Island hopping again

 

After missing out on island hopping trips for the last couple of years, we set out with a lot of anticipation on the 7th June for the port at Heraklion to travel by ferry to the island of Naxos, one of the Cyclades Islands. We felt that we had done justice to the Dodecanese Islands in previous trips and were ready for a new group. There was another difference in that we took our own car in order that we could explore more easily.

But there were no other changes to the previous format of staying on 4 different islands, this time Naxos, Irakleia, Amorgos and Koufonisia and with our friend Phil joining us.

First, the ferry stopped at Santorini, which we had visited with our friends Cathy and Bruce some years before. We were quite glad not to get off as the boat emptied considerably and there were many, many buses waiting for the huge number of tourists. However, when we got off the boat at Naxos Town, the crowds there were a bit of a shock too. Fortunately, Phil’s ferry from Athens arrived soon after ours and she was hurried into our car and John drove with the help of Phil’s maps to the smaller town of Agios Prokopias. There was a nice beach beside our accommodation where soon we found a very welcome beer and Greek salad,

The next day, we explored the very attractive and picturesque old town and kastro of Naxos and the centre and north of the island,  We set off for Filoti and Aperathou, stopping for coffee in Halki but we were rather put off by the number of bus tours around. However, the latter did not go further north than Aperathou  and so while  we missed the museums there, we enjoyed the twisty road to Skatho which is part of the emery mining area of Naxos, where we stopped for lunch. There was no menu but the Greek salad, tzaziki and the hospitality were wonderful.

We carried on, had a quick look at Apollonas on the north coast and then stopped to admire an unfinished 12m marble kouros lying on the ground.

You did not have to pay to see this amazing marble statue. For me, it looked like he had a fine resting place.

The next day, we had a day trip first to the island of Delos.  Delos is a UNESCO heritage site and a sacred island.

Phil and I wandered past the Sanctuary of Apollo, Sanctuary of Dionysos, the Agora of the Italians, Lion Terrace with recognizable statues of lions, (see cover photo), House of Hermes, House of the Dolphins, a theatre, house of Cleopatra and much more. There was so much to see and just marvel at.

We looked at the hill but this was a step too far, given the size of the site. A picture would do!!!

John hoped to visit the museum but it was shut for renovation which was a disappointment. However the actual site was not!

It was with some reluctance that I left Delos and we carried onto the island of Mykonos. The first siting of six huge cruise ships in the bay was a clue to the incredible impact of tourism on the island. But that being said, i enjoyed the afternoon there. The town is very pretty

and of course, we admired the windmills.

The down side of our visit was that I lost my camera somewhere, which was a blow because I had loads of pictures of Delos and Mykonos on it. However, my fellow travellers had photos which they kindly shared with me.

The last day on Naxos was spent exploring the south of the island, including Plaka Beach which is 5km long.  There is much tourist development but the roads are pretty basic. So with Phil navigating and John driving, we had an interesting journey as Google took on some decidedly challenging roads!  This included looking at a development which clearly was not finished but looked as if it would have been interesting!

We didn’t quite make Agiassos beach where the Venetian Marco Sanudo landed in 1207 and then ‘burnt his boats’ so that there was no option other than to conquer the island. In the evening, We ate well in Naxos, and the menu included kaloyeros, a dish from there, consisting of beef and aubergines, which was very tasty.

The next day, the car had a huge adventure. We were travelling to the small island of Irakleia, which was the first stop for the local ferry. Our car needed to be at the very back of the boat, so it could be driven off first when we arrived at the island. We were told to park on a very narrow pier which had cars passing us on one side and a drop into the sea on the other! A couple of the cars passed with a centimeter to spare, with me closing my eyes! John reversed onto this boat and all the subsequent boats with seeming confidence and no problems. There are no pictures of this drama for obvious reasons but here is a picture of us just being in a queue!!!

and the ferry we used.

iraklia is a small island with the main town town being the port. We had a nice apartment

and met a couple from Halifax who were island hopping too but over a much longer period. We thought we might meet them on another island but we never did. We travelled on every bit of road there was very quickly and settled down to complete relaxation. The port was pretty,

as were the beaches.

Phil and I enjoyed walking. This was the choice!

Phil found a cafe which was a great surprise!

We then moved onto Amorgos which is a long, thin and hilly island. John drove along the windy and hilly road to reach the very nice Airbnb accommodation that he had booked.

We met Irene, who with her brother Giorgos, ran the airBnb. She was very friendly, offering us a gift of the local raki. Later in our stay, she and her brother gave us a gift of freshly laid eggs, which provided a delicious meal for us.  We discovered that she, like a young woman we met in Iraklia, who was a waitress in a nice taverna there, had both attended Rethymnon University and studied sociology there.

The accommodation was lovely but it was an extremely windy spot. But this area was very quiet and untouched by tourism. We went to a taverna in an nearby village and were surprised to see a man arrive on a donkey. It reminded me of how Greece used to be.

The taverna itself, apart from our ourselves consisted of locals and we enjoyed wonderful meat.

On the first day, we explored the south of the island which included Phil and me walking down to a beautiful beach at Mouros.

and John then drove to the beautiful beach at the southern tip of the island, Kalotaritissas Bay.

The day ended with me eating the best sardines that I have ever eaten. They were filleted and incredibly tasty. Sadly, Phil left us the next day and amazingly got back home to Bracknell on the same day. The trip involved a ferry from Amorgos to Naxos, a flight to Athens and a flight to Heathrow. The ferry was late, the flight to Athens was late but she made it!

After she left, John and I explored the north of the island, with spectacular views of the hills,

and the beautiful sea at Agios Pavlov

and a great beach at Aigiali.

The next day, the journey to the island of Koufonisia was not one I wish to remember. The sea was rough and as a result I felt really unwell! It was a long one and a half hours for me. But I soon recovered, once we reached the island.

It is a quite small with, in my view, not really enough sand for the numbers of people who come here. That being said, it did have a wonderful coast line, in particular the walk taking me from the Melissa rooms where we stayed along the coast to Pori, which i did a couple of times. As everyone knows I never tire of blue seas, sand and rock, so this walk was my idea of heaven.

We drove on every road on the island, which was not a lot, and were amazed to find a petrol station at the furthest place it could be from the main town. Our favourite taverna, where we always ate lunch, was at Foinikas

which was close to where we stayed and to the sea and provided a simple, cheap lunch.

We travelled home by Minoan Lines and by the next evening, we were happily having a meal with Jann and Stan in Dakos taverna in Kavousi. After that, in the following days, we both had haircuts, the car was washed and we ate a nice barbecue at Pauline and Chris’s house.

The most exciting event since we came back was Isla’s first birthday. We got up early and when we were connected by video call, we sang Happy Birthday to Isla. I had baked a cake and we wore birthday hats!

She looked slightly bemused but didn’t cry which might have been a fair reaction! It must be hard when you are 1 to know what all this is about! She opened presents which was very nice. We gave her a small keyboard and some books.

What a great start to the day. Isla had been to Scotland on holiday with her parents while we were island hopping, had been half way up Ben Nevis (her Dad got to the top) and visited Deeside, so there was lots to talk about with her parents.

The solar panel project has progressed a lot but that will be one of the features for the next post. In the meantime, we fly to Edinburgh on Tuesday for a 5 week holiday, visiting family and friends in Scotland. We are looking forward to that.

Sheila

 

First steps and three funerals

Towards the end of April we had our first visitors of the year and like the proverbial number 19 London bus, they came in pairs.

First arrivals were Lesley and her niece Gillian from Perth in Scotland, who were staying in Elounda and they came just for a day visit. Lesley is a friend of Sheila’s from way back when and fortunately it was a very pleasant day weather-wise and we were able to eat outside at one of the tavernas in the plateia, after a walk around the village.

Then Sheila showed them the ancient olive tree and the beach before dropping them off back at their hotel.

It was really good to have visitors again, especially as they showed a keen interest in our lives here in Kavousi and in the way of life of the community that we now call home.

Next up were Gunilla and Marianne from Sweden who had been staying the previous week at Lendas on the south coast of Crete attending an art course. Gunilla is an old friend and it was particularly good to see her because a planned trip to see her in Stockholm had to be cancelled because of Covid.

She and Marianne caused quite a stir in the plateia when they took their sketching pads down to a taverna and spent the morning drawing and painting watercolours of both the views and some of the local characters who were having their morning coffee/raki.

A hihjlight of their stay was a trip to Mochlos. Good to be back there again drinking cocktails after a long winter!

At the end of their stay, Sheila took them both to the airport and then spent the day shopping in Heraklion in preparation for our UK trip which started just a few days later at the beginning of May,

We had booked an easyJet flight direct to Gatwick and a connecting flight to Newquay, to give us as much time with out granddaughter, Isla and of course her parents, Rosie and Ed. Best laid plans! We had not been long in the departure area when the dreaded message came up –  the flight had been delayed at Gatwick because (as we later found out) a member of the crew had called in sick and the airline had no one in reserve.

By the time we arrived at Gatwick, the flight was two hours late and our arrival coincided with the gate for our next flight closing!

After a period of panic, our friend Jane came to the rescue and offered us both a bed for the night and a fine supper and it was lovely to see her and catch up on all her news and of course vice versa, despite the fact that her house was having a new roof!

The next day we got the train from Paddington

to Newquay where we arrived twenty-one hours after we should have. As we only had eight days, this was precious grandparenting time lost, thanks to the short-sightedness of easyJet, in sacking many of their staff during the Covid pandemic.

The next few days were spent bingeing on Isla and catching up with developments in Rosie’s life. They were special days and will live in the memory for ever as they included Isla taking her first steps unaided and unsupported! It happened twice and was substantiated but she never did it again until after we had returned to Crete, although within a week she was scooting about all over. We have the videos but no easy way to include them on here unfortunately.

Later in the week, Sheila’s brother Sandy and his wife Winnie came to stay for two nights. Coincidently, they were on holiday in the West Country and wanted to meet their new great niece, so we had a family party and lunch at Bowgies a pub on the cliffs south of Newquay.

It was good to see them after quite a long time, as they were also ‘covid casualties’, at least as far as visiting was concerned.Then we had a family day out to Newquay Zoo which we all enjoyed, including Isla (I think!). The lions were of course the highlight.

On our last full day, we had more family visitors when my brother Tim and his wife Liz came for lunch from Devon, with my nephew Tom and his wife Elsie who were in the UK on holiday from New Zealand where they live. It was great to see them all and to catch the kiwi branch of the family was a special treat.

Isla was on her best behaviour with all these folk and consented without complaining and with her trademark smile, to being passed around willy-nilly!

And then the next day, it was up at 5.00am to get the flight to Gatwick at 7.00am, where we had to wait all day for the connection to Crete, No alarms this time and we were home just before 3.00am, tired but pleased to find everything in order, especially the garden which Stan and Jann had been watering assiuously.

Much of the time since has been spent prepαring for the AGM of INCO (the local foreigners’ organisation). I had somewhat foolishly offered my services as Election Officer and Sheila was standing as Secretary, a post she had been holding in an ‘acting’ capacity for the last six months or so.

Suffice it to say that there was a lot more work for both of us than we had anticipated, largely because there was not much support from the outgoing committee and there were no procedures governing the electoral process (or much else for that matter). Anyway, we got there in the end with Sheila being elected unopposed but not without a degree of moaning and groaning from those who don’t actually do anything themselves but like to have a good go at those who do. I am now a’ grass widower’ as Sheila and the new committee get down to business. Top of the agenda seems to be getting in place a complete set of procedures governing how this body is run!

Stop Press! The moaners and groaners are calling an EGM which hopefully will be held while we are away! Looks like Sheila will be out rather quickly!

However, life has not been a hard grind since we returned to Kavousi. We have met up with friends on a regular basis. We went to Makrigialos with Hans and Hanneke and had a late lunch at the beachside taverna run by Giorgos and his wife Evangelia (Giorgos being the son of Bobo and Maria in Pachia Ammos), which was a treat as not only was it good to see them but the food was delicious in a beautiful setting. Good to see H2 as well!

We also caught up with Jean Pierre and Marina who live ‘on the Hill’ in Kavousi. JP has not been well so it was especially good to see them back in Crete with him looking pretty muich his usual self.

Stan and Jann are here as well and we have spent a number of evenings at local tavernas with them and they helped out at the count at the INCO AGM.

Last weekend we went to Kritsa for lunch with new friends, Peter and Jan at their attractive village house. Good to meet new people too so May has been good for friendship.

Not much to report on my house improvement projects but the solar panels are at least now here and we are hoping that they will be installed while we are away Island Hopping in the Cyclades with Phil next week. Hopefully, you will be able to read all about that in the next Post. There should also be progress with the remaining works below the terrace and we hope to have our own parking space before we leave for our Scottish Tour in July.

Finally, I mentioned three funerals in Kavousi. I should perhaps first explain that these tend to be ‘all village’ events and if you have any connection with the deceased or their family, it is sort expected that you will attend. So, we started with the mother of our electrician, Michalis, who actually died while Michalis was working here at our house. Then, we had not been long back from Cornwall when Manolis whom we have known since before we moved to Kavousi, died at a musical evening in the plateia (village square) and then last week, the brother of our good friend, Maria died, so of course, we had to be there to show support.

So the last month and a half has been a mix of joy and sadness – a bright young thing stepping out in Cornwall and lives ending here in Kavousi. Joy also seeing good friends and meeting new ones. Irritation that easyJet can so easily weasel out of paying compensation for causing so much hassle. Pleasure that summer is arriving with swimming becoming a regular feature of our lives again and the sun is shining brightly. Hassle with the machinations at INCO.

All in all however, life is pretty good at present!

John

‘There’s nothing you can do about the weather, Sheila’ – Grace Wood

Since we returned from the UK in early February, our life here in Crete has been governed in one way or another by the weather.

Sheila’s Mum was a very wise and thoughtful woman (and by the way, it would have been her 102nd birthday today) but I think even she might have questioned her own advice, had she lived through the strange winter just passed!

By common assent, this has been the worst in our part of Crete for many a long year with rain, strong winds and low temperatures seemingly for days on end. Then, just when we thought we had turned the corner into Spring with a few fine days, came the return of the dreaded Saharan Dust.

On a number days during February and March we looked at postings from friends and family in the UK (including NE Scotland) showing photographs of spring flowers blue skies and people out and about in shorts and T-shirts and we wondered what we were doing here!

In addition to not making us feel particularly happy with our lot, the weather had a profound effect on my plans to develop the small piece of land adjacent to our house, which we bought last year. I had been planning a concrete staircase fitted with an electric staircase to enable me to get from where we park our car up to the house without the need to walk up the steep hill. I was also hoping that there would be room to excavate a space to park our car.

Sometime in February, our surveyor dropped the bombshell that he doubted if the plan was feasible both on grounds of available space and price. Apparently the cost of both concrete and steel for reinforcement was rising alarmingly and after looking at the figures, it was obvious that it was not economically viable. At about the same time, I happened to notice that the base of the wall which holds up our house and terrace, was showing some alarming signs of erosion from the continual bouts of heavy rain that we were experiencing at the time.

So we consulted our builder who told us firmly that emergency repairs were required, as a result of which the original plans were scrapped and new ones put in place,

Since then, it has been all action with a new reinforced concrete base to the wall and just last week a kind of reinforced concrete buttress built up from the base for the length of the wall. Both parts of the work have involved an enormous pumping truck with a telescopic arm combining with a concrete mixing lorry. Now we are just waiting for the mess to be cleared up!

Before

First the fig tree goes

Then the excavations begin

The shuttering goes up

Το Αφεντικό (The Boss) supervises

The pumping wagon and concrete mixer arrive

And they start pouring the concrete

The finished job

The high winds and low temperatures have seen off a number of our favourite plants, including the elderly banana plant which has stood outside our front door for nearly as long as we have lived here. So, once the weather improved and the worst appeared to be over, we headed for the garden centre to replace them. We have decided on a small tree/bush to replace the banana and the rest of them are now re-planted and standing their new homes.

The garden too, is actually looking pretty good considering everything and is providing some welcome colour to our lives.

Whilst experiencing all the bad weather during the winter, I have also been coping with a particularly uncomfortable health issue – in a word constipation! This has gradually become more of a problem since December and eventually I went to our GP about it and was referred to a gastroenterologist, who carried out a colonoscopy, which fortunately for me gave me an all clear as regards possible cancer issues, which for the doctors was a concern obviously, although not really ever for me. I had a theory that it was related to my muscular dystrophy and the gastroenterologist, I think, is now inclined to agree. Being increasingly bent over, I thought that perhaps that my insides were getting squeezed which means they don’t work as well as they should and this seems that it might well be the explanation. Not much to be done about this, I fear because it is what it is!

I mention it, only because it appears that here in Greece and elsewhere in the world there is a view that everyone over 50 should have a colonoscopy as a matter of course, as part of what can loosely be called a  preventative medicine regime. I had never heard about this in the UK which begs a question or two for the NHS but I thought I would mention my experience here, for the benefit of anyone who might have similar problems. Fear not, the procedure itself was pain free – only the special diet leading up to it was not particularly agreeable.

Meanwhile, and on a completely different note, Sheila has been appointed Secretary of INCO which is an organisation based in Agios Nikolaos which represents foreigners living here in Greece, We have been members for some years but whilst we have participated in some social and entertainment aspects, notably opera streamed to the Rex Cinema in Agios from the New York Met, we have not so far played an active part.

However, the husband and wife team who have effectively run the organisation for many years are standing down and Sheila thought that it would be something in which she could put to good use, her experience of working with and as part of, voluntary organisations. So she has been quite busy over the winter networking with the ‘movers and shakers’ and getting a feel for what needs to be done to beef up the committee structure.

For my part, I have taken on the role of co-ordinator for expanding the organisation into the area served by Ierapetra Council (where we live in Kavousi). This is slow going as we need the Mayor onside and so far the signs are not good, although we have at least got as far as having a meeting with his Deputy!

The improvement in the weather over the last few weeks has meant that we have both been able to get out more – Sheila on a regular walking regime and me getting back on my bike, especially after it had its annual service recently.

We managed a day out one fine day when we had a trip to Tertsa on the south coast via the mountain road through Kalamafka, which gave wonderful views to the snowy mountains to both sides.

There was little going on when we got to Tertsa as the season does not really get going until just before Easter but we could not resist a hour lying on the beach in our favourite spot.

We also had an outing last weekend, with our Dutch friends Hans and Hanneke, to Katharo which is set in an upland plateau at 1,100 feet above sea level. We were hoping that the spring flowers would be out but unfortuantely we were probably a week early and only the more hardy specimens had dared to poke their noses out.

It was however a beautiful day and even at that height we were able to eat outisde without a fleece or jersey. It is a special place and one of our favourites.

And the views on the way up and of the snow still on the mountains once there, were spectacular.

Finally, in March there was a 20K ‘Coast-to-Coast’ run which started in Kavousi (on the north coast and ended in Ierapetra on the south) and of course Sheila was there for the early start to record the runners departing from the village.

So that brings us nearly up to date as we prepare for our first visitors for so long, I can’t actually remember when. Perhaps that will spark a first dip of the year and we can finally consign last winter to being just a bad memory. And then it will be off to the UK at the end of the month for another visit to Cornwall where we hope to see our beautiful granddaughter take her first step. No pressure, Isla!

John

 

Happy Days but Strange Weather

 

John and I could not have had a better start to 2022. We spent two weeks in January in Cornwall with Rosie, Ed and Islam which was then followed by another week of holiday in the West Country. Travel was still more stressful than in pre-covid days but it was definitely worth the effort.

We were lucky to be able to stay in an apartment just below where Rosie lives. Every morning around 9am, Rosie and Isla would appear at the door with Isla ready for play and fun. It was time for John and I to move onto the floor

and it was such a treat. We were always rewarded by big smiles from Isla. So we might start with the beakers, then move onto one of the vehicles that she would drive. She couldn’t walk on her own but with the help of the toy, she was away!

Afterwards, there was some reading

and some sleeping, well for Grandad!!!

If we ran out of ideas, there was always the television and to sing along to the Beatles.

Rosie and I might walk into Newquay with Isla in the pram

or go for a walk around Porth,

which is so beautiful.  We hired a car, so were able to get out and about for a few trips which were not confined to Newquay.  The car was bigger than we wanted but we learned the reason for this from the woman who delivered it. There is apparently a worldwide shortage of electronic chips, particularly for smaller cars and the situation does not appear to be going to get any better soon!

We visited the Wheal Martyn Clay Works and museum,

we admired lovely beaches

and a stunning coastline,

we walked along the Camel Trail and ate Cornish pasties at Padstow,

and with Isla’s dad, Ed, we enjoyed the Seal Sanctuary, which cares for injured seals. Here, Isla has a close encounter with one of them!!

As my Christmas present, Rosie treated me to afternoon tea at the Headland Hotel in Newquay. isla came with us, of course and entertained the waitresses and generally indulged us as Rosie and I enjoyed an amazing spread of food.

Just as we were finishing, our luck ran out as Isla had decided it was time to go home and we made a quick exit!

We visited Ed’s parents, Charlie and Sue, and enjoyed their company and hospitality.

For us, the days went by seamlessly and it was a joy to be part of Isla’s life for this period of time. Before we left,  John took a picture of the three generations of the Burt/Wood/Broom family

We travelled by train to Plymouth, a city that neither of us knew. We stayed in the Premier Inn for three nights which was a good base for exploring Plymouth’s maritime history. I also enjoyed the shops while John met a childhood friend, who lives there.

We liked the harbour,

admired  the Hoe,

and the view from it with people swimming in the sea on January 30th.

and we learned about Plymouth’s history from information boards

and a couple of museums – one specifically about the Mayflower leaving Plymouth for America

and the other, the Box, which had a number of exhibitions.

Then, there was more travel by train to North Devon, where we were met by Tim and Liz, John’s brother and sister in law.

We were very happy to have a quiet time with them in their lovely house, although following John’s request, we did visit the Wellington Monument, apparently the tallest three-sided obelisk in the world and it commemorates Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

 

There was a nice walk to reach it, although it would probably be more attractive in the spring!

Tim drove us to Ogbourne St Maizey in Wiltshire, to have lunch at the local golf club, with John’s cousin Liz and then dropped us at a station for us to catch the final trains of the trip. We stayed with our good friend Phil, who not only took us to Heathrow Airport but also to Sough for a lateral flow test which fortunately was negative.

Throughout our trip, our neighbour, Anca, sent messages describing the weather in Kavousi. It seemed that ‘cold and wet’ with a bit of snow would best describe it. In Cornwall, it was changeable but generally not that cold or wet!!!

When we arrived back in Kavousi, we were surprised to learn from friends and the local newspaper that the village was full of covid. We have been lucky to avoid it so far. However, Covid restrictions are about to be removed soon in Greece, which is good news.

There have not been as many sunny days as we would have expected in February and the beginning of March and we have experienced torrential rain and cold temperatures most weeks. But as you can see in these pictures, the sun has been out and there have been opportunities to take pictures of the Greece that I love – amazing seas, so many colours of blue, even a vibrant green, lovely flowers and wonderful light. And some jellyfish on the beach at Tholos!

John and I have been focusing on ‘projects’ in which we are involved. John has decided with some regret not to go ahead with his electric chair lift project on the grounds that it was becoming very expensive. But he is now busy looking for an alternative to the solution of getting up the hill to our house and he is considering buying a 3 wheel electric scooter. The investigation is in its early stages.

