Archives for category: travel

As I sit at my local limani I am thinking how lucky I am to be here in spring on the island of Lesvos. Above me are piercing blue skies, all around me wildflowers carpet the surrounding fields and the Aegean Sea with its crystal waters stretches before me.

There is no better place to contemplate the months ahead. I am excited to think about where I will go, what I will learn and the new experiences I will have.

Last year I chose to do something I had never done before, something exciting and a little bit scary. I booked a photographic workshop, Intrepid Naples, hosted by my lovely friend Carla Coulson.  This was a very new experience for me and it left me feeling elated and more knowledgeable not just about photography but also about myself. Check out what I experienced and some of the photos I took HERE.

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This year I am once again tempted.  Carla’s 2017 workshop is in Puglia and is a story telling workshop. To see more about the workshop click HERE. Carla is a great teacher and just loves sharing her knowledge which she does generously and with huge enthusiasm. The opportunity to capture images in such a beautiful place whilst learning would be magical.

So, I suggest you give yourself the greatest gift of all, time to tap into your creativity and improve your photography in beautiful Puglia with Carla.

I will leave you with these tempting photographs by Carla Coulson whilst you consider if her workshop is the place for you this European summer.

Enjoy!

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Carla Coulson Puglia

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All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson

In September, I took my first trip to the glorious city of Naples. My beautiful friend Carla Coulson, photographer and creative coach encouraged me to sign up to a photography workshop she was hosting there. The thought of visiting Naples for the first time and taking beautiful photographs excited me.

Photography has been something I’ve been involved in for years. I started at the early age of 18 as a junior art director and later I moved on to become a creative director and then began taking photos and filming for various clients, magazines and for my own personal projects. I loved photographing my second book My Greek Island Home, a documentation of life on the Greek Island of Lesvos.

I have never been very interested in the technical side of photography, working by instinct seems to suit me best which is probably why I waited until the digital age to throw myself into using a camera. My partner Matthew’s encouragement came in the form of my first grown up Cannon camera, the best birthday present ever and one that started me on my photographic journey.

I love to capture beautiful, simple, intimate images and I hope that if I can capture a moment that moves me that image may also be appreciated by someone else.

When I arrived in Naples I fell completely in love with the city. There was a grittiness to this historic city of many layers. The local people I met through the lens of my camera were open and friendly and didn’t mind having their photos taken, they honestly seemed to enjoy it.

Carla’s course was to be an education to me in shutters speeds and f stops, two things that I quite honestly found scary. On the first day, we were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves, giving a bit of our personal history. Standing up in front of people and speaking about myself I find completely challenging. It makes me feel like I’m a child again, I become self-conscious, I feel shaky, my stomach churns and I hear my words ringing back at me. I’m a perfectionist and with that comes a whole load of insecurities. By day two I realised that this wonderful course I’d signed myself up for was pushing me into an emotional meltdown. It was nothing to do with Carla or the way she taught it was my past, the uncomfortable years I spent at school where I found it difficult to learn in a conventional way, where I was made to feel stupid and inadequate on many occasions. While I was great at sport and at art when put me in a classroom situation where I was asked questions or given lots of information to remember I floundered. Now every cell in my body was being reminded of primary school.

This was a great realisation and as painful as it was, was what I needed for me to start to try and break these old patterns. Breaking old patterns cannot be done overnight but just by being aware I was taking first step. It took me a few days to find my equilibrium. I learnt new things not just about f stops and shutter speeds but about me. I discovered that only by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations do you grow and learn.

It was a different week to what I had imagined but it was a wonderful week. I am truly grateful to Carla for encouraging me to come along for the ride, she is a great teacher and a great inspiration.

I would like to share with you some of the images from my week in Naples. I would also like to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone in 2017 try something new, be creative, love and never forget to remain true to your unique self. Happy New Year!

A big thank you to the people of Naples.

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crowd scene in church

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The first time I saw a photo of Gin Head I was completely blown away and so it seems was Scottish photographer Albert Watson. His first spotted it 20 years ago, when he was photographing at Tantallon Castle. He was intrigued by the way the then active research centre sat on its own promontory. It’s hard not only drawn to the 1943 buildings, significant survivors of the Admiralty base but also to the dramatic landscape that surrounds it.

