New Year Newsletter

Our newsletter brings you Warm Wishes and a Few Things New for the New Year.

Our office has some new family faces. Alex’s wife, Catherine, has joined our team. Catherine (Cat) has spent three years on Paxos as a Representative for Ionian Villas and Scott Williams. She has visited the other Ionian islands and will be revisiting in May.

Catherine Watrous

Cat Watrous

Alex and Cat’s son, Archie, was born last September and will be on the May familiarisation trip to the islands!

Archie Ionian Villas

Archie at the Office

For us, 2017 was the busiest and also the longest season – May and October in the Ionian are becoming more popular for warm weather escapes from more temperamental northern European climates.

May and October are possibly the best months to explore the islands on foot. Sea water and swimming pool water can, however, be bracing in May so a stay in a private apartment (with a good sea view) on the outskirts of a port or village, is fun and economical. For example:

Mermaid Cottage on Paxos has Loggos waterfront as a doorstep and in May is £570 per week.

Mermaid Cottage Paxos

Mermaid Cottage

Katy’s Apartment on Kefalonia has Fiscardo as a doorstep and is £500 per week in May.

We have added some new Ionian properties to our 2018 programme:

On Paxos

Avra for up to 5 people.

Elpitha for up to 5 people – and its sister villa Simeoni.

Kolomboki for up to 6 people.

Korpithi for up to 4 people – and its sister villa Loula.

The Levrecchio Villas – 3 adjacent villas each for up to 4 people.

Petrino Spiti for up to 10 people.

Polimnia for up to 6 people.

Valentina for up to 4 people.

Zoe for up to 6 people.

Villa Zoe Paxos

Villa Zoe

On Ithaca

Areti for up to 7 people.

Limonia for up to 8 people.

The Loutsa Retreat for up to 8 people.

On Kefalonia

Frappa for up to 8 people.

Frappa Cottage for up to 3 people.

Grace for up to 6 people).

Paradiso for up to 7 people.

Rea for up to 4 people.

Sea Breeze for up to 12 people.

On Lefkas

Sonata for up to 6 people.

On Corfu

Perivoli for up to 10 people.

Perivoli Corfu

Perivoli

Ionian Island Hopping

Inter-island communications are improving. For 2018 there is talk of the seaplane returning to link Corfu and Paxos and possibly the other more southern Ionian islands. We have also heard that a new ferry is being operated between Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. Sky Express already operate a flight linking Corfu, Preveza (for Lefkas), Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Athens. Apart from the regular inter-island hydrofoil and ferry services it is now possible to charter a private speedboat.

Ionian Seaplane

We understand that an island hopping holiday may not appeal to families wanting to limit overall travel but with this new choice of transferring from one island to another it can be seen as an exciting alternative.

And if you are a couple with more flexible time on your hands – let us know if you would like us to tailor-make an Ionian Island Hopping trip for you.

Talking about flights – there’s a new BA flight from Heathrow to Kefalonia starting mid May 2018 – Tuesday and Saturday departures.

New Greek wines

In October last year we went to the London Greek Wine Festival at the West Handyside Canopy in Kings Cross and sampled many of the 130 distinctively delicious and diverse Greek wines being showcased. The Festival, organised by The Greek Larder will happen again next October so check their websites for dates.

The Greek Wine Festival

For many of us it is difficult to know what wines to sample when on holiday in Greece. The ubiquitous and often bland “house wine” poured from taverna boxes will not show off what Greece is now producing.

On Paxos there is now an opportunity to explore the tastes of the grapes, regions and wineries of Greece from the comfort of your holiday villa. Andreas stocks some excellent wines from wineries he has selected from his annual research trips (someone’s got to do it!). He has his wine shop in Lakka but with a few days notice he can bring a selection of wines to your Paxos villa. He will give you an interesting history to the making of each wine. Best to give him a few likes & dislikes so he can tailor the selection for you.  Then – when you return to Paxos for your next holiday you can arrange for Andreas to deliver your favourite wines for your arrival!

We came across an interesting blog about some of the Greek grapes

New hideaway bar in Corfu Town

The Palace and gardens of Mon Repos, surrounded by hillsides of pine forest, stand above the sea on the outskirts of Corfu Town.

Mon Repos Palace was built as a summer residence for the British Lord High Commissioner of the United States of the Ionian Islands in 1828. When the Ionian islands were ceded back to Greece in 1864, the Palace became the residence of Greece’s King George 1. The Greek royal family used it as a summer residence up until King Constantine II fled the country in 1967 and the Palace was repossessed by the Greek State.

Several royal births have taken place at the villa, including those of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 10 June 1921, and Princess Alexia of Greece and Denmark on 10 July 1965.

The Palace and its gardens are now being used as an archaeological museum.

