About Bill Ives
Latest Posts by Bill Ives
I have recently returned from spending some time in Mytilini, a mountain village in the island of Samos, Greece. Samos is located a mile off the Turkish coast and below is an acrylic paining of the cliffs that run down to the sea on the south side of the island.
Last month I spent some time in Mytilini, a mountain village in the island of Samos, Greece. Samos is located a mile off the Turkish coast. Here is a 16″ x 20″ arcylic paining of a boat in Pythagora harbor.
I spent several weeks in Mytilini on Samos Island last month. During our stay, we went to Samiopoula (Greek: Σαμιοπούλα), a small island a kilometer south of Samos Island. The name Samiopoula is a derivative of Samos (in Greek Σάμος) and literally means “small Samos”.
The island is 2.15 km in length and .7 km in width. There are a few buildings on Samiopoula, the small parish churches of Agia Pelagia (in Greek Αγία Πελαγία) and of the Ascension of Christ (in Greek: Αναλήψεως του Σωτήρος) and there is also a small tavern and few small houses owned by Vassilis Kappos and his family. Τhe only beach on the island, Psalida (in Greek Ψαλίδα), provides one of the few sand beaches in the Samos area along with very clear turquoise waters. The Samos beaches site rates it “one of the best beaches you will find on Samos, fine sand and crystal clear water.”
Samiopoula can be visited by boat from Pythagoria daily with Captain Vasilis Kappos starting at 9:45 AM. Below is Pythagora harbor and our departure. The voyage from Pythagorio to Samiopoula takes a bit over one hour. On this voyage the captain, his wife, and son were our hosts. You can see the old castle as you pass Pythagora, as well as the sun over the nearby Turkish coast.
The Vasilis Kappos family maintains an excellent Samiopoula Island Facebook page with many photos of trips to the island. The history section states that “Katina Kappou, the mother of Vassilis, lived on the island for more than 60 years. She was known as Jaja (grandmother) Katina or Kira (Mrs) Katina. She came on the island with her husband Tasos Kappos, his mother, her father, her sister and her brother-in-law after the World War 2. All together started to plant the rocky island with olive-trees, fig-trees, almond-trees and build walls to protect their goats. The tradition of the family is carried on by her son Vassilis, who has still more than 50 goats on the island.”
After Pythagora, the trip passes the south coast of Samos with its rocky cliffs. The quality of light on the rocks reminded me of some Monet paintings. We received some Samos sweet wine and oranges with cinnamon as a gift on the way. When we arrived at the island, the Captain maneuvered his boat along with rocky edge of Samiopoula. Then he circled around to dock at the small landing. As we landed you could see the small church on a hill top next to the Kappos family’s tavern.
Other boats will take you to the island but since Captain Vassilis and his family are the only residents and own the only tavern, his trip provides the longest stay and a wonderful lunch at the tavern on a ridge next to one of the churches. While we were on the beach another group descended on the beach but fortunately they only stayed for about an hour. On the Monday we visited, except for this brief intrusion, we had the beach and tavern almost to ourselves from 11 AM to 4 PM with only one other passenger, a woman on holiday from Germany.
The lunch was delicious and freshly made. It started with grilled bread and Tzatziki, a dip of garlic, yogurt, cucumber and herbs. It was the best version of this dish I have tasted. There was also a large Greek salad with very fresh ingredients. The Captain grilled two fish and some pork, while his wife prepared the rest of our lunch. A potato salad came with the meat and fish. The meal was completed with watermelon and white wine from their tavern.
The wild, but friendly, goats far out-number the inhabitants. They were there to greet us in the morning and gave us a group send-off when we left around 4PM.
The light on the way back was also excellent. This time we were offered some Ouzo and thin sliced cucumbers. It was a nice way to end our voyage. We saw a fisherman and some windsurfers, arriving in the harbor of Pythgora a bit after 5PM. Samos is a great place to experience the Greek Islands with a diverse set of things to do: beaches, good food, historic sites, museums, mountains, vineyards, and the sea. I highly recommend this trip and be sure to take the Vasilis Kappos family boat when you go to Samiopoula.
Post Script. Today we went for a drive in the mountians and small villages on the southern tip of Samos Island, just across from Samiopoula. Rounding a bend on the curving mountian road between the towns of Paghonhas and Spatharaioi we saw Samipoula far below us. You can see the actual view in the first photo below. Then I zoomed in to capture the area we visited on Monday with the church and tavern on the hill top to the left and the beach below it on the right. Zooming in further you can see more details of the church and tavern on the left and the beach on the right. In the beach photo you can also see the small dock and Captain Vasilis’s bost at anchor off from the dock to the right.
