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Skyros 2005

Words and pictures from the Yogalistic holiday in Skyros, June 2005

Diary Entries

Monday, 11 July 2005

Location: Dublin

Was the wonderful Skyros experience all a dream? As I get back to the daily grind, it's easy, sometimes, to think so...but I'm determined not to forget it.

Yesterday, my article on the holiday was published in the Sunday Tribune - one of my last articles as staff writer. I handed in my notice shortly after coming back from Skyros and am going freelance. Quite excited about having more time to do yoga, live life a bit more holistically, and be my own boss!


Unfortunately the Trib doesn't have a website so I've just reprinted the article for you here...
------------------------------ ---------------------------------- -------------------------------

THIS IS ARCADIA

Sunday Tribune, 10th July 2005

People come to the gorgeous Greek isle of Skyros
at a crossroads in their lives, seeking an
holistic, meditative experience through a range
of activities. Roberta Gray is still pinching
herself, asking if it was for real

Confetti of musk-pink bougainvillea fallen to the
ground. The yelling of goats in the morning, like
children on their playground break. A sudden waft
of thyme, as the taverna owner bends over bundles
of green, her hands rubbing the fragrance of the
dried leaves from their stalks. The stillness of
a gecko on the wall.
Was it, I wondered as I jotted down words in my
notebook on a recent holiday in Greece, the
beauty of the landscape that was getting my
creative juices flowing? Or the fact that I was
in the middle of a writing course? Or simply that
I was about as relaxed as it's possible to be
without being completely catatonic? Probably, in
the end, some holistic combination of all three.
But hold on: let's rewind for a second, and
consider what, exactly, I was doing on a Greek
island being holistic - meditating in my bikini
upon the beauty of ocean pebbles, Om-ing my way
into each morning and retsina-ing my way into
each night. It's not exactly, after all, your
average week in the sun.
The odyssey started last winter, when I booked
myself in for a week doing yoga on at the Atsitsa
Centre on Skyros Island in June, and promptly
forgot about all the important details except
that it would be sunny. Nine months later, I sat
perched on my bed among piles of clothes and my
empty backpack, getting slightly alarmed as I
read the fine print on what to bring. Sleeping in
bamboo huts? Bring your own torch? Earplugs in
case of snoring hut-mates - was it too late to
pay the single person's supplement?
And then there were the vaguely unsettling names
of some of the courses - not on offer the week I
was there, but a sign, surely, of the type of
thing I was letting myself in for. Freeing the
Soul. Get the Life You Want. Let Your Own Light
Shine. I turned, for reassurance, to some of the
recommendations by former participants. Mariella
Frostrup loved it - good. Clare Boylan raved
about her time teaching creative writing in
Skyros' Thailand centre - even better. And Sue
Townsend so fell in love with it - "This is
Arcadia, I want to live like this forever" - that
she sent Adrian Mole to participate in a writers'
course there in Adrian Mole: The Wilderness
Years. Sold.
Skyros holistic holidays have been going for 26
years now, one of the first companies to
specialise in the "go somewhere sunny and find
yourself" holidays that are currently gaining in
popularity - although the words 'company' and
'specialise' sit oddly with Skyros, which feels
more like a beautiful, organically growing being.
It started out with a centre in the village, grew
to include a new venue, Atsitsa (also on the
island but in the middle of nowhere) and now
includes winter holidays in Thailand, year-round
weekends on the Isle of Wight, and a Writers' Lab
that has featured such teachers as Hanif
Kureishi, Alison Lurie and Margaret Drabble.
The week I was there, since it was the quiet
season, the courses in Skyros village, Atsitsa
and the Writers' Lab had all been amalgamated,
leading to a mind-boggling array of activities to
choose from, from windsurfing to reiki, from
salsa dancing to Pilates, and every type of yoga
from the physical to the deeply spiritual. Which
led to the biggest challenge of the week:
deciding between them. At least we could pick up
to three: and so enthusiastic was I that I was
out of my bed at an unprecedented seven o'clock
every morning to avail of the first of the day -
in my case, yoga. Stretching and breathing in the
Magic Circle, inhaling the morning air before
heading down to breakfast was indeed a magical
way to start the day.
The other two courses I chose were equally
inspiring - although I was sorry to have to pass
up on salsa dancing since it clashed with one of
them. But how could I possibly turn down a course
entitled The Yoga of Writing With Wonder?
Chatting with the American teacher, Jeff, on the
ferry on the way over, I was intrigued by the
prospect: apparently it was less to do with
trying to hold a biro in your big toe, more to do
with moving and breathing to break down your
inhibitions and find your sense of wonder. And
boy, did it work. Another yoga course, which
focused on meditation and guided visualisations,
turned out to be something of a group
psychotherapy session. Intense stuff, at times,
but very insightful; the wise, grandmotherly
figure of the Danish course leader, Lisehanne,
and the circle of extraordinarily warm fellow
participants, put one straight at ease.
But the courses are only one part of the many
elements that make up the Skyros experience - for
an experience is definitely what it is. One
woman, apparently, comes back every year but
never participates in any of the courses, happy
just to soak up the tranquil atmosphere. It's
easy to see why: one could spend days lying on
the beach, walking around the island, and even
just exploring the nooks and crannies of the
Atsitsa centre itself, where every turn of the
windy pathways seems to lead to another little
drop of paradise, a shady, flowery spot to curl
up with a book, or a cat, or just your thoughts.
Crucial to the whole experience were my fellow
participants, some of the most open-minded, warm,
intelligent and interesting folks I've ever had
the fortune to be stranded for a week with on a
Greek island. From yoga teacher Jo, who played
the drums with a passion that got the whole group
infected, to John, who was always on the middle
of some fascinating-looking book on
psychotherapy, but always willing to put it down
for a chat, the group confounded my initial
concern that everyone there was going to be
middle-aged and going through a mid-life crisis.
Sure, a fair few of the people there were
technically middle-aged - whatever that means -
and a lot were at some kind of crossroads in
their life, whether relationship-wise,
career-wise or otherwise (crossroads which, it
seemed, became a lot more clear and navigable as
the week went on). But everyone here was an
individual. The majority came, like me, alone:
the best way to absorb all there is to take in -
and potentially to take advantage of the warm
summer evenings and starlit nights!
Skyros sees itself very much as a community, a
philosophy that is reflected in the structure of
the day and of the place: shared bamboo huts
accommodating two people unless you want to pay a
single supplement; long communal tables for
meals, and daily tasks, from the zen-like
sweeping to the gossipy vegetable prep (no prizes
for guessing what I went for there). Just fifteen
minutes long, chopping vegetables outside in the
sunshine seemed to be over before it even began,
and was a great way to feel part of a big family
- and an instrumental part in the delicious,
generous meals served each day.
Returning home after a week on Skyros was a
little like waking up from a dream: when friends
asked how it was, it was hard to think of
anything more specific to say than an expansive
'Wonderful.' I'm still trying hard not to let the
memories fade: luckily I have a notebook crammed
full of thoughts and observations, and my
photographs, to help out. Anyone could benefit
from - and thoroughly enjoy - a holiday like
this, which can be as challenging, as
life-changing, as meaningful as you make it. I
would have been heartbroken to leave had I not
know that I had made good friends that I would
keep in touch with - and that I would, without a
doubt, be back.

