“Life offers you a thousand chances... all you have to do is take one.”
– Frances Mayes
– Frances Mayes
Nestled into the edge of our small olive grove on a hillside in Greece’s Peloponnese, the Stone House on the Hill -- that captured our hearts and imaginations three years ago -- has drawn us back again in our annual autumn pilgrimage.
This time it is different. We are no longer tourists marking our calendar with the 90-day deadline for leaving this Schengen Country. We are residents who are settling in for awhile.
We are home in Greece.
|Stone House on the Hill foreground, Agios Dimitrios and Agios Nikolaos - our new world|
Thanks to time zone changes, you arrive the next day whether you leave Seattle in the afternoon or evening. Then, the flight to Athens adds another four hours to the journey. From there a car or bus ride completes the journey another 3 – 4 hours.
|The Stone House on the Hill - our full-time home for the near future|
We are ready to see what direction the next year might take us!
|Too many choices for adventure!|
“I had the urge to examine my life in another culture and move beyond what I knew.”
– Frances Mayes
– Frances Mayes
Moving into The Stone House on the Hill mindsetLast week we checked off the last of our Pacific Northwest ‘to do’ list for pausing our lives there. Once aboard the plane we refocused on our ‘to do’ list here.
I realized that while I told you last spring (probably more than you ever wanted to know) about the time spent obtaining resident visas, I never got around to telling you about what was going on at the house.
Now we are ready to start some new projects and finish off those we started a few months ago.
So lets pick up the story there. . .
With the idea in the back of our minds that this might be a full time home for us (for long before I mentioned it to you all), we tackled some projects to warm up our rather stark stone house.
Starting at the TopWe’ve always been taken with the wood ceilings of Greek houses. Problem was ours came with a concrete ceiling that gave an industrial factory or hospital-like feel to the place. Painting it a light blue, softened its impact but still it felt factory-like. If we were going to be here for awhile, it was time for change.
We chose a traditional Greek style from yesteryear for our new wooden ceiling. Back in the old days, our carpenters told us, they didn’t have the machines to make the wood slats interlocking so they were joined by a narrow strip of wood.
|New traditional-style wood ceilings at The Stone House on the Hill|
As luck would have it, the talented father-son duo, Ilias and Dimitri, who installed our ceilings are also our neighbors. They live, and have an enormous carpentry shop, at the foot of ‘our’ hill in the village of Agios Dimitrios (St. Dimitri). Young Dimitri speaks English so I also explained a storage dilemma I had in the kitchen. He scratched his shaved head, flashed a big grin and a week later he and his dad solved my problem with a piece they’d created in that workshop of theirs.
|New shelf - new look for the Stone House on the Hill|
We knew there must be a glut of such shops, but the few we happened upon offered small dust covered displays, and the proprietor – usually elderly – only spoke Greek. We’d wait while he summoned a son, daughter, friend, nearby shopkeeper to come and translate for us and then learn that the style we liked was no longer being made. (That begs the question, “why was it still in the showroom?’, but I digress. . .)
I can’t tell you the hours spent searching for ‘a tile shop’.
Finally we found a store! And these are big-deal, high-five-hand-slapping accomplishments for ex pats!
It is a magnificent store where English was spoken, and that sells an amazing array of Spanish made tiles. We’d driven past it on numerous occasions but there was nothing in its name to tell us they sold tile (friends finally directed us there). The staff helped us find an installer - the bathroom got its much-needed make-over last fall. We finished off the moldings and ceiling work ourselves this spring. The old is on the left and our new look on the right below:
|That shower base on the left was stained the color of the dirt here - impossible to clean|
That Mediterranean Garden of OursOne can never have too many plants in a Mediterranean garden, we’ve decided. So our garden keeps
Soon to be a 'garden in the grove' - I hope!
Those plants I’ve named above could just as easily been part of my Pacific Northwest garden. I brought lavender, dafne, and iris starts with me from Kirkland this fall to add to the iris growing in the garden here. Last spring I brought those plumeria (frangipani, as it is known in many places), starts from Hawaii.
