Going Back Somewhere You Love

thumb_P1020034_1024In the beginning, we were going to go to Sifnos only once. The world is large, it has endless places to see and our future travels would take us to more of those. The only thing we wondered was whether this small island would keep us interested and occupied for the three weeks we were planning to stay. It did. Since then, my husband and I have returned to the island ten more times, always for a month at a time. The one certainty now when we go to plan our next year’s trips is that it’s not a question of whether we’ll go to Sifnos, we only ask ourselves when.

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Perhaps it is yours, whether with Sifnos or more likely somewhere else. Travellers take their time to explore a place well and, the more they look, the more fascinating they find what they see and the more connections they make there. Before they know it, the place has sunk its hooks into them and the pull to go back a second time and many more is strong. Irresistible, really. Ask them about this place and their eyes shine.

There was a time when I worried that the desire to go back somewhere we’d already been was a sign of laziness on our part, a lack of imagination, a certain complacency perhaps. It is easier to simply say, “Yup, let’s go there,” than to sort through all the alternatives, to research what each one has to offer, to decide which is the right one just now, and then to arrange the logistics of how to get there and where to stay. But the warmth of the Sifnian sun and so much more had crept into my bones, had put a smile on my face that would not be erased, and thoughts of going back would not be stilled. Yet I wondered, was this a trap, were we getting into a rut? Had we already done everything there was to do there, and we’d find ourselves bored? 

Well, no.

I’m so glad now that we listened to that loud voice, did not resist the island’s strong pull on our hearts. The writer Scott Stavrou talks about living on a small island, nearby Paros in his case, and sharing the same stones as everyone else there, the same stories. My eyes flew open when I read that. I’ve felt the same phenomenon myself, have found endless stories on Sifnos to write about – two books so far and this blog – and the more often I go there, the more I realize I am not merely witness to those tales, I find myself becoming a small part of them myself.  

“What do you do when you’re there?” so many people at home ask. Surely you’ve seen it all by now, is what I know they are thinking. Why on earth don’t you go somewhere new? 

What do we do? We explore. We eat. We drink. We laugh. We learn more every time we are there. We live whatever adventures the island has in store for us this time. We make connections, spend time with good friends and make more. We experience life in this part of the world and bring back home with us the best parts of it. All of that takes time. We know now that we’ve barely scratched the surface.

This past spring on Sifnos my husband Jim, a serious black-and-white photographer, turned his camera lens onto the kind of stones Scott speaks of. I spent a lot of my time merely sitting on one rock or another, listening to the echoes of this ancient land. After finishing my second book Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales just before we left home, right then I needed nothing more. And nothing less.

Jim Blomfield’s photographs

Small Shores, Large Horizons, Scott Stavrou

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new in spring 2019, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.

Falling in Love with Kos

FB_IMG_15381647778073488My previous post, “Two Weeks … Four Islands?” stirred up considerable conversation both on Facebook and on the blog itself. Varied opinions were expressed and many who wrote were in exuberant agreement with mine, one that urged travellers to slow down and to explore fewer places but more deeply. It was as though they’d been dying to tell someone what they’d experienced by doing just that. 

Interestingly, to a person, every one of those who travel the way I do went on to add something more. Every one of them told about a place they’d discovered by travelling like that, one that speaks to their own heart and that they find themselves compelled to return to again and again. My experience exactly, though I hadn’t said that and I hadn’t mentioned that I’m planning a future post on that very topic. Michael Petersen told about his love of the island of Kos and when I asked if he’d contribute to my blog and he agreed, well, I was thrilled. Thank you, Michael, for your generosity in sharing your thoughts and your beautiful photographs. Perhaps Kos needs to find its way onto my list. 

Michael writes:

It started with an all-inclusive resort. An overly hectic summer had sent my wife and me in search of a week-long Greek island vacation and our travel agent suggested Kos. We happily lazed around the hotel for several days in the early October sun, not yet dreaming that we’d become so captivated that we’d return again and again. Then we decided to take the bus into Kos Town to look around, perhaps see some of the archeological sites. Our first stop was at one of the town’s little cafés for coffee and tea.   

Thus it began, our true introduction to Kos, sitting on the café terrace and looking out onto Kos Town’ harbour. I ordered a Greek coffee and learned to ask for it sketo, with no sugar. When the owner asked, I told him I’m American, my wife is Belgian and we live in Belgium most of the time. He was born and raised in Kos, married an Englishwoman who came for an island visit and never left. Most surprisingly, he has a friend who owned a restaurant in my wife’s hometown in Belgium. 

