by Eftihia Stefanidi
When few years ago Eftihia, a London-based Creative Director, Producer & self-taught Photographer, came to Greece – her country of origin – to scout for property, she planted the seeds for new horizons. Eftihia is currently the creative behind two upcoming Athenian boutique hotels that are re-imagining hospitality. MONA e SHILA, developed by New York-based group AUM, are set to launch in 2019.
The fellow guests at Avocado are all regulars, and so are we, since during our short stay in Athens we went back daily to a small quiet table in Nikis Street, at any time of the day. There is a yoga and Pilates studio on the other side of the street – and we were tempted to schedule a lesson in our agenda, while the vegetarian minimarket is right next door. In a tiny alley of Syntagma neighbourhood in Athens, literally the chaotic centre of the capital, develops a universal idea of love and nourishment we never grow tired of, especially on a journey abroad. Rice, cereals, vegetables, burgers, soups, salads, and extracts, have the most optimistic and easy-going names in the world – Gratitude, The Herb Garden, Beautiful Day, Life’s a Rainbow, Hug a Tree – and form a vegetarian menu that will make some snort and many others smile widely (like us).
At the small entrance of Knossos labyrinth, Ariadne gave Theseus the famous ball of thread that would allow him not to get lost once inside the maze. When Theseus met the Minotaur, he fought it and killed it with his sword. I thought I would need a magic and loving thread to progress through Nelly’s majestic Greek garden, a precise labyrinth of sun-ripened lemon trees (“lemonies” in Greek)…
The girls from close villages came to the Ursuline nunnery in Loutra to learn how to weave carpets. The village is still tiny, ancient, catholic, as quiet as a desert, and immaculate. Our lovely and atypical “summer house” is just beyond the nunnery, in the narrow streets of the village where you can only walk quietly. A traditional hundred-year-old Cycladic stone house with four-meter-high roofs and smoothed walls that resemble brush-strokes of hazelnut ice cream…
There is a map for every treasure island, and it resembles all the others you have held in your hands, but once you get to the island itself, things look totally different. To go down to Onar, first you have to reach the top of Andros island, up to the deserted village of Arni, and then, when the main road bends sharply and points southwards again, you will find a sign that reads ‘St Nikolas Monastery 5 km’ and turn left. There begins the dirt road to Achla beach. You will pass St George’s Church (1.7 km), St John’s Church (3.8 km) and St Mamas Monastery (6.4 km) – miniatures of Greek sacred places with white walls and blue domes and crosses. We went to Onar Andros ‘offseason’ without understanding the madness of the place…
Cheese triangles in a cradle of crisp sesame, baked aubergines, yellow-peas cream (fava), fig salad and, top left, a partial view of the lit-up Parthenon. It is the flavour of our Athens, among old and new fellow travellers met by chance along the way.
Athens’s flags wave endlessly in the hot wind. It is as if meltemi came here expressly to make these white and blue stripes dance above main doors and beside tourist restaurants’ signs. You will find them also in the shops that sell the last film rolls left, miniature Greek statues, and slippers with pompons. You will find them everywhere, and each time wonder: have they always been here…
Why ‘Alice Inn’? ‘Alice’ was my grandmother’s name. We do not know if on his mother’s or father’s side, but we do know that his parents met many years ago in an Athenian square, and that hospitality is a family tradition. John has watery green and grey eyes, Greek and Irish blood, a degree in architecture, and an instinct for beautiful things…
Sea Jets Line’s ferryboat ‘Champion One’ moves cautiously out of the port after leaving a small crowd of tourists to Kamares sunset. Here are the first white houses with coloured windows and doors: blue, dull azure, pastel, turquoise, petroleum blue, aquamarine, and seldom yellow, olive green, or forest green. Bare hills streaked with low dry-stone walls, rusty and ochre shrubs, rare greens clinging to brown rocks, mopeds feebly winding uphill bends, vivid azure domes, spotless crosses, and pairs of bells protected by pairs of arches in the monasteries built on the edges of lands that end in the Aegean sea. From the windows of the car that takes us to Apollonia, Sifnos appears to be a merciful and illogical place. Definitely more powerful, more intriguing, more spartan and genuine than we had ever hoped to find…
A languid wind blows through Plaka neighbourhood, Athens, in a summer night. While a tall middle-aged man, with sweet eyes and an ambling gait, walks back to our table because he doesn’t remember what we ordered, I wonder how he could wait thirty-six years to come to Greece. The magic of an Athenian night; a few ingredients recurring in the dishes, in a Mediterranean-Middle Eastern mixture, and reminding me I am in the middle of something important.
by Claire and Lissa Christie
Silver Island is a dream island: green, wild and sun-drenched. It cannot be found on Google map, yet it can be reached from mainland Greece following Claire and Lissa’s instructions. These two sisters have inherited this natural gem from their father and open its doors to small groups of up to ten guests that will spend their stay practicing yoga, exploring hidden coves, walking among ancient olive groves and wild flowers accompanied by the rhythmic sound of cicadas. The Main House has all the magic and simplicity of a traditional Greek building, with details painted in typical Mediterranean colours: white, blue and coral red.
A romantic haven on one of the most romantic Greek Islands with breath-taking views over the Sea. An exclusive and elegant retreat with yellow stone terraces, the same colour and consistency of butter, on the island’s most dramatic cliffs. If you have a passionate yet sweet personality you will love the two facets of this volcanic island: a cliff dropping straight into the caldera on one side and gold and green vineyards on the other. For dinner, enjoy the Lobster Cake with Potatoes accompanied by one of the local white wines and wait until your small white table disappears into the blue of a quiet night on the Aegean Sea.
by Paola Corini
Paola loves the sun when it’s not too strong, the smell of herbs, the colour combination of Botswana’s Lilac-breasted Roller, freshly baked bread, mountain air, people who smile, words and summer fruit. Up to one year ago writing and traveling were the extraordinary, yet in 2013 she founded Meraviglia Paper together with Laura and became a self-assured Travel Editor. She keeps thinking that traveling in this world is extraordinary, magical, and essential.
by Andria Mitsakos
Andria traces her roots to some of history’s most adventurous, hospitable people – the Greeks. She now carries that passion and curiosity worldwide, consulting clients with publicity, design, marketing and communications. She maintains her own lifestyle website, Wanderlista.
Melina Chomata is a shy woman. She’s got sweet and sincere eyes and a thin frame under the white chef uniform. She works tirelessly in the kitchen of the Vinsanto restaurant in the medieval village of Megalochori (meaning “big village” in Greek). The flavours of her plates are delicate and intense at the same time, just like the heart of their Chef and the sleepy but powerful volcanic soul of the island. Wild wheat risotto with sautéed calamari and thyme, phyllo pastry cigars with beef in fresh tomato sauce, tender cockerel on semolina and cheese cream with potatoes and chocolate mousse with pistachio flakes. For a special culinary experience in a quiet, secluded village that seems to have stopped in a magical and ancestral time.