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September 2015

    Lovely Kythera by The Guardian

    "...Andrew Bostock has spent much of his life living in and writing guidebooks on Greece but in Kythira – with its gorges, waterfalls and perfect beaches – he’s finally found the idyll he has always dreamed of..."

    Andrew Bostock is the author of the Bradt Travel Guide Greece: The Peloponnese – new edition out spring 2016


    "...In my 30-year hunt to find the perfect Greek island, I’ve visited around 40 of them – but my quest has been beset by twin, linked, problems. Firstly, many of them follow a fairly set pattern: a small main town or port, two or three amazing beaches and, if you’re lucky, a ruin or old church atop the island’s one hill. For many this is all that is needed for a week or two away, but I’ve always yearned for more.

    The second problem is that the larger islands can be blighted by an overabundance of visitors. Travellers in search of their own little bit of paradise go to more off-the-beaten-track islands, but these tend to get smaller and smaller, thus exacerbating problem number one. This year I followed advice from Greek friends and made for Kythira, and I think my hunt may just be over.

    Kythira can be troublesome to get to, a positive advantage in the perfect island stakes. It is not close to any of the better known islands, lying on its own at the bottom of the Peloponnese peninsula. You can fly there, but only on local flights, and the familiar UK package tour is unknown on the island. The best way to arrive is by boat. This can be done, rather indirectly, from Athens or, more pleasurably, from the little southern port of Neapoli, after a journey that can take in some of the delights of the Peloponnese itself.

    My nine-year-old daughter Jemima and I took the latter option and arrived in Diakofti, the new port of the island, but also home to perfect white sands and crystal blue water (as well as a rather large and disconcerting shipwreck). It was here that we first noticed one of Kythira’s quirks: the preponderance of Australian accents. In the early 20th century many islanders emigrated to Australia (or “Big Kythira” as it is known here). Many of their descendants return each summer, and even the locals often speak English with an Aussie twang. Apart from these, however, the island receives few tourists.

    Heading west over the island, the landscape looked rocky and treeless, but Kythira is deceptive, and is cut by gorges and valleys that can hide secret treasures. We soon descended into one of these above the village of Mylopotamos, following a tree lined road that led to what might be the ideal Greek village. The name means “river of mills” and the village is set around a slightly incongruous duck pond that lies below the source of the river. We sat above this for our evening meal, in the Platanos taverna. This name is normally a good sign, and means “plane trees”: the ubiquitous shady trees that seem to hang over every village square. This Platanos, which has been serving up local dishes under its three plane trees for 130 years, did not disappoint. Later, we observed Greek tradition by changing venue for dessert, strolling down the steps past the river spring and to the duck pond, and sitting beside it at the Kamari cafe for coffee and ice-cream.

    In the morning we followed the river down the gorge past the ruins of numerous mills that once ground the local wheat. We found our first waterfall only a five-minute walk away. It delights under two names: Neraida, after the mythological water nymphs, and Fonissa, meaning “murderess”. We couldn’t decide which we preferred. People were swimming here, but we continued down the gorge. One of the mills has been fully restored and here we met Phillipis Zervos, the owner and restorer. He showed us around and explained the history of the mill – built by his grandfather who shared the same name – and then he directed us to walk a further kilometre down the trail, to another waterfall, which was even more magical than the first.

    With a guide and the right equipment, you can continue down the gorge to the isolated beach of Kalami. This little slice of paradise is difficult to get to, as paradise should be. But, if you don’t fancy canyoning down the gorge, the alternative approach involves a hike that ends with a 30m cliff. There is a rope to help the brave, but we contented ourselves with staring at the deserted cove from above (I have been asked to point out that it was me, not Jemima, that chickened out). We did explore the nearby cave of Agia Sofia, impressively filled with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as a chapel with 700-year-old frescoes.

    Swimming in the sea had to wait until we reluctantly left Mylopotamos. A friend had emailed me a list of seven must-see beaches (among them the white sands of Diakofti and the hard-to-reach Kalami). Before arriving I presumed that this list would include most of the beaches on the island, but as I circled them on my map I realised that this was just a small selection of more than 30 beaches on Kythira. We opted for Kaladi, on the other side of the island, which at least looked a little easier to get to. This proved optimistic as the single-track and potholed road ended above a long and steep staircase. The pebbled beach repaid the hike, divided into three by rocky outcrops and easily accommodating the 20-odd people who were there – in August! There was not even a cantina, rare for the islands, so we went to nearby Avlemonas for lunch, a small string of houses set above small coves filled with fishing boats and swimming platforms. Sotiris, its taverna, is famous for its lobster pasta, a little above our budget, but its gavros, small fried fish, proved to be a satisfying taste of the sea.