Gin Head was a 1940’s radar station, a culturally significant landmark which sits in the wild and wonderful landscape of a cliff edged promontory. It is situated 30 miles from Edinburgh in North Berwick and has rare heritage, history and sweeping views over the Firth of Fourth. It provides a sea front view of East Lothian’s most stirring landscapes. Gin Head’s nearest neighbour is the magnificent Tantallon Castle, perched on the cliff top to the east just 300 meters away. Directly in front of Gin Head is the Bass Rock, an enormous barnacled knuckle of rock that thrusts a hundred meters up from the sea, it’s a world nature reserve and home to the largest colony of gannets in the world.

albert watson, christie turlington, clint eastwood,sade Albert WatsonChristy Turlington photographed by Albert Watson for Harpers Bazaar, fashion editor, Joanna Hillman.

GIN HEAD 7 TANTALLON CASTLE 2b crop snaked Gin Head 

albert watson, christie turlington, clint eastwood,sade2 Clint Eastwood and Sade photographed by Albert Watson

Through recent marketing of Gin Head, we have connected with four serious buyers, all of whom have marveled at the awe-inspiring landscape of natural forces. They each have their own take on the best way to use and adapt the approved plans and are busy completing their pre-purchase investigations.

Among the potential purchasers – a Scot who has known and coveted Gin Head for many years – is one of the world’s pre-eminent fine art, fashion and commercial photographers.  His photographs have always inspired me. Albert Watson’s images of Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood and Steve Jobs are defining images from a four-decade career containing a wealth of distinctive work. Watson spotted the potential of Gin Head more than 20 years ago and has visionary ideas for establishing a photographic foundation incorporating gallery, workshop, archive and residential components.  The creative brilliance of a globally renowned photographer combined with the elemental natural forces of the East Lothian surroundings is a delectable prospect. Whoever succeeds in acquiring Gin Head and applying their vision to such a wild and wonderful environment, will take their place in Scotland’s rich architectural heritage.

THE BASS ROCK snaked The Bass Rock

How did I come to own part of Scottish heritage?

About 10 years ago I was at a friend’s dinner party in Scotland where I was introduced to a hearty Scot named Robin. He and his wife arrived late to the dinner dressed head to toe in insect costumes. I can’t remember now exactly why they were dressed this way but I do remember enjoying the madness of it all. At the time I had no idea that our meeting would lead me to Gin Head.

Not long after the dinner party and meeting, Robin contacted me, he was eager to hear more about my new apartment, a large project I had recently completed in London. I love building projects and designing beautiful, light living spaces. My new home was constructed on the rooftop of an old printing factory in Clerkenwell, in London’s East End. I had bought the air space and created one large lateral living space. Robin was impressed by my London home and asked me if I would be interested in doing something similar in Scotland.

About a year after our initial conversation Robin contacted me to say a property he had been interested in for years had become available and wanted to run it by me. That property was Gin Head and when I saw the photos I immediately understood his enthusiasm for it. This visually compelling and breathtaking site hooked me too and I joined forces with Robin and his partner Peter to acquired it. I was now, part owner of 5 acres of great natural beauty and a custodian of Scottish history.

TANTALLON CASTLE b snaked Tantallon Castle

We chose architects Lazzarini Pickering from Rome for their international reputation as cutting-edge world class practitioners and their ethos of sensitivity towards the landscape. Carl and Claudio are also dear friends so I knew they would appreciate the site and love the brief. The brief was ‘Tracy Island meets James Bond’

With Lazzarini Pickering superb scheme we now have full planning permission for the conversion of the existing buildings to a spectacular modern fortress. Carl and Claudio’s extraordinary vision, has created a building of grand spaces, expansive staircases, magnificent reception rooms, massive skylights, great sheets of glass that look out on internal courtyards offering wrap-around transparency. This is idealized 3rd millennium living, with reference to Inigo Jones, Palladio. The approved plans are spectacular – 26,000 sq. ft. of beautiful, flexible real estate set in five acres of rugged coastal landscape.  Simply breathtaking.

Since my first meeting with Robin much time has passed and our lives have changed. I sold my London penthouse to Dame Zaha Hadid, who lived in it until her recent death. I now live between Sydney, London and the Greek island of Lesvos. Robin too has moved on discarding his insect costume and thrown himself into something Scots are very keen on, golf. He was Captain at Muirfield from 2013 until 2015 and in his own words ‘now in glorious retirement.’