In the two days remaining, we visited the reconstructed Roman villa and the ancient gymnasium, and wandered through the amazing complex of the ancient agora. We sat in the shade of the ancient plane tree where Hippocrates taught his students in the first medical school, and we were smitten. We’d only begun to scratch the surface of the Greek and Roman culture of this fascinating island, we realized, and we couldn’t wait to return.

 Since that first week, we have come back to Kos three more times, every time for a longer stay.  We’ve left the all-inclusives behind and are happily finding new places to stay, each time closer to the centre of town. Whenever we go back, there are more things to see and do, more people to meet, and friendships that started to form on that first trip to build upon.

This past June we branched out further. We left Kos Town and travelled to the little town of Kardamaina on the southern coast and on another evening to the mountainside town of Zia in time for the sunset over the Western Aegean and Turkey. Watching the the sky turn slowly from blue to orange to red, to fade first to purple and then the black of night, it was impossible to imagine that we’d not be back in Zia again.

Kos has an amazing culture. One would expect, of course, Greek and Roman influences and, being so close to Turkey, Muslim ones. But we were puzzled by so much that seemed Italian around Kos Town and the occasional Italian word we would overhear in conversations. Then a taxi driver told us why. For about 30 years in the early 1900s, Kos was ruled by Italy and, until 1943 when the island was returned to Greece, Italian was its official language. 

 We are both small town people at heart and Kos feeds our love for that atmosphere. Each time we return, we find something new, something we haven’t seen before, and friends we can’t wait to see again. When we go back this September – for the second time this year – we’ve been invited to join a local family, the owners of our favourite restaurant, whose extended family we’ve become a part of, on their fishing and swimming trip. And of course, we’ll go to the coffee shop. It’s our first stop whenever we arrive in Kos Town and a place we go every day as we wander around and explore the town. No wonder Kos is beginning to feel so much like home.


Photos by: Michael Petersen

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.

Two Weeks … Four Islands?

P1140596“I need some help in planning my Greek vacation,” I read recently in an on-line forum. “Is two weeks enough to see four islands? What’s the best way to island hop?” 

This is a variation on the sort of question that shows up there all the time.

I know that I’m an opinionated sort on such matters, that my views about travel are at the far end of the spectrum from those who would ask that, and that everyone has the right to determine what is right for them. Plus I believe that asking questions is a wise thing and I have no wish to belittle this person or anyone else for theirs. I may even at times in my life have asked similar ones myself. But I would argue, vociferously, some might say even rudely, that such questions are actually the wrong ones to ask.

Is two weeks enough to see four islands? Why? What is this mania among travellers for cramming as much into their precious vacation time as they possibly can? For running from one place to the next? For thinking that there’s a master list somewhere of the world’s sights worth seeing and that the more of these they can manage to tick off, the better? And what is this thing with island hopping? 

I’ve come all this way, many would protest to what I’ve just said, and I want to see as much as I can while I’m there. To which I would reply, if it’s the Cyclades you’re planning to see, the part of Greece I know something about, yes there are definite differences from one island to the next. But if you spend so little time in each, they’ll all look the same. You’ll be so gobsmacked at first by the beauty of the whitewashed houses, blue domes, clear seas and bougainvillea boughs that your eyes won’t yet be open to any of what makes each one unique.

And why think that seeing is the only thing worth doing? You’ve been given more senses than that. Why not make good use of them all? Why not take the time to hear, really hear the soft waves against the shore, the wind through the olive trees, the clip clop of a donkey’s hooves? To merely sit on a rock and hear the echoes of this ancient land. To feel the rhythm of life in this part of the world. The way it comes alive in the morning, quietens down in afternoon as it moves inside out of the heat of the sun, then re-energizes itself in evening and stretches long into the night. To walk through the fields with the scent of wild herbs perfuming your way. To loll in silky waters and come to realize that the longer you stay there, the more whatever aches you’ve brought along with you will begin to disappear. To learn what you can about the layers of history at your feet. To taste foods flavoured by the soil underneath and the sun overhead, to discover dishes cooked only here and nowhere else on earth, ones that this island’s people have held most dear since forever. To find out how to say even just Thank you in Greek and experience the smiles that will follow, the myriad kindnesses that will come your way when you’re recognized in a taverna you enjoyed once before.

