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

Winter 2015 Newsletter

Escape to the Ionian

Another year goes by and despite the unrest in different parts of the world, now is a good time to make plans for one or more escapes in 2016. Our finger on the pulse of holiday bookings to the Greek islands tells us that the larger villas in August are being taken up quickly and the month of June is proving to be very popular.

Geni

I recently read, in a Sunday broadsheet, a review of travel destinations according to a “risk of terrorism” scale of 1 – 10. Many of the destinations were around the 5. I do not know where the Ionian islands of Greece would appear in this scale but I would imagine that they must be amongst the safest destinations to visit. Sitting on a terrace overlooking a still sea with the soft scratching of olive grove cicadas and just the worry of which waterfront taverna to visit later – one can’t help but detach oneself from the outside world.

2004-03-15 19.35.13 (1654 x 1096)

I have met many people who choose not to spend a holiday on a small island because they feel that there are too many limitations – the same views, the same food, the same daily routine – boring and “uneducating”! Every year over the last 50 years I have spent on average 2 – 3 months on Paxos. There are many hidden parts of the island that I have not yet found; all the views are constantly changing with the position of the sun, the movement of the sea and silver olive trees; the food has nearly always been fresh, inspired, colourful and delicious. I love my short breaks on islands like Paxos and after each visit I feel recharged, refreshed and educated in the simple things in life, which so often pass me by in a more frenetic lifestyle back home.

For 2016 we have added a new Ionian island: Zakynthos – direct flights (Easyjet and charter) – Villa Amphitriti sleeps up to 14 people and has a TV monitor showing live footage of local seals and starfish from a nearby underwater camera. We feature 10 villas and will be adding more next year.

Villa Amphitriti, Zante

Villa Amphitriti, Zakynthos

There is a ferry service between Agios Nikolaos (North Zakynthos) and Pessada on Kefalonia – taking 1 hour. As Easyjet operates to both islands you could fly to Zakynthos for a holiday and then on to Kefalonia, flying back to UK from there.

Our other new properties are:

Small villas with pool:

On Paxos, Aspro Alogo 1-bedroom hideaway cottage above Loggos.

On Kefalonia, Marika – a 2-bedroom villa above a sandy beach.

On Kefalonia, The Fiscardo Suites – luxury Suites in the centre of Fiscardo.

On Meganissi, Eftihia – 1-bedroom villa close to the sea.

3-bedroom villas with pool:

On Paxos, Alexia –  hillside olive groves above Lakka Bay.

On Paxos, Eratocoastal villa just outside Gaios.

On Paxos, Kallistoreasonably priced villa close to Magazia.

Villa Kallisto, Paxos

Villa Kallisto, Paxos

On Paxos, Stassinosclose to Lakka.

On Paxos, Portokali House a comfy house just outside Gaios.

On Kefalonia, Villa Amalthea – modern villa above a sandy beach.

On Corfu, Perivoli – a 300 year old property with beautiful gardens.

On Lefkas, Nichola – amazing sea views.

On Ithaca, Mavrouna – short walk to a beach.

4 & 5-bedroom villas with pool:

On Paxos, Aetofolia – possibly the best views over Gaios’ Venetian fortress.

On Kefalonia, Acacia – sprawling villa with huge pool close to a sandy beach.

Villa Acacia, Kefalonia

Villa Acacia, Kefalonia

On Lefkas, Ophelia – spacious retreat with powerful views.

Villas without a pool but close to the sea:

On Paxos, The Old Residency – fantastic apartment for 6 on Gaios waterfront.

On Kefalonia, Villi’s House – just a 5 minute walk to Fiscardo waterfront.

On Ithaca, Poli Beach House – just above a beach & close to village tavernas.

Villa Videos

On our island travels we have started to take some brief videos of villa views as these are not easy to capture in a photo. It’s a learning curve for us but hopefully our filming techniques will become less shaky the more we do. Some examples can be seen on the following properties (click on “View Video”):

Amalia (Paxos)

Beach House (Paxos)

Doctor’s Apartment (Paxos)

Villa Victoria (Lefkas)

Now We Are Three

In 2011 Ionian Villas began with me and my wife, Vivienne. Our son, Alex, has added to his education by working on Paxos as a waiter, a boatman, a dancer, a hamper organiser, a Rep and then for the last 2 years as our Ionian Villas Paxos manager. Alex now joins us back at our Felpham (West Sussex) HQ and Dimitris Aronis becomes our new Paxos manager.

