Picturesque Almyrida

Here on the beautiful Island of Crete it’s been a long hot summer and it isn’t over yet! September is proving to be a hot one too and I’m pleased to say that sales have really picked up during the last two months. Hence the reason I’ve not written for a while, because much has been happening in my life both professionally and personally and it’s all taken precedence over this Blog!

One of Almyrida's pretty beaches

One of Almyrida’s pretty beaches where Zoe spent much of her time relaxing.

Zoe came to stay with me for a much-needed break from the stresses of her job. She was in desperate need of some rest and of course was also here to progress with her wedding plans. Rich had too much work on so she came alone.  Originally, Emma and Ralph were trying to get flights out for the same week, but sadly Emma also had work commitments and so I didn’t get to spend time with her or Ralph and oh I do miss my cute little Grandson so much!  Such is life… but I really do believe things always  happen – when they happen… and for a reason.

One of Almyrida's pretty beaches

The other side of the beach, where Zoe and I spent quality time and swam last weekend.

That week with me in Crete turned out to be just what Zoe needed! We got so many important details about the wedding sorted and on the days I was selling, she was quite happy spending time by herself; lots and lots of swimming and relaxation; reading her book and feeling completely at home In Almyrida. Zoe has visited Crete so many times now, that it feels a little like her second home!  It’s the same for Emma when she visits.   I was able to join Zoe on other days and I couldn’t help taking some snapshots of the beautiful and peaceful setting we were relaxing in! I may live here but I rarely find the time to appreciate how lovely and picturesque Almyrida is!

On Thursday evening we met Neisha, the wedding planner and Kirsten in Chania – at the caterer’s cafe restaurant. Here we were treated to samples of all the dishes Zoe has decided to go for including the wine – all of which were complimentary. That done and food and wine decided, we moved onto the Harbour Front to a restaurant called Salis and who’s owner is a friend of Neisha’s. We drank a cocktail and I have to say that the food at Salis is all organically home-grown and deliciously different! I would definitely recommend this place!

At Salis Restuarant on Chania Harbour Front

At Salis Restaurant on Chania Harbour Front – Zoe, Kirsten, Neisha & I.

The following evening we went to Maddie’s in Kefelas, to watch a band that has been highly recommended and is a strong possibility for the wedding. We thought they were brilliant! They had everyone up and dancing all night and they were talented and accomplished musicians. When the gig had finished Zoe approached the lead and singer for a chat. What a genuinely nice guy he is, with no airs and graces and he has readily agreed to perform at Zoe and Rich’s wedding at the end of next May.  Fingers crossed that Rich will like them too, after he hears them on Zoe’s video clips and Youtube.

On the beach in front ofCafe Franscoise in Almyrida

Zoe and I on the beach in front of Cafe Franscoise in Almyrida.

And so it was a different Zoe I took back to the airport than the Zoe I had collected the week before. She was tired, negative and on edge when she arrived, but rested, positive and happy when she left and although she did not want to leave, I reminded her that in just over seven months she’ll be back again for three whole weeks around the wedding. Needless to say I did my usual crying all the way back from the airport, but (practicing what I preach) with my flight back to the UK for Christmas and New Year already booked, I know it won’t be long before I can see and spend time with everyone dear to me again.

Since Zoe left I have been busy trying to keep up with demand for certain designs of my Seashell Mosaic Collages which have been particularly popular in August and September. I’ve already mentioned how sales have improved during these months and this means I have more work to fit into less available time! Same old… same old story.

Lisa and I at Nikita's in Almyrida

Lisa and I at Nikita’s in Almyrida last night, where 4 different bands were playing.

My social life has been busier again too and yesterday I spent the day showing my good customers and friends – Paul, Sheila and John – all round Chania and they treated me to a lovely lunch at a restaurant situated high above the Harbour. Last night I went to a four band gig at Nikita’s in Almyrida and have to say that was a cracking night! Such a variety of music styles, entertaining and great to dance to! My Friend Lisa plays the beat box in one of the bands and so I went along to support her. There were heaps of people I knew there and I partied until collapsing onto my bed at around 2am this morning!  There is a big party taking place in Plaka Square on Thursday Evening.  There will be more Live music from Backtrax and I missed last year’s party, so I was told last night that I had better be there this year!

Still Loving the Holiday Atmosphere in Almyrida

Why does time have to pass so quickly? Maybe it’s because my life is so full and busy or maybe it’s just because I’m growing older…? They say that time flies by as you get older. It’s true.. and as always happens, Karen and Mike’s visit came and went in a flash!

We had such a good time! Lots of ‘catch up’ chat and discussion, lots of laughing, wining and dining out every night; lovely lunches at beachside tavernas in Almyrida and Kalyves, where we had plenty of relaxation, swimming, chatting and playing games!

Karen & Mike

Karen & Mike – having just retrieved Mike’s cap from the wilderness that is my garden downstairs! It had blown off Mike’s head while we were on the balcony in the strong winds.

We also went on Yorgos’ Speedboat Trip. I’ve taken other visitors on this trip but not Karen and Mike and I was keen to see if they enjoyed it. It’s only a two hour journey and covers the coastline from Almyrida, past Kokkino Chorio and beyond. Along the way we stop at many interesting caves, until we come to the one where a Greek man lived for many years before meeting and marrying an Englishwoman! At this point on the trip, those who wish to take a closer look, are encouraged to jump off the boat and climb onto the rocks. The entrance to the cave is situated high up and one must first navigate a series of steps and ladders the Greek man built, in order to reach the entrance to the cave. This all looks a little scary from ground level and many people, including some of my friends, have not attempted the climb. You couldn’t keep me from going up there though – every time! I was fascinated to see how this amazing Greek man lived – so ‘at one with Nature’ – for so long.

It was only last year that I was lucky enough to meet him! He came to my stall by the edge of Almyrida beach, bought one of my artworks and we got chatting. He was accompanied by the Englishwoman he fell in love with and today they live happily in a village called Kefelas, in a very unusual house that I’m sure he constructed himself!

The Scream that is embedded in the cliff face!

‘The Scream’ that is embedded in the cliff face!

But I digress!! Back to the trip and at certain points, Yorgos points up at the cliffs and we see goats hanging there precariously… as if they have special hooves keeping them attached to the practically vertical jagged rock! There were lots of them and I can’t remember seeing them on Yorgos’ trips before. So when we reach the Greek man’s cave – Yorgos explains that all the activity of the goats has dislodged many pieces of rock, making the climb up rather more dangerous. Naturally, he was concerned for everyone’s safety, but what a shame! I’m so glad I saw inside the cave when I did.  I didn’t take many photos this time, but I wish I could find the ones of the Greek man’s cave I’d previously taken.

After the cave, Yorgos took us to an area along the coast which is good for snorkelling and we stayed there for about 45 minutes. Karen was not so confident about snorkelling, but after some good tuition from Yorgos and about 15 minutes’ practice – she had improved massively and loved it! We saw lots of brightly coloured fish and rocks of all forms and shades. It had been so hot again that it was wonderfully refreshing to spend time in the water! We all agreed that despite not seeing the Greek man’s cave, it was still a great trip.

Enjoying a drink or two at Franscoise in Almyrida

Enjoying a drink or two at Francois in Almyrida – Karen and I at the start of their holiday.

All in all we spent a wonderful quality week together. This is indeed rare because when I return to the UK at Christmas times, Karen and Mike’s home is like Piccadilly Circus, with family members coming and going all the while! But it was over too soon and I am missing them lots – just as I am missing Ralph. I love to see him on Skype, watch him playing and chatting away to himself.. now just starting to string words together. I so love him to bits!

On the beach work front… I am fumbling along like all the other people who work in Almyrida for the summer season. It’s not the same as it’s been for the last 7 years… something’s changed. Tourists are not spending as much and there is nothing anybody can do about it! Never mind – I am still enjoying my beach selling days and loving the holiday atmosphere. Almyrida is busy and buzzing! I still count myself lucky that I am selling my seashell mosaic artworks every day, albeit fewer in number. I am always happy to see customers I’ve met from over the years, as well as meeting new people. This week just gone, weather conditions have been ideal for selling – not too hot with a nice breeze off the sea. But temperatures are souring again and I just know I’ll find myself frequently dipping in the sea to cool off!

Beautiful sunset in Almyrida

Just couldn’t resist – another beautiful sunset from my balcony!

Almyrida has that Holiday Atmosphere Again!

It’s Easter Sunday and I’ve been busy getting the spare room ready for Zoe and Donnas’ visit in a couple of days. The weather has been glorious again and so later this afternoon, I couldn’t resist a couple of hours working mosaic on my amazing balcony! Now I am enjoying the peace and tranquillity and the early evening sun, whilst I lounge comfortably on the balcony sofa. Quite a contrast because yesterday I was taking a break at the same time, but it was anything but peaceful! Bangers and crackers were going off intermittently, making me jump out of my skin every time! This in turn, was setting off all the dogs barking and even the sheep below me were starting to protest! Clio the cat who frequents my balcony, jumped 3 feet into the air when one particularly loud banger went off! That did make me laugh!

Easter Saturday in Plaka Square

Easter Saturday in Plaka Square. You can just see Judas hanging from the gallows in the middle of the bonfire!

All day the villagers had been building the customary bonfire in Plaka Square – ready for tonight’s big burn! As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous Easter posts – this bonfire is for burning Judas on and is a night when Plaka is full of people carrying lighted candles. It all makes for an atmosphere of warmth and togetherness.

Because the evening doesn’t really get going until nearer midnight, I didn’t walk up to the square until around 10pm last night. Lots of people I knew were already out and about and all the restaurants in Plaka were packed with locals and tourists alike. We based ourselves at Vangeli’s and took two tables outside. It was a mild evening although it got chillier as the evening wore on. We chatted while watching the square fill up with people leaving the church after the service with their lighted candles. All night the bangers were going off at odd occasions, making us all jump, but as Robert my Dutch friend said – and I agree – you’ve heard and seen nothing until you’ve spent a New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam! Finally, after the church bells started ringing, they lit the huge bonfire which for those of us that were feeling the chill, was most welcome! It was a lovely evening and I was home for just after 1.30am – so not too late really!

Seashell Mosaic Collage - 30 x 40cms

Seashell Mosaic Collage – 30 x 40cms – available to purchase from my Etsy shop – SeashellBeautyinArt (Shop link on menu bar above)

Back in the here and now, I’ m looking down on Almyrida and it’s like a picture postcard! All the shops and restaurants are open again and I imagine it’s been really busy down there today, with many Greek families, tourists and local residents. Yesterday I noticed a couple of sailboats and a few canoes out on the water. Now I can see an enormous cruise ship leaving Souda Bay so I’ll bet Chania has been majorly busy too.

I wish David and I could have had an exhibition on the Harbour Front in Chania this Easter. I think we’d both do really well. Sadly yet again, we cannot have an exhibition there this year because they changed the whole system again. Applications were received electronically in February. Because the information was on a different website, David was unaware of this until just recently, so we’ve missed out! Also it sounds like they are prioritising applicants that are local Greek organisations and artists, so who knows if we would even have secured a slot? Whatever will be… there’s always next year.. but I am so disappointed because I love and miss those wonderful exhibitions.

Seashell Mosaic Collage - 25 x 30cms

Seashell Mosaic Collage – 25 x 30cms – available to purchase from my Etsy shop – SeashellBeautyinArt

Ever the optimist, I have the whole of the summer season to look forward to and so much else besides! I am excited to see and spend time with Zoe, followed immediately by a week’s holiday in Spain with Mum and my sisters and then some quality time with Emma and gorgeous Grandson Ralph.  After another great Skype call with Emma and Ralph, I reminded Emma that she hasn’t sent me any recent photos of him.  I will soon put that to rights when I am back in the UK.  Hey though, starting from Tuesday, and after having had three intensive months of creating my seashell mosaics –  I will be having three weeks of socialising, holidaying and relaxing with family and friends! Absolutely fab!

Help! I Desperately Need Colourful Coquina Seashells!

It’s been a while since my last post and that’s because I’ve been totally absorbed in my art, continuing with my creative splurge while I can. I have loved and enjoyed every single minute of it! All of my new designs can be purchased from my Etsy shop – the link for which is just above on the menu bar. Continue reading

Happily Enjoying my Creative Splurges!

white mountains

The amazing view from my balcony – you can see why I love working here!