Roses, geraniums, chrysanthemums, and anthurium are among plants that flourish here.
|Work began in the spring to enlarge the side garden - and the summer destroyed it all|
“Although I am a person who expected to be rooted in one spot forever, as it has turned out I love having the memories of living in many places.”
– Frances Mayes
– Frances Mayes
And Don’t forget travel: Europe the Middle East and Africa Await!
|Egypt is so close we have no excuse not to return!|
You travel enthusiasts out there, take note: don’t let all this ‘home projects talk’ make you think we are daft enough to have given up our travel ambitions. Just the opposite!
Part of the selling point of living on this side of the sea was to shorten flying time and to make travel more affordable and easy to accomplish.
In four hours we can fly from Athens to London and in just over two to Rome, Italy. We can be in Cairo in under two hours and Dubai, in just about seven. With the proliferation of low-cost carriers in Europe, such flights cost little.
The number of airlines and flight frequency is steadily increasing at the Kalamata airport, only an hour’s drive from us.
|One of our spring road trips took us to this delightful location|
And there’s still so much of Greece waiting to be discovered as well. I can assure you that the travel tales will be continuing as well as the stories of adapting to ex pat life.
“Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.”
-- Frances Mayes
-- Frances Mayes
The quotes in this post are all from Frances Mayes, whose 1996 memoir “Under the Tuscan Sun” first sparked the possibility of ex pat life in Europe and a subsequent book “A Year in The World” further fueled the idea.
Those of you toying with the idea of ex pat life – and many of you have said you are – as well as armchair travelers would find both enjoyable reads.
As always, we thank you for the time you spend with us and look forward to welcoming you back again next week. Your comments and emails are treasures.
Safe and happy travels to you and yours~
“Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.”
--- Frances Mayes
Linking up this week with these fine bloggers:Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Travel Photo Thursday –
Weekend Travel Inspiration
So here you are! It all seems so normal now. A blessing on your house!ReplyDelete
We are settling in. . .and it does feel good to be back in our little stone house on the hill! Thanks for all your good wishes!! xxxDelete
Welcome back! Enjoy your stay. The Stone house looks incredibly beautiful!ReplyDelete
Thanks much! Since our stay is now a matter of years and not months, I am hoping you and I will finally have a chance to meet!Delete
Hello Jackie and Joel,ReplyDelete
Happy to hear you are in Greece and settling in. Let the adventures begin or should I say continue.
Helen, So very nice to hear from you! Our adventures are continuing - that is for sure! Hope all is well in your life~ keep in touch! xxx JackieDelete
Welcome home Jackie and Joel. I hope you are making yourself comfortable. That quest for the tile shops had me laughing. Yes why would they keep them on display if they are not available? I am enjoying your projects as much as your adventures. Looking forward to lots of fun posts on this side of the Atlantic! I as you know am on the other side busy organizing my home. I don't think we could have time it any better. ;)ReplyDelete
Only those who've experienced things like tile shopping can fully appreciate those tales (we are car shopping now - whoa! another blog post in the making!! ;-) ) So glad your move is working out as planned!Delete
As they say, 'Home is where the heart is' and I can see that yours is on a hillside in the Peloponnese! It's been a slog (such a great word) and a long journey to residency but the rewards of residency far outweigh the effort. In a new country, everything (from groceries to tile to car shopping) is an adventure. Welcome home! P.S. Your residency cards look a lot like ours. Wish we could have smiled to show how happy we were to get them!ReplyDelete
Well we are at the other end of the slogging summer and I have yet to organize that which we brought with us. It hit me that I can't pack, unpack, sort or place anything else for awhile. I've maxed out on slogging! And we found the summer's drought brought death to many things in our garden so the focus has been outside. We showed our residency cards when we were at Greek customs - they were more interested in our passports and stamped us in anyway (hopefully the cards will mean more when we leave after 90+ days ;-) )Delete
Wishing you a wonderful adventure!ReplyDelete
Thanks much Kelleyn! Hope you'll follow along and comment along the way as well!Delete
Congratulations on being done with all the paperwork and not so fun tasks! Looks like you are ready to settle on this chapter of you life (not in the literal way since you have plans to travel around). #TPThursdayReplyDelete
