It’s comforting to know that in an era when small screens are where many eyes rest, the vista from this villa on Mykonos manages very well to keep a guest simply gazing outward, making them as happy as a teenager on Snapchat. A daytime view from its terrace 15 minutes from the town of Mykonos takes in a swath of blue, both the sea and sky versions, along with the iconic Greek white stone buildings dotted along the town that juts into the Aegean below. The nighttime view gives to the eye stars of light, glowing from the floating ferries and cruise ships, and from the nearby island of Tinos.
The famous windmills of Mykonos also make themselves visible from the villa. While they’re more architectural than functional, they’re a reminder of the gusty winds that give this part of the Cyclades its name – Mykonos, in Greek, means “island of the winds.” The house is somewhat protected from the gusts that can reach 65 km/hr. Facing the northwest, it acts as a shelter from the summer Meltemi winds that come from the north. The terrace views stretch around 180 degrees, taking in the sea from different angles, and all but one of the five bedrooms also overlook the blue backdrop.
Sharona and Jeff Hurmuses bought the 1980s-built place in 2002 and turned it into even more of a traditional Mykonian home. They softened some of the hard edges of the exterior walls with smooth white plaster, added arches and put up pergolas. Marble from nearby Tinos bedecks the master bathroom, with shower stall, basin and mirror all carved by artist Chrissoula Valaka from the Mykonos Art Gallery. Outside, bamboo fences were taken down and workers painstakingly put up stone retaining walls by hand, using a small truck to transport the stone up the narrow road leading to the property. The rough tile that was both inside and out now just sits outside, with homier ceramic tiling covering the interior floors. An extension was added to the villa that now sleeps 10, several rooms were gutted and the swimming pool was redone.
Jeff was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Vancouver but has a Greek-born mother, who still lives in Greece. He spent summers there, working odd jobs, from juggling to tending bar, all so that he could hang out in the sun. He and Sharona love the country and wanted to be closer to his elderly mother when they were alerted to the property on Mykonos by Jeff’s sister. Many view the island as too dry a climate and not verdant enough, and Sharona admits that Mykonos had not been her first Greek island of choice. But she has become a convert and talks up its open-air amphitheater shows, its cultural beauty, its 100-year-old cacti and those views (especially at night). The villa’s blog is also an informed promoter of the island, describing everything from the famous pelican that has a Jackie Kennedy Onassis connection, to some of the best local places to dance, eat or take a day trip (historic Naxos is a must-see).
Sharona says the island has been able to weather the economic storm that has hit Greece hard. “At a time of a suffering economy, Mykonos survives on its own,” she says of the popular island that has long been a favorite island for gay travelers and boasts a pride-style celebration when it welcomes a huge gay cruise line. Lots of straight families also flock here, which has translated into regular bookings for Villa Hurmuses.
The house was originally going to be a residence for the family that divides its time between Hong Kong and Singapore, but it became more and more popular as a rental property. Jeff’s mother, who is now 92, cannot travel to the island anymore, so the family visits her in Athens, a two-hour ferry ride away. Renting out the property also gives the family more freedom to travel to other places around the world.
Sharona and her family spend time in Villa Hurmuses during the spring and fall, not just because of the full summer bookings, but also for the beauty of the off-seasons. “It’s a different place,” she says of the springtime Mykonos. “It’s cooler, the spring flowers are out. You can see sheep around here. There’s a sense of peace that you don’t see in the summer.”
She says Greek Easter, which takes place in April, is very special in Mykonos. “Easter is celebrated big time in Greece. There are a lot of things happening religiously, culturally. There’s bread baking, there’s a procession through the streets , there are fireworks, restaurants are open after midnight to break the fast after church and then for Sunday brunches. Easter is when the island opens up.” This year, Sharona got to show Greece in the spring to her extended family from Singapore, with the family enjoying the food, the swimming and taking a side trip to Athens. (The Hurmuses are actually looking at buying an Athens apartment to offer a package that would give guests both an island and an urban experience.)
While the island itself is a draw for many tourists, Sharona likes to credit her two-person staff for attracting guests, and making them feel comfortable and wanting to return. Ana Marie is a Philippine-born cook who has lived in Greece for over 20 years. Guests know her for baked goods, especially her olive oil biscuits. Sharona says her cook goes out of her way to please guests. “If she hears there are kids here, she’ll usually bake a cake.”
She also sings Ernesto’s praises, saying that he’ll usually be up for late-night guests arriving at the villa, or try to be available to drive people around in the day if they need to go somewhere.
The sense of Greece is all over the villa, from Ana Marie’s Moussaka to the olive oil that comes from an 800-tree grove owned by Sharona’s friend in Sparta. The olives served at table are grown on the Villa Hurmuses property and brined by Ana Marie. This white building that sits on top of a dry, windy part of the island is full of Greek charm that has guests seeing a view of this country from several angles.
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