|From the moment I walked into the lobby of the Saga Hotel in Poros I knew I was going to be treated well.
Not because I was there as a guest of Mike Constantinou the travel agent
owner of Greece Accommodations Direct, but because it was obvious that
Takis Alexopoulos is the kind of hotel owner who treats his customers as
guests and friends. The first thing he did is offer an introductory ouzo
in the traditional welcome of the monasteries of Greece and though I was
planning on taking it easy for my one night in Poros, I gave in to temptation
and the fear that to not accept might be perceived as an insult. Who was
it who said "I never trust a man who won't have a drink with me"? Maybe
Mike had told him that I was a connoisseur of the finest ouzos in Greece
and then to not drink would be an even worse insult since it is common
knowledge that I welcome any excuse to drink an ouzo or two, though generally
not before sunset (except on weekends of course). But the ouzo gave me
a warm feeling about the place and about Takis, and this feeling stayed
with me for the length of my stay at the Saga hotel.
|After introductions were made Takis took us up to show us our room, or rooms. We found he had given us a suite
of two rooms, one a bedroom and the other a living room with a couch that
folds out into a bed, a full kitchen and a balcony with a view of the harbor
of Poros and the old destroyer which now serves as a naval museum. Our
plan had been simple. After leaving Athens on Friday afternoon we were
going to spend one night in Poros with our friend Mike, and then go to
Hydra for a couple nights before picking up our rental car in Porto-Heli
and driving around the Peloponessos. But as soon as Andrea saw the room
she announced that she was not leaving it until Monday. We had Mike cancel
our reservations in Hydra and I called Swift Rent-a-car and arranged to have them
deliver the car by ferry to Poros instead of Porto-Heli.
When we called Mike a few days before,to book us a room in Poros our needs were simple. We wanted Air-conditioning
for the heat-wave or kafsona which was supposedly on it's way, (though
we did not feel it's full effects until we were in the southern Peloponessos).
We also required a swimming pool for our daughter Amarandi, who feels more
comfortable swimming in a chemical bath then she does in the healthy Aegean
sea for reasons known only to children. The Saga had both and with Andrea
happily napping in the air-conditioned suite and Amarandi joyfully swimming
with the English-speaking children of the other guests I was free to sit
at the bar with Mike and Takis to experience some of the other assets of
the hotel which were not listed in the brochure. First Takis poured each of us a glass
of cold white wine which was excellent. Then he poured a glass of rose,
just as good, and I realized that any hopes of staying sober that night
were pretty much dashed. They were both made from his own grapes and bottled
under the name of Villa Zefi, the name of his wife and his farm across
from Poros on the Peloponessos.
|The wine is organic, he mentioned to us,as are the vegetables and the citrus blossom honey he serves at breakfast
which come from his own bees and orange and lemon trees. Even Andrea, who
has a much more refined taste in wine then I do (I can drink anything once
I make it past the first glass), pronounced both the rose and the white
wines as perfect and we sat at the bar talking to Takis about the island,
his farm, and his family, the three passions of his life.
Takis reached under the bar and pulled out a container of olives, the biggest I had ever seen. They were like
eating a potato. You could not eat it in one bite. These were also from
his farm and were he to submit them to Guiness he might have the world's
record. But even if they were not the world's largest they tasted great
which is all you can ask for in an olive though if you prefer them in your
martini you may find yourself drinking more glasses than usual since they
displace a lot of liquid.
|In the meantime his beautiful wife Zefi had joined us. Like Takis she spoke English very well and she told
us about the hotel and the guests who return year after year. In fact 70%
of the guests are returnees who come every summer for their holidays. While
this number is amazingly high it is not out of line with the rest of the
island. It seems that Poros is one of those places in Greece where visitors
decide they like it and come back year after year. Why not? Nice beaches.
Lots of trees, forests, interesting plants and lush gardens, five minutes
from the Peloponessos and an hour from Athens. And once you make friends
with the locals and fellow visitors, then coming back is like coming home.
In testimony an old German couple sitting at the next table told me they
had been staying at the hotel every summer for years and just this year
had bought their own house down the street. But they still come to the
Saga Hotel restaurant for meals and the bar for a beer almost every day.
After Amarandi and I went for a walk to take pictures of the fishing boats and the sea at sunset. We returned
to find a giant table set for a feast. Takis had ordered fresh fish from
the market and was throwing a dinner party where we met his two beautiful
daughters Yota and Dimitra, plus several hotel guests and Takis parents.
His mother was the owner of a local travel agency and another hotel and
his father was the village priest, dressed in long black robes, with a
long gray beard and hair tied in a pony-tail. We laughed, talked and drank
through the night listening to old rembetika music. Somewhere along the
line I thanked them for their amazing hospitality and went to sleep in
my air-conditioned room.
