Varvakeios, Athens Central Market

Open markets are often the greatest place to experience the very essence of a city’s culinary culture. I enthusiastically say yes to a Central Market whenever I travel.

On busy Athinas street, the Central Market, also known as Varvakeios, is a lively city market place, opened in 1886 to the food trade. Evripidou Street is synonymous with the scents of the shops selling food from the colonies. The iron-and-glass 19th Century market has massive stalls divided between seafood and fish products and all types of meat on one side of the street, and vegetables and fresh fruits on the other side. The Varvakeios can be sensory overload, do wear close toe shoes, as you may wade through a bit of water in the fish area. I’ll never forget looking down at my tennis shoes in the fish market in Catania, Sicily, fish bits clinging to the tops of my canvas shoes! Nothing worse than fish guts stuck to your shoes!

Varvakeios Market Athens

Shop for the tastiest feta cheese and delicious renowned olives, sun ripened fruits and vegetables and don’t miss my favorites, the spice shops. The meat area may not appeal to everyone, as it is not at all surprising to see hanging meat carcasses, large glass cases of tongue and innards.

From the core of the Mediterranean, Greek cuisine is comprised of an extensive variety of dishes reflecting its diverse backdrop, extensive history and crossroads to other nations.

Varvakeios Market Athens

Wandering around downtown Athens, you will discover a plethora of restaurants, taverns, and cafés, but perhaps the most intriguing and interesting place to discover local Greek food is within Athens’ food markets. This is a superb location to purchase palatable gifts to bring home, especially authentic spices and herbs. The food is pungently fresh, and you’ll mingle with locals buying their daily provisions. This is where you see the little old ladies selecting their evening meals from the fishermen with the daily catch.

Varvakeios Market Athens

Varvakeios Market Athens What might those be?

And it’s an incredible introduction to Balkan market culture: merchants screaming prices, luring you to taste a special apricot, elderly ladies analyzing the perfect tomato with a well-practiced squeeze, and aging gentlemen drinking coffee at the market cafes while observing the scene, whiling away the day.  Within the cavernous halls there are small cafes and tavernas serving traditional Greek dishes, keep your eye open for the underground restaurant near the vegetable market.

Olives – Preserving and seasoning olives is an ancient tradition, dating back to the early Greeks. Each region of Greece has a distinctive method of flavoring and pickling olives. The vendors are very generous with their products, encouraging tasting!

Varvakeios Market Athens Elixir Spice market

Varvakeios Market Athens Elixir Spice market

Greek Spices –  Greek cooking doesn’t rely on many specific herbs, but a few essential spices include oregano and sea salts, many flavored with orange or lemon peel. One of the most colorful and ancient looking spice shops ‘Elixir’, located on one of the streets bordering the Central Market; here, you can also find spatholatho, an ointment originally from Kea Island that ancient Greek soldiers used to heal their wounds. Elixir is a family business operating since the 1950s, they also sell enormous bars of natural Olive Oil  soap. The wooden display boxes also contain many varieties of tea. The young Greek man behind the wood counter will cellophane bag your selection and label all your purchases. Don’t miss the large branches of bay leaves. Spices are easy to pack and bring home. Burning bush, oregano, chamomile and other common Greek herbs, some grown on the slopes of Mt. Olympus and Tayretus. Consultations are offered on the healing properties of various spices; sage is good for memory, cloves help digestion, ask for specific needs.https://www.elixir.com.gr/

Varvakeios Market Athens Elixir Spice market

Cheese  – There are shops in the market who offer traditional Greek feta cheese, made from sheep, goat, or cow. Besides the yummy feta, another popular Greek cheese to look for is kefalotyri, a hard, salty sheep’s-milk cheese.

Varvakeios Market Athens – Meat markets with small dining rooms in the back

Varvakeios Market Athens Grape Leaves

Varvakeios Market Athens Lady Shoppers

Four Seasons Megève, Jean Cocteau was here.

