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A shop window with a view May 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands, Shopping.
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Situated on the isle of Hydra, Speak Out offers summer visitors a frivolous and feminine assortment of easy beach-dresses, funky one-off grocery bags and eye catching jewels

Island boutique-hopping is a popular summer pastime. Visitors are feeling relaxed and attractive, they’re not having to worry about paying the rent or mortgage back home and the last horrific credit card bill is but a barely-remembered nightmare. Anyway, how else would they fill in the time between leaving the beach, or rising from a long, lazy lunch, and heading for sunset cocktails or a romantic dinner?

Speak Out in Hydra is one of a growing number of eclectic boutiques springing up on the islands to appeal to shoppers in this tranquil, prodigal holiday mood. Situated amid the tavernas and souvenir shops on Hydra’s gleaming cobbled sea front, the store offers a varied but complementary assortment of clothing, accessories and jewellery assembled by magpie-eyed shop-owner Christina Stamatakou.

The look > Freshly whitewashed with a dove-grey tiled floor and plenty of natural light, the decor acts as a blank canvas for the rail of bright prints, the wall-hung bags and the glass cases of glittering jewellery. “I wanted it to be pale,” says Christina, “in keeping with the soft colours and simplicity of the island, but also so as not to distract attention from the clothes.” But there is one distraction she cannot avoid: the view out through the vitrine, past the spring display of amulet-rich bracelets and ladybird candles, onto the harbour ringed with majestic stone mansions. Looking in the white-framed mirror behind which the corner changing room is concealed, the customer’s gaze is caught less by her new ensemble as by the rippling sea and high-masted white fishing boats reflected beyond.

The goods > The first items that Christina brought into the shop were a series of papier mache sculptures of Botero-esque voluptuous reclining women made by Artemis Makridou. From those initial objets d’art, the collection has grown to include a veritable cornucopia of summer essentials: soft pleated silk-jersey gowns from Slovenian label Oktober; smock-fronted silk Liberty-type print sundresses by Greek duo Aesthetic Theory; tailored turn-up shorts from Fornarina; cheery striped marin tops in sorbet pastels from London label Traffic People; bubblegum-hued plastic beach slip-ons by Brazil’s Melissa; individually-designed Tyvex, a waterproof, machine-washable, recyclable synthetic paper/fabric, grocery bags from Portuguese label KrvKurva; intricate silver pendants and hooped earrings by Vally Kontidis; sensual scented candles by Fragrance Conspiracy, and spectacular multi-strand beaded necklaces from Katerina Psoma. The only thing missing is an array of bikinis, but Christina isn’t keen on mixing swimwear with jewellery and other apparel. “I just don’t think it matches, I wouldn’t put underwear in the shop either,” she explains.

Best buys > Speak Out’s own line of leather sandals, manufactured in Athens to Christina’s designs, are just the thing for strolling around Hydra’s picturesque passageways, especially as they are sensibly finished with a non-slip sole. Available in trendy metallics or funky summer hues like lemon-yellow and sky-blue, and in a range of models that includes simple ‘Capri’ and flip-flop styles as well as the traditional Greek ankle-laced ‘Sparta’ shoe, these work day-to-night, from beach to bar. The old-fashioned, wide-brimmed sunhats handmade in straw or canvas by Maria were last summer’s top sellers, and Christina expects them to be equally popular this year. “They are very beautiful and people need them,” she says simply.

The clientele > Visitors to the island. Christina started out stocking purely Greek designers, because the foreign tourists desired local pieces, but then branched out as she realised that Greek designers just didn’t cover the full spectrum of the market. As she found gaps, she filled them with interesting labels from abroad.

Background > Christina was born and brought up on Hydra and, after a spell in Athens, moved back there five years ago to open Speak Out. “I didn’t have anything to do with fashion, but I suppose I just had the instinct,” she says. The boutique was originally intended to be open all year round, but there just wasn’t enough customers to make it worthwhile. Now she teaches English over the winter months and opens Speak Out every March to October. Christina moved the shop from a backstreet of Hydra into the prominent position on the harbour front last April.

Price-wise > Bags and sandals start from 35 euros; tops from around 70 euros and dresses over 100 euros. Hats are priced at 40-50 euros. Jewellery prices start from 30 euros for silver fish pendants and rise to 680 euros for a gold 18-carat ring set with diamonds.

