A Wonderful Family Christmas in Wales

I spent my first night in the UK at my dear friends’ Gill and Rick’s home in Bramhall.  Gill picked me up from the airport at around 6pm and Rick cooked up a wonderful steak dinner.  They spoilt me rotten as they always do, and it was the best and only time I had to catch up properly with them during this year’s Christmas in the UK.  We literally talked for hours…. Great food, great wine and great company.. so what more could I ask for to kick off my 2022 Christmas stay in the UK?

Part of the lounge/sitting area in the Barn

Part of the lounge/sitting area in the Barn

In the morning it was all white and snowing! I left Crete the day before in 21 degrees and arrived to -2 degrees in Manchester!  Mike came at lunchtime to pick me up and we chilled at home, watched the England v France match in the evening and went shopping on the Sunday.  Karen was judging all weekend so I didn’t see her until the Sunday evening.  It was so lovely to finally spend some quality time with Karen and Mike.  This doesn’t happen very often these days as all my spare time in the UK is spent in Yorkshire at one or the other of my daughters’ homes.  I do miss their company and I love staying with them.  So I had a few things to get and Karen and I went out shopping pretty much all day Monday and Tuesday, enjoying lunch out on both days.  As close sisters, this has become such a rare and treasured treat and I loved every minute of it!

On the Tuesday evening Karen and Mike dropped me off at Zoe’s workplace in Manchester and we drove back to Golcar in Huddersfield.  It was still freezing weather but we kept warmly wrapped up when we were out and about, shopping and enjoying lunch whilst Arthur was at nursery. And then I looked after Arthur on the Friday when Zoe was back at work.  Early evening, Rich drove me to meet Emma after she finished work, so that I could return to her home in Thirsk for a few days and spend time with Ralph and Neve.  With both my girls working full time, there was a fair amount of juggling between homes so that I wasn’t left on my own at any one time.  I appreciate all Zoe and Emma’s efforts to organize the time we had so well, in the run up to Christmas week in Wales.

After a few lovely days with Emma and the kids, it was time for the switchover back to Golcar, as I would be travelling with Rich, Zoe and Arthur to Swansea in South Wales.  Both cars would be packed to bursting point for the long journey there.  We had saved for two years to book this luxury barn conversion for all of us to stay in for a week and we were really excited!

On our walk down to the stunning beach

Lovely photo of Ralph, Neve and Arthur on our walk down to the stunning beach on Christmas Eve.

When we finally arrived there in the evening of the 21st it was everything we’d hoped it would be and so much more!  What a beautiful homely place, with everything we could possibly need or want, including lots of games and toys to keep the kids amused until they opened their Xmas pressies.  Between them, Zoe and Emma had everything pre-organized including the enormous food and booze shop, the butcher’s order and the logs for the large log burner.  The Barn was already dressed for Christmas with a beautiful large and real Christmas tree and wreathes spread along the large fireplace.  It was all just picture perfect.

The next day it was Ash’s birthday and I babysat so that Emma, Ash, Zoe and Rich could all go into Swansea town for a meal and night out.  This is so rare for them.. the opportunity to go out together as a foursome.  They all had a great time and were out until the wee hours of the morning.  Ralph, Neve and Arthur were as good as gold for their Yiayia and went to bed without too much persuasion, bless them!

The area of South Wales we were staying is called Gower, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and was much more rural than I was expecting.  Although the weather turned a lot milder for the week we were there, which meant more rain, it stayed dry and bright for the beach walks we went on.  Most notably, the walk we all took on Christmas Eve was fabulous.. as the photos show..  The kids loved it and I even found a few shells I could use in my art.

Afterwards, Emma, Ash and I, along with all three kids decided to enjoy a spell in the large hot tub at the Barn.  This was soo lovely after our long walk on the beach and was great fun for Ralph, Neve and Arthur.  We were all able to enjoy the hot tub several times during our stay at the Barn.

Rich had brought along a huge cinema-style screen and after the kids were all tucked up in bed we watched some great movies in style, in front of the enormous fireplace with a burning log fire… so cosy!  The kids were quite a handful at times, over-excited and boisterous, but we had enough room and space to sleep them all separately and this meant we all got a good night’s sleep each night.  Rich also brought along some Xbox stuff and games where the kids were suddenly inside the TV and jumping all over the place!  It was hilarious to watch and so so funny when we adults had a go as well!

Enjoying the hot tub after our long Christmas Eve walk on the beach

Enjoying the hot tub after our long Christmas Eve walk on the beach

We excelled on the food… it was simply amazing! Leading up to Christmas Day, Emma and Rich cooked sumptuous meals and Christmas dinner itself was nothing short of 5-star delicious.  Rich and Ash cooked Eggs Benedict for a late breakfast after the kids had opened all their presents.  We adults did not bother buying presents for each other this year as enough money had already been spent on hiring this luxury Barn for the Christmas week.  We worked brilliantly together as a team, with Zoe and I doing most of the washing up.

Leaving Mince pie, carrot and Santa's tipple on Chritmas eve

Leaving Mince pie, carrot and Santa’s tipple on Chritmas eve

It was truly a family Christmas to remember, the likes of which will probably not be repeated for many years.  We waved Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve off as they all left the Barn on Boxing Day to visit Ash’s parents in Shrewsbury.  Rich, Zoe, Arthur and I stayed on a further 2 days, hoping to get out on the last day and visit another nearby beach.  We even made up a picnic but the rain and wind proved relentless and we stood on this beach for all of 5 minutes before realizing we should give up and go home!

On the morning of the 28th we were all packed up and on the long drive back to Golcar in Huddersfield.  Back at Zoe and Rich’s I realized how poorly I felt.  Some of us had colds over Christmas but we all dosed up and did not let it spoil our fun.  However I started to take a turn for the worst with the head cold moving to my chest and preventing me from getting any real sleep the last few nights.  This did not bode well for my journey home to Crete.  I was up at 3-30am on the morning of the 30th, for the taxi to take me to Manchester airport for a 7.20am flight to Athens, followed by a 4 hour wait at Athens before my flight back to Chania.  It was a nightmare journey and I have no idea what miracle brought me home that day.  I was like the walking dead!

Rich and Ash organized a morning of baking for the kids. They made cookies and loved it!

Lisa picked me up from Chania and I was home and straight to bed by 7pm.  I tried to sleep and stayed in bed all night and most of the next day.  It was New Year’s Eve and I was desperate to go to the big party being held at Vangeli’s.  I got up at 4pm, had a long hot bath and thought I felt well enough to go out and at least see the New Year in. I knew I’d feel worse the next day if I didn’t make the effort to go.   I went at 8pm, did not drink or eat and just about made it to midnight and the fireworks.

But I have been paying for it ever since!  I have never had a cold like this before and have been really poorly for days, not able to get out of bed until recently.  I took a covid test and it was negative so obviously it was just a very bad cold which is still in my sinuses even now.   It seems so much worse because I’ve come back to such amazing weather!  Every day it’s been gorgeously warm and sunny and I have been stuck in!  Thankfully, writing up this post about our wonderful family Christmas in that gorgeous Barn in Wales, has kept things in perspective… otherwise this deadly cold was in danger of overshadowing all those wonderful new memories….

How Easy it is to be Happy When You Live on Crete

The weather here on Crete for the whole of November has been absolutely fabulous!  We’ve had day after day of warm sunny weather, perfect for beachcombing and walking.  I’ve also spent countless hours on my art.. as I start to build up my Seashell Mosaic Collage Paintings for next summer.  I sold so well this year that I have a full and busy winter ahead.  Such is my life here that I pack it to the rafters with things I love to do both in my work and leisure time.

Beautiful Falasarna - so many seashells

Beautiful Falasarna – so many seashells

The most important ingredient of my art is of course – the seashells.  So as well as sourcing the ones I have to buy – the rest are acquired by way of my favourite pastime of beachcombing.  Since my last post, Lisa, Debbie, Kathy and I have visited beautiful Falasarna again.  We were so lucky that day as there were literally trillions of seashells on the shorelines, especially further up the coast from the main beach at Falasarna.

Further up the coast in Falasarna

Further up the coast in Falasarna

We also visited Frangokastello, Bali and Georgioupoli but sadly these trips didn’t yield much in the way of seashells, although they were as always.. wonderful days out.  Talking of beautiful beaches I must mention something that has deeply shocked us all!

“A monstrous hotel of 850 beds & associated paraphenalia has been planned for the fabulous long west coast beach of Falasarna. One of Crete’s most renowned beaches – turquiose waters , pink coral sand at edge, backed by sand dunes with unique flora, host to the extremely rare endemic plant Androcymbium Rechingeri. ‘Commoners’ will be excluded from access to nearly a kilometre of beach and these plants will be wiped out as will the sand dunes. It is one incredibly wealthy family who want to make the ‘investment’ and they also have bought up land at the other fabulous beach of Elafonisi. If this development at Falasarna goes ahead, it also means that Elafonisi will be lost in turn and then probably Balos also on the west coast in the north. ALL these places are supposedly areas designated as areas of exceptional natural beauty and are covered by Natura 2000. But where are the teeth of this project??? Money always speaks louder!! Along with the Samaria gorge, these are the 3 top destinations for visitors to western Crete. If they are ruined, then ALL of western Crete will suffer a drop in tourism as they will no longer be worth visiting. Certainly the existing rooms/ hotels at falasarna will lose business as people want to see the beautiful beach & sea with cliffs & sand dunes behind, not a huge hotel complex. The existing tavernas will not benefit either as all the guests at the hotel will use the hotel’s own facilities. The mere idea is an insult.  Various environmental studies have disapproved of the plans. BUT it seems money is again speaking & rules are probably being bent & WHO you know/bribery is probably still playing a major role.”

Scenery en route of the 2 Gorges Walk

Scenery en route of the 2 Gorges Walk

Naturally we have all signed a major petition against the planning and also contacted an EU department that specialises in protecting areas of natural beauty, rare plants, etc., so hopefully, if the EU can get on board with this, the planning will eventually be denied.   I can’t believe the Greek government has even sold this land in the first place!

I went on a walk with David’s group early in November, all around the outskirts of Kalyves and I returned with a backpack full of avocados!  We passed by orchards with many of the branches overhanging the tracks we were walking on.  So I picked as many as I could carry.  I think they will last me for months as I store them in my fridge and ripen them gradually one at a time.

The most recent Happy Wanderers walks have been as enjoyable as ever!  There have been two and the first involved two gorges, was 11 kilometres long and 5 hours of quite strenuous walking. We started from Kato Poros near Argiroupoli, descending via donkey track to the Vilandredo Gorge. We walked up this gorge then crossed over to the top of Moudriano Gorge, walking down to meet another donkey track. We then returned to Kato Poros which involved a couple of stiff climbs and a chance to look at the abandoned village of Nisi. This village was abandoned because they could not get water or electricity to it. Lunch was mid afternoon at the main taverna in Kato Poros village and it was dark and late by the time I got home.

The other walk was centred around Exopoli and Likotinara and involved more donkey tracks and a gradual climb on a narrow track with great views, continuing to Likotinara Wells and Sellia. This was about 9 kilometres and took about three and a half hours.  But lunch at a taverna in Kalamitsi  Alexandrou afterwards was great fun, with most of us getting rather tipsy on the local village wine, which was unusually palatable!  Most village wine is rather like sherry and very strong.  The food here was also excellent and a couple of newcomers to the group could not believe how long we spent on our lunches.  As I mentioned in my last post – these walks encompass whole days out.

Socially I have also been having a great time!  I’ve enjoyed quite a few wild, late and boozy nights in my local, Vangeli’s Taverna!  I also celebrated my birthday there and have been watching some of the World Cup matches in there too.  But now I am doing my final bits of packing before I catch the early morning flight from Chania to Athens tomorrow, ahead of my connecting flight to Manchester Airport.  I can’t wait to see my family and friends and am really excited about spending Christmas week in a luxury barn conversion in south Wales, which my girls and I have been saving towards during the last 2 years. It’s in a lovely location close to several beautiful beaches, which we are going to take long winter walks on.  Yes.. it’s going to be a magical Christmas time…

Enjoying Wonderful Warm Sunny Weather This October

These past few weeks we have been enjoying some wonderful weather, especially for October and it is such a contrast to this time last year.  We had a really bad rainstorm in mid October which caused severe flooding on parts of Crete, but luckily not near me!  For the rest of the time it’s been lovely and warm with sunshine all day long! Continue reading

Making More Memories with Family & Friends This Summer

As predicted, August has been mega busy sales-wise and I sold 51 Seashell Mosaic Paintings from my beach stall and 3 more from the Gavalochori Gift Shop.  This is over double the sales I had for this period last year.  Demand has been so high for certain designs that I have not had the time to make more. Continue reading

Having Lots of Fun Playing with the Grandchildren!

Emma, Ralph and Neve returned to the UK almost 2 weeks ago and I have been so busy with my art business that this is the first opportunity I have had to write a post about their stay with me.  We had a rather worrying start to the holiday with Neve being poorly and Emma unsure whether she was well enough to travel. Continue reading

Tourists Return to Almyrida and My Art is Selling Like Hot Cakes Again!

It’s been a busy month especially for selling my Seashell Mosaic Collage Paintings. I have still only been setting up my stall 2 days a week – usually on Mondays and Thursdays, yet I am already struggling to keep up with demand for several popular designs this year. I’ve spent all the free hours I have at home, creating more Mosaics to replace the ones I’ve sold. Continue reading

Extra Quality Time with my Family in the UK

I almost couldn’t believe that my return journey to Crete, after 16 lovely days with my family in the UK, was totally stress-free and absent of any delays. After the awful trip from Chania to Manchester and having seen and heard all the horror stories – I was quite prepared for another rotten travel experience and had decided I would just go with the flow and not let it get to me.  My outbound flight had been delayed by over two hours in Chania and when it finally arrived in Manchester, there was no staff to bring steps so we couldn’t get off the plane! Much later in the baggage hall, there was nobody to take the suitcases off the planes and onto the conveyor belts.  More and more flights were arriving but there was not a bag or suitcase to be seen! I was worried about my daughter who had to leave the car park because it was getting too expensive to stay. When I eventually got my bag (and I was one of the lucky ones!) I had to walk way beyond the airport to find Emma waiting by her car. How ironic that I was actually looking forward to travelling again – post pandemic. Yet it was far worse because the travel industry was so totally unprepared for the sheer volume of people wanting to finally get away. What a fiasco!

Needless to say – however bad the travel experiences – it is always worth it to spend such quality time with my family and grandchildren. It is a real holiday for me and I enjoyed and loved every minute of it. I stayed with Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve for the first 9 days, happily looking after Ralph and Neve for the two days Emma was working. Luckily the weather, although not as good as I’d hoped – was dry and quite sunny at times so we were able to visit the park and go exploring in the woods where we found a treehouse!

 

 

The military base where they live, gave out free tickets to Flamingo Land and so we all went there for the day and the weather was really nice. As it was half term it was very busy and queues for the rides were taking an hour or more. We decided on only a few choice rides, Ash taking Ralph on the steepest rollercoaster in the world – no less – whilst Emma and I queued for a couple of rides with Neve.

It is many many years since I visited a leisure park like Flamingo Land and I must say I was impressed. There was also a zoo set among the beautiful grounds of what once must have been a huge estate and manor house. We spent the whole day there and enjoyed a wide variety of options for lunch, which we ate outside in the sunshine. It was a lovely day out and shortly after we arrived home, Emma and Ash left to go to York for the evening and an overnight hotel stay. As it was their wedding anniversary and they don’t often get the chance to go out, I urged them to take advantage of my being there to babysit.

At the Platinum Jubilee barbeque

At the Platinum Jubilee barbeque held on the Military base

The next day, on the Saturday there was a big party and barbeque in the grounds of the Military base, held to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Again we were so lucky to have good weather as the sun shone for most of the time.  Zoe, Rich and Arthur had travelled from the other side of Yorkshire to join us in the celebrations, which turned it into a real family affair. Aside from the free barbeque, there was a large bouncy castle for the kids, a brilliant play list of music and tunes that many got up to dance to and we brought along our own beer and wine to drink. It was a wonderful day and we stayed until well after 7pm. Zoe, Rich and Arthur were staying over so after we had put all the kids to bed – we continued the party, drinking and sitting around a fire pit in Emma and Ash’s garden, playing music and chatting all evening.

