Friday, 28 June 2013

The Onassis hideaway in the heart of the Ionian

It’s Mr Grigg’s birthday and we’re on a quay at Nidri, Lefkada, while an engineer fixes the alternator on our boat, Nestor.
I can think of worse places to be.

An imposing figure towers large on the quayside, just outside Nik the Greek’s, his jacket hung nonchalantly over his shoulder. Through his big glasses he sees everything.

He gazes out to the small island of Skorpios. He runs his eyes along the ridge to the flat-topped bit on the left, his helipad.
Skorpios looking towards Nidri and Lefkada
It is not Mr Grigg who is looming over Nidri like some benign giant. 
It is the statue of Aristotle Onassis, the man who it is said never spent the night on his island but preferred to sleep aboard the yacht Christina anchored by the seashore in the clear waters of the Ionian.

These days he is buried here, along with his son, Alexander, and daughter, Christina.

This was the shipping magnate loved by the local population and the man who brought Jackie Kennedy here and married her, five years after her husband was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

Jackie enjoyed the solitude of a little Cyclades-style beach house right next to the sea. It gave her the privacy she so needed and desperately deserved.

Today, according to newspaper reports, the island belongs to the daughter of a Russian billionaire.

The parkland grounds are still kept beautifully manicured, and you can just about make them out from the deck of your passing boat. You can sail around the island but you can't land on it. A sophisticated security system is in operation which can detect intruders at the drop of a pebble.

This part of the Ionian is indeed an idyllic spot. There are yachts a-plenty and holidaymakers traipsing around in baseball caps and sarongs looking for an English newspaper. But, like Corfu, there is so much that is far away from the madding crowd.

It is green, with land and islands all around you and the most wonderful clear waters in coves dotted along the shores.
On days like these, it is hard to be homesick, especially when family and friends and arriving by the plane load over the next few weeks.

Big Fat Greek Gap Year? It's positively bursting.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Corfu: home of ancient Greeks and Prince Philip

It's getting hotter in Corfu now, with temperatures soaring. For Mr Grigg's birthday next week, we're looking at ninety six degrees.

The seventies tabloid moniker 'Cor-phew' is right on the button.

Swallows and swifts dive into the water, the cicadas chirrup and the white tourists from the cruise ships are getting redder.

Time to dive into the grounds of Mon Repos, the birthplace of  the Duke of Edinburgh. It's a shady spot, with plenty of cover.
The mansion could do with a bit of tender, loving care, really, and the inside is a bit of a museum mish-mash. The Brits and Americans probably wonder why Prince Philip hardly gets a mention, with the building playing host to various exhibitions, none of which relates to HRH.
But the prince was only eighteen months old when the Greek royal family was exiled on 3 December 1922. Hardly time to get to know the place.
But with the island's archaeological museum closed until 2015 for renovation, it's good to be able to browse around the ancient artefacts here, as long as you can cope with the heat.

I could spend all day in a dusty museum with stelae, votive goods, bits of ancient jewellery, arrowheads and figures of Artemis. And to find the remains of a Doric temple (5th century BC) in the Mon Repos grounds was, to me at least, the honey on the ancient Greek baclava.
And then we followed a narrow path through the trees to hop over the Mon Repos wall and join the 'official' path and steps down to the Kardaki spring.
The story goes that whoever drinks from the spring is destined to forget his homeland and always return to Corfu.
So we drank from the spring and went down to the beach to ponder our fate.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 14 June 2013

A classic way to end the Corfiot school term

A high wind whips through the trees as the children prepare for the end of term show.

The stage is set up outside on the gravelled playground and it's blowing a hooley. The mothers and fathers, aunties and uncles and grandparents are huddled around tables, waiting for the concert to begin.

A group of six-year-olds, the boys dressed as ancient Greek soldiers and the girls in classical-style, white dresses, each with one shoulder bared, come on to the stage, egged on by their glamorous teacher in heels as high as the mountain that overlooks the village.
There is a stage backdrop depicting the rocky outcrop of the Athenian Acropolis and the Parthenon.