Location > Speak Out is in the port of Hydra, tel 22980 52099; for more info email > speakout@otenet.gr

Traveling to Greece in winter time February 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, Greece Athens, Greece Islands, Greece Mainland.
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A week in Greece during winter time offers history and bustle on a budget

View of Athens, Lycabettus Hill as seen from Thission and The Attalus Arcade 

Lycavittos or Lycabettus Hill, Athens’ highest point, offers 360-degree views. A short fenicular (tram) ride gets you to the top.

Tell someone you’re vacationing in Greece in the winter and you’re likely to get some questions: “So, um, what’s the weather like?” Answer: Cool but comfortable. “Do people go to Greece in the winter?” Answer: Yes. “Why not wait until July? Their beaches are famous, you know.” Answer: It’s affordable in winter.

Greek civilizations began more than 5,000 years ago, so with a little planning and flexibility, a visit to Greece can be an unforgettable experience in ancient history and modern culture. Here are seven secrets for a memorable winter Greece experience:

Spend a week > Many travelers to Europe plan multi-country hops, but considering that western civilization began in Greece, why skip an opportunity to experience this amazing country? Sure, two to three days in Athens can get you a quick sampling, but that’s just one city in a beautiful country.

Do spend three days in Athens > Take in the awe-inspiring Acropolis, fallen Temple of Zeus and ruins of the Agora and enjoy a 360-degree view from Athens’ highest point,  Lycavittos Hill. Swing by Syntagma Square to watch the hourly changing of the Greek Guard at the Parliament Building’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Take in a night in Plaka, where you’ll find numerous cafes and restaurants.

Plan ahead > There are hundreds of archaeological sites and temple ruins to see in Greece. Do your research. Many ancient sites are just a footprint of once-majestic temples. Sometimes what you go to “see” isn’t really much to see at all.

Take the midnight train to Thessaloniki > Head north to the hills of Macedonia, where the nation’s second-largest city provides a full day of historical sites and modern experiences.

The Archaeological Museum and Museum of Byzantine Culture provides a detailed review of ancient western civilization’s early start and the impact of Christianity spreading into the Middle East. Don’t miss the Arch of Galerius (A.D. 297); the five-story-high ruin marks Caesar Galerius’ victory over the Persians. Step inside the White Tower (15th century), the Ottoman Death Row where Janissaries carried out notoriously gruesome executions, and finish with a healthy hike to the top of the city, where ancient walls, five stories tall, protected the town’s original Acropolis from foreign invaders.

Ride a ferry > Hourly ferries shuttle locals to and from Athens to Aegina Island, a bustling fishing village. Order dinner from one of the small restaurants and witness the chef walking into the market to buy fresh mussels for your meal. Feeling adventurous? Try octopus, grilled tableside for all to see and enjoy.

Take a day trip to Delphi > The center of intellect, the Oracle at Delphi greeted ancient worshippers and wisdom seekers until 800 B.C. Though the temples have mostly crumbled, the ruins continue to inspire and intrigue.

Dive into the culture > Fortunately, most of the places you’ll visit are touristy enough that the Greeks will speak English. But don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path to discover local restaurants and markets that offer a more authentic culture. Greeks take pride in their hospitality and may even approach you if you seem a bit confused or lost. If offered a sip of Ouzo, Greek national liquor of choice, drink up and always say thank you.

Travel Tips
* Use your ATM card. Any Visa or MasterCard ATM card can work in Greece and give you euro currency. You’ll find in most cases you get a better conversion rate than going to exchange booths at the airport. Get as much as you will need the first time, though, because your bank will charge you a transfer fee. Feel free to pay for meals and other expenses with your American credit card to conserve cash.

* Buy a seven-day unlimited Athens metro pass. At 10 euros, it’s by far the best deal in the city. Athens has a tremendous transit system of trains, buses and trams that make getting around easy and cheap.

* Get up early. Historical sites tend to open by 8 a.m. and close by 4:30 p.m.

* Don’t plan to shop, plan to socialize. A weak dollar against the euro leaves limited bargains in Athens. Certainly shopping is bountiful, but trinket souvenirs provide the most value. Save your euros for enjoying Athens’ restaurants, Greek wines and late nights in the city’s numerous cafes.

