Paris – the very name is synonymous with fine taste, understated elegance, subtle beauty and discreet charm.
Paris architecture is uniform, proportioned, restrained and where there are flourishes of extravagance, they serve to highlight and underline the harmony of the whole.
Even nature in Paris is organised and ordered – straight lines of trees and parterres with patterned plantings fill the parks.
Generally here is nothing jarring or glaring in the Paris landscape. There is however, the odd aberration. I found the American Dream Multiplexe, in a beautiful little backstreet near the Opera some years ago. It stood among its nineteenth century neighbours, bold and brash, a riot of modern pop symbolism, a loud, unruly blot on the quiet, ordered streetscape – an American Dream in Paris.
Mykonos is certainly one of, if not the most beautiful of the Greek islands. It is known as the jewel of the Aegean and no wonder! Everything here is in complete harmony, both the works of nature and the works of man. Everything is to perfect scale. Nowhere is this balance more beautifully illustrated than in Mykonos town.
It is threatening rain – not an afternoon for the beach – so I turn up a narrow cobbled laneway away from the sea. Small white houses, with blue shutters and gates, crowd in around me. Mykonos Summertime, the island’s premiere lifestyle and travel magazine describes the island’s buildings as, “humble architecture, built at man’s height by free people who do not crawl to meet their master but who dare to look their God in the eyes” It is an apt description. Even monumental buildings, like churches are tiny, with a modest, understated, solid beauty.
My laneway leads me to Akti Kambani, the main waterfront. At one end of the bay is a little church where seafarers give thanks for a safe return. On the waves beyond it, a flotilla of caiiques bobs idly at anchor. In more clement weather, the bay would be empty and all boats would be away, ferrying sun-lovers to the outlying beaches. Now, one small, sad-looking group of beach boys is huddled under a flapping umbrella outside a café, with their hoodies pulled up and their tans turning blue.
Further along the waterfront I find Mando Square, named after Mando Mavrogenous, Mykonos’ most famous heroine who distinguished herself in the fight to overthrow the Turks in the 15th century. A statue to her memory stands in the centre of the square. The bay ends in a cluster of nightclubs. It is three in the afternoon, not yet party time, but even so, their closed doors have a look of finality.
I turn away, into another lane. Two storeyed shops crowd in on either side. In one, a rack of hoodies catches my eye. I have to have one. The lane is cold and like the boys down near the bay, I’m turning blue. I pick out a pale pink number with the symbolic Mykonos anchor embroidered on the chest. As the lady in the shop helps me into it she tells me that the business was her childhood home, until the sixties brought the first tourists. Then, like many other householders in the street, her parents turned the ground floor into a shop and moved the family upstairs. She lives there still with her own family.
Luxuriating in the fluffy warmth of my new pink hoodie, I follow the rise of the lane up the hill. I pass walls, hung with bougainvillea, threaded with pomegranates and apples. The lane opens into a square hung with canopy of grapes and bougainvillea. It is the perfect place to stop and just ponder this place called Mykonos.
I can find no more words so I’ll conclude this post with the proud “voice” of the island Mykonos Summertime
“The light of Apollo is evident everywhere on the island and art, beauty and form are all visible in the simple and eloquence of the dazzling white structures and a centuries old labyrinth of tiny streets and alleyways. The light is further enhanced by the reflection of aqua jewelled and crystal clean waters”