Showing posts with label Patrick Leigh Fermor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patrick Leigh Fermor. 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:

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:

Friday, November 3, 2017

Autumn Getaways ~ 'Novel' Destinations

The first rain of autumn arrived a week ago in the Peloponnese, carried in by a blustery wind.  Leaves, crisped by the summer's drought, were blown from trees and plants as the much needed rain dampened  thirsty gardens and groves. We stayed hunkered inside.

During the days that followed that storm, the sunshine and temperatures headed back up into the mid 70’s F and we headed back to the deck for some afternoon sunning.

No doubt about it; the seasons are beginning to change in Greece.

Signs of autumn in The Mani
It is definitely the weather – rain or shine – that invites curling up with a good book. Our 'summer of slogging' -- to bring us to this ex pat chapter of our lives -- didn’t allow any down time for such indulgences. We are more than ready to grab a book and be whisked off to some 'novel' destination to solve a murder or to watch a romance unfold or to follow along as someone else explores some new area or lifestyle.

For those new to our blog, we've moved to Greece and as of yet don’t have a television, so reading is our means of escape and entertainment. (And from the recent headlines we read on the computer, we aren’t in any rush to get a television.)

Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfous has been a favorite for decades
While I’ve got a stack of books just waiting to transport me to some new places in the next few months, I’ve also had some great springtime excursions this year via the written word.  Among the places I’ve visited are:

Kabul, Afghanistan

Deborah Rodriguez took me here in her book, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul. With the coffee shop as a backdrop, five different women with vastly different stories come together in this debut novel, published in 2011. The book, originally published as A Cup of Friendship includes recipes, reading group questions and an interview with the author – all of which are icing on the cake for me! And the good news is, there’s another book I haven't yet read, called A Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.

Ramla, Israel

Product Details

Sandy Tolan’s real-life story of a friendship between a Palestinian and an Israeli reads like a novel, so I've included it in the 'novel' destinations post.  I am thankful a friend had recommended this in a FB post and spoken so highly of it that I was prompted to read it last spring.  The house depicted in the story and the lemon tree in the front yard are real. . .as are the character’s whose friendship of four-decades is highlighted in this story. I’ll warn you – it isn’t an easy one to read but it puts a human face on the headlines and it may be one of the best books I've ever read.

The Lemon Tree grew out of a 1998 NPR documentary in which Tolan reported on a friendship between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman that served as an example of the region's fragile history.

The Syrian Desert 1930’s

And among my favorite novelists is Agatha Christie. When I’d run out of murders solved by her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, I turned to some real-life books she’d written.  The only book I had time to read during our ‘summer of slogging’ was her book, Come, Tell Me How You Live, a memoir about the time spent in Syria in the 1930’s on archeological digs with her husband, Max Mallowan. It was as entertaining as her murder mysteries, emphasizing both her wit and sense of humor (which you’d have needed, I suspect when living in a desert in the 1930’s!)

The good news is that while looking up the photo of this book, I came across another by her grandson, rather recently published, titled, The Grand Tour – Around the World with the Queen of Mystery. I suspect it won’t be long until I am traveling around the world with her, however, this book has drawn real mixed reader reviews on Amazon, so maybe I’ll ponder its purchase for awhile.

A perfect place to read a book

After writing that last sentence about Amazon and knowing that in the past any such reference has brought an outcry from some who don’t like the giant, I thought I should tell you about access to books in this part of Greece. In a word: limited! 

We have two small bookstores in the village of Kardamyli, about 20 minutes away. There’s a bookshop in Kalamata, primarily stocked with Greek books. A few souvenir shops and grocery stores in the villages near us have a few paperback ‘beach reads’ in English as well as books by Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek and many other books) and Patrick Leigh Fermor, (Mani: Travel in the Southern Peloponnese and numerous other books) the area's two most famous writers.

Books arrived at the café where we get our mail!

If we want certain titles or a variety of titles to choose from we turn to Amazon or my preferred provider of books, Book Depository, which operates much like Amazon and is based in the United Kingdom.  They don’t charge postage to mail anywhere in the world! And that fact alone has made me a loyal customer.

Joan and Patrick Leigh Fermor's home outside Kardamyli
We also have a few eateries in the villages that kindly offer space for book exchanges so we have another source of reading materials.  Since so many of the ex pats in the area are British, we are being introduced to a number of their authors we’d have never discovered on our own.

We’ve been here nearly a month and are finally getting over the unsettled phase of life that we’ve been in since July.  I can tell you that a move such as ours causes earth tremors among the great bureaucracies of the world.  Those stories as well as the car shopping adventure are on the docket for future posts about this new ex pat life we've entered.