Greece > Is for great family holidays January 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, Greece Islands, Greece Islands Aegean, Greece Islands Ionian, Greece Mainland.
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Hunt a minotaur, hire a kayak or just go paddling: it’s Greece for families. 

Greece’s affable, easy-going ways have long made it a favourite with families. You can take children almost anywhere, and the sandy beaches and shallow seas are perfect for tots. Children thrive on the old taverna stand-bys of makaronia, bifteki, watermelon and ice cream. And even the remotest islands have a music bar to keep your teenager bopping happily under the stars.

Greece is hot in the summer, so make like the locals: take long siestas, then stay up late, letting the kids play in the cool of the night while you linger in a taverna. Don’t be offended if the Greeks pretend to spit when patting your darling on the head, though; they know the gods are jealous and are trying to ward off evil.

Although prices are not as low as they once were, you can still bag a good-value holiday. Greek camp sites will rent you four sleeping bags and a tent, and sleeping outdoors on summer nights is so lovely that some families wouldn’t holiday any other way.

Resort coast > Despite what you’ll read in certain papers, Greek seaside resorts are not full of twenty-something northern Europeans behaving badly. Most, in fact, are genteel, and a good bet for families, there is always plenty to do, including sports watery and otherwise. Hire a car, and you’ll also find some very rewarding “days out”.

Crete, with its stunning scenery, its Minoan palaces, Byzantine churches and Venetian castles, is packed with potential outings. At Elounda Gulf Villas, overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Mirabello, your family can combine the independence of a self-catering villa with the facilities and restaurants offered by one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Each villa comes with its own pool, spa bath and maid service.  Check out A&K Chapters for Greece (www.villa-rentals.com) for more. Fly to Heraklion, an hour’s drive away.

Thanks to Captain Corelli, Cephalonia has now achieved resort status. Besides stretching out on its pretty beaches, you can drive up Mount Enos and look for wild horses, explore superb caves, and visit what might be the Mycenaean tomb of Odysseus. The Porto Skala Hotel, 3km from Skala (210 6128517) is an especially child-friendly place, just a few steps from a pebble beach, with a paddling pool, a playground and baby-sitting. Get there on a direct charter flight.

While nearby Mykonos and Paros attract the glitterati, Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, is ideal for families. It has a stunning sugar-cube town that reminds kids of a big maze, terrific country walks, and ancient monuments to explore. Near sandy Agios Georgios beach is the Naxos Beach Hotel (22850 22928, www.naxosbeach.com), with a pool and a great sports club. A studio for four in mid-July B&B, and comes with a town tour, free bicycles, and an hour’s windsurfing tuition. Alternatively, Maragas Camping on Agia Anna beach (22850 24552, www.maragascamping.gr) rents four-man tents and sleeping bags (children under 6 are free; 6-12s half-price), and also studio flats for four. From Piraeus, Blue Star ferries sail to Naxos in five hours.

Many Brits first came across Corfu through the writings of the Durrells, and now your own family can stay in the convivial White House at Kalami, where Lawrence Durrell penned Prospero’s Cell in 1939. Kalami is on the lovely northeast coast, and the owner also runs a taverna downstairs and hires out boats for exploring the coast. Check the price with CV Travel (www.cvtravel.net) including flights.

On the Apollo Coast, south of Athens, you can combine the sights of classical Greece with the lazy delights of the seaside. Club Med makes it easy for families at Athenia Village (www.clubmed.co.uk), a hotel and bungalow complex offering a pool, tennis, windsurfing, kayaking, in-line skating and more. Club Med offers excursions to Athens, the Saronic islands and elsewhere.

Messenia, part of the Peloponnese, is silvery with olive groves and lined with beaches, and ancient Messeni, Sparta, Mystras and the Mani are all within day-trip range. Sunrise Village, at Chrani, just southwest of Kalamata, has interconnecting bungalow rooms, a kids’ club (ages 3-11), a diving school and more. Check with Sunvil (www.sunvil.co.uk) including flights; with discounts for two small children in cots.

