A decade after a first family holiday in Greece, Martin Love heads to Paxos and finds it wonderfully unchanged
The five of us stretched out on yoga mats with our toes pointing towards the sea. Above us the breeze stirred the leaves of the ancient olive trees. Emai ed, intoned Sophie. In Greek that means, I am here. She continued in her gentle voice. I am here in Paxos. I have arrived. I have moored on this rock surrounded by sea
Sophie was training to be a mindfulness teacher. When we lay down Id have bet my favourite Speedos that wed soon be in fits of laughter, but not one of us so much as sniggered. We lay in still, neat rows, like sardines, as her soothing words washed over us. After a while, Sophie brought us up from the depths. I hope you are now at one with this island, she said. Wed been on Paxos for less than half a day yet I had the giddy sensation I might just chuck it all in and stay here forever.
Thats what happened to Sophie. She has now been here for 30 years, moored in Paxos. Back then, she said, there was only one road and just three cars. There dont seem to be many more than that now. Aside from being a mindfulness teacher she is also the owner of Villa Zoe, the house we were staying in. It sits on a cliff overlooking the sea and was built by a captain more than 200 years ago. Today its all wooden shutters, high ceilings and shady terraces, with plenty of quirky features, like an outdoor kitchen and an open-air shower. Its greatest asset, however, is the astounding view an immense sweep of sea and sky. I must have spent half our week gazing towards the glittering horizon.
Greece holds a special place in the list of our favourite family holidays. More than 10 years ago we went there on our first proper trip. We rented a house in Lefkada with a cool pool and drove around in a knackered old car. The kids were 12, 10 and five. Every night we dined in a different taverna. With burnt shoulders and washed hair, wed sit at pretty tables, ordering grown-up food and then, when the children didnt like it, feed it to the stray cats. And here we were again a decade later, with the kids on the cusp of adulthood and almost off our hands. Wed bookended their childhood with holidays in Greece. Would this be the last time it would be just the five of us? Their boyfriends and girlfriends are waiting in the wings.