You’ve come all this way and you want to make it count. On this, we agree. So why not slow down and explore one place as deeply as your time permits? Okay, maybe two. But no matter how many different places you visit, determine that you’ll be sure to engage with those you meet who live there. While you’re planning, ask questions that will help you choose a place that’s likely to speak to your own heart. Perhaps one you’ve never heard about before.

Try all that and you’ll bring home with you more than a list of places and snippets of images in your mind. Much more. I always do.

Is two weeks enough? No, in my opinion. Not for even one island. But it’s a start and, in wanting to come to Greece, you’ve chosen well. Now dig deep. There’s no place I’ve found that more richly rewards those who travel this way. 

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.

The subject of travelling deliberately is one that I am passionate about and I speak about it elsewhere in this blog. See A Philosophy of Travel, Sifnian-Style and Travel Greece … well.

Myzithra and Manoura: Sifnos Cheeses

P1100511- resized“Sifnos cheese or feta?” If you’ve been to this island, you’ll know the question. It’s what you’re most often asked when you order horiatiki. Which kind of cheese do you want on your Greek salad? 

For me, the answer is easy. I can have feta almost anytime, pretty much anywhere, is my way of thinking, so if there’s a choice to be made, Sifnos cheese it will be. Soft, fresh and mild, with a swirl of olive oil on top and perhaps a lashing of black pepper, spread it onto a slab of fresh bread and I’m in heaven. 

I am, it must be said, a cheese lover and one of the things I find so interesting about travelling almost everywhere in Europe is the quality and variety of its regional cheeses. I make it a practice to try the local version wherever I go and to learn what I can while I’m there. Once high in the French Alps, in front of a sunburned chalet, I asked two men about the Reblochon they’d advertised on the sign at the entrance to their farm. The next thing I knew I was in their kitchen sipping white Bordeaux while their sweet white-haired mother gazed happily out through the window and told me how she’d spent every summer of her life in that sunlit meadow, how excited the cows always are on the trek up the mountainside in spring, and that the rich array of wildflowers that grow at that elevation are what give the cheeses of summer an extra kick of colour and taste. 

However, despite the amount of time I’ve spent on Sifnos, I’d learned surprisingly little about the topic here. Oh, I did know that the cheese you’re offered for your salad is called myzithra in Greek and that there’s another much firmer kind called manoura, though you’re less likely to encounter it in a restaurant or taverna. I’d assumed, given how many more goats and sheep there are on the island than cows, what kind of milk is used to make them. I knew I hadn’t spotted either of these cheeses in a store and, when I’d asked a couple of people I know where they get theirs, the answer was always some variation of, “There’s a guy …” One time a farmer presented my husband and me with a well-aged manoura as thanks for the handful of times we’d given him a ride back to his farm from the fields where he’d come every day to tend to his goats. It was obvious from his proud smile that this gift came from his heart and was likely of his own production. I hope we thanked him properly enough.

Then once, not long before we were to leave home for the island again, that was it, I decided. This time I needed to learn more. I was in the midst of writing my second book, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales, the subject of cheese had come up and, if I was going to write about it, I needed more facts.

Sifnos has this way of putting in front of me the very person I need at the very moment I need him or her. Often whether I knew up until then that I did. I never know when such coincidences will occur, but by now I just enjoy them when they come, always at the most unexpected times.

So it was again. We’d arrived a day or two before and my husband and I were walking through a quiet residential neighbourhood when a motorcycle roared up behind us and its driver realized that she recognized us. She stopped. “My house is just up here,” she said. “Would you like coffee?” Of course. Invitations like that I’ve learned not to turn down. 

Coffee in such circumstances, of course, is never just coffee and soon she was preparing treats. Savoury cookies I think are called koulouria. Cherry tomatoes for a pop of colour against the white plate. And, lo and behold, Sifnos cheese. Both kinds. As we ate and we chatted and we drank, I learned more than I’d ever known about the topic.

