Tag Archives: santorini in winter

what’s life all about ?

The first heavy rains have arrived, winds are getting stronger each day and its dark by 5.30……once again, old man winter is here.

A subterranean cave house may seem like a strange place to live in, but it feels oddly protective. The ‘outside’ feels like another world at times. Right now the rain is falling sideways and I can hear the steady tap dancing sound of the rain drops hitting the front door and window. But inside… it’s another world. If I turned off the soft jazz playing in the background I would hear my own heart beat.

So with a nice glass of wine on my desk… I have decided to dust off my keyboard and write a few words and maybe post some photos in between my ravings.

I actually meant to write about this two years ago… and I may have hinted at the topic throughout this blog, but tonight it just feels right. It is a  question that has perplexed many and has been asked throughout human existence. But what is the answer… is there an answer ?

In an article today I read that a palliative care nurse in Australia had been noting the comments her dying patients made during their last days/weeks. Namely the regrets they had about their lives. It seems there are some very familiar themes:

–  “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others
expected of me”.
–  “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.
–  “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings more”.
–  “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.
–  “I wish that I had let myself be happier”.

There is nothing new here… right?

So if there is nothing new here, why do we all make the same mistakes over and over. I don’t know of anyone that wouldn’t (shouldn’t) put his/her hand up for at least some of these… if not all. Yet we keep going, until one day a nurse in a palliative care unit is asking us the big question… “what do you regret most about your life? ”

There are many more well-known regrets we can add to the above list of course:
–  wish I lived up to my potential
–  wish I followed my gut feelings
–  wish I was more decisive
and the big daddy of them all…
– wish I had followed my dream !

So why don’t we?  Why do we have to wait for a doctor to tell us the dreaded words before we give up smoking? Why do we have to wait until we are 80 before we realise that all our friends are dead and it’s too late to get back in touch with them? Why do we have to wait until everything is “perfect” before we make a decision to do something we have always wanted to do?

There is a scene I will describe which happened a while ago…but is burned in my memory ever since. A man I knew (father of two close friends) met with his dying wife’s doctor and was told of the likely outcome. He was a tough old Greek, ex-commando… bull of a man. Shook your hand and your fingers were sore for days. Yet now… he was in tears, just staring at the doctor in disbelief. “What can I do doctor?” he asked. “Nothing” said the doctor… “there is nothing that we can do now”.

John (not his name) walked up to the doctor… took his hand and said “I would give you 200 thousand dollars… cash… if you could save my wife”.
I would imagine the soft hand of the surgeon must’ve hurt like hell as John looked at him with both fire and fear in his eyes. The doctor apparently looked at him pensively and said… “I know”.

At that point it was too late for John to change anything… but for most people it is not. They can change their lives tomorrow… but they probably won’t.

So what’s the link to all this with Oia Santorini you might ask?  Well… it’s like this, I get a lot of email from people who either have or want to visit the island. They see the photos, they read the blog, they see images all over the web… and they become obsessed with the island. That’s something I can fully understand because that is ‘more or less’ what happened to me years ago. Most of these emails are just questions about the island, or thank you notes for the pics and the blog, or feedback about their experience visiting the island. But then… there are the “other” ones.

These “other” ones are from people who have somehow decided they want to make the big sea change. They want to come and live here, or to buy a house here…. “just a small apartment but it MUST have the view”.
Of course there are the proverbial tyre kickers, but I am fully aware that there are perfectly well-intentioned people as well. Every move starts by making enquiries and asking questions… there is nothing wrong with that.
Where it starts to make me cringe is when people ask things like ‘is it going to be a safe investment’, ‘is there likely to be political stability in Greece in the future’, ‘is it safe to live there all year round’, ‘would we enjoy living there all year round’, ‘ is the volcano going to erupt’ .

I mean…seriously, can anyone honestly believe that I or anyone else could answer these questions in a definitive way?  Would you even want someone else to answer these questions for you? Wouldn’t you want to find out for yourself if you would like the locals, or enjoy winters in isolation, or could handle island life? Would you (or should you) even take someone else’s word for such issues?

To me it seems like people are saying “take the risk out of this… and I may try it”. In other words… “make my decision safe for me”,”tell me I can’t lose”, or “there is no risk involved”…….