As a result of the rain, many stones and rocks have become dislodged under the wall on our new piece of land, which is a bit alarming for the stability of the house. So Alkis, our neighbour and builder, is about to cut down a big tree, build up the ground under the wall and construct  a parking place on the land for us.

In December, I became the secretary of INCO, the organisation which supports foreign residents in Lasithi.  INCO is a very helpful and useful organisation and I am glad to support it. It was not a good timing to be away in the UK for 3 weeks as there is a lot to learn! I am trying to make up for it now!

In between the rain, it has been possible to get out. INCO organised a walk in February along the beaches of Istron which took place in bright sunshine.

It was an opportunity to meet new people

and to have a nice lunch at a nearby taverna. Note the background of snow in the above picture,

More locally, my neighbour, Anca and I were invited on one my most favourite walks – up the Mesonas gorge, to the Minoan site at Kastro and then back to Kavousi past the old Olive Tree. We walked with Kathy, Fergus and Vicky and had such a nice time both socially

as well as enjoying the very green countryside, which is as a result of the more than average rainfall for the time of year.

It has been very tempting to stay inside, rather than meet friends in local tavernas. But John and I do like to get out and have enjoyed nice meals in Mochlos with Hans and Hanneke, in Koutsounari, with Shona and Rich and even one on our own at Natasha’s in Pacheia Ammos. Whilst we were the only customers, Natasha cooked our meal of grilled kalamari and then joined us for the meal. She ate a salad and we enjoyed the conversation. It was cold and dark outside but the conversation and food made us forget all about that.

Recently, we went to Sitia for a day out. it was nice to potter about,

drink coffee,

and eat lunch.

From the taverna, we could see a ferry come in to the harbour which was actually a couple of miles away.

We are going island hopping in June and we and our car will take the ferry from Heraklion to the island of Naxos and then to four other Cycladic islands.

We also have booked another trip to Cornwall in May and will go to Scotland for five weeks in the summer from July 12th until 16th August. We hope to catch up with as many people as we can in different parts of the country. Let us know if you are around!

Sheila

Celebrations

It was my birthday towards the end of November and so we decided to spend a few days in Rethymnon celebrating, before moving on to Heraklion where we had booked to see a live opera.

We had not really spent much time in Rethymnon previously and especially wanted to see the Old Town which retains much of its original Venetian layout and many old buildings, including the fortress which admittedly we had seen some years ago. In addition we planned to explore the largely rural area immediately south of the city where we had never been before.

So, Sheila booked us in to what might well be described as a ‘bijou’ hotel in the Old Town which as they say, had been tastefully renovated and refurbished but retained much of its old charm, including a four poster bed! The only problem was that there was no parking but we soon found a car park which, whilst not exactly next door, was at least walkable.

The first afternoon we had a shortish walk to get our bearings and found a taverna at the old Venetian harbour where they served up a hot sandwich (a toastie really) and some good coffee and then we returned to the hotel for a rest before finding a restaurant nearby for our evening meal. Even at the end of November, we were still eating outside although they had large heaters to keep the chill off. It was somewhat bizarre in that when we got chatting to the waiter later, we found that he came from Siteia just down the road from us!

The next day which was actually my birthday we set out for some serious exploration and took in the Archaeological Museum, the old mosque,

the main square with a commemorative monument to the victims of the Asia Minor catastrophe a hundred years ago

and a Venetian fountain,

followed by a longer look at the seafront and harbour, rounded off with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Then we repaired to our balcony with a bottle of fizzy wine to start the celebrations!

In the evening, we headed for what we thought was the best restaurant in town which turned out to be closed but its ‘sister’ location next door was fortunately open and we feasted on rabbit with buckwheat (Sheila)

and ‘the best lamb ever’ for me, according to Sheila’s diary!

The following day we headed for the hills and after an abortive attempt to find an historic monastery, we found ourselves in ancient Lappa (modern day Argyroupoli), which commands a stunning location above a valley leading from the mountains to the sea.

Then we drove through the mountains to Armeni where we visited a Minoan burial gound with over two hundred chamber tombs.

The site was discovered during WW2 when German soldiers built a machine gun post at the summit of the pass to defend against possible attack from the south.

The next day we set out via the ‘old’ road to Heraklion via the Monastery of Arkadi which nestles below the summit of Mount Ida (Psiloritis), the highest mountain in Crete.

It is the location where, during the 1866 revolution againt the Ottaman Turks, 943 Greeks, mostly women and children, sought refuge. After three days of battle and under orders from the abbot of the monastery, the Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender.

There is some debate as to the accuracy of the account but it is a good story all the same and a splendid place to visit.

The next stop was the ancient Dorian city of Eleutherna (later taken over by the Romans) where unfortunately the new museum was closed. However, we poked around in the ruins and found some impressive fortifications and the cemetery which is currently being excavated.

The highlight of our stay in Heraklion was the next evening, when we saw Mozart’s opera ‘Ideomeneo, King of Crete’ at the Conference and Cultural Center. It was a great performance and interesting also to see the middle classes of our major Cretan city ‘at play’. 

Sheila also managed to take in some important pre-Christmas retail therapy, including the all important pudding from Marks & Spencer!

Then it was home to Kavousi the next day to be greeted with some good news. Finally, our purchase of the small piece of land adjacent to our house was nearing completion (after just over a year) and the following week we went to the office of the Notary in Ierapetra to finalise the paperwork.

More recently, the surveyor has been to take the measurements so he can draw up the plans to provide us with a parking space and a staircase, to enable me to have an electric stair lift installed, thus saving the walk up the hill, which I am now finding increasingly difficult. Hopefully, within a few months, work can start.

At the same time, plans are being developed to instal photovoltaic panels on the roof to allow us to generate our own electricity from all the wonderful Cretan sun. 2022 should be a busy year for house improvements in this corner of Kavousi! 

On that subject we have recently had a second new lamp installed in the sitting room courtesy of our friend Lydia. She is a genius in the use of driftwood to create unique, beautiful and interesting lighting, especially for our old traditional house.

Outside, our banana plant finally decided rather late in the year that it was time to produce some fruit. We are not sure if they will come to anything but have now covered them in a plastic bag to protect them from the cold. We live in hope!

Early winter is tradionally the time when we have our annual health checks which happily have proved fairly OK for both of us this year and coincided with having our booster covid shots, so hopefully we will be set up for a while. That said, I still have to have a couple more check-ups which are planned for the next few months. 

We have both volunteered to take a more active role in the local foreigners’ organisation which is based in Agios Nikolas. It was not something that we envisaged doing here, having had our fill of voluntary groups over the years but needs must sometimes, so Sheila may well become the secretary (she is ‘acting’ at present!) and I am planning to extend the range of the organisation to take in foreigners based in the greater Ierapetra area. It should be interesting to have more dealings with the Council and council officials and perhaps good for my Greek language skills. In this context, Sheila has to write up the minutes in Greek to comply with Greek law!

Despite the fact that December was unusually wet and cold, we have managed to get out reasonably often. Sheila has a short walk nearly every day whatever the weather and occasionally longer trips with our new neighbour Anca. I am not walking very far these days but I still try to have a bike ride when the weather permits although the tracks through the olive groves are now so wet and muddy that I have to stay on the main dirt roads. That said, it is such a joy to be able to get out and the views of Pseira, Tholos Bay and the mountains never cease to lift one’s spirits.

The weather has also produced some tremendous rainbows which have alleviated the winter gloom.

The Rex Cinema in Agios Nikoloas re-opened at some point recently and we went to see ‘The House of Gucci’, which we enjoyed. Entry and exit were very carefully controlled and of course we were socially distanced but it was great just to be there. The film was good but it was more the ability to be allowed in, which was important! 

More recently of course we have been able to celebrate Christmas and New Year. We had no visiting friends or family this year for obvious reasons, so left to our own devices we invited our not so new neighbours, Anca and Mark for Christmas lunch. They are vegetarian which posed a small challenge but we managed and really enjoyed our first ever ‘veggie’ Christmas meal, which was a courgette and pea soup with feta starter, followed by a pumpkin and bean pie with roast mediterranean vegetables and to finish, the Christmas pudding courtesy of Marks & Spencer in Heraklion, as mentioned above. I have to be honest and say that my preference would still be for Turkey with all the trimmings but for a change, it was a surprisingly good alternative!

