I want to roll this moment into a ball, savour it and let the flavour sit on my tongue throughout the day.
This thought was ambling along my head as we drove along the winding roads of Skopelos, Greece. It was my first time visiting this country and I felt incredibly lucky to be able to spend two-weeks in such a beautiful place.
Just before we went I’d been told I was successful in getting a job. I would be starting the Monday I got back. I left England with my mind reeling from the complete life change that had happened in a matter of days. I made a promise to myself at the start of the trip: enjoy the holiday and don’t freak out too much.
I needn’t have worried.
I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing place to stay and contemplate the next part of my life. I looked back through my notebook and there were times where all I could write was: “I am so content. It’s just beautiful here.”
We stayed at Hotel Dionyss. The staff were lovely, the breakfast (including cakes, pastries, Greek yoghurt and honey) amazing. The rooms leant towards the basic side, but we didn’t spend much time in there other than to sleep or get ready to leave for the day/ evening. And the Hotel Dionyss, the tour guide proudly stated, had the largest pool on the entire island.
I was in Skopelos with a friend, and her family, including her little sister. Having a 9-year-old with us we went to the pool a lot. The first day we spent at the poolside, time melted away. I got out my book, ordered a frappé and the next thing I knew it was five o’clock. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in waking hours in so long. Uni stress, travelling stress, what-to-do-with-my-life stress, drifted away in to the ripples of the pool. The only thing I had to worry about was the heat, and that was easily solved by dipping into the water to cool down.
I personally am a big believer in once you’re in a place, you should make the most of seeing it. If you spend an entire holiday at the pool, you could be anywhere. As much as I appreciated the much-needed relaxation at the pool, I loved the days we went to the beach. Over the two-weeks we went to Agnobtas (x2) Milia, Panormos, and Kastani.
At each beach, I felt like I was 6-years-old in Centre Parcs, craving to get into the water as soon as I saw it. (I wrote about swimming in the sea here.) Agnontas was a personal favourite as the beach was small – making it far less busy – the sea was in an alcove and it felt safe to swim out further. At each beach the water was an idyllic, clear, blue.
Kastani was the beach where parts of Mamma Mia were filmed, and a result was by far the busiest. Rather than the laid-back atmosphere of the other beaches, there was a hustle and bustle that increased as the day went on. It was only once I had my usual swim, away from the thrumming music and constant chatter of the ever-growing crowd, that I felt at peace with the place.
Skopelos is known as the island of Mamma Mia, and a top tourist spot is the church where Meryl Streep climbs. We went there, and it was absolutely beautiful.
Fun fact – the church where the wedding takes place, is not actually this church. That’s in a studio. The inside of this church is tiny.
We’d misjudged how long we would take to climb the stairs (surprisingly, not long at all) and knowing we had to wait for a taxi, we stayed up there for an hour or so. During this time, we saw a flock of tourists come, take their pictures, fan themselves, and go. It was better once it was peaceful, and you can take in the magnificent scenery without getting in the way of a photo shoot.
But by far, and we’re all agreement, the best day was the boat trip.
We had walked along the peer with boats gently at the side, picked up leaflets, asked about prices, and eventually settled on a traditional looking boat, offering a day trip from 10am-6pm for 25 Euros each (10 Euros for children)
It was just glorious.
We set off, the sky blue, a deliciously, cool, ocean breeze, and saw what the island and the area had to offer.
We stopped off a gorgeous beach. I swum in the sea for at least an hour, and felt like I was living in a postcard. It turns out this beach also had a pool, perfect for my friend’s little sister. We boarded back on the boat, and then it was announced we got to jump into the sea.
This was my favourite moment of the holiday. Bob Marley “Don’t Worry Be Happy” was playing, and all of four of were in the sea. I cannot do justice for how perfect and how stunning the water or the scenery was. It was like a dream. I had jumped off the side of the boat, plunging into the water, telling myself to remember this moment. Remember this floating feeling of happiness.
