Ikaria: the Wine Tasting Experience


‘A man is sitting in a cafe. He’s sipping his coffee while slowly studying his cards. He is 96 years old and has never lost a game. A younger man walks in, he brings bad news: “Vasilis died, he was 87 years old”.
The old man sits there in silence, taking in the news, impassively.
Two weeks later a similar scene takes places in the same bar: a friend steps in and tells everyone that Panos, the 83-year-old man who lived by the port, just died.

The 96 years old man throws the cards on the table, visibly upset and shouts: “what’s going on nowadays with these kids who die so young?’

Georgios pauses and looks at us intently enjoying the effect the joke has had on our small crowd. We are still recovering from the ecstatic waves of laughter.
Our attention now moves back to our wine glasses and their precious content as well as the food on the table prepared for us by Eleni, with fresh ingredients from their organic farm.


Georgios and Eleni live in Ikaria with their 4 children and they run a winery and an agro-tourism business hosting people in their beautiful stone houses in Pigi.

I’ve come across their website while reading about the island and its wine tradition and immediately decided to book a wine tasting for the 2 of us plus our Dutch neighbours.


We all meet at the farm around 6 pm after exploring the Southern part of the island and stopping at Therma for a dip into Ikaria’s famous mineral water springs.

After a small introduction of himself and the farm, Georgios gives us a tour of the vineyard spread over a terraced hill. We then have a chance to peep inside Eleni’s kitchen while she’s preparing canapé food for the wine tasting. Finally, we sit at a long table on their covered terrace. One of their guests, a French man, joins us for a glass.


It is a gorgeous evening and we enjoy the sunset while tasting Georgios’ wines.
He let us try 3 different ones, a white and two reds. We sip the wine while tasting Eleni’s starters. Everything is just perfect and I take a mental picture of the place, the lovely hosts, the sunset, feeling inebriated by the wine and the company.


Of the three wines we try, the last one, The Philosopher, is my favourite. Aged for 10 years in barrique, this wine is full-bodied and as rich on the nose as it is on the palate: a mixed bouquet of red berries, tobacco, vanilla, liquorice, inebriates the nostrils while its velvety texture cares the palate.


Eleni and Georgios are already quite famous as they have been interviewed many times by different magazines and TVs, all trying to get to the bottom of Ikaria’s fame as the island of longevity.

When asked about the secret of the island, Georgios says it’s all about living life at the right pace, and enjoying it: healthy food, grown organically, fresh water, great Ikarian wine, strong family ties and plenty of sex, even when you are not a spring chicken anymore!

Watch our video on “Ikaria – Sailing Gladan”


Ikaria: the island of longevity

We set off sails from Samos on a Monday early morning. We checked 2 or 3 different weather forecasts before departing towards Ikaria as the island is famous for its very strong winds.


Ikaria reaches an altitude of more than 900 metres: winds slide off the mountain slopes acquiring speed, and gusts of 30 plus knots are not uncommon on both sides of the island when the wind blows. Sailors are advised to keep 5 miles off the coast to avoid bad surprises.


The island derives its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus, who flew too close to the sun: his wings made of wax started to melt and he fell in the sea, in the same spot where the island is – so the legend says.

Together with a few other blue zones (areas of the world where people live on average a decade longer than those in America or Europe), Ikaria has built a reputation for its longevity: around one in three Ikarians lives into their 90s.

Their secret? Couple of glasses of wine every day, little meat and fried food, sage or mint tea, bust most importantly a very active sexual life…even through their late eighties!


The sailing was good as the weather was quite clement with us. We only faced 30 knots in the channel between Samos and Fourni, as expected, and then sailed with 25 knots all the way to the port. The wind direction kept changing quite often so we kept an extra eye open.

We arrived at the port of Evdilos, in the northern part of the island, around lunchtime and managed to moore stern to. The port is quite small and the constant swell makes the stay rather uncomfortable. We discovered only afterwards that the port on the Southern side is better protected and would have probably been a more suitable option.


Ikaria is an unspoiled, wild island. Moving around the 255,000 square metres takes time as roads are quite narrow and winding. They go up and down the mountains around the island’s perimeter and it is common to find pebbles and gravel along the road as the rocky mountains are sanded by water streams.