At the foot of the Palace’s forested hillside a sheltered beach, once the bathing spot for the Greek royal family, is now open to the public and has an excellent café bar and restaurant. “The Royal Baths” is close to Garitsa waterfront but its walled gardens (bordered by around 50 old-school, wooden changing huts) are a peaceful escape from the world outside – well worth a visit if you have time on Corfu.

The Royal Baths

Royal Baths’ changing huts

If you feel like a return to the Ionian this year and need some ideas – call us!

If you have time – add us as a friend on Facebook and give us a Like or follow us on Instagram for some Ionian holiday inspiration!

We wish you all the very best for 2018 – may all your dreams come true!

David, Vivienne, Alex, Cat & Archie.

25th March Celebrations on Ithaca

Greeks love to celebrate, be it their birthday or name day (γιορτη), religious holidays, bank holidays or national days. Whatever the celebration – Greek people celebrate to the full, throwing themselves into the spirit of the day!

25th March in Greece is a national holiday – to celebrate the start of the Greek Uprising/the Greek Revolution/the Greek War of Independence in 1821. It also celebrates the Annunciation (Ευαγγελισμος): the day Archangel Gabriel paid a visit to Mary to inform her that she would be giving birth to the son of Christ on 25th December.

In fact 25th March is a day of three celebrations as it is also the “name day” of all those named Ευγγελος (boys) and Ευαγγελια (girls).

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

A day off work and school, church services in the morning to commemorate the occasion, followed by a parade through the streets of cities, towns and villages by the school children of all ages, either dressed in blue and white (national colours) or for the younger children the traditional costumes. A marching band often accompanies the parade and local characters will join in as well.

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

25th March parade in Vathy, Ithaca

 

After the parade, people will make their way home to indulge in the traditional meal of Μπακαλιαπος (fried cod fish) and σκορδαλια (mashed potato and garlic). As this day also falls in the Lenten period where no meat or fish should be eaten the Orthodox church decreed an exception for the 25th March allowing the salted cod fish to be eaten.

Vathy, Ithaca

Thanasis, a Vathy (Ithaca) fisherman and avid Olympiakos fan

ΧΡΟΝΙΑ ΠΟΛΛΑ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ

Carnival Season

Carnival season in Greece (“Apokries”) starts 3 weeks before Easter.

Vathy, Ithaca

Carnival time in Vathy, Ithaca

Fancy dress processions through the streets, dancing groups and music bands. Bystanders throw confetti, streamers and sometimes firecrackers.

Vathy, Ithaca

Vathy carnival procession

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clean Monday (“Katheri Leftera”) marks the beginning of Lent when meat, dairy and eggs are avoided by those who observe it.

If the sun shines on Clean Monday, families picnic outside with “lagana” (an unleavened flat bread), taramosalata, shellfish and salads, followed by sticky deserts. The skies are filled with colourful kites – another part of tradition.

Paliokastritsa, Corfu

Our Clean Monday feast on Palikastritsa beach

Winter Weather on Ithaca

This Blog was written by our Ionian Villas manager on Ithaca, Sue White.

Sue lived on Kefalonia for 18 years and has now been living on Ithaca for 5 years.

Sue is a taxi driver on Ithaca – one of twelve drivers.

Sue looks after our clients and is able to give a valuable, personal insight into the history, culture and lifestyles of Ithaca.

Sue has her own website: Ithaca Travel Services

“A lot of people who visit Greece in the summer are under the impression that there is wall to wall sunshine year-round. In my taxi, apart from being asked the usual list of questions as to how I ended up being an English lady taxi driver on a small Greek island, the conversation then switches to ‘the weather’.

It’s not only tourists who have an interest in the weather. The locals here on Ithaca also have a very healthy interest on the subject, and of course they are all experts! From fishermen, shepherds and even the all-knowing γιαγιαδες (grand matriachs), I hear conflicting predictions about the weather but this last summer they all seemed to agree with each other. In August temperatures of 40 Degrees the talk was of a ‘βαρύ Χειμώνας’ (a heavy winter) – and they were right.

After a reasonably mild November and December, the New Year kicked off with freezing cold temperatures and snow, swiftly followed by days of torrential rain. For the first time in 10 years the snow settled all over the island – not just the mountain villages but also on the beaches!

Ithaca

January snow on an Ithaca olive tree

When the snow was washed away by days of relentless rain, the mountain streams flowed down the valleys to resemble a Lake District landscape (apart from the olive trees!). Ithaca, an island rich in pasture land and olive groves, is now super lush and green.

Ithaca

Snowy Stavros village

One of the effects of the snow, say the fishermen, shepherds and γιαγιαδες, is that invasive bugs have been frozen and they are now predicting a good olive harvest next October.”