I’ve been working on my balcony this afternoon. Recently we’ve had some odd days in between rain and cloud that have been so warm and sunny – that it was just plain daft not to work outside! A few weeks back we had so much snow and it wasn’t just confined to the mountains but crept into our villages as well! I got stuck in the snow and ice several times on my way to the dentist in Vamos. A journey that normally takes around 10 to 15 minutes took me over 45 minutes and was so treacherous that I was holding my breath for most of the way! In 8 winters of living here on Crete I have never seen so much snow! Continue reading

Fond Farewell to 2016

The stunning view from my balcony

Back at home on Crete – the stunning view from my balcony!

Happy New Year!
I’m sitting on my fabulous balcony, stroking Clio who is sitting in my lap (a story for another time!) I am spellbound as I stare at the sheer magnitude and majestic splendour of Crete’s White snowy Mountains. It is late afternoon and the sun is about to go down on what has surely been an idyllic winter’s day on Crete. I am so completely at peace in my world right now and am amazed to realise that my life appears to have been a long series of struggles, until I moved to Crete. From the moment I stepped onto Cretan soil, I knew I had found my sanctuary… and all my past wounds began to fully heal. I have been reflecting on the two wonderful weeks I’ve just had in the UK during Christmas and New Year and I cannot begin to tell you how happy it makes me feel! And so it is almost with a tinge of sadness that I bid a fond farewell to 2016.

Gorgeous Ralph!

Gorgeous Ralph!

In the afternoon of the day I arrived in the UK Emma and Ralph came to stay with me at Karen and Mike’s. It was so wonderful to see and hold Ralph again! He is unbelievably gorgeous and has such a sweet and happy nature. He never cries and is such good fun to play with! He slept right through the night, as always and continued to do so for the three nights we stayed at Zoe and Rich’s over Christmas. I know that as his ‘Yia Yia’ I am totally biased but he is truly a dream child.

Because Emma had to work the next day, I had the unbridled pleasure of looking after Ralph for the whole day. My Mum (Great Yia Yia) and I decided to take a walk to the local shops with Ralph in his buggy, but got caught in a heavy downpour leaving us all drenched! Luckily Karen rescued us and we all changed into dry clothes when we got back. Apart from that unfortunate incident the day flew by as I played with and looked after my gorgeous Grandson.

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Playing with my cute and gorgeous Grandson!

All of the following day was spent shopping with my Mum. Apart from a quick coffee and cake stop, we must have walked a solid four hours, traipsing the streets and shops for last minute bits and bobs for Christmas etc. I honestly can’t believe my Mother’s stamina! For a woman who is fast approaching 80 years old, she is incredibly fit for her age! I had a really lovely day with my Mum and felt thoroughly spoilt! We ended our day with dinner and wine at a lovely restaurant (another treat!) before catching a taxi back to Karen and Mike’s. At their house it was as busy as ever with family continuing to arrive for Christmas. My Nieces Sophie and Hannah with Sam, Nephew Rob with fiancé Emma, as well as Mike’s Brother with Martha and their two children! So you can imagine that Karen and Mike’s large family home was more like a hotel – with NEVER a dull moment!

Christmas night out.

Ange, myself and Fran on our Christmas night out in Cheadle Hulme.

On the Friday before Christmas Eve I went out with my friends Fran and Ange. We met at the Church Inn in Cheadle Hulme at around 6.30pm and it was buzzing in there! We enjoyed catching up on all our news whilst drinking several glasses of wine. Fran was not drinking because she was driving and when, at around 10.30pm, we decided to move on to the John Millington, Fran decided to go home, which was a real shame. There was live music and we met some people we knew, so we carried on drinking till after midnight. Great fun!

Ralph with one of his pressies

Emma, Ralph and Zoe on Christmas morning. Shame the photo is a bit blurry!

At lunchtime on Christmas Eve Rich came to collect my Mum and I and drive us to Zoe and Rich’s lovely new home in Golcar. Emma, Ash and Ralph arrived about an hour after we did and I can’t tell you how happy I felt to have all my family together with me! On Christmas morning we spent at least two hours opening our pressies one by one and loving Ralph’s reactions and delight in opening all of his presents! Christmas really feels like Christmas when there are young children in the family. We’ve not experienced that for a very long time. So it was all quite simply – wonderful!