Her father keeps goats, she said, and her mother makes the cheese. On Sifnos, while there are those who make it commercially, many people still make it at home for their own use, the way it’s always been done. You eat myzithra, the fresh one, right away and even when refrigerated, it lasts but a few days. Manoura is an aged cheese. Shepherds used to take it along with them into the fields where it could sustain them for weeks at a time. Made with goats’ milk, it’s formed into a shape that resembles a small Brie but a bit higher, then it’s salted and set to dry on a woven straw mat. Later it’s immersed into wine for a few days, then placed in gili, the sediment from wine barrels that gives it its characteristic and edible dark outside. There it is aged for varying periods, according to the maker’s taste. Some like their manoura mild, others like our goatherd friend prefer it pungent indeed. Barnyardy, even, I’d describe it in some cases. The one this lady gave us that day had been made not long before and was hence fairly mild. But soft like myzithra, it definitely was not. Manoura never is. When she stuck a fork into it, it practically squeaked. You never refrigerate this cheese, she said. You merely wrap it and keep in a cupboard or on the counter. Oops. I’ll know better next time if I’m ever presented with one again.

A few days later, I was walking again not far from there when I met a woman who was going the other way with a matsa, a hand-carved olive-wood walking stick, in one hand. In the other, she was carrying a very large plastic bucket. Rattling around inside it, I could see, was a well-used metal funnel and some other tools and her walk was definitely a purposeful one. 

Myzithra?” I asked. It was all the Greek I could manage right then.

She nodded and smiled. Yes, she was on her way to make some. 

I smiled too. Though my Greek was still far from what I wanted it to be, at least I was starting to be able to talk cheese.

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.

My blog post, Greek Salad, Sifnos Style is here.

Book Launch: Sifnos Chronicles 2

P1140646It was a sunny July afternoon at Cusina Mediterranean Bistro in Guelph, Ontario, inside as well as out. There was Greek food, Greek wines, the warm hospitality that restaurant is famous for, and the Canadian launch of my second book, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. Plus Greek olive oils too. When I’m at home and can’t stand for another minute not being in Greece, Cusina is always where I head. So when Maria Kiriakopoulos-Kalantzis, one of its owners, asked if I would like to launch my new book there and to help celebrate the Bistro’s 8th anniversary, well, I was thrilled.

I love all things Greek. One of its Cycladic islands, Sifnos, has come to feel like a second home to my husband and me and inspired me to write these two books. So to be at Cusina that day, with an audience as large as that one, one that was anxious to hear me read aloud more of my stories from Sifnos, it’s a treat. An audience that contained many who’d read my first book and had been telling me for a while they couldn’t wait for the second. 

“I got teary-eyed as you read,” one person told me later. “I felt like I was back on the island. Oh wait, I thought then,” she went on. “I haven’t actually been to the island. It’s just that your books make me feel I’m right there.”

I’m so grateful to Maria at Cusina. To Sumon, her business partner and chef who, though he’s not Greek, cooks as if he were. To Dora Tsiagas, the owner of Dora’s Greek Tours and of Tithorea, a lovely Greek food shop in nearby Rockwood, for educating us about Greek olive oils and so much more. And to everyone who came out. It was an honour to have you there to help me send this book off into the world.


What follows is one of the excerpts I read that afternoon. It concerns Nikolaos, a waiter that my husband, Jim, and I were coming to know in the month we stayed on Sifnos that year:

 “Thío kafédes ellínikos, métrios,” Jim says. We’ll have two Greek coffees, please. Medium sweet. He leans back. 

“Oh god!” our waiter cries. He throws both arms in the air, then slaps his thighs. “Now I have to make coffees! Again.”

Oh, yes. I’ve been expecting something like this, waiting for it. Would have been disappointed had it failed to appear. Jim, too, has been itching for this moment the whole meal. And I can tell that Nikolaos was as well, for it’s with a bit of a kick that he promptly turns tail and disappears inside.

The latest bit of fun between these two began yesterday morning, out of the most ordinary of circumstances, as it usually does. I’d been wandering around the village with my camera and when I decided I’d finished, I met Jim on Antonis’s terrace. Shortly afterwards Nikolaos arrived for work. He had with him a large paper bag filled with the taverna’s loaves of bread for the day.

“Where do you get your bread?” I asked when he’d unlocked the door and stowed it inside. I like their bread and have been mildly curious where they have to go for it because as far as I know there is no bakery in Xeronissos or anywhere nearby.

“We don’t,” he said, “give out our… se-crrets.” With that, he raised his nose into the air and there it stayed the whole way to his car and back again, this time with a large pan of baklavá.

Okay, Nikolaos. You win. 

For now.

