Bilingual site shared with Nancy Snipper, acclaimed author and cultural affairs journalist. July 2016 ushers in her new site: SN Travel and Arts without Borders. Check it out!
Site bilingue partagé avec Nancy Snipper, auteur acclameé et journaliste des affaires culturelles. Juillet 2016 inaugure sa nouvelle site: SN Travel and Arts without Borders. Vérifiez-le!
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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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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 AtherasMountain are part of
their meals. Kathoura cheese is their specialty. Tiropita (cheese pies) are as
healthy and addictive as Ikarian yogourt. Dessert is fruit.
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 NasBeach. 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
In the heart of the picturesquefishing 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
Panayiotis, Maria and Stelios
Hotel recommended by Nancy Snipper -- here's why:
Surrounded in floral
splendour, this is the place to stay on AeginaIsland,
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.
TempleAphea tops the mountain and I hiked up there from
My room was spacious and comfortable. The balconies
are really cozy and the views stupendous.
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.
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.
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.