It was a balmy August afternoon and I was sitting at Gaia, the in house restaurant of F Zeen Retreat Hotel, perusing the menu. While contemplating what to order, a quote on the top left hand corner of the menu caught my eyes – it is not living that matters, but to live well (if my memory has not failed me).
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When an invitation landed on my inbox for a visit to the island of Kefalonia, my initial thoughts were of the sun, sand, sea and party life. This was harking back to the memories of my younger years’ holidays in Santorini and Mykonos but all was proven wrong. Kefalonia was more than just that and is a very interesting island.
For a start, the geological disparity is quite obvious. The north side of the island is dotted with its pebble beach, Greek firs and black pines while the south has an expanse of sandy beaches, olive groves and cypress trees. It is this geological wonder that gave Kefalonia its amazing beaches; Mrythos, Lourdas and the famous Antisamos, where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed. There are also the impressive Mount Ainos, the tallest in the Ionian islands, and the the Melissani Lake with its sapphire blue/emerald green crystal clear water where the eels that make their home here. The geological position of the island also meant that Kefalonia is the primary place that produces the rare Robola grapes. It is so unique that the wine produced has a protected designation of origin.
Melissani Lake looking all mystical with the light mist that hovered just about the water surface.
The towns and villages dotted around the island are also very quaint. Some villages such as Asos still keeps the remains of the buildings destroyed in 1953 but springing around these ruins are small seafood tavernas, colourful villas and local supermarkets. Then there is Argostoli with its bustling shops, pretty lighthouse to the ‘riviera’ seafront. The towns and villages, although sprawled across the island, share one same thing - the laid back lifestyle and slow-paced attitude. It may be the calming scent of the Eucalyptus tree forest (planted from seeds obtained from Australia), the refreshing sea breezes that usher in to the hot landscape or the bleating goats that hang around on the highway, forcing everyone to slow down. Whatever it may be, it is easy to be drawn into this lifestyle.
Argostoli and its beautiful details and charm
This is where F Zeen Retreat Hotel fits in so perfectly with the island. The resort prides itself as a retreat where you come here to do nothing or to undo everything. Rooms with a view of the Ionian sea connect you to the outdoor while the infinity pools invite you to take a dip on hot days as you lounge around reading your favourite book. Classes on yoga, meditation and Qi Gong are also held to help guests to physically wind down (although there are also fitness classes held at the well-equipped gym) while spa sessions send you into a rejuvenated state and untangle all the knots on your body and mind.
This is exactly why F Zeen attracts such a diverse clientele as everyone comes for the same reason. To relax.
Evan, the owner, explained to us that as a family run business, there was a concerted effort in realising their dreams. His Mum worked with the architect to design the new wing of the resort including the interior, his dad handled the construction while his sister, Tasia, deals with customer wellbeing from the products used in the rooms, healthy menus in the restaurants to little gestures such as inspirational quotes dotted on their stationary to the gift of oregano seeds to plant back home. There was also all the magnificent staff, mostly local, that became the backbone to the retreat’s ethos.
The family is clear in what they want to achieve and what they want their customers to achieve. Having lived the demanding careers and lifestyles in fast-paced cities, they realised that there was more to life than financial gains. Physical as well as mental well-being plays such an important part to life and eliminating stress can lead to a longer, happier and healthier life. With the rise of negativities and pessimisms in today’s world, it could be difficult to notice that tiny ray of hope that creeps in from the darkness. Everyone is so busy being preoccupied with their daily life, with worries and anxieties becoming part and parcel these days, that they forget to let go but here, you learn to do that subconsciously.
The natural surrounding at F Zeen, from garden, vegetable patches, pond to forest.
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Sitting in my living room here in London and looking back, if there is one thing that I have taken back from Kefalonia and F Zeen, in particular, is to take and appreciate every opportunity to relax and cultivate our mental and physical wellbeing. This is, after all, the ‘Good Life’!
My stay at F Zeen was fully complimentary, including all meals, transfer to hotel and private tour around Kefalonia. All words, images and opinions are my own.