Monodendri beach, Paxos

Alex & Cat’s Paxos wedding day 2015

Photo Competition

We would love to see your Ionian island photos.

Our Photo Competition offers a 1st Prize of a “10% Off” Voucher (redeemable on any of our properties in 2016) and the 2nd and 3rd Prizes are each a case of 12 bottles of Prosseco. Photos can be of any subject but in some way should give a flavour of the Ionian island. Only “Landscape” format, colour not black & white and any number of entries. We will be setting up a website page just to show a selection of these photographs so by sending us your photos you give us the authority to use each photo. We will not pass on any photo to any third party. This Blog is being sent to our Ionian Villas guests but the competition is open to anyone who has visited any of the Ionian islands.

If sending more than 2 photos please send in a Zip file – all photos to be sent to enquiries@ionian-villas.co.uk

The Competition closes on 1st March 2016.

Corfu Overnight for Paxos Visitors

There are now 3 different hydrofoil/ferry services between Corfu and Paxos so most morning flight departures from UK will allow Paxos clients to reach Paxos the same day. More and more of our Paxos clients are opting to take a flight departing at a “reasonable” time from UK and not at the crack of dawn and staying overnight in Corfu Town before catching an early afternoon hydrofoil to Paxos the following day.

Corfu Old Town is a fascinating mix of the old and the new. Italian and French occupations have left a legacy of beautiful architecture and there are now many excellent restaurants and bars. As an alternative to rushing over to Paxos in one day, why not choose from our selection of Corfu hotels (see below), which are all within a 5-minute taxi ride from the airport and a 10-minute taxi ride to the Paxos hydrofoil.

Mon Repos

Cavalieri

Corfu Palace

Please get in touch for hotel room prices.

Corfu

Corfu

Private Speedboat Charter

On most days there are fairly regular ferries between Corfu and Paxos (also hydrofoil), Kefalonia and Ithaca, Kefalonia and Zakynthos, Lefkas and Meganissi. There are also private speedboat charter services if you don’t want any waiting around at the port. Please ask us for more information.

Not Sure What to Buy Her for Christmas?

Auree Jewellery has a sparkly selection of surprisingly inexpensive ideas to show that you care. Their website also has a selection of compressed, easy-to-read travel guides including one for Paxos.

Xmas

We hope you have a very Happy Christmas.

 

Newsletter for 2015

Ionian Villas is 3 years old. We have so far booked Ionian island properties for just over 1,500 people and we are now arranging villa holidays for their friends and friends of friends.

We wish you a Healthy & Happy New Year and hope to see you again sometime.

We have added some new properties for 2015:

Villa Jupiter, Paxos

Villa Jupiter, Paxos

 

On Paxos: Cressida, Georgina, Jupiter, Serifos Apartments, Thalassa Beach Apartments.

On Corfu: Aleka, Alexandra, Helios, Varvara, Country House.

On Kefalonia: Adrianna, Kiriaki Apartments.

On Ithaca: Kitrino.

A more comfortable arrival at Corfu

BA’s new flight to Corfu from Heathrow departs 4 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) from 2nd May to 20th September.

Whenever we fly to Corfu (and then on to Paxos and the other islands) we spend the first night in Corfu Town and quite often on the way back as well. Apart from being a beautiful town there are now many excellent restaurants and bars so a first night at one of our featured hotels (Cavalieri or Corfu Palace), dinner under grapevines at one of the nearby restaurants and catching the hydrofoil to Paxos the following morning all adds to the holiday tonic to unwind.

Many of the Paxos villa owners ask for a Monday changeover day. Monday is the busiest day for flights to Corfu and as a consequence the prices of Monday flights tend to be higher than on other days of the week. There can therefore be a price incentive to fly to Corfu on a Sunday, overnight at a Corfu hotel and then on to Paxos the following day.