Emma Ash and Ralph

Christmas Day in the local pub. Emma and Ash with baby Ralph asleep in his arms..Aahhh!

Once dressed, we all wrapped up warm for a lovely pre-dinner walk. We stopped at a pub for a Christmas drink and because it was packed in this bar, we didn’t stay long and Rich needed to see to the dinner anyway. Oh what a Christmas feast Rich cooked for us! It was delicious and how lucky is Zoe to have a fiancé who can cook like that?! I am jealous!

One of Ash’s surprise presents to Emma, was the re-edited version of their Wedding video. The first had been disappointingly awful – so bad that Emma and Ash would not let anyone see it. Emma had requested the videographer to send her all the raw footage so that she could arrange for the video to be professionally re-edited. Knowing Emma, I had resigned myself to not seeing it for even a few years! It just wasn’t a priority for her. With Ash away training in the RAF, Ralph to look after on her own – not to mention a full time demanding job – she already has her hands full! So Ash had secretly organised the re-edit and during the late afternoon, whilst we were all relaxing on the sofas after our fabulous Christmas feast, we watched Emma and Ash’s Wedding video for the first time! Watching this two hour film brought back all the feelings and emotions I felt during that so special day. Naturally I have my own copy – a treasured memory of a treasured day spent here on this beautiful Island of Crete.

Playing with Ralph in his new Mini Cooper!

Playing with Ralph in his new Mini Cooper!

We ate, we drank, we laughed, we played games; we watched a movie and did all of those things that families do at Christmas time with their loved ones. How fortunate I am to be blessed with the wonderful family I have. Boxing Day was much the same with more wonderful food, more playtime with Ralph and more games.

At around lunchtime the following day, Emma, Ash and Ralph left to spend a few days with Ash’s parents in Shrewsbury. Then Rich drove Mum and I back to Karen and Mike’s. It was great because the next day my Brother Mark came for a two day visit. He wasn’t able to bring Honey and Ted because they both had other commitments, but it was really good to see Mark again, especially as the last time I saw him was over two years ago, when he, Honey and Ted came to stay with me in Crete!

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Karen, Mark, Mum and me – celebrating Mum’s soon-to-be 80th Birthday.

As Mum’s 80th falls in January and because she lives in Spain, we took Mum out for dinner and then drinks at Mike’s parents’ apartment afterwards. It was a lovely evening which all ten of us thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t believe my Mum is going to be 80 years old – she is truly amazing!

Karen and Mike’s closest friends, David and Deborah arrived to spend New Year. People have been coming and going continuously so there was still room at the ‘Whelan Inn’ – believe it or not! I made plans to meet with my lovely friend Gill and another friend I’ve not seen since she left the UK and moved to Spain over 10 years ago. I had finally got back in touch via Facebook. She now lives back in the UK after her recent split from husband, Jon. Gill’s husband Rick collected me and then Chris and kindly drove us all to Bramhall village, dropping us off at the Bubble Room. It has been over 10 years since the three of us enjoyed an evening out together and we had such a good time! We met lots of different people including two lovely women I would definitely have seen more of, had I still been living in the UK. Wow, how the three of us chatted and I realised how much all our lives had changed over these past 10 years.

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Chris, myself and Gill during our night out in Bramhall Village.

At around 11pm we strolled around the corner to the Yardbird, for some good music and maybe dancing? Karen, Mike, David and Deborah had all eaten at Mercato’s – across the road and were enjoying a few nightcaps in there. So naturally we joined them for an hour or so, squeezing ourselves into the seating booth they were in! Mike kindly treated us to a bottle of wine and after they left, Gill, Chris and I carried on the evening, dancing, chatting and having fun. We all had a great time!

New Year’s Eve came around so fast! Karen and Mike threw yet another of their legendary New Year’s Eve Parties and this year there were lots of younger people there as many of Sophie and Hannah’s friends came along too. I was so happy that Zoe and Rich were able to make the party and stay over. It meant I got to enjoy some more time with Zoe. Emma and Ash spent the evening at theirs with Ralph, preferring to stay home alone together and I can’t say I blame them!

