Showing posts with label Kardamyli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kardamyli. Show all posts

Friday, June 28, 2019

Patrick Leigh Fermor: Visiting 'Paddy's' Place


For years we've been waiting to visit 'that' house
 Paddy's House, . . .it's just up the road in Kalamitsi. 

We'd heard and read so much about him

And, after all. . .he's the one who got us here.



Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor's home near Kardamyli July 2018


Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, war hero and adventurer, considered by some to be the most notable travel writer of the 20th century, is known simply as Paddy or Michalis around here.  The Englishman and his wife, Joan, were early-on expats, having lived for decades in the home they designed and built in the early 1960's just outside the village of Kardamyli. 

Sir Patrick was Knighted in 2004 for his services to literature and to Greek-British relationships. In 2007 the Greek government named him a Knight of the Order of the Phoenix, its highest honor. Around here the titles don't matter; Paddy is remembered for being Paddy.

We think of him as the guy who introduced us to The Mani. . .

The 'highway' we first traveled into the Inner Mani 

The Back Story. . .

Paddy and Joan's lives have been chronicled by many a writer and the two are immensely well-known on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps our favorite tales were written in, News from the Village, Aegean friends, a memoir by American poet David Mason, who for a time in the 1980's lived next-door to the Fermor's compound. His book brought to life the area's villages while recounting his life-long friendship with the couple.


Stoupa as it was when Fermor arrived in the 1950's and as it looks today.


It was a well more than a half dozen years ago that we read David's book and subsequently Paddy's, Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, (published in 1958). Paddy's book chronicles his first trip to the Mani, back when it was a decidedly undeveloped and remote place (just check that 1955 photo of our present-day tourist magnet, Stoupa). He came to the Mani on foot, having climbed up and over the Taygetos Mountain range to get here. 

The two books were all it took to convince us that we needed to visit this still unspoiled and rugged place on the Greek Peloponnese ourselves.


Patio at the Fermor house

Our first visit  to the Mani - Kardamyli, Stoupa, Agios Nikolaos -- in 2012 was a year after Paddy's death in England at the age of 96. Joan had predeceased him in 2003 at age 91. The two had met in wartime Cairo in the 1950's, then traveled together, and finally made their home in a picturesque seaside setting in an area called Kalamitsi, just outside Kardamyli. 

Our slice of The Mani-- The mountains Fermor crossed


Back when we first visited The Mani the idea to live in Greece wasn't a serious consideration of ours. But we were soon caught up in the area's spell. We just kept coming back. And, the fact that we ended up living so close to where they both lived, is one of those goosepimple-kind-of-coincidences that life randomly tosses at you.

Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Center


Hallway at the Fermor house.


The Fermor's bequeathed their home to the Benaki Museum in Athens with a stipulation that it be used as a retreat center for scholars and intellectuals, (loosely defined as writers, researchers, artists, poets, etc.).  


A place to curl up with a good book off the house's great room


When it opens this fall it will  be known as the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Center. Although I suspect with so many in the village who still remember the unassuming couple, that around here it will continue to be thought of as 'the place Paddy and Joan lived'.


Garden restoration underway

The Center will serve as a retreat, be the site of events and also welcome the public in set tours. In order to generate funds for on-going maintenance and upkeep, the museum will rent the house for three months each year. A partnership with Aria Hotels will make that happen.


Main floor bedroom lit with morning sun



Beginning June 1, 2020 the three-bedroom house with a separate studio (once Paddy's writing studio) and another one-bedroom cottage (once occupied by his housekeeper, Lela, and her family) will be available for rent. Guests can rent the entire complex or just a room.

I did a quick check for a one-night stay for two persons next summer and found prices were 280-, 400- and 480- euro for a room, depending on the date selected. I didn't find the cost of renting the entire complex. (Several weeks are already booked.)

Visiting Paddy's House


Entryway at the Fermor house


I've been monitoring the process of turning the house into a retreat center for at least two years. Each time I'd think I could visit some rehabilitation project was slated and the house closed up again.

It appeared earlier this year that the house would be finished and open for tours in mid-June. Again that official opening has been delayed but is far enough along that the Museum is honoring requests for public tours. (Limited times and days because it is still under construction and empty.) 