Meet our Island Managers

Alex on Paxos

Alex on Paxos

Alex is our Paxos manager. Alex has been going to Paxos since he was 6 months old.

Karron is our Kefalonia manager. Karron lives with her family on Kefalonia.

Karron on Kefalonia

Karron on Kefalonia

Susan White is our Ithaca manager. You can find out more about Sue at Ithaca Concierge

Patricia Taylor is our Lefkas and Meganissi manager. Patricia has spent many years on Lefkas and can introduce you to the island’s hidden parts.

Sue on Ithaca

Sue on Ithaca

Patricia on Lefkas

Patricia on Lefkas

One of our managers once told me that when she was a Rep for a package holiday company on the island, she was told that their new policy was to employ the same Rep for a maximum of 2 years. It would seem that in their determination to have a fresh face they would lose the valuable local knowledge of a more experienced person.

Our managers are there to offer you all the help and advice you may need at any time but not to intrude on your holiday. The life of the island is more important to each of them than commissions earned on selling you a coach trip to an unforgettable ouzo-fuelled sunset.

The Seasons of Greece

Those of you with children at school will be restricted by school holiday dates. Good old supply and demand means that holiday prices in the peak summer season are considerably higher than in other months.

Package holiday companies will also apply a high mark-up on their holidays falling within Half Term and Bank Holidays – most of our villa owners have higher peak season prices but their end of May prices (May Bank Holiday) do not always carry this supplement.

For those of you who have more flexible dates, why not visit the Greek islands during the different seasons to vary your experience.

Spring in Greece usually arrives one month before ours. At our house on Paxos we have a 40 foot Mimosa tree and it is ablaze with sherbert-yellow blossom in early March. April normally has clear sunny days with temperatures in the late 50’s but no point in choosing a villa with a pool as the water needs longer to warm up. Greek Orthodox Easter is 12th April – a colourful event which should be experienced once in your life.

Grazing above Assos

Grazing above Assos

 

In May one can feel the days getting warmer (mid 60’s). The islands are still lush with Spring wildflowers – great for exploring on goat paths through olive groves and valleys of bracken. If you haven’t seen a Greek island valley lit up by the tiny flashing lights of fireflies on a warm May evening – shame on you!

In June the sea has a warmer, more sensuous welcome. There is a greater excuse to escape the midday sun and enjoy an afternoon siesta. Temperatures are mid 70’s. Walkers can still enjoy island exploration – as a legacy of the Venetian occupation of the Ionian islands, olive groves provide shade for many of the island goat paths.

July and August temperatures climb into the 80’s so stay close to water! You have to work a bit harder to find a deserted beach – hire a boat; pack a simple lunch of fresh bread, olive oil & garlic, feta cheese, salami, chilled retsina and baseball-sized peaches; buy more sun umbrellas than are needed – find a small deserted cove and erect all sun umbrellas to give the impression of a crowd to deter any sea invaders.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In September the sea is at its warmest and temperatures start to fall to more comfortable mid 70’s. You notice more local islanders returning to their favourite waterfront cafénions now that the busier months of tourism are over and village lifestyles become less frenetic. On Paxos a Classical Music Festival in early September is another experience not to be missed.

October has temperatures in the mid 60’s so ideal for walkers and for those looking for an escape from the crowds and a burst of sunshine and beautiful natural surroundings before the onslaught of a dank, dark British winter.

Paxos olive groves

Paxos olive groves

 

Do you like garlic? Have you tried olive oil infused with garlic? Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a small, empty water bottle and add crushed garlic. Leave for as long as possible and take with you on beach picnics to be poured over hunks of fresh bread.

Pa amb oli” means “bread with olive oil” in Mallorquin, and it is as commonly eaten in the Balearic Islands as pa amb tomàquet is in Catalonia.

Pa ambo li Ingredients:

6 (3/4-inch thick) slices of bread (dark rye is probably best)

1 clove garlic

3 tomatoes, halved crosswise

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Salt

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and immediately rub 1 side of each slice with a cut side of the garlic. Then rub the same side of each slice with the cut side of a tomato half, pressing a little to squeeze some of the pulp and seeds onto the bread. Drizzle olive oil over the tomato and sprinkle with salt. Serve while the bread is still warm and crisp. Yum.

