A Very Happy 3 Weeks in the UK with Family at Christmas Time

So it’s a brand new year again and here on Crete, 2022 started so beautifully with bright blue skies and a temperature of 18 degrees, the snow was shining on the mountains and the waves were gently lapping onto the shores of Almyrida Bay. After the New Year celebrations, I knew a brisk walk would do wonders to counteract all the drinking I’d done the night before.. and it really was reviving and invigorating.

Zoomed in view from my balcony today

Zoomed in view from my balcony on New Year’s Day

Our original plans were scuppered when at the last minute the Greek government banned all live music so instead of the live music event we had booked to go to in Vamos, twelve of us sat down to a large meal at 7pm in Taki’s taverna in Plaka. Just before 11pm we crossed the square and saw the New Year in at Vangeli’s, with a lovely fireworks display and I didn’t walk home until well after 2am. We all had a really good time despite the absence of live entertainment or any dancing. Last New Year’s Eve Greece was in lockdown as was the UK, where I spent it at home with Zoe and Rich after my return flights were cancelled. Therefore this was a big improvement on last year for everyone on Crete.

The Campsite in the forest - all ready for the evening!

The Campsite in the forest – all ready for the evening!

My trip to the UK was yet again – truly wonderful! Apart from all the paperwork and tests to organize, my journey was much better than last year. I spent the first few days at Karen and Mike’s in Bramhall, the first two of which were spent in quarantine until I received the all clear on Saturday morning. My dear friend Gill called round in the afternoon and it was great to spend a couple of hours catching up as we never got the chance last year. In the evening Karen and Mike took me out to dinner to the Crown & Conspirator in Bramhall Village with their friends David and Deborah. I was surprised at how busy it was and we struggled to secure a taxi home. On Sunday morning my friend Ange and I walked to and all around Bramhall Park, stopping for lunch in the café there. It was good to get out in the fresh air for a few hours when it was so bright and clear for a change, instead of dull and miserable. Later that same day, Emma arrived with Ralph and Neve and stayed for a takeaway tea. It was lovely for them to spend a little time with Karen, Mike, Sophie and Hannah as it’s been a long while between visits. After tea I went back with Emma to their home in Thirsk, Yorkshire where I was going to be staying for a week.

All of us at the fabulous Christmas event in Yorkshire

All of us at the fabulous Christmas event at Burtree Country House in Thirsk, Yorkshire

Among the highlights of the week was a walk into the forest opposite Emma and Ash’s home on the base, where Ash and Ralph planned to camp out for the night. Emma, Neve and myself joined them later when we followed the trail of lights they had left for us through the forest to find the fire and their campsite. We sat on large logs, drank wine and toasted marshmallows and it was so lovely with the full moon shining through the trees, stripped of all their leaves and lying like a soft carpet on the forest floor. Just magical.

On Santa's sleigh.

On Santa’s sleigh. They switched off the snow machine because you couldn’t see anyone through the blizzard!

Another magical and memorable evening we all had together was at a special Christmas/Santa event held at Burtree Country House in Thirsk.  Zoe, Rich and Arthur had arrived at Emma and Ash’s on the Saturday afternoon and after an early tea we all set off for the half hour journey there in the thick fog. What a reception we received! The owner of the estate greeted us warmly and led us to a large sleigh with Santa and many other people gathered around, all dressed up and waving to us whilst the snow machine had created a very realistic effect and Ralph, Neve and Arthur’s eyes almost popped out of their heads! It was snowing here!
The whole scene was so enchanting and I couldn’t believe there were no other visitors to this event. Was this all just for us? I believe it only cost 15 pounds per head for the 3 children (to include present from Santa) and 5 each for the adults! We were shown into a large warm barn and given mulled wine and little home-made cakes. The children were seated at a large table with paper, paints, glitter and all manner of Christmas themed crafts to keep them amused while we enjoyed our mulled wine. Then a short walk took us to another barn and Santa’s grotto. Ralph, Neve and Arthur were able to feed the reindeer, hold a real lamb, talk to Santa and then sit on the large sleigh with him.

All the children at Santa's grotto

All the children at Santa’s grotto

They also enjoyed a donkey ride, where the man leading the donkey looked like Joseph and straight out of a nativity scene, dancing at a mini disco with a bubble machine and there was even an outdoor cinema, which mesmerized Ralph for a while! All the grounds were beautifully lit up and we spent over two very enjoyable hours there. I spoke to the lady of the estate to ask why such an enchanting place was so quiet and she explained that after the UK government had made an announcement on the TV about Omicron the night before – everybody had cancelled! I simply had to go into all these details because I just cannot believe how frightened the governments of the world make people feel?!! That people should cancel an open-air outdoor event such as this! All I can say is that it was their loss and absolutely our gain to have had such a personal experience at what was undoubtedly a real value-for-money magical Christmas event for all the family.

