There was a fire at Aghii Anargiri yesterday, the place in Spetses where my parents have their holiday home and where we just left last week.
To put the first picture into context, this is the view from the balcony. The House with the awning is the same house with the awning in the fire picture in the bottom left corner…the fire came down from the hills on the left. My mother was at the house – my father, sister, niece and three friends were all at another beach -Xylokeriza – they all made it to safety, though some with only the swimming costumes they were standing in.
There was a huge fire in 1990 that many of us remember with horror: Nothing can prepare you for the sound, noise, speed, smell. The difference with this fire was it started in the morning which gave the helicopters and water planes a chance. The downside was the high winds, ready to whip the flames back into action.
Today’s media update:
The wildfires on the Argosaronic island of Spetses and at Anavysos, east of Athens, were under control on Wednesday morning after a difficult night with strong winds that threatened to fan them further.
The forest fire on the southwest part of Spetses appeared to be contained by the dozens of firefighters on the island.
The fire broke out on Tuesday at noon at the forest near Aghii Anargyri, near the top of the island’s mountain, and headed west toward the beach before swinging south toward Xylokeriza. This is the same forest area that suffered from the 1990 wildfire. It has undergone extensive reforestation.
The few scattered holiday homes in that area were not damaged, thanks mainly to the rapid response of the local and regional fire service. Six helicopters and at least three airplanes contributed to the battle with the fire on the touristic island up to late in the evening on Tuesday. A helicopter and two aircraft resumed operations on Wednesday morning along with 70 men on the ground plus many volunteers.
The island’s mayor Panayiotis Lyrakis spoke of a possible arson, on which his deputy, Paraskevi Stofyla expressed her certainty.
Swimmers at the popular beach of Aghii Anargyri were evacuated with sea taxis as the flames appeared particularly threatening.
“The blaze passed passed by 10-11 holiday houses but fortunately there was no damage caused,” stated Lyrakis.
My family are now making their heartbroken way back to their house. This was the stunning bay of Xylokeriza, where most of our group were swimming that fateful day.
This is it now.
Whilst grateful that lives are safe, all who know this place as a heavenly paradise will appreciate the sense of grief and bleakness to see it so ravaged and hurt. We await to see the pictures of our beautiful bay.
Laters, Kate x
When writing a post for this Blog, sometimes it’s planned – more often than not, it’s spontaneous and every now and then it’s fate. This is a fate post – with a long list of things to do this morning, none of which I’ve managed to get done, I came to my keyboard late wondering what on earth I would write. Then I opened up Heather Clawson’s post of the day from Habitually Chic and need, love and fate all collided. Heather had posted pictures of a stunning house in Spetses from an article in Architects Digest which is telling as it was only last week we were on the island. What makes it more poignant is that today is my parents 49th wedding anniversary and they are still out there…and there is nothing my mother likes better than a good nose around a house – this is for you mum – Enjoy and happy anniversary!
Laters, Kate x
The news around the world isn’t great at the moment. Condensed down, the underlying message I’m hearing is that big things don’t work (Didn’t we learn anything from the Romans?). And yet the drive to continually make everything bigger and supposedly better runs deep, because if you don’t…you’re a failure; The economy has to grow, companies have to grow..countries, even religions all want to expand till they become these slow moving bloated beasts that eat up everything in their way, with no joined up thinking except feeding this thirst for size and dominance. It’s a big day for Greece today. I don’t know what the right answer is..I’m not sure there is one, except maybe they should never have joined the EU in the first place. But it seems to me that things are becoming more and more about power plays than people.
Thank God for the whimsy of fashion….and the joy that is Linda V. Wright, former model and fashion editor, born in Texas but oh-so far removed from a rodeo riding stetson toting stereotype.
Now living in Paris and running her own shop, Crimson Cashmere,
She’s a lesson in graceful, chic yet expressive dressing.
Like the world’s best perfumes, she’s layered in classics all with subtle, different flavours.
