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Sweeping into the world of Fashion December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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Sophia Kokosalaki > Born in Greece and trained in London, the designer is set to restore the classic elegance of the Vionnet label.

The name Madeleine Vionnet may not mean much to ordinary high-street shoppers. But to serious fashion followers and upscale designers, Vionnet’s classic lines are the essence and foundation of haute couture. “Everybody, whether he likes it or not, is under the influence of Vionnet,” Karl Lagerfeld has said of the French designer.

Vionnet, who created the bias cut and dressed the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, retired from fashion after her 1939 collection, and the label’s prominence has faded since then. Now it’s set to undergo a major revival under the creative direction of 34-year-old Sophia Kokosalaki, whose 2007 spring line will soon hit stores. For now, it is exclusive to Barneys and the Vionnet studio in Paris.

“The house of Vionnet is like Sleeping Beauty,” says the Greek-born, London-based designer. “It is a house that is completely dormant but it has huge potential because the legacy is enormous.”

Kokosalaki, who grew up in Athens, was always fascinated by the esthetics of design but settled on doing a B.A. in Greek and English literature in her hometown. She briefly considered a career in journalism before going on to study women’s wear design at London’s prestigious Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. After graduating, she stayed in London and immediately began designing her own line. She also spent two years designing for the Milan-based fashion house Ruffo. In February 1999, Kokosalaki had her catwalk debut with her eponymous line in London, featuring what has become her trademark: fluid, draping styles in lush fabrics and lots of primary and pastel colors.

In 2004, she designed the costumes for the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, which included performers dressed as Greek gods and goddesses and others in traditional village outfits. She also created the long, flowing gown that the Icelandic singer Bjork wore during her performance at the Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony.

The de Lummens, a French family who had bought the rights for the Vionnet name back in 1988, named Kokosalaki creative designer last July. They had spent almost two decades exploring how to re-establish the line, recognizing that whoever took over needed to have an appreciation for Vionnet’s timeless esthetics, apparent in everything from the halter and cowl-neck dresses to the lingerie-style evening gowns. Kokosalaki, whose line is more urban but incorporates sophisticated sweeping movements, seemed to fit the bill.

“The de Lummens really want to keep the spirit of this brand intact,” Kokosalaki says in heavily accented English. “They are very protective [of the reputation] and though they could have launched the brand ages ago by licensing the name and making money, that is not their aim.”

Though Kokosalaki admits she has a big task ahead of her, she says she is more excited than stressed to see how the fashion world reacts to her Vionnet designs. “The first thing I thought when they brought me in was, Am I technically adept? and I thought, OK, yes I am, so I can relax. I am not a household name but that is not the point.” It may not be long before she is.


Athens congress widens global vision of EFAPCO December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Athens has become one of the European congress industry’s ultimate meeting places of 2006, with representing international bodies like the World Tourism Organization, ICCA and IAPCO meeting up with  leading European professional congress organizers.

The 2nd General Assembly and Annual Congress of the European Federation of the Associations of PCOs took place at the original Olympic city’s Helexpo Congress and Exhibition Centre from December 7 to 9.

That event took on a new significance following the news that EFAPCO has become the first PCO-based body to be invited to join the WTO’s Affiliate Members Council.

The Council’s President, Prof Carlos Vogeler, made a keynote presentation during the congress on “The Evolution of Meetings and Business Tourism around the World.”

Some 30 speakers and contributors from all over Europe took part in an action-packed two-day program featuring 15 business sessions.

The event brought together a wide range of European, national and Professional organizations including the European Parliament, UNWTO, the European Commission and specialist exhibitions like IMEX and EIBTM, International associations including IAPCO, plus the private sector including hotels and airlines.

Burning issues being tackled include: the European Commission’s approach to business tourism, How PCO’s can improve their relationships with Convection Bureaus, and the explosive future of e learning and how e-technology can be harnessed by the meetings industry.

Session moderatos included IMEX Chairman Ray Bloom; Paul Kennedy Group Exhibition Director Meetings & Incentive Events, Reed Travel Exhibitions; former Greek Minister of Tourism Nikolas Skoulas; Andre Vietor, President IAPCO, from Barcelona; and Georgios Karamanos, Manager, Marketing & Public Relations, Athens International Airport.

Speakers range from Jean Bergevin, European Commission International market & Services DG on the Commission’s approach to business tourism to Jade Sebek from the Prague Convection Bureau and Julius Klosowski, General Director of Warsaw Voice a weekly newspaper dedicated to international businessmen working in the Polish capital, on market opportunities in new member countries of the EU. 