    For our last few days we headed to Hora, the island’s capital, and a place that sums up what makes the Greek islands so special. The main town is set on a hill above its port of Kapsali, a common defensive measure in the days of piracy. We explored its white-washed lanes up to a Venetian castle with stunning views over to Hyrta, a sea-girt rock that lays claim to being the birth place of Aphrodite (don’t listen to the Cypriots we were told). Later in the evening, as little craft and bookshops opened their doors, we sat on a rooftop and enjoyed grilled meat and local wines from Zorbas, whose waiters still dress in black waistcoats and white shirts.

    Before catching the ferry back to the mainland we took a final trip down to Kapsali and joined Captain Spiros, who took us out on his boat to the rock of Hyrta. He moored at the entrance to an overhanging cave and we soon found ourselves following him into the sea. In the dark recesses, we turned to see the last light from outside turn the water a luminous sapphire. Like much of Kythira, getting there required a bit of effort, but it was well worth it.

    Where to stayKythira still has “rooms” – simple accommodation, often in owners’ homes. In Mylopotamos, we stayed with the delightful Giota in her house at the edge of the village (50 a night, +30 27360 33782). In Hora, the sprawling Niki offers real bargains (from €25, +30 27360 31488). More luxurious accommodation is also available, especially in the interior, where locals and a few foreigners have beautifully restored some of the old village houses. Try Xenonas Fos Ke Choros (from €95, +30 69807 29399,"



February 2018

    Road tripping Greek style





     Written by Lee & Bhanu from

    Opa! is a well loved Greek exclamation, often accompanying the happy tradition of plate smashing at weddings. It sums up the people well; loud, vibrant, warm, genuine and always ready for a celebration. Actually, as a traveler in Greece, these may well be the words used to describe your big fat Greek adventure. For such a seemingly small country, the stories that emerge are so dramatic in their richness, so emblazoned in history and larger than life. They make this heroic little country a masterpiece to travel through.

    Walking through Athens, every street bursting with Mediterranean charm, the magic of the bustling ancient city is bewitching.

    [caption id="attachment_20149" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Athens View © Lee & Bhanu from[/caption]

    The sun drenched ruins of the Acropolis Temple in Athens are an enthralling place to start your journey. Though packed with summertime tourists, the expansive views of the city from the nearby Pantheon are a silhouette of antiquity.

    [caption id="attachment_20143" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The Parthenon © Lee & Bhanu from[/caption]

    Athens skyline today though is a rambling assembly of concrete box like buildings, adorned with satellite dishes, half-finished paintwork and impulsiveness. But there’s a vibrant currency to its culture, the same heartbeat that has shaped the city for centuries.

    If you love history…

    For history enthusiasts, the spectacular heritage of Greece is akin to Disneyworld for a six-year-old. Bathed in the open sunlight, sand coloured columns and crumbling temple walls have stood before the passing of empires.

    As the cradle of Western civilisation and the birth of the Olympics, walking the archaeological ruins of Olympia is breathtaking, especially as the whole stadium is made of marble. Olympia became the most sacred place for the worship of Zeus. In his name, the temple was the largest and most significant building at Olympia and was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    [caption id="attachment_17614" align="aligncenter" width="1169"] Ancient Olympia[/caption]

    Just hours from Athens the stories of classical Greece are etched within the preserved cities. Sometimes overlooked on the tourist trail, the modern city of Sparta 2 1/2 hours from Athens, is full of fascinating excursions and great cafes. As a rival city to Athens in many a Greek drama, the fierce warrior spirit of the Spartan’s clearly put this constitutional society on the map.

    [caption id="attachment_11865" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The Oracle of Delphi[/caption]

    Northwest of Athens at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, the Oracle heralded the time and tide of Greece’s destiny by imparting her wisdom. Today it’s an impressive archaeological site on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus, less than 3 hours drive from the capital.