Entry way and art work

Admittedly from the stories we've heard about their hospitality, it would have been far more fun to have been a dinner or lunch guest of Paddy and Joan's but visiting Paddy's house last week was a pretty special experience.  I had goosepimples walking through the massive entry.


Workers completing The Great Room renovations


While a backhoe clattered away in the lower gardens, a woman mopped the kitchen floor and workers concentrated on completing the living room - the small group of about a dozen of us were set loose to explore the house.


Gardens filled with herbs, oleander, cypress (kiparrisi) and fir trees


It was a perfect time to imagine how it must have been back in the day that these two opened their doors and welcomed guests.  One account reported that this twosome would plan their discussion topics for the evening in advance, so that there would never be a lull in the conversation.



Can you imagine sitting around this table with Paddy and Joan?


Writer Artemis Cooper, a frequent guest, and author of the 2012 book, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, recalled her first visit as being on a calm night with a million stars and six people at the table:


'What did we discuss that night?' she says. 
'I don't remember anything but the velvet night, the sound of the sea, the faces 
in the candlelight, the laughter and the voices - 
and the thought that nothing could be better than that moment.'
.

One of many patio seating areas at Paddy's house



And in Fermor also wrote of those gatherings that stretched long into the night:

'These summer nights are short,' he  wrote.
 'Going to bed before midnight is unthinkable and talk, wine, moonlight and the warm air 
are often in league to defer it one, two or three hours more.'


Open corridor between rooms had garden and sea views


The Fermor's L-shaped  main house is built on two-levels. Bedrooms, a kitchen and the grand room all open off an open stone corridor. Another bedroom is on the lower level. I could imagine houseguests waking  to morning sunlight streaming through the windows, later sipping coffee in the patio, perhaps taking a dip in the water just a stairway away.


Fermor's stairway to the sea



Many of those guests recall with amazement the many books in the home. One writer who toured the home estimated some 5,000 books were tucked away on built in book shelves.


'. . .dictionaries, lexicons, encyclopedias, special editions, Oxford companions, anthologies based on birds, beasts, fishes and stars in the immense libraries -- 
even the bathrooms had bookshelves. . .' he wrote.  

Cartons of books waiting to be re-shelved 


So, even though the bookshelves were bare when we toured, the mountains of boxes stacked in each room led us to speculate the books would soon be back on the shelves.  



Paddy's writing studio 



We followed our tour guide -- a woman who had worked for the Fermor's -- through the sprawling gardens and to his writing studio. It was here he wrote several of his books. His desk  to the right of the group in the photo above, seemed a shrine to the great man. The guide asked that no photos be taken of it (although all of us had photographed the room with it in it). 



The writing studio 

Our tour ended at Lela's House, at the back of the main house. Lela was a long-time housekeeper and cook.  We did have the good fortune to see her before she passed away. She opened Lela's Restaurant on the waterfront in Kardamyli after leaving the Fermor house. Even when she became too old to work in it, she sat 'guard-like' outside her eatery keeping an eye on all preparations and the comings and goings of customers.



Kalamitsi, lower right, and Kardamyli, upper right



After our tour we joined our friends for coffee in Kardamyli, I couldn't help but think of a passage Fermor wrote about the village in his Mani book:



'The Guide Bleu only spares it a half a line, 
mentioning little beyond the existence of its four hundred and ninety inhabitants.  
It is better so. It is too inaccessible and there is too little to do there, fortunately, 
for it ever to be endangered by tourism.'

The village was packed with people that morning, we had to search for parking.  Tourist season has begun.  And I chuckled wondering if Paddy ever imagined as he left his home to the Museum that his place would one day bring even more tourists to the village.

For those coming this way and who want to take part in a tour,contact:  leighfermorhouse@benaki.gr

If you want to book a hotel stay there: 

Thanks for joining us on a trip just down the road and back in time today. As always, we appreciate the time you spend with us.  Wishing safe travels to you and yours until we are together again next week.  A special thanks to those of you who've been sharing our posts with friends ~ it is the best compliment a writer can get!

Sorry about the type size changes throughout the text. Google Blogger is about to drive me to drink. . .or find a new blog platform. . .changes are coming!

