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Playing golf in Cyprus October 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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Playing golf in Cyprus I thought was all about sunshine and sea breezes, until I got to the seventh hole

Playing golf abroad somewhere warm is always a pleasure, you are able to wear shorts at 7am, refreshment carts with cold drinks trundle by and and there is always the prospect of a pool to jump into afterwards.

That is certainly the case at Aphrodite Hills, InterContinental’s first resort hotel in Europe opened in Cyprus. Twenty minutes from Paphos airport the resort has been built on several levels, of between 50-150 metres above sea level, to make sure that there is always a breeze to offset the blazing sun.

Unlike many other resorts the golf course, which wanders through the complex and is situated either side of a ravine, was built first and the villas designed around it.

The signature hole is the seventh and requires nerves of steel, not because it is a difficult golf hole, but because you risk life and limb getting to the tee. A snaking buggy trail to the tee takes you a couple of hundred feet down the mountain with only a waist-high wall between you and a huge drop. You are torn between wanting to admire the view and thinking that it could be your last.
 
The one in twenty gradient means that you travel down with your foot fixed to the brake. It is a ride more suited to Alton Towers than a golf course but once you get to the tee it is worth the worry.

Some 160 yards away is the green protected by the ravine in front, bunkers to the side, and the mountain some twenty feet behind it. Once you have played your shot (7 iron, back of the green, two putts, a par) then it is back in the buggy to cross the ravine and go up the other side. I am not sure what is worse, worrying you will hit the hairpin turn too fast going down, or that you will not make the next turn at all going up.

Not a hole for the faint hearted although the rest of the course is fine for middle to high handicappers. The refreshment cart was sorely needed after the seventh and the cold towels you are given are a nice touch.

The Government has just given the go-ahead for another eleven golf courses to be built complete with properties on Cyprus, making it a big rival to the Spanish, Portuguese and French property and golf markets.

After lunch on the patio of the club, where perspex has been put up to protect diners from overhit shots in the eighteenth, it was back to the hotel for a massage in The Retreat Spa to calm the nerves and soothe the muscles. I had a hammam (£65), a treatment that involved lying on a stone table, being exfoliated, having honey soap rubbed into me and then having warm water poured over me as I lay under a thick towel. Wonderful.

The resort is set in 578 acres of hilly scrubland and is like a small, self contained town although only eight per cent of the land has been used to build the 290 room hotel, restaurants and 850 villas and apartments that are for sale or rent. After turning into the hotel’s private road and driving for several minutes when the entrance finally appears it is not as imposing or impressive as you imagine it to be.

But this is the charm of the place. It is a big hotel that gives the impression of being more like a country house. Despite being 70 per cent full I never counted more than 40 people around the pool at any one time, maybe because it is set on two levels, one hidden from the other, the restaurants were never full and you could always get a seat in one of the several bars.

The only draw back is getting there: there are no cheap flights to Cyprus although £43 for a game of golf in low season (Dec/Jan and June to Sept) rising to £58 in high season is not bad and that includes buggy hire. Clubs are £20 and shoes nearly £6. Although Aphrodite Hills is not overpriced, pretty much what you would expect for a five star hotel, if you have children then paying around £4 for a milkshake can make it an expensive holiday.

For more information on Aphrodite Hills Resort visit www.aphroditehills.com  

Laskarina calls it a day October 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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One of Britain’s best-loved specialist tour operators announced that it is ceasing trading from the end of this month, forced to the wall by thriving internet competition and low-cost flights.

Laskarina Holidays, which has been sending holidaymakers to off-the-beaten track islands in Greece for 31 years, suffered a slump in sales this summer and this week decided to cancel trips next year.

In recent years, the award-winning company’s annual sales had fallen from a peak of 10,000 to 7,000. Most of its tourists went to the small islands of Halki, Symi, Lipsi, Tilos and Samos, providing vital revenue for local firms.

Its last holidaymakers will return on October 25, at which point Laskarina will go into voluntary liquidation and no further trips will be offered. All holidays up to that date will continue as normal and the 1,200 people who have provided deposits for bookings next year will be refunded.

Ian Murdoch, co-founder of Laskarina, which is expected to make a small loss this year, said: The UK travel market is so bad that we could expect to make a big loss next year. There are so many flights to Greece from so many airports in the UK now, at such competitive prices, that we could not keep up. People can buy low-cost flights from the internet. They can buy their hotel on the internet.

Laskarina, which is fully bonded by ATOL and is based in Haywards Heath in West Sussex, employs 32 people, half in the UK and half in Greece.

Murdoch said he will continue to run the website, providing information about local accommodation suppliers so that customers, many of whom have travelled with the company for years, can “book directly if they want”.

He added that he would have liked to continue to offer package holidays to cover the many flights now on offer to Greece, but said that costs would have risen “massively” as more staff would have been required to meet flights and provide boat transfers.

