Thursday, August 18, 2022

Greece: Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

'Summertime and the livin' is easy', that wonderful song from the musical Porgy and Bess could be the theme song for our summers in Greece. 

The livin' is easy. . .

It is quite literally a time when the pace slows and the livin' is easy; a time when we simply savor summer. You might say, we simply enjoy just 'being'. The month of August is when Greeks take their vacations - often to coincide with the holiday, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary' on Aug. 15th. So many businesses and services - that don't cater to tourists - are closed.  It is expected that little work or business will get done, making it a perfect time for slowing down and savoring life.

Warm breezes and cicadas' song combine

Summer is a time when the warm afternoon and evening breezes carries the sound of children's laughter, simply echoes of happiness, from the beach below us.  It is a time when the ceiling fan and cicadas' song create an irresistible lullaby that lulls us into afternoon naps lasting from a few minutes to a few hours. 

Three of our four cats relax in the summer breeze

It is a time our collection of adopted cats, now numbering four felines, retire to their chosen spots in the shade where they stretch out and snooze until the cool of the evening brings them back to life.

Summer's Aperol Spritz time

We are simply savoring our summer by reading books that have beckoned from the bedside table for months, wiling away hours with friends sipping wine, summer drinks, or cappuccinos. Sometimes we simply watch cloud formations pass overhead or listen to the waves breaking against the seashore. 

I love that word, 'savor', as means to experience something slowly in order to enjoy it as much as possible. The art of savoring time and experiences is something we've learned to appreciate since becoming expats in Greece. Here we find we have the time to savor life all year round, but especially on these long, languid days of summer.

Savoring the moments of summer

La Dolce Far Niente

Another favorite phrase that aptly describes summer life in this rural slice of the Greece Peloponnese is, 'La Dolce Far Niente' which loosely translated from Italian it means the sweetness of doing nothing. 

Watching clouds and seafoam - a favorite pastime

I hadn't given much thought to the benefits, beyond enjoyment, of the sweetness of doing nothing and savoring our Mediterranean moments, until I read an article by Dr. Nicole Marcione* about the health benefits - mental and physical - of that laid-back lifestyle. She points out that savoring life and la dolce far niente go hand-in-hand.

Fresh seafood pasta 

It isn't so much that you are doing nothing, but that you are slowing down and savoring what you are doing:  the food you eat; the people with whom you spend time; the activities you choose to pursue; the approach you take to living. 

Calamari salad

She writes in an article 'Indulging in the Science and Sensuality of Longevity' for The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine, that as we slow down, so does our physiology:

'Our blood pressure goes down, our heart rate settles, our stress hormones (i.e., cortisol and adrenaline) decrease and our pleasure hormones increase (i.e., dopamine and serotonin). We trigger our parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest/heal) to kick in, while turning down our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze).  This, in turn, activates our physical and emotional bodies to repair and restore.  The more we create this slowing down and enjoyment in our life, the longer, and (more importantly) the healthier we live.'

Stone House on the Hill from my garden

She points to all the aspects of savoring a Mediterranean lifestyle -- not just a diet -- as a healthier way of living; right down to the olive oil we slather on all food (healthy eating), the walk we take to get to the village or the time we spend working in the garden (exercise), the time spent with friends (community connection) to slowing to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us (rejuvenating the spirit).

So savoring life isn't only enjoyable - it is healthy! Can't beat that combination to our way of thinking.

A Summer's Night in the Village

Summer's End

I am feeling nostalgic about these Greek summer days as by the time many of you read this, our Greek summer will have come to an end. We are returning to the U.S. Pacific Northwest, our other world, and will experience a bit of summer there. 

As I've packed suitcases, I am reminded of the time we used to do the 'Schengen Shuffle' as I call it. Back when we traveled between the US and Greece at 90-day intervals, before we were residents of Greece. It seemed back then that we were always leaving too soon, I wasn't ready for our time here to end.

Watching sunsets and clouds - a soothing end to the day

Again, I have that twinge of it ending too soon. By the time we return it will be autumn, which is also a lovely time here. The pace will have picked up a bit as we move into the season of olive harvest and preparing for winter, which will be here before we know it.

Washington State known for its wine and vineyards

It has been nearly a year since we spent time in our 'other world' and our 'to do and to see' list for that world is a long one - we may not have a lot of time for watching clouds or napping once we touch down.  As I've written before the catalyst taking us back this time is my high school reunion. It's a big one and it has been a half century in the making, plus one year - thanks to Covid.  

This will be our first taste of summer in Central Washington since 2017, the year we made Greece our home base.  We have made our recent trips back to Washington in the spring or fall.