Got any ‘novel’ destination recommendations for us to explore this winter? If so, let us know. You can never have too many books on your 'must read' list!  Until the next time, safe and happy travels ot you and yours. Thanks again for the time you spend with us! (And thanks to those of you've who've rounded up new readers through your recommendations!)

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Peek at 'Paddy’s' Place ~ in Kardamyli

KARDAMYLI - Our time in Greece was spent not far from “Paddy’s place” as the locals refer to his home.

Paddy, is Patrick Leigh Fermor – the British writer; a near legend in Greece for the part he played in World War II in Crete.

He’s also a legend in some literary circles worldwide. You might know him from the series of books he wrote about his two-year trek on foot as a young man in the 1930’s from Holland to Turkey or from the numerous articles and other books he penned during his lifetime.

Around here his most well-known book is, MANI, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese.

Taygetos Mountains - Peloponnese
He came to The Mani – the vast, sparsely settled area in Greece’s Peloponnese by pack mule somewhere near the mid-20th Century. They didn’t have roads to the region back then and the trip required crossing the soaring Taygetos Mountain range. Note, that even the present-day road (in the photo’s lower left corner) through the area isn’t a super highway.

Kalamitsi in the foreground, Kardamyli in the back
It was The Mani, in an area called Kalamitsi,(the cluster of buildings to the right center above) just south of Kardamyli, where he and his wife, Joan, chose in the 1960’s to build their home.

We think a lot about his place and his history here each time we’ve visited the area. It’s the kind of place that writers consider hallowed ground; the place of pilgrimages. Paddy and Joan hosted many an event and guests – artists and writers among them -- at their home during their years here. A Google search will result in a treasure chest of photos that captured those times. Joan died in 2003 and Paddy at age 96 in 2011.          

Oh, to have been among those guests. . .

The old port - Kardamyli
Kardamyli (kahr-dah-mee-lih), where they made their home, has a population of about 400 residents and is one of the most beautiful places in the Peloponnese.  It might well be our favorite town in the area.

PicMonkey Collage
The Messinian Bay from Kardamyli
It is snugged up against the bluest of water in the Messinian Bay with the Taygetos Mountains serving as its backbone.  No question in our minds why it was said to be one of the seven cities offered to Achilles by Agamemnon.

The snow-covered Taygetos in springtime 
In his book about The Mani, published in 1958, Fermor wrote, “The quiet charm of Kardamyli grew with each passing hour.” 

One of my favorite buildings on Kardamyli's main street
He continued, “It is too inaccessible and there is too little to do there, fortunately, for it ever to be seriously endangered by tourism. No wonder the nereids made it their home”

PicMonkey Collage
(L - R) Fountain in Kardamyli's square, street scenes and view from a favorite coffee shop
Paddy would likely be surprised at the numbers of hikers – primarily from European countries – that are these days trekking to the area to experience some of those same old donkey trails he likely used to reach the area. They are now popular hiking routes.  He’d probably be floored to know that America’s well known tour guide, Rick Steves also offers a tour that includes a one night stop in Kardamyli. He’d be stunned at the number of modern bars and restaurants that sit side-by-side with those traditional tavernas in town. But he is correct – mass tourism, thankfully, hasn’t altered the area's charm.

Aquarella, one of the newest bars in town opened this spring
After last week’s post saying we’d gotten back in the saddle again and gone house-hunting after our failed home purchase this summer, I got a note from my blogging buddy, Vera Marie over at A Traveler’s Library (she shares our love of Greece and for Fermor’s books) in which she jokingly asked if we’d considered Fermor’s home.

Sadly, we’ve never gotten any closer to the home than from a roadside viewpoint high above Kardamyli.  I’ve zoomed in with each stop we make to get a better view of the house that matches those identified as his on internet sites. (My photos below match those identified as their home.)

PicMonkey Collage
Kalamitsi - Patrick Leigh Fermor's homesite
I  have to admit I would love to own Paddy’s place – especially after seeing photos on the internet of the home’s interior. I could imagine entertaining guests as he and his wife had done in this wondrous place.
But the home isn’t for sale.

All news reports say he left the home to the Benaki Museum in Athens and that plans are to one day use it as a writers retreat.  However, there is no reference to it on the museum's web site.

Patrick Leigh Fermor's home - Kalamitsi 
Last year a movie, Before Midnight, the third of the Before Sunrise trilogy was filmed in the area, and included scenes shot at Paddy’s. The DVD can be ordered from Amazon – I just did so as it might be the only way we’ll ever see this place close up!