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I didn’t take many photos at the party – too busy enjoying myself!

We did a couple of great team quizzes , played a drinking game I’ve forgotten the name of and were entertained with charming live Irish music performed and sung by Charlie and her partner, Steve! Some of us (not me though) even got up for some Irish jigging! The food was as fabulous as it always is and the wine – the best, especially given what I’m used to in Crete! David and Deborah joined a dance class in Dubai and had been showing us all how to dance the Rumba. We also had a little expert tuition from my Mum – having once been a champion ballroom-dancer herself, in Holland! I even managed to do a little ‘Swing Roc’ with David. I’d not done that for over 10 years either! The Last few guests left after 4am!

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Ralph in his miniature Mini Cooper!

Naturally, New Year’s Day was a little jaded for all of us but we soon perked up when Emma, Ash and Ralph popped in for a visit in the afternoon. I was thrilled to get this last opportunity to see Ralph. We did a couple more quizzes together and I so enjoyed playing with gorgeous Ralph again. It was quite heart-wrenching when we said our goodbyes.

On my last day we all decided to visit the Trafford Centre in Manchester and enjoyed lunch at one of the Asian restaurants in the Centre. Back at Karen and Mike’s I packed my cases ready for my flight back to Crete in the morning. Then we all had a relaxing evening chatting about the events over Christmas and New Year – another fabulous and memorable two weeks to end what was a wonderful 2016 for me.

So Excited About Christmas!

Doesn’t time just fly?! Now I haven’t left enough time to write up this last post, for what has been an incredible and wonderful year for me.
It started off with my house move to what is undoubtedly my ‘dream’ home. Then my daughter Emma and now son-in-law Ash, got married right here on Crete and what a huge and wonderful family wedding that was! And let’s not forget the joy I’ve experienced being a ‘Yaya” to gorgeous grandson Ralph!

Granted I missed out on my annual exhibition on the Harbour Front in Chania and when you add that to the loss of sales on the beach (and I still blame Brexit!) – then money-wise it’s been the only and worst year in seven. But really – I can’t complain. In fact the unexpected poor sales were just the ‘kick up the arse’ I needed to broaden my marketplace – instead of relying on just one small holiday resort on Crete. Now my new Etsy shop – seashellBeautyinArt (link above on menu bar) has given me a world-wide marketplace and one that operates 24/7! What could be better than that? Well…fingers crossed – it’s still early days.

Right now, I’m almost packed and ready for my flight back to the UK at the crack of dawn tomorrow. I love Christmas in the UK – obviously because I can be with all my family, but also because I think England epitomises Christmas and does it like no other country can!

I can’t wait to see and play with Ralph again. It’s actually only been about a month since I was in the UK, but of course I still missed him – despite regular Skype contact. So Karen is picking me up from the airport tomorrow morning and Emma has managed to get tomorrow afternoon off. She is coming with Ralph to stay the night at Karen and Mike’s and I will look after Ralph all the next day while Emma’s at work. I am so excited!

cute as ever - Ralph!

Cute as ever – Ralph!

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! My Mum has already arrived from Spain and is staying at Karen and Mike’s. Bless them both – they do end up running a hotel for family over the festive period! On Christmas Eve morning, Zoe and Rich will come to collect Mum and I, to spend Christmas at their lovely new home in Golcar, somewhere quite rural in Huddersfield.  Emma, Ash and Ralph will also be joining us and we will all stay at Zoe and Rich’s for 3 or 4 days. We are especially excited because Ralph will be sooo entertaining at the age he is now – just 13months old. It’s going to be just wonderful!

Then there’s my friends. I really hope to touch base with lovely Jill and Rick at some point and also Chris, who is a mutual friend and one I haven’t seen for at least 5 years! Chris moved to Spain about 10 years ago and is currently in the UK for Christmas too. I’m also looking forward to enjoying some festive drinks with my old chums, Fran and Ange on the Friday before Christmas Eve. We’ve already arranged to meet up at the Church Inn in Cheadle Hulme and will probably move on to John Millington’s til late so that should be fun!

I do so hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas too, and a healthy, happy and lucky New Year.