Linking this week with:





















Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Greece: “Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”

“Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”
-- Zorba asked his boss in the closing scene of the 1964 movie, “Zorba, The Greek”
 
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“Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”
 
We asked our friends who suggested we join them at a local taverna two weekends ago to watch a Greek dance troupe who’d be performing there.  It wasn’t one of those ‘tourist’ performances promoted far and wide. Here, the owner told patrons. Patrons told friends. They told us. That’s the way it works in Greek villages.
 
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One of the benefits of staying in another country for a period of time – whether owning or renting – is that you can begin to immerse yourself in the culture ~ food ~ music ~ the rhythms of life.While we’ve certainly enjoyed the food and drink in Greece, we’d not had the opportunity to enjoy the songs and dances.
 
But on this particular evening all that was going to change. The sun was just setting, wine was flowing freely from pitcher to glasses, food had been ordered when the music began. . .
 
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Tah-dah-dah-dah-da. . .The music brought forth the dancers. Step, raise the arms, snap the fingers. . .
Oh, Zorba would have liked this. The audience began clapping in time to the music. 

“OPA!” The dancers called out. “OPA!” the audience shouted back. Napkins twirled.

“Throw your napkins!,” our friends told us (they do that instead of flinging plates, these days).

OPA!! How I loved that word each time I called it out.  It is an expression, a joyous Greek exclamation. It downright makes you happy to yell, “OPA!” (Go ahead, try it a few times.)

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What I didn’t realize at the time, but do now that I’ve researched the word, is that OPA!  is also an invitation to come join the dancing, circle dancing, in fact. An invitation to come join in. . .uh-oh.

The dancers twirled toward our table. . .as if they were coming for us. No, not to us. Not in a crowded restaurant.  Four of the eight at our table were tapped. It was time to throw caution to the wind – to make Zorba proud.

We did our best. We circled. Stepping right. Stepping in. Stepping back.

Move right. Arms up and intertwined. Then clasp hands. Same steps. Arms raised as we moved to the center of the circle. “OPA!” we called out. Dance back. Repeat. Repeat and repeat again.

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Our friend takes center 'stage'
We untrained dancers began sweating. Hands were slippery, wet with sweat. Clothes clinging. Still we danced. Our food arrived at our table just as the song was ending. We started to return to our seats. “Another dance, Zorba! You must dance,” said the real dancers.

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The sun had set and food was being consumed by our spouses back at the table – but we continued to dance. We twirled. We spinned. We sweat some more. And we laughed, oh, how we laughed. (I think I even heard Zorba laughing.)

And I know you are hoping to see evidence of this Greek dancing debut, but it wasn’t captured by any cameras at our table. (The Scout was barely able to watch the dancing – he certainly didn’t want to record it for posterity.)

So the best I can do is to add the photo of the Dance Troupe plus Two (me and my friend, Sue):

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That’s it for this week.  Thanks to the dance group, me.bou.da (Melina’s bouzouki dance) for a most memorable evening and introduction to Greek dance at Kastros Taverna in Kardamyli. You can find them on Facebook at me.bou.da Katakolon or dancing their way through The Mani in the Greek Peloponnese.

Again, a big thanks for the time you’ve spent with us. And a welcome to our new subscribers! Hope you’ll come back soon – we are headed to the hills in Greece and will show you some of the off-the-beaten-path treasures along the way.
OPA!!!


Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Here Comes the Bride, Wedding Guests . . . and Tourists

Just like kittens, wine glasses and sunsets, I can’t pass up a good wedding photo. Can you? It doesn’t even have to be anyone I know, as evidenced by this post. And I am seldom alone in my efforts –  other tourists seem to be as taken with the scene unfolding before them as I am.

I should have this shutter-finger reaction because I am a romantic and love weddings. But I don't. We simply enjoy watching the drama surrounding those perfectly posed wedding photos. Those images that will lock the day’s events into picture-perfect history.

Destination weddings have become big ticket tourism in the United States.  Gone are the days of the traditional church wedding with the couple jetting off alone for a honeymoon destination – nowadays the wedding, the guests and honeymoon merge into one far-away affair.

