Poros, a five-minute ferry-ride from the Greek mainland, has an array of pretty coves packed into its 12 sq miles and its rocky interior provides a spectacular backdrop for the best water-skiing in the Med

TV’s Bettany Hughes visits the Peloponnese

My historian sister Bettany and I made a pact. I, a blinkered ex-cricketer, would try to open my, and my three sports-obsessed children’s, eyes to Greek culture if she and her bookish family would indulge in some physical activity.

Our expedition to the Peloponnese began badly. I was arrested on the island of nearby Poros by a towering policewoman. My offence? Riding a scooter having misread — well, ignored — a sign restricting vehicle entry round the harbour.

I feared spending my first night behind bars. But the duty officer couldn’t have been friendlier, expounding on the beauty and safety of Poros.

 Poros, a five-minute ferry-ride from the Greek mainland, has an array of pretty coves packed into its 12 sq miles and its rocky interior provides a spectacular backdrop for the best water-skiing in the Med

Poros, a five-minute ferry-ride from the Greek mainland, has an array of pretty coves packed into its 12 sq miles and its rocky interior provides a spectacular backdrop for the best water-skiing in the Med

‘I accidentally left the key in my motorbike for two days and no one took it,’ he said. He still gave me a ticket, though.

Poros, a five-minute ferry-ride from the Greek mainland, has an array of pretty coves packed into its 12 sq miles and its rocky interior provides a spectacular backdrop for the best water-skiing in the Med.

We had booked an eight-berth yacht (there were seven of us) for a couple of nights, but were gazumped at the last minute by visiting glitterati with deeper pockets.

Instead, we checked into the simple Hotel Saron on the waterfront. Next day, Bettany was enticed away from reading Orhan Pamuk’s latest work for a mad ride round the bay on a ‘banana’ — although our respective daughters, May, 17, and Nancy, 16, were more interested in standing in the sea taking Aphrodite-themed selfies.

Back on the mainland, we hired a minibus and made for the mountains. This is where Bettany came into her own.

She pointed out the Bronze Age citadel of Argos and Greece’s first capital Napflio, zooming in on the homes of Achilles, Agamemnon and Helen of Troy.

We drove the mountain path of the original marathon when, in 490 BC, the Greek soldier Pheidippides ran 250 miles to Sparta to ask for support against the Persian Army in the Battle of Marathon.

Adventure: The Hughes family go off-roading after visiting Poros

Adventure: The Hughes family go off-roading after visiting Poros

I always thought Homer was just a big hit in baseball. But, thanks to Bettany, we were given a crash course in Greek mythology — even my son Billy, 14, was agog at the tales of real-life Greek heroes.

We stayed in Levidi at Villa Vager, a boutique hotel looking out over the brooding, ancient battlefield of Mantineia. Nikolas, the owner of the hotel, organised a rafting expedition down the Ladonas River and later took us all off-roading in an assortment of quad-bikes and dune buggies.

At last, some action. Bettany took it on the chin, literally — her cheeks soon caked in the earth of rural Greece.

Then we drove three hours south to the dramatic rock of Monemvasia — the Gibraltar of Greece — to which clings a medieval town and fortress. Nearby is the Kinsterna hotel — a Byzantine mansion sprawling across the hillside.

The hotel has two infinity pools, perfect for the Hughes family’s famous one-handed diving-catch competition. Bettany had a go (and caught one) and even an American guest with a broken ankle joined in.

The food was outstanding; the staff were all local and gave us tips on where to take the free hotel bikes.

Unfortunately we got lost on the way to the beach club and were obliged to retrace our steps uphill in 36c.

‘Helen of Troy never had to cycle uphill in August,’ said Bettany.

Snorkelling in the shadow of Monemvasia’s rock fortress satisfied even the most stubborn landlubbers. A pair of giant sea turtles surfaced beside us on the way back, hoping for discarded Pringles.

It was the final act of a holiday in which we had water-skied, paddle-boarded, snorkelled, river-rafted, quad-biked, cycled, rode horses and done a virtual reality tour of the ancient world, and sampled the abiding Hellenic hospitality of the Greeks.

We felt enriched — body and soul. And Bettany and I have become compatible holiday companions at last.

TRAVEL FACTS

Doubles at Hotel Saron (hotelsaronporos.com) from £60, Villa Vager (hotelvager.gr) from £120 and Kinsterna Hotel (kinsternahotel.com) from £180, all B&B. Flights to Athens from £73 return, easyjet.com.

Bettany Hughes’s series Eight Days That Made Rome is on Channel 5 at 9pm on Fridays.

Posted on; DailyMail>>

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