Me and my girls!With Ash looking after the kids, Emma and I also got a chance to shop in York one day and this was great for me as I had a list of bits and pieces to get – items I cannot get in Crete. I so enjoyed my wonderful week at Emma and Ash’s and the next day I went back with Zoe and Rich and Arthur to the other side of Yorkshire to spend Christmas with them. Last year we were all together but every other year Emma and Ash go to Shrewsbury to spend Christmas with Ash’s parents. As it turned out, we had a bonus day together when Emma, Ralph and Neve met Zoe, Arthur and myself at a soft play centre on the Tuesday and we all had lunch there too.

For the next two days I was home alone as Zoe and Rich both had to work and Arthur was at nursery. I went for a long walk on one of those days, wrapped up pressies and read lots too. On Christmas Eve I had Arthur all to myself and in fact the majority of the days I was happy just playing with him. We stayed home for most of the time and Christmas day was quiet but really lovely. I say it every year but Rich is a superb cook and Christmas dinner was truly amazing again, with so many extra little touches that made it all fabulously tasty! To be honest we had a really quiet and lazy Christmas this year, only venturing out for a walk on Boxing Day as it had snowed a little and was at least crisp and dry instead of wet and miserable.  Like my stay with Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve – I had such a wonderful relaxing time with Zoe, Rich and Arthur.  Christmas in the UK with family truly is my best holiday of the year!

At the Christmas eventThree weeks has just flown by and all too soon it was time for my return journey early on 29th December and at least this time my flights were not cancelled, although it was a struggle to book a covid test for the right time for re-entry to Greece. I am still missing all my family and my grandchildren madly but at least the beautiful weather here on Crete these past 3 days has helped to distract me and yesterday I had a gorgeous 3 hour walk on all of Kalyves’ beaches, collecting many seashells along the way. Sadly though, I came across a large dead sea turtle, half buried in the stones.  It looked as though it had been flung onto the far beach after the heavy rainstorms we had just before New Year. So so sad… I think this is a rocky part of the shoreline that is dangerous for straying turtles perhaps caught in the current, because about 10 years ago I came across another dead turtle in much the same place.

But hey – not wanting to end this post on a sad note, I am wishing for the end of this awful pandemic.. and much love, peace and joy for all of humankind in 2022.

Enjoying Long Walks in the Beautiful Cretan Countryside

We all had a wonderful first day of beachcombing in Falasarna the first week in November. The weather was gorgeous and whilst Lisa, Debbie and I were hunting for shells and sea treasures – Ross actually went swimming and snorkeling. As usual we had a picnic on the beach and stayed until after sunset.. and what a beautiful sunset it was!

On a beach near Falasarna

Ross took this photo in Falasarna of all of us at the end of the beachcombing day – just before sunset.

The next day, on Saturday evening we all met up again to celebrate my birthday, which actually wasn’t until the Monday but Saturday suited everyone better anyway. We dined at Gyrothalassia on the beachfront in Kalyves and the food was good and very reasonably priced. Afterwards we walked to Apicorno for late drinks. As usual, I didn’t think to take photos until it was too late. Debbie and Ross had already left but the barman took one of Lisa and I just before we left the taverna. It was a fun night and even though it was a last minute arrangement, suggested on the way back from Falasarna, I am glad I bothered to organize something to mark the occasion.

Celebrating my birthday at Apicorno in Kalyves

Celebrating my birthday at Apicorno in Kalyves

I live my life at a much less hectic pace these days, now that my art business does not dominate but is instead slotted in between lots of other activities. I’ve been on three of David’s walks since my last post. We walk from about 10am until around 2pm, then afterwards find a good taverna to have lunch. I am usually starving by then, despite nibbling on a banana and nuts while we walk. I absolutely love these walks because I get to see so much more of the wild and beautiful Cretan countryside. In Ramni a few weeks ago we were lucky enough to see about 30 vultures circling slowly on a thermal close to us. We’ve also walked around Platanos and parts of Kaina.

A plateau near the tiny old chapel at Tzitzifes

A plateau near the tiny old chapel at Tzitzifes, part of the festival trail

This week we visited Tzitzifes where we climbed up and up a trail of pathways and steps to a tiny and very old chapel. The inside of this chapel was covered with fading religious scenes all over the walls and the small arched ceiling. Every year there is a festival for this chapel held on 8th and 9th September and the long pathway leading to the chapel and the trails beyond are all strung with lights. I love the fact that these Greek communities living in the mountain villages have kept their religious traditions for centuries.

Above a large beach further along the coast fro Frangokastello

Above a large beach further along the coast from Frangokastello

Since the last time I wrote Lisa, Debbie and I have also been beachcombing in FrangoKastello and Georgioupoli and we had lovely sunny and warm weather for both these trips too. In fact for all the outdoor activities I’ve been indulging in during November – the weather has remained quite clement, although we have had some very strong southerly wind storms which have kept temperatures warm. However there has not been much rain this past month.

Falasarna Beach Crete

Following the beautiful pink shoreline on Falasarna beach.

