6 WAYS TO BEAT AN ATHENIAN HEATWAVE

aegean, athens, grecotel, greece, jennifer aniston, mykonos, santorini, travel in Greece

“My only requirements are that it be a rooftop apartment with a sea view,” I told my Athenian friend as we discussed my Athens housing dreams.

But Panagiotis, who is actually from Spetses, is more into reality: “Have you forgotten about the long Athenian summer?”

“How long?” I asked. A perfectly Spetsiot pause followed and then the punch: “You’re about to find out.”

***

September in Athens can be toasty indeed, I am rapidly finding out. Every day I start with a mental checklist of things I want to do: the Gaultier exhibit at the Benaki, the store in Kolonaki that sells the spoon sweets, the hike behind Lycabettus…then I have my first espresso freddo from Coffee Island, then the second (with extra ice) then the sun starts displaying its teeth and in a matter of minutes my list shrinks as I go from can-do to torpor beyond repair. But it’s precisely having been brought to that lazy place that let me identify a few fool-proof and mostly cost-effective ways to throw some serious shade at the monolithic heatwave that is your basic September in the Greek capital. Can’t be bothered? I know, it’s hot out. But stick with me…

1. Make a beeline for the nearest museum. And then slow down.

While there may be a deficit of cooling breezes in Athens even in late summer, there is no shortage of cultural refreshment. The hot days are a perfect opportunity to recalibrate and instead of rushing through the centuries with the velocity of a metro train racing from station to station, slowing your pace. Whether you’re at the Acropolis Museum or the Benaki or another, It’s a great way to spend time focusing on a few objects at a time instead of trying to take everything in at once (what are those hoplites smiling about? wait—is it a smile?) and to indulge in the aircon. Plus the heat is a perfect excuse to check out some of Athens’ fantastic museum cafés.

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2. Ride the bus to Limanakia.

Mykonos is great, but you can’t get there by bus. But hop on the 122 from Elliniko metro station and don’t get off until you hear “Limanakia A”. There are lots of little coves starting at about Vouliagmeni, but only at Limanakia (Greek for “little port”) will you find a spot that blends city beach energy with island getaway atmosphere. But you go there less for the vibe than the water which is a clear and shimmering emerald-blue. Remember, there’s no sand here: you just walk down some rough steps, maybe grab a drink at the lone beach bar, and dive right in. Warning: the bus ride is long, crowded and bumpy and making friends along the way is not assured, but once you get there you’re going to love it.

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3. Drink this lemonade.

There’s nothing like a cold frappé to start the day, but when I see Greeks clinging to their caffeine under the hot afternoon sun it makes me wonder if they have overlooked the awesomeness of the Hellenic lemon. And not all are created equal: there is something about the lemons squeezed into the Chios Fruits lemonade that will literally knock your socks off (but hopefully you are already wearing sandals by now). Because I had not tasted lemonade this completely fantastic since going to the county fair as a kid, I had to ask Yiannis Trantalis, the juice co.’s Chief Commercial Officer, what makes it so good. “We carefully select all of our citrus crop,” he told me, “paying special attention not to receive any rotten or non A-class fruits. We do all the squeezing ourselves, using the lemons’ own essential oil and pulp.” They also pasteurize the lemonade just once, “to keep it as fresh as possible.” If you can find this lemonade at a kiosk near you, and manage to get your hands on some ice cubes, you will have the answer to an Athenian heat wave in a glass.

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4. Cut your hair off.

If the trip to Limanakia and the pitcher of Chios Fruits Lemonade has still not managed to keep the sweat from your brow, follow suggestion number four and cut your hair off. Okay, not all of it (although it’s certainly an option), but have you noticed all the fantastic vintage barber shops in Athens? The sun is so bright it can be easy to overlook them, but trust me they’re there and Athens could right the book on impeccable grooming. In fact it’s hard to recommend just one, but I’d say make an appointment at Aki Pierro Barber & Shop on Solonos St. Heck, I haven’t even had my hair cut there yet but I’ve visited and can tell you the guys leaving the shop look ready to walk onto a movie set. Cool stuff.

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5. Party all night and sleep all day.

It was almost 9:30 the other night and was getting testy (via text, of course) with Panagiotis for making me wait to go out to dinner. “It’s still early,” he wrote. However, I have realized that if you shed the Anglo-Saxon skin a bit and start having dinner later, then go for drinks say, in Gazi later than that, you can easily transform yourself from a diurnal being dodging the bright sunlight into a creature of the night. It may not work every day of the week, but if you can live by the night two or three days a week in the hot season, you’ll feel better in the morning. Because you’ll be sleeping through it.

6. Book this room.

Finally, if your air conditioner broke or you just can’t be bothered to schlep to the beach, check into the Presidential Suite at the King George Hotel. Because there’s nothing like a view of the sun-drenched Acropolis from the comfort of your own private swimming pool. And I checked—it was booked this week, but there’s always next, and guess what? If it’s September, it’s probably gonna be hot.

Penthouse Suite Private Pool Day view

 

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Imitos: The Original, if Slightly Crazy Yet Always Mythic Magic Mountain

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This is gonna be a short post because I’m having to type with one hand—the other having just been coated with the Greek equivalent of Krazy Glue (do not attempt to fix broken sunglasses by the light of  the moon on a windswept hotel balcony), and as all the pharmacies are shut on the remote Cycladic island on which I find myself and acetone is perhaps the one travel essential I forgot to throw in the suitcase, I’m literally stuck.

But the WiFi is flickering on and off and in terms of this magical mountain in Athens I wanted to talk about, I actually already said almost everything I wanted to about it. And if you think it’s the Acropolis I’m talking about, nope! Think again.

 

 

On Paris Addiction and the Rather Strange Things It Makes One Does

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There’s something about Paris, and it isn’t the Eiffel Tower. The hold this city has had on the hearts (and purse strings) of generations of Americans is largely unprecedented: London may be bubbling with more cultural ferment, Dublin is really nice but, yeah, you know: Paris.

I lived in Paris on two occasions, once in the early 1990s as a student and then from 2003 to 2007, in self-imposed exile from post 9/11 New York. My addiction grew, I was shooting up Paris on a 24/7 basis, I was in so deep I even had the legal right to stay and work there. That was probably the start of the end of the addiction; getting into the French daily grind exposes Paris-lovers to the other side of the postcard, and it’s not always pretty. Au contraire.

But what could be more Parisian than parking your tired ass at an atmospheric café and spilling your angst du jour to your journal or closest friends? I remember one day at La Palette when my friend Julien pleaded with me for some romantic advice and I felt rather honored by that; the sophisticated Parigot asking the silly American about affairs of the heart. Lovely! It was at mythic Café de Flore that I formulated the first Paris travel blog for state propaganda machine  France 24. Memories! The only problem was choosing which café—so many demitasses, so little time. But I’ve saved you some (time, not demitasses), so please do check out my 11 top Paris café choices now at The Points Guy.

 

 

 

 

69 Places in GREECE where Brad & Jen may have swam (swum?) NAKED

athens, crete, europe, grecotel, jennifer aniston, mykonos, santorini, Uncategorized

1. According to Greek press reports, when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were still married, they shacked up in a semi-private, fully secret micro-resort on a rocky outcropping opposite the crowded holiday island of Santorini, where the swimming pool is all:

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2. The fact that Brangelina were there does not preclude the possibility of Jennifer Aniston having also stayed there, but if she did she probably did so with someone other than Pitt. Because Jennifer symbolizes limitless talent, beauty and love, we think she might have swum (swam?) naked here as well, at the beach of Aphrodite’s rock which is technically in Cyprus, but on the Greek side of the island.

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The lady on the left is very clearly possibly Jennifer Aniston, and it’s possible that after I (right) left the rock, she plunged into the aquamarine waters and had a little swim.

