Building a nest on Lesvos

JENNIFER ENNION
Last updated 15:16 16/11/2012
Lesvos, Greece

Life revolves around food and cafes on Lesvos, says Claire Lloyd.

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Australian-born Claire Lloyd has spent much of her adult life living in London. Beginning to feel exhausted in the city, however, she went in search of something else.

That something ended up being a new home on the Greek island of Lesvos.

In her latest book, My Greek Island Home, Lloyd writes about making a home in a strange land.

FINDING A HOME

It all began when Lloyd was visiting her homeopath in London one day. She was "ranting" about how she'd lost her creativity, was feeling ungrounded and how she'd been asking herself what she was doing with her life.

The homeopath, who'd been Lloyd's friend for decades, held up her mobile phone with an image on it "and it just completely stopped me in my tracks", the author says.

Her friend had recently purchased a house on Lesvos and told Lloyd "perhaps this is your remedy".

Lloyd, who describes herself as spontaneous, made immediate plans to visit the island with a friend.

"I just had this feeling throughout my whole body, I was just like 'oh my goodness'," she said about her arrival.

"Immediately my reaction was really, really positive and the birds were singing and the sun was coming up."

Everything about the island, Lloyd says, felt fabulous and invigorating.

"It's quite a special island and there's energetically something about the island that's very strong," she says. "I felt incredibly connected to that."

During her holiday she called into real estate agencies but ended up finding her home while driving down a narrow street in a tiny working village.

VILLAGE LIFE

Every day Lloyd is charmed by her new village life, having always lived in Sydney and London.

"I am still astounded to find myself living surrounded by rolling hills and sheep," Lloyd writes in My Greek Island Home.

"Only recently did it dawn on me that we actually live a rural life."

She describes a typical Sunday starting with a call to prayer at 8am and watching women wander through the streets to the church in their best dresses.

The town comes alive with street sellers hawking fish, vegetables, clothing and furniture.

"It's a lovely thing to be able to go through your front gate and go down the hill and have a chat to the guy selling the fish..." she says, before adding that in such a close community you're always in contact with people.

"It's very gentle and it's very heartwarming."

There is also a women's co-op where together the locals bake cakes and biscuits for special occasions, and they sell their products, such as marzipan flowers, across the rest of the island.

"The most important thing in life are people, you know friendships and family, and they're bringing everything together with food and creativity... they are so inspiring," says Lloyd.

GREEK CUISINE

The food is binding for those living on Lesvos, explains Lloyd, and life there revolves around it.

"It's not just something you stick in your mouth as you're running down the road, it's a celebrated thing. People get together, they all sit around a table, you get young and old..."

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In My Greek Island Home, Lloyd writes about 'hunting' for asparagus during an asparagus season that lasts just a few weeks, and also about dining at kafenia.

"Cafe culture is essential to the Greek way of life," she writes.

"For many people the kafenio is a second living room... more than simply a place to eat, it is perhaps the modern equivalent of the agora - the public arena of ancient Greece..."

* My Greek Island Home by Claire Lloyd is published by Penguin, rrp $49.99

- AAP

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