Monday 30 September 2013

Athens Center Square Hotel

Everything but "square"!  

by Nancy Snipper  

It’s a breath of fresh air the minute you step into the spacious bright lobby of Athens Center Square Hotel. Of course having the large colourful paintings of Corinna O’Brien on the walls (and in the rooms) adds to the happy feeling.  
This recently renovated hotel, owned by Dorina and George Stathopoulou conveys a sparkling family ambiance. Ilias and Olga at the front desk, and Irini – who bartends on the sensational rooftop terrace are pure fun. Their impeccable service adds to guest-gusto satisfaction. This superbly located hotel offers casual trendiness with oodles of class. I loved the neon glass exterior that grabs your eye with its various colours, and the doors of the hotel are completely camouflaged in painted fruit images. The fun is instantaneous – the minute you step on the welcome mat and the “doors of fruit’ open up to reveal the interior lovely lobby. 


Eight floors each sporting their own interior brightly coloured rooms that reiterate the colours of fruit – found in the fruit market just outside the hotel along with the artist’s paintings are oh so comfort and über-clean.   

 Wood and spanking new grey bathrooms in that new kind of dark textured tile with huge glass shower doorsare such a welcome luxury after a long plane ride or roughing it in the islands.

Some rooms have acropolis views, but no worries if yours doesn’t for on the rooftop terrace you get an outstanding 360 degree view of Athens! That’s where you can sit on top of the world while ordering your drinks at the cozy bar.

The location, as mentioned is unbeatable. It's set on a square off bustling Athinas Street (there’s a fruit market facing the hotel and antique shop with tons of wares displayed right on the square's sidewalk).

This colourful street takes you right into Monasteraki – Athens labyrinth flea market where everything is sold. The acropolis and fancy, pedestrian-only Ermou Street is just 10 minutes away on foot which connects to Athens heartbeat hub – Syntagma Square. You can catch the airport bus there or go to Monasteraki to take the train there.

I can’t think of anything wrong with this hotel other than making you fat with its sensational breakfasts (included in the room price). 

Hermes Hotel and Plaka Hotel – also owned by the Stathopoulous are nearby too, so if Athens Center Square Hotel is fully booked, reserve at one of them. Read my article, “Athens Hotel Hotties” to find out about these great hotels.








Saturday 28 September 2013


The Fountain of Longevity
by Nancy Snipper
Floating inconspicuously in the East Aegean chain of Greek islands is Ikaria. Its lack of pizzazz, tourist hype along with its remote location (it sits in the shadow of its popular neighbours, Mykonos and Samos) definitely contributes to its natural if not enigmatic qualities. 
This lack of commercially-driven acumen is intentionally crafted by its solid, yet easy-going inhabitants. Indeed Ikarians seems to have inherited their mythical ancestor’s tendency to seek freedom, defy convention and fly far away from earthly rules set by others.  The ancient myth says Icarus disobeyed his father’s advice when he flew right towards the sun to escape imprisonment from King Midas. 
His wings of wax melted; the recalcitrant youth he fell into the sea and Ikaria was formed in the very spot where he fell. 

Sun-soaked Ikaria makes a mockery of the myth’s finale, for death seems to be delayed here. Indeed, beating the odds is this island’s idiosyncratic imprint. An inordinate number of its 9000 inhabitants lives to be over 100. One in three natives makes it into their 90s, and those that are only 85 are as agile as a Greek mountain goat. They are called ‘young’ by their friends. 

                                   Ikarian resident, Elefterios Tsimbidis: 90-year-old former general

The five octogenarians I met the first day were swimming vigorously in the sea. Their vigour and sunny disposition were obvious. Folks here have memories that put mine to shame. One such person was Anna Kavouriaris whose son Mihalis runs the Ikarian Centre of language and culture – a place I visited to improve my Greek. She’s 85. Her conversation was clever and her memory enviable - she remembered my last name, but I kept having to ask hers. Jokes, astute perceptions and curiosity filled her mind. Meeting such people creates a surreal feeling. Their appearance and vitality is almost spooky. 
So, what’s going on here? Ikarians do not live in stress, nor are they money-minded. Barter and friendship are the Ikarian way. When other islands are scrambling to attract tourists and their Euros, Ikaria closes down during the day. Forget about finding a souvenir shop or tourist agency. Nor are there tavernas with owners vying for you to sit at their tables.  All is ‘isikia (quiet) in Ikaria. You will never hear anyone honking their horn; patience is part of the no-stress lifestyle. Another quirk is the island has no addresses, so forget about numbers, except when you ask someone how old they are. Go ahead and guess, but you’ll be off the mark by at least twenty years!  By the way, there is no stealing here at all. Ikarians are renowned for their honesty and community. That spirit of freedom, tolerance and equality may be due in part its political history. It was the dumping ground for exiled Communists during the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Isolation and sustainability has worked well for the island. 
Diet is key to Ikarian longevity. Most grow their own vegetables, have chickens, goats, sheep and cows. Sugar and salt are a rarity, but their local honey and homemade virgin pressed olive oil (done the old-fashioned way with the feet) along with their daily intake of fresh goat milk is quintessential to Ikarians. Three-hundred varieties of beans grow here and leaves from Atheras Mountain are part of their meals. Kathoura cheese is their specialty. Tiropita (cheese pies) are as healthy and addictive as Ikarian yogourt. Dessert is fruit.  

