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.

On the craggy cliffs of Plaka's coastline

On the craggy cliffs of Plaka’s coastline

Last week a friend showed me the wonderful cliffs with the salt pools along Plaka’s coastline – right on my doorstep! In some parts it was quite rough going along the edges and ledges, but hey – it was a great workout! On another day we walked through and around the outskirts of local old Greek villages and then along the craggy banks of a river in Georgioupoli. Always taking a picnic lunch with us, we can’t help but appreciate the endless beautiful scenery. I am so fortunate to be living on this beautiful Island and there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be during lockdown.

Where we had our picnic lunch on Plaka's beautiful coastline

Where we had our picnic lunch on Plaka’s beautiful coastline

Because the weather has been so wonderful this winter, I have been keeping up with my power walks around Almyrida and Plaka. These walks have had the added benefit of seeing other people I know along the way… everybody wanting to take advantage of the warm sunshine. Although this hasn’t appealed to me so far – I have seen many locals and expats swimming in the sea, which is bracingly cold in the wintertime.

Where the river meets the sea at Georgioupoli

Where the river meets the sea at Georgioupoli

The only clouds on our idyllic horizon have come in the form of powerfully strong south winds. Last week these kept me awake all night and I was almost afraid to see what damage they had caused the following morning. The two enormous tied-to-the-railings yucca plants, which are on the two south-facing corners of my wrap-around balcony – were all over the place! I opened up my bedroom shutters and was faced with a yucca plant on its side, several meters away from where it should be. Over the years I have grown accustomed to these wild and powerful south winds and I was convinced I’d secured both giant Yuccas as much as it was possible. But I have to remind myself that I should never underestimate the power of nature.

Santorini Scene in Seashell Mosaic Collage - 25 x 50cms - Available to purchase from my Etsy shop

Santorini Scene in Seashell Mosaic Collage – 25 x 50cms – Available to purchase from my Etsy shop

Not being able to travel further afield to enjoy the usual beachcombing I do during the winter months is a total bummer! There are shells I need to restock on for ongoing commissions or new designs. Talking of new designs I finally attempted a Santorini scene. Like the cats – for many years I had dismissed the idea as being unachievable in my style of Art. The seashells are always the biggest problem. In this case would I have enough grey-tinted seashells for all the different shades of the white buildings? I know now, that until I can source more wedge-shaped Donax or Coquina, I will not be able to repeat this design. It was a huge challenge and involved many hours of sorting through thousands of seashells to get the right shades. In all my designs I prefer to use the seashells’ natural colours and only have to paint them occasionally as is the case when I need Santorini blues!

Little Mermaid - 13 x 18cms - Available to purchase from my Etsy shop

Little Mermaid – 13 x 18cms – Available to purchase from my Etsy shop

Another design I have only ever done once, is a mermaid. About 10 years ago I was commissioned to do one for a little girl and so I chose Ariel and painted her face. I never do faces in seashell mosaic because they just don’t work in small scale. So I never made another mermaid even though over the years I’ve been asked if I do them.

Although I can do variations on existing designs I am sort of running out of new subject matter and so I decided to try a mermaid again. The two designs I’ve come up with were really enjoyable to create.  I decided to paint the shells of the mermaid’s tail and I added a glaze to enhance the scales.  When viewed in sunlight or other lighting, the mermaid’s tail is really eye-catching.  Both, including the Santorini Scene are available to purchase from my Etsy shop. https://www.etsy.com/shop/seashellbeautyinart/

Today it is 23 degrees with abundant sunshine again and I’ve been writing this post on my beautiful balcony overlooking the sea and the mountains.  It’s no surprise that I should feel so lucky to be here.  I couldn’t resist posting this photo of my sunset here a few days ago.  Change is on the horizon from Sunday and temperatures are set to plummet to 8 degrees, with strong northerly winds and very heavy rain for the following days.

Another Awesome Sunset from my balcony.

Another Awesome Sunset from my balcony.

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!

In October I booked a return trip from Chania to Manchester UK for 8th December through Lastminute.com.
This trip consisted of 3 flights each way, using two different Airlines – Chania to Athens, Athens to Amsterdam and finally Amsterdam to Manchester UK. Because of the Covid Pandemic I expected changes or cancellations to my schedule and with this in mind I purchased Lastminute’s T & C Premium Service Package. I didn’t realise then.. that I was paying extra for absolutely NO service!

On 23rd November I received 2 emails from Skyexpress – which was the first segment of my journey from Chania to Athens. They informed me that my flight had been cancelled so I expected to hear the same from Lastminute. A few days later and after several phone calls, including forwarding my “Cancelled Segment” email from Skyexpress, Lastminute finally sent me confirmation of the cancellation on 26th November. They offered me the only alternative flight I could take in order to meet my 2 ongoing flights with KLM, which was with Aegean Airlines,  because Skyexpress didn’t have another flight option that fitted in with the rest of my schedule.

I clicked the “Accept New Flight” link in Lastminute’s email but it took me to an ‘error page’. I tried several times but could get no further. So I emailed lastminute customer care again and asked them to take it as confirmation that I accept the alternative flight and received an email back saying my acceptance had been forwarded to the relevant team. I asked them to send me confirmation of the revised schedule and I did this in as many ways as you can imagine – both by telephone and emails. I have documented evidence of over 20 phone calls and 20 emails sent to customercare@lastminute.com – all with regard to this cancelled Skyexpress flight! Every one of my phonecalls was a complete waste of my time and money. I repeatedly asked for the revised schedule but was instead sent the old one showing the cancelled Skyexpress flight. Lastminute kept insisting that they had no information from Skyepress to say it was cancelled and that as far as they were concerned – the flight was still operating and confirmed as per the schedule. Having sent me their notification of the cancelled flight over a week prior to this and offering me the alternative flight – what outrageous lies!