Remote coast > For families, remote is a relative term. You’re probably not looking for the full Robinson Crusoe, miles from the nearest ice cream and disposable nappy. But if you want to give the kids a bit of genuine Greece along with the sea and sand, it’s not hard to find. And even if they can’t live without their PlayStation at home, dreamy days by the beach, hunting for shells and watching fishermen mend their nets may well convert them into confirmed philhellenes by the time you leave.

The Dodecanese is the archipelago of fleshpots such as Kos and Rhodes, but also harbours some treats. The best is Kalymnos, a friendly island of dramatic fjords and crags that attract daredevil rock climbers. Its west coast is well endowed with beaches, and Myrties, quieter than the main resort Masouri, has safe sands and gorgeous sunset views over the islet of Telendos, just opposite. With Fransway (www.fransway.co.uk), four can stay in a family room at Phenis Hotel, right on the beach. Someday soon, Kalymnos’s airport may finally open, until then, catch a UK charter to Kos; then take a taxi to Mastihari, which has ferries (45 minutes) to Kalymnos daily.

Rugged green Alonnisos is queen of its own little bevy of islands, and the best base for exploring Greece’s National Marine Park, home of the rare monk seal. The Milia Bay (21089 50794, www.milia-bay.gr) is great for families, and has a pool, a telescope and lovely views. The beach is 400 metres away and perfect for snorkelling, while nearby Steni Vala has an activity centre (ages 8 and above) offering climbing, Zodiac trips, trekking and sea kayaking. To get to Alonnisos, take a charter to Skiathos or Volos. From Skiathos, Hellas Flying Dolphins crosses in 80 minutes.

Ithaca, the fabled home of Odysseus, is calmer still. Stay at the idyllic Levendis Estate (6944 169770, www.levendisestate.com), created by a Greek family as their own dream holiday destination. It’s an organic farm set in terraced olive groves and gardens, and can accommodate 20 guests in several cottages. Childcare is available, as are motorboats, scuba and sailing lessons, and aromatherapy massage by the pool. Kitchens come stocked with fresh produce from the garden, and there’s a fine restaurant. A week for four, includes transfers from Cephalonia airport to Ithaca and a hire car, cheaper if your children are under 6 or share a cot in your room. Catch a charter to Cephalonia.

Lemnos, in the north Aegean, is an unusual island: low and hilly instead of mountainous, with big beaches and some of the oldest inhabited sites in Greece. It also has flamingos and a mini “Sahara desert”. There is something for all ages at Mark Warner’s (www.markwarner.co.uk) village-style beach resort at Platy. The children’s facilities run the gamut from baby clubs to teenage clubs (reserve when you book), and there are sailing, windsurfing and tennis lessons for teens. Four sharing a family room, includes all meals, flights and transfers, and a free windsurfing lesson.

Syros is a calm, classy Cycladic island, with a stunning neoclassical “capital” piled on two hills. Frequent buses link the village to the beach at Galissas, sheltered, sandy and perfect for small children. Olympic Holidays (www.olympicholidays.com) has a week for four at the self-catering Galissas Studios, including flights and transfers. It’s a short walk from the village, and has a pool.

Cage’s Cephalonia >The actor Nicolas Cage filmed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in Cephalonia: “I fell in love with the Greeks, who were full of life and love and very generous to us. You can’t help but feel their zest for life stems from their surroundings. I was busy learning the dialect, how to march and how to play the mandolin. But after filming, I’d look out over mountains and sea, and marvel at the place.”

Manos (www.manos.co.uk) offers holidays with free child places: for example, a trip to relaxing Paralia Astrous, in the eastern Peloponnese, with its long, shelving beach and friendly village. Mycenae, ancient Tirynth, birthplace of Heracles, and the beautiful city of Nafplion are all short day trips away. Manos’s Irini Filoxenia self-catering apartments are set in a peaceful garden, a short walk from the beach and town;   with flights into Kalamata.

Countryside > Few children want a holiday without sea, but if there’s a pool on hand, you can just about get away with it. For at least part of your trip, then, why not head for the interior? Greece is the second most mountainous country in Europe and, in summer, the cool fresh air, the array of mountain sports and the chance to glimpse rural life are a big draw for holidaying Greek families. Fancy joining them?  