The island is lusciously green in the north where in springtime it’s a great feast of colours and perfumes: the yellow brooms, the dark green maritime pines, the little lilac flowers, the delicate daisy flower all moving rhythmically, gently caressed by the sea breeze.

Our first stop with the car was Nas, in the North, where there is a very spectacular, picturesque scenery: the fresh water stream coming down the mountains joins the open sea. They face each other fearlessly mirroring their contrasting natures: the first placid and contained, the second wild and limitless. In between, witnessing this constant shift of personality only a little strip of sandy beach.


Stone steps take you down to the beach and back up to the tavernas that populate the village. Sitting on the balcony of one of the few restaurants already open in early May, Artemis, we admired the view, breathed in the salty air and enjoyed fresh fish cooked in the oven (both skala and palamito were absolutely delicious!) and salad made with greens from the garden, all accompanied by a perfumed, delicate white wine from Ikaria.

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Reds and whites are both produced on the island and winemakers are getting more and more skilled, obtaining interesting results.


Wether it’s a blend of Assyrtiko, Fokiano, Koudouro and Reteno or white Begleri, Ikarian wines are full of flavour.

20170503_125604The southern part of the island reserves even more surprises. Arid, rocky, dominated by the majestic mountains, with its natural hot springs in Lefkada, several spas in Therma and the beautiful beach of Seychelles. Loads to discover!

Watch our video on Ikaria!

Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 3

Zakynthos and the shipwreck bay

We continued sailing towards our destination, now stopping more often than before and taking it easy as we came to the conclusion – with great disappointment on my side, initially- that we won’t make it to Sicily in time for me to see my family reunited and my friends there on holiday.


We had a few delays along the way: we were in Milos for 4 days as the wind was too strong and the sea quite rough, making it very difficult for us to cross to the southern part of the Peloponnesos. We also stopped a few days in Koroni to rest as we were quite tired after sailing for many days, stopping only at night to sleep.

Sailing teaches you a big lesson: you and your plans mean nothing when at sea.

You are just a minuscule pawn on a big chess board: you have no control on your moves. No point in being stubborn and trying to impose your will: no matter what, you’ll have no chance to change the course of the game.

All you can do is second the elements.


Sometimes I look at sailing as a metaphor of life: when the wind is constantly on your nose and you struggle to make any progress then it’s probably time to stop and wait for more favourable conditions before setting sails again. Like in life, sometimes it’s wiser to step aside and gain a new perspective on things before making the next move.

Having come to terms with the new circumstances all was left to do was take a deep breath and enjoy the journey! Tough thing to do when sailing in the beautiful Greek waters with thousands of wonderful islands to visit, right?

navagio bay

Next stop along the way was Zakynthos. The name sounded very familiar to me and I then remembered why! Ugo Foscolo, a famous Italian poet, dedicated a poem to the island where he was born.

In the poem, Foscolo laments the fact that he will never be able to go back to his beloved homeland with its luxuriously green slopes and its turquoise waters which gave birth to the goddess Venus.

Having been exiled from the island, he will never be able to be buried on its fertile soil washed by crystalline waters.

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He compares himself to Ulysses as they share a similar fate. Ulysses, though, did manage to go back to his Ithaca eventually. The poet instead will never see this dream come true.

Gc and I started reciting the poem while sailing, feeling very sympathetic towards the unlucky poet.

High on poetry and sea breeze, we kept on going until we saw an unusual movement of boats, yachts and super yachts – all concentrated in a small patch of sea.


What was going on there? People call people.. and our curious souls couldn’t resist the temptation. We joined the crowd.

And what a beautiful spectacle started to take shape in front of our eyes! Clear water, white sandy beaches, and a bay enclosed within steep reefs, stretching high in the sky.  What a divine scene! The colours so vivid and intense, the water so crystalline it almost looks transparent, the sky so blue. A brown carcass resting on the beach.

What’s that? I grab the binoculars to ascertain the nature of that ‘thing’…we are still too far to be able to distinguish the contours.

I look intently….Wow! Hundreds of people are on the beach surrounding the ‘thing’. A shipwreck – that’s what it is!

