I first went to Poros in August of 1993. After over 10 years of travelling around Greece, both on my own and with my first husband Steve, I opened a travel brochure and saw a picture of a gorgeous cerise sunset filling the sky above calm seas, and a number of boats, bobbing gently in calm bays. The edges of the sunset were tinged with orange and yellow. One look and I fell in love. I had not heard of Poros before. I knew of the Saronic Gulf having planned a holiday to Spetses with a friend when I was 17. We planned to stay in a big hotel with lots of night life, our first proper holiday abroad, cheap and cheerful. But she decided to get married, and we cancelled, losing our deposit.
Later that year in October, just after turning 18, I booked with a “singles” holiday company to visit an island called Thassos. Described as “the jewel of the Aegean” I was unprepared for the journey. Landing at Thessaloniki airport in the early hours, watched over by machine-gun toting guards, something that was not common back in 1976. We embarked on a 5-hour coach journey and along the way we watched Greek troops drilling and marching. It was kind of scary.
Sometime around dawn, we stopped for breakfast in the Greek equivalent of a motorway service station. On enquiring where the toilets were, we were directed down to a hut at the bottom of the car park where we discovered a fly-laden foul-smelling hole in the ground with 2 pieces of wood to stand on. As a complete novice traveler I was filled with horror and my bladder seized, refusing to let go, and I remained convinced that I was going to be unable to go to the toilet for 2 weeks – this actually was the start of a very strange relationship with my bladder when travelling…but that’s another story!
Back on the coach, feeling despairing, we travelled for another few hours until we came to the small port of Kavalla, where we embarked onto a small Greek ferry that stank of diesel and chugged along through a calm sunlit sea to my chosen island.
Thassos was gorgeous. Un-spoilt. Green, and welcoming. We were housed in “village rooms” and of course they were clean, comfortable and they had working loos! A basket for the loo paper of course, but flushing and clean! That is where my 40-year long love affair with Greece and the Greek people began.
I have often wondered if I had had that holiday in the big hotel in Spetse, would I have fallen in love with Greece in such a spectacular fashion? Spending time on that little island, getting to know the family that cared for me, even after I got so drunk on ouzo and lemonade that I lost a day, taught me so much about the Greek way of life and love of life. And there was a Greek boy, of course! His name was Christos and he was beautiful too! I was hooked.
Over the next 15 years I visited Greece most years. Often on my own – never quite brave enough to backpack, and sometimes with a friend, I visited many islands. Corfu, Kalymnos, Skiathos, Kos, Zante, Mykonos, Kefalonia…and some whose names I have forgotten.
When I met my first husband, I discovered that he too was a lover of Greece. And we continued our journey, Lefkas, Andros, and then finally Poros. Poros is where we stopped.
So what is it about Poros that has kept me going back time after time for some 24 years? Why do we keep coming back to the same place? It does not have the best sandy beaches and it is one hell of a journey to get there.
There is something about this little island that draws you in and embraces your heart, surrounding you with love and care, soothing your soul, breathing new life into you, however heavy your heart. I have spent time in Poros during the happiest times of my life, and some of the worst times of my life. And Poros has always made me feel content and at peace with myself. It works some kind of magic on the people that visit. And the beating heart of the island is the people.
Over the years I have made many friends on the island, and every time we visit they are so happy to see us. I am still friends with two people who I met on my very first night on the island.
In 1994 we went back for the second time. We stayed in a house we found to rent. I was 5 months pregnant, it was early May and we experienced Easter in Greece. It was an amazing experience. Spiritual, fun and full of passion.
In 1995 we took my 9-month old daughter to Poros for the first time. I even gave her a Greek name. Zoe means “life” in Greek. By the time we returned home she was walking. The following year she learned to swim in the pool of a little hotel close to the house we rented. Over the years the family that run that hotel have become our Greek family. The Saga hotel has become home and refuge over the years and every time I step out of the taxi and into the embrace of Zefi and Takis I know I am home. Zefi is an amazing cook, and Takis a generous host. Their children, Dimitra, Yiota and George are gracious and I love them.
There are many stories I could share from my visits over the years. I have many Greek friends who welcome us back with love every year. They have watched Zoe grow, and I have watched their children do the same. Some of those children have children of their own now!
Over the years there have been many changes on the island. When we first went there, there were over 1000 tourist beds on the island. Many big holiday firms included Poros in their brochure. Now there are none. With the economic problems over the last few years the island has struggled. But it has never lost its magic.
This year was no exception. We had the most wonderful break. Any holiday is good for you. We all need time spent with loved ones, time to sleep, rest and revive. We need to eat good food, bask in sunshine and forget about our stress. But Poros does more than that for me. Every time I go I am able to clear my head, rediscover my passion for life, love and laughter. Conversations with friends, old and new remind me of how lucky I am, and I have the head space to really think about what I want and need.
Some years this is needed more than others. It was this year. I have come back with a clear plan, a belief that anything is possible and buckets of determination. And even better than that, for the first time I have come away from the island, sobbing as usual, but with my next flight booked! We are going back to Poros in just six months for Easter. If ever I need motivation to sort out what I need to sort out, that is it! My next visit to Poros.
If this blog has encouraged you to visit this wonderful island, do get in touch. I know a great hotel!