Soon we'll be on Memory Lane, the road home

While our 'other world' home is in Manson, in the central part of Washington State, it is a few hours' drive away from my hometown, Yakima. So, it will definitely be a trip down Memory Lane for me and a return to my hometown for the first time in five years. As our departure time approaches, I've been pondering the question, 'Can you go home again?'  and that, my friends, may just be the topic of my next post.   I'd welcome any thoughts you have about it!

Hope you will be with us then and thanks to the time you've spent with us today! Hope whatever season you are experiencing where you are, that you will have time to savor it and indulge in a bit of 'la dolce far niente'!  

*For those of you who'd like to read more by Dr. Marcione you can find her on Instagram @drnicolemarcione and her website is 

Linking sometime with:

Through My Lens

Friday, August 12, 2022

Booking it to Kalymnos Island

 'Charmian Clift!!' I exclaimed a bit too loudly when I saw the poster. 

My outburst managed to stop George Hatzismalis, head of the Kalymnos Municipal Tourist Office, in his tracks on a Saturday morning in June as he was setting up a poster announcing a special event honoring her.

'You know of Charmian Clift?' he asked in a somewhat skeptical tone, nodding to the poster he was putting up. 

'Yes,' I said, adding, 'you might say, she made me want to come here.' 

Here, being the island of Kalymnos, the Dodecanese Island off the coast of Turkey, known for its sponge diving history.

Dodecanese island group off Turkey's coastline

'Are you Greek or part Greek? he asked, still not quite believing I knew what I was talking about. 'No, not Greek, but we live here.' I answered, explaining we were American expats living in the Greek Peloponnese.

George, head of the island's tourism office

'But, yet, you know of Charmian Clift?' he responded, adding that many Greeks didn't even know of the Australian author who had lived on the island back in the mid-1950's. So, he seemed surprised that an American might have heard of her. Not only had I heard of her, but I had also sought out her books last year on learning they had been re-issued.

Her book, 'Mermaid Singing' is about the year she spent on Kalymnos with her author husband, George Johnston, and their two children.

I really had him when I said I was reading her book for the second time and had brought it with me on the trip. 

This was our second visit to the island this spring; our first had been to research for a piece I was writing for The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine. It is in the August/September edition published a week ago. Her book sparked my interest in learning more about the sponge diving history of the island and of subsequently writing about it.

Opening page of my article on Kalymnos

It didn't take long for a combination of the island's ambiance and the warmth of welcome from its residents to make us vow to return after that first visit. So, when we found ourselves back in the Dodecanese islands a couple months later, we included another brief stop on Kalymnos. It was during that second visit we saw the posters for the upcoming event.

During both visits, we had based ourselves in the charming SpongkalyA apartments.  And as it turns out. . .

SpongkalyA apartments

. . .we were just around the corner from the place where Charmian and her family had lived on the harbor front in the 1950's.

Charmian's home, now a faded yellow, behind the tree

There's a gift shop on the street level of the rather faded building in which Charmian and her family lived during their year on the island. The harbor has been filled since their time here. Motorcycles in the photo are parked where the waves used to lap the shore. On our first visit we had to guess at the location of her former home, but this time George confirmed we'd found the place and noted that as part of the special event, an informational plaque was being placed on the building.

Clift's 1955 book was released in Greek

We had non-refundable hotel reservations on the next island so left the next morning, missing the event that evening - a gala affair to celebrate the launch the Greek edition of her 1955 book, 'Mermaid Singing'. Speakers included Nadia Wheatley, author and biographer of Charmian Clift as well as the Australian ambassador to Greece. The English language version of the book had been re-released in Sept. 2021.

Kalymnos Island

Her time on Kalymnos was brief, only a year. We sometimes find expat life challenging now even though we are surrounded by so many creature comforts - I can't imagine the challenges of living on an island in the mid-20th century. It was a place that didn't yet have roads; where you climbed foot paths to get to other areas.

Hyrdra - Charmian's home from 1955 - 1964

Following their Kalymnos stay, the family moved to the island of Hydra, where they lived from 1955 to 1964; a time when bohemian life reigned and they were the center of it. It was a gathering place for artists, writers, dreamers and other creative souls, the likes of which included Leonard Cohen.  Charmian wrote of that experience in her second memoir, 'Peel Me A Lotus'.

Life on Hydra Island

Charmian introduced me to Kalymnos and enhanced my view of Hydra. That is one of the best parts of reading about other people's real-life experiences.  I always say, Frances Mayes, planted the seeds for living an expat life in her book, 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. Of course, Peter Mayle added to that with his, 'Year in Provence'. David Mason is partially responsible for getting us to the Mani, where we now live, thanks to his book, 'News from the Village'.

Have any such books influenced you to travel or to take a step into expat life? Or where have such books taken you on your armchair travels? Send us an email or tell us about it in the comments below.  As always thanks for stopping by and spending a bit of time with us.  Hope to see you back again soon. . .and a big welcome to our new subscribers!!

Linking sometime soon with:

 Through My Lens


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