3. It is very likely that either Brad or Jen may have possibly at one point or another, together or separately, frolicked in the Grecian buff on the shores of this beach on the island of Milos. Milos, where they shot that stupid video for that awful song (if God exists, may She ban it), and that hasn’t yet been overrun with snarky Gallic junior executives from Louis Vuitton like the Ile-St-Louis or…Mykonos. Seriously, take a look at this piece of beach:

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4. You may have heard that sexy-back-in-1984 Tom Hanks has a house on the petite Greek island of Antiparos, pictured below. Who cares, when the fact is that Jennifer Aniston was once really possibly seen on a secluded beach here swimming NAKED?

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5. The 69th place on our list of places where Brad and Jen may have swam/swum naked (missed numbers 5 thru 68? We didn’t buy your booze!) is of course Mykonos. Pictured here is the Mykonos Blu Luxury Resort, which has this great beach…

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….where there have been reported Aniston sightings. For our exclusive account of what happens at an amazing Greek island resort when you are neither Jennifer Aniston nor swimming naked, check out our Grecotel Caramel hotel diary here.

 

 

 

 

 

Did Nile Rodgers just solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? a Tripquake Exclusive

music, mykonos, pop, Uncategorized
nrepk-approved03-1At any given moment  in the late 1970s the mercury could be off the charts at Studio 54, the legendary ‘70s New York disco that would have turned 40 year this year—the same age, incidentally, as that of CHIC, the band Nile Rodgers co-founded with bassist Bernard Edwards and that churned out hits like Le Freak that for a time helped make America’s dance floors burn hotter than a mid-summer’s afternoon in hell. Rodgers, guitar fiend, hitmaker, chart topper, multi Grammy Award winner, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer has by any yardstick earned the right to rest on his laurels, but such is far from the case as recent collaborations with Pharrell,  Daft Punk, Disclosure and more and a fresh CHIC album and tour can attest. He is every bit as iconic as the pop legends whose work he has produced and at the youthful age of 64 a very tough act to follow. And not the easiest guy to get on the phone. But in a world without Bowie, Prince and George,  Good times, these? Well, save that debate for another moment and for now consider how…

1. Nile Rodgers produced Let’s Dance, and you didn’t. 

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2. Nile Rodgers produced The Wild Boys, one of the best Duran Duran tracks ever…

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TQ: The Wild Boys..Whose dark vision was that?

Rodgers: “Mine.  You have to go back in time. We had already done The Reflex and we were great friends. After that, they were so huge they were almost like a boy band but I knew they were real musicians and they played their own stuff, whereas most boy bands are just out there to be pretty and pretend, one or 2 guys may sing, that’s the formula. I knew that Duran wasn’t that, but their fan base was treating them like that so their critics started treating them like that. So I said wait a minute guys, we have to make an extreme left turn because you are much better than that. My dilemma is that I have nothing against guilty pleasure put-together pop bands, I mean music and art is supposed to be for fun, it’s supposed to be for release, and for a lot of people that’s how they get into music, they start with a cute boy band or girl band, they speak to a certain generation, but as they get older and more sophisticated they sort of move on and they get into a higher art form. Duran Duran were at point for me where it felt like they needed to move on to a higher art form. So we did Wild Boys as a very experimental kind of project, and things just fell together with the diretor Russell Mulcahy and it sort of worked out perfectly. And there’s no other Duran record like that before or after.”

3. Nile Rodgers refreshingly reveals not loving lemonade doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, it might even make a you a better one. Wait, what?

lemonade

TQ: Those millennials…disco v. EDM…you probably know where I’m going with this…

Nile Rodgers: “We recently played Glastonbury and we had about 200,000 people at our set. Every song we play in our shows everybody knows – in fact I have a funny line I say to the crowd, ‘You know what, I’m just going to play our #1 records..it’s sort of a joke because I’ve done so many songs. So when they’re watching us play, they are actually fascinated with the technical facility of the musicianship, and that’s something that’s gone away. When we were kids, people made a big deal about the musicians and the way they could play. Now, you see a huge pop star and no one cares about the band …you know, Pink came flying down from the ceiling, Beyonce had like 45 dancers and they are all in sync and it was incredible, you know that kind of thing, but rarely do people say, Jesus Christ, Adele’s band was killing it, who’s the drummer, man they were amazing!”

