Happy Days! We Can Go Beachcombing Again!

I know that I have done some beachcombing this winter but I don’t really count the local beaches because I can visit them anytime! Crete is jam packed with gorgeous beaches and all of them are different and all of them are so stunningly beautiful! All of these beaches I have missed exploring because of lockdown restrictions. However, at the end of the first week in April the Greek Government lifted the restrictions on travel for personal fitness – for weekends only!

Lisa and I on one of Frangokastello's Beaches

Lisa and I on one of Frangokastello’s Beaches

Lisa, Debbie and I have all taken full advantage of this extra freedom and visited all the beaches in Bali, Falasarna and Frangokastello in three consecutive weekends. The weather has been great and last weekend we were all in shorts and strappy tops, getting a really good tan! A beachcombing day involves countless squats and lots and lots of walking, over a period of about 6 hours. So we were keeping fit and getting an even suntan all in one go. Not forgetting the pleasure of finding so many beautiful seashells. You find different shells and ocean treasure on different beaches and we never tire of showing each other our cherished discoveries. I must start taking photos of some of our beach finds. I get so absorbed in the exploring – that I don’t even think of taking photos… and I should.  Needless to say, we always have a great time with lots of fun, lovely picnics and plenty of chat too! Tomorrow we are all going to Elafonisi for the day and really looking forward to it!

Debbie on aonther beach at Frangokastello

Debbie on aonther beach at Frangokastello

Aside from the beachcombing, we’ve all been busy with the changes we have to make as expats living in Greece, as a result of Brexit. Firstly we have to apply for the new Biometric ID Card. This entails at least three visits to the main Police Station in Chania. On the first visit you have to bring a long list of documents, then two weeks later you have to return for your fingerprints to be taken. When I went to the police station last week, I was expecting to place all my fingers and thumbs onto ink pads. Of course it’s all electronic and digital these days and so I had to place my digits onto left and right pads. There appeared to be a problem with my prints registering on these devices and the young police officer told me to go and wash my hands and after that it seemed to work. Anyway then he said, “I don’t like your photo”! I didn’t know what to say! There was a brief silence before he indicated my forehead and fringe. I remembered the photographer asking me to pull my hair back and show my forehead. I swept my fringe to the sides as best I could, but it kept bouncing back. However, I don’t have a thick fringe and you can clearly see my eyes and my eyebrows in the photo. So what’s the problem?! “Well,” said the police officer, “Just beware they may reject it.” If my photo gets rejected, I’ll have to take some grips and pin all the fringe back… and I won’t even look like me anymore!

Deserted Chania, as never seen before!

Deserted Chania on a sunny day in April, as never seen before!

Because of Brexit, the other thing we have to do is to change our UK driving licenses to Greek ones. I never wanted to give up my UK license and when I first heard of this possibility about two years ago, I thought I had found a way round it. When I was in the UK I bought an International Driving License from the Post Office and thought this would solve the problem. Turned out I was wrong! The application process is, as usual, bureaucratic and complicated. In addition, you were obliged to visit any doctor and optician you chose from a long list in Chania.  I won’t go into all the details but can say that most of us are so baffled with all the procedures (only explained in Greek), that we have saved on the stress and paid 50 Euros to the lady at Creta Services to handle it all!  It’s a small price to pay for all the wonderful benefits of living on Crete.

Chania as never seen before - totally deserted!

Chania as never seen before – totally deserted!

Last week when I had to visit the optician and doctor, we decided that as we were already in Chania, (and we had permission) we would take the opportunity to spend the rest of the day there. We visited the harbour front first and were shocked to see how deserted it was! It felt as though it were a great privilege to be experiencing Chania without any people there. Like a ghost town… it is as so many cities around the world are right now. We bought takeaway lunch and fresh ice cream, then decided to walk to Neo Chorio beach, which is just beyond the harbor. There we found lots of tiny seashells and some really nice beach glass. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and we had a lovely time with Chania all to ourselves!

Seashell Mosaic Collage - 20 x 40cms - Available to purchase from my Etsy shop

Tropical Goldfish – Seashell Mosaic Collage – 20 x 40cms – Available to purchase from my Etsy shop

On the work front, I sold the underwater scene with the Angelfish to a local lady and managed to have enough shells to make another one for my Etsy shop. I also decided to make a smaller version of the underwater scene featuring tropical Goldfish instead of Angelfish. I have also spent the last few weeks working on an important seashell order from the USA. This incorporates 2 separate suppliers that I’ve been using for over 10 years. I would normally have made this order around November last year, but have delayed it because of the Pandemic.

Debbie took this photo of Lisa and I in Georgioupoli a few weeks ago

Debbie took this photo of Lisa and I in Georgioupoli a few weeks ago.

It is the Greek Orthodox Easter and it’s Good Friday today. I do feel for the Greeks as this is the second year running that they have not been able to celebrate the most important tradition of their year. It seems particularly harsh that Easter Sunday falls on 2nd May, but everything does not open up again until the 4th. The government has laid on an extra 10,000 police to make sure that the Greeks do not travel over the Easter period. I do not know of any other country that has been in constant lockdown for 6 whole months, but it shows just how seriously the Greek Government has handled this pandemic, to ensure that Greece is a safe place for tourists to visit again. It goes without saying that we are all super excited about being able to visit tavernas and coffee shops and to socialize and dine out again.  We will all be celebrating next week for sure!

The Far Beach in Georgioupoli

The Far Beach in Georgioupoli

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.

View of the White Mountains behind the long beach in Kalyves.

View of the White Mountains behind the long beach in Kalyves.

Nevertheless, Debbie and I have been going into Kalyves at least once a week for groceries and other errands and then we have spent a few hours exploring the beaches anyway! We’ve also been avocado-scrumping! There are so many avocado trees if you know where to look and a few weeks ago we came home with bagsful! But when we decided to try our luck again last week, we were not as successful. Most of the avocados had already been harvested or snatched by other people. Then just as we were about to give up, we found a few trees that appeared to have plenty and better still – they were low enough for us to grab! There was a wire fence stopping us from entering the field, but I found a spot low enough for us to climb over. We hurriedly began plucking the avocados off the trees when a truck pulled up along the fence. The farmer saw us and started shouting angrily in Greek! He waited while we scrambled back over the fence, apologizing profusely. We left the bag over the other side, but he leaned over, grabbed it and then handed it to us. We thought he would confiscate the avocados, but thankfully he let us get away with around 10 each! So we were very lucky and we couldn’t stop laughing about it afterwards!

Underwater Scene with Altum Angelfish in Seashell Mosaic & Collage Painting - size 20 x 60cms

Underwater Scene with Altum Angelfish in Seashell Mosaic & Collage Painting – size 20 x 60cms

Due to the lack of tourists last year, I don’t have to build up my stock of Seashell Mosaic Collages, so I have still been trying to come up with brand new subject matter. This is proving to be very difficult as I feel I have already covered most of the ideas which can successfully be created in Seashell Mosaic. But actually I was inspired to create an underwater scene, after visiting Georgioupoli beach a couple of times with Debbie, before they tightened restrictions again. We picked up lots of interesting ocean life on those visits and I have incorporated some finger sponges and some dried burgundy sea moss in my artwork with the Altum Angelfish. Otherwise I am still creating variations on existing designs and themes.

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting - size 30 x 40cms - available to purchase from my Etsy shop

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting – size 30 x 40cms – available to purchase from my Etsy shop

The weather has continued to be clement this winter, which makes it all the more infuriating that we can’t travel! I am so missing our beachcombing trips, especially as day after sunny day goes by and we are stuck within 2/3 kilometers of our homes. Every now and then Lisa, Debbie and I have been getting together at eachother’s homes, to socialize and catch up. But we’ve all been dearly missing our visits to the tavernas and coffee shops and still there seems to be no sign of the Greek Government easing any of the restrictions.

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting - size 75 x 27cms - available to purchase from my Etsy shop.

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting – size 75 x 27cms – available to purchase from my Etsy shop.

I had my first Covid Vaccine yesterday and I have to say I feel lucky compared to some of my friends, who have not been able to make appointments because of the bureaucratic system here. Last October I finally got around to applying for an AMKA number and I am so glad I did this before Brexit. An AMKA number is like a national health insurance number and is only given after a certain age (I’m not about to advertise mine now!). You must have this number In order to book a covid vaccine appointment and this shows you are on their system. Some of my friends don’t have AMKA numbers so have been told to visit a certain website where they can register for a temporary AMKA number. But weeks have gone by and they are not getting any kind of response back after they’ve registered their details. There is much concern amongst the younger expats here.. that they may have to wait so much longer for their vaccines. For various reasons Greece is not doing nearly as well as the UK in vaccinating their population – which of course is spread over so many islands.