I laughed at your comment as we had houseguests arrive two days after we did and I left stacks of things to sort and put away as we hopped in the car with them and set off on a road trip through the Peloponnese. Just got home day before yesterday. . .now I must start settling in!Delete
As well as drooling over your talk of now living in Greece, I am so envious of your ability to travel anywhere in Europe and northern Africa so easily now. I'm looking forward to a nice mix of life in the Stone House and travels in Europe and beyond. Keep them coming. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks much Jan -- I will do my best to keep life (and the blog) interesting!! ;-) Hugs to you~Delete
I am so happy for you to make the Stone House on the Hill a true home. Plus offer options for travel. Looking good.ReplyDelete
Still a work in progress, but part of the reason for doing this was to have 'a project' and not become sedate in our routines in the States - think this will do just that!Delete
Welcome home!! You've just arrived as we are leaving. Enjoy the fruits of your labour. All the hard work to achieve your wish will soon be a distant memory and you can 'dine-out' on the stories forever.ReplyDelete
Best wishes to you both and have a wonderful new adventure. xx
Hey there, I owe you an email! And I want to hear what's up with your move, writing, etc. . .maybe we need to Skype soon or FB messenger now that I am 'sort of' in the same time zone?!Delete
Now you can relax and enjoy what you've accomplished! May I suggest more drought-resistant plants for your garden? Trees can survive longer periods without water. Figs come to mind, and perhaps citrus. And things like cactuses and succulents for ornamentals?ReplyDelete
A great idea Rachel for drought-resistant plants. Our neighbors tell us that it was so incredibly hot and dry this year, it is a miracle even the cactus survived. I do have a fig and it lost all its leaves this summer! Thanks for the suggestions. . .we did have a gardener who came and watered as the citrus trees we have needed it. The olive trees seem to live with rocks and heat alone. And as a friend here said, look at all the places you can now plant new plants! :-)Delete
The house looks lovely. The wood ceiling adds a lot of warmth to the room. Enjoy being at home here and using it as a base to explore.ReplyDelete
Thanks much Donna. We do plan to settle in and set forth!Delete
Congratulations on "getting there"---and by "there", I'm not just speaking in geographical terms. I'm impressed by your steadfastness in identifying and accomplishing home improvement projects---in Greece, no less. Our beach house in New Jersey definitely needs some renovating, but I can feel my eyes glaze over just thinking about the process. Wishing you happiness and good health(!) in your Greek home.ReplyDelete
Thanks much - I am still working on the 'getting there' as in settling in and getting used to the idea that this is it. There is no 'back there' any longer other than a mailing address and storage unit. Hope one day to have Mr. and Mrs. Excitement come visit!!Delete
I'm so glad you posted shots of the Stone House...because we are all curious what ex-pat living looks like in Greece! Thanks for making it feel real and attainable to live elsewhere as part of life Part II.ReplyDelete
Thanks Jane, glad you enjoyed the photos and narrative. It is different here - but that is why we came. Day to day living presents a new possibility (and sometimes problem ;-) ) but it is all part of the joys of being an ex pat! I'll keep the tales coming and hope you'll 'be with us' along the way!Delete
Your home is beautiful, Jackie; was the kitchen an add on at some point, with the stone wall and the staircase? And I love the new wooden ceiling! The Europe travel sounds glorious, where the price of getting there isn’t at least half of the cost of the entire trip!ReplyDelete
No, the home was built all at the same time -- now 11 years ago, by the Greek couple two doors down from us. (They built the entire row of houses of which ours is a part). Because it was built on the terraced olive grove its 'floors' are on the terraces. Bedroom, den and bathroom on one terrace, the stairway links it to the main floor kitchen and living room - the next terrace and another stairway leads to the guest area - the third and lower terrace. Keep in touch - love reading your comments!Delete
Sounds like you have an exciting "itinerary" with travel and home improvement projects. I suspect that with each improvement, it will be harder and harder to ever think about leaving.ReplyDelete
We told our houseguests just the other day that when the time comes, it will be tough to leave this little stone house on the hill. It represents an interesting chapter -- the 'final fling' as we've labeled it.Delete
I hope all is going well in the little stone house on the hill. Enjoy!ReplyDelete