A Strange Summer Month in the UK

I have been in the UK for a whole Month! I was only supposed to go for a week but ended up staying much longer, so that I could help care for our Mum and spend as much time as I could with her.

Again, we were all gutted that Mum was not well enough to attend Rob and Emma’s Wedding Weekend in Banbury Oxfordshire. But we managed to get her out of hospital and safely back to Karen and Mike’s, where we hoped… and were relieved to see her spirits gradually restore and her health improve, for the last week I was there.

At Aynhoe Park - Ralph with the Lion he was slightly dubious of!

At Aynhoe Park – Ralph with the Lion he was slightly dubious of!

But I must write about the wonderful weekend we all had at Rob and Emma’s Wedding! We arrived at Aynhoe Park late Friday afternoon, for tea and cake. This large and ‘quirky’ Stately Home is privately owned and filled with wonderful antiquities and incredible taxidermy of wild animals everywhere! There is even a life-sized TinTin complete with rocket! There are antique toy car replicas all over the mansion – the perfect size for Ralph, and jars of jellies and sweets to help ourselves to! What can I say?! I had an absolute ‘ball’ with Ralph, while we explored this wonderland of a place!

Aynhoe park

Lovely Photo of my growing family! Shame that Ralph & I have our eyes closed!

I cannot possibly begin to describe Aynhoe Park and can strongly recommend that you visit their website http://aynhoepark.co.uk/the-house/ or search images of Aynhoe Park for some amazing pics!  Set in beautiful grounds with wild deer roaming around the breathtaking countryside, we were all spoilt rotten with butlers taking care of our luggage and our every whim! My room was enormous and luxurious! