This summer I was lucky to meet the gorgeous Claire Lloyd (above) and her partner Matthew in Sydney. Over dinner with mutual friends on a little balcony overlooking Tamarama I tortured poor Claire about living on a Greek Island.
You see I have been in love with her life for years now ever since my publisher told me about a book she commissioned years earlier and I joked ‘that was the book I wanted to write and the life I want to live’!
Well gorgeous Claire did it and so beautifully and since I opened my copy of My Greek Island Home I haven’t stop dreaming of blue seas, fresh air and white painted floors.
Not only did she write My Greek Island Home but she photographed it too.
Who doesn’t dream of living on a Greek Island?
I certainly do in the midst of a cold winter, yearning for sunshine, the sea and a little garden. Claire has been kind enough to share her thoughts on her life, creativity, cats and living on a Greek Island and some of her favourite addresses on Lesvos.
What inspired you to move to Lesvos?
I definitely had a deep need somewhere inside me for a simpler life and a need to reconnect with my creativity. For many years I had been living a very full and hectic life in London, Art Directing and designing for brands, magazines and advertising agencies and I felt tired. It was a trip to my homeopath, Vicki, in London that encouraged me to change my direction. On that particular day I said to her I had lost my personal creativity and felt disconnected. Vicki held up her mobile phone with a photograph on it of, a basic stone house, in the middle of a field with a walnut tree. The house stood alone, solidly, under piercing blue skies. This visual image made an immediate impact on me. Vicki said, “perhaps this is your remedy, I have just bought a house in Lesvos, maybe you should go there and take a look.” I am impulsive, and so was there within a week.
How has your move enhanced your lifestyle?
My lifestyle is much gentler and I have regained my personal creativity, I also have more time to observe and enjoy my surroundings.
I have many amusing anecdotes from my daily life to share.
What do you have more of living on an Island than living in a big city?
Cats and dogs………..I’ve never had a dog before and now we have as little as 2 or as many as 4 at one time. We try to re home strays. We always have lots of kitties to feed too.
You see more stars because there is little streetlight, in the village, and the skies are vast.
Being on an island the Aegean sea surrounds you and is nearly always in your sight.
We have more seasonal fruit and vegetables and, more time to speak to people and reflect on life.
How has photography allowed you to communicate with the locals?
Photography has opened up communications big time. The Greeks are very social and generous people and they have welcomed my partner Matthew and I with open arms and with great warmth.
My camera has added another layer, it has given me more confidence to approach people and it has also given me something I can give back in my appreciation. Most people love getting an image of themselves and it’s also a lovely documentation of a village life. Last summer I hung up 250, A5 images that I printed out at home, on a bamboo fence outside one of the village café neas, the people loved it and they could take their photo away at the end of the evening.
It was Matthew who encouraged me to start taking photographs by buying me my first Cannon camera. It was a gift; a gift I never imagined would change my life so much.
What influences your style and how have you adapted this to creating your Greek Island home?
Light, simplicity and space influence me as well as an enormous amount of bright white paint.
These have always been my staples.
I had no difficultly adapting any of these elements to ‘My Greek Island Home’ as they are all part and parcel of Greece.
Georgia O’Keeffe, she was an original. Pure style in everything she did, her paintings, her living spaces and the way she dressed and looked. I admire her art, love of nature and her focus.
How do you feel waking up on a Greek Island every day? (Sounds amazing when you live in a big city)
I feel privileged, and really happy to be alive.
What would you say to your friends thinking of swapping their lives in a big city for an island? Should we do it?
I am a great believer in change and I think any change is positive. I also believe people have dreams and life is short. So I think whatever your dream you owe it to yourself to explore it. I understand it’s easier for some of us to make changes and that circumstances can make it difficult. But I also believe any change small or large is worthwhile giving a go. So I’d say ‘go for it’.
Has Island life been good for your creativity?