Ralph, Neve & Arthur waving their union jack flags at the Jubilee party

Ralph, Neve & Arthur waving their union jack flags at the Jubilee party

Platinum Julbilee Barbeque

Enjoying the Platinum Jubilee Party & Barbeque

A couple of days later Emma drove us to a shopping centre in Leeds, where we met Zoe. Because the children were back at school and nursery, we had a totally free day of shopping which included a tasty lunch, enjoyed in the sunshine in the garden of Gino de Campo’s restaurant. Then I went back with Zoe to their house in Golcar. It was a shame because the weather was not as good in their part of Yorkshire. In fact I found it rather cold because it was so windy. However this did not stop us from enjoying some quality time together. Zoe had the whole week off work, which was great for me. We spent time shopping and actually did some gardening which I really enjoyed, having only pots to tend in Crete. I also got to play with Arthur lots and I babysat a couple of times so that Zoe and Rich could go out. Like Emma and Ash – they rarely have the chance to go out without the children.

At Ilkley Food and drink festival

At Ilkley Food and drink festival

On the Sunday there was a food and drink festival being held in Ilkley. Zoe and Rich had been to this festival many times before and this year Emma, Ash and the kids came along too and met us there. It was wonderful as I wasn’t expecting another opportunity where we were all together again. Live music from different bands played all day, giving a real festival atmosphere and there were more rides for the kids. Dozens of food and drink stalls of every variety were dotted all over this huge field including many more stalls and marquees selling all kinds of edible treats and crafts. But – in typically British style – the weather this time did put a dampner on things as it was so windy and there was no shelter on that open field! Strong gusts meant that food flew off our plates and drinks were whisked out of our hands, with the children getting all upset at one point. But hey – we all had a great time really and it did brighten up later on in the afternoon.

I really enjoyed my extra holiday in the UK and I intend to make this visit in May/June a more regular thing. I can’t and don’t expect my girls and their families to visit Crete every summer and if they can’t come, then I am only seeing my grandchildren at Christmas time. As it happens I have been really fortunate that Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve all came for holidays here in 2020 and 2021. Zoe and Rich visited in 2020 but were unable to come in 2021. However this summer I am spoilt as Emma , Ralph and Neve are arriving for a week’s holiday on 21st July and are staying with me this time. Also Zoe, Rich and Arthur are coming over in September for two weeks, four days of which will be spent in Cyprus where Zoe’s best friend gets married. I will be looking after Arthur whilst they are there. So I have much to look forward to this summer.

I was back selling by Almyrida beach again two days after I arrived home and am pleased that I sold 5 Seashell Mosaic Collage Paintings that day. Among them was the hugely popular design – “Always believe something wonderful is going to happen”. In only 5 separate days of selling this season – I have sold two of these already! And you know what? I truly believe that something really wonderful is going to happen this summer…..

Ange & I Enjoy Walking The Imbros Gorge

I have had three good selling days so far this month but the weather was not good enough for a couple of days last week and disappointingly I only managed to sell on the Monday. Tomorrow will be my last day in May before I fly back to the UK for 16 days. The weather otherwise has been sunny and hot and for the first time in two years there are plenty of tourists – including British – around and about Almyrida and Plaka.
Continue reading

Now I Have Time for Everything Including Lots of Socialising!

The weather has much improved since my last post and Almyrida has fully opened up for the early tourists. I am going to set up my stall and display in a few days and I am thrilled to be able to start this summer season in May instead of July or only August, as was the case in 2020 and 2021. I am particularly looking forward to welcoming the English tourists back to Crete. Continue reading

Goodbye to the Good Weather for Weeks of Cold and Rain!

For several weeks it has been really cold and we’ve had rain almost every day. So this winter on Crete has been a real yoyo between hot and cold temperatures. It’s been difficult to plan anything, especially beachcombing and long walks. The price of petrol has rocketed here (as all over the world) and we are paying 2.10 Euros a litre at the pumps – the highest in Europe! Continue reading