Missing Almyrida’s Tourists!

I realize that I haven’t posted for many weeks, but then there hasn’t really been much to write about.  For the first time in 11 years I have not been selling my unique Seashell Mosaic Paintings & Collages by the beach in Almyrida. I have dearly missed seeing the tourists that visit Almyrida every year and meeting all the new visitors that arrive from all over the world. I have missed that wonderful holiday atmosphere that is so normally prevalent during the summer months from May to October. I have missed all the buzz and the fun that comes with my beach selling season.

Almyrida - open for the summer but no tourists, so totally deserted!

Almyrida – open for the summer but no tourists, so totally deserted!

However, with circumstances changing constantly as a result of Covid-19, I plan to keep an eagle’s eye on the status of Almyrida, week by week. Depending on how many tourists are able to visit Greece as travel restrictions are relaxed, I may yet get an opportunity to set up my stall again, even if it’s just for an odd day now and then.

The Almyrida Residence Hotel reopens on Friday and I am hearing locally of villa and apartment bookings which all give me fresh hope. With airlines now offering flights at prices ‘never to be seen again’ – I have a feeling that I will finally have some selling days to look forward to. As it turns out, Emma and Ash have taken advantage of the cheap flights and have booked to come to Crete on 25th July for one week. I am literally over the moon!! I really did not think I would see my Grandchildren, Ralph and Neve at all this summer, so I am justifiably overjoyed!

One of Almyrida's beaches - without tourists - rows of empty sunbeds.

One of Almyrida’s beaches – without tourists – rows of empty sunbeds.

Everywhere in Almyrida is open and as you’d expect it to be… apart from the unbelievable lack of a single tourist! It is so surreal and strange to behold and all the local Greeks who work here can scarcely believe it! The expats who live here are the only ones giving them any business. I have been into Almyrida several times over the last few weeks and each time it seems weird. Lisa and I have had a couple of afternoons relaxing on Almyrida beach by the Cantina and last Saturday, Charlie and I decided to be tourists for a whole day in Almyrida. We started off with coffee and then lunch at Franscoise, then because the sea was too rough for a swim, we moved on to Captain Jack’s to shoot some pool at their seaside terrace.

Get me - about to pot the black and beating Charlie!

Get me – about to pot the black and beating Charlie!

Neither of us had played for years and I felt a little like a pool hustler when I beat Charlie at the best of 3! Mark and his friend challenged us to a couple of doubles matches – but we lost both games. I really enjoyed our ‘tourist’ day and we have been down to Almyrida’s beaches for a swim, followed by coffee at Franscoise several times already.

Somewhere on the south coast of Crete - a beautiful almost deserted beach!

Somewhere on the south coast of Crete – a beautiful almost deserted beach!

Charlie and I had a wonderful day out on the South Coast about a month ago. We visited several beaches along the coastline. Restaurants and bars were still not open then, but we were able to eat our picnic lunch sitting comfortably outside a lovely beachside taverna, with the kind and welcoming permission of the Greek owner. All the beautiful beaches were deserted…. so strange to see during the summer months, when normally they would be full of tourists. It is like living on a paradise island and having it all to yourself!

Even visiting Chania a few weeks ago – Charlie and I were amazed to see how quiet the harbour front was. By then all the restaurants were open again, but only a few Greeks and expats were eating or drinking there. The harbour front itself was deserted of all people and this was on a Saturday. Weird!

Charlie & I on Chania's deserted harbour front.

Charlie & I on Chania’s deserted harbour front.

I spent a day with Lisa visiting an area they call ‘Chania Camping’ in Agios Apostles. Charlie first showed me the place when we were in Chania and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before. It really is gorgeous! Almost like a tiny island, surrounded by beaches – every one of them different so that Lisa and I had a job to decide which one we wanted to settle on for the day! In the middle of all these beaches lies a large wooded area, like a small forest.  I should have taken some photos but for some reason I didn’t think to. Although it was only a Tuesday, Chania Camping was busy with Greeks enjoying their own local beautyspots for a change when they would usually be working the bars and restaurants.

Since the restaurants and tavernas reopened, we have enjoyed a meal out with friends at my favourite restaurant, Umami, another quiz night at Captain Jack’s and the first live music gig of the summer. Carl Axon & the Rocking Rebels played at Kavros, near Georgioupoli, to mark the first day when restrictions were lifted for live music gatherings. It has been wonderful to be socialising and catching up with friends again.

Another awesome sunset as seen from my balcony

Another awesome sunset as seen from my balcony

As for my workouts and training – I am still really enjoying them, so that they have now truly become a normal part of my new lifestyle. Despite what I wrote in my last post about it being too hot for our bike rides… Charlie and I managed a further 5 rides a couple of weeks ago, when the weather cooled, with cloudy skies and a fair breeze – all conditions making it more doable.