Ithaca

Post snow streams

December Newsletter

Ionian Villas is coming up to its 5th birthday. With a big thank you to our guests over these 5 years, our Ionian programme has grown to feature over 200 properties.

We continue to visit all the properties each year.

Our new properties for 2017 are:

1-bedroom properties: Olitsi Apartment on PaxosLydia on Kefalonia; Fassoulou’s on Ithaca.

2-bedroom properties: Angelika on Paxos; Bougarini on Paxos; Delia on Paxos.

3-bedroom properties: Agni Bay on Corfu; Anetta on Corfu.

4-bedroom properties: Chiara on Paxos; Beach Villa on Kefalonia.

6-bedroom properties: Athanasia on Paxos.

7-bedroom properties: Marina on Paxos.

Kythira. In the earlier days of Greek Islands Club, before it became part of a larger corporate image, we started a small programme on the southernmost Ionian island: Kythira.

Village of Agnondas, Kythira

Village of Avlemonas, Kythira

We returned to Kythira in October this year to meet up with old friends. We were delighted to see that little, if anything, had changed in the past 25 years.

We will be introducing our Kythira programme in the new year. Kythira is not for the package holidaymaker or the lover of swimming pools and will appeal to the more intrepid Grecophile.

Have a look at Andrew Bostock’s piece on Kythira in the Guardian

Holiday Snaps. We are keen to add your holiday photos to our website. If you have any images, which you would like to share – please send them to us in an email.

What is happening in Greece today? The UK’s media coverage of life in Greece is often scant. Very few of us know and understand how austerity measures are affecting the Greeks. Greek Crisis is a blog dedicated to the understanding of the current Greek (but also European) economic, political and institutional crisis. It was created by Prof. Aristides Hatzis of the University of Athens, after many requests by his students seeking a source of reliable analysis on the Greek current affairs. Its aim is to post commentary and reports published mainly in the major U.S., European and Greek media and to encourage a rigorous discussion.

Walking on Paxos. Before roads were built on the islands, communication between island hamlets and villages was via a network of pathways. Many of these paths have become overgrown or the stone walls on either side have collapsed, making access difficult.

Paxos

Paxos path clearing

On Paxos, a hard working group of locals are clearing these paths so that eventually all parts of the island can be reached on foot. Come to Paxos in May and explore olive groves coloured by a profusion of wild flowers. 2 people staying at Olitsi Apartment 8th to 15th May would pay £225 per person for the apartment and an Easyjet flight for around £150 each.

We hope to see you again on one of the Ionian islands – do get in touch if you would like us to search for a special island escape.

Vivienne, Alex and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.greece-olive-snow

Fiscardo Before the Sun Umbrella Invasion

2016-04-28 07.20.15 (1824 x 1368)Fiscardo is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and prettiest ports in the Ionian.

In 1953 an earthquake destroyed all Kefalonia buildings except those in Fiscardo and a few outlying villages.

In my early Greek Islands Club days we took on a small programme of village houses for those visitors wanting to spend lazy days people and boat watching on Fiscardo waterfront.

In the early 1980’s a coffee on Fiscardo waterfront would have cost around 25 cents in today’s money.

Many of the Greek islands still hold on to a simple lifestyle and do not let the demands of blinkered tourism dictate their future. But whereas an older island generation may not want change, the younger generation will naturally be aspirational: the BMW versus the donkey.

Running a travel business often leads one to hypocrisy. I always tried to offer holiday opportunities to those wanting to escape the crowds and to get to know and be part of a simple Greek island community. In 1990 the BBC Holiday Programme asked me if we would host a film crew in Fiscardo. I said yes. Holiday bookings to Fiscardo soared the following year and Fiscardo started to take on a more chic appearance.

A coffee on Fiscardo waterfront can now cost 4 Euros.

The following photos were taken in 1990 when my mum (Buz), my wife (Vivienne) and I introduced Lorraine Chase (as the Presenter), a BBC researcher plus a cameraman and sound man to the beautiful landscapes of northern Kefalonia and Fiscardo.

You will see that there were only a very few café bar tables and chairs and wooden fishing boats outnumbered fibreglass cruisers. There were also no waterfront sun umbrellas. Today’s waterfront wall of sun umbrellas provide welcoming shade but I still prefer the openness that existed pre-invasion and also the look of traditional, rickety cafenion chairs and chipped metal tables.

But life goes on and Fiscardo will still dazzle and delight.

Lorraine Chase in Fiscardo

Selfie with Lorraine!

Fiscardo waterfront Lorraine Chase

Lorraine & my mum!

Fiscardo waterfront

Fiscardo waterfront 1990

Fiscardo waterfront

Vivienne and Alex at Villa Theodora – this is now a waterfront bar.