Hogmanay celebrations were limited and we watched a film followed by a programme on Greek television which culminated in fireworks from Athens, which were spectacular.

On New Years’ Day we went to Pauline and Chris for lunch in the company of a number of local foreigners who like us had all brought a contribution to the meal. This was Hanneke’s dessert.

For once, the weather was great with warm sunshine meaning that we could sit outside and enjoy not only good food and good company but also the sun on our faces. It was a good way to start the year.

Best Wishes for 2022 to you all, from us both.

John

 

Back to nearly normal

In the last two months, life has been more like it was before lockdown. Staying at home during then was not a great problem for me and it did have some positive aspects to it but eventually I did long to see it end and, in particular, to be able to travel to different parts of Crete and further afield and for friends and family to come and visit us. All of this is now possible and more importantly, has happened.

After our trip to Lower Zakros in August, we planned another similar trip, this time to Tertsa on the south coast for three days at the end of August. It was incredibly relaxing. We stayed in a room that belonged to our favourite taverna, Lambros.  We drank beer,

we lay on the sunbeds

and enjoyed the empty beaches.

I had a walk or two

admired Tertsa from above,

  and the profusion of prickly pears.

On the day we returned from Tertsa,  Mikis Theodorakis died, aged 96. John and I watched his funeral in Xania on TV.

Later in the month, we went to a concert at Agios Nikolaos. it was a celebration of his music and his enormous contribution to Greek society and culture.

A week later, we decided to visit Katharo Plateau in our car but going off road to get there. Our car did brilliantly and enabled us to admire this wonderful place. It is more beautiful in the spring when the flowers are out but it was still spectacular.

We had lunch in the lovely taverna, 

and then we carried on to the Lasithi Plateau,

and then home.

Later in September, the annual mountain running event took place in Kavousi. This year the main event was a marathon which involved running up 2 huge mountains behind us – Kapsas and Afendis Stavromenos.

This was just soon after the start at the bottom of our house!

Our trip to Tertsa was a lovely break but even more excitement was to follow in October, when James, our friend Phil and finally Rosie, Ed and Isla all booked to fly from the UK to Crete and stay with us.  Not all at the same time, of course, but nicely spread out.  We are very aware that the presence of covid is still with us and there is need for masks, social distancing, vaccination and tight travel rules but it is wonderful for us that it is now possible to have more social contact, particularly with family and friends. It felt as if it was nearly a return to normal living.

James arrived on the 1st October and this was the first time we had spent time with him for over two years. There was clearly going to be a lot to talk about but the big question was what the weather was going to be like!  Fortunately, It was pretty good in Kavousi but when it wasn’t, we got in the car and drove to the south coast and lay in the sunshine on Galini beach,

with the odd break for refreshments.

We spent some time on Tholos Beach as well.

But on my birthday, James and I walked to the olive tree and then down the Havgas gorge.

It was very special to have him here that day. Presents from John started the day,

which included flowers, lovely earrings and necklace and the DVD of Dr Finlay’s Casebook, series 3 and 4!  Rosie sent me a token for a full body massage and a facial treatment at the Astron Hotel in Ierapetra. A few days later, I  enjoyed the treatment and felt ‘glowing’ when I finished.  To add to the excitement on my birthday, our friends Stan and Jann dropped by and then, of course, in the evening there was a cocktail in Mochlos with John and James.

followed by delicious food!

James joined us on a visit to Mochlos island, which was organised by our friend, Pauline. Ever since we went to Mochlos, I have loved looking over to the island, which was settled first in Neolithic times (around 3,000BC).  To go over to the island involved only a phone call to the boatman but we never quite managed to do this. But on this day, it was all done for us and we enjoyed the short boat ride to the island,

looked back to Mochlos

and found out about the amazing history of the island as a trading port, from the local archaeologist, Melissa Eaby, and information about the archaeological excavations at the site.

Many different peoples have settled here, building on top of what had gone before, so it is a tricky business being an archaeologist excavating it!  We walked up to look at some graves,

and some of us walked up to the top of the island, and looked down on the settlement.

Mochlos Island is still being excavated and Melissa had worked there over the summer. Much treasure has been found there but to see that, you must go to Sitia or Agios Nikolaos museums.

The week went by quickly and there is no doubt that we enjoyed it!

A few days after James left, our friends Walter and Brigitte came for a day to Kavousi. We had a lovely time with them, catching up with news. They were on a two week holiday in Ferma.

We hope to visit them at their home in Heikendorf, Germany in February

Days later, John and I went to Heraklion and picked up our friend, Phil and set off for the south coast where John had booked an Airbnb property, overlooking the sea in the small village of Cristosomos. This was new territory for us.

The accommodation was very comfortable and we immediately relaxed! With some difficulty, we found a nice taverna which fortunately was open, on the road to Kali Limenes.  It was just what we needed – tasty food in a local taverna with an amazing dog.

But some bad weather drama was to follow after we got back to our new accommodation. There was some warning before we went to bed.

By the morning, the electricity was off and Phil had spent the night avoiding water which was coming into her bedroom through the roof. There were very few people around in the village but I eventually found somebody who told me the electricity was off throughout the area but it would return σε λίγο (in a little while). So we decided to go out for the day. First, we went to Kali Limenes,  which is  an attractive village.

It says in Wikipedia  that the apostle Paul landed here on the way from Caesarea in Israel. But few people live here and there is now an oil storage and terminal facility built on the small island opposite it.I suspect not so many tourists come here! 

We carried on to Matala where we had a coffee on the beach and we were rather amazed by the number of people here. In the middle of October, tourism was flourishing.

 Then we went on to the lovely Phaistos where you can ponder on the meaning of life,

and admire the wonderful setting of the Palace.

We had electricity when we got back and we had a homely evening, eating bits and pieces of food that we had brought and introducing Phil to the domino game ‘Mexican Train’. Phil picked up the rules quickly and so it was pretty competitive!

The next day, Phil and I walked along the road towards Lendas, admiring the coastline.

John took advantage of our empty beach and the sunshine.

The next day, we were back in Kavousi and Phil and I particularly enjoyed the walk to Agriomandra.

The evening before Phil left, we had dinner in Clio taverna with Brigitte and Walter, Hans and Hanneke and Inge, all of whom we had met very soon after we first arrived in Ferma, now nearly 10 years ago.

It was a very nice evening and Phil impressed our German and Dutch friends with her German and French language skills.

Then at the end of October, our daughter Rosie, partner Ed and 4 month old Isla arrived safely in Kavousi. Originally they had flights booked from Bristol Airport with Easyjet but the return flight on the 6th November was cancelled, so they re-booked to fly from Luton instead. This was not such a convenient journey, coming from Newquay, and they had to cope with delays on the M5. But they arrived safely at Heraklion Airport and we waited for them in our hired car chosen to fit the five of us.  John and I were extremely happy at their arrival  but were a little apprehensive about having a little baby at our house.  We had prepared as much as we could as we had borrowed a cot and sheets, bought nappies and other lotions, got some toys, some of which John had made himself and prepared food.  We enjoyed their stay hugely.  The weather was very nice, with lots of sun, not too hot but not cold either.

This was a great relief to us as it meant we could introduce Isla to beaches and sitting outside on our patio.

Ed and Rosie are wonderful parents and there was a lot of attention on offer from them

Isla was very happy to meet our neighbour, Maria, who spoke to Isla in Greek for a considerable time and Isla was completely taken with her.

Rosie and Ed had brought toys with them and Isla’s favourite was her play mat and the furry toy unicorn called Olga. But she had other favourites too.

We went to tavernas to eat some of the time and learned that it was better for everybody to go in the early evening. But when Isla cried, there were offers of help from the taverna staff. It was good to see Isla asleep sometimes!

