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Bright Yellow Lemons from Samos Greece

February 6, 2014 by  

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Here is a 24″ x 24″ acrylic painting of some Greek lemons I took while in Samos Greece this past summer.  Samos is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, south of Chios, north of Patmos and the Dodecanese, and off the coast of Asia Minor, from which it is separated by the 1.6-kilometre-wide Mycale Strait. Enjoy!

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The Annual Crescent City BBQ Blues Festival

January 19, 2014 by  

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The eight annual Crescent City BBQ Blues Festival was held on October 18 – 20, 2013 at Lafayette Square in the CBD in New Orleans. It was my first one but it will become an annual event for me. There were a mix of New Orleans blues bands and those from elsewhere, mostly the US South.

Great BBQ from a variety of traditions fueled the audience over the three days. On Saturday and Sunday there were two stages with performances timed so one started as the other finished. You did not have to make choices, like many other multi-stage events. You simply had to keep moving from one side of Lafayette Park to the other with no wait time between acts.

Saturday began with New Orleans’ own Guitar Lightning Lee, who played a significant role in the HBO series, Treme. I have seen him in town and he is one of the better blues players in the city.

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Blind Boy Paxton played a solo acoustic set. His strong presence carried the stage without needing an electric band behind him. It was the only solo act and he displayed a wide range of roots blues, playing the fiddle, harmonica, guitar, and banjo.

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Sonny Landreth is a master blues guitar player. However, I had seen him in the New England and was disappointed with the seeming lack of passion at that performance in a Worcester MA parking lot. Perhaps he was out of his element then, as his set at the BBQ Blues Fest did not disappoint. He got that blues guitar working quite well with a lot of energy. An artist did a painting of the band during the performance that was auctioned off for over $3,000 for a worthy cause.

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For me, the highlight of the day was Shemekia Copeland who displayed great passion in her performance. She grew up in Harlem. Her father was a famous blues player, Johnny Copeland, and she grew up with this career in mind. Shemekia told a great story about a talent day in her second grade class in Harlem in the 80s. The boys did hip hop and the girls mostly did Whitney Houston. Instead she sang old school blues. Her teacher called to complain to her parents about Shemekia singing about making love to an alligator, Her simply replied, “what do you expect, she is a blues singer.”

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Top photo credit only of James Cotton from offbeat.com - James Cotton, Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival, 2013, photo by Kim Welsh

Greece: The Magic of Samos Island

January 5, 2014 by  

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The island of Samos Greece has a very long history dating back before the 8th century BC with many waves of settlement. One local site mentions that: “The first settlers in the village of Mytilini on Samos originate from Lesbos. They arrived here around 1700 as immigrants and founded the village after an earthquake destroyed their houses on the island of Lesbos. Mytilini is set in a plain and is surrounded by agricultural fields where mainly grapes are grown for the making of wine and also some tobacco. Mytilini has about 2500 inhabitants, so it is quite large compared to some of the other villages on the island. Still it makes a very quiet impression and there are hardly any tourists here.”

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The town square is the main gathering place, along with the long main street that runs straight through town unlike the twisting and turning roads found in many villages. In the square there are several large screen TVs for sports events. For big festivals people come from other smaller villages to join in the celebration, music and food. Several good restaurants serve the square.  There is also a smaller square right on the main street seen below in the early morning before it gets populated.

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The local movie theater is unlike anything in the US. It has a very neighborhood feel like most things here. People chat and have drinks before hand. It is outdoors in a walled garden with tables next to the chairs. You can order food and drinks to have while watching the movie. You can also see the stars overhead. Most movies are in English with Greek subtitles and there are two intermissions. We had souvlaki with fried potatoes and wine. At the last intermission we enjoyed some wonderful complementary fried beignet type pastries with honey, called Lukomates.

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Shops on the long main street include the super market with both food and household items. Next to it is an excellent produce store with fresh fruits and vegetables of all types, as well as a large variety of nuts. There are many other shops covering a wide variety of goods and music club primarily for young people.

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At the end of World War Two Mytilini had about 7,000 inhabitants. During the four year civil war between the Communists who fought in the resistance and the exiled prior government, the population dropped to about 2,000. There was little work and people went elsewhere, often to other countries. As a result about half the houses in the town are abandoned. Those that are lived in are very well cared for but they are often located next to falling down houses. The houses are built right next to each other and often share a common wall to reduce the amount of construction.

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Above the town, it is very rural with goats, olives groves, and a few donkeys. You can also see the town football field which is on the western side of the town. The local football season runs from the end of September to May as it is too hot in the summer. The teams from towns on the island play each other. The champion of the island then plays the champions from other islands.

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The Village of Mytilini on Greece’s Samos Island

January 4, 2014 by  

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Join me on a visual journey through Mytilini, a mountian village in the island of Samos, Greece. Samos is located a mile off the Turkish coast. Twice I have spent over four weeks there, including this past August and September. Samos is an island that Americans seem to ignore unless they have relatives here. Most visitors are from Northern Europe and they gather in the seaside towns and resorts. Mytilini is a mountain village and tends to mostly bring in visitors who are seeing family.

Mytilene is located in the southeastern part of the island, north and east of the Bay of Gera. It has a land area of almost 42 miles and a population of around 40,000 people. The Greek National Road 36 connects Mytilene with Kalloni. Farmlands surround Mytilene, the mountains cover the west and to the north. Below you can see twenty images that we saw on the many walks we took around town.

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Top photo credit only: lesvos.com

A Prairie Barn in Oklahoma Before It Was a State

December 14, 2013 by  

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We are entering the Christmas season, a time of tradition and families. Below is is a painting of my grandparent’s barn in Keystone, Oklahoma who came to Oklahoma before it had even became a state. My grandfather was a country doctor but never earned much money as people had little cash to pay him. A lot of his services like so many back then, were done on a barter basis. My grandmother was a teacher but then ran the family farm to support the family, which mostly consisted of orchards and dairy cows. They drilled five dry wells on the land but many of his neighbors struck it rich with oil.

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Greece’s Samos: Revisiting Mytilini, a Mountain Village

November 22, 2013 by  

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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.

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A Pythagora Harbor Boat in Greek Samos

October 21, 2013 by  

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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.

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The Beauty of Samiopoula in the Greek Islands

October 18, 2013 by  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Only external photo credit is from wikipedia (first one)

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