Only external photo credit is from wikipedia (first one)
I spent some time in Mytilini, a mountain village on the island of Samos, Greece last month, an island located a mile off the Turkish coast. During our visit we explored the south central part of Samos island beginning with the ruins of the temple of Hera. It was built in stages beginning in the 8th century BC and the temple was much larger than the Parthenon but subsequent builders saw it as a good supply of ready cut stones for building new things.
Only one column is still standing and it is half its original size that must have been over 60 feet. You can see the Scared Way that led from the temple to old city of Pythagora. It was paved in the 7th century BC and ran almost 5 km.
Next we walked around the seaside town of Ireo. There were a number of waterfront restaurants and one advertised live music on Monday and Friday.
Next we stopped at the Tower of Sarakinis built in the 16th century AD. It was a left to a monastery on the island by the boatswain of the Ottoman Captian Kilic Ali Pasha who encouraged the re-population of the Samos in 1562. Beside it is a small, unusually shaped church.
We also drove through some remote mountain villages with peaceful shaded town squares. We are trying to do as many secondary paved roads as we can. Below is the town square in Myloi and the town from the hills above it. The green spot in the center is the town square with a very large old tree. This is usual situation in Greek inland villages, a central square with a large shade tree or several trees, and at least one taverna or cafe. The seaside villages, like Ireo above, run the central street and tavernas along the sea and are less likely to have a central square.
Next stop was Paghondas shown below. The second picture below shows the view from our table at Paghondas where we had foamy ice coffee, the Greeks call a frappe. Inside the cafe was a very large black and white photograph taken in New Jersey of a 1925 reunion of Greeks who immigrated to the US from Samos. The owner gave us permission to photograph the pictures. We have met a number of people here with American cousins. Next you see the familiar sight of laundry hanging out to dry. In this case it is across from the town square. Clothes dryers are rare on the island with its wind and sun. We did not take the steep ramp shown below to the parking lot but parked on the upper street.
The road from Paghondas to Spatharaioi went along a ridge offering sweeping views to the sea and Mount Kerkas. You could also see the effects of large wild fires that swept sections of the back country several years ago.
We later had lunch in Mavratezi, an even more remote mountain village known for its ceramics. We had a very traditonal lunch: souvaki (grilled pork on skewers), Greek salad, the best bread we have had on the island (from a bakery in Hora), and Tzatziki for 11 Euros. The weather has consistency cooled to the mid-80s so it is pleasant to do things during the day.
Post Script 1: Below is our view from dinner in Ireo as we sat at a corner table in the restaurant shown in first photo. There is Turkey across the water and the Straits of Mikali separating Greece and Turkey. We had dry and sweet white wine with grilled bread, fried mussels, fried calamari, and grilled shrimp. Then we were served a complementary desert of a sweet cake at the end. The view from our table looking the other way follows the dinner pictures. Next we went to a fish tavern to hear some excellent traditional Greek music. Dancers got going part way through.
Post Script 2: Near the temple of Hera is a stretch of beach where you can drive on the back side of the beach. On several of our first nights on the island we watched the sunset over the mountains of Samos behind us and then saw the moon rise over the mountains in Turkey in front of us. We shared the view with a lone surf fisherman on two nights and had it to ourselves on the other.
This was my first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival so I bought a WWOZ Brass Pass to attend every day. I was not disappointed as there were some amazing performances. What follows is the second half of my favorite performances.
The common thread in these was high energy and an intense connection with the audience. I saw many other musicians that I really like but these Jazz Fest sessions moved me the most. I could not pick a best so the following are listed in alphabetical order.
BB King provided an emotional set and talked a lot. Allen Toussiant came out to give him praise. He said at the end that New Orleans has the best musicians of any city in the world. When he was young and playing his blues in Memphis he was hesitant to come down to New Orleans and play in front of them. He closed his set with “Saints” as a tribute to the city.
Rosie Ledet and Zydeco Playboys have become my favorite living Zydeco group. She has a very danceable beat and does not play too fast like some of the other newer generation.
Taj Mahal has been a long favorite. He closed out the Blues tent with ten tubas and sousaphones.