Getting There
The Skyros summer season continues through to the
end of September: see www.skyros.co.uk or phone
0044 20 72674424 for a brochure. Courses cost
from stg £485 per week, including accomodation,
food and courses, but not flights. You can fly to
Athens via Hungary on Malev (www.malev.hu), via
Italy on Alitalia (www.alitalia.com), or from
London on Olympic (www.olympicairlines.com) or
Easyjet (www.easyjet.com). You can also book
through Flair Travel in Dublin (01 6766110).
Transfers from Athens can be arranged with Skros
from £110, or can be done independently.


Saturday, 02 July 2005

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Hello!

It's about two weeks now since I got back from Skyros, from a holiday I'll never forget - the beautiful setting, the great people, the inspiring courses, the sunshine. Or at least I HOPE I'll never forget it - which is why I decided to set up this website - and because I'd love to keep in touch with the people I met there.

So, here it is. I'm going to try and put up some of my photographs and I'd love you to do the same. As far as I can work out, that'll mean you'll need to email them to me (mailroberta@gmail.com) and I'll stick 'em up. And send messages - I can't wait to hear from you!!

lots of love,
Roberta







Photos - Click Below

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Recent Messages

From lara
great article roberta hope to c u soon babe.
Response: Cheers! Thanks for being such a fun hutmate!
From Mags
Hello from Atsitsa !! Thanks so much for sending the article and the photos. Great to hear your news !! Good luck with the freelancing, delighted for you x
Good to hear from you! Hope life's lovely on the island. Give me a buzz next time you're in Dublin!
From lara
roberta when are you gonna put your article on here? are you still swearing alot like a good irish lass! lara
Response: Here you go darling! And I'll have you know, I'm very clean-mouthed for an Irish girl!
Hope you are really well
Love Roberta
From Janet
Great photos!
The lady is Kali and the place is Agias Fokas.
Response: Thanks Janet! What a beautiful place and what amazing lady.