I argued (with continued calls and emails) how was I to make my trip to Manchester on 8th if I couldn’t get to Athens?  In My Lastminute Account the old schedule was still showing and that is when I decided to call Aegean, who informed me that I had not been booked onto the alternative flight. So it was obvious that lastminute were refusing to do anything about it.   Three days before I was due to leave I decided I would book myself onto that Aegean flight so that I could still board my 2 ongoing KLM flights. As a precaution, I decided to call KLM and check out a few things with them first. I was told that if I didn’t take the Skyexpress flight as shown on their ‘My Trip’ schedule – I would not be able to take the KLM flights! They told me that my travel agency (Lastminute.com) was the only one able to make alterations to that schedule. I then asked KLM to check their systems while I waited and they confirmed that the Skyexpress flight had indeed been cancelled some time ago. I tried to reason with KLM that if I could book myself onto the Aegean flight I should still be able to continue my journey with them? But they wouldn’t budge and I am horrified to realize just how much control Lastminute have.

I sent more emails telling Lastminute everything I had learned and pleaded with them to take the cancelled flight off my schedule. I told them that I would book my own flight with Aegean, thereby saving them extra cost. But they did nothing, only sending me more of the same old automatically generated rubbish responses… all the while insisting that the Skyexpress flight was confirmed. All they had to do was remove the cancelled flight from the schedule and I would have been able to leave on the 8th as originally booked with them. To rub salt in the wounds, lastminute were sending me outrageous emails including another confirmation of the old schedule, right up until the night before I was due to travel. I even received their downright lies yet again in emails sent to me the next day when I should have actually been travelling to my destination!

What is unbelievable about this despicable company is that they knew that my flight had been cancelled yet they were prepared to let me turn up at the airport the next morning for a cancelled flight, also knowing that I wouldn’t be able to board the 2 KLM flights either!

Lastminute.com had over 2 weeks to sort what was a very simple problem. Book me onto the alternative flight with Aegean as was offered to me by them on 26th November. Instead I had no alternative but to book all 3 flights for my journey from Chania to Manchester for the 9th (the next day) – or risk not being able to go at all. I paid a further total of 484 pounds for the flights and I am appalled by these unnecessary costs incurred by their total lack of customer service and disgusting illegal business practices. It beggars belief!

When KLM cancelled my 2 returning flights I was worried sick that Lastminute would do the same as they did with my outbound journey and in fact that is exactly what they did! When I emailed customer care they told me that as far as they were concerned the KLM flights were still confirmed. It had been stated all over the national news that KLM had cancelled their flights!   Strangely.. when I checked ‘My Lastminute’ account there was no schedule showing for my return, there were no flights at all!   As the first 2 flights were with KLM,  I was finally able to contact them directly and they re-booked me for all three return flights.
If you hung on in there and read the whole story, thanks!  Please spread the word..

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! Unfortunately, because it wasn’t a straightforward trip, I booked through Lastminute.com and frankly they have been horrendous! Without going into all the gory details, it looks like I may have to wait until the day before I fly for their confirmation that I am even going! However, in my ever positive frame of mind – I believe I will be on those flights as planned and I refuse to let Lastminute.com stress me out.

Personal exercise walks on Kalyves beach.

Personal exercise walks on Kalyves beach.

During lockdown I have been getting out in the wonderful Cretan fresh air for ‘personal exercise’, taking my power walks and also going for long walks on Kalyves beach with Lisa and Debbie. We’ve been collecting firewood for Lisa’s Zomba because the beaches are full of branches and tree trunks, amongst a myriad of other debris. This all washed up on the shores after the bad weather we had a couple of weeks ago. Whenever I am there I can’t help thinking how lucky we are to have a choice of beautiful beaches to walk on. A couple of weeks ago Debbie and I went to Georgioupoli beach, which is probably a little out of our locality but we thought worth the risk. It’s only a 15 minute drive and we took a picnic lunch so we could make a day of it. This beach is so vast that it would take us all day to walk it!  All our local beach walks have been lovely and it didn’t seem to matter that we weren’t allowed to travel further afield.

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting - 18 x 24cms

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting – 18 x 24cms

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting - 18 x 24cms

Seashell Mosaic Collage Painting – 18 x 24cms

On the work front I managed to complete a couple of new Seashell Mosaic designs. In all the years I have been creating these mosaics, I never got around to making one of cats even though they are everywhere here on Crete! I didn’t think they would work in seashell mosaic because of the fur. But most cats have short hair and because I already produce successful mosaics of donkeys – I thought it might just work with cats too! I’ve also added beach pebbles for the wall and steps because I simply don’t have suitable seashells and anyway, the stone wall and steps may as well be made of pebbles. I will be adding these new designs to my Etsy shop in the New Year.

So that’s about it for this post. From Tuesday I will be ensconced with my family in the UK… looking forward to having the best Christmas we can in these worrying and unprecedented times.

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

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 in Almyrida during the summer months from May to October. I have missed all the buzz and the fun that comes with my beach selling season. Continue reading