Jeffrey Osborne offered his sexy soul music from the 80s to a large crowd at Congo Square.
Irma Thomas tribute to Mahalia Jackson was intense. She put so much emotion into the music that she had to be helped off the stage.
101 Runners is a great Mardi Gras Indian funk band fronted by two chiefs and backed some strong New Orleans musicians. At one point Chief Juan Pardo’s daughter was dancing to her father’s music. He brought her up on stage and then held her up.
This was my first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival so I bought a WWOZ Brass Pass to attend every day. I was not disappointed as there were some amazing performances. What follows are my favorite performances. The common thread in these was high energy and an intense connection with the audience. I saw many other musicians that I really like but these Jazz Fest sessions moved me the most. I could not pick a best so the following are listed in alphabetical order.
James Andrews packed high energy with a group of strong New Orleans musicians.
Roy Ayers did his smooth jazz magic and signed my CD at the end.
The Bolton Brothers were a strong Gospel group that got the audience engaged in their efforts.
The Campbell Brothers provided Gospel themed blues and provided a lot of power in their message.
Jimmy Cliff generated a lot of energy at the Congo Square stage in front of a muddy field.
George Duke and Stanley Clarke played some wonderful jazz together. I was sad to learn that George passed in August and feel fortunate to have seen him.
Here’s twenty more reasons to love New Orleans. Let’s start with food and then we’ll move onto the quirky and of course, music.
One: We arrived late on a Wednesday but found O’Henry’s open late for dinner. It is a neighborhood place I have driven by many times but had not yet stopped with so many other choices. The food was excellent and warrants a return. We had crawfish and corn bisque, fried catfish with crawfish Monica sauce, mushrooms and jambalaya, salad with shrimp. It is located at 634 S Carrollton Ave. (504) 866-9741
Two: The next night we went to the Three Muses for music and food. For food we had Bird’s Nest Shrimp salad, Serrano wrapped scallops, Korean BBQ ribs, peach almond mascarpone empanada with blueberry Creole cream cheese ice cream. It is located at 36 Frenchmen St (504) 252-4801. I had heard good things about the food there. I now think it is the best food on Frenchmen but I have a few more to sample.
Three: We also saw Sarah Quintana do a nice Happy Hour set at Three Muses. We have seen her before and have her CD. She sang several songs in French for some visitors.
Four: Debbie Davis followed up Sarah with a quartet that included Alex McMurray (guitar), Josh Paxton (piano) and Matt Perrine (sousaphone). I have heard her with the New Orleans Nightingales and the Pfister Sisters on several occasions. Her quartet was wonderful.
Five and Six: Walking back to our car we heard Water Seed at Vaso. Their sound was inviting and high energy. We stopped in for the rest of their set. My friend knew the bass player as she taught him in school. New Orleans is such a small town we often see people we know. They add flute to new school R&B. We bought their two CDs. Vaso is located at 1407 Decatur (504) 272-0929.
Seven: The next day for lunch we went to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for the best fried chicken in America (as voted by several organizations), along with a salad, excellent smothered veal and fried okra. It is located at 2401 St Ann St. (504) 822-9503
Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven: The second volume of the Cosmo Matassa collection supplied 112 songs that I supplemented with some Dave Bartholomew, Heavy Sugar, and a Fats Domino collection. It is located at 210 Decatur St. (504) 586-1094.
Twelve: Next it was on to the Louisiana Music Factory for a cruise through of their extensive collection. It is located at 25 Camp St. (504) 539-9600.
Thirteen: On the way home we stopped at Rouse’s at 4500 Tchoupitoulas, a Louisiana food chain for some fresh local drum for dinner. They always have a good selection of local products.
Fourteen: Once home we watched the Saints win their second exhibition game over the Raiders. The starters looked great and had a 23-7 lead at the half. The subs held on for a 28 – 20 win. This could be the season to repeat 2009 now that the coach is back and they have a new defensive coordinator.
Fifteen: For lunch the next day we truned to our neighborhood convience store, Oak Discount. It as fine fried chicken to go and excellent poboys made to order. The 16 inch fried trout poboy is only $7 and inlcudes a free 12 oz drink. For a few dollars more you get fried shrimp or fried oyster. The 16 inch is usually only 2 dollars extra over the 8 inch and easily makes lunch for two. There are many small neighborhood stores with similar food and prices around the city. You can see the two halves below and then one openned.
