I ARRIVED at the airport in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on a Thursday afternoon and was greeted by a taxi driver holding a sign reading ‘Ryan William Merrifield’ in capital letters.

He handed me a bottle of water and wheeled my suitcase to his car in the dry scorching sun. It was around an hour to my hotel in Kassandra and I dozed while my phone charged via his cigarette lighter.

I’d come from Birmingham International via a stopover in Frankfurt Airport and was completely shattered having had about three hours sleep since the day before.

Part way into the taxi journey, an alarm went off on my phone and I took some paracetamol. A wisdom tooth was coming through crooked and part of the gum had become infected.

If I didn’t take painkillers every few hours, the pain was unbearable.

So began my four-day press trip to the Kassandra peninsula, which would involve crawling deep into an underground hideout, gate crashing two weddings and giving a speech at sea on a pirate ship.

Staying at The Sea Level Hotel with me was another British journalist: Kerstin, a travel and food blogger from London, while the others, who we’d meet that evening, came from across Europe.

There was fruit and very sweet cake on a plate in my hotel room. We would be collected around 8pm that evening for a tour of the village of Athitos and then dinner.

I had time to sleep and then shower and head down to the bar for a beer before one of our guides, Maria, arrived, introduced me to Kerstin and then whisked us away in her car.

There is a square in Athitos, with bars and restaurants open to the street, which looks like something straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. The village consists of stone houses overlooking the sea high up from a cliff edge. It was very dark when we arrived, but the arty vibe was clear.

I photographed some painted feta cheese tins used as flower pots which sit on some of the walls.

Dinner is more of an event in Greece than in Britain. You eat very late into the night, with three courses spread over a couple of hours, and then you continue to drink wine and some smoke after-dinner cigars. Or at least that was my experience on this trip.

We were introduced to the other journalists at the Tuna Fish Concept Restaurant, many of them veteran press trippers: everyone on the trip was a blogger except for me.

Two Italians, two Turks and two Swedes. One of the Turks, Tanyel, had brought his nine-year-old son along as he did on all his trips.

He had driven to Greece, with the boy in control of the radio.

“He is good company and a good DJ,” he said.

There was also our main guide, who was again called Maria (there were three in total including one of the Swedish women).

She was from the Greek Tourist Board and the deputy mayor, who sang karaoke into our minibus announcement speaker as we drove home one night.

Blonde-haired and green-eyed, with a liking for sportswear, she said she once swam the 26km between Kassandra and a neighbouring peninsula, Sithonia, in eight hours, on a heavy Campari hangover.

On the second day we were collected by minibus at 10am after a hotel buffet breakfast, driving up and down the peninsula collecting the whole party. The coffee is very thick and dark, leaving a distinct trail on a white mug, and drank without milk. Mugs like that cropped up everywhere on the trip.

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Amongst the fishing boats in Nea Fokea is St Paul’s Byzantine Tower, surrounded by scaffolding, and not far from there is the underground cave, containing a Holy Water spring, where the man himself hid for several days.

There is more than one story about how Paul the Apostle ended up seeking refuge in the cave, all seem to start with him attempting to preach Christianity only to be chased away.

You can crawl into the passage, which is 20 metres long and 80cm wide, with a ceiling which gets progressively lower down, before you reach the small opening containing the Holy Water cistern.

This is supposedly where Paul hid and baptised new Christians, and is now a shrine to him.

Several of us ventured right into the opening.

Later that day we visited the 800 BC ruins of the Temple of Ammon Zeus, an ancient Greek hybrid God worshipped by Alexander the Great, in Kalithea, and then the Tzikas Family Winery, which has been in existence for 30 years.

It’s tucked away down a side road, several minutes walk from Kassandra bus station.

A big sign like for a petrol station greets you and a dog wags its tail from a little balcony above the door of the main office.

Inside we were greeted warmly by the owners and tasted some unique wines, which are made organically and without the use of machinery and nitrates. The orange wine tasted best.

We lunched late in the afternoon at the Kavouras Sea View Restaurant.

Dishes were spread across the table, including fried strips of zucchini with tzakiki yoghurt dip, dolmades flecked with dill, and butterflied sea bream. All with more wine and water, then feeling full and lethargic we were deposited back at our hotels.

That evening a long minibus ride brought us to Palini where we were in amongst a wedding reception and ate to the sounds of loud music as we fought to stay awake after a long day and learned to lip read.

The main highlight was a Greek-style apple crumble with ice cream.

As I found out the next morning, sulphur water is good for your skin but does leave it smelling of rotten eggs for days after. We took the plunge on our third day at spa Agia Paraskevi, where apparently if you book in advance you can have a honey and olive oil massage. Sounds delicious.

Later that day we swam in the sea and then ate at the Navagos Beach Bar and left as the tide quickly began to eat away at our leg room on the deck chairs.

The traditional Greek food was always delicious but it was nice to have a chicken club sandwich, chips and a beer while drying off in the sun and listening to various podcasts.

We’d arrived at the beach bar to see signs welcoming us to the wedding of Kristeen and Oli, and I began to suspect something of a pattern.

In the evening we were taken for a tour of the Sani resort, which costs a minimum of 300 euros a night, where we had a cocktail and watched the sunset, before heading to the Nea Fokaia Marina for dinner. Before we tucked into our pizza and beer, a man who appeared to be over seven foot tall, walked by and Amadeo said he was an NBA basketball player.

I showed some true British grit in my shorts and T-shirt that evening while the others had trousers and jackets and even asked for wool blankets to keep them warm in what appeared to be a mild Mediterranean night.

On our last proper day we found ourselves on board a pirate galleon sailing down the Toroneo Gulf and being offered as much beer and coffee as we wanted.

I lathered myself in sun cream and sat with Kerstin. There was music and dancing and some people got sea sick. One lady lay sprawled out on the bench opposite where we were sat with the back of her hand over her brow for much of the voyage.

At one point, mid-sail just as I finished a can of Amstel, I was gathered and hauled to the front of the ship to find the music had stopped and everyone waiting.

Was I going to be forced to walk the plank? No, instead a microphone was thrust into my hand and I was asked to talk about my experiences during the trip. Giving answers akin to a small shell-shocked child told to give an impromptu speech while collecting an award during a school assembly, I was quickly ushered off the stage and sent back to the rear of the boat with the seasick lady.

We went for lunch after docking up, in which I tried and quickly found I disliked octopus tentacle, and said our goodbyes before being taken back to our hotels earlier than normal.

The next day, all packed up, a taxi arrived, already containing Swedish Maria, and we were taken to the airport. It was a lengthy trip back, which included a stopover in Munich Airport where I looked over my photos and began to write up my trip.

As I said during my speech at sea, Kassandra is now my favourite place in Greece. Erm, thank you for having me.