Even veterans of Greek island-hopping often look blank at the mention of Levkas. To find it, head south east from Corfu or west from Athens: Levkas is one of the larger Ionian islands, nuzzling up to the mainland, to which it is joined by a short causeway. Despite its anonymity, Levkas proved to be lovely - its beauty not of the searing, unsettling variety, but of the kind that soothes and charms, and gets under your skin.
Agios Nikitas, on Levkas' north-west coast and less than an hour's drive from tiny Preveza airport on the Greek mainland, is a single, short street lined with tavernas and ending at the beach. Greek island cuisine doesn't have a great reputation, but here the fresh fish, fresh vegetables and local wine were good. More houses and a few hotels cling to the surrounding cliffs. Mostly modern - Levkas suffered heavy earthquake damage in 1948 - many have kept to the traditional, wooden-balconied style. We stayed in one of these, the Pension Ostria - an unassuming place, but all is clean and the service is kind. The white-walled rooms have cool, quarry- tiled floors, and balconies overlooking the bay.
Here, I joined a fairly disparate group - mostly lone travellers; two couples; early thirties to late fifties. Women outnumbered men, which is typical of such organised holidays. Group classes in the Alexander Technique were held for two hours each morning in a small hall opening on to the village street. There were also individual lessons with our teacher, Jonathan Snell, from Edinburgh. The Alexander Technique essentially addresses the habitual tendencies most people have to adopt unhelpful postures. It is usually taught one-to-one, with the teacher gently moving your body into a less tense and more effective position, but group work is increasingly popular. It's encouraging and moving watching other people change. "The Alexander Technique is a subtle but powerful way to help us make the most efficient use of our bodies," read the ad that enticed me to Levkas. "It teaches us to regain a natural state of easiness, balance and liveliness. The technique can also be very helpful in relieving stress and resolving aches and pains in the body." Stressed out, fed up and plagued by headaches, insomnia and other miserable side-effects of city life, I approached the course with considerable scepticism, feeling that I'd give anything a try, and anyway I'd enjoy a short break by the sea. But this gentle technique, practised daily in an inexorably tranquil environment, was a revelation.
We left the daily classes lightened and enlightened, to spend the next few hours on lunch, swimming and siestas, meeting up again in the late afternoon to go walking. Like Jonathan, our walking guides, Christopher Garner and Margaret Duncan, were from Edinburgh, where they run Transcotland Walking Holidays, and they had picked out for us some of Levkas' lovelier roads and footpaths.
The island has a rich landscape. The coast is the joy you'd expect - the turquoise sea bordered by sheltered coves and fine, wide beaches, excellent for sailing and windsurfing. These give way to marshes and lagoons and then to mountains, forests, fertile valleys and hillside vineyards. Each day gentle two- or three-hour rambles took us on cliff paths, through ancient olive groves and wooded dells, to abandoned medieval monasteries and traditional farming villages, often ending at one of the many deserted beaches.
Alexander principles include increased awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. The point was never hammered home, but we were encouraged to put this into practice as we walked. With surroundings like these it wasn't difficult - as on the day we watched dolphins from the beach, lingered in a seafront taverna as the sun set, and walked back to the hotel through a dark forest where we sat for ages in a long, silent row along the path, mesmerised by the fireflies. Such memories disarm any retrospective cynicism. Not that I have any, because my body is still quietly saying thank you for this holiday. I came home feeling somehow less rigid, more focused, smiling more. I still am. And I'm taking lessons in the Alexander Technique.
Jean Morris's holiday
She paid pounds 595 for a week with Travelux Travel (01580 765000). This includes return flights, tax, bed and breakfast and guided walks. The next week- long breaks leave Gatwick on 7 and 14 September.
Monica Troughton's holiday
Just find yourself two wholly unsuitable travelling companions and a flight to Athens. The main scheduled airlines are British Airways (0345 222111) and Virgin Atlantic (01293 747747), which fly from both Heathrow and Gatwick, and Olympic Airways (0171-409 3400), which flies only from Heathrow. Official fares are high, but watch out for bargains in the latest round of BA World Offers and matching offers from competitors. To reach Mykonos, take the bus from Athens airport to the ferry at Piraeus.
National Tourism Organisation of Greece, 4 Conduit Street, London W1R 0DJ (0171-734 5997).Reuse content