Showing posts with label summer in Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer in Greece. Show all posts

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Having A Heat Wave ~ A Novel Escape

You can count on July and August in our slice of the Greek Peloponnese to be sizzlers. But this year, the heat has had an intensity that takes one's breath away. 

Heading to Pantazi beach to beat the heat

Our wet, chilly spring hung on so long that we wondered if we would have a summer. But by mid-July there was no doubt about it: summer had arrived. Two weeks ago, temperatures hit 109F/42.7C at our house, and just an hour's drive to our east, soared to 115F, slightly over 46C.

Kalamata beach fun and sun - a tourist favorite

Plants in our gardens have withered - blooms and leaves are brown. Hillsides and olive groves are virtual tinderboxes. Tourists are flocking to the beaches to cool off while residents, like us, are hunkered inside behind shuttered windows (to block sun rays) with our fans and air conditioners getting their seasonal workout.

Hillside tinderboxes 

The heat has occasionally shut down popular tourist attractions like the Acropolis in Athens during the day. Jobs requiring hard physical labor throughout the country were suspended several times during the mid-day as heat reached record highs. Wildfires are still being fought out on several Greek islands and near Athens. 

The water bucket is an ominous sign of summer here

The sound of helicopters this time of year means firefighting is underway. We search the surrounding sky for smoke when we hear the beat of the copter's blades. Luckily, fires have been a distance from us and have been contained quickly.

With no energy or desire to leave our home's cool interior, we have turned to novel getaways for our summer fun; the kind of get-away best undertaken from an easy chair or couch.

Our Novel Escapes

Our favorite souvenir is a book purchased at some wonderful bookstore we've happened upon in our travels. The book, besides providing a great armchair escape once we are home, brings back the memories of shopping for it as well.  Sometimes the search for a bookstore is almost as memorable. Surprisingly, one of our favorite 'reads' of the summer came from failing to find a bookstore:

Celebrity Edge has a pool but no library.

We'd taken a week-long Celebrity cruise from Rome to Barcelona in late May. Planning to find a bookstore at one or more of our ports of call, or turning to the ship's library if we couldn't find a store, neither of us took any reading material. A mistake, to be sure! 

We couldn't find a bookstore in Ajaccio, Corsica, nor in Portofino, Italy or Cannes, France. And our Celebrity Edge ship, built in 2018, was constructed without a library (one of the few negatives about the ship, to my way of thinking).  

Our cabin's indoor deck was a perfect spot for reading.

I finally managed to find a handful of books (in a cupboard behind the reception desk) that had been left behind by former cruisers. 


Among them was a beat-up book, The House at the Edge of Night, by Katherine Banner. Published in 2017 by Random House, it was that year named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, the Los Angeles Public Library and Kirkus Reviews. Set on a fictitious Italian island, the novel spans four generations, and features a main character who collects stories of island life.  The author was inspired by three real-life chroniclers of Sicilian and Italian folk stories: Giuseppe Pitre, Laura Gonzenbach, and Italo Calvino.

A perfect summer read


My favorite novel getaway so far this year came from a chance purchase at Eslite Bookstore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - a sprawling place that encompasses most of the second floor of a downtown shopping mall.  It required at least three trips to visit all its sections. We seek local authors whose work has been translated to English and hit a goldmine when we discovered. . .

Display at Eslite Bookstore Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

. . .The Gift of Rain, the debut novel of Malaysian writer, Tan Twan Eng. The book set in Penang, Malaysia, opens in 1939 and spans a time before, during and after the Japanese invasion of that country as part of World War II. The book is so rich in historical, religious and cultural layers, that I plan to read it more than once to absorb all that it has to offer.   The author is a gifted wordsmith whose first line had me captured: 

Debut novel long listed for the Booker Award

 'I was born with the gift of rain, an ancient soothsayer in an even more ancient temple told me.'  

Viet Nam

Ho Chi Minh City Opera House

 I wanted to read more books set in the countries we'd visited on that February trip, specifically Cambodia and Viet Nam.  While taken with the beauty we found in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)  I wanted to be reminded of the country's recent history as well. I had been too young during the war to grasp the magnitude of its horrors. 

I got a taste of them though in, The World Played Chess by Seattle author Robert Dugoni.

A coming of age novel

His book is a coming-of-age tale that centers around three young men: one an 18-year-old fighting in the Viet Nam war. It is a captivating read, with story passages that can make you laugh and cry. Spoiler alert: His research on Viet Nam combat was thorough, there are some tough passages in this one.  


Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace - Florence

I am the first to admit that I find textbook-style history to be too dry to comprehend.  But when I happen upon a well-written historical novel - or in this case, a saga of novels - that keep me entertained while teaching me something, I am unable to put them down.  

Italian writer Matteo Strukul, has caught both of us up in his three-book trilogy about the Medici's: Medici Ascendancy is set in 1429, Medici Supremacy in 1469 and Medici Legacy, 1536. 

Florence from the Boboli Gardens

The Medici's were a rich and powerful family that ruled Florence and later Tuscany from 1434 until 1737, with the exception of a couple of periods of time.  It is difficult to visit Florence and not be impressed with the impact of the Medici's on Italy.  These books are an entertaining- if somewhat imaginative - look into the history and legacy of that powerful family

Who Dunnit?

I love getaways, that involve figuring out who committed the crime in some favorite destination.  While on the topic of Italy, Florence in particular, we must give a shout-out to our favorite crime writers in that city, Michele Giutarri.  He certainly has done plenty of first-hand research and probably has more story ideas than he'll live long enough to write.  

Florence at night

Giuttari is the former head of the Florence Police Force, serving from 1995 until 2003.  He has turned his talents to writing crime fiction. . .or is it fiction? Whatever the case, the books are page turners, and you get a travelogue of the city with each case he solves.

A who-dunnit set in Florence

And then came Pinocchio

'How can I be an English major and traveler and yet had never read Pinocchio?' I asked myself during our visit to Florence last month. And I remedied that, during that same visit with a purchase of the Penguin Classic version of this book written by Carlo Collodi in 1880. 

Carlo Collodi is the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini, 1826 - 1890, a writer, novelist, journalist and political satirist who was born in Florence.  

You are never too old to read Pinocchio!

I was expecting a quick read of a simple children's story - with a storyline similar to the mid-century Walt Disney movie I had seen as a child.  Was I ever in for a surprise! Thanks to this annotated edition I discovered this little children's story is actually a sophisticated satire that reflected the author's concern for the social inequities of his time.  The annotations were as interesting as the plot!  Who knew?  It was a delightful read and I highly recommend it!

Enough about our novel getaways.  Where have books taken you this season?  Leave us a note in the comments or shoot us an email -- we are always looking for a recommendation for a novel getaway! Until next time, wishes for safe travels to you and yours and thanks for the time you spent with us today!

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Kalo Mina! ~ July in Greece

 Kalo Mina, we call out in greeting, Good (New) Month! 

A summer sunset in Greece

July has arrived in Greece. The cicadas are filling the air with their surround-sound sizzling summer song. The sound they make reminds us of those huge oscillating irrigation sprinklers used to water thirsty fields in Washington State or the sound of electricity running through high voltage wires leading from the Columbia River on a hot summer's day.

The cicadas song is definitely the sound of summer in our slice of Greece but it also serves to remind us of the sounds we knew in our 'other world'. This is our fifth summer spent as American expats living in the rural part of the Peloponnese; transplants from the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Stoupa Beach - summertime!

Temperatures in Greece are soaring - with the thermometer climbing to 90F /32C. Humidity is just under 70%.  This is the type of weather that gets us up early so that outdoor olive grove and garden chores are completed by mid-morning, and errands are completed before noon. 

Afternoons - at least for locals - are spent indoors trying to stay cool. Tourists on foot, bike and in rental cars, head to the beaches to bake themselves into various shades of red and brown.

Last summer's fire got a bit close to us

Sadly, summer has become a time of wild fires, warnings and alerts have been coming fast and furiously in recent days. Now, reports of fires.  They remind us via social media that the level of heat and a brisk breeze is a dire combination. Greece has taken a proactive approach to firefighting this summer.  Firefighters from neighboring European Union countries have already arrived in Greece and are stationed throughout the country on the ready to fight any outbreaks that happen over the weekend.

Summer's Mid-Day Nap

With the heat and humidity climbing  and our ambition correspondingly dropping, summer here is a time to perfect the mid-day nap. This Greek equivalent of a siesta usually takes place between 2 pm and 5 pm. 

The Summer Nap - our cats love it!

Called  'these ores ths laikis isikhias' in Greek, its literal translation is, 'the hours of popular quiet'. It is taken so seriously that police can cite those who violate the quiet. It is a time for a mid-day meal, rest and quiet. Prompted by the intense heat, often times the mid-day meal is eaten as late as 4 p.m. and the nap times can extend to 6:30pm. 