“Could we have coffees?” one of us asked. Antonis always offers them at this time of the morning and the habit of having one has become a part of our day. But he hadn’t arrived yet.

Nikolaos said nothing. He didn’t, I realized later, even ask what kind we wanted. I recall, though, that he was inside for what felt a very long time. Eventually he returned and, with a small shrug, set two ceramic mugs before us. “I’ve never made coffee before,” he said.

He hadn’t?

Well no, he hadn’t. That soon was clear.

Every café and taverna has a blender for making frappés, those whipped coffee and ice and sometimes milk concoctions, and whip our coffees Nikolaos had. Though frappé comes in a glass, not the kind of mug he served these coffees in. I lifted mine and tilted it, as one does, but found no liquid in there. What touched my lips instead was a stiff foam, mostly air, and so I slurped. On the next go, I slurped again. And again. How often this was repeated, I can’t really say, but I do know it was only near the cup’s bottom that I finally found a mouthful of liquid. Darkish. Not iced. But a long way from hot. 

Jim’s looked much the same and it was about then, I know now, that the plot began to be hatched. “Okay,” he said later as we stepped onto the beach and out of earshot, “If Nikolaos is alone, we’ll order coffees. Always. Whether we need them or not.”


Photos by Jim Blomfield and Montaha Hidefi

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon. She will plan an event to launch this book from Greece the next time she is there.

The Dance

P1100703I was on the dock in Kamares that day, a few minutes before the ferry was due to arrive. Not, thank goodness, because it was time for me to leave Sifnos. Not yet. I hadn’t come either to meet arriving friends or to see them depart. Nor with my camera, as I’d done so many times before, attempting to capture in one image the goings-on in those few minutes when a boat is in port. 

No, it was for something new I’d come that day. For the first time ever, I was there to pick up packages from the ferry. There was something on board for me. 

It is so easy for visitors like me to think that we’re the reason these boats are there, to bring us to our vacations on our beloved Greek isles. But their real purpose for existing is a much more vital one than that. They quite literally are a lifeline for people who live full-time on the islands, taking them to and from the rest of the world and bringing in every single good modern life demands that isn’t produced there. The highways of the Aegean, I call them, and they carry everything from pencils and paper clips, newspapers and chewing gum to huge lumbering trucks with, say, a pile of telephone poles lashed to them. So, waiting for my own delivery that day, I felt … well, almost Sifnian myself. 

And excited. I was practically dancing about. If all was going according to plan, somewhere in the bowels of that boat there were three boxes with my name on them. Inside would be a hundred-plus copies of my new book, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales, from the printer’s in Athens, bound for the shelves at To Bibliopoleio, The Bookshop in Apollonia. When I say this book was new, what I mean is that I hadn’t even seen an actual finished copy of it yet. And today I would. If all was going according to plan.

There’s one way to make an author run out of words. Put a copy of her book into her hands that first time and she’ll be practically speechless. I’d experienced that once about three years before with The Sifnos Chronicles, my first book set on this island, and that moment was almost upon me again. All of the work, the hours, the months, the years, all bound up inside a beautiful cover. The joy. The relief. The trepidation that hits then about how these words are going to be received. Unlike with my first book, though, this time that momentous occasion was going to happen right here. On the island. Mere feet from where some of the events that became my chapters took place. Perhaps even in sight of some of the people on the book’s pages. Here on this island I find so magical that it turned me into an author.  

The way I’d planned it originally, I’d have finished Sifnos Chronicles 2 a while ago now, before I’d left Canada about three weeks before. Copies would already be here when I arrived, I’d thought, waiting for me. But this book had a mind of its own. It had decided that it was not going come to Sifnos until I was there to greet it. To escort it to The Bookshop myself. To bring a copy of it to some of the people in the story. To look into their eyes and to see for myself their reactions. And, really, what author could conjure up a better scenario than that?

If you’ve ever been a passenger on a Greek ferry boat, you’ll know what I mean when I talk about the cacophony in those moments after it’s landed. Whistles blow, people shout, engines rev, roar and rattle. Passengers, whether arriving or departing, pick their way as though swimming through a torrent. To those experiencing it for the first time, it looks and feels like pure chaos. But when you’ve watched as often I have, you’ll know that actually it’s quite the opposite. There’s a marvel of purpose and organization underneath all that. It’s like a symphony, really, perfectly timed, exquisitely played. Or a ballet. Everyone, except for the newcomers, knows where they’re going and why and in a very few minutes after a boat has landed, properly unloaded and reloaded, it’s steaming away. It’s not for nothing that Greeks are famed for their prowess at shipping.