Fireflies

A friend on Paxos once told me that as a young boy he caught fireflies in a jam jar to use as a lantern when walking back home through the olive groves.

Tinkerbell Fireflies

Tinkerbell Fireflies

 

There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies, or lightning bugs, and they are actually winged beetles. Typically only seen in the summertime because they thrive in warm and tropical environments, a firefly’s glowing mechanism serves several purposes.

However, the blinking patterns of the firefly’s abdomen remain a mystery, as scientists are unsure of whether the patterns are controlled by the insect’s nerve cells or oxygen supply.

Adult fireflies shine different intermittent signals to grab the attention of possible future mates. Flash patterns vary from short burst to a long continuous flashing sequence, and different firefly species have their own unique successions of light, making it easier for compatible mates to find each other.

Both male and female fireflies turn on their green lights when choosing a mate, and use their blinking lights as a means to communicate during courtship.

Fireflies appear to light up for a variety of reasons. The larvae produce short glows and are primarily active at night, even though many species are subterranean or semi-aquatic. Fireflies produce defensive steroids in their bodies that make them unpalatable to predators. Larvae use their glow as warning displays to communicate their distastefulness. As adults, many fireflies have flash patterns unique to their species and use them to identify other members of their species as well as to discriminate between members of the opposite sex. Several studies have shown that female fireflies choose mates depending upon specific male flash pattern characteristics. Higher male flash rates, as well as increased flash intensity, have been shown to be more attractive to females in two different firefly species.

Paxos Big Brother

The Genesis Taverna on Gaios waterfront have set up a live webcam – have a look to check out the weather: Paxoswebcam

Return of the Ionian Seaplane?

The hydrofoil between Corfu and Paxos takes 1 hour. I can remember when the only connection between the islands was by caique and it took up to 5 hours.

Eight years ago a Canadian company set up a seaplane service connecting Corfu, Paxos and Ithaca – the flight time between Corfu and Paxos was just 10 minutes (plus around 20 minutes to get out of the port to reach the “strip”).

It is reported that the Greek Merchant Marine Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis (try saying that after a few drinks) and Deputy Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michalis Papadopoulos recently signed a decision “paving the way for the country’s first official hydroplane on the Corfu coastline”.

The strip, which is to be operated by the island’s port authority, will be able to serve Greece’s first fleet of hydroplanes and improve connections between the islands and mainland Greece. Watch This Space.

 

 

Discover the Real Ithaca

Walkers rest in Ithaca olive grove

Ithaca is an island which will appeal to those wanting to escape a busy, noisy lifestyle. But will there be enough to occupy the wound-up mind, which sometimes needs more than a week to jettison unwanted pressures and can refuse to sit happily with simple and peaceful island distractions?

Recharging batteries is important and the small ports of Kioni and Frikes are perfect sleepy venues to do little but gaze at fishermen cleaning their nets. Island exploration however, will introduce many more natural delights to help the mind forget home based anxieties.

Hiring a boat (with outboard engine) is a great way to find a deserted beach and explore a beautiful coastline with just the company of seabirds. Pack a picnic or moor up alongside one of Kioni or Frikes’ waterfront tavernas for lunch.

Hiring a car will provide easy access to many parts of Ithaca but the more hidden parts are more difficult to find.

Katrina Parsey is our Ionian Villas agent on Ithaca. Katrina is a poet, storyteller and walker. With a few winter breaks back in UK as an actress, theatre director, writer and teacher, Katrina has spent the last 12 years on Ithaca. Over these years she has discovered a variety of walking trails and now leads daily walks (when the weather is not too hot) to introduce Ithaca’s more inquisitive visitor to the island’s people, history, mythology, flora, fauna and hidden landscapes.

Katrina says “Join me on a cultural walk exploring the sites and stories of Odysseus and Penelope. Or come along to the Folklore Walk, taste local wine, cheese, oil and olives on an ancient land. See the old olive press and wheat mill at Agrotiri. Walk along shepherds’ trails and discover the past and present of Ithaca’s farming culture.”

Leave your worries on the doorstep and discover an island which many have heard of but few visited.