The sublime voice of Nana December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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In her first ever performance on Dominican soil, Greek singer Nana Mouskouri enjoyed a spontaneous rapport with her Santo Domingo audience who gave her two standing ovations at the National Theater last night.

The Greek diva proved that music is indeed the universal language, evoking strong emotions no matter where it may come from. The audience in the Eduardo Brito Hall was treated to two hours of songs in five languages: Greek, Italian, French, English and Spanish.

Mouskouri, one of the world’s best-selling singers, opened her set with a song in Greek. She was accompanied by six backing musicians.

The high point of the evening as far as the audience was concerned was when she sang a series of numbers in Spanish. “Amapola” was one of the first, before thanking her hosts for “inviting me to such a beautiful country with such nice people”. She went on to sing “Linda golondrina”, “Bésame mucho” and “Siboney”.

It was an unforgettable evening for everyone present, who listened her versions of Spanish language classics like “Placer de amor”, “Eternamente Yolanda”, “Malagueña salerosa” and “Cucurucucú, paloma”.

Fancy just chilling out in Cyprus? December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hotels Cyprus.
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Fancy just chilling out? Here’s our picks five top-notch hideaways where you can enjoy everything from a relaxing sauna to a round of golf..

The seriously-sylish ANASSA is considered by many to be the cream of the crop of Cyprus’s spectacular hotels. This five-star hotel is situated on the edge of Latchi, on a picturesque and tranquil beachfront, and serves top class cuisine and has a sensuous spa to swoon in. Take a four-wheel-drive and explore the wild Akamas National Park or uncover hidden coves along the coastline. An elegant range of accommodation includes a number of suites boasting their very own plunge pools on the terrace.

Golfing fanatics should head for the INTERCONTINENTAL APHRODITE HILLS RESORT, near Paphos. With a championship golf course on site there’s plenty of opportunity to perfect your swing. Set in one the most scenic locations in Cyprus it overlooks the spot where legend has it Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, arose from the Mediterranean. Golfing widows can retire to the resort’s private beach, practise their forehand in the tennis academy or indulge in some soothing treatments in the Retreat Spa. This sleek resort attracts celebrity clientele like Gillian Taylforth and Pop Idol’s Nikki Chapman. 

Tipped to be one of Limassol’s top hot spots on the social scene, Cyprus’s cognoscenti are flocking to the LONDA HOTEL, in the heart of Potamos Yermasoyias, but set well back from the main road. The island’s couture hotel combines Mediterranean vibrant colour with clean minimalist lines for a contemporary luxurious look, and the hotel’s ultra-hip restaurant and bar are THE places to be seen in. Shopaholics will love its closeness to the town centre where you can visit a shoemaker who can copy Jimmy Choos at a third of the price. Book on www.londahotel.com

The glass-panelled AQUAMARINE VILLA on the outskirts of Pomos is so new that even the celebs haven’t discovered it… yet. Luxury reaches opulent new heights in this three-bedroom property which comes with flat screen TV, mini-gym, sauna, jacuzzi and infinity pool. If you prefer to keep out of the kitchen you can hire a local catering company to come in and do the cooking. Steps lead down to the beach below for a spot of snorkelling or even some skinny dipping. 

You’ll find the four-star DOME BEACH HOTEL is 6km west of Ayia Napa but might as well be a million miles away from the thumping nightclubs and concrete. It is set between two stunning sandy bays with crystal clear water that could give any Caribbean hideaway a run for its money. The hotel has five floodlit tennis courts not to mention archery, mountain bikes, basketball flat green bowls and a diving centre. Shops and tavernas are just a short stroll away. 

On top of the world in Cyprus December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus.
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The views were supposed to be breathtaking but we were so busy hyperventilating at the sheer drops at the side of the “nature trail” they were somewhat wasted on us. In fact, we were grateful for the swirls of low cloud that danced around us, helping to obscure the drop-dead gorgeous, now I truly understand the description, panorama laid out before us from high in the Troodos mountains of Cyprus.

The climb had left us gasping too and our discomfort was only exacerbated by the cold. Five layers of clothing failed to keep out the sudden drop in temperature.

Much of our stay, despite being early winter, had been bathed in duvet-warm sunshine but until then we’d been a lot closer to sea level. The Artemis trail is definitely not for the fainthearted but anyone interested in flora may decide the fear factor is a small price to pay for the excitement of discovering a huge variety of plant species, many only to be found in Cyprus. And, to be fair, much of the 7km walk takes you on the flat and is safely walled on both sides by a forest of pine trees. Look out for Cyprus crocuses and orchids under the black pines, all clearly labelled with discreet plaques.

On a clear day you can see the whole of the island from this circular trail, which reaches 1,850 metres. There are around 200km of well-marked hiking trails in Cyprus, helping visitors to get the most out of the fascinating countryside.