    Off the beaten track

    Locals will tell you that if you hire a car and drive out of Athens, you’ll fall in love with the provincial side of life as much as Greece’s ancient heritage. The pastoral villages where time seems to have stood still, have a rustic and captivating charm, while the harmonious and industrial lives of those in the coastal fishing villages are a tranquil reprieve for travellers. Heading north with a free spirit and not really knowing where you’ll stay or for how long, is one of the most enchanting things about Greece. It’s refreshing to find yourself in a landscape that’s perhaps more dramatic than the ruins you’ve spent days walking around in Athens and to know that Greece is defined by more than her past.

    Our road trip takes you from Athens and head north to Chalkida, the main town of the second largest island Euboea. It’s a favourite spot for locals to get a dose of sunshine and not touristy at all. There’s a beautiful shopping village and vibrant food and bar scene along the open bay. This is a great spot to continue on to the fascinating Monasteries at Meteora. Here, around 4 hours drive north of Athens, tall slices of sandstone pierce into the burning sky and remnants of the original 24 monasteries remain. For hikers, the sweeping views from the summits make it perfect climbing country.

    [caption id="attachment_10947" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Meteora Monasteries[/caption]

    Another stop on the winding drive through Greece is the city of Thessaloniki, else known as Salonika. It has the second largest population in Greece and being a University city is a vibrant arts and cultural scene, not the historic one you're used to in Athens. The architecture is Turkish and French inspired and in the main food and wine district of Aristotle's Plaza, it’s always buzzing.

    Thessaloniki has a fresh face and vibrant cultural scene that may see it overtaking Athens. From here, venture to the small fishing village Neos Marmaras on Poseidon’s Trident for the burnt orange sunsets and magnificent horizon. Parthenonas is a short 15-minute drive and worth it to see the ancient 1000-year-old olive tree. Continue to portside city of Alexandroupoli, only 40km shy of the Turkish border. As gateway to the historic Ottoman Empire, it’s the last capital of the Thracian states.

    Revel in Island life

    Wherever you decide to spend your time in Greece, it’s the island life you simply can’t skip. The crisp white-washed walls and splashes of azure ignite a yearning for the dreamiest of Mediterranean escapes. The Greek Archipelago is a unique stretch of islands, deeply rooted in tradition and history and familiar to travellers for their breathtaking sunsets, pebble beaches and warm transparent waters.

    Over 6,000 islands belong to Greek sovereignty with just over 200 home to the locals. The dazzling scenery precedes a spirited and sophisticated nightlife, that is the draw card for much of it’s bustling tourism. You can hire ATV’s and zip from one village to the other or meander curiously through the laneways and marketplaces. Many of the hotels are perched into the hillsides and so a good pair of walking shoes and moderate luggage is recommended. The donkeys on Santorini handle it well and it’s charming to see them plodding along, but it’s advised not to ride them or load them up.

    [caption id="attachment_20139" align="aligncenter" width="800"] View of Santorini © Lee & Bhanu from[/caption]

    While the most frequented islands are Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, there are many other smaller lesser known islands to excite the spirit. There’s Shipwreck Bay at Zakynthos; Corfu in the Ionian Islands, best for budget stays. Paxos is a sophisticated Mediterranean hideaway and Lefkada, a haven for water sports. Paros, Cyclades is perfect for island hopping between Santorini and Mykonos and Naxos is ideal for an energy packed island holiday. Skiathos, Sporades is known for it’s pristine beaches and wildlife and is loved by families during the scorching summers.

    It’s all Greek to me

    With it’s lengthy though poetic place names, getting comfortable with the language can be tricky for first timers. But as you drive a little, it gets easier as the towns are spelled out in Latin as well as written in Greek. There are trains that travel as far as Thessaloniki but it’s really best to hire a car. Remember, you will need an international drivers license and a good dose of boldness, even the locals will tell you they’re devils behind the wheel and driving on the shoulder of the road is normal.

    You can comfortably eat dinner street-side for $10 euro’s for 2 people and even in Tavern’s a dinner of fresh seafood will still be about 25 euros for two. As a vibrant outdoor evening culture, locals eat at about 9.30pm and the traditional sounds of a musical fiesta start at about 10.00pm. A regular shopping day stretches from 10am to 10pm 7 days with a siesta squeezed in after lunch, mainly in the villages.

    Opa! is a well loved Greek exclamation, often accompanying the happy tradition of plate smashing at weddings. It sums up the people well; loud, vibrant, warm, genuine and always ready for a celebration.