Laborers stop work and resume in the cooler evening hours.  Many retail outlets close during  nap hours, opening in the evening and staying open as late as 11 p.m. or midnight.  Restaurant diners don't arrive for meals until  8 p.m. or later.

The Summer After Covid 

We have a fine dining restaurant in the village now

I will admit we worried about a number of our friends and their businesses as the year-long Covid lock-down pretty much stretched into a two year lockdown, but I am happy to report that not only have all of our retail stores and restaurants in this part of the Mani re-opened, but we have also added new businesses to the line up as well.

Medikon opens in Ag. Nikolaos. Photo: Medikon

In our village of Agios Nikolaos, we've had a fine dining/cocktail lounge open at the harbor in place of a long-time traditional Greek eatery. While we miss that menu and the folks who ran that place, the new restaurant has ratcheted up our dining options.  I might add, it is also run by a couple from Athens whose family is here and run a traditional beach taverna just down the road.

Gelato in Agios Dimitrios

And in Agios Dimitrios, the small hamlet literally at the foot of 'our' hill, a cafe has opened. This is BIG news as it is the only eatery or retail business in the village! A mom-and-two-daughter team from Kalamata has quickly turned it into a popular drink and snack destination.

Laid Back Locals

An early morning coffee klatch on the beach!

We were officially called 'locals' this week when a village businessman we often see having coffee at the same places we go to, labeled us as such. He said because we see each other enough to recognize each other - and he was born and raised here - then, we are considered, locals.  So being 'locals' our summer mornings are spent as locals do -having a coffee at one of the many tavernas and cafes in the village.  A group of lady friends met for coffee a few weeks ago and you can tell from the photo we are locals: as we are hovering in the shade and there so early the tourists haven't taken over the beach chairs in the background. 

Although 'meeting for coffee and conversation' here is much like anywhere, we expats always take a moment to marvel at our surroundings. 'Can you believe we are meeting for coffee on a beach, walking distance from home and can run our feet through the sand while visiting?' one of us will invariably ask of the other.

Summer Travels

It is a joy to once again be able to travel this summer - with limited required mask wearing and no need to show Covid vaccination cards.  It almost feels like 'normal'. We just returned from a 10-day outing which began in Athens and then involved island hopping.  We were reminded again by the languages we heard spoken, of Greece's world-wide appeal as a tourist destination.

Tourists, 'selfies' and Athens sights from our hotel

Despite airport chaos -- cancelled flights, delayed flights, lost luggage, enormous lines -- in major airports across the European Union and England, travelers keep on traveling.  

In the cool of the night - temperatures drop to the 70's

We are still waiting for those residency permits of ours to be renewed - now in month three of our countdown -- so we are required to stay within Greece for our travels this summer. Road trips (gasoline is just under $10 a gallon) and ferry trips are making this 'renewal lockdown' really quite tolerable.  We plan a return to the States in August/September.  At least the flights are booked, but with the continuing and increasing aviation chaos, we are braced for our flights to be cancelled -- hopefully soon enough to come up with a Plan B.

EasyJet, RyanAir, and British Air employees are all planning a series of strikes during the next two months.  Each strikes on a different set of days to make it real nasty and confusing. We are booked on British Air - they are to notify travelers by 14 days prior to departure. We will deal with that when we need to. In the meantime, we will enjoy the summer, naps, coffees and an occasional road trip.

TravelnWrite is on the Gold List!

We were most pleased to be notified this week of having made the Gold List of Boomer Travel blogs for 2022 by the folks at Getting on Travel. Check out some of the blogs on this list - it will be great for armchair getaways and might even prompt you to pack your bags!

Safe travels to you and yours~ hope to see you back here soon!

Linking this week with:

 Through My Lens

Monday, July 9, 2018

Greece ~ Summertime and the livin’ is easy. . .

“Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.”
                                                                           -- Jenny Han

A summer's eve at The Stone House on the Hill
The cicadas, those miniature merrymakers of summer sambas, have filled our Greek world with their song since late May. They are the troubadours who herald in the summer season known here as kalokairi, summer.  On this Monday afternoon, their sizzling melody seems as intense as the Mediterranean sun’s rays.

My garden is wilting, the olive grove dry. . .
They aren’t the only ones singing. In recent days while doing my morning chores at The Stone House on the Hill I’ve been humming a customized version of that Porgy and Bess tune, ‘Summertime and the livin’ is easy. . .’, substituting ‘my garden is wilting, the olive grove's dry. . .’ for 'the fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high'.

