A Greek Odyssey
Caramel founder and creative director Eva Karayiannis, gives us a peek inside her beautiful home in Kea, and takes us on the insider’s guide to holidaying in Athens and the Greek islands.
I love holidaying in Greece. I agree with the theory upheld by some historians that Ancient Civilisation happened in Greece – not Iceland – because it has the most incredible energy and position which makes it such a beautiful and bountiful country.
I love to return to Athens but it can be a tricky city to navigate. A lot of it is quite touristy but the Athens of the Athenians is a very fun place to be.
What I love is its great retro feel. The area I gravitate towards is Kolonaki, where many local families who have lived there for generations gather. They eat out at tavernas where the food is authentic, light and healthy and the tables are laid out with traditional white linen and there’s something very 1950s about it.
I also love the walks to Lycabettus in the center of town, a hill with a large open air amphitheater at the top and where there is there is a church and outdoor concerts. The paths are lined with orange and lemon trees which create a very romantic atmosphere. Because of the weather, people spend a lot time outdoors which is what I think keeps Greek people so young at heart. Compared to somewhere like Italy which is refined and elegant, Greece has more of a party element. It’s a country that never goes to sleep
Where to stay: New Hotel. If you want to go to Athens but also be by the beach, my favourite spot is Glyfada and Astir Palace. Historically, wealthy Athenian families would rent a bungalow there for the whole summer. There’s a real scene; people dress up! Meanwhile Ekali has more of a Beverley Hills vibe, residential where you see the most spectacular villas.
Where to eat: Ratka is my favourite. Lunch at the Cyclading museum is a must as well as Capanna, a great little organic trattoria.
What to do: Visit the Acropolis, Cycladic and Benaki museums.
Where to shop: Got to the market at Monastiraki and Psyrri, where you can buy Greek sandals and fun evil eye style jewellery. I would also recommend buying jewellery from Zolotas or Lalaounis for stunning Byzantine replicas. The neighbourhood is arty and bohemian, full of old fashioned artisan workshops. I particularly love the Seventies silver and gold charms. I return to London too with jams, honey and raffia baskets.
The great thing about the Greek islands is there is something for everyone. My favourites are…
It’s quite different to the other islands, it’s a bit of a trek to get there but very much worth it. One of the oldest monasteries in the world is at the heart of the island so it has a very holy, very powerful feel where monks wander around the city. It has always attracted a sophisticated and refined crowd. There are no clubs there but people have house parties and go from one house to the other. Unlike the traditional white wash villas, the architecture is more imposing – Greek shipping captains adapted the ideas they brought back from Europe on to local buildings.
If you don’t want to venture too far from Athens, visit Hydra. It has the sophistication of Patmos and there are no cars only donkeys. Once a year there is a sort of Art Biennale so it always attracts a strong arty crowd.
Stay at Bratsera, a former sponge- processing factory dating from 1860 and head to Pirate bar for sunset drinks.
This is where I have a house. It’s very much a family island and again it’s close to Athens and easy to get to from London for the weekend. What I love about it is that it’s very un-touristic and there’s no airport and you can only get there by boat. It’s a very green island (which is itself unusual) with many hiking trails, oak trees and beautiful, unspoiled beaches.
When we are there we swim, sail, read, paddleboard, switch off and do all the things as a family we don’t get to do in London. My seven year old son loves Kea because it’s very sociable and easy for him to meet and make friends. Children of all ages gather in the late afternoon and early evening and play hide and seek in the alleyways of the little town which faces the marina or else he tries to catch fish with his fishing net whilst we enjoy our aperitifs and watch him play. It’s such a different lifestyle, so laid back.
I also love going dancing with my daughters, there is a tiny bar called “Potis” and most of the time it is just us there, we all go straight to the dance floor and dance until we are exhausted. It’s so much fun and a great antidote to London.
The Red Tractor farm guest house www.redtractorfarm.com is a lovely place to stay, although when holidaying with family it’s possibly a better idea to rent a house. Check out fivestargreece.com or mygreekvillas.com and brightbluevillas.com. Make sure you eat at Rolando’s, Nine Korres and Aristos.