Exactly 40 years ago, I visited Greece for the first time.
Exactly 40 years ago, I visited Greece for the first time. The military junta had fallen only days earlier. Democracy had come home - and I fell in love with a people I had previously known only from reading Homer. Or at least as much of it as my A-level Greek could decipher.
Since then, I have visited Greece and its islands - and its ancient outposts in Italy and Turkey - almost every year.
From Athens to Zacynthus, experiencing Greece is the alpha-omega of holiday enjoyment: Crete and Cephalonia are particular favourites, not forgetting Ithaca, home to Odysseus. So are Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, Delos, Samos, Lesbos, Hydra, Aegina, Sciathos, Skopelos, Alonyssos, Lemnos, Naxos, Paros, and Kos.
And, of course, the Peloponnese (Mycenae, Corinth, Pylos, Olympia, Nafplion, Epidaurus) and Delphi...
You get the picture. I love Greece.
So why had I never visited Halkidiki? There are several reasons, perhaps the most relevant is its lack of ancient sites (although Olynthus, in a fertile plain at the head of the Gulf of Torone, is a wonder).
Another is the fact that it is quite far north, especially if you choose to visit near the beginning or end of the season. Which my wife, Sue, and I frequently do.
When the chance of two weeks away presented itself - to work on content for today's Brighton and Hove Independent education magazine - we jumped at it.
Around the swimming pool at the Bella Grecia, a compact and friendly, family-run hotel of 22 rooms, there was talk of the late deals everyone had got: in our case, it was £1,060 for two weeks self-catering for two people, including transfers and baggage, with Thomson. A perfect destination matched the fantastic value-for-money deal.
Having resisted the temptation to check it out on TripAdvisor, Bella Grecia - and its owner, Panos - were a joy: clean and spacious rooms, a fine pool, and a modest bar. And free wifi. Heaven!
The nearest resort was Hanioti, one of the most family-friendly resorts on Kassandra, the western-most peninsula of the three that comprise Halkidiki.
As usual, a hire car - for about £23 a day - was an affordable advantage, enabling us to visit all the main resorts on Kassandra (Afitos and Nea Scione were particularly attractive) and even manage a day-trip to Thessaloniki, to spend a marvellous three hours at the archaeological museum - which, by the way, has the best ouzo and bites at its Terra Antiqua café.
One final point for fans of kleftiko and stifado, and all things fish. Make sure you visit Ouzeri Tsapari in Pefkohori, the best restaurant on Kassandra – with 34 “excellent” reviews out of 38 on TripAdvisor. One of the most glowing is by “GregOdysseus”.