So on that day, the Speedrunner III appeared in the bay and was soon tied to the dock. I was rushing toward it, practically skipping I think, when I met Maria, owner of The Bookshop. I hadn’t seen her go on board but already she was carrying off the first box of my books. She’d handle all that, she’d said the day before, finding the boxes, lifting them, getting them where they were meant to be. She’d known better than to leave all that to me. That Sifnian I am not. Not yet.


Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.


Wildflowers This Spring: Oh My!

It rained and it rained and it rained all over Greece last winter and on Sifnos even the elderly said that in their entire lifetimes, they couldn’t remember a year like. Fortunately, without knowing any of that, my husband and I decided last fall that this year we’d come at early spring, would arrive a week or so before Easter and would stay until mid-May. The height of wildflower season.

As someone who first got to know Sifnos in September, when the prevailing colour of the land is brown and when the few plants that remain are fried to a crisp by the heat of the summer sun, spring here always astonishes me. But never so much as this year. The first thing I noticed was that the island was green, greener than I’d ever seen before. The second was that wildflowers were everywhere. Pushing through cracks in concrete. Spilling from stone walls. Flourishing in every patch of open ground in every corner of the island they could find. Some were tall and showy. Others were tiny, barely the size of the head of a pin, and would reveal themselves only to those who’d take the time to look closely. Many were species I’d never seen before.

A day or so after we arrived, we were driving along and as I looked down where I always do at a small church in the fields, I gasped. The church was nestled deep in a soft pillow of daisies. The flowers were so prolific and grew so tall that one woman told me her little dog was afraid to go into the garden because the plants were three times as tall as he and he thought he was entering a jungle. Poor thing. In his memory, there’s not been a year like that either.

So there was nothing to do but for my camera and I to get busy. And over the next month, very busy we were, happily. Here is just a handful of the scenes that made me go Wow! Permit me to share them with you. You can find many more on my Facebook page.

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos and on Amazon.


Now in Sifnos: My New Sifnos Book

KamaresWell, it is finally here. In Sifnos. At To Bibliopoleio, the Book Shop in Apollonia. My new book, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales, has arrived.

How exciting it is for me to have my book arrive in what I consider its proper home. I look forward to having an opportunity to read it aloud sometime to a willing audience in Sifnos, almost within in view of where some of its episodes occurred. I did the same thing with my first book, The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle, several years ago and it was one of the most special nights of my life.

I love Sifnos, come here with my husband for a month now every year, and in some ways feel more at home on this island than I do even in Canada where I have lived my whole life. The new book tells the story of one of those returns, a time we’d decided to immerse ourselves in the life of a traditional small fishing village. The following excerpt, however, takes place in Kamares on the way to the ferry dock.

… the shops in Kamares have some of the most heavenly gelato on earth. We’ve earned it, we decided, and we’re strolling along the main street and savouring our treats when a man asks, “Is that homemade?”

“It is,” Jim replies. 

We’ve both been watching this man for a bit. He’s hard to miss. Not because he’s lumbering along under a huge backpack, clearly a departing passenger. Nor because he’s hindered further by what seems a gimpy knee. It’s because he’s been walking in the middle of the road, all over it actually, and has no idea that there’s a growing stream of cars, people and trucks backed up behind him on this narrow thoroughfare and that he’s forced them to stop now while he ogles our ice creams.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

Yes, this gelato is definitely homemade. We show him the café where we bought it. They have plenty more, we tell him. Tiramisu, one of Jim’s favourites and his choice today. Black chocolate. Something called banoffee. Mango sorbet. Many more.

“They just say that, you know,” the man says. “They take powder and mix it up.”

They? Who is it he thinks would cut corners like that? No Sifnian of my acquaintance. Not the man who sold us these, who once insisted on calling the friend who makes his apple sorbetto to be 100% certain it was dairy-free. “Nope,” I say, adding as punctuation a vigorous lick of my strawberry sorbet, “this one is homemade.”

“They have Ben and Jerry’s in Apollonia, you know.”

Oh, good grief. I don’t come to Greece to eat American ice cream, I’m about to say but Jim jumps in first. “That’s why I bought this,” he says. Lick.

“… Okay, then,” the man says and he shuffles off boatward. 