It’s also looking promising for this coming Sunday too, when I am going on my first walk with the ‘Happy Wanderers’. These tend to be more strenuous walks and on Sunday we will be walking in the Kournas village area, covering most of nearby Stone Oak Forest. We will walk for about 10 km and like David’s walks – end up at a local taverna for lunch. I am really looking forward to it as it will be the last walk I do before returning to the UK on 8th for three weeks over Christmas.

Sunset at Falasarna

We watched the beautiful sunset at Falasarna

I’ve been doing plenty of power walks too especially on sunny mornings and I always end up walking on parts of Almyrida beach –   just in case any gems have washed up! I’ve been catching up with old friends like Nancy and Bob, whom I met for dinner the other week, in Fortini’s in Plaka. The music and general knowledge quiz at my local Vangeli’s has become a regular – meeting Lisa and sometimes Marianne at 4pm so that we can chat and catch up before the quiz starts at around 5.30pm.

Part of the trail to the old chapel in Tzitzifes

Part of the trail to the old chapel in Tzitzifes

I can’t wait to spend time with my family and gorgeous grandkids at Christmas again and to soak up the atmosphere that is so special in the UK at this time of the year. I have been very fortunate in being able to book a direct flight from Athens to Manchester with Easyjet this year. Last year I had 3 flights to catch and the whole travel experience there and back was a nightmare (which I have written about in January). No thanks to the pandemic – travel is not the experience it used to be, but as long as I can still get to the UK and back home to Crete afterwards, I am happy.

Disappointing, Dull & Miserable Weather For October

For the rest of September the weather here on Crete was much more comfortable to live and work in. I did well from my beach stall and sold 29 Seashell Mosaic Paintings, the majority of which were the larger and more expensive designs, which surprised me! Last September there were virtually no tourists here so I couldn’t sell at all that month. Therefore this is indeed a good result and I am happy! Continue reading

Crete’s Long Hot Summer Continues into September

I am pleased to report that the temperatures gradually came down to a more normal level and by mid August, were a lot more bearable, especially with the return of the cool breezes coming off the sea. By 9th August I was back selling from my stall by the beach. It was busy in Almyrida and Plaka yet still the majority of tourists were from France and Germany. By my recollection of the past 13 summers in Almyrida – I have never seen so many French and German tourists. There were hardly any British tourists this August and I am not surprised, given the way the UK government has made it so difficult for British people to travel this summer Continue reading

Another Heatwave Way Too Hot to Work or Play in!

The post you are about to read was actually posted on 6th August, but the hosting company migrated my site and in the process I have been offline for several days and have lost that post.  As it was a special one (well all of them are special to me) and because luckily I keep drafts, I am re-posting it now.

It is the 6th August and we are in the midst of another dreadful heatwave here on Crete. The Greek authorities have declared it the hottest on record and wildfires have been raging all over Greece and the islands. This is putting enormous pressure on the Electricity supply and this morning we had the inevitable power cut! I am so grateful that this heatwave didn’t happen last week, when my family were over. Out of curiosity I put my fridge magnet thermometer outside on my balcony overlooking the sea, to record the temperature. It went off the scale at over 120F (over 50C) and burst the bulb! Continue reading

It’s Late, but Summer is Finally Starting to Kick Off!

It’s true! Aside from the exciting UEFA Championship final between UK and Italy happening tomorrow, slowly, slowly Almyrida and Plaka are starting to fill with more tourists. I cannot wait to welcome the UK tourists back. They have definitely been conspicuous by their absence, with mostly only Germans, Russians and a few Americans visiting. But with the easing of restrictions in the UK on travel, this means many more British tourists can now visit Greece without having to quarantine on their return. Continue reading

Missing Almyrida’s Tourists for the Second Year Running

How strange and sad it is to see everywhere so quiet and deserted for the second year in a row. Both Almyrida and Plaka would normally be buzzing at this time of the year, yet there are barely enough tourists to warrant all the restaurants and shops being open. Indeed everywhere is open but everywhere is almost deserted! Continue reading

So What is There to Write About?

We’ve been in lockdown here on Crete for almost 5 months and everyone is feeling totally fed up! A couple of weeks ago they tightened up the restrictions even further and we are now only allowed to shop locally. No more trips to the large supermarkets in Chania. Also we are not allowed to travel by car to exercise, which means we shouldn’t be going to Kalyves for our lovely walks along the beaches there. Curfews are still in place from 9pm until 5am and you must always have a valid reason for leaving your home. Continue reading

Enjoying Weeks of Sunshine and Warm Weather!

I am loving the mild winter we’ve been having here on Crete. A noticeable indication of just how much sunshine we’ve been enjoying shows visibly on the mountains, where almost all the snow has melted. The fact that we’re still in lockdown is frustrating but is nowhere near as limiting as it is in the UK. I have been making the most of the hours of sunshine and warm weather by getting out and about on walks, because there is always somewhere close by to explore on foot. Continue reading