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Undeveloped lagoon at KoOlina; the alter for a wedding in the photo on the right

Hawaii is one of the destination that attracts thousands to its sandy shores for the all-inclusive wedding and honeymoon events. A research manager for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, quoted in an on-line news article, reported that 27,000 Japanese couples married in Hawaii in 2010.

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That’s not surprising based on what we’ve seen there recently. At KoOlina, the resort on O’ahu’s west coast where we spend several weeks each winter, there’s a steady stream of limousines bringing wedding parties to the small wedding chapels strategically located throughout the development. Each chapel just footsteps from one of the four lagoons that are on the property. Often times the wedding photos include backdrops of semi-naked sun-basking tourists like the one below. It was taken front of the wedding chapel located next to Disney’s Aulani Resort (that high rise building in the background is the former JW Marriott Ihilani, soon to be Four Seasons).
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KoOlina Wedding
 
Depending on number of guests and amenities (like bridal bouquets, chairs for guests and photographers) the prices quoted on the KoOlina Weddings web site range from $5,600 to $9,000.  Not bad when compared to the average cost of a wedding alone in the United States being somewhere in the range of $28,000 to $30,000 (depending on the source of your statistics).
 
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KoOlina wedding
We’ve been spotting destination (and a few local) weddings almost everywhere we’ve been in recent years. Like our cruise ship stop in Catania, Italy where the wedding party dog stole the show from the bride and groom:

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In Greece we happened upon weddings in small villages as well as the big city.

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View of Kardamyli's Historic old town - Peloponnese, Greece
From our hotel room in Kardamyli a small town in the Mani region of the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece we overlooked the old town section with its newly renovated tower.  One day while admiring the view we couldn’t help but notice a flurry of activity among the historic buildings.  A closer look, showed us what was happening: wedding photos.

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Kardamyli, Greece
During a stop in Athens, we  headed to the Acropolis – one of our favorite strolling places in town.

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Athen's Acropolis
As we strolled its perimeter and approached the nearby Areopagus or Mars Hill, we noticed far more tourists clamoring on it than we’d seen on earlier visits.

Areopagus is the hill from which St. Paul preached about the identify of the “Unknown God” to the Athenians in 52 A.C; a time Athens was occupied by the Romans. It is named for Ares, the god of war, (known to the Romans as Mars). Ares, as the story goes, was tried on this marble hill for the murder of Poseidon’s son who had violated his daughter.

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Areopagus, or Mars Hill, Athens, Greece
Zooming in on the beehive of activity, I realized we were witnessing yet another ‘destination wedding’ photo shoot – this one a stumbling, bumbling affair as groomsmen swayed back and forth trying to get a foothold on the uneven surface. Several times they rescued the bride and her dress as they jockeyed for a position in front of the camera and out of the way of other tourists.

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Ooops, almost. . .

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Not quite ready for that photographer (hidden behind the bush to the left) to snap some photos. . .

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No, not yet. . .enough! We couldn’t watch anymore. We continued our stroll.

As interesting as it sounds, I don’t think we could have done a destination wedding, way back when we married. How about you? Destination wedding? If so, where was it? Or where would it be?

That’s it for today from us.  We’re still busy with projects at The Stone House on the Hill and will tell you more about it and our cruise in future posts. But with June being the 'wedding month' I thought I'd share some of these wedding moments with you. Thanks for your time and welcome to all of our new followers!! Happy Travels to you.

This week if the internet gods are with us, we are linking up with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Mani ~ The Greek Land of the Towers

From our room in the hotel on the hill in Kardamyli we looked out over the old town’s church and war tower. The two structures are prominent remains of the Troupakis Complex that dates back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Legend has it that the family known as Troupakis were refugees from  Mystra (ancient inland city) when it fell to the Turks in 1461. The family lived in caves (called ‘troupas’ – thus their name) in the Taygetos Mountains behind Kardamyli before arriving here and building the family complex – now a treasured part of history.
The complex was a mesmerizing sight whether in the early morning sun, the mid-day’s blaze or in the evening shadows. The morning our summer sojourn in Greece came to an end, I took this photo from our deck.

I wanted to remember that tower the way it looked in that July’s morning sun.

I wanted to remember this enchanting history-laden Land of the Towers.