Another warm sunny day. My view on a power walk down to Almyrida.

Another warm sunny day. My view on a recent power walk down to Almyrida.

Of course Greece wants its tourism back and so they are doing everything they can to ensure this happens. Greek Easter falls on May 2nd which is very late this year, so we all think there is a strong possibility that everything will re-open in time for this most special time for all Greeks. Last year they were gutted to have their most important celebrations cancelled. Orthodox Easter to the Greeks is what Christmas is to the English – a time of joy and celebration!
Fingers crossed – I really hope I’ll be able to write about more interesting times in my next post.

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

Warning! Never Book Anything Through Lastminute.com!

The only reason I am even telling this sorry tale is to let people know that Lastminute.com should come with a health warning! It is a long narrative if you can be bothered to read it. But they are a despicable company and should no longer be allowed to conduct their illegal business practices. Covid is no excuse for their total lack of customer service and outright lies to their customers!
Lastminute Customer Service is not fit for purpose and I hope I persuade anyone who reads this not to go near them! Continue reading

A Christmas of Joy Worth all the Stress of Covid

I arrived home to Crete on 2nd after leaving a very cold UK and I am blown away by the wonderful weather I’ve come back to!  I am amazed to be sitting here on my balcony with warm and tranquil sunshine washing over me like a comfort blanket. It’s been blue skies and sunshine ever since I returned and it’s forecast to be 24 and 25 degrees at the weekend. Wow!  Despite having a list of stuff I need to deal with – I just have to sit here and enjoy it!  My view is magical and my recent memories are magical… so I am perfectly placed to write all about them here and now. Continue reading

Wild Horses Won’t Stop me from Spending Christmas with my Family!

Having been in lockdown ever since my last post, there is very little to talk about and so this is just a short post before I leave for the UK for Christmas. It is only 3 days till I go yet I still have not had confirmation of an alternative flight I accepted after yet another was cancelled 2 weeks ago. I knew that because of this pandemic, trying to get to the UK for Christmas was never going to be easy. I expected cancelled flights but wild horses aren’t going to stop me from trying! Continue reading

Happy Beachcombing Trips with my Friends

Despite all the awful consequences of this Covid Pandemic, I have had such a great summer.. that the bubble was bound to burst at some point! For the last few years October has always ended up being a month for sorting problems out and this year was no different. But always being positive by nature, I’m not even going to mention what these problems were. There is no need to because I have resolved them all and anyway, I have far nicer things to talk about! Continue reading

UK’s Quarantine List Didn’t Spoil Holidays with my Family

Despite the UK adding Crete to their quarantine list – it didn’t stop my brother, Mark from enjoying his Cretan holiday with me. He works in the film industry, which like everything else has been greatly compromised and anyway, Mark has been working from home on his book and so the quarantine restrictions on his return to the UK weren’t an issue for him. Continue reading

Back to a more normal life.

What an unexpectedly busy August it’s turned out to be! I started selling by the beach in Almyrida right after Emma, Ash and the kids left Crete, and because it is still so quiet in Almyrida – especially for August, I decided two days a week was enough. Yet those two days have proved to be really profitable. I have sold a total of 29 Seashell Mosaic Paintings this August and I am more than happy with sales, given these unprecedented world circumstances. Continue reading

Always Believe Something Wonderful is going to Happen.

I have just enjoyed the most wonderful week with my Daughter Emma, Son-in-Law Ash, and gorgeous grandchildren Ralph and Neve!
Because Ash has not been able to go on holiday with his family, since their wedding here 4 years ago, they decided to book a lovely family room at the Almyrida Beach hotel, so that they would have a more restful holiday. The fact that Ralph and Neve are at the ages of 4 and 2, I now realize what a handful they are and how hectic things would have been if they’d all stayed at mine! Big bonus for me too really.. as I got to spend plenty of absolute quality time playing with Ralph and Neve, without all the clearing up! Continue reading