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Athens – memories and modernity

June 2nd
As children, the summer would start with a couple of nights at the Grande Bretagne in Athens, en route for our house on Ithaca (see Villa Skinos in our portfolio). It was a rather Eloise-like existence as the owner was a friend of our father, so it was a little bit like home for us. 40 years later, I went back to inspect it professionally, and was strangely moved to see that although it has been decorated and refurbished and spa-ed and sauna-ed and gymnasium-ed and private butler-ed, and VIP -Suited ( a 400 square metres private palace) and roof-terraced and swimming-pool-ed, its soul has remained the same; The hotel is acutely aware of its position as custodian to a 130 year old institution at the heart of Athens’ history and politics. The guest book was signed in 1896 by members of the teams participating in the very first modern Olympic Games. So much more important than anything else, although it of course has everything else as well. Where, as children, we used to climb a fire escape to sunbathe on the baking -hot and dust-blown roof, there is now a lift to a garden terrace, pool and restaurant with sublime views from the Acropolis to Lykabettus – though rather more people than when we played up there…

I met the owner of the new Image Gallery on Amalias Avenue in the afternoon. Nicholas Lykiardopulos has single-handedly done more to improve the taste of Athenians than anyone since Praxiteles. He has taken his family’s grandly dilapidated old town mansion (our grandfathers lived next to eachother in adjoining neo-classical houses) and shaken it up a little to show-case a stupendous collection of Pop art, photography, travel and cinema posters. See www.theimagegallery.com Apart from offering a rare opportunity to see one of Athens grand old houses, just minutes from Syntagma Square, you can buy for reasonable sums, really decorative, chic and fun things for the white-washed walls of your villa in the Cyclades.

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