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FOOD & TRAVEL

From Camping to Glamping: A Story of Love, Loss and Life in Kalamata Greece

October 2, 2016
agreekkoukla

For Diane and Paul, it was love at first sight… a beautiful horse shoe-shaped property in Kalamata with olive trees and an incredible view of the mountains behind them and the sea in front of them. There was no house and hardly any money in their pockets but they had each other and a love for nature, something they found in Greece. Paul had always dreamed of going to a Greek island and while this wasn’t an island –with Diane by his side, this was a dream come true. Both on their second marriages, Diane and Paul were ready to leave England behind for something less in terms of materialism possession but more in terms of spiritual possession and a shared love of the world around them at its most natural state.

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Fast forward twelve years and Diane manages their solar electric and eco-friendly estate prominently listed on Glamping Hub that attracts tourists interested in upscale camping or as the new generation calls it, “glamping” (glamour camping). Paul passed away five years ago but Diane feels so connected to the land, to their home that she no intention of leaving. So she carries on their mission of love and without even trying shows the younger generation the true story of love, loss and life in Greece …with a side of glamping thrown in.

What is glamping? Jessica Armstrong, head of PR for Glamping Hub explains glamping as an “opportunity for people to experience “mother nature” without sacrificing their comfort levels. For example, it is the ability to go on a day hike while having a luxury nature-based accommodation waiting for you. You can sit around a campfire and look up at the bright stars, without having to huddle in a tent when it rains. To take advantage of the stillness that you can only experience in nature, without eating a burnt hot dog. The moments and memories that can still be experienced on an authentic camping experience, while taking it to the next level with the accommodation. Camping is an excellent way to connect with the outdoors, but it is an activity that is tailored for a group of people looking to rough it and that ability does not extend to all groups of people interested in sharing that same experience. Glamping opens the door and window of possibility for all ages to experience that same feeling and closeness to nature and outdoor activities, while still being able to stay and sleep in a luxury accommodation.”

But before glamping, it was just camping and that is exactly what Diane and Paul did. They had no water for the first two weeks and a month later, the now famous Mongolian Yort became the first structure on their property. “Gradually we built this and built that” …Diane fondly recalls the beginning of building their estate which now includes Granny’s Secret Hotel where her grandchildren aged 17 to 7 stay when they visit her on vacation, the library which has a daybed for more visitors, the treehouse which has just been recently added.

After Paul’s death, Diane wasn’t sure about a friend’s idea to turn their property into a bed-and-breakfast site. She had experience running a bed-and-breakfast back in England and she loved meeting different people so the past several years, she’s hosted everyone from family and friends to couch surfers to campers and yes, glampers. In total about 12 guests can sleep comfortably on the property between all the structures and beds but when you add campers and tents, an extended family can have family reunions or celebrations if they so desire. Or sometimes it’s just a couple coming for some solitude and peace.

“It’s lovely because you get people from all walks of life, all ages. One day you’ve got someone like an author, the next day you’ve got a computer expert then a teacher. For me, it keeps me going. If I was here completely on my own, I could get lonely…”

It seems as if Diane doesn’t have time to get lonely as people come from all over the world to get a glimpse and taste of what Diane and Kalamata has to offer them.

Guests are able to enjoy a breakfast as Greek or organic as they wish. Olives and olive oil come straight from the property and locally produced eggs and cheese and fresh meat come next door from the neighbor’s farm. The ecologically friendly property has solar panels and a composting toilet and Diane loves to keep the same minimalist attitude when it comes to bartering. She’ll get some vegetables from a neighbor’s garden and they’ll use her car. No matter what, Diane loves to keep business local. Even the beautiful stone work done on the property is the handiwork of local laborers.

Those same locals were there to welcome her and Paul to Kalamata when they moved there and they rallied around her when Paul passed away still making sure that they keep an eye out for any way they can help make her life easier. And that generosity keeps her husband’s memory alive since he loved the local community as if he were Greek himself.

“He would be very pleased I’m continuing and if I get down, I know that he would also say ‘Come on girl, you can do it!’ We did work tremendously together as a team,” Diane smiles as she talks about Paul being a people person. She knows he would love that she’s meeting so many unique people from all walks of life through this glamping opportunity.

Diane in return gives the opportunity for people around the world to go glamping at a much lower price point than other locations because she wants to share nature with as many people as possible to help them find an inner peace and solitude in a natural setting away from the craziness of a busy world. That very same quality that drew her and her husband to this property in the first place comes full circle as she meets older couples to younger ones… even a baby taking her first steps on the estate grounds holding tightly to her parent’s hands.

“They come and unwind and recharge their batteries” is how Diane explains it and it’s very easy to do in such a docile setting. With her dog and cat by her side and countless guests coming and going while falling in love with Diane and her property, she never forgets the love and spirit of the adventurous man who brought her there in the first place- her husband, Paul.

“He’s here. That’s why I haven’t moved. We built it together.”

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