Eastern Crete’s Lasithi mountains make a lovely backdrop for the Avdou Villas, a comfortable complex with a pool, set on an organic farm (22810 300540, www.avdou.com). Nearby activities include horse-riding, mountain-biking, Cretan cookery courses, paragliding lessons and golf at the new Crete Golf Club. A day out? Choose between the Aqua Splash water park, the ruins at Knossos and Heraklion’s superb archeology museum, even children find its unique Minoan treasures fascinating. 

Foreigners are just beginning to discover the beauty of Evrytania, the “Switzerland of Greece”. It makes a great base for back-to-nature holidays, and the Trekking Hellas programme at Karpenisi, the region’s main resort, embraces kayaking, rafting and mountain-biking. Meteora, Lake Plastiras and ancient Thermon are all potential day trips. Stay at the swish Montana Club (22370 80400, www.montana.gr), with its picturesque views, indoor and outdoor heated pools, hot tub and playground;  Fly into Athens, hire a car and you can be there in four hours.

The delightful rambling estate of Candili is in northern Evia. It has been in the Noel-Baker family since 1832, and now offers accommodation in two buildings with a shared pool. The estate sleeps a total of 30 and can be hired for seminars, family reunions and the like, except in August, when it opens up to individual families. You can be as lazy as you like, or sign up for a bit of “soft adventure”, Land Rover safaris, walks, picnics and boat trips to Skopelos. Check for rates at Candili with Filoxenia (www.filoxenia.co.uk

Many kids have a great affinity for the Greek myths and will be fascinated to tramp around the places where they were forged. Families with children aged 5 and up can explore the best of ancient Greece on a group tour with the Adventure Company (www.adventurecompany.co.uk), whose nine-day Legends of Greece itinerary takes in Athens, Mycenae, Olympia, the Mani and other points in the Peloponnese

Activities > Greece’s history and economy are closely bound to the sea, and its warm transparent waters are the obvious starting point for any family seeking sport and adventure. But there are plenty of other options, too.

Paros, island of the golden beaches, is also the watersports capital of the Cyclades. Here, Octopus Sea Trips (69327 57123, www.octopuseatrips.com) offers family adventures in marine biology and archeology, with sea and rock-pool excursions, children’s scuba and snorkelling, a marine touch-tank and more. Stay at the Golden Beach Hotel at Chryssi Akti. You can get there from Piraeus in four hours with Blue Star Ferries.

Based in Piraeus, DR Yachting (210 9850168, www.disabledsailingholidays.com) provides holidays for the disabled and visually impaired, and also has a specially designed yacht suitable for families with small children, or single parents. The boat sleeps eight (or 10 including two tots), check rates for a week’s bareboat sailing around the Saronic Gulf (plus extra cost per day if you need a skipper). 

Olympos Trek (69325 45001, www.olympostrek.gr) is an activity-holiday specialist in eastern Thessaly, where Mount Olympus tumbles into the sea. Check rates for a week of canyoning, canoeing, rafting, climbing and orienteering, with B&B accommodation by the beach at Stomio. Fly to Athens and catch the train to Larisa on the Thessaloniki line; you’ll be collected at the station.

Just because you have tots doesn’t mean you have to sit on a beach. In the beautiful Pindos mountains, Walks Worldwide (www.walksworldwide.com) offers walking tours for families with children of any age, if the littlest ones are too heavy to carry on certain stretches, you can have them driven on ahead with your baggage. 

If your offspring are old enough to lug some of their own gear, island-hopping on the ferries can be fun, especially when your transfers and accommodation have been sorted in advance. Greek Sun Holidays (www.greeksun.co.uk) offers two weeks buzzing around the Cyclades, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Syros and Tinos, though they will tailor to suit. All accommodation, flights and ferries are included.

For messing about in boats, the Ionian Sea is hard to beat. Sunsail (www.sunsail.com) has several watersporty family resorts, such as Club Vounaki, a 10-minute walk from Paleros, on the mainland. It has three pools and all the latest gear, and is ideally located for exploring the Ionian islands by day yacht. 

Can’t resist Halki > Until a few years ago, I’d never been to this Greek island. Then I went on a painting holiday in Halki, and immediately became a total convert. Halki is in the Dodecanese; it’s fairly small and quiet, with a tiny village port on a horseshoe bay and a few interesting churches and castles. I’ve now been back several times, and consider it my island. Each time I go, I find it more enchanting. 

