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. “Eímai edó,” 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 I’d have bet my favourite Speedos that we’d 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. We’d 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.
That’s 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 don’t 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 it’s 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…