Yes it has been amazing. It has given me so much. I feel I have just scratched the surface of my creativity and here I have found a place where it can evolve and develop. It’s great not knowing where it will take me.
Is there something you miss about your former life?
I loved my former life and still get to dip in and out of both Sydney and London. I am lucky because I can visit the cinemas, my favorite restaurants and galleries when I’m there. I also love catching up with friends.
I miss my creative friends but they come and visit and there is the telephone and skype.
And it makes it even more special when I do get spend time with them.
Tell us 3 cool things about Lesvos that we don’t know?
Lesvos is the 3rd largest Greek Island and extremely close to Turkey, at one point there is only 5 kilometers of sea separating them.
The topography changes dramatically from one side of the island to the other. You can travel through deep green pine forests or be in the middle of a vast, arid, volcanic, and lunar like landscape.
This week we were told, by, the President of The Chamber of Commerce that Lesvos has been given a UNESCO listing.
I love that you look after all the local animals, how did this happen?
I think we must have an invisible sign on the front gate that only animals can see. They all seem to know where to come instinctively. It started with Sweetie my special girl.
I was eating outside at a local taverna and this tiny kitten, way too young to be eating scraps appeared. She was begging. When she saw me she immediately, and with no encouragement, jumped on my knee and refused to get down. She was so pathetic looking and her eyes were gummy. It was suggested by the locals to take her home, so after my meal we headed off up the hill to the top of the village. She buried her head in the crookof my arm and shook. She must have known instinctively she was doing the right thing. Now she is big and has a gloriously, luxurious fur coat, better than any you would find in Fendi. Sweetie rules and yes, we love her big time.
What’s on the menu today?
Fish baked in the oven with lemon and a simple green salad, all bought from vans that pass through the village daily, selling fresh produce. In the summer I grow a small amount of salad in pots outside my kitchen door.
What has your reward been for your courage to switch lives so dramatically?
My rewards have been many, warm friendships, serenity, creativity, unconditional love from animals, incredible beauty in the landscape that surrounds me and of course the opportunity to photograph, write and design my latest book “My Greek Island Home”. I am no doubt a very lucky girl! (woman) I have also been extremely lucky having Matthew to share it with.
The Local’s Hotlist
Travel north to Sikaminias. There is a small harbor port Skala Sikaminias, which has some great little restaurants. You can watch the local fishing boats arrive with their daily catch. Above the port is the main village, Sikaminias and in its small square there are a couple of café’s that are really worth sitting in and soaking up the local life. It’s a beautiful village so take a wander.
Fish cooked by Yiannis at Cavo Di Oro in Sigri.
Yiannis loves the Beatle’s and if you are lucky enough he will play you some of his favorite tracks.
Find a way to the beach from the dirt coast road between Sigri and Eressos. The water is crystal clear and there is no one to be seen.
Taverna / restaurant
The Octapus in Molyvos is right on the waters edge at the harbor, and you can see Molyvos Castle crowning the top of the town in the background.
Birds Bay This is a very quiet and beautiful spot, a place to forget the world and be at one with nature. It has superb sea views and a fabulous view of Molyvos at night, sparkling in the distance.
Shop at the Women’s co-op on the main road into Molyvos.
They make traditional and delicious home made preserves and biscuits.
My favorite thing, without a doubt, are the chocolate tarts. A tip, you must order them
Just being there.
Don’t leave without
Visiting the monastery at Ipsilos. There are still monks living there, although you will only see one who sits in the little museum. It’s a fascinating little museum, with all sorts of religious items. The views from the monastery are superb.
All Photos Copyright Claire Lloyd
A huge thanks to the lovely Claire Lloyd for sharing a little of her inspiring life and for those of you who can’t get to a Greek Island soon I suggest you buy My Greek Island Home ,a beautiful book of dreams and this is for anyone who has ever dreamt of changing their life and doing what they love.
“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Ella Fitzgerald