Greek self-catering holidays galore this August January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands, Greece Islands Aegean, Greece Islands Ionian, Greece Mainland.
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If you have got your two weeks abroad pencilled-in for August, but are undecided where to go, then why not grab the opportunity to get away to Greece and its nearby islands?

There are many great value Greek holidays available before the summer is out, which include flights and self-catering accommodation, based at a variety of coastal locations.

Kalives on the north-west coast of Crete remains largely unspoilt and has excellent sandy beaches, good places to swim and beautiful rolling countryside.

The spacious Afrodite Apartments have a good-sized pool and are located just three minutes’ walk from the beach. Departs 22nd and 29th August.

Alternatively, if you want to experience the more tranquil and rural side of Crete, you could stay in Gerani at the modern Ilios Apartments, located 14 kilometres west of Chania, the second largest city on the island.

Gerani is a relatively undeveloped area, with a wide sand and shingle beach and lots of greenery. A selection of shops and tavernas are only five-minutes walk away from the apartments, which also have a swimming pool. Departs August 22nd and 29th.

If you prefer staying somewhere more remote, the small, leafy and picturesque island of Skiathos has apartments that are within a short walk of three sandy beaches. The comfortable Magdalena Studios are located in rural surroundings and have free access to the swimming pool next door. Departs August 25th.

The busier village of Tolon is ideal for first time visitors to Greece with its long sandy beach, cafés, restaurants and fascinating past. The Viaros Apartments occupy an elevated, quiet position with spectacular views of the village and sea, yet are just a three-minute walk from the bustling waterfront.

There are lots of things to do at Tolon, including watersports and cruises to the surrounding bays and small islands.

If you are looking for an opportunity to explore Greece’s classical past, then Mycenae, Argos, Tyrins and Corinth are all within reach. Departs August 27th.

Corfu might be best known as a busy tourist-filled holiday destination, however Maltas in the south-west is just about as far as you can get from the island’s mass market image. Five minutes away from one of the longest beaches on the island, Tasia Studios also have a pretty garden and country views. Departs August 28th.

All holidays start at £349 person except Ilios apartments which start at £389 per person. Prices are based on two sharing a self-catering studio apartment (or one-bedroom apartment at the Ilios in Crete) for fourteen nights with return flights and transfers, including in-flight meals. For more information see www.sunvil.co.uk.

Ten Greek places to behold in the land of the Olympics January 9, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, Greece Athens, Greece Islands, Greece Islands Aegean, Greece Islands Ionian, Greece Mainland.
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Let the travel plans begin. If you’re Olympics-bound to Greece, it pays to know where to go in this beautiful and ancient country.

“I love Greece so much because it actually looks like the posters,” says Nia Vardalos, star of the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the CBS series My Big Fat Greek Life. Vardalos also is famous for her film, Connie and Carla, and currently will be shooting her new film in Greece. One of the spots is The Acropolis in Athens. “When I visit Greece, I feel such a connection because it is my ancestral home. While you’re there, take a taxi. The view from the back of any taxicab in Greece is a character-building experience. I like to imagine these grizzled drivers when they were young boys, playing in the streets.”

She shares with you her favorite Greek spots. Follow her!

The Parthenon > Athens
“Standing at the bottom of the ruins of this temple, built circa 477 to 438 B.C, and looking up, you can feel that ancient power. When I go to the top and look out over the city, I like to imagine what it all looked like 50 years ago, 250 years ago, 500 years ago.” 

Island of Tinos > Cyclades
Tinos is one of the largest islands of the Cyclades. Its “beautiful main monastery, the Church of Panagia or the Virgin Mary, is a must to visit,” especially on August 15, the feast day of the Virgin, which draws thousands of pilgrims. “Inside, it is decorated with gold and silver replicas, representing people’s wishes and prayers.” 

Isthmus of Corinth > Corinthia
At 20 miles long and four to eight miles wide, the isthmus, canal, connects central Greece with the Peloponnese peninsula. “This man-made miracle cuts a mountain in two, so ships can pass” via the Corinth Canal from the Adriatic Sea to the Aegean Sea, “and it’s really something to see.” 