4. If disco once ruled the world, that was due in no small part to Nile Rodgers and CHIC. Today, disco is mainly remembered for the backlash against it. #What’s up with that?

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Nile Rodgers: “When punk rock was our biggest rival, our best friends were all the punk rock bands, the Ramones, Bow Wow Wow, Blondie…some of the bands we would actually go on to produce. Same with EDM: guys like Avicii, Disclosure, Sam Smith, they’re my best friends! Last night, at 12:46, I got an MP3 from Disclosure because they were in the studio with me and Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars..we were recording two or three weeks ago. After we finished I sent the entire session to Anderson and he probably sent some stuff off to Disclosure unbeknownst to me, so at 12:46 in the morning I get a mix saying ‘Hey Nile, I hope you dig this, this is what I did with the stuff you and Anderson were working on.’ The EDM community and CHIC, which I have to call the disco/R&B/funk community are very closely aligned..that’s why I play on so many of their records.”

Punk rockers kibitzing with the deans of disco, how unthinkable is that? Imagine the implications for erstwhile enemies Washington D.C., or  the Middle East…

5. Like A Virgin

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from Wikipedia: “Nile Rodgers was chosen as the primary producer of the album, due to his work with David Bowie. Rodgers enlisted the help of his former Chic bandmates Bernard Edwards, who was the bassist, and Tony Thompson, who played drums; they appeared on several tracks of the album.”

6. George Michael and that secret single everyone’s talking about…

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Nile Rodgers: “I get a phone call from the estate and they say Nile, we know you’ve been reluctant to give us the music…I had finished this thing on the 22nd of December. I said I’ve been reluctant to give it you because I have so much respect for George and this is so different from what he did originally and David his producer said, you ‘ve got to think of this as like what you did for David Bowie. Let’s Dance was an album basically of old covers…you took a song like Modern Love, like China Girl…

TQ: And made them commercial, unforgettable pop hits.

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all photos of Nile Rodgers by Diego Paul Sanchez

24 Hours at Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort in Rethymno, Crete

aegean, beaches, crete, europe, food, grecotel, greece, ryanair, travel in Greece
Crete is an island as unnerving and necessary as love. Tough though it can be come summertime to dodge the heat-seeking hordes from the north, it’s still a worthwhile place to while a way a week or more to get a feel for Greece beyond its wonderful but cramped capital and the by-now cliche Greek islands like Santorini and whatever flavor-of-the-month isle as anointed by the glossy travel mags your Aunt Selma still swears by. Crete doesn’t have time for what’s trending because it is timeless. It’s mountains, sea, kri-kris and gods, and once in a while it’s a great hotel too. One in particular, the five-star Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort, will make you sweet on Crete, says Anthony Grant.
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Caramel Grecotel lobby: Image Courtesy Grecotel

There are regular flights between Athens and the two Cretan cities of Heraklion and Chania, and they are typically take just a half hour or so. On my most recent visit, I flew to Chania on the island’s north coast, then took a very clean and modern bus forty miles east to the historic seaside town of Rethymno. If you want to rent a car, go with the best, Voyager. Without much luggage, I could have explored Rethymno’s old Venetian harbor and twisting lanes right away but the mood board called for something breezy, beachy and sweet: so I took a short taxi ride to the Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort. Comfortably ensconced on a curvilinear green velvet canapé, I was offered a Cretan iced tea and caramel pop. More, parakalo!

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One of the best places to stay anywhere in Crete, the resort is designed like an island village in characteristic Mediterranean white, with individually decorated rooms, suites and villas, many with mesmerizing sea views.

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And some eclectic touches…

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Breakfast at Grecotel Caramel is not just a meal, it’s an event. Above, fresh baked cookies and other gourmet Greek nibbles. There’s a hot buffet and other foods stations as well.