Missing my 3 Grandchildren

Missing my 3 Grandchildren

Since the temperatures soared, we have been exercising regularly in the pool as well. This is such fun and so refreshing in the heat. Charlie devised some excellent pool exercises and sometimes we are in there for an hour or more, without realising because the time just flies by. Not only am I feeling much fitter, but I have managed to gain 4lbs in the last 4 months which I am thrilled to bits about and which Charlie reckons is all muscle gain. So the combination of workouts with weights, general and varied cardiac exercise and an increased protein diet is producing all the desired results. You see I wanted to get fit but I was worried I would loose weight in the process, as I am prone to do. So Charlie’s personal training programme is absolutely right for me!

It has been a worrying time for me where my Etsy shop is concerned.  During lockdown I had quite a few sales, but Covid-19 has taken its toll on the world’s shipping and postal services.  An order to the UK took 4 weeks to arrive and the situation was much worse in the US, where I had 2 orders languishing at the Chicago depot for many weeks.  Only this week have USPS been able to start dealing with the backlog of international parcels.  What a relief, as I feared my Artworks would get lost in all the confusion.

Stopped for a coffee on the far beach at Kalyves.. Same picture as in Almyrida - no tourists!

Stopped for a coffee on the far beach at Kalyves.. Same picture as in Almyrida – no tourists!

So despite all the weird circumstances of living day to day when there is a pandemic raging across the world – I still feel unbelievably fortunate to be living here on Crete and have much to look forward to. Gradually more social events are being planned and there’s a big Birthday Party coming up in a couple of weeks. But best of all (and fingers crossed) I get to see Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve at the end of July and maybe Zoe, Rich and Arthur will be able to visit later in the summer. It’s good to stay positive.

Living a Different Life

It is so hot hot hot! Right now we are in the middle of a heat wave.  A few days ago temperatures shot up into the mid 30’s and that’s in the shade.  The noticeable absence of any kind of breeze has made it feel even hotter.  According to Greek records, these are the highest May temperatures they have had for 50 years!  Personally I don’t tolerate these weather conditions well, as they drain all my energy and make me feel lethargic.  This is also one of those rare times when there is so much dust in the air that the sky seems almost white and the sunset from my balcony looks like an old sepia photograph – stripped of all colour.  Temperatures are not usually this high in May and because there are no tourists here, it just seems weird.

With all the dust in the air.. the sunset from my balcony lokks like an old sepia photograph.

With all the dust in the air.. the sunset from my balcony looks like an old sepia photograph!

Of course life has changed drastically for everyone in the world and I am no exception.  I can’t quite believe how different my life actually is right now.  As it is for most people, the main and biggest change concerns my work.  As a professional artist I have spent the last 11 years totally dedicated to my Art business.  Suddenly and because of Covid-19 I don’t know if I will have any kind of beach selling season this summer.  Normally I would already be down by the beach with my stall and display.  This realization hit me even before lockdown and has had quite an effect on my motivation to create more Seashell Mosaic Collages.  Indeed I could not even find inspiration to use this ‘extra time’ to bury myself in a creative splurge again, and produce some new designs.

Custom Artwork - Mother & Daughter on the beach painting with Seashell Mosaic & Sand - 30 x 40cms. Commissioned from my Etsy shop

Custom Artwork – Mother & Daughter on the beach Painting with Seashell Mosaic & Sand – 30 x 40cms. Recently commissioned from my Etsy shop.

However, during the lockdown I was thrilled to receive a custom sale from my Etsy shop.  It was a personalization of an existing design and I am pleased to say the client received her Artwork safely – even though it took just over 2 weeks instead of one, to reach her.

Overall, lockdown has been no real hardship for me personally.  I am extremely fortunate to be living in Greece, which appears to be one of the few safest places to be right now.  Indeed this fact is what the Greek government are proud to use in persuading tourists back from July to September.  But everything is still so uncertain and how can it be otherwise?

Thanks to WhatsApp and Skype – I’ve had plenty of regular video contact with all of my family and friends, but especially my Daughters and my Grandchildren.  It has been so wonderful to watch Ralph, Neve and Arthur playing in their respective gardens, enjoying the nice fine weather that the UK has been experiencing in the last few weeks.  I do miss them all and am only sad that it seems unlikely that they will be coming to see me this summer – as was originally planned.  So I feel as though I have nothing to look forward to this summer.

Emma - covered from head to toe in PPE.

Emma – covered from head to toe in PPE.