I’d chosen this adventure holiday as part of my training to get fit for tackling the Inca Trail in Peru, so I was ready to take on every challenge, I thought! Next on the itinerary was mountain biking. The last time I rode any kind of bicycle was in the days before gears so I spent the first half-an-hour either frantically pumping the pedals at 100mph or desperately pushing with all my might to get the wheels to turn.

One of my fellow adventurers, James, who I might add was scared of heights, flying, spiders and ghosts, was a bit of an expert and took great delight in putting me right. Eventually I sort of got the hang of it and was able to ride and take in the beauty of my surroundings. We mainly stuck to dirt tracks around the Tochni region, an area only recently opened up to tourism, but when we did hit the road I was relieved to discover the Cypriots drive on the same side as the Brits.

Tochni is an inland region between Larnaka and Limassol which has been developed as an agrotourism centre, a concept designed to give visitors a taste of the real Cyprus by offering accommodation in renovated old stone-built houses and showing traditional countryside arts. It was there we were introduced to halloumi making, creating a salty, chewy cheese out of goat’s milk, a Cyprus speciality served at almost every meal. We arrived at our final destination, the Tochni Tavern in Choirokoitia, for a typical Cyprus lunch, triumphant but saddle-sore.

So it was with the greatest trepidation I faced our next activity, horse riding at Drapia Farm. Again my experience was limited, a couple of lessons at age six. Fortunately my Cypriot horse was kind but the saddle still took its toll.

All this exercise and I should have returned home several pounds lighter, were it not for the principal activity on our schedule, eating. On the first day we had two huge breakfasts by 10am thanks to the wonderful hospitality of the local people. Accept an invitation to coffee and you’re very likely to be served dishes of fruit, bread and halloumi alongside.

The food is fab, some of the best I’ve had anywhere. I can particularly recommend the fish meze at Andreas & Melany at Beach Hotel at the Governors Beach (00357-25-632314) and everything we tasted, most of the menu, at the upmarket Karatello Restaurant in Limassol (00357 25820464). Our accommodation ranged from the simple to the sublime.

If you’re doing the island on a budget then Cyprus Villages (www.cyprusvillages.com.cy) offer self-catering apartments in renovated traditional homes, but be warned some are basic.

If you’re hiking in the Troodos mountains, then the Pendeli Hotel in Platres (www.pendelihotel.com) is a good base. You’ll be sure of a warm welcome by Blue, a huge husky who pops his head over the counter when you arrive.

And for those who deserve some pampering after hiking, biking and horse riding, the Columbia Hotel in Pissouri (www.columbiahotels.com) is definitely a five-star favourite.

For further information on Cyprus, contact Cyprus Tourism Organisation at > www.visitcyprus.com

Fly to Larnaca with Cyprus Airways > www.cyprusairways.com

Key dates in modern Cyprus history December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology, Cyprus Occupied.
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Key dates in modern Cyprus history >

1960 — Cyprus gains independence from colonial ruler Britain, which still maintains two sovereign military bases on the island.

1963 — Intercommunal fighting breaks out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

1964 — U.N. peacekeepers deployed.

July 15, 1974 — Athens-backed supporters of union with Greece try to overthrow the president, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, who barely escapes. The coup collapses eight days later. Meanwhile, Turkey invades Cyprus on July 20. A cease-fire is declared a couple of days later but not adhered to in many parts of the island.

Aug. 14, 1974 — Following the breakdown of talks, Turkey launches a second large-scale military operation. In two days, Turkish forces extend their control and eventually capture about 37 percent of the island. Some 240,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots are forced to move to opposite sides of the island. Turkey keeps around 40,000 troops on the island.

1983 — Turkish Cypriots declare their breakaway state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey.

2003 — Turkish and Greek Cypriots are allowed to cross the dividing line for the first time since 1974 after the Turkish side eases movement restrictions.

April 2004 — Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly reject the latest U.N. brokered peace plan, while Turkish Cypriots approve it in separate referendums.

May 2004 — A still-divided Cyprus joins the European Union. EU rights and obligations only apply to the south.

Chinese business centre established in Nicosia December 17, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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A permanent business centre representing the Chinese province of Anhui has been established at the International Merchandising Centre in Nicosia following the recent Cypriot business delegation visit to China.

The centre will begin operating in April to promote commercial activities, cooperation and investments with EU and Eastern Mediterranean countries. The centre was established after a Chinese delegation visited Cyprus following the Cypriot delegation’s trip.

The province of Anhui is the size of Greece and is the birthplace of the president of China, Hu Jintao. Its capital, Hefie, has a population of four million.