The children act, they dance and they sing as the women go on strike and withdraw their labour as a protest at their husbands being away at war.

With Greek music, extracts from the sassy and laid-back theme tune to The Pink Panther and a disco ballad, the girls take the higher moral ground and refuse to co-operate unless their menfolk come home.

It is a classical tale of gender wars, based on Lysistrata by Aristophanes, a comic account of one woman's determination to end the Peloponnesian War and first performed in 411 BC.

It is clear the children do not know too much about the strike, which is probably just as well, but they perform their version of the play with aplomb and great enthusiasm.

Their marathon effort is followed by short performances by older classes, ending in a spirited rendition of the hokey cokey in Greek.

And then the games begin, with the children high on the wind and cans of Coke and the parents having a beer and looking forward to a souvlaki a bit later on. They run in lines to retrieve marshmallows buried in two cream cakes and then dance to Gangnam Style as the PE teacher prepares for musical chairs.

And when the victor is declared, his dancing classmates run to him, crowd around and raise him aloft as if he had just won the Olympic Games.

They are excited, happy and full of good spirit, especially to each other. Which is hardly surprising as they are now on holiday for ten whole weeks. An endless summer stretching out before them, a real one rather than the ones of our own rosy-tinted childhood.

As we headed home at just after eight o'clock, the fun continued well into the night, the last ones winding their way back at one o'clock.

So kalés diakopés to children and adults everywhere. Happy holidays.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Monday, 10 June 2013

A worldwide treasure hunt, here in Corfu

There is a place near my Dorset home of Lush Places where the fairies live.

I've blogged about it before but I am not going to say where it is because these things are enjoyed best when they are exclusive and magical and not advertised to the world and his wife. This is not Disney, it's Dorset.

It is a lovely spot, with dozens of fairy doors to be found at the foot of sturdy trees. And when you open a door, there are often things left behind for the little people.
This sprang to my mind last week when I was introduced to the world of Geocaching. According to the website this is a treasure hunting game where you use a smartphone or GPS to hide and seek containers.

The containers can be all shapes and sizes and concealed behind rocks, on posts or ingeniously inserted into hollowed-out pine cones.

Once you find the geocache, you can sign the logbook and see if the last person to find the hidden container  has left anything behind. If you take it, you need to leave something else of equivalent or equal value in its place.

They are all over the world. Back in the green Dorset landscape of Lush Places there are loads of them. Here in Corfu there is an 'earth' cache near us, where the 'treasure' is the stunning view of Paleokastritsa from the Bella Vista, Lakones.
And after visiting our favourite restaurant last week...
...we walked along the beach at Astrakeri with our visitor's smartphone...
 We found a hole in the wall covered by some stones...
...and found this...
Inside was a log book, so our visitor signed it and left a business card for our special taverna.

I can see that geocaching can be very compulsive. And if the people taking part are respectful and responsible, it seems a great way to get up from your armchair and video game and out into the big outdoors.

I am glad, though, my mobile phone is not that smart. Otherwise, with my addictive personality, I would be completely hooked.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Friday, 7 June 2013

A Year in Lush Places now out on Kindle

A Year in Lush Places: Tales from England's Rural Underbelly is now available on Kindle, published by The Bridport Press.

It comes out, appropriately, on the eve of Lush Places fun weekend and, as my blog readers will know, the Dorset village where I lived before moving to Corfu for twelve months is the epitome of fun. And weird.

A work of fiction, it is inspired by and taken from the blog, so much of it will be familiar to you. But read on, there is a twist at the end. It's set in 2010, when The World from my Window became a Blog of Note.

The novella charts the highs and lows of a Dorset village and a nagging case of misunderstanding, which is resolved on New Year's Eve at a Wild West showdown.

For those of you have been with me along the way, thanks for your support. It's not exactly Pulitzer Prize, more Pullet Surprise, but it will certainly make you think twice before eating a pasty.

The paperback version will be available in a couple of weeks' time.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

A horror film for Halloween

On Halloween, I head out under the cover of darkness, a tub of sweets by the front door for young trick or treaters on the prowl with their ...