Private Clubs - Issue Archives

Summer 2015

Luxury Lifestyle Magazine From ClubCorp, the World Leader in Private Clubs

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Page 45 of 123

cacti whose pinkish-red prickly pears glow like rubies; endless olive groves climb rolling hills, growing not in organized rows but a scattered array. Over lunch on the shores of Kotronas, at Gefseis En Plo, an upscale nautically inspired spot run by chef, cookbook author, and TV personality Mary Panagakou, we savor signature dishes typical of the area, salads topped with the regional cured-pork called siglino, say, and other specialties, including tender roasted goat with wilted fennel fronds and artichoke hearts. We talk of old Maniot ways, most now changed with the times: women who wore black because they lost sons or husbands in family feuds; locals who left for Athens and then set down roots in the most challenging terrain they could find there — because it felt like home. Later that day, we visit a hauntingly beautiful vestige of those feuds: Vathia, a now-empty hilltop village that’s among the best preserved of Mani’s towered towns. During the feuds, these hamlets, Fermor wrote, came to be “scattered across the mountains like scores of hornets’ nests,” built higher and higher, not only to compete with neighbors but to provide strategic vantage. Approaching at golden hour, we find Vathia just as Fermor described it, its towers poking out from a ridge “like the spikes along an iguana’s back.” Before leaving, we look back at the city, now set aglow in sunset’s amber-hued light. I think of Fermor again, writing that these tower-towns “had the hallucinating improbability of a mirage.” Here, he referred to Kitta, where we now head to stay at the 3-year-old boutique hotel Citta dei Nicliani. Its rooms occupy a series of these towers, all with stunning views of a valley filled with olive trees, villages, and limestone cliffs. The oldest of the hotel’s buildings date back 1,000 years, but they hardly look their age, plushly appointed in French country-house-inspired furnishings, with Guy Laroche linens covering the deeply comfortable beds. The next day begins with that spellbinding walk to Tainaron’s lighthouse, but rather than descending to its sea cave, we depart for nearby Diros instead. There, a boatman-guide paddles us through water-filled caverns whose impressive, otherworldly white-stone formations look like the arching entrances to tower-houses in some places, its stalactites like crystal chandeliers in others. We emerge into the light of day soon enough, for a late lunch in harbor-side Limeni. At the seafood taverna Takis, whose tables sit on a stone terrace overlooking the clearest turquoise cove I’ve ever seen, a cook lightly fries our just-caught red mullet after cleaning it in a bucket of saltwater pulled right from the bay. We savor the fish’s pure flavor along with marinated anchovies, garlicky tzadiki, and a feta-filled salad, then return to Citta dei Nicliani once more. For our final day in Mani, Elena has arranged a series of special-access entrees. We begin in Kardamyli, where we visit the former home of Fermor himself. Upon his death in 2011, the famed author left the grand waterfront stone villa he built here to Athens’ Benaki Museum, which now plans to create a research and cultural

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