(All pics from pinterest)
You want to sit down with her at a striped bistro table in a busy Parisian street and ask, is this really all possible? Can life really be this easy? This sassy?
Laters, Kate x
This is where we’ve been, so this re-cycled post seems fitting..
My connection to the island of Spetses goes back two generations when my grandparents were first offered land there to build a holiday home away from the pollution of Athens. They’d travelled to Greece from the highlands of Scotland following the depression – the story goes that my Grandfather, Robert Mackenzie, a Classics Scholar, was offered a job sweeping the floor of the EMI factory. Something went wrong with one of the machines and he fixed it..and then rose quickly through the ranks to become managing Director of EMI in Greece at a very special time: it was the cheapest place in Europe to record and make records and consequently drew talent talent from across the board from the Beatles to Maria Callas. My father was born there, although he was sent back to boarding school in the Lake District at aged five..it used to take him two days of travel by plane with a pit stop in Rome to get home, all in a converted Lancaster Bomber.
In my grandparents time, this house was the inspiration for John Fowles’s book, The Magus – he taught English at the once famous school (now a conference centre) on the island, said to be the Greek equivalent of Eton, he would walk all over the island in the quiet of the winter months in search of solitude and ideas. The house was owned by an eccentric millionaire and was then (before the great fire: another story) hidden from view by layers of huge pine trees. As a child, I went there for tea with my Grandmother to be shown faberge eggs and ancient seals. I don’t remember it, but I do remember the millionaire ended up in jail for forging an ancient land deed..with a biro.
Just down the valley is the bay where my parent’s house is…virtually unchanged. This picture is taken from the balcony of my sister’s parents-in-law’s house….Greece lies deep within the family blood and it’s special to have a proper Greek family that has linked the time and generations together.
My sister’s In-law’s house is next door to Madame Pourri’s on the hill – she’ll be ninety this year and is still going strong with a swim every day…….she was evacuated on the same boat with my grandmother and my father as a small child when the Germans invaded in the Second World War…first to Egypt, then eventually to South Africa.
They spoilt us with a treat normally reserved for Easter…roast lamb..my absolute favourite!
Bella and Charlie are now the third generation to enjoy this special place and it’s unique atmosphere, where even walking on water is possible…
Spetses is famous for it’s pine tress, crystal clear waters and the coloured stones on the beaches: yellow, green, pink..each one a gem.
It’s very much an Athenian resort island with a siren call to all the big yachts of the Mediterranean and a play ground for the super rich….but always over seen by Laskarina Bouboulina…an incredible lady with seven children from Spetses who became an General of the Greek fleet and an Admiral of Russia and led the Greek navy in the battle of independence against the Turks….Greece will always be a land of beauty, mystery and contradictions where anything..absolutely anything is possible…
Leaving, as we arrived on a speed boat – we were all sad to go, but we had another adventure ahead of us..to the island of Lefkada…and we’ll be back….it’s only au revoir..
Laters, Kate x
Seems a shame to let them languish in the photo library, so – ‘ello sailor! here they are…the last chapter of Greece 2015 starting with standing on the beach, ouzo in hand, looking back to Leonidio..
Walking back to my parent’s house.
We’d timed our return well..the figs were now ripe!
We travelled to different beaches..I was the one running behind. Not.
Spetses is renown for it’s clear waters..I have yet to find a place to compare.
Charlie got obsessed with fishing!
Success! (There is the world’s smallest fish inside his pot..)
For our last evening we were joined by my sister and her daughter, Bea – a much-loved cousin, who were just starting their holiday as we were ending ours.
Sitting on the wall, saying goodbye and waiting for the bus to take us to town – the first stage of the long journey home.
It was a fabulous holiday – and all those concerns we went out with based on the reports in the UK media were totally unfounded – Greece is staggeringly beautiful country with so much to offer in terms of beach, food, hospitality, history and more besides. Now they need all the tourists they can get – if you get the chance, go! – it really is the garden of the Gods.