Island of Zakynthos > Ionian Islands
Also known as Zante, this picturesque island with mountainous villages is known for its golden beaches. “Visit the church in the town square; a priest is buried there, and the locals regularly replace his worn-out shoes because it is said he still walks the island.” 

Nafplio > Peloponnese
Climb the 857 steps to visit the Palamidi Fortress, constructed when Nafplio, “located on the mainland”, was the first capital of Greece. “The copper-red roofs of this town are incredible to look at, so climb the winding streets to get a panoramic view from the top.” 

Island of Mykonos > Cyclades
With its white houses and bright blue sea, this cosmopolitan island of 5,500 is called the Venice of Greece. “Tiny whitewashed churches dot the sides of the mountains, so rent a minibike, go up the mountain and sit inside one of the churches to light a candle.”  Windmills and VIP’s everywhere!

Herod Atticus Theater > Athens
Constructed in A.D. 161, this once-massive theater today holds only 5,000 spectators in the lower tier of seats. “The acoustics are perfect, and the theater is a step back in time. I heard the Atlanta Gospel Choir here and cried. Go at night” for a moving experience. 

Drymos > Macedonia, Northern Greece
“My dad’s village of Drymos,” near Thessaloniki in Northern Greece, “is tiny, quaint and built into the side of the mountain. Sit outside at a cafe, order an iced coffee with condensed milk and sugar, Greek frappe coffee, and people-watch.”

Island of Rhodes > Dodecanese
Rhodes is both ancient and modern. Visit the Acropolis of Lindos, “where there is a sign that asks travelers to be respectful of those who have fought and fallen.” Or visit the Knights’ Castle in the Old Rhodes town! 

Island of Santorini > Cyclades
Known for its landscapes, this Aegean Sea island boasts beautiful whitewashed houses perched on cliffs overhanging the water. “Go to the tip of the island to a village called Oia. Stand anywhere there and look out at the caldera, the volcano basin. It is the quietest spot on Earth. I brought my laptop and wrote parts of MBFGW, sitting in a cafe, looking out at that water.” 

Huge aquarium set for Athens December 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens, Greece Islands, Nature.
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The Development Ministry has given the green light for the construction of a new aquarium, described as being the biggest in the Mediterranean area, to be built in Palaio Faliron, in southern Athens.

The President of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), Giorgos Chronis, said yesterday that the marine park will be built along the beachside district that accommodates Olympic Games venues.

“We are aiming at informing and making people more aware of the importance of the world of water, the dangers that it faces and the possibilities of protecting it. There will not only be sea organisms but we will also reproduce ecosystems from rivers and lakes,” Chronis said.

The aquarium park will cover 6,500 square meters and will include 100 tanks that will contain 4 million liters of water, three times more water than that contained in HCMR’s other aquarium in Crete, east of Iraklion, called Thalassocosmos.

Funds from the European Union’s Fourth Community Framework will pay for the Athens project, estimated to cost 27 million euros. It was not clear when construction of the aquarium will be completed. Based on approved plans, there will also be a 4,000-square-meter park which will recreate offshore, river and sea ecosystems.

Officials are optimistic about the success of the water park given the number of visitors that have attended Thalassocosmos. Figures showed that 350,000 people have visited the aquarium in Crete since it opened in December last year.

The Cretan aquarium will get a boost with the arrival in of two bull sharks, considered to be one of the most dangerous types of shark in the world.

Greek Islands are favorites December 18, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece, Greece Islands, Greece Islands Aegean, Greece Islands Ionian, Hotels Greece.
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In a report on worldwide vacation reader preferences, the November issue of the influential Conde Nast Traveller magazine lists the Greek Aegean islands of Mykonos and the Cyclades as first of the top ten European choices, with a rating of 77.4%.

The island of Crete (71.6%) is in fifth place; Rhodes (69.1%) in eighth place; and Corfu (67.9%) in tenth place.

Among the top 75 European resort hotels, “Katikies”, on the island of Santorini, occupies 21st place, with a rating of 92.3%, above such renowned hotels as Cipriani and Gritti Palace in Venice, and the Ritz hotels in Paris and Madrid.