There is one thing however that has not changed, that is the culturally significant landmark, Gin Head. For more information on Gin Head click HERE

GIN HEAD &THE BASS ROCK bsnaked Gin Head and The Bass Rock

GIN HEAD & TANTALLON CASTLE CROP bsnaked Gin Head and Tantallon Castle

 

My first trip to Istanbul was in 1983, I had travelled from Australia and was on my way to start a new life in London via the Greek Islands and Turkey. In the short time I was thereI found it to be both exotic and very foreign. I returned to Istanbul again in 1994 this time visiting many of the usual tourist spots. I found the city to be inspiring.

Since the publication of my book My Greek Island Home I have met many new people and some of them have become good friends. Two of these friends are Turkish and live in Istanbul, they love Lesvos, the Greek Island I call home. They visit the island regularly and we have developed a lovely friendship, one I cherish. They have invited us to their city many times and in May, after 21 years Matthew and I headed back to Istanbul.

Istanbul is a city of many layers. It’s a sophisticated city, a rich city, a poor city, a city of history, of culture, of tradition of modernity. A city with high energy. We loved staying at Soho House with its fabulous combination of old and new architecture. Our friends showed us their city and there is nothing better than being shown a city by a local. A boat trip on the Bosphorus revealed architecture on the waters edge I could not have imagined. Baroque style palaces sat closely beside charming wooden chalet styled houses. East certainly meets west in this city.

Here are a few images from my trip. I really hope we will be returning again soon to wander the streets and spend more time with our dear friends. Thank you dear friends you know who you are xx

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I am constantly asked how we are being effected living in Greece in this crisis.

The fact is for us life goes on as normal and we have the option of leaving at any time.

The sun is shining the birds are singing and at the end of the day the sunsets are stunning. Whilst I write this I hear children playing in the streets and vendors touting their wares over loud speakers as they make their way through the village, it’s just like normal.

The people here are living day to day, some hand to mouth but they are still as generous and as warm hearted as ever. We are still finding bags filled with fresh cucumbers and courgettes hung on our gate from our village friends.

The Greek people are strong, proud, independent people and their tenacity has to be admired.

Each day brings with it more challenges and more hardships, it’s never ending and demoralising and there is no quick fix.

This week I had an email from my best Greek girlfriend she writes from her heart. She shares her deep concerns along with an article written by John Humphry for the Sunday Times on June 28, ‘Let me slay the big fat Greek myth’, an article worth reading.

I have asked my friend Elpida if I could share her letter. I thank Elpida for her love and friendship and for being in my life.

And for everyone out there who asks if there is anything we need, we need you to come to Greece to enjoy all Greece has to offer from the beautiful crystal waters to the generosity of its people.

Support and love Greece.

elpida and yiannis

A LETTER FROM ELPIDA

My dearest friends, mentors, soul mates and guardian angels,

I don’t usually write in this way because I love communicating separately with all of you however this is an article a British friend sent me and given the circumstances I decided to sent it to all of you to read. 

You all know me pretty well I think after all this time and you know how hard I’ve worked and how much I appreciate life, a good laugh, love and friendship. For the first time in my life I’m lost for words, I feel terrified and I don’t know what to expect. I know that within the euro we’ll go through unbelievable austerity and difficulties and that no would be the a proud voice of Greece towards our creditors but on the other hand loosing the sense of security this hard currency affords us is quite a step.

Personally, I don’t have a bank account, a credit card or bonds that can be cut or taken away from me. I spend the money I earn and it might not be much but it has allowed me to offer my son and myself some kind of normal existence and safety. Tomorrow I’m asked to vote if I want more austerity measures or not and it’s this or not I would like to know what it means. But nobody can explain and I’m scared! I have a small business I’ve created with lots of hardship and work with no loans and in these austere times it’s been slowly and gradually growing. I don’t make much but I make enough to sustain myself. The same goes for my husband and a dozen more people who run small businesses in the area. We all depend on stability and tourism. The minute we go out of the euro nobody can guarantee anything. We will have austerity and recession and our currency will have no value at all. How many years will this last one two three four? How many?