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday. Thanks for joining us today.  And a big welcome to our new followers!

I have added a few of Paddy's books and the DVD to our Amazon carousel found on our home page. (Legally I have to tell you we make a few pennies from each sale from it and honestly, I have to tell you, we've never sold anything from it!)

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
Weekend Travel Inspirations at Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday at Lavender Cottage Gardening

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Kalimera from Kardamyli

Good Morning from Kardamyli, the town which is our home away from home for the next few days.

The photo below is of our deck and a portion of the view we have from it. That’s the top of a fig tree you see and a small lemon tree grows below it at water’s edge.

We are in a small studio with kitchenette and more cooking tools and flatware than I’ll ever use. (Cutting fresh cheeses, slicing vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh bread from the bakery doesn’t require much more than a knife and plate.) The cost is 40-euro a night, about $52 US.

Mani 022

Our ‘home’ as we call it, is just ‘around the bend’, (the point you see in the photo below),  from Patrick Leigh Fermor’s former home.  He’s the writer of many books about his travels through Europe, and this part of Greece, The Mani. ~ He loved this place in the Peloponnese  so much that  he and his wife lived the last half of their lives here.

Mani 042

Another writer, David Mason, wrote a memoir about his time also living here, for a time a neighbor of Fermor’s.  His book, “News from the Village” is a must read for lovers of this area. I wrote him before our trip and asked for any recommendations he might have for us in this town that is said to be one of the seven cities offered to Achilles by Agamemnon.

Mani 027

He responded to my questions and I’ve quoted several times since our arrival the sentence with which he closed his email to me: “In honest truth, no matter where you go, you will not go wrong. Beauty is everywhere.” 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Armchair Travels

A beach, a mountain cabin, or a back yard lawn chaise lounge – is the perfect spot from which you can  enjoy the ease of armchair travel. 

This summer's laid-back 'travels' have taken us on a road trip, introduced us to several interesting people and have taken us back to Greece, all we had to do was to read these three books:

J. Smith, (C) 2011
The Leisure Seeker, (by Michael Zadoorian; Harpercollins, 2009) is a touching love story/travel book that tells of two 80-year-olds, Ella, who has cancer, and her husband, John, an Alzheimer’s victim, who ‘kidnap themselves’ from well-meaning children and doctors and set out on one last road trip in their 1978 Leisure Seeker RV. 

I laughed and I cried as I 'rode along' on this final journey. It is one of the best reads we’ve had in months.  (Note: I said ‘we” which means that Joel also liked it and ‘love’ stories aren’t high, make that, on his list). We read it because I had won it in a contest on  A Traveler’s Library. BTW, if you love travel and books, and haven't checked out that blog, you should, just click the link.
During our stay in London last May, the travel section of the Sunday London Times  ran an excerpt from a book that, lucky for us, hit the bookshelves while we were there:

Ox Travels Meetings of Remarkable Travel Writers, with an introduction by Michael Palin and edited by Mark Ellingham, Peter Florence and Barnaby Rogerson (Profile Books, 2011), is a fund-raiser for Oxfam.  All the writers have donated their royalties from the book to that organization, which is a confederation of 15 organizations working to end poverty and social injustice.

The best travel writers in Britain and a bit further away were asked to write about a meeting they had had with someone somewhere. (No, in case you are wondering, they didn't ask me to contribute.) The only rules for those who did were that the story be true and the meeting real.  The editors envisioned perhaps 20 writers agreeing to the project and a book of about 250 pages. The response was overwhelming with 36 writers contributing stories that filled 432 pages!  And the price is only 9.99L or $15.95US.
J. Smith photo, (C) 2010
Another newspaper excerpt, this one from the Wall Street Journal, led us to  News from The Village, Aegean Friends, a Memoir by David Mason, (2010 Red Hen Press). The article in the paper was so beautifully written that it sent me straight to the computer to order a copy. But not before I spent 20 minutes – thanks to the wonders of YouTube listening to Mason read excerpts. His book tells a beautiful tale of pursuing his writing dreams while having the good fortune of developing a friendship with, Patrick Leigh Fermor, his neighbor in Greece, who is recognized as one of the world’s greatest writers.

If you have been to Greece or dream of going to Greece this book will transport you there.  Ten minutes into it, Joel announced he was ready to go back.

Of interest, to those of you in Washington State, David Mason, was raised in Bellingham, the small town near the Canadian border.

Note: The books are on the Amazon carousel on the blog's homepage and if you order one from it, we are paid a small commission.


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