There is a condition the shrinks often refer to as “the tyranny of the shoulds“. It tends to hit people after 50 and more likely past 60. It is the stage of regret… the ‘shoulda/coulda’ syndrome. You don’t need a nurse in palliative care to ask you questions… your own brain will do it for you. That’s when you hear people say things like “I shoulda bought that place”, “I always wanted to visit…”, “I shouldn’t have wasted all that time”, “if only I had gone to see for myself…”.

My point is that whatever it is you want… a house on an island, or a job or an adventure, go after it. You can ask questions… and you should, but in the end it is you that has to make the move and take the chance. Dont wait for the palliative nurse or the good doctor’s last words.

I can’t give you a difinitive answer to the ‘what life is all about’ question. But I do know that making a decision to experience something… is a hell of a lot better than living with “what if” !

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the now famous red sunset in October !

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under the August moon…

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autumn sunburst…

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room with a view…

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morning tranquility !

till soon ; )
M

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My secret lover…

Funny thing happened to us this winter… we never really had one.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a turbulent time in Greece, nor can we say we didn’t have our fair quota of storms and punishing winds. All of these things happened… we just didn’t experience a real winter in terms of cold. The temperatures in Santorini ranged from 6-17c all winter, which is really the winter you have when you don’t have one.

But winter in Oia is not about temperature, or the events on the mainland. Winter in Oia is about serenity, rejuvenation, introspection, a time to think and a time of self discovery. It’s a time to hear your mind’s voice and to defrag the brain. It is a time to enjoy the company of a small, quiet village that just happens to be too ridiculously beautiful for it’s own good…. for most of the year.

Sounds funny if you say you can enjoy the company of a village… but only because you’ve probably never experienced it. A city full of people doesn’t keep you company. It makes demands on you, it controls you, it intimidates you… but it doesn’t keep you company. A big city is like a dominatrix in leather thigh-high boots… a beautiful small village is like a secret lover.

If you do live in a big city… it is almost beyond the boundaries of your imagination to think about walking around with not another person in sight.
It’s only possible in a  ‘day after’ scenario… armaggedon. The difference here is that nothing is damaged, nobody is dead and everything is almost too beautiful for your brain to comprehend. Walking around in winter the mind wonders at times why people choose to visit naturally beautiful places in the peak of summer? Why would you want to share all this with twenty thousand others on a daily basis… when you can have it all to yourself in winter?

There are of course exceptions… and in Oia the exceptions are our wonderful Asian friends… Japanese, Chinese, Korean. They visit in winter… and they get to see sights the summer tourist can only dream about. They take their time, hundreds of photos and much exploring. Some are a bit odd… but then again they probably think the same about me for living here almost completely alone in the middle of winter.

One Chinese fellow asked me where ‘sunset’ was… and when I looked at him funny, he felt compelled to ask again “w h e r e   i s   s u n s e t”?  Speaking very slowly as if I was a sub-60 IQ moron… a descendant of the local mules perhaps. He even made a circle with his hands depicting the sun…. followed by a swan-dive with one hand for the sun obviously hitting the sea. The man was clearly describing sunset to me. So I pointed in the general direction and he gave me one of those “thanks… I hope I didn’t hurt your brain too much” looks  and started almost running towards ‘sunset’. I turned and walked away shaking my head and looking at my watch… it was 12 noon !  WTF?

Another major plus this winter was the fact there were no construction sites near us. No jackhammers at 7am, no mules crapping on the path in front of the house, no Albanians yelling all day long. I know… it all sounds strange to you, when was the last time you had jackhammers pumping, mules crapping and Albanians yelling at 7am at your house? I’m guessing never… but I think you get my drift.

You could sit out the front on a sunny winter’s day and lose yourself in your own thoughts. The eyes send back images and the brain gets inspired. The mind conjures up all kinds of ideas and you get an urge to create.

Then there are the walks. Oia is a joy to walk through at any time… but during winter months it is a storybook. Every corner reaveals another wonder, every step gives you a better view, every ancient doorway hides more secrets. If you are into photography of course it is an absolute delight… the old girl doesn’t have a bad angle. My new camera and I bonded very well this winter and I have many thousands of photos to prove we get on just fine…

All this talk of Oia reminds me of the words of the old master Enzo Ferrari. A journalist asked him why would anyone want to pay such a price for a “car”?
The old master looked at him and smiled “no my son, you don’t understand…
a Ferrari is not a car. It’s a mistress”.