November 2017

    Italian Aperitivo @ Caffè Torino Athens





    Greece’s First Negroni Bar Unveiled

    With this Caffeè Torino, Athens welcomed the first-ever Negroni bar in Greece!

    A carefully polished pop up event by the iconic brand Martini® introduced the concept of Caffeè Torino to the Greek capital so as to introduce the trend of the true Italian ritual, the Aperitivo time.

    On Skouleniou Street, right next to eminent Hermou Street, Caffeè Torino popped-up to spread the most celebrated Italian concept to the Athenian locales who have experienced a cultural outbreak in recent years.

    [justified_image_grid ids=19989,19990,19991,19992,19999,20000]

    A grandiose pop up café with a genuine Italian spirit was established for three days to familiarize locals this great tradition.

    Once entered to this lavish space, everything seemed so-Italian! Sumptuous buffets, cheese platters and a unique assortment of deli meats accompanied with Martini® Riversa Speciale Cocktails under the rhythms of jazz and lounge music welcomed visitors in downtown Athens.

When you get done with a reading assignment for school, usually an essay, novel, or short story, you'll sometimes be asked to write a theme statement.

The definition of a theme statement can vary, but essentially it's asking you to state what the piece of writing was about — not the plot, but what sort of insight or perspective does it give on life/the world/human nature?

Theme is also sometimes known as the "main idea" of a story.

But how do you find the theme of a story? And how do you write a theme statement?

To write a theme statement, follow these 3 steps:

  • Pick the main topic addressed in the story
  • Pinpoint the author's view on the topic
  • Format that perspective using a theme statement template

Let's dive a little deeper:

Finding the theme of a story using topics

After you're finished reading the book, story, or essay (you did read it, right?!), think back on the main character or characters.

Did they undergo some kind of change throughout the journey? Did their outlook on life evolve in some way?

That's usually a pretty good place to start looking for the theme.

Another good place to start is by picking a general topic that the story tackles, and then figuring out on which "side" the author ultimately comes down.

For example, maybe the story deals with the broad topic of "love." Well "love" by itself isn't a theme, but a specific perspective on love could be.

Try this exercise once you've found your topic. Fill in the blank:

"This author believes _____ about (topic)."

In our example about love, maybe the story's about how love conquers all. Or maybe it's about how love is fleeting and fickle.

Your theme at this point might look something like this:

"The author believes that true love doesn't really exist."

(A little dark, but hey, it's just an example!)

Using a theme statement template

Every teacher or instructor is going to have their own way of wanting you to present your theme statement, so be sure to get clarity on that directly from them.

That said, there are some agreed upon "rules" of writing theme statements.

  • Don't include specific characters or plot points. This perspective on life should apply to people and situations outside the story.
  • Don't be obvious. "War is bad," is not a theme. Dig a little deeper using details from the story. (What specifically is bad about war? How does it negatively impact the characters or the world of the story?)
  • Don't make it advicey. "You should always be there for your family," isn't a theme, it's a suggestion. Keep your theme statement objective and based solely on evidence from the story ("The bond between family can overcome any obstacle.")
  • Don't use cliches. "Once a cheater, always a cheater," or "Actions speak louder than words," aren't themes. They're just expressions people use all the time and have very little power or real insight.

Here is a general template you can use based on what we learned above:

"The central theme of (piece of writing) is (author's position on topic)."

Alternatively, you could try: "In (piece of writing), (author) presents the idea that (position on topic)."

You may also be asked to use supporting details from the story to back up your theme statement. In that case, your full theme statement might look something like this:

"The central theme of (piece of writing) is (author's position on topic). When (event from the story) happens, it results in (blank), which demonstrates (some element of the theme)."

You're going to have to tweak and adjust this based on how much detail the assignment calls for and which examples from the text you choose to use, but it should be a good starting point!

Theme statement examples

OK, so what does it look like in action?

Here are some example theme statements from stories you're probably already familiar with (I'm doing these mostly to demonstrate how to use the template. I hope you'll put a lot of thought into your own theme statements and play around with different ideas before committing to one) :

In 'The Dark Knight Rises', Christopher Nolan presents the idea that true heroism requires complete and utter selflessness.

The central theme of 'Finding Nemo' is that fear is sometimes more dangerous than danger itself.

In 'Romeo and Juliet', Shakespeare presents the idea that love is more powerful than hate.

Hope this helps! And good luck!

Questions? Let me know in the comments.

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