Laters, Kate x
It’s pouring with rain here..time to return to summer memories of the sun.
This was the evening of our fifteenth wedding anniversary with an obligatory, if rare selfie.
My parent’s had decided to stay an extra day and had moved to this beautiful hotel in the middle of Leonidio town.
Full of antiques and curiosities, beautifully done…a real gem.
We sat around their pool for an aperitif and watched as 20 or more bats from the red mountains dipped into the pool for a cooling evening drink.
Bella was none to pleased at being ‘forced’ to wear a dress for the occasion.
Not even a cuddle from Daddy helped. It was a lovely evening though..we went into the town..
And found this incredible shop run by a mother and daughter who, in amongst the washing up liquid and Ajax sold all their own homemade produce including jams, honey, capers..and a spirit made from Aubergine! They’d just bake a whole tray of almond biscuits which they proceeded to hypnotise us with..honestly some of the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten. We stocked up on all sorts. Our meal was equally memorable..in a little square, with one long table full of local friends who were musicians, happily playing, singing and dancing. Pure magic.
The next day we waved good bye to my parents who were off to meet their Greek son-in-law for a trip to the theatre at Epidauvros, and returned to our favourite beach/taverna. On the way there Bella said she didn’t want to go as she wanted a sandy beach..the Gods heard her for when we got there, it was! Large waves had rolled in and taken all the round pebbles away..
Then the waves rose up again..which the children loved.
During this time, we’d spend the mornings at the pool whilst the husband was on the phone/internet, going through a nightmare with work. And then we’d head out for somewhere for lunch, dragging him with us. The problem was there were no facilities at the villa complex – nowhere to get an ice cream or drink and no taverna within walking distance. We were reliant on the apartment, the internet, the car and on him.
Having lunch at Plaka..Charlie decided he was going to jump off the pier..
Which he did!
But then he got really upset that Bella didn’t jump in with him and started throwing a paddy, screaming and hitting the water – all the locals thought he was drowning..and were wondering why his parents weren’t jumping in after him..we stayed a safe distance away.
The screams got even louder when we saw there were ducks in the water with him!
And then we lost the internet. The husband really thought he’d have to return home..he needed the car to back to Athens..but we couldn’t manage without a car.
So we re-packed the cases, in case he had to fly back..
Rang my parents who were now back at Spetses and explained we needed refuge..we could return to Athens under our own steam from there..and it had internet.
And made our way back to Spetses!
It wasn’t exactly a hardship.
Laters, Kate x
Our first stop after Spetses was less discovery, more nostalgia – a little taverna for lunch situated on the edge of the ancient city of Asini that we used to visit with my Grandmother. I remember as a child being told a story about ancient jewellery discovered in the bay by snorkelers…as a consequence, we were obsessed with finding more treasure, despite it having the largest sea-slug population we’d ever seen. Of course we never found any..but it meant the adults always managed a very quiet, happy lunch..hmmmmmmmmm.
And then, with a twist and a wink of the fickle finger of fate the sleepy atmosphere suddenly changed. People moving, fingers pointing to the sky, telephone calls and noticeable agitation. We looked behind us and saw an ever growing column of smoke, the cloying smell of burning layering the air.
We jumped in the car and thought our route would take us quickly away in the other direction..but instead we seemed to be heading straight into the thick of it.
And then we were clear..having experienced forest fires before, it was good to see the professionals were onto it. I hope no-one suffered.
Our destination, the very beautiful Apelon Triton villas on the outskirts of Leonidion on the Peloponnese.
We went down for our very first swim in the pool..and met a family…from Clapham South! Oh what a small, small world..
Down at Plaka at sunset, the main harbour/beach of Leonidion.
We were all blown away by the quality of the food. Little did was know Leonidion is the European centre for aubergines! There’s a Festival every year and chefs come from all around to prove their aubergine recipe is the best!
The kids were just happy to play on the beach. This was a lovely spot where an ice cold mountain stream met the sea.