Oia is not a village..

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But wait…. there is more !

Had some fun taking some pics of a recent storm at Ammoudi… the small port below Oia. The images are spectacular and for those of you who have been there and know this place as an idyllic spot for a memorable lunch or dinner in summer…. now you will see the “other” side of it. Poseidon was angry that weekend… enjoy ; )  M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41pjf8C4QH0

Oia in winter – calm before the storm

As you may have read in the previous post there were power disruptions… so this post is in fact a prequel to the last post about the stormy weather…

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Forecast was for storms… and it had been raining all day. Skies looking ominous and the big pond below me looking like a blue/grey silk sheet has been gently set over it. The pre-storm colors of the caldera (Santorini in general) are really quite incredible. Summer visitors never get to see any of this… but those brave enough to visit in winter get to enjoy the “grand show” that is a Santorini thunderstorm. The landscape is so dramatic… so overwhelming, that the gathering dark clouds of a big storm just make it look completely surreal. I have said on many occasions that this (the caldera) is the world’s greatest amphitheatre. It’s as if it was made to stage major shows… shows of a grand scale… shows for which no man-made venue could ever be considered suitable. In my mind… other than a major volcanic eruption, a major electrical  storm is the next best thing. So tonight… I thought I would go out just prior to the storm and take some photos of the neighborhood… under storm-lighting…so to speak.

there are many paths up to the village centre…all with a lot of steps
and each with it’s own unique charm…

the path I prefer  is a very winding narrow path that
weaves it’s way through the neighborhood… giving me time to soak in the details which, suprisingly… I find endlessly fascinating. Some of these houses, rocks, caves & retaining walls… have been here much much longer than most
of the western world countries have existed.

 

as I’m walking up the clouds are gathering fast…not a lot of time or light, left for photos …and the “big” show is about to begin…

 

the path meanders around all kinds of houses… old and new

 

in this case you can tell that although this house is old…. the renovations
and the “owners” are new…. this is why the house was freshly painted in
November. They obviously don’t know the effects of a winter in Oia can
have on a freshly painted house. They will be doing this again come March…
then, they will know !

 

the path reaches the last section…which is also the steepest… in summer,
by the time you’ve reached this stage you can hear what the diner’s at Lotza
cafe are whispering to each other – the acoustics on the caldera side are
quite incredible… but we won’t tell the tourists that ; )

 

It’s at this point that I like to stop for a sec and take in the daily/hourly-changing vistas below…this on the left side…

 

 

and this on the ride side. The  path corner behind the blue dome is a spot that offers fantastic views of the village looking back. I call it “Japanese corner”….
at least a million photos are taken from that spot annually… and that, is a fact  !

 

looking up… the captain’s houses are mostly empty… the section of the village
that you  hear the most laughter and cheer in summer….is now eerily quiet

houses have been locked down and boarded up in readiness for the
winter elements… which, on the caldera side can be severe…

 

the inimitable charm of Oia…. houses likes these were probably built more than
800 years ago (as was my house)… and have walls 2 feet thick…still lived in by
those lucky enough to have inherited them…. or made it their dream to
buy them…

 

one of my favorite spots on the whole island… the view being
quintessential Oia… iconic… stunning !
If you look on top of the highest dome on the right…you will see a tiny ball of black fluff…. her name is “Nugget”… my stray (one-eyed) cat…. a survivor,
always at the highest point looking out for danger (stray dogs).

 

The “marbles” as the main path is known by locals…. are empty, only
Dimitiri’s cave (icon painter – first arch on right) showing any sign of life…

Meantime the clouds had gathered and things were looking ominous. This was going to be a big storm….lightning had already started and looking spectacular, as they always are at this time of year in Oia. If I had better cameras I would’ve stayed there to capture the majesty that is a thunderstorm over the caldera… but alas my little Pentax and I were headed back. But before I left I had to take another iconic photo…one which millions have taken during the day… and night, during summer…. but hardly anyone gets to take in winter, just before a thunderstorm.