We did manage to give Rosie and Ed a little bit of time for themselves. It wasn’t much but they walked round Gournia, shopped in Ierapetra and they walked up the Havgas gorge .

Ed went fishing, rather than lying on the beach

and John and I were only too delighted to play with Isla,

hoping to get a smile from her.

The family left on November 6th. John and I were sad but we felt so happy that Rosie, Ed and Isla had come to stay with us. We will be in Cornwall in January.

Sheila

A Strange Kavousi Summer

In a sense, the above photo sums up what for us has been a strange summer in Kavousi – extreme heat, wild fires, regular small earthquakes and a covid related absense of visitors, which has meant an increased reliance on the presence of local friends for social contact.

The above photograph comes from a video taken recently by our local village journalist, Leonidas Koudoumogianakis (thank you Leonidas). As  wild fires go, it was quite small and because it started on the main road near the village of Episkopi, it was quickly extinguished but it was only a few miles from Kavousi.

We saw it first from the road above, as we were returning from a lunch date in the village of Thripti with both sets of our Dutch friends, Pauline and Chris and Hans and Hanneke. Regular contact with local friends has been a feature of this summer for all of us because none of us have had friends or family visiting from abroad.

Once we reached the main road from Ierapetra at the bottom, we were confronted by a number of fire engines and folk from the emergency services assisted by local volunteers, who were working hard in a strong north wind to extinguish the flames. Fortunately, they were successful but it brought home to us just how quickly these situations can get out of control and all apparently caused by a cigarette thrown carelessly from a passing car.

It has been the hottest summer on record in Greece for thirty or forty years and as has been widely reported in the Media, there have been a number of wild fires on the mainland and especially on the island of Evia, which have been made worse by a continuing strong north wind. Crete has been on high alert for some time but until now, we had seen little or no evidence that there had been a problem here. Now we know just how dangerous they can be.

The heat has been intense since we returned from the UK in mid-July and for a few days, all one could really do was survive with a mix of drinking plenty of water, switching on the airconditioning/fans, the occasional swim and just generally not doing a lot. This comes fairly naturally to me but for Sheila, who needs much more exercise, it was a particularly difficult time.

Eventually, we decided that a beach holiday was needed so we booked three nights in the small village of Kato Zakros.

We have been there many times and some of you who have stayed with us here may recall walking the gorge and visiting the remains of the Minoan Palace, before having a welcome swim and a meal at at one of the tavernas fronting the beach.

We were fortunate to be able to book a room in high season just above the beach and spent three glorious days doing very little, under a sunshade

with plentiful books on our kindles and cooling down with frequent swims and/or a beer.

Sheila had two longish walks early(ish) morning – one each way along the coast and discovered what looks to be a well-marked coastal path which needs further exploration but probably with fellow hikers. Any takers?

We ate well too starting each day with a continental breakfast provided by our hosts,

a light lunch at the same venue

and then the main meal in the evening from a choice of tavernas. It was a great break and we are about to plan the next one!

I mentioned earlier that since we returned  from the UK there have been a number of small earthquakes with epicentres close to Kavousi. This probably has nothing to do with climate issues and more to with the Earth’s tectonic plates and the multitude of faults in our area. Our geologist friend, Chris, is relaxed about it and described it as ‘a good thing’, allowing the pressure created to ease on a measured basis, thereby avoiding ‘the big one’ which everyone here fears! Personally I find the frequent small rumbles, somewhat akin to a lorry trundling along a dirt road, rather alarming but after a while, i suppose you do get used to it. And they were quite small on the seismic scale!

After a delay of over a year, Sheila finally got to play a couple of sessions of tennis recently. John-Pierre and Marina arrived from Belgium and with local resident Nigel making up the foursome, they got up early to avoid the worst of the heat and managed to shake the rust from the rackets.

As I mentioned, exercise has been a problem in the heat and it was only a few days ago that I got back in the saddle for the first time since our holiday. I was a bit stiff the next day after even only a few kilometres but it was good to be out, even if a tad too hot for my taste.

Some readers may recall that I have a project here at our house which involves buying a very small piece of land adjacent to the terrace, on which I want to built a staircase. The negotiations have been going on for nearly a year now and finally we hope will be brought to a conclusion by the end of September.

The land is owned by a local family and the complications relating to multiple ownership has been but one issue of many but finally this summer, we met Vicky from Athens who is the family member who first brokered the deal. She and her daughter came for coffee last week and today we went to her village summer house so that she could show us her Aunt’s house which the family would like to sell as a renovation project.

A project it will certainly be for someone (not us!) but it will make a lovely home when completed. It is situated off a small pedestrian lane not far from us which is always beautiful with flowers and trailing plants and indeed is one of the places in the village which first attracted us to Kavousi. Let us know if you are interested!

As regards our house, we have also acquired a new lamp, made for us by Lydia who is the wife of Gregory, our hairdresser. Lydia searches the beaches on the south coast for a suitable bit of driftwood, dries and oils the wood and mounts it on a suitably large pebble and then creates the most amazing lamps.

She has been working on ours for some months and finally it was installed when we got back from the UK and then we all went out to celebrate in Mochlos with a superb supper at Giorgos’ taverna!

We also have another flower on our Bird of Paradise plant – the second of the summer!

and we celebrated with haggis for supper!

The last two weeks has been dominated (for me at least) by computer issues. I switched on my desktop one morning to get the dreaded ‘blue screenof death’.

A trip to the computer shop confirmed my worst fears – the hard drive would have to be wiped and Windows re-installed. However, I was not too worried because I had taken the precaution of backing-up all my important files to an external hard drive, or so I thought. Just about everything was there and after re-installing all the programmes, I was quickly back up and running except that is, for my family history files! I thought it was all there and much of it was but not my family tree. Luckily I found a file from last year but much of the work done since will have to be re-created. Take notice, friends!

Summer here would not be the same without visits to the outdoor cinema in Agios Nikolaos. We have been twice with Pauline and Chris – on the first occasion to see live opera and on the second, a showing of the 1973 movie ‘The Sting’ with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. We had seen it before of course but there is something special about seeing it outdoors on a warm summer evening in Greece. On both occasions, the entertainment followed supper at ‘Paradosiako’ taverna with our friends and such social contact has been an important part of our summer.

Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, seeing friends here has been one of the particular pleasures of this strange summer. Usually we are busy with visitors but this year being able to spend time with our local friends (both ‘foreign’ and Greek) has provided not just friendship and social contact but also entertainment and laughter. We’re very lucky to live in such a pleasant place as Kavousi, with so many nice folk around.

And finally, for those of you who like a good baby picture, here is one of our two month old granddaughter, Isla, with her first proper smile! They are all planning to come in late October for a week and we can’t wait.

John

 

What a wonderful world

At the end of May, John and I travelled from Kavousi to London and then on to Cornwall where we stayed at our flat in Newquay.  In spite of covid restrictions, we spent socially distanced time with our daughter, Rosie and her partner, Ed over the next few weeks and then on June 28th, Rosie gave birth to their daughter, Isla Rose Broom. 10 days later, we were present at the wedding of our son Graham, to Rhiannon at Islington Town Hall, London. As you can imagine, we are incredibly happy about all of this!!!

Isla was born in Truro Hospital at 7.30 am. She was 9lbs 7ozs (4.28kg) at birth and looked completely adorable from the start.

For some days, we had been expecting the baby to be born and I put my phone on immediately when I woke up. But no news for days. And then on the Monday morning, about 8am, I looked at my phone and saw three pictures of a baby. It was a wonderful feeling and I still feel emotional when I think of that moment. Excitement, relief, wonder, pure happiness, tearful ….

Ed, Rosie and the new baby (with no name at that point) were home at their flat by 3pm that day which seemed amazing to me, given that I remember spending some days in hospital after childbirth.  John and I took flowers round to their flat and we couldn’t believe how well the baby, Rosie and Ed were.  I felt very nervous picking her up as her head seemed so wobbly and she seemed so small. But holding my granddaughter was a wonderful feeling and brought tears to my eyes.

