‘Nothing,’ the receptionist smiles at us, knowingly.
We’ve just arrived at Anemi Hotel and have asked what there is to do on the 32-square-mile island of Folegandros. I smile back, confused, and then look at Mr Smith nervously. I don’t know what to do with this information. I’m not one for doing nothing. I live in London! I work on a newspaper! Every day represents a deadline for getting out there, conquering the world, pulling oneself up another rung. I can’t do nothing. And not for 48 hours. But that’s just what we do. And what a place to (not) do it in.
Folegandros, a tiny island smack in the middle of the Cyclades, is practically not on the map. In the lead up to our minibreak, Mr Smith and I are met with blank stares when we say we’re going there. When mention we’re going to Santorini for a few days first, the blank looks transform into smiles. Everyone knows Santorini, which is a 45-minute boat ride away. Lucky for the Folegandrians, very few know Folegandros.
Arriving at the port of Karavostasis via a bumpy five-hour hydrofoil ride from Athens, I wonder how anyone makes it here. There’s no direct flight (there are some to Santorini), so up until now you needed Popeye’s sea legs and you had to be happy to listen to folks throwing up around you. As we disembark, it quickly becomes clear why people make the trip.
The village looks like a 1970s postcard that’s only just turned up after decades being stuck down the back of a sorting-office radiator. It’s the Dorian Gray of holidays. The green-grey waters off the pebble beach are dotted with ramshackle fishing boats over which tanned young men dangle their fishing rods. Wooden cabanas double up as beach bars. We spy an old woman not unlike Nana Mouskouri kicking back in a deckchair with a glass of red in hand.
Next to the jetty where our boat dropped us is a blackboard with bus times scribbled in chalk. With one bus an hour to cover the entire island and another sign advertising ‘the only taxicar on the island!’ we realise this is no Florida Keys. Thankfully, we have a lift waiting for us – for the whole two-minute drive to Anemi.
From a distance Anemi hides its luxe well. Strict building regs means that Anemi’s architects had to create a 44-room complex that blended with the local centuries-old houses. From the road it’s all tiny whitewashed sugar-cube two-storey buildings set amid a desert-like landscape that, Mr Smith, notes excitedly, befits a Star Wars set. But after checking in, the luxury, while still quiet, is very much on show.
Mr Smith remarks upon walking into our junior pool suite it’s like a swish Wendy house for grown-ups. It’s so well equipped (kitchenette, terrace, DVD, iPod dock) that you could holiday here for a week and never have to set foot inside the main hotel. The double kingsize bed is gratuitously vast – that night I have to roll across to reach for Mr Smith. Plus, if we’d been in any kind of sociable mood (we aren’t) and we made friends, we could invite them to kip over on the sofa bed.
The view from our suite is so perfect it’s like the kind of fake picture window you can buy from out-of-town furniture stores. The sea, 300 metres walk away, is visible from every lookout. If that isn’t blue enough, the suite’s private pool breaks up the vista.
It’s so cleverly designed that despite the terrace being overlooked by other rooms, there is complete privacy while you’re in the pool. Filled with sudden, uncharacteristic body confidence, we whip off our clothes for a skinny dip; the attentive gardener who moments later pops over the bush with a pair of secateurs is commendably discreet in his total embarrassment.
Mortified at having already flashed the locals, we head for the main building and the restaurant’s shaded outdoor tables overlooking the Olympic-scale seawater pool. Anemi’s food is fantastic all day, but its breakfast is fit for the Greek gods. We order the Folegandros bun – a bagel-like pastry coated with honey and filled with chopped tropical fruit and cheese – and quickly discover it’s a king among bakes. The next morning, knowing this is our last chance to scoff, we panic-order four to the waitress’s quietly horrified reaction; she then watches on as we bashfully leave half.
After gorging, we roll to the pool and wait half an hour before ordering pancakes and milkshakes to be delivered to our loungers. (Did I mention I’m pregnant?) Told you there was nothing to do. Which, really, we quickly come to realise is just what you want. No-guilt lazing. This is a hotel built not to be left. Even the kids here are experts in doing nada. The kids’ room is a lesson in minimalism and the few rug rats there largely snooze in the sun and play on white iPads.
As Londoners who don’t know a good thing (relaxation) when it hits us, later that day we take the (only) boat trip around the island. We stop at five beaches, diving off the back of the boat (I plopped) into the clearest green waters. Lunch is made by the mother of the woman who sells the tickets at the island’s only travel agency – cheeses, meats, melon and a glass of rakomelo (grappa with honey), it’s more Greek god food.
Realising all we’ve done is eat, we take the bus up the dirt track road to Chora, the island’s main village and zigzag up the path to the Church of Panagia for a bird’s-eye view of the clifftop village and the sprawling landscape of rock and sea. We look at each other. There’s nothing to do for nautical miles around. ‘Let’s book in for more doing nothing next year,’ smiles Mr Smith. ‘I rather like it.’