This villa… “Aspaki”, is perched 300m above sea level… with uninterrupted views … it is exquisitely painted and it elegantly stands watch over the caldera below. It’s been in thousands of magazines and no doubt exists in a million photo albums and slideshows… but I dare say not many people would have a photo of it in the middle of winter… so this is a treat.

PS:  All of the above was written for Thursday’s post… but as you read in the last post things went downhill soon after the last photo was taken. I was right that it looked like it was going to be a big storm and a fantastic show… and it was. But the storm (at least in some parts of the island) was a lot bigger and more fierce than what people tend to call “enjoyable”. It did a great deal of damage to the main town of Fira, as well as other parts of the island… but oddly it did nothing more than deliver plenty of water and an incredible light show to Oia itself. The old locals like to say that “Oia has a different God”… mainly because a lot of the weather that punishes the rest of the island rarely affects Oia the same way… maybe they know something that most of us “newbies” don’t.  But even to an atheist that saying sounded very true on Thursday night…

So…finally, after three days and many attempts, this post is complete. I hope you enjoyed the photos and I look forward to taking some more this week  ; ))

PS: If you want to glimpse at some of our Christmas decorations check out Allison’s latest post here . Have a great Sunday and an even better week… !

An empty village & a winter’s sunset

It’s cold…it’s wet…it’s windy. It’s almost the middle of December and…well, winter has finally arrived on Santorini. Over the weekend the temperature  probably dropped by 8-10 degrees…. but still a comparatively mild 5c today.
I say comparatively mild because friends in Frankfurt were telling me that it was -7 during the day and a brain-numbing -16 at night. Yes… it’s winter in Europe, and what a wonderful thing that is…

Here in Oia the temps are nowhere near what our German friends have to endure, but it’s cold enough to keep tourists away. The village is quiet again… very quiet (read: empty). My favorite time of the year has come around again… so I thought it was about time I took you for what has become our annual winter-sunset walk, just so you can see what I see at this time of the year.

10am… if this was summer there would be hundreds of people walking
“the marbles”. Today….it’s just moi!

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looking the other way…. it’s still just me

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even the kids at Atlantis (bookshop – on the left..resident all year) have not bothered to open their doors on this miserable, wet morning.

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Rex as always is on the look out… but all he can spot is the sublime sunburst

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and guess who is all grown up now…. and copying his big brother

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winter sunsets have a different charm to those of hot summer… a lot more
subdued, a lot more subtle. I prefer them…

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this was a cold evening by Oia standards… and quiet, very very quiet..

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the Kastro restaurant terrace is now empty… the sunset watchers long gone,
the house of the “Sisterhood of traveling pants” (blue door) is in need of repairs and the Summer Lovers house (center-top of the picture) is all boarded up

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the path leading to the fort is empty…. and for the first this year, I get to watch
an Oia sunset…. a l o n e. Not many people can say that…

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alone on the fort… bliss

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a look to the left reminds me of the unreal / surreal place I am lucky enough
to call home…

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this is my favorite pic so far this winter… have never taken the neighborhood
from this angle. This is the path home as I return from sunset watch…

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the night lights switch on as I make my way down….the village peacefully quiet

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a picture you don’t see very often… the neighborhood on a cold winter’s night.

It hardly seems like a year ago that we went for our last winter sunset walk… and our New Year’s Eve at the fort…. but it has been. A lot has happened in the past twelve months and a lot more is about to happen over the next year.  Living in a small village in the Aegean has its drawbacks… but it also has its great benefits. As the cold winter nights set in and daylight disappears early afternoon… there is a stillness,  a zen-like serenity which you simply can’t buy in the city. You may not want it of course…which I can understand, but if you do… then this is a blissful time indeed. It’s time to be creative… to learn new things… to weave new dreams and to contemplate how to make insanely great things happen in the coming year ahead. So while you’re doing whatever this winter… if you happen to think about a caveman sitting, reading, dreaming & listening to his music by candlelight… send me a wave   .::   ; ~}

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Thank you for the overwhelming response to the (only half-finished) Aegean Designs blog/site. Allison has too many orders to complete before Xmas so we have taken the main catalog off-the-air (although it is still available to existing customers by request – just leave a comment either here or at the AD blog and we will send you the links). Today also marks the first post on Allison’s blog… something she has wanted to do for some time but simply did not have the time to…. you can read her first post here.

