Our friends from the UK generally like to visit us in May and June (April too, but this year John and I were in the UK!) as the weather is warm but not too hot, the sea is warming up and there is some green in the landscape.
Our friends came but unfortunately the weather did not quite live up to expectations. I have heard taverna owners calling it this year, ‘παραξενο’ (strange) and that is what it has been. Each of the different sets of people who came, experienced 2 or 3 days of cloud and coolness, as well as occasional rain. Nobody seemed to worry about this but I felt I had raised expectations of what people might expect, particularly in June and felt a little responsible. More to the point, occasionally there appeared to be warmer, more settled weather in the UK which is completely unacceptable!!!! Adaptations had to be made to holiday programmes, including sitting inside taverna’s in the evening because it was too chilly outside.
My good friend, Liz is the same age and has the same birthday as me and this and the fact that we like each other has always made her pretty special to me. We went to the same school and the same university, Aberdeen, and we shared a flat together in 1974. My first trip abroad was with her and some other friends on a skiing holiday in the Alps in 1973 and she included me in a trip to Alaska some years later. We don’t don’t see so much of each other these days for obvious reasons (she lives near Kendal and I live in Kavousi) but I was delighted that she had booked a week here at the beginning of May. We spent much of her week chatting (John was left to his own devices) and we took the opportunity to explore Gournia,
the old olive tree
and other great views
while catching up on news and gossip. After Liz retired, she embarked on a project to extend her house and garden and is very happy with the result. I felt much more in touch with her life again and one day will enjoy a trip to the Lake District.
Liz left and I had an unexpected, unscheduled treat after an email from a friend in London who told me he was coming for a week’s all inclusive holiday to Elounda. One Sunday, I drove there, picked up Ro and brought him back to our house
and afterwards we ate at Bobo’s, where he experienced simple food, cheap wine, a lot of laughs and a beautiful view of the sea. I worked with Ron’s wife, Brenda, in my first job in London at the Bexley Council of Voluntary Service. She died a few years ago and I am very fortunate to keep in touch with her family. I was very sad to hear from Ron that there was nothing much left of the Council of Voluntary Service as funding had been withdrawn in the last couple of years. It seemed unbelievable that an organisation, which was about supporting volunteers to carry out important roles in the community, had virtually gone. Is this progress? I don’t think so!
A day or two later, Jane, from London arrived with her present of Yiannis Varoufakis’s new book ‘Adults in the room’. John has since read it and will no doubt comment on it at some stage. Jane comes here regularly and this year brought with her two friends, Judith and John. We have only one spare bedroom so we had arranged with our friends, Pauline and Chris, that they could stay in two of their renovated buildings – one a studio, the other a two room apartment at a very reasonable price. They are situated on the west side of the village (our house being on the east). Pauline and Chris were in Holland and so John and I introduced them to their accommodation and afterwards they met the neighbours. All went well.
The first morning I walked with them to the ancient olive tree. It was a perfect start to the holiday because after admiring the tree, we went to the taverna beside it. There we had an early drink and met Vasili, the owner
and his wife, who showed Jane and Judith how to make stuffed dolmathes. Jane hired a car and for a couple of days she took John and Judith to various places she had either been before or wanted to see, while John and I stayed at home! Added to that, Jane found a new excursion that we didn’t know about, which was a trip to Spinalonga on a boat from Agios Nikolaus, organised by Nostos Cruises.
It was a beautiful afternoon and we sailed past some of the expensive Elounda hotels and then we were shown where the sunken city of Olous was, (not that we could see it!). I had a swim at Kolokitha (Pumpkin) Bay
and after that we went onto Spinalonga. Included in the deal was a very interesting Spinalonga tour guide and we returned by the cave of the pirate, Barba-Rossa and Kri-kri island where apparently we might have seen some Minoan goats. This was all for 16 euros and very good value. On the last day we walked up the gorge beside Kavousi
which was a very nice end to the trip.
Later in June, John and I went back to Spinalonga Island to watch a concert, by the Young Peoples Symphonic Orchestra of Crete, marking the 60th anniversary of the closure of the leprosy colony. It was held in the evening and attended mainly by Greeks of all ages, not the usual tourists that come to see Spinalonga. It was a very moving occasion, first with small groups of the orchestra playing in different parts of the island
and then they all came together
to play small, classical pieces from Bach, Elgar, Grieg etc.
Robert and Sally came next. Sally is from Linlithgow and we have many shared memories of our childhood, particularly in relation to guiding. Sally became the Chief Guide for Scotland and it was good to have time to talk about her experiences of that important position as well as discussing a whole range of other issues. I am not quite sure what the topic was here but it looks pretty light hearted!
She and Robert had the pleasure of being around here on the morning of the UK General Election results, when there was little chance of any sensible breakfast or plan for the day, as it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn was perhaps electable after all!!!
They coped admirably with the excitement and we did manage a trip to the east of the island later
on their holiday and and eat one of John’s excellent dishes of pork chops in the oven.
And finally Sarah and Mark arrived after a bad start, when they missed their plane, due to a series of unfortunate events. However they arrived only a few hours later and they were happy with a few days of relaxation,
including swimming at Tholos beach when I became a big kid on a lilo
a beer at the new taverna at Tholos
and a morning at Psarapoulis beach which is conveniently situated next to the venue of our Greek class in Koutsonari.
We attended Greek classes until the end of June by which time, we definitely felt we had improved during the year but were in need of a holiday!! John was assisted by Mark in putting some anti-pigeon netting in place, as his height is very useful for such jobs!
The grapes were beautiful then (although not now!)
John’s garden too looked beautiful in June
as did the geraniums
and the bougainvillea with the butterfly.
And in between our guests, John and I went on a short holiday of our own to the Εleonas Hotel in Zaros, south of Heraklion, with our friends Brigitte and Walter. it was the only weekend that we could go with them before they went back to Germany and it happened that Hanneke and Hans were also there. Unfortunately the weather was bad with some thunderstorms and torrential rain and for much of the time, it was chilly and grey. But we found a nice taverna in Zaros which had lovely mezethes
while we looked at the cloudy sky!
However, luck was on our side as Brigitte and I walked up the Rouvas Gorge, in 3 hours
and managed to avoid serious rain, although Brigitte and I were forced into rainwear at one stage!
John and Walter picked us up at the top and we then enjoyed a jeep ride in some spectacular countryside. We visited the Vrontisi monastery in the torrential rain but were rewarded with a raki by a monk as we hid in the shelter. The Eleonas is a lovely hotel with individual bungalows
in a wonderful setting but the weather was not on our side.
And to end with a couple of local events that were very nice to attend. Our Greek tutor invited us to a basketball final, in which he was playing. Neither John nor I know much about basketball but it is very popular here.
The wrong team won but we enjoyed it very much.
Finally, my friend Margarita was dancing in an event ‘Patchwork Dance’ organised by the Milan School of Dance in Ierapetra. There were many people there to watch adults and children participate in ballet and modern dance sequences. It was a treat to watch and in particular, Margarita and her small group were fantastic but unfortunately the pictures are on my camera which is currently being repaired!