Well, perhaps not at the Four Seasons Megève, however, he was a frequent visitor to the once only Alpine farm village, transformed by Baroness Noémie de Rothschild. The mystique of Megève is captivating, my recent visit to the resort was truly idyllic. If you are a skier, summer hiker, biker or a golfer, your athletic needs will be met in high style. In need of a traditional rest with moments of hiking, the sensational spa will satisfy.  This is the only hotel located on the slopes of Mont d’Arbois, five minutes from the village center. At one point in my life, I enjoyed a few weeks of driving about the breathtaking French countryside and had forgotten about its spectacular beauty.

Four Seasons Megève

Suite des Aravis bed, accent chair, colourful painting, dark curtains on corner windows

Four Seasons Suite des Aravis Megève

Consider a summer adventure, exceptionally situated beneath Mont Blanc, the breathtaking scenery is in its glory during summer. When the sun comes out, the mountains transform into an Alpine playground, with so much to be explored. Family friendly, enjoy discovering the region by land, air and water or you can simply relax and enjoy the sunshine or the enchanting and picturesque Megève village. Easy access, arrive Geneva and enjoy a 70 min. drive to the village. Petite resort with 55 rooms, including 14 suites. Six spa suites, and five dining options. A mountain perch, the suites include a separate living room with fireplace, inviting you to curl up for a cozy evening. Lounge outdoors on your furnished balcony, savor spectacular views of the mountains and valley. On warm summer evenings, it’s your own private sanctuary for quiet relaxation or al fresco dining.

My initial curiosity focused on strenuous summer hiking and after my four-day visit, I’m convinced summer is an exceptional time to visit. I arrived a wee bit before the summer season, so the village was a bit sleepy, however enchanting. Four Seasons first mountain property in Europe sits in a tucked away location on the side of Mont d’Arbois, a mere 10 minutes from the village center. The village of Megève doesn’t have any true ski in/ski out hotels, however the elegant Four Seasons has a horse-drawn sleigh to whisk you to the slopes. In summer a horse drawn wagon ferries guests around the Alpine countryside. Rolling green hillsides punctuated by chalets, the serenity is only interrupted by the gentle clanging of grazing sheep and cow bells. Megève has a pedestrian-only medieval center with cobblestone streets, designer boutiques and excellent restaurants. The main square is dominated by its church, which dates back to the 14th century and is designed in late Gothic style

Four Seasons Megève, Views

A story and legacy from another time, just after World War I, Noémie de Rothschild, the wife of Baron Maurice de Rothschild, decided that France should have a mountain resort to rival those in Switzerland, especially Saint Moritz. The decision was inspired by a very specific event: after working for the Red Cross in Paris during the war, Noémie went to Saint Moritz to rest. One morning, in her palatial hotel, she encountered Gustav Krupp, the German steel magnate and arms manufacturer who had supplied the Kaiser’s army. “That same evening, she left the hotel,” determined to create “a Saint Moritz Français“.

She took along Trygve Smith, her Norwegian ski instructor—skiing as a sport was quite new then—and François Parodi, a young French ski champion who was working at the reception desk of another Saint Moritz hotel, whom she hired to help with creating a new resort. Since Chamonix was already the province of English tourists and hard-core mountain climbers and skiers, they scoured the Haute Savoie for another location, suitable for the sportive and non-sportive alike. And they found Megève, a small Savoyard farming village in the valley of the Arve River, at about 4,000 feet, facing Mont Blanc. World War II interrupted Megève’s expansion, but after the war it became a favored playground for Parisians in the flush of post-war partying. Stage and film stars flocked to the beautiful alpine village, and by the 1950s Megève was such a chic social scene that Jean Cocteau nicknamed it “the 21st arrondissement of Paris”.

All of these details came together in the rise of Four Seasons Hotel Megève as an elegant, stylish and authentic resort, embracing the history and local traditions the Baroness so cherished. From generation to generation, the Rothschild family’s role in the development of Megève has never wavered. This personal involvement is now taken on by the Baron and Baroness Benjamin de Rothschild, who remain great connoisseurs of Megève and the Mont Blanc region.