After a couple of days, the baby was named Isla Rose.  John and I thought these were lovely names and they suited our precious granddaughter. For the next week, we saw Isla most days and on the last day, John and I were in charge for an hour as her parents went shopping.  Isla had the good sense to stay asleep!!! . Both parents are very relaxed and so happy with their new daughter.

It was difficult to leave Rosie, Ed and Isla but we did have another family celebration to attend.

Graham and Rhiannon married on July 8th.  When I first heard about the wedding, I was delighted but had selfish worries about what I was going to wear as I realised that shorts and a  t shirt  would not be appropriate! I went to a shop in Agios Nikolaos and the staff there, helped me choose a very comfortable, suitable and colourful outfit and they even took me to another shop where I could buy shoes! After months of lockdown and casual dress , I looked at myself in the mirror in some wonder that I looked so smart!!! The material survived the travel and I bought another dress in Truro, when I was in Cornwall, for the evening. My wardrobe has improved no end!!!

Graham and Rhiannon’s wedding was a delight.  A small group of us attended the ceremony at Islington Town Hall – parents, grandparents, James and Rhiannon’s brother, Nye.  In the circumstances, Rosie decided sensibly not to come.

The bride and groom were very happy.

as were all the relatives.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant nearby, where we were joined by a few friends of Graham and Rhiannon. The company and the food were wonderful.

 Speeches were made by the bride and groom as well as their fathers. Graham’s friend, Neil, introduced some music into the occasion, including ‘The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ which we all had to sing, of course. The evening was spent at the St Pancras Rennaissance Hotel where conversations continued until eventually the young folk went off to a karaoke session and the parents continued to drink and chat. Graham and Rhiannon had arranged for their parents to stay overnight at the hotel which was another treat. Whilst I ate a good breakfast, the next morning, I did not feel so well later on. But it was all well worth it!!!

A few days later, Graham and Rhiannon invited us and our friend, Jane, for dinner at their flat. It was quite dramatic as we arrived by taxi in a huge deluge of rain. They cooked us a lovely meal and we talked about their plans for the next two years. They leave for Mexico City on August 8th and Graham starts work as a chemistry teacher at Greengates School there later in the month. They sounded so excited and all set for adventure!. They are renting out their flat and putting their furniture into storage. We had a lovely evening and we felt very happy for them both.

Recently, Graham and Rhiannon met Isla in Newquay (see cover picture).

While they were there they checked out the new, superb  Airbnb accommodation and they helped to organise Isla’s first barbeque experience which included some rain!

During the four weeks before Isla’s birth, we were unfortunately and reluctantly in quarantine  for 10 days in the flat, so it was good to have a project for that period and then up until the baby was born!  Now Rosie is no longer living in our flat, she had the good idea of renting it out on Airbnb.  There is great demand in Cornwall at present for such accommodation.  But the flat needed some work done to it before this could happen. By the time we arrived, Ed had laid a new floor and he and Rosie had painted much of it. So our job was to finish the painting and complete some other jobs.

We decided also to update some of the appliances – the boiler, cooker and dishwasher – as our contribution to the venture. These were bought and installed so that they would be completely reliable when people came to stay. By the time we left Newquay, the new boiler would not work which was the reverse of what was intended!  However, it was not such a big problem and was fixed after we left, although we had to use cold water for a couple of days!

John and I were also given the task of taking pictures of the flat for Airbnb advertising.  This was a bit of a challenge, not only do we have limited photographic skills but the flat is quite small. The living room/kitchen was easy,

the rest was more tricky.

The second bedroom is quite small!  Fortunately, Ed’s mother, Sue, reassured us that the photos were not so important!  In fact,  Rosie has had no trouble in renting it out for August and September so we are taking some credit for this! The first group of people have arrived and all is good so far.

We also had time for some fun in Cornwall, which is just so beautiful especially in the good weather which we were fortunate to enjoy. Rosie took us to the famous Lost Gardens of Heligan which were lovely and it was especially good to have a professional gardener as our guide!

and I particularly enjoyed the flowers,

the trees

and the Mud Maid sculpture.

On another occasion with Ed and Rosie we had lunch at the Bowgie Inn, near Newquay and were stunned by the most spectacular panorama. I think that the blues of the Cretan seas are unbeatable but actually the view that day of the Cornish coastline was, without doubt, in close competition.

There was another pub outing to meet Graham and Sally  We met Graham in Kavousi, but he lives in Camborne and it was so nice to catch up with them again.

We also went further afield for 4 days. We spent a couple of nights with John’s cousin, Liz and enjoyed her hospitality,

her flowers,

and the wonderful green countryside of Wiltshire

We visited Tim and Liz in Devon and later they also came to see us and Isla in Newquay. While they were there, we enjoyed a local walk showing off the wonderful coastline around Newquay,

  and on another excursion sat watching the ferry from Rock to Padstow

Tim brought with him two local pictures which now are features of our flat. Apparently, John and Tim’s parents went to Newquay for their honeymoon in 1937 and bought these pictures by a local artist. Rosie and all of us were delighted to have something so personal to display in the flat.

It was then time to move on to London for the wedding. At first, we stayed with our friends Sarah and Mark, who with their son, Tom, coped very well with our comings and goings  regarding the wedding and confirmed that we looked fine as parents of the groom!  The next day when we returned, we brought some flowers which had been on a table at the restaurant.

One day I walked with Sarah in Battersea (we used to work together there in the 1980’s) and we went to an Arts community project in which Sarah is involved which was very interesting.

Later we watched England play Denmark in the semifinal of the European Cup which had a good ending!

Then we moved to stay with Jane for three days. She had moved since we saw her last so we were curious to see her new house and garden as well as catching up with her news.  We visited the nearby old Rookery which is one of London’s many wonderful parks!) and Jane was keen to show me West Norwood cemetery.  In 1842, a section of it was acquired by the London Greek community for a Greek Orthodox cemetery.  There are many impressive looking monuments and mausoleums there.

The highlight of the visit was a barbecue with her daughter Chloe, Felipe and their children. Felix, aged nearly two, managed to say my name and Lila was very good at games and cheating at them! It was such good fun!

We watched the football final which was going well until Italy scored and then there was a certain inevitability about the result!  On the final day, we had a good chat and pint,

with Jane, John and Maureen in the County Arms on Wandsworth Common and we then spent our last night catching up with news with our friend Phil in Bracknell in her lovely mobile home

and the beautiful garden she has created.

It was a very nice end to our trip.

The journey there and the journey home had moments of stress, particularly at Heathrow Airport, both going into the UK and coming out of it. But, we feel very lucky that we made the trip!

We arrived home safely by taxi from Heraklion Airport. All was well at home and it was a good feeling to be here. I also like to tell as many people I can that I am a grandmother and a mother in law!!!!  Since then, we have recovered from our trip, enjoyed meeting friends and going to tavernas. I played a game of tennis which was a treat as was swimming in the sea!

Do we miss Isla? Yes, of course but we do get regular reports of her and we receive photos and videos. It is delightful to see the changes in her. I just love her expressions and general development and everything about her!

We hope to see her before long!!!

Sheila

Home Improvements

At the end of this month we hope to be making a trip to the UK for two very important family events which are expected to take place in June and July.

Firstly, all being well, our daughter, Rosie and her boy friend Ed, will present us with our first grandchild in late June in Cornwall and then in early July, our son Graham will marry Rhiannon in London, before they leave for a two year teaching contract in Mexico. So in the space of a few short weeks we will have a new granddaughter and a new daughter-in-law!

Neither of these two much anticipated and exciting events had anything to do with our decision to splash the cash and to give the house a major refurbishment but I mention them only to explain that this will be the last Post on the the Blog for at least a couple of months until we return to Crete sometime around the middle of July.

Further, whilst house refurbishment is not of itself a very interesting subject, except for those involved, one purpose of the Blog is to provide a record of our life here in Kavousi, so it seems appropriate to include not just accounts of beach holidays, visits to archaeological sites etc etc but also more mundane day-to-day activities which make up much of our life here.

