Those of you who know me will realise that I write novels set in Greece. Having lived in Athens and Alexandroupolis in the 1980s, that's the period I'm most familiar with. I've been back on holiday to the islands since then but for the last few years life has just got in the way so a return trip hasn't been possible. Knowing how much I've needed and wanted to return, for research purposes of course, my hubby offered to take time off from his job to enable me to attend a writing retreat and get inspiration for my next book.
For months I pored over different websites unable to decide between a tutored retreat or more of a writing holiday. In the end, the latter won, mainly because of dates and cost. The typically Greek photos set against the backdrop of stunning blue sea on the website won me over and I couldn't wait to visit 'Limnisa' in the Peloponnese.
Owned by Anglo-Dutch couple, Mariel and Philip, they open their home for just a few weeks each year, in May and September. I must admit to a little trepidation as I set out on my adventure. Would the Greece I knew and loved years ago still exist or would it have changed forever? I also had a few concerns about travelling solo, despite having lived and worked abroad before. My biggest worry though was what if I couldn't write anything while I was there?
When Philip came to pick me up at the port of Methana, my worries started to disappear. It was hot, sunny and I was back in my beloved Greece. As he showed me around the villa and the grounds, I felt as if I were coming home.
The mornings at Limnisa are silent with a no talking rule until lunch at around 1pm. When I arrived the others were all deeply involved in their writing, dotted around the many terraces that Limnisa has to offer.
The ambiance immediately made me reach for my notebook to start plotting and any worries about having nothing to say flew out of the window at that point. By lunchtime I had a few plot points written down and the novel that had been at the back of my mind for some time started to take shape. It was as if someone had turned on a switch.
At lunch I got to meet the others and with a maximum of ten participants, there was a fair mix of nationalities and age range. With no fixed arrival or departure days, the only stipulation is that you stay a minimum of one week, there was a constant flux of people, all wonderful characters who unwittingly gave me inspiration.
The afternoons were free to do as you pleased; more writing, reading or a visit to the town to partake of the hot springs.
Mariel arranged an optional tour of the island and I'm so glad I went. With a visit to a deserted village, climbing a volcano, seeing donkeys and goats that reminded me of Greece thirty years ago, it was the highlight of my trip.
There was a literary evening on Wednesday where participants could share what they'd written of they wished. It was interesting to see what the others had been up to and I even managed to pluck up the courage to read out my opening chapter. For a small fee Mariel and Philip offer an hour's consultation if you want to discuss your work with either of them.
The week passed all too quickly. I happily settled into a routine of breakfast on my balcony followed by writing until lunch. A walk and reading in the afternoon, maybe a nap and then tea and the most delicious cakes at 4pm. The last night came all too quickly but I have wonderful memories of the fabulous fish taverna where we had a wonderful and yet inexpensive meal.
For sure, Greece has changed a lot as you might expect yet the old Greece is still there if you look hard enough. One thing that hasn't changed it the friendliness and hospitality I encountered everywhere I went. I'm now saving up for a return visit next year as I found the experience really rejuvenating and it rekindled my writing mojo.