Stylist’s associate editor (features) Anna Fielding finds her quiet place in a boutique hotel in Greece
It’s quiet here, in the trees. There’s the sea gently hitting the beach again and again. Rustling from an unseen bird in the pines. A low drone from the cicadas. This is peace and sanctuary and I haven’t gone any further than my hotel balcony.
Kefalonia is one of the quieter Greek islands and my hotel, F Zeen Retreat, is designed to emphasise that sense of tranquillity. It looks like a boutique hotel: when your head breaks the surface of the pool, you see tasteful canvas sun loungers, clouds of pink bougainvillea and, upon turning around, a perfect view of Lourdas beach. The rooms are decorated in minimal neutrals. But it is a boutique hotel that has been carefully stretched out through 20 acres of trees and gardens. All the expected components are there, but placed in clearings, surrounded by flowers, butterflies and winding paths. At the top of the grounds, my room would not suit anyone with mobility issues, but if you don’t mind steps – and wow, there are steps – the climb is rewarded with a fairytale sense of having found a bed in the middle of the woods.
The nature theme continues when I leave the retreat. I buy honey in most places I visit, from Cornwall to Morocco, but in Kefalonia, I begin to really appreciate bees. Half an hour’s drive from the hotel, the DIAS apiary (beekeeping.gr/dias) produces the first fully organic honey in Greece. I am given a full beekeeping suit, but owner Thanassis doesn’t bother as he strolls among the hives. The bees fall fatly through the air, which smells of smoke and thyme. Lunch is fresh white cheese and honey pastries, on a vine-shaded patio. Thanassis and his wife are only about 10 years older than me, but I wish they would adopt me so that I could stay in this quietly buzzing place.
Kefalonia is the sixth biggest of the Greek islands, but the population is still quite low after an earthquake in 1953. Hundreds of people died and many thousands more left after losing everything. Their children and grandchildren still come back to visit, but they call Athens home, or Detroit or Melbourne. “There aren’t many of us who are native to Kefalonia any more,” says our driver, as he guns a jeep up a steep, rocky road. From here, the harbours look like Fisher Price sets and the neighbouring island of Ithaca seems close enough to walk to. We’re heading to one of Kefalonia’s highest points for the sunset but arrive just as a cloud descends, blocking everything with white fog. We can’t even see the rest of the mountain top: a strange clanking, sounding like an avant-garde orchestra, turns out to be a herd of goats wearing bells. I sit on a rock with a glass of white wine and think that I’ve seen many sunsets, but I’ve never drunk wine in a cloud before.
It’s been months since I returned from Kefalonia, but it’s still the place I think of when I want to feel calm. I think of the beehives in the sun and the goat bellsin the mist. The clear sea and the green mountains. And my mind is still.
Rooms at F Zeen Retreat in Kefalonia start from £183 per night on a B&B basis; suites from £438 per night on a B&B basis; to book, visit fzeenretreat.com
Images: Provided by F Zeen Retreat