After our swim in the sea, the constantly smiling staff brought around sticks with bread, cheese, salami and tomato on with free glasses of wine. There was another quick swim in the sea before we went to an island to look around. To no-one’s surprise, it was beautiful there, too. We simply had a wander, and a drink.
As we were boarding back on the boat, my friend’s little sister’s hat fell off. A young Greek man who worked on the boat took off his top, and dived in to try and get it. The whole side of the boat was peering over, wondering what on earth was going on. He didn’t get the hat as it had sunk right to the bottom, but it was so incredibly sweet of him to try. My friend and I grinned at each other, “You definitely wouldn’t get that in England!”
There was one more quick swim in the sea before going back to shore. Myself, my friend’s mum and one another person were the only people to get in. I wasn’t going to at first but looking into the deep, navy water, I questioned as to when I would have an opportunity to swim in such a deep part of the ocean again. I plunged in, and within a minute or so, the bell sounded for us to get back in. I felt foolish, but glad I had taken the moment of leaping into what felt like blue infinity.
And as for our evenings? Each day we got back to the hotel – be in a short walk from the pool, walking from the bus stop, or getting dropped off in a taxi, and headed up to our rooms to freshen up. Music (usually Bonobo) a shower, a beer or two, a change of clothes and make-up, and we were ready. We strolled around the streets, and picked a place to eat.
Olivo’s was a particularly lovely place. It suggested to us on our first day, and it was minutes away from our hotel. It was Mediterranean style, and had such laid-back, friendly staff, serving delicious food. Fairy lights glowed as the black inked over the blue. The house wine at 2 Euros 50, had a floral taste, and added to the easy-going, elegant atmosphere of the place.
There are some places in England where you feel like you’re bothering the staff as soon as you walk in, whereas in all the places in Greece, the waiters and owners look delighted that you’re eating with them. Most proudly announced their specials, and you’re brought out bread and water within minutes of arriving. The staff have easy smiles from the staff as they brought out our food, and it was just so pleasant. Each night we ooh’d and ahh’d during our dining experience.
Except for one restaurant in the square near the hotel. It was an open-aired place. No covering whatsoever, and, of course, on this particular night, it rained. It took a ridiculous amount of time for the waiters to bring out mediocre food. When we eventually got it, we wolfed it down, and power-walked back to the hotel, as the sky turned purple and forks of lightning lit up the cobbled streets.
Though most evenings, we enjoyed our wanders around. It is not just the beaches that make Skopelos such a beautiful place. It is the streets, and the people. It’s peaceful atmosphere ambles throughout the day, and you feel as if no-one is in a rush (except perhaps waiters trying to serve food in a storm) There is a smell of jasmine, the Greek language rolling along the narrow streets, and the near-constant blue sky makes it nearly impossible to feel stressed.
X marks the spot
7003 Skópelos, Magnisia, Greece
“Shall we go for cocktails tonight?”
This harmless question was asked on the third evening of our fortnight in Greece and it quickly became a mantra of the trip. We slipped into the routine of wandering along the peer, in search of a bar to drink a beverage, and make the most of the free snacks on offer.
We tried many places, including a gorgeous place that looked out over Skoplos. But Pablo’s was our favourite. The music was spot on, the snacks were brought out with every drink, and the staff could not be happier to have you there. The drinks themselves were also wonderful. By far the nicest Long Island Iced Tea I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly as it’s one of my favourite cocktails.
We were guided up to the top part of the bar, which overlooked the peer. We watched the full moon rise, and glide across the sky. Most nights we had this view to ourselves for at least an hour or so. I savoured it, as I sipped on my cocktail.
We told Pablo it was our last night, and as a parting gift, he leant over to a basil plant outside the doorway of the bar, and gave us all a sprig.
“See you next year!” he said. I rubbed the leaf between my fingers, releasing its scent, finding myself once again trying to commit to memory the sense of paradise.