This was a new area for all of us – I hadn’t come here in my backpacking days as it’s pretty inaccessible without a car, the mountains are high and the beaches are on little winding roads all the way down. But it’s so very beautiful and unspoilt.
All the beaches had different coloured stones, here at Poulithra they were shades of grey and perfectly round.
The view from our favourite taverna..a foodies delight: grilled sardines, goat with aubergine and saganiki mussels. All utterly delicious.
The husband trying to have his photo taken without a double chin!
SOOO good. If you’re ever here, these are the details!
Sadly, this was quite a common occurrence..
Oh no he’s on the phone AGAIN!
Another little bay – Sampatico – this time the stones were green..
As the sun went down we could look back to Spetses..it was very strange being on the other side.
Laters, Kate x
My parent’s house sits on a hill on the right hand curve of a bay that acts as a natural amphitheatre with an unnerving ability to amplify recognisable conversations all the way from the beach. A fact we used to appreciate in the old days when the only telephone belonged to the taverna down below, over the quiet hum of cicada’s we’d hear a frantic ‘Mackenzie!, Mac-ken-zie!’ – and we knew we had 10 minutes to drop whatever we were doing and run down as quickly as possible to be there for when the caller was told to call again.
It’s that knowledge of history and familiarity that adds to the magic of the place..the fact that really, very little has changed..there’s still the scent of pines, the noise of crickets, the enveloping heat, all heavily layering the air, gently luring you in to eternal enchantment.
Some of the older characters of my youth have moved or passed on now – I remember Christo Louris, locally known as the ‘ex-millionaire’ who’d allegedly been taken to the cleaners by his wife..who then spent the rest of his ‘fortune’ trying to keep his demanding mistress happy in an exclusive flat in Piraeus. He’d sit at the taverna and nurse a beer all day long…and leap on any leftover plates of food, claiming them as his own.
Another great favourite was Captain Alecko – a man almost as round as he was tall. He would happily tell us long, involved stories about his life at sea that generally ended in some disaster or other. I know my cousins were staying in the house by themselves one summer and, in the seclusion and shade of the verandah, they discussed which side they thought Captain Alecko batted for (he always had a rather young, attractive, male ‘helper’ with him) when over the wind came the sing-song words ‘Captain Alecko…he has very big ears!..” They ran inside and didn’t come out for two days. The natural amphitheatre has a lot to answer for..Captain Alecko’s two great concerns were that the authorities would discover he had Laskarina Bouboulina’s telescope, that had come into his possession via some dubious route, which never happened..and that his mother would die whilst he was on holiday, and no-one would tell him – which did!
Drawing everything together is the taverna on the beach which represents both the social centre and a touch of mafia.
At one point there were two tavernas..Thanasi was the first and main one, owning a lot of the land around, but he gave his friend Tasos the baker, a plot of land behind his taverna as a present to build a retirement villa on. Tasos promptly built his own taverna that proved to be a roaring success – all his food was slow-cooked with local herbs in a bakers oven…and the two never spoke again..instead, whenever the wind was blowing in the right direction Thanasi would throw out his fish guts in the style of a proper greek feud. Tasos taverna ran for many, many years before age did finally catch up with the wily old fox..it is still missed today.
Not that the feuds have stopped. The bus driver and the taverna had a falling out, so now every day, three times a day, the bus reverses all the way down the road to avoid turning in front of the taverna. I had to video it..only in Greece..a bus travelling backwards..
(My father introducing his Grandson to the delights of cipero at sunset..we now know where Charlie gets his sartorial gene from..)
And slowly the time came when we would leave the island and head to the next part of the holiday – for years we’d looked from the bay to these mountains on the Peloponnese and wondered what was there..and now we were going to find out. A mere 18 miles across the sea..a lot more by car, it was going to be an adventure…
But although it was good bye to Spetses…
It wasn’t to my parents – we were taking them with us!
Laters, Kate x