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Skyros Blog

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Last year I wrote a blog describing my experiences on a Skyros holiday at Atsitsa. As a male engineer I was initially uneasy about the holiday being biased towards the ‘touchy feely’ arts. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the refreshing change and positivity of the whole experience. Dare I say, it even changed me as a person. In 2017 I ventured back with trepidation, as holiday return experiences are seldom as good as original discoveries, because surprises are fewer and the format can feel stale. This blog is my update to the Atsitsa experience through the eyes of a return traveller.

This time around I broke my outward trip with a stay at the Dorian Inn in Athens. The hotel was basic but clean and, in the evening, the rooftop bar afforded a fabulous view of the floodlit Acropolis and Parthenon: great for setting the scene of a Greek experience. The following day we travelled to the airport, taking in the majestic sites of the temple of Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium that hosted the first modern in Olympics in 1896. The short flight to Skyros offered the world’s fastest drinks service and the stunning views of the island that we would soon explore.

At Atsitsa we were given welcome drinks, an initial introduction by Michael Eales, the manager and host, and feasted on the culinary Greek delights that give the local people one of the best life expectancies in the world. The rest of the day was spent relaxing after we had settled into our cabins. As a washed up triathlete, I could not resist a swim in the crystal clear waters from the hotel to a local cove and a jog through the pine-scented woods.

The following morning we had the customary ice-breaking introduction in the Magic Circle. Perhaps a little ‘out there’ in places for an engineer, but a great way to make introductions to the other guests and a way to learn about the available courses. The courses offered were: Indian head massage/reflexology by Johanna Simonetti, singing/voice training and karate by Luke Meredith, writing a novel by Claire McGowan, yoga by Kenneth Ryan, mindfulness by Michael Eales, art from the heart by Stoney Parsons, and windsurfing by Mark Gunston. I opted for improver windsurfing and novel writing, with a 'dip in' experience of yoga.

The novel writing course presented by Claire consisted of four two hour sessions in a small personal group, with each session providing theory and hands on experience of applying the techniques learnt. I found that the most valuable aspect of the course was perhaps the item not on the agenda: to hear first-hand the elements needed to succeed as an author from someone who has already made it. This instils a belief that it is possible to succeed and that the pursuit may not only be for personal satisfaction, but could perhaps even blossom into a whole new career. This personal engagement is missing when learning the art from a book and is, in itself, a great reason for coming to Atsitsa to attend the course. I completed the course with an entire sci-fi thriller planned out and even have dreams of film adaptation. You may laugh at this, and indeed fellow guests probably thought I was lost in the moment, but I have strong convictions to see this through. Watch this space for 'Revelations' at a bookseller or cinema near you!

The improver windsurfing course with Mark Gunston was a great way to develop my basic skills learnt last year at Atsitsa (the basic learner course was also available). The sheltered Atsitsa bay is a safe environment to learn to windsurf in the very capable hands of someone who is committed to teaching correct technique from the outset. Mark takes the course and associated safety very seriously, but also manages to make the lessons fun and enjoyable with his dry sense of humour. I learnt all of the basic skills, including a good working knowledge of the equipment, understanding of wind dynamics, self-recovery for safety and, by the end of the week, I was doing basic jibe turns. Living on the Isle of Wight, I am now looking forward to taking windsurfing up as a regular hobby.

Importantly, Atsitsa is not just about courses. In fact some people elect to simply enjoy the beautiful environment and perhaps dip in and out of courses where appropriate, without any pressure or expectation. The beauty of an Atsitsa holiday is that it can be fine tuned to however busy you want to be.

In the evenings, optional events are run, such as Mark's legendary pub quiz and the disco evening, which are both great for cementing new friendships. On another evening there was a night walk to a local chapel overlooking the sea, with the reading of poetry and the singing of songs. It was a beautiful and tender experience, heightened by a shooting star that I saw arcing over the chapel, splendidly backlit by our Milky Way that is very evident in Skyros due to the low light pollution. We walked back via a local cove and went for a night swim, with hopes of seeing bioluminescence: the eerie light emitted by microorganisms in the water and made famous by the gorgeous imagery in the film Life of Pi. We were not disappointed. From above the water you could see the blue white flashes and from underwater, wearing lightly tinted blue goggles, there was a veritable firework display of orange sparks trailing off my hands and a storm of fireflies in front of my face. Simply majestic.

Towards the end of the week I went on an organised boat trip. We were collected by coach, travelling via Skyros town to the port of Linaria. Skyros town is quintessentially Greek and on approach the white Cycladic style cube houses appear like confetti decorating the slopes of a high rocky bluff topped by a 13th-century Venetian fortress. On departing Linaria we had stunning views of the coastline and a drink service was available on-board. After about an hour of chilling out and seafood canapés, we arrived at a location with towering cliffs only negotiable by the agile mountain goats and undercut at sea level by emerald caves. The cliffs are perfect habitat for peregrine falcons and dozens could be seen swooping around the cliffs, with their characteristic pointed wings that they sometimes retract to achieve high-speed dives. The sight of the sea, caves and cliffs, resplendent with the falcons, was worthy of a David Attenborough production and is an enduring memory of the holiday. The trip was finished off with anchorage at a sandy bay, with spaghetti and freshly caught lobster served that were included in the cost. Great value and a wonderful day out.

The holiday ended with the cabaret evening and end of season party. The ad-hoc performances of singing, poetry and 'speed art' were inspirational: some acts demonstrated the incredible talent of the facilitators, such as Luke's cabaret performance, and others showed the courage and latent talent of the lovely guests.

When we boarded the coach back to the airport, I had time to reflect. Was the return Atsitsa holiday experience as good as the first time? Absolutely. In fact, it was probably even better.



Sat 14th Oct 2017 07:18 Margaret said…
Thank you. Your holiday blog captured every thing
I feel about Greece. What a wonderful time you had.
I wish you much success in your new career.
Sat 14th Oct 2017 07:18 Skyros Holidays said…
Hi Margaret,

Thank you for your lovely comments and well wishes. I will be sure to pass them to Steve for you, I know that he will love them too. All the best, The Skyros Team xx

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