So, a few months ago, Sheila raised again her often expressed wish to replace the well-worn

and much marked floor tiles

in all of the main rooms of our house and given that I plan to spend a small fortune on my project to provide an alternative means of access to the house, it seemed only reasonable to agree and to exhibit as much excitement as the prospect of new floor tiles can generate!

I seem to recall that there was originally a budget of sorts but this appeared miraculously to increase after a couple of visits to the tile shop in nearby Pachia Ammos, where eventually and perhaps inevitably, the most expensive tiles available were selected after of course much necessary deliberation.

What is more, there seem to be an amazing number of other bits and pieces required to put down new tiles which are not limited simply to the type of glue, as I now know to my cost.

Moreover, I had decided that whilst Alkis our builder was here, it would be sensible to paint the outside of the house which needed refreshing

and of course with new tiles inside, then an interior refreshment was also needed.

Even the ‘snake pit’ got a make-over!

Still, budgets are for busting apparently, so what the heck!

What follows therefore, is a photographic record of the past couple of weeks which involved moving just about everything from room to room so that the tiling could be done

and what there was not room for, went to the spare room of our new neighbour Anca, who kindly and graciously loaned us the space. Even our bathroom was pressed into service.

Everything is now more or less back to rights and I am very pleased to say looks pretty much as it did before and the new larger tiles, which even I have to admit are beautiful, also give an  impression of a more spacious interior to our little house, a sense which is aided and abetted by the fact that the dining room floor is now on the same level as the sitting room.

Many thanks to Alkis and his ‘boys’ for a great job well done!

But life goes on and given my unfounded reputation in the village as a keen cyclist, my services were recently required to explain to Anca how one mends a puncture!

And any Post from Kavousi would not be complete without the obligatory sea shot. This one is from the beach at Istron last week.

Best wishes for a great summer and please note that I have not even mentioned the ‘C’ word once!

John

Spring in Kavousi

When I think back on the last couple of months, John and I have both moaned about the movement restrictions, tavernas not being open and being unable to buy a cup of coffee in Ierapetra. But we also feel very fortunate to live where we do, as I hope the following text and pictures will illustrate. 

In March, we gained new neighbours, Anca and Mark. They have bought a house which is close enough for me to speak to Anca from our patio! 

Anca is from Romania and Mark is from England and they have lived in England for many years. 

Their house has been empty for some time but the previous owners left a lot of their possessions behind.

So, it was arranged that Alkis and his men would paint both the outside and inside of the house. Then, our neighbour, Maria cleaned and tidied the house and by the time that she had finished, it looked very smart. 

Anca arrived here on the 22nd March after a long journey and Mark will join her later, after he has had his second vaccination. Anca was in quarantine in her house for 10 days after she arrived and she took a covid test before she ventured out into the village.

Since then, she has organised banking and communication essentials, bought a new fridge/freezer

and experienced the delights of our local supermarket and the larger one in Ierapetra.  She and I have enjoyed a number of walks round the area including one to the archaeological sites at Vrontas and Azorias, to the sea at Tholos and to the Agriomandra gorge.

She loves Greece and is enthusiastic about living in the village. She is quickly getting to know her neighbours and her ability to communicate in Greek is impressive.  John and I (and our neighbours, I think) are enjoying her company a lot and it was great to get her text message encouraging me to look at the wonderful sky and rainbow from our patio. She had a similar view from hers!

We have had a mixed bag of weather over the last two months with a few days of warmth and sunshine which is quickly followed by cool temperatures, wind, rain and even snow on the hills.

Recently, it was very warm but the wind came from the south and brought with it a lot of dust in the air which is particularly horrible. John in particular and I to some extent, have been bothered by dust settling in our eyes. But now we have warmth and sunshine, so we are very happy. Either by foot or by bicycle, we have enjoyed seeing the spring flowers which are a great treat. These are some of my favourites from when I have been out walking.

        

But also there are beautiful flowers in our garden.

The picture below was taken from the roof of the house after lunch!

And also signs of oranges and musmula (medlar) fruit

Very near to our very clean car,there is a wonderful bush, which has been a great delight to us for weeks.

As everybody knows, I just love the varying shades of blue in the sky and the sea, and it has been particularly dramatic recently

In the last post, John and I had completed the new biometric Greek residence card process. A few weeks later, we picked up the cards from Agios Nikolaus police station. John has been asked for the card already.  He produced it at the KEP office (similar to the Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK) and all the staff there crowded round to have a look at this completely new card. John and his card became quite the centre of attention! We are very glad to have them in these uncertain post-Brexit days. 

We have also received our new Royal Bank of Scotland cards which were sent from the UK. They took over 3 weeks to arrive on Monday. We used the tracking service, so we could see that nothing seemed to happen for a week after they left Heathrow and then nothing happened for another week when they arrived in Athens. We don’t know if the problem is anything to do with Brexit or not. Anyway, when Manolis our postman, arrived with the package, he was a very popular man! I am, however, grateful that Anca brought out my new kindle with her from the UK. I think I would be waiting for it still, had it come by post!

John is now fully vaccinated and has a certificate to prove it. The Greek Government have now called people between the ages of 65 and 70 for appointments. I had my first dose last Saturday and the second is on the 7th May. The rate of people being vaccinated in Greece has been increased recently with new centres being opened. However, the number of new covid cases continues to be high (around 3-4,000 a day) and the number of people intubated has increased significantly. But the statistics are still low in eastern Crete.

It was Easter in the UK at the beginning of April but the Orthodox Easter here is not until May 2nd. Even though it is late and central to the Greek calendar, there is still some doubt about what will be permitted by then.   The Churches are open now and we expect to see family members from Athens and other parts of Greece.

Recently, I completed a walk with friends that I have wanted to do for a long time. John drove me to Lastros, the next village towards Siteia, and I walked along the path on the other side of the mountain, Kapsas with friends. We can see can see Kapsas from our house (see the picture of it with the rainbow above). Here, I am looking down on Lastros.

After admiring the village, I looked up to my right and caught a glimpse of a church at the top of this hill. This is a walk for another day.

We came down the other side and then walked to Melisses from this gate. Some years ago, I tried to do this walk from Melisses, but failed to find the path. There is a good path as seen below 

and it goes all the way to Melisses with red dots to help. But I found out this time, the reason why I couldn’t find it in Melisses – the path ends up in someone’s garden and there is no sign to indicate its existence!  Anyway, I will know now where to go. I am grateful to Kathy for showing me the way!

We have a steady input of home entertainment. We enjoyed two excellent zoom presentations by members of INCO. One was on the subject of Scouts in Crete. It was interesting to hear about the history of the Scouts and that there are Scouts and Guides groups both in Ag Nik and Ierapetra. The other was about Thomas Spratt, an English Vice-Admiral and geologist who wrote ‘Travel & Researches in Crete’ in 1865 which describes the geography, geology and natural history of the island.

Back in March, John and I attended a meeting  in Ierapetra with a notary and the owner of the land, directly  in front of us.   The meeting went well and the contract is being drawn up now. It is a little complicated because our neighbour, Giannis wants access through this piece of land to his but John met him recently

and it hopefully will be resolved soon.

Our son, Graham and his girlfriend, Rhiannon, are off to Mexico City for two years at the beginning of August. This was a surprise but John and I are both excited by it. Graham is going to teach Chemistry at Greengates International School there. We are certainly looking forward to visiting them!

I am hoping that by the next Post, the tavernas will be open. The need for a meal out, is reaching crisis point!!!!  I have added a few more recipes to my limited range including a very nice blueberry and lemon cake by Ottolenghi, but I do miss the fun and atmosphere of going to a taverna. And not having to cook will be absolutely wonderful!!!

There may be changes locally soon. While I was walking back from Tholos beach one day I saw this sign.

It indicates the start of the development of a luxury tourist resort on the hillside to the left of Tholos Beach. John is grumbling! I expect there will be more information about this soon.

Sheila