Friday, 29 January 2010

Tales from Mani 2

August 2005 We met Property Consultant, Susan Shimmin and her dog Bertie, in the welcome shade of a bar in Kardamili, to describe our house-to-be. I soon sensed that our vague description mildly irritated Susan but she listened to our criteria - old, traditional but wouldn't completely dismiss a new build. Nicely restored but would think about a restoration project. A garden, but nothing that would need too much attention. Not in the middle of a village but not too remote - and promised a good selection for us to view.
We'd already looked at a couple of houses and a plot with a pile of stones that we'd shunned immediately so we were optimistic when Susan offered to show us around until we found the right one.
We poked around some lovely old houses and some off-plan, architect-designed, new builds. The old houses, we decided, would need too much maintenance or restoration and the posh new builds were too expensive for their size.
So, after a few days of dragging reluctant kids around potential houses she said she had something in mind that we may like but that we'd need vision. As we arrived (driving, very cautiously, down a very long, steep dirt and concrete track) we were stunned by the beautiful view. The sun spun a shimmering beam across the huge expanse of sea, straight in our direction, as we gazed across from this amazing viewpoint nestled amongst the verdant, olive-terraced foothills of the Taygetos mountains that loomed up behind us.

This building site, with it's stone carcasses and concrete beams, perched on the edge of a deep gorge, was the one! There were negotiations with the owners and a price was agreed. Then followed hours of waiting...first, at the bank (where we were no.80 in the queue). Once our account was opened we had to see the local Public Notary to give Power of Atourney to enable Susan to act on our behalf. We spent hours of waiting, gesturing, negotiating, more waiting - and unfortunately we could understand very little of what was going on! Thankfully bilingual Susan did all the talking and we just agreed, signed documents and photocopied passports. We were quite anxious at the time (having given Power of Atourney to a lady we'd only just met) but, as it turned out we were in trustworthy and capable hands! The purchase would prove to be complicated and pretty stressful and we were lucky that Susan was there to sort out some of the problems (which I will describe in another post). Her years of experience, local knowledge and her personal approach to our business relationship made the process much less daunting than perhaps it would have been had we used an estate agent.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Floral Explosion

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Curtain Road Hare

I love this hare (by artist ROA) on Curtain Road, Shoreditch - what a cool idea, using the facets of an industrial shutter to this stunning effect... outside to inside!

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Tales of the Mani

In 2004 we found the perfect location for our much-dreamed-of house in Greece. Arriving in the famous olive town of Kalamata (on the southern coast of the Peloponnese region) we drove south into the Mani peninsula. What we discovered that holiday, was a magical area of contrasting landscapes and intriguing history. A rugged, unforgiving Mediterranean coastline anterior to the majestic Taygetos mountains with their verdant foothills, stepped with olive groves and connected by networks of kalderimi (cobbled pathways).

The outer Mani is home to popular villages (Kardamili, Stoupa and Agios Nikolaos) colonised by tourists each summer. Receding from the sea's edge, the area is dotted with now peaceful Maniot hamlets with their symbolic towers, fortified dwellings that once defended it's feudal people, secluded and tucked away in hidden corners or perched high, a look-out across the sea. Abandoned monastries, dozens of Byzantine churches, ancient settlements and stories of piracy and savage feuds captured our imagination. Along with the allure of beautiful beaches and turquoise sea, the local food and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere - we were smitten!

For several years before, we had spent our summers in and around the city of Nafplion in the Argolid region of the Peloponnese). As much as we loved that area it didn't have quite the drama and impact that we experienced on arrival in the Mani. So, that May (2004) we began our search for the little house... returning that August to meet property consultant, and now friend, Susan Shimmin.