DSC_3028 What’s this massive wreck doing there? I started wondering. Well, story goes that in the October of 1980 the ship was carrying cigarettes illegally, smuggled from Turkey and destined for the Sicilian black market controlled by mafia. The Greek coast guard had tailed it for a while and grown suspicious: they wanted to search the goods.

It was a stormy night and the waves were getting higher and higher. The ship would go up and then slide down the wave, in an rhythmic way, every time reaching new heights. The crew grew restless as they became aware of the coast guard chasing them.

The captain decided to hide in the bay: it was the only way to shake them off their tail.  The high waves though pushed the boat too far inside the bay and it got stuck on a shoal. The crew somehow managed to escape.

For months after the incident, locals would help themselves with cigarettes and whisky from the new ‘free market’: the Panagiotis shipwreck!

Some believe the Greek Ministry of Tourism to be behind all this. A smart way to attract more tourists!DSC_3021

We loved the place and the touch of mystery around the wreck, but decided to wait until all the day-trippers had left before approaching land! That way we could enjoy the beach and the wreck by ourselves.

We anchored in the bay and had a light lunch with a mixed salad.

It was roughly 6pm and the beach was almost empty. I prepared our pic- nic bag with crisps, G&T and some olives. We boarded our dingy and made our way to the beach. Best place for our aperitif!

DSC_3096On the beach, we bumped into some very nice people who happened to be the owners of one of the super yachts anchored in the bay. They were so nice as to invite us for a drink on their boat that night.

The drink turned into a dinner and we had a great time aboard their luxurious boat. Great hosts and great food cooked by their chef.

The night was a bit rocky as there is a big swell in the bay. It is not advisable to anchor in the bay unless the weather is very calm and, even so, expect some swell if you decide to spend the night there.

What a great stay in this marvellous bay!DSC_3040

Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 2

KORONI and the turtles

We stopped in KORONI on our way to Sicily from Leros. We set off from Plitra in the morning and got to KORONI after several hours of sailing. The town looks very cute once you get close enough: blurred shapes start turning into nicely built houses and villas, a medieval castle on the left hand side dominates the bay and a cute cluster of houses and flats climb up the hill.



The road facing the sea is dotted with bars, restaurants, ice cream parlours and ‘ouzerie’,one after the other. Walking along it you end up to the castle, a magnificent building that dominates the surrounding sea.


20170815_202701We were starving after a day out sailing and went to a nice restaurant and had a fish platter for 2 and a small caraffe of ouzo. The food was just ok, not the best we had in Greece but our tummies were now full and we started wandering around the streets to get to know the place a bit better.


Our attention was caught by a group of people standing by a kiosk. They wore a blue t-shirt with ‘ask me about sea turtles’ on it. Who can resist such an invitation?

We went there and enquired about sea turtles! It was only the day before that I had seen a big turtle swimming by our boat in Plitra so I was more than happy to find out more about these interesting creatures.

The volunteers told us that Zangla beach in KORONI is one of the areas where female turtles lay their eggs. Exactly the same place where they hatched at least 20 years earlier- the wonders of nature and ‘no GPS’!


Sea turtles keep coming back every 3 years during the breeding period (May to October). They live up to 80 years and start laying eggs in their 20ies- just like humans!

The little turtles hatch at night and reach the sea following the reflection of the moon on the water. The short journey from the nest to the sea is very important for them as it strengthens their flippers and their lungs before their first dip.


The volunteers also told us that they go for a long walk on the beach every morning at 6.15 to check the nests and help baby turtles who might have lost their way to the sea. People are encouraged to join them.

We really liked the idea! At 5.45 am the day after I woke up Gc with some nice espresso still hot from the Moka and with a torch in one hand and the pillow marks still on our faces, we started speeding towards Zangla beach with our dingy.

We saw a group of people moving in the dark and waved at them. It was the volunteers together with some other tourists who had decided to join them for the day.

We started walking towards the first nest -there were 46 all together on Zangla beach- which had been marked with some bamboo canes and protected with a mesh to prevent foxes from digging them out and eating them.