Sixteen and Seventeen - Spontaneous second lines can happen at any time. We were walking over to see the silent auction to support the Krewe of Oak and its mid summer Mardi Gras parade on August 31. I donated a couple of paintings to the effort. The Krewe of Oak operates out of the Maple Leaf Bar and has been marching during carnival for some time. There are a lot of expenses to cover for the August event. On the way we encountered a band coming up to the street to honor the openning of a new doctor’s office on Oak Street.
Eighteen, Nineteen, and Twenty: That night we went to the New Orleans Botanical Garden for an August garden party with Johnny Sansone with Alex McMurray. Johnny does some powerful blues harmonica and accordian. Alex was doing very strong bluesy electric guitar, quite different than his gig with Debbie Davis two nights ealrier. They were followed by Bonerama, a well known brass and funk group. We have seen both groups at other festivals before. It got dark so here is an earlier shot of Bonerama at Bayou Bogaloo.
This was a lot to pack into three days and four nights but this is normal for NOLA.
Over the summer, we hit New Orleans for a little over a week after an extended road trip to the way too hot Northeast. We need our fix of New Orleans music before going to Seattle at the beginning of August so we did eight bands over six nights.
Despite the two no-shows in the heat of late July the city brought a rich and varied selection of styles and venues, including some of our favorites and some new ones for us. We also sampled a little food but having eaten a lot of road food we kept that to three places.
Seven and Eight: When we were in Vermont, we saw that Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses were playing at the Fourth of July celebration in Montpelier. When we got there we found out that Aurora was still In Vermont with another band. However, the real Royal Roses with a new clarinet player did a nice job of traditional jazz and we still pleased we came. We also see Aurora with Tom McDermott at Buffa’s on Thursday on a regular basis.
Nine: We live near the Maple Leaf and used to go the 101 Runners drum practice where one of neighbors played at 8pm before carnival but most of the bands appear later than we like. We make do exceptions for bands like the 101 Runners when the full band plays late. We were very pleased to see than one of our favorites, Jon Cleary with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen had taken over the Papa Grows Funk Monday slot and moved up their start to 9PM.
We often saw Jon do his solo act at d.b.a and Chicki Wah Wah but his whole band is extended joy.
Ten: On Tuesday we met a friend at the High Hat Café for lunch. This is one of the many neighborhood places that have been around for a while. It serves food from the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana. There is a long list of neighborhood places we have been to but this was new for me. We will return for sure. We had BBQ Shrimp with Pimento Cheese Grits and Spicy Seared Gulf Red Fish with New Potato and Shrimp Hash. We could resist sharing a piece of Chocolate Chess Pie with vanilla ice cream for desert. The High Hat is located at 450 Freret Street, New Orleans. 504-754-1336.
On Tuesday we had planned to start at the Circle Bar but when we got there we found out that they did not update their web site to let us know that Emily and the Velvet Ropes did their last set at the Circle Bar last week. We had seen Emily last year at Mimi’s in the Marigny and was pleased to see that she was back, although that was an illusion. As I mentioned, having been burned twice in the same week, we learned to actually call ahead and speak to a person in the summer to see if the designated musicians are really going to play.
Eleven: So we stopped by and checked on out second planned stop for the night, John Rankin at the Columns Hotel and they confirmed his 8PM start. John is a friend and we have enjoyed his Columns set several times. He brings in different guests so there is a good variety. This night John was solo and this is also a very relaxed and pleasant experience. He did some Spanish guitar, along with a lot of old New Orleans stuff and several of his own songs. My grandmother ran the Columns Hotel in the 1950s and I have many childhood memories of the place. There is a majestic stained glass skylight at the top of the stairs going up to the rooms. She lived on the top floor so I saw it every time I went up to her room.
Twelve: Chiba is one of our favorite places in New Orleans and it is one of the twenty great places within walking distance of our home. Here is an early post I did: Chiba: Great Japanese Food with a New Orleans Twist. This night we did small plates: cucumber seaweed salad, pork and crawfish fried dumplings, vegetable tempura, freid oyster, shrimp tempura, and short rib steamed buns, bananas foster egg roll with icream, blue berry bread pudding with ice cream. It was all fresh and wonderful. Chiba is located at 8312 Oak Street (504) 826-9119. They do take out but we enjoy sitting at the bar watching all the new drinks being prepared. If you are coming to the city, add it to your list of places to eat.