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Troupakis Complex - Kardamyli, Greece
The Mani – in the north called the ‘Outer Mani’ and in the south the ‘Deep Mani’ – located in the southern part of the Peloponnese peninsula is the home of ancient towers. (Lovers of Italy’s San Gimignano’s towers in Tuscany would go nuts here!)

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DSCF8282A drive through The Mani (the area is only four hours from Athens via freeway) takes one from olive grove-covered hills and gorges to barren, windswept hillsides on a narrow, lightly-traveled roadway.

You don’t travel far before spotting a tower on a far-away hill or in the midst of villages.

Often times the road slices through stone villages, the old stone buildings so close you could reach out and touch the walls.

A road trip here is guaranteed to offer surprises. Sometimes goats or cattle in the middle of the road, or stone tower towns so picture-perfect they simply don’t seem real.

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Deep Mani Tower Town - Peloponnese
The towers played an important role in this area’s turbulent history. Some freestanding towers were built as village’s war towers and others served as both homes (in the lower level) and a tower for defense in the upper levels. First used when the Turks invaded; later they were used as local clans fought against each other.

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Even today homes built here are constructed using the area’s stone. And some, (like the middle photo above and to the right below illustrate) are being built incorporating the tower design of old.

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Old Tower on the left, new homes on the right
Towers, towers everywhere and most are well preserved.  Standing in the Troupakis Complex (which is a museum area now) in Kardamyli, I took the photo below back towards our hotel on the hill and yet another the tower just behind it. There was a time this harbor town served as Sparta's port.

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Troupakis Complex - Kardamyli
IF YOU GO:

The Mani – a part of the Peloponnese peninsula which is generally thought of as mainland Greece and separated by the narrow width of the Corinth Canal.

There’s a modern divided freeway between the Athens Airport and Kalamata. From Kalamata the state road becomes a two-lane paved roadway. 

There are seasonal flights from various gateways in Europe to the Kalamata Airport and rental cars are available there as well as Athens.

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I’ve mentioned ‘that hotel on the hill’ several times in recent posts. It became our home away from home this past summer and soon I’ll introduce you to the people who run it and our travel lifestyle there. Until then, we thank you for the time you spent with us and hope you enjoyed today’s journey. 

Happy – and safe - travels until we are together again ~

Joining in the fun at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspiration - Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Greece: Finding ourselves in “Pigi” Heaven

KARDAMYLI - We headed south one morning during our summer adventure in the Greek Peloponnese on the winding two-lane highway that lead us back from our coastal setting and up into the Messinian hillsides.

We were off to find, and then explore, Pigi.

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Pigi, Greece
We’d been told the place was home to a restaurant that came highly recommended. Then The Scout found a house listed for sale there. . .a combination we couldn't resist.

After making a sharp exit onto a narrow road that appeared to get smaller, we parked the car and decided to proceed on foot. We’ve learned that some villages in Greece -- built long before cars arrived -- are so small that driving into them isn’t the best idea. We made a wise call on this one as the road into town quickly narrowed to what appeared to be a wide pathway.

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So narrow was the road that we squeezed up against a building when much to our amazement a car approached us from the opposite direction! But aside from that car and its two occupants, it was as if we had the small village to ourselves. We didn’t see another person as we explored the small settlement with a population of 67.

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Our footsteps echoed on the roadway and we spoke in stage whispers as we didn’t know who might be behind those magnificent doorways. . .

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Or up those ancient stairways.  . .and we certainly didn’t want to disturb their morning’s silence. . .

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So we walked to the church. . .as with most villages, it was the centerpiece of the town.

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And then walked a bit further and admired the views. . .

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. . .from the cafĂ©, that hadn't yet opened for the day. And we never did find that house for sale.  But to our way of thinking, we had just had a great introduction to  “Pigi Heaven”.

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A home's sitting area built into the cliff behind the house

We know this is a place we will certainly return to one day . . . its charm is too hard to resist. And who knows? Next time we might see another human being?!

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That’s it for today’s outing in Greece’s Peloponnese. Thanks so much for joining us! And welcome to our new followers and subscribers~



Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Travel Inspiration – Reflections en Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening.

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