I am proud to say that both my daughters work for the NHS.  After Emma had her second child, she quit her career in the world of advertising and eventually wants to train as a midwife.  She has been a part time care assistant for about two years, but Emma has been working on the frontline as an assistant in the ICU for many weeks now. Although she never signed up for this – she is also doing night shifts.  The conditions in these rooms are awful because the ventilators drive up the temperatures and wearing all the PPE is claustrophobic and sweaty.  I do worry about her but she reassures me that at least the hospital she is working in has plenty of PPE, thank God.  Zoe will be returning to work after her maternity leave in just under 3 weeks time.  She also works for the NHS as an Occupational Therapist based at an intermediate care home.  I pray they both stay safe and well during this dreadful pandemic.

Meanwhile.. I feel as though I am living a different life too.  During the 6 weeks of lockdown here on Crete – instead of spending countless long hours working on my mosaics, which is the norm for me – I’ve been out exercising with Charlie.  So I have been training for 3 months now and am really pleased with the results.  I can do stuff like pushups and planks that I couldn’t come close to before!  I feel so much fitter and stronger.

Working out on Charlie's terrace and trying out 'superman'!

Working out on Charlie’s terrace and trying out ‘superman’!

Even my diet is different in so far as I have added a lot more protein and healthy snacks in between meals. The bike rides have felt easier, although recently they began to get more tiring as the temperatures started to climb.  During this heat wave it would have been madness to go out on the bikes, so Charlie had a much better alternative.  In his garage he has 2 exercise bikes and it is much cooler in there, especially with the addition of a large fan!  Of course it’s not the same as riding amongst the beautiful countryside, but at least I’ll remain fit and strong for when the temperatures drop and we can get on a real bicycle again!  We still do our workouts on the terrace by the swimming pool and how wonderful and refreshing it is to just jump in there after an hour and a half of strenuous exercise!

Enjoying a walk In deserted Georgioupoli, when the weather was much cooler at the beginning of May.

Enjoying a walk In deserted Georgioupoli, when the weather was much cooler at the beginning of May.

We came out of lockdown on 4th May and so Charlie and I celebrated by driving to Georgioupoli, as we were allowed to travel within the prefecture of Chania.  It was a cloudy day but really pleasant for strolling on the very long sandy beach there.  Of course we knew all the restaurants and tavernas were still shut up and so we packed a picnic and ate it on the beach, which was devoid of any sign of life.  In fact there was actually nobody else there but us!  It seemed really strange.  We also visited the miniature buildings of famous Greek ancient monuments that I love.

One of the miniature buildings,cleverly created and situated by the sea in Georgioupoli.

One of the miniature buildings, cleverly created and situated not far from the sea in Georgioupoli.

Then last week Charlie and I visited Stavros for the day, which is also situated within the prefecture of Chania.  Naturally… I wanted to go beachcombing again because I have missed it so much this winter.  It was a gorgeous warm sunny day and we did lots of walking and exploring the coastline.  We enjoyed our picnic lunch and then I discovered a really good area of beach, full of such a variety of seashells, that I was totally absorbed for the following 2 hours!  On the way back we managed to get a takeaway latte and a crepe, but we sat on stools outside the taverna and so it felt quite normal again.

In my element.. amongst a large patch of seashells on one of Stavros' beautiful beaches.

In my element.. amongst a large patch of seashells on one of Stavros’ beautiful beaches.

The Greek government recently anounced that all tavernas and restaurants can re-open on 25th May. It will be really nice to meet up with friends socially again, although I have met Lisa a couple of times on Kalyves beach, it’s not the same as having an ice cold beer at a taverna on the beach!




Lovely Cretan Winter Sun & Working Outside on my Balcony

During these last five or six weeks I have thrown myself back into my Art and creating Seashell Mosaic designs in readiness for the coming summer beach selling season. Designs such as Seagulls, Girls on Swings, “Always Believe…” sand quote and Pink Flamingos were in great demand, yet I could not produce enough last summer, after selling out of the ones I created over the winter months. So I am hoping I will be better prepared this year. Continue reading

The Year 2020 is Sure to be a Good One!

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Celebrating 10 Wonderful Years on Crete!

Yes, I cannot believe that I have lived on this wonderful Island of Crete for ten years! Those ten years have seen me living out my dreams because I have always wanted to live like this… by the sea and so close to nature and all her awesome glory. The lifestyle I’ve enjoyed has been so perfect for me and is everything I could have hoped for and more! How far removed it is from the life I led in the UK because here I have lived a simple, busy but contented, peaceful and happy life from the moment I stepped onto Cretan soil. Continue reading