How do you describe Paradise?
Notes on my watercolour retreat on the Island of Paros, Greece
You begin by letting go of the fact that Greece is no where near as beautiful as you imagined it to be for the months, years or decades leading up to this spectacular moment because...
It is more.
It is more lively. It is more peaceful. It is more delicious. It is more colourful.
It's waters are more turquoise and clearer. The sky is bluer ~ ever changing
and, there is a sunset EVERY night.
P is for Paros...
After years of dreaming about Greece, I finally took the plunge and began researching the most suitable island for me and my group to explore with our artist eyes. My research lead me to Paros. A tiny island which, as our host Michael Shepherd described, is "pretty much 20 minutes to anywhere". Paros has everything an artist could want. It is architecturally diverse with its wrought iron balconies, cycladic and neoclassical buildings, beautiful squares and narrow marble corridors… sprawling bougainvillaea, backdropped by phthalo blue water and cerulean blue sky.
Texture to delight any painter, beaches for the sun worshipper, quiet meditative spots under the shade of an olive tree for the sanctuary seekers, rolling hills, crumbling mills and food, food… oh the food!
P is for Patience...
Paros is a little island, so of course getting to it requires an incredible amount of patience, and for some… gravol. It is a 4 hr ferry ride from Athens, ("fast" or slow ferry - both seem to take the same amount of time) but once there - it is worth the arduous journey. We travelled from Canada, so after the 9+hrs of flying + 20 min drive + 4 hr ferry, we were eager to settled into the cozy & spa-like boutique Hotel Apollon in Parikia, the capitol of Paros.
P is for Petite yet Posh...
We all adored the staff and ambience of Hotel Apollon. With it's tranquil music, sweet smells, clean, zen like decor; it was a welcomed sight for our weary jet-lagged eyes. Air conditioned rooms with a soothing palette of seashell coloured tones and perfectly poofed pillows enticed us at the end of each day. Breakfast was equally as generous and welcomed in the white-washed, sundrenched breakfast patio.
P is for Painting...
Parikia is a pretty quiet town. If you're an early riser, you might catch the crow of a rooster or the quiet, slow shuffle of worker off to open the local dry cleaners / coffee shop or corner store. If you're still in bed, the cool light of the morning sun, the buzz of a commuter on a vespa or the muffled cries of persistent cats begging for the first few scraps of breakfast might drift through your window to nudge you awake.
We were all eager to start our days so padding down to the morning breakfast area of our hotel for a strong greek coffee was a luxury few (including yours truly) could resist.
Our first day was spent in town with a half day of painting to ease into our pattern of sketching in our Moleskine journals with pen & ink and eventually working our way to full watercolour studies in our watercolour blocks.
We took a stroll through the historical centre and scoped out the loveliest spots to settle into for both that morning and future locations. It was not an easy task to choose amount the dozens of quaint & picturesque shops, arched corridors, and dapples courtyards.
Although we had a few day trips, it was not hard to find inspiration even within our hometown of Parikia. It is ripe with history, rich in colour and visually enticing. At every turn a vignette, perfectly framed with flowers. A cobalt blue doorway or sea foam coloured shutters give way to a secret garden or a glimpse of the harbour.
A lone chair against a heap of rope and fishing boat. A bicycle leans against a white washed wall…stories to be told. Beauty to behold.
On our first day, Michael chose our location for lunch - the traditional greek cuisine of family run Taverna Mira. We ate like queens. Mousaka, Stuffed Egglpant and in my opinion the BEST tzatziki in Paros handsdown. Hosts Esther and Yiannis were amazing and generous, accomodating not only our large group but our varied culinary needs and restrictions.
So very nice….we had to eat there twice.
With 14 people including myself, we were a hard group to miss and were often on the receiving end of being the tourist attraction! A group from france watches us conquer the perspective of Agios Constantinos Church, set on the hill overlooking the harbour.
The following days, we toured, photographed and ate our way over the hills of Paros. From the ancient town of Lefkes, to the sleepy harbours of Aliki and Piso Livadi and Naousa. We took in a day of sunning at the bizarre rock formations of Kolimpithres and toured the islands of Anti Paros with Captn Ben. Savouring every morsel and every ray of our 12 days of sunshine. Here are only a few of the hundreds of photos taken over our 12 day painting retreat. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to have a peak at the final pieces of artwork and our day trip to Santorini and farewell dinner in Athens.
In addition to the great excursions, we enjoyed amazing company and A la Fresca eating at every meal. Most evenings spent at one of the many beach settings under the setting sun.
Day trip to Santorini (below)
Against talcum white
ever changing in the light
from vanilla to coral to triumphant lavender
End of day conjures the breathiness of salt air
With it, traces of bougainvillea, cicada song
recollections of heat, beach sand, laughter
Beneath closed eyelids a twinkling
dance of light and shadow
down a narrow corridor
As artists, students and explorers, we created some wonderful memories for years to come. However, I suspect, many of will be back. I know I sure will. here are a few watercolour lessons with pen.