a playing partner and there are two hours of social tennis each day, plus tournaments and either group or individual lessons (which are extra). I find myself dropping into the afternoon knockabouts, when the temperature has dipped a little. There are folk who seem to spend their entire week around the courts and others who dip in and out. We book a court a couple of times for a family game or two.
And if tennis isn’t your thing, there is a whole watersports scene at the beach. Take out a paddleboard, wind surfer or dinghy – just sign one out with the ever-friendly team – and once you have life jackets you are free to explore. The sailing area is a kilometre square, so although not huge, adequate for a fun sail. There’s a tower with Mark Warner staff keeping an eye on folk on the water and their rescue boat is on hand to make sure everyone is OK. If you want to learn to sail, scuba dive, or waterski, then courses are available.
And if none of those activities are your thing, there is a dawn run and a timetable of yoga and exercise classes at an open air beachside spot to choose from. Or just hang out by the several pools and relax or swim in the sea, perhaps while others in your group pursue their interest.
The resort itself is situated on a narrowish strip of land at a right angle to the Aegean sea. Our room – with two bathrooms and a double partitioned from two single beds – looks out on to the beautiful 85 metre long irregularly shaped, unheated pool which is a centrepiece of the resort and a stroll from the entrance building with the reception, main restaurant, lobby area and bars. We are here with our 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter and they are happy to pick and mix activities alongside finding a decent wi-fi signal rather than join the resort-run clubs. The childcare groups of younger children always seem busy though and organised activities are timed around the morning and afternoon activity sessions.
We are here on a half-board basis and find ourselves at the same beachside bar for lunch on most days for snack foods of pasta, pizza or salads. Locals staff the restaurants, hotel and bars and are very friendly too. Breakfast and dinner are huge buffets, with dozens of different dishes to choose from. There is lots of fish and along with a changing daily theme – Italian one night, Greek cuisine another – staples abound including chicken in various ways, pizza, chips, pasta and desserts of cakes, mousse, ice cream and so on. Melon on the terrace becomes a morning treat. As with all large scale buffets, we sometimes find it hard to pin down the children as they always seem to be shooting off to try something else, but with a bottle of red or cold beer (alcoholic drinks are extra) we are able to unwind and reflect on our day.
Evenings are pretty low key, but we join in the quiz night (compiled and run with great charm by the head tennis coach Rafa) which is good fun; the questions are perfectly judged to allow all generations the chance to answer something.
There are day trips to be booked, but for us this is an inward looking week. One where we feel fitter than when we booked in, refreshed by the sun and energised by the combination of exercise and indolence. I’ve even bought a road bike so I can carry on where I left off. n
Levante Beach Resort, Rhodes is open from 6 May to 28 October. A week from 6 May costs £619 per adult, £559 per child, based on two sharing, including flights from Manchester or Heathrow, transfers, half board accommodation, childcare for 2 to 17-year-olds (4 months to two years chargeable), sailing and windsurfing with tuition, tennis, fitness classes and guided bike tours. A week from 15 July costs £1,499 per adult and £1,329 per child.
Jet2 flies to Rhodes from Glasgow and Edinburgh and Mark Warner can arrange the booking of these flights, prices dependent on season. Tel: 0333 305 9795, www.markwarner.co.uk