 I’m 43 and getting older and I know some of you might smile thinking that this is nothing in comparison to older age but I’m tired overworked and disappointed. Furthermore, I live in a very sensitive area and in times of turmoil predators are always around looking out to grab the best piece. Thus if my country leaves the false protection of Europe who can guarantee the safety of my business, my land, my family, my life for that matter? I fret the moment we’ll be left alone, isolated trying to find allies who will give us credit to buy petrol, medicine and food. Unfortunately Greece produces very little on its own and we import almost everything so it will take time to find our way into survival. Cuba, Sudan, Argentina and many more countries are there as examples of what I don’t want my life to look like. I don’t mind hardship within reason I mind unreasonable hardship that will drive me to do everything manually because there won’t be enough petrol to support the National electricity company and appliances will be completely useless for example. I mind being forced to live in conditions that my grand parents and their parents lived in. I remember what it was not to have many things to go about and unlike other people I praise technology because it has made my life so much easier. I mind the black market that will thrive and  the fact I might have to live in conditions that Bulgaria and other Balkan countries lived in until some time ago. I mind the fact that I’ll have to stand in queues to get some bread and that I’ll have to buy things that matter with dollars or Euros that I’ll be happy to own if I can.

No government and no politician can guarantee me anything right now. Most of them have money abroad and the minute our currency changes they will become unbelievably rich while me and people like me will have lost everything overnight. Last summer we were all hoping that things had started to change and life had started to seem a little bit lighter. Now there’s a black cloud over me that I pray every single night to go away. Tomorrow I’ll go to vote with this cloud over my head hoping for the best. But don’t ask me what that is because I have absolutely no idea anymore.

What I want you to know is that I love you all so much, beyond words. You’ve made my life so much richer, fuller, interesting and bearable with your love, guidance, wisdom, laughter and more love all this time that despite the situation I feel blessed and hopeful because you’re there.

Love xxx and warm hugs,

Elpida

There are so many small chapels scattered around the island of Lesvos and some of them are to be found in the most unlikely places. Many are up high on top of mountains some are tucked away along remote dirt tracks. There are at least eight that I know of in and around our village but it would not surprise me if there were more. I was invited to a memorial service in one of theses hidden gems about five years ago and it was a challenging little chapel to find. I walked out of the village along a dirt track and down down into a valley. Negotiating my way through thistles and shrubs it was difficult to imagine I would ever reach my destination. After what seemed to be a rather long trek I arrived at the small chapel, set amongst trees in the prettiest location next to a stream. I watched old yia yia’s (grandmothers)  making their way down the hill, some using sticks for stability as they treked across the uneven ground, I was impressed at their stamina, strength and determination. Papa (the priest) was last to arrive and he had with him his assistant, a grumpy bearded woman carrying a small suitcase containing all the necessities for the simple service. Candles were lit and prayers were recited and incense burnt as we stood shoulder to shoulder and prayed for Nick, it was a lovely simple service. Last week I visited another small chapel set in a rock beside the sea. Walking in from the strong midday sun it took a little while for my eyes to adjust to the caves darkness. Here are my snapshots from the chapel in the cave.

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What a fantastic London spring night for great party! My Greek Island Home has now been published in the UK by, Clearview Books and was launched in London last Wednesday night. Despite the tube strike and Chelsea playing at home my trusty friends and followers turned up in droves. It was great to see friends both, old and new and also be introduced to some new faces. The venue was Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart in Pimlico, a fantastic location. Nikki generously provided her beautiful shop overflowing with spring blooms and her and the girls, Ruth, Robyn, Sophie and Lucy were perfect hostesses. Domus Nova, Notting Hill’s best estate agent, very generously sponsored the event and kept everyone’s glasses topped up with prossecco, rose and white wine. The Grilling Greek parked his van outside and served up a feast, thrice-cooked chips, pita, hummus, olives and vegetarian souvlaki, it was all so yummy.Some of our Greek recue dogs, Robert, Maisy and April were able to make it to the evening which for me was the highlight .Clearview Books gave 10% of the money raised from the sale of the books to Nikki’s charity The Doghouse. ‘Want me’ t shirts designed by artist, Matthew Usmar Lauder to raise awareness and money for the rescue dogs were on sale too. I am blessed to have such great friends and supporters and thank you everyone for making the night a brilliant success.If you were not able to attend the night and would like to purchase a book you can go to Wild at Heart or online to amazon. It you want to support the dogs and would like a ‘want me’ t-shirt go to www.usmarstudio@bigcartel.com. Don’t forget to take a selfie in it and share. A shared selfie with the book would also be great.Below are some photos taken on the night by Rob Dawkins, thanks Rob!

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At this time of year the village is quiet. Our village friends tend to stay indoors. It’s not at all surprising as the weather the last few days has been extremely wet. I felt the need to go back into my archives to remind myself of village life in June. Here are some of my friends. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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