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Yogurt anyone? Greek yogurt with homemade jams and honey, maximizing your yum.

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Regarding those sea views…take a look:

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The sea-sweet view from Suite 326

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Grecotel pioneered five-star service in Greece. Personalized service is second nature.

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Did somebody say raki? Agreco Farms is Grecotel’s premium line of gourmet products from its own farm. Actually my favorite item from the range is the Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

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Speaking of stuff that’s intoxicating, did you know that when you book a villa at Caramel  you can have it fragranced just for you? I’d suggest the signature Caramel scent.

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We’ll get back to the farm in sec. Crete is about emotion, not chronological order. While a room in the main building suited me just fine (it looked similar to what you see in the photo below), note that if you take a villa you can have a beachside gazebo set up for you at no extra charge (otherwise it’s 50 euros extra). Villa guests get comp beach bags too.

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I met a lovely donkey, who I called Christos, at Agreco Farm. He looked happier to me than most Democrats I know. I wanted to take him home with me…who wouldn’t?  But with these new TSA regulations our rendezvous was destined to be but a fleeting one.

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Agreco Farm has animals, fruit trees, open fields with views to the Mediterranean Sea…

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“When you come to a pitchfork in the field, pick an artichoke. Then eat it.” — Anthony Grant     (photo courtesy Nikos Lyronis)

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Fresh cut Cretan artichoke with olive oil and sea salt.

Yes, so, unlike any other hotel or resort in Crete (unless you can prove otherwise), this one has its own farm – you can’t get any more locally sourced than that. Agreco Farm, set on 100 ocean-view acres in the lush hills above Rethymno. Up there under the sybaritic Cretan sun, manager Nikos Lyronis showed me how to pick a wild artichoke right from the field and eat it. He also introduced me to a kri-kri, the wild goat of Crete. I fed the goat before sitting down for a six-course organic Cretan feast with Charalabos Gialtakis, the Grecotel Caramel hotel manager. It was the perfect opportunity to sample Agreco’s delicious olive oil, wines and cheeses along with more full-bodied Cretan fare. This kind of farm-to-table dining experience, at the farm itself, is a rarity in travel today and gives you a new perspective on the Greek palate.

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Some of that amazing olive oil I mentioned. And it appears that Christos the Donkey’s modeling career is moving ahead at a faster clip than yours truly’s. My #sad!

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Delicious olives and artisanal Cretan cheese are even more delicious savored al fresco.

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Stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini and my favourite, stuffed Cretan tomatoes.

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“We want to to switch on the holiday mood right at check-in,” says rooms divisions manager Yiannis Katsogridakis (left). That mission is accomplished daily at Grecotel Caramel.

Grecotel was one of the pioneers of Greek tourism in the post-war era so it’s no surprise that standards here are high, and nothing feels like formula. With its mix of beachfront villas and family-friendly junior suites, you will get that personalized, five-star feeling whether you are Brad Pitt or a family of four. (Did I mention free kids’ dining in the Tasty Corner?) I could go on but will direct readers instead to the fine website…in a minute.

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During my too-brief stay in May, I had as my neighbor Greek pop singer Natasha Theodoridou (pictured above left) – and as usual, the place where the “locals” check in too is most assuredly where you want to be.

I missed Theodoridou’s concert in Rethymno because by the time I had dashed into town to take some photos of the old Venetian architecture (the whole of Crete once belonged to Venice) and savor some chocolate-dipped baklava, I barely had time to make it back to

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There isn’t a heatwave in Rethymo a little ice cream cone can’t fix. Photo: AG

the property for my revitalizing facial treatment in the excellent spa, the Caramel Wellness Centre (bye bye airport grime!) followed by a swim at the nice, clean beach.

So: Are you there yet? 

 

A few parting shots from delightful Rethymno:

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Rethymno: less touristy than (in our view) overhyped, congested Chania

 

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Walls of the 16th century Fortezza, built by the Venetians

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