For the next two days Takis showed
us the entire island of Poros. Though it was tough getting Amarandi to
leave the pool, even she enjoyed the visit to the Monastery of Zoodochos
Pigi or 'life-giving source' which sits on a pine covered hill overlooking
the beautiful Monastery Beach. We drove over the island to the sanctuary
and temple of Poseidon which was now being excavated and then stopped for
a beer at the Paradise restaurant in the center of the island. Our last
stop on the island was at the Poseidon Club which sits above the town of
Poros and combines a large swimming pool, bar and nightclub with one of
the most spectacular views you will find anywhere.
|Our next trip was to Takis farm, Villa Zefi, in Galatas on the mainland, a five minute ferry ride from Poros.
There we met his numerous rabbits, the biggest I had ever seen, the size
of small sheep. He collected the fresh eggs that he and Zefi serve every
day for breakfast at the hotel and introduced us to a few new born pigeons
which looked like baby ostriches or some extinct dinosaur bird. There were
chickens and geese squawking and honking while waiting impatiently for
Takis to feed them.
|"And over here is my pig" said Takis proudly as he led us to the smelly pen where his favorite barnyard friend
lived. Though this friendship would only last until Christmas when his
pal would become dinner, I could see Takis had a special affection for
"Can we let him out?" I asked.
"If we let him out it will take a
week to get him back into the pen" Takis responded.
I braved the stench and the flies
for long enough to get a decent shot of the pig which was not easy because
every time I got close enough to shoot through the wires of the cage he
would try to lick the camera. But he was a handsome young pig, slightly
shy and I can understand Takis' affection for him
Takis called us over to a fence which had a damp piece of carpet draped over a string of barbed-wire. He lifted
the carpet and underneath were three tiny toads, asleep on the barbed wire.
They were all named Jimmis, Taki told us. By the time I finally got my
camera focused two of them had hopped away, but Takis assured me that they
would be back again tomorrow.
When we returned to the hotel Zefi
had made a feast for us. Pastitsio, pork-chops from the farm and last year's
pig-friend, tiropita and salads with the giant olives and dressed in olive-oil
from the farm. Takis brought out a bottle of wine that he had saved for
so long that it was like drinking cognac." I save some from every year
in these plastic bottles so as I drink it I can squeeze the air out since
it is the air which destroys it." The wine itself tasted like a cross between
sherry and bourbon.
|Luckily after this huge meal, Takis was tired because for the past two days he had been telling me that we
were going to Askeli Beach to go Para-gliding, which in Poros means being
pulled through the air on a giant kite tied to a speedboat. I have to admit
that ever since he told me that this was an important life-changing activity
that was necessary for me to become more alive, I had been dreading it
and praying for some way to get out of it and after the wine and food,
even Takis was forced to admit that going flying might not be the best
idea now. Of course his daughters were very upset because they had been
planning on it all day and though I felt like a coward, I knew that one
day I would return and have no excuses and have to go up. When that day
came I would accept my fate and probably love it as Takis insisted I would.
But better then risking my life flying
over the seas of Poros, we finally met Yorgos, the last member of the Alexopoulos
Needless to say our last night we were pretty beat and so Takis, Mike, Zefi and I watched the European soccer
finals on the big satellite television by the pool, drinking Corona beers with lime and eating pizza and pistachio nuts.
The funny thing is that when we first were shown our room, one of the things that excited me most
was the big Jacuzzi in the bathroom, certainly large enough for both Andrea
and I to fit in. But I never got around to using it and neither did she.
But I suppose with Amarandi spending 10 hours a day in the pool and with
me sampling the wine we had fulfilled our liquid requirements.
|It would be hard to imagine going to a hotel that personified the term 'family run' more than the Saga Hotel
in Poros. Even Amarandi was befriended by the little girls of Takis and
Zefi as were the other children who were staying at the hotel. And it is
not as if you needed to hang out at the pool all day waiting for meals
and their entertaining conversation. There are a number of excursions offered
by the hotel including boat trips around the island, tours of Myceneae,
Epidavros, ancient Trizana, Naphlion and a trip through the Corinth Canal
and day trips to Hydra, Spetsis and Aegina. There are water-sports offered
including of course the para-gliding that terrified me but may be something
you want to do as a rite of passage or for the fun of it, plus water-skiing,
jet ski's and whatever else people do in the water. There are many beaches
on the island, each a little different from the rest. The hotel has a ping-pong
table and there is a full gym next door so you don't have to lose muscle
tone. And if you are not the type who lives for physical activity you can
always sit on your balcony and enjoy the view.
Leaving was difficult. It really was like leaving home but we knew that like 70% of the other guests we would
return. It was not that we were treated as guests, but we really felt we
had made true friends that we would always want to come back to visit.
With the island's proximity to Athens there is no reason not to stay at
the Saga Hotel, particularly in the really hot days of summer. Why be in
the city which is always several degrees hotter, when you can be in a nice
air-conditioned hotel, with a swimming pool, surrounded by beautiful almost
tropical gardens, drinking organic wine, eggs and home cooked meals, not
to mention the biggest olives in Greece, served by two of the nicest people
I have ever met. And one can't disregard the attraction of good organic
To Book the Hotel Saga through Fantasy Travel go to www.hotelsofgreece.com/saronic/saga or you can book it through Booking.com