Summer - the Messinian Bay looking toward Kalamata
Summer, kalokairi, arrived bringing temperatures in the high 80’s and low 90’s (30C and up), sunshine and blue skies. It is a season that has beckoned us for three years to stay longer. This will be our first summer spent entirely in Greece.

And so far we are finding it to be as postcard pretty as it appears in those tourist promotion photos!

PELOPONNESE MAP BEST OF GREECE HOLIDAYS[1]In the past month or so, we have had houseguests with whom we’ve toured our area. Other times we’ve headed out on own. Sometimes we go no further than our village or our deck to remind us just how spectacular summer can be in Greece!.

(For those new to the blog and our story: we live just south of Kalamata – near Stoupa on the map to the left - in the Greek Peloponnese. We moved here full-time last October.)

So on this sweltering summer afternoon while I am enjoying our recently installed air conditioning, I decided to give you a quick look at summer in our Slice of Greece.

South to Limeni:

Limeni, Peloponnese
Less than an hour south of us, Limeni is the name of a traditional settlement, a settlement of the family Mavromichali.  Petros Mavromichali is a famous leader of the Maniot people back in the first half of the 19th Century, particularly noted for leading revolts against the Ottomans. The settlement is built along the shore of one of the prettiest bays in our area.

Tourist accommodations are dotting the hillsides at Limeni
P1070715Today the area is a tourist draw as new ‘small settlements’ – rentals and vacation accommodations -- are springing up on the hillsides overlooking this horseshoe shaped harbor.

Because Limeni and its neighboring New Oitylo village at the harbor (old Oitylo sits high on a hill above the two) are so close to us, it is an easy destination for a long lunch at one of the many tavernas or restaurants that line its long stretch of beach.

This area plays prominently in the area’s pirate history, but that’s a story for another day. . .for now we are now off to another seaside destination, just outside Kalamata. . .

North to Kitries

Whether you  follow the beach road from Kalamata, or head to it from an inland route, Kitries will literally be where the two roads intersect and end. We’d lived here for some time before we got around to following the recommendations of friends and finally visited the place. But once we saw it, we knew we’d be regulars to this picturesque spot on the Messinian Bay.

Fishing boats at Kitries
Kitries was our Sunday drive destination a couple weeks ago. Much like Limeni, it takes less than an hour to reach this small protected boat harbor, filled with an array of fishing craft. Once upon a time, the place was an important anchorage, home to five of the Beys (Turkish title for‘chieftain’) of the Mani with large fortified walls. Any signs of walls are long gone, replaced by tavernas and restaurants.

Tavernas at Kitries 

Those tavernas were coming to life during our morning stop and preparing for a summer Sunday onslaught of sun-seekers.

Speaking of onslaughts. We are often asked by somewhat incredulous first-time visitors: "How did you find this place?!”  Difficult as it is for our American friends to comprehend, the Mani, is a popular tourist destination and quite well known on this side of the Atlantic.  Let me show you a section of that beach road to Kitries:

Sun and beach seekers filled the road along the bay
For miles (kilometers) cars were parked bumper-to-bumper on the beach road. The only other place that has looked like this in our travels has been the North Shore of Hawai’i’s O’ahu island during surfing season!

East into the Mountains – Milea

Milea aka Milia village
We never miss a chance to take our guests up into the Taygetos Mountain range, the backbone of the Peloponesse. One of our favorite stops, less than 30 minutes away is Milea (aka Milia) village. The village, actually is located on three levels, but our favorite stop is the section in which the main road cuts through. You can’t drive this route without literally cutting through town (but that could be said of a number of places in this part of the world as well).

Can you spot the Pappas?
When visiting, we pull off the road and park to the side of the church, near the one taverna in this part of town and the nearby small bus stop.  We seldom see signs of residents, although on Easter we finally spotted the Papas in the church talking with another set of tourists.

The village taverna
Philip, a retired-from-New-York-business-owner, has returned to his village and runs the only taverna in this part of town out of the home in which he was raised. He regales us with tales of growing up in the village – back then he walked the old trails and cobblestoned kalderimi to get to the harbor to catch a ferry to Kalamata. The roads we consider tiny are still relatively new in this part of the country. Summertime is a good time to head out on those roads, slow our pace, and sit and listen to stories of yesteryear.

Unexpected finds on the mountain roads include this mural on a shed
“Rest is not idleness and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
                                             -- Anna Godbersen

Kitries, Greece
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
             -- Charles Bowden

We hope that whatever the season you are experiencing, that you have the time to get out and experience its sights and sounds! We’ll be back next week and hope to see you here! Thanks for you time today and safe travels to you and yours.

Linking up this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend


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