Consisting of four interconnecting chalets, the hotel looks like a large Alpine chalet; the interiors are the work of Baroness Ariane de Rothschild who personally assisted in order to ensure the Hotel reflects her family’s long heritage. The property contains a mini-museum of exceptional art, including a stunning glass collection, fine art paintings and an array of ethnic art and textiles from the family collection. Master craftsmen were employed including French artist and sculptor Thierry Bruet, who produced more than 120 paintings for the hotel, and glass engraver and sculptor Giles Chabrier, who created the reception desk which appears to be carved from a solid block of ice.

Four Seasons Megève, Suite

Chalet style details in each room and public space include wood burning fireplaces and enormous picture windows framing the breathtaking landscape. The 55 rooms and suites are decorated with natural materials: wood, stone and wool, most likely from the local sheep. The design is colorful, eclectic and contemporary, but still extremely cozy. My stone terrace had chairs draped with wool blankets for sunset snuggle. One massive suite which can be used as a six bedroom retreat has astonishing views and exceptional art, a large gathering space for family to come together.

Four Seasons Megève, Suite

Four Seasons Megève, View to die for!

The Art Deco-inspired spa is breathtaking, all cream and pale icy white as a visual suggestion of fresh snow. Including the individual relaxation cabins and the indoor pool area, which is lined with white-marble and accented with pale white loungers. The pool, incidentally, extends outside into the actual snow, during summer loungers and a dining area welcomes guests.

French Foodie drawing card: two Michelin-starred chef Julien Gatillon presides over the hotel’s signature restaurant Le 1920. Gatillon serves in local dishes featuring seasonal ingredients and presented by a fully professional team. Chef Gatillon also overseas Kaito, the hotel’s Japanese fusion restaurant, which skillfully combines Japanese classic dishes with Alpine produce, more than sushi, it’s an experience of multiple combined cultures. Each restaurant offers tasting menus …highly recommend! The restaurants obtain many ingredients through the Rothschild family – such as olive oil from South Africa, honey from east of Paris and venison from the Île-de-France.

Parched and looking for an amazingly extensive wine list? Mosey to the two bars and don’t miss the extravagant state-of-the-art wine cellar containing 12,000 bottles, most from Rothschild wineries, including an 1869 bottle of Château Lafite. Do make a reservation in the cellar for exclusive tastings and private dining.

Kiddos aren’t overlooked: The Four Seasons Kids for All Seasons program offers an excellent club room and a wide range of activities for three-to-12-year-olds while the Teen Zone is equipped with arcade games, video games, table football, jukebox and mixing deck, multimedia area and screening room.

Four Seasons Megève, Spa and pool

Four Seasons Megève, Spa and pool

A plethora of summer happenings: hiking, serious trekking or meandering ambles, mountain biking, canyoning, mountaineering, hot air balloons, paragliding, kayaking or heli-escapes and even golf! Craving a more relaxed experience, then consider village life and sampling divine French cuisine. For hikers there are 150 km of marked walking trails to explore and those on bikes can explore a system of over 300 km of sign-posted trails.

Hiking or biking – discover Megève’s large network of trails through colorful mountain meadows and lush green forests. For more vigorous hiking, climb towards the peak of Mont Joly.  An invigorating ride by mountain bike – set out exploring trails connecting to nearby towns, such as Sallanches, Combloux, Flumet and Praz-sur-Arly. Savor the spectacular scenery and views of the majestic Mont Blanc.

Man putts on Mont d'Arbois Golf Course green

Four Seasons Megève, Mont d’Arbois Golf Course

Golfers –  enjoy priority access to one of the world’s oldest and finest Alpine golf courses. Four Seasons Hotel Megève overlooks the 17th hole of the Mont d’Arbois Golf Course (Golf du Mont d’Arbois). Designed in 1964 by three-time British Open champion Sir Henry Cotton, the course combines splendid mountain scenery and impeccable Four Seasons management, creating a peak golf experience

Mountaineering – whether you are a beginner or an experienced mountain climber, with one or several days to explore, Megève offers a choice of spectacular circuits, varying in both geography and difficulty.

Highly recommend Four Seasons Megève and as a gentle reminder, our clients are loved by the Four Seasons, we are serious supporters!

Four Seasons Megève

Four Seasons Megève art collection Dream Catcher