During our long walk we saw signs of flippers along the path marked by the volunteers, which meant that some baby turtles had made it to the sea safely the night before. We also noticed some foxes footprints and broken shells: a clear sign that some little turtles never made it…


We were told that couple of days before few baby turtles had been found in the garden of a beach house. The outdoor light had been left on at night and the turtles had mistaken it for the reflection of the moon on the sea and gone the wrong way. Those didn’t make it either….

After 2 hours of walking, we didn’t see any baby turtles that morning, but we learned a lot about the Caretta Caretta turtle and how important it is to respect their environment and to protect them. The mother will go to the beach to lay the eggs, if she encounters obstacles along the way she will try 3 times. After the third attempt though she will give up and release all the eggs at sea. The baby turtles have no chance to survive if that happens.


Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 1

 The couple-breaking cocktail!

We left Leros at the beginning of August and started our journey towards Sicily. The first few days were great: just the right amount of wind to sail pleasantly.

We spent the first night in Amorgos, in the beautiful bay of Ormos Kalotiri, SE of Nisis Nikouria. The passage has very shallow waters and it is advisable to keep close to the northern side of Nikouria island. We crossed in the middle where the water is just above 1 metre deep. Our draught is 1.20 mt, I still don’t know how we managed not to touch the sea bed!


We had previously visited Amorgos- the monastery carved in a cave on a steep promontory dominating Agia Anna, the cute little kora with its narrow streets and picturesque houses, the turquoise water and wild nature, the Diomarini’s taverna and its seafood!- so although the temptation to stop again for a few days was very strong, we continued towards Ios.



We were all energised at the idea of getting to Sicily and we thought it’d be quite easy – couple of weeks and we’d be there! I had family and friends waiting for me there, longing for a comfortable sail aboard our Gladan.

The second night at Ios we were at anchor again. We got there late in the afternoon, just in time for a swim before a nice dinner at one of the tavernas on the long, sandy beach of Manganarimanganari

Folegandros was our next stop and we decided to spend the night in the port as the wind was going to pick up at night.

The small port can’t fit more than 10 boats, but the port captain tried to squeeze in as many yachts as possible so we were all on top of each other.

He wasn’t very helpful during the mooring manoeuvres: he would move around lazily and clumsily, shouting at us to get closer to the other boat instead of helping with the ropes.

Gc got upset and his Italian half took over the English aplomb: he started shouting something not very complimentary back at him. Luckily enough he did so in Italian and the guy didn’t understand or pretended not to.

Our neighbours happened to be Italians and they did understand! They started giggling while helping us with the ropes. Eventually we moored and settled in the port.

Mooring is always a tricky time. Even the more experienced sailors and solid couples put their relationship at risk every time they enter a crowded port. Even more so if the wind is blowing.

Here is the perfect couple-breaking cocktail: a crowded port, badly designed pontoons and wind blowing at 25+ knots. In these circumstances, it is 100% sure that the couple won’t talk to each other for at least a night. There is a 50% chance that she might end up sleeping in another cabin, and a 25% chance she will pack her staff and leave without even turning to say bye.

We have seen couples shouting at each other all sort of swearing words and coming up with new ones we never heard of. Sailors do have loads of time in their hands to be creative that way!

We have seen couples pushing each other out of the way – normally men do that to the ‘silly women who can’t understand anything and can’t even follow simple instructions’…just quoting some sailors here!

Normally it’s all over once the ropes are safely secured to the pontoon and the engine is switched off.

That’s when the man tidies up bits and pieces, turns the navigation instruments off and starts flavouring the well deserved cold beer after a long day at sea. The woman on the other hand, withdraws to her cabin cursing the man, the bloody boat, the day she decided to move on the bloody boat. beer

Why couldn’t I just stay in London with my friends and my reassuring routine…Ops, I gave myself away, didn’t I?

Couple of beers later, the man is quite relaxed and has forgotten what happened before. He is breathing in the sea air while polishing the boat, stopping from time to time to contemplate her: she’s definitely the most beautiful on earth, her shapes, those morbid curves, the big hulls, how could he do without her? What would his life mean without her, the boat!gladroman

He suddenly realises that it is unusually quiet around him. Wasn’t there someone else on the boat?  And isn’t it dinner time yet?

The woman is still in the cabin pretending to watch a movie while thinking she’ll be leaving the following morning. He peeks in and asks her what is she up to.