How long he’s been here, I have no idea, but certainly not long enough if he’s leaving still fearing that Sifnians are out to rip him off.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Sifnos and Apollonia, its main town, do drop by To Bibliopoleio on the main square. There you’ll find many books about Sifnos. I’m far from the only writer who finds it a fascinating place.

And if you can’t get to Sifnos, you can always find both my books on Amazon.

And on my blog, you can read about that night in Apollonia when in the moonlight, I read aloud from The Sifnos Chronicles.

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.


Available Now: New Sifnos Book

Piraeus 2I am delighted to announce that my new book, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales, is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. It is the story of two Canadian travellers who return to an island they love, immerse themselves for a month in a traditional fishing village and savour the rhythms of life there. Think of it as a sequel to my first book, The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle.

You can read an excerpt from the new book below. It’s an episode that occurs before we even arrive on the island. I hope you can sense how happy I am to be almost there.

From Chapter 3: “We’d arrived at the dock in Piraeus with plenty of time before our boat was scheduled to depart. The air was fresh, the sun shone and spring was here. We’d found seats on the boat’s outside rear deck, for the time being at least. I was excited. Jim was too, though in matters such as this, he is less demonstrative than I.

I love the docks in Piraeus, the busy seaport of Athens, have since my first glimpse of them and the first moments I spent there. Those huge ships gliding so smoothly in and out of their berths. Their names, so exotic-sounding to my ears: Hellenic Sea Lines, Blue Star Ferries, Ventouris, Nel Lines, Minoan. The correct way to travel around these islands is by boat, I once heard someone say, the way it’s been done as long as people have moved between them, and I’ve come to agree. Besides, to get to Sifnos which has no airport, it’s still pretty much the only way.

No Speedrunner, no Superfast Ferries or Flying Cats for us that day. We were going by slow ferry, the Adamantios Korais. Why rush to get to the island, Jim and I thought. Why not savour the voyage across these ancient seas. And why not, after a long winter at home, choose a vessel where you can comfortably stay on an outside deck for as long as you like.

The slow boats are the big ones that, in addition to carrying passengers and their luggage and other belongings, take along trucks loaded with goods that aren’t produced on the islands. Once, I even saw a long trailer back on board with a huge pile of telephone poles lashed to it.

I stood at the rail, watching those in charge load the ferry. Cars and motorcycles were being waved in and, trucks of all shapes and sizes. Everything from sputtering putt-putts to huge semi-trailers that must dwarf the island roads. That day, I saw something new, a hearse waiting to come aboard. Two in fact, one grey and the other black, each with its sad family walking alongside, its arrays of stiff flowers, and, this being Greece, its requisite bearded priest. Both were bound for Kythnos, I learned when they each got off there, the first stop on the voyage, about halfway to our destination.

I also kept my eye on the koulouri table. On the dock beside every boat in Piraeus in the hour before it is scheduled to leave, there appears a table piled high with stacks of sesame-seed-covered wreaths of bread. Koulouria, they’re called in the plural; they’re delicious and at one Euro, they go fast. What I like best, besides eating them, is to watch from the deck high above as the seller, in between collecting the coins and putting passengers’ purchases into clear blue plastic bags, deftly arranges, rearranges and re-rearranges his dwindling stock into increasingly sparse though admirably geometric displays. Today’s vendor was doing his part. …”

Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new in spring 2019, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.

Rites of Springtime in Sifnos

Almost every time in the past two or so weeks that I’ve gone to Facebook, I’ve seen there another photograph of a group of Sifnians busily cleaning their island. From the south to the north, from families, groups of friends to whole kindergarten classes, they’ve been scouring the beaches, the roadsides and the trails gathering bits of trash the winter left behind.

And now as I write this, it’s the last week before the celebrations of Easter will begin and, as I’ve been there before at this time of year, I need no new photographs to tell me what’s going on right now. The paintbrushes are out and every house, every church, every town building, every wall is being given a new coat of fresh white. In the towns, even the stones on the walkways underfoot are being spruced up, every one of them outlined again in a careful thin line of white. 

Easter is coming and to prepare, this is what you must do. As someone who lives there once told me, if you don’t keep up your end, everyone will know. It’s an obligation, a rite of spring-time, a part of the privilege of living in this blessed place. It’s what Sifnians do to make their island shine.

These photographs are from 2012 and 2013.
Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new in spring 2019, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.