Therapeutic radioenergized spring sources – amongst the best in the world – can be found in Therma on the southern coast of the island. As far back as the fourth century BC, people have been coming to this little place to take cures from the abundant mineral sea waters surrounding Therma. People walk around in bathrobes and bathing suits for there are more than five such areas proliferating in these waters, some right in the sea, such as at Lefkadas, a veritable hotspot. You actually sea steam rising over the hot watery source at the shoreline.  

Over 160 kilometres of coastline proliferating in beaches sheltered by steep, craggy boulder-ridden Atheras whose pinnacle peak reaches 1040 metres. I took a hike above the great gorge that starts at Nas Beach. Spectacular views enriched with wild floral wonders are intensely intoxicating. Ikaria is untamed and underappreciated.

I left Ikaria feeling rejuvenated. If I could live to be 100 feeling this good, I say to hell with it. I’m packing my bags and moving there.

To taxi around Ikaria call Stelios: 2275032992 or 6973836836

Thursday 19 September 2013

Vagia Hotel, Aegina Island

                                                            by Panayiotis Chaldaios

In the heart of the picturesque fishing village of Vagia, a 30 minute  walk from the Aphaia ancient temple and a 5 minute  walk from the sandy beach, we created a traditional hotel to act as a base for those who want to discover the beautiful island of Aegina.
Built in traditional Aeginian architecture Vagia hotel’s rooms and gardens are stone paved with Karystos stones. Our rooms with stone build beds are overlooking the Ancient Temple of Afaia and the blue waters of the Saronic Gulf. TVs and refrigerators with mini bars can be found in all the rooms while Wi-Fi is free.  
Our guests can enjoy home baked pies, different cakes and delicacies such our own organic marmalades as breakfast, a breakfast that changes almost daily! You can also enjoy finger food and Grappa, Ouzo or wine from Aegina vineyards!  

Hotel Vagia features a large stoned terrace, shadowed from a pergola holding harbour trees that produce grapes in the summer. Picturesque spots can be found throughout the hotel such as pergolas overgrown by bougainvilleas, as the hotel is surrounded by lush gardens. The terrace can be rented for special occasions such as weddings and we take care of the catering!  

Reviews about our hotel can be found on TripAdvisor, where we are rated as one of the finest hotels on Aegina!  
Our family hotel is situated 12km from Aegina, 3km from Agia Marina and 2km from Souvala.  You can also rent bikes and cars directly from our hotel. 
Do not hesitate! Give us the pleasure of having you as our guests!  
Panayiotis, Maria and Stelios

Hotel recommended by Nancy Snipper  -- here's why:
Surrounded in floral splendour, this is the place to stay on Aegina Island, especially if you want to be away from the hustle of the main port. Peaceful and inviting, this lovely hotel is sweetened not just by birdsong, and the scent of jasmine, but also by the wonderful personality of your hosts, Notis and his mom Maria. She makes the best chocolate cake on the island. It is only a short stroll from beautiful Vagia Beach and is close to other island attractions: Mesagros, Aegina Marina and Souvala.
Temple Aphea tops the mountain and I hiked up there from the hotel.
My room was spacious and comfortable. The balconies are really cozy and the views stupendous.
Trip Advisor

Tel: 6951708121, 6955413993, 2297071179 
Skype: chaldaios 
 72 Vagia Avenue | Aegina Island Greece, Vagia 18010, Greece
Facebook: Vagia Hotel, Aegina Island  


Tuesday 17 September 2013

Rastoni Hotel, Greece

by Nancy Snipper
Aegina’s beautiful respite 


Rastoni in ancient Greek means ‘relaxing’, and this paradise nook, near the port of Aegina Island (a one-hour ferry-ride from Athens) is a short easy walk up from the buzz below. Yet the serenity is sublime. My room at Rastoni – a boutique hotel – overlooks a courtyard spilling over in floral growth; and at every turn along the stone pathways, vistas of trees, the still blue waters of the Aegean Sea and the gentle peaks of the Peloponnese greet the eye.   The scent of jasmine wafts up; my senses are steeped in an oasis of tranquility.
 Japanese-style room 

View from Japanese-style room

 All this appears from my room; Japanese-style door shutters fronted with glass doors open up to a stunning balcony.  I am staring out to the ancient site of Kolona Hill, topped by a single sixth-century partial column of the Temple of Apollo.  This inspiring panoramic view is enriched by the fact that the hotel used to be a property for farming the pistachio – a nut for which Aegina is renowned. 

 There is a pastoral pleasantness here, and fact that Rastoni has selected a style of design that is Japanese/Thai makes the entire premise Zen in feel. Here the oriental fuses with the Greek; the lobby has preserved an ancient Greek wall found during the archeological excavation of the site.

Lobby with preserved ruins
Twelve enormous rooms remarkably harmonize in colour and décor with the setting.  Built in 2004, Rastoni offers 12 rooms - each impeccably furnished in varying styles with fitting monikers: country, rama (tropical in flavor with its own loft), Barbados (still sporting Oriental touches but influenced by the Caribbean) and Japanese – which is my room (#6 ).   
My bed, topped by a ceiling fan, has a thin cotton canopy overhead. It drapes diaphanously to the floor and is tied to the bed posts with tassels. The head rest is simple in line and curve. Wood carved with oriental floral reliefs enriches the wood and cane furnishings that are most pleasing.
 Of course Rastoni comes with all those modern amenities (air conditioning, TV, Internet), but they don’t take away from the idyllic ambiance that wraps each guest in a cocoon of calm.

 I want to stay here for a very long time!  
Rastoni‘s website is:   
For reservations, email:  
Telephone: +30 22970-27039