Additional Info > Laskarina (www.laskarina.co.uk), Aito (www.aito.co.uk).

Benaki Museum’s Delta House October 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Benaki Museum’s Delta House opens to public in Kifissia

The former home of author Penelope Delta, at 38 E. Benaki, Kifissia, bequeathed by her daughter Alexandra to the Benaki Museum, has just been reopened as the Museum’s Historic Archives Department, an independent unit founded in 1955.

Inaugurated by Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki, the three-story Delta House also houses the exhibition “Penelope Delta and the World” open to the public. It was the house in which Delta, a popular author in Greece during the early years of the 20th century, raised her children, wrote her books and received many prominent figures in Greece’s history, including statesman Eleftherios Venizelos.

The exhibition includes photos, manuscripts and mementos of her life, presented by her great-grandson Alekos Zannas, who also edited the exhibition catalog which includes many of the photographs and texts on her life and work. This is an ideal excursion for schools, which can arrange to visit the house by contacting the educational programs unit, where they can find out more about Delta’s children’s books including “Trellantonis” and “Mangas.”

Award of the Onassis prizes October 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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The Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation is to award its international prizes at a ceremony on Wednesday, October 18, at the Athens Concert Hall.

President Karolos Papoulias is to present the prizes this year, the 30th anniversary of the foundation. A reception will follow the awards ceremony, and on Tuesday, October 17, there is to be a dinner for the awardees at the Hotel Grande Bretagne.

Their names are to be announced on Monday, October 16, at noon at the Onassis Foundation Headquarters (56 Amalias Avenue, Athens).

Proud Greeks > the Legacy of Greece October 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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They didn’t speak English, nor did they have much money or material wealth, but they boarded a ship to America with the dream of a better life.

Ever since the first Greek immigrants arrived in Portsmouth in the late 19th century, their impact has been felt in the community. Many came here having just entered their teenage years with the belief that hard work and determination would mean success. Most found just that and, at the same time, infused their rich culture into the city’s history.

The Greek influence on Portsmouth will be celebrated at Strawbery Banke Museum until May 2007 with an exhibit, “The Legacy Exhibit”, that details the history of Greeks in the city.

The exhibit comes as the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church celebrates its 75th year. It is the highlight of a yearlong anniversary celebration, which included a special visit from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America for the exhibit’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The exhibit’s creators, Pam Pappas-Clarkin and Doreen Athans Papatones, said they started researching the church’s history in the community and discovered the Greek influence went far beyond the house of worship.

The exhibit is arranged as a six-point star, a traditional Greek symbol, with each panel displaying text on an aspect of the Greek community or historic pictures and artifacts. It also incorporates different design elements of the church, such as the Byzantine architecture.

It features pictures of some of the city’s most famous and influential Greeks, like Andrew Jarvis, a successful business man and first Greek mayor of the city. Artifacts like immigration documents, religious pieces and photographs decorate the blue panels.

The creation of the exhibit by the Greek duo, who recently started an interior design company called Clarkin Athans, was not only a challenging job, but an incredible learning experience.

Pappas-Clarkin and Athans Papatones said they structured the exhibit around the idea of the church being the hub of the community, with all the other aspects, like business and civic involvement, radiating out from that.

In 1910, the Greek community consisted of about 25 men and three women, who missed celebrating their own church in their native language. As more Greeks came to Portsmouth, they arranged to celebrate liturgy at the Christ Episcopal Church when it was not in use.

In 1933, a committee of Greeks, which included Jarvis, purchased the site of the former middle school on Cabot Street when it moved to Parrott Avenue, and the first St. Nicholas Church was consecrated the next year. By 1971, the community had outgrown its facility and built a new church on Alumni Drive, later renamed Andrew Jarvis Drive.

Greece ready for local elections Sunday October 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
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Greeks are set to cast their ballot in local elections around the country on Sunday with most of the country’s 9,820,875 registered voters due to turn out between sunrise and sunset.

“All preliminary work and preparations have been completed for municipal, community and prefectural elections to be held,” Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced.

In Greece, voting in elections is compulsory with exemptions under the law including the elderly over 70 years of age, and people residing more than 200 kilometres from the area in which they are registered to vote.

On the electoral list are 4,743,553 men, or 48.3% of the total; and 5,077,322 women, representing 51.7%. Youth aged 18 this year and voting for the first time account for 0.17% of voters.

A special register of European citizens eligible to vote contains 8,921 people, mostly from the United Kingdom (2,984), followed by Germany (1,823), Cyprus (768), Italy (684), Poland (604) and the Netherlands (490). Lowest in the ranking are Malta and Slovenia with one voter.

More than 18,000 police have been assigned from Saturday to guard the country’s 24,710 ballotting centres, which open at 0700 hours and close at 1900 hours.