More pics this Thursday…. !

An elegant life…

“I saw the angel in the marble
and carved…until
I set him free”

this is the exquisitely elegant way in which Michelangelo described the unbelievably complex way in which he created his masterpiece sculptures. You could surely write 600 pages on the topic… but you could never explain it better than that.

The sheer beauty in his words stems from the simple structure of the message. There is no need to say more… he intuitively knows that where his words stop… human imagination begins. Our minds interpret his statement and create the visual imagery that is required to fully comprehend his meaning. His words allow our brains to do what they uniquely do… to “imagine” and “find” meaning.

I thought about this quote from the genius artist today while explaining my very favorite form of poetry….. the incredibly elegant Japanese art of Haiku. It is based on the most simple of concepts… that of using a limited number of phrases & syllables, to convey a poetic message. The result is a micro-poem which, whilst short on words, is ultra rich in meaning. Now there… is a concept we can all learn from. Using only a tiny handful of carefully selected words, to convey a message that you could write pages about. It is the ultimate art of refined expression… of poetic minimalism… the elimination of the unnecessary… the carving of the marble to “let the angel free” !

Seen superficially Haiku it is a “quick” form of writing poetry… but of course nothing could be further from the truth. It is infinitely harder to say something meaningfully in just three lines…than it is to write three pages. Every word has to be chosen very carefully and placed in the right order for maximum meaning and context. It is the reduction of many words…down to those core words that express the very essence of the poetic message.  It is  p u r i t y of expression.

But for me… the true value of Haiku lies beyond the poetry. It is in the metaphor that I see hidden within it. Haiku the concept… when applied to life… is the search for life’s essential elements. The pure core of your life’s meaning. Those handful of things that are really all you need to exist in a meaningful and satisfying way. It is the doing away of all the clutter, meaningless possessions, redundant rituals and mind-numbing information that we accumulate in our lives. It is also about the frivolous ways we waste our time/days/years. If the number of words allowed in Haiku represented the number of years we had on this earth I suspect we would look at life a lot differently. If the number of lines allowed in Haiku (three) represented the number of people we were allowed to be friends with during our lives… we would certainly chose a lot more carefully than we do now. If the number of  syllables allowed in Haiku represented the number of choices we were allowed to make in our lives… we would “certainly” make wiser choices, with a lot more thought going into each and every one of them.

But the one idea that I love the most is this… what if, instead of being allowed 200 pages to write your life story… you were only allowed three lines. What words would you use… and how would you condense everything to 17 or so syllables? Would it not make you seriously think about your life, what’s important to you and the words you would use to describe your very essence of being? And would it not be a fantastic thing to teach children to do while they are still at school? Pass to them the discipline of refining their future existence to its core values. To seek to understand  and learn to beautifully & succinctly express their purety of purpose.

I think that leading a meaningful life “is” about making great choices. Its about thinking and understanding, refining and finding your pure essence. It is about writing your own carefully crafted formula… the all encompassing equation that will lead you to a satisfying, simplified, purposeful and “complete” life. A life without meaningless clutter and unnecessary baggage. An elegant life. Not saying that mine is… but I will keep trying…

The Haiku concept also applies to our environment… our own ecosystems that we all occupy around the world. What if the same principles applied there? If the same care was taken to make our choices and to select what is the most appropriate ways to represent the interests… the very essence of our environments? How would our choices be different?

This church is perched on one of the most spectacular parts of Oia. It has been there for centuries and rebuild several times following earthquakes. If this was a “typical” resort area… a typical developer such as WEDONTGIVEAFLYINGF@&#ABOUTYOURPRETTYVILLAGE Co would come along and get permission to build a 5star hotel on that very spot. But how would Oia look as a result of such a decision? What would happen to the essence of Oia if an elaborate hotel was to replace this simple but meaningful landmark? What would happen to the unrivaled elegance and authenticity of Oia? Needless to say it would be shattered…

So as you can see… something as seemingly simple as writing short poems, can hold many lessons for all of us. If you take the time to read into Haiku you will understand the understated elegance of this form of poetry. You will learn to appreciate how important choices are… and the beautiful results that can be produced when we apply simple principles of discipline to our expression. Like Bonsai… Haiku has many lessons when we apply it as a life metaphor. It is a wonderful art form and one which you can practice anywhere…at any time. All you need to do is apply your imagination in a disciplined way.