Time has come for THE confrontational talk: the post-mooring debrief.


She dries her tears away and sits at the table listening to his lectures on ‘how to moore best’.

Reluctantly she somehow ends up agreeing with him and can hear herself saying ‘ ok, we’ll try to communicate better next time’. Next time? Next time? You silly woman! You have been tricked into it again….

Winter in Leros

You might wonder what you can do an a remote island with less than 8000 inhabitants during the short and windy days of winter time?

Well, we have found a small community of live-aboard people staying in our marina. They’ve all sailed around the world and have so much experience and so many fascinating stories that we are always all ears when in their company, trying to absorb all the little tips that you only get from the people who have done it! When you listen to them recounting their stories it all just seems very simple, easy, natural, and that’s because it’s like second nature to them. For us instead, being novices, even small problems can sometimes cause a crisis!


Despite living on a secluded island we manage to have fun and keep active. Last Sunday for example we organised an excursion with our friends and managed to get lost on a promontory off the lovely village of Alinda. The sun was shining, the strong meltemi had taken a day off and we set off for our trekking adventure high spirited and full of enthusiasm. We had a little mascotte, Pasca, who spent most of the time barking and chasing the poor goats away. It was funny to see animals 5, 10 times bigger than her hop around the hill in distress, scared off by this little monster, and climb up the mountain until they conquered an inexpugnable position!


PASCA – our little mascot!

We had been walking for more than 2 hours when we decided to split in two groups, some of us dared to follow the path of a water stream that had cut into the valley creating very deep gauges. We can only imagine how strongly the water must come down when it rains heavily. And believe me it can rain heavily here in Leros!

Eventually we got to our final destination: the fish restaurant! Famished but satisfied by the mission accomplished we enjoyed our fried calamari, shrimps cooked in ouzo, cheese saganaki, and much more.

What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday with beautiful surroundings, great company and excellent food and drinks. Γεια μας!


Sailing with friends

Our friends came to visit and this time we decided to head South of Kos and went to explore Nysiros, Yali’, Tilos, Halki and Symi. All different from each other but beautiful and unique. Nysiros so far has been our favourite though! A bit off the beaten track with its wild and unspoiled nature and its moon-like volcanic landscape.

Of course a visit to Stenafos crater is a must when you go there, although only few know that there is another, smaller crater of a still active volcano not too far from the one everyone visits.dsc_1266dsc_1280

If you get to Pali (much better than the main port, Mandraki) and moore in the little, cute harbour you can rent scooters from Captain’s House (or the one on the opposite side of the harbour) and go explore the beauty of this island. Nikeia and Emborios, the two villages on top of the mountains are definitely worth seeing. The view from up there is just breathtaking!

Walking  around Nikeia you won’t see many people except for the few locals and tourists sitting in the main square where the little white and blue church is. Emborios looks like a ghost town with many abandoned, semi-destroyed houses. It looks as if an earthquake has knocked down half of the village and they are now trying to bring it back to life. There is a hotel though with little wooden balconies painted in light green that has got the most charming spot of all. There is a terrace where you can sip your coffee in the morning or drink your G&T at sunset, while overlooking the entire valley and the enormous caldera of the now dormant volcano.

When it comes to eating out there are quite a few tavernas in Pali and Afrodite seems to be one of the best. If you go to Mandrake (the main town) you should try the Italian taverna/pizzeria Bacareto – be careful though as the chef can bite! Make sure you go before or after peak hours (20.30/21.30) as he gets very stressed out when the place is overcrowded and starts swearing in Italian! Food is really good and if you don’t understand Italian you’ll be ok!

People on the island are really friendly and they all speak perfect English as most of them lived in Australia or the US before moving back.

Sailing with family

We spent the mid weeks of August sailing from Kos to Patmos together with G’s family. After a few stops in Kalymnos, Leros and Archangelos we got to the beautiful island of Patmos where a visit to the monastery and the famous Cave of the Apocalypse were a must. Strolling along the cute allies of the town centre in Skala was very enjoyable too. There are quite a few shops with pretty clothes and handmade crafts.


Gladan behaved very well and even let others sail her!