It may change your life ; )
– read more below…

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To help you experience the pleasures of Haiku we will be running a competition over the next seven days. To enter… all you have to do is write a Haiku poem on what you believe to be the “essence” or “spirit” of Santorini. Even if you have never been here… you can write a poem based on what Santorini means to you and/or how it is represented in your imagination. It is about writing three lines that express the very essence of the island.

The poems should be in the traditional Haiku format. For more information on that you can start by reading here:   “The best Haiku ever”

You can also google “haiku” and read more about the art form as well as find many examples of poems. But please try to be as original and creative as you can.

It’s really very very simple… and apart from the fun you will have writing it…
the prize is worth the effort

The winner will be announced on Monday 22 November and will win one of Allison’s special Christmas handpainted aprons from Aegean Designs:

These are professional quality- full length cotton aprons made in Greece and are all hand painted by Allison and valued at 65euro each. This is one of two designs that are released every Xmas in very limited numbers (20 only – half of which have already been pre-ordered … more details on the Aegean Designs online catalogue to be posted on Tuesday).

All entries are to be emailed to:
aegeandesigns [at] ymail [dot] com

and addressed  ” Santorini Haiku”

Looking forward to reading your wonderful words  ; ))

Ammoudi – Oia…port under troubled water !

On a balmy hot August night… a sky full of bright stars, the full moon reflecting off the calm, crystal waters… it is a mesmerising sight. Ammoudi is a small port, a pirate’s cove where thousands of people enjoy a memorable lunch or dinner… looking at the small fishing boats and the large cruise ships as they sail silently into the night. It’s one of the most enchanting places on Santorini to enjoy as a couple…or with a group of friends. It’s picture perfect… day or night.

But there is another side to Ammoudi… one that tourists never see. When the westerlies blow at 50+ km an hour… the sea gets angry and it hits the tiny port in a harsh, sometimes savage way. This morning was one of those days. I looked out and saw the wind patterns on the surface of the caldera and you could tell the westerlies were working. It’s “show time” at Ammoudi…

The following images & videos are a rare treat for all of you, but especially those of you that have been lucky enough to have enjoyed  Ammoudi in summer…

It’s hard to see but where the white water is at the bottom of the pic
you would probably see 10-20 cars in summer.

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The waves wash all the way across the car park and beyond. Moments
after taking this shot (while standing on a rock) I was completely
drenched by the wave following this one. Only looked away for a second
to check the previous photo…. and whooosh !

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It was one of these that got me… looking away is not recommended.

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As the waves retreat the white water pours back into the sea.
Every single one of the tavernas would be flooded after today…
something that happens several times during the winter
months at Ammoudi.

But to really give you an idea of the power of the sea on such a day
I decided to record a couple of short
videos. It was a lot of fun to be there…
but it can also get dangerous if you get too close:

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Winter is full of delights and surprises on Santorini and especially in Oia. Hope you enjoyed a peek through my eyes ;-)

PS: Apologies for the “phantom post” that was showing for most of today. I was playing around with some drafts this morning
and one somehow was published ;-(

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also…don’t forget to check out

the cool verse

http://oiasantorini.com/the-cool-verse/

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Akrotiri – Santorini

It’s wild, it’s windy, it’s raw and it’s stunning… it’s the edge of Santorini.

It is a very rare glimpse at Akrotiri in winter. Enjoy!

the view from this side is quite different

the scenery is wild… but beautiful

old lighthouse…

the ledge we call “turtle’s head”…

the cliff we call “Darth Vader’s” home…

Allison flying…again

“white beach” as you’ve never seen it…

As you can see the blog redesign is not complete yet…. but it’s been a while since my last post so I wanted to do something until the new look is finalised. The images I wanted to share are from a side of the island not many people go to, even in summer…. and NOBODY in winter. It’s the very opposite side of the island to my village of Oia. On a very windy New Year’s day… it was the perfect place to go for a walk.

PS: Hope you all have a wonderful twenty-10. This year for the blog it will be all about simplicity and understated elegance. Hope you like the changes…. don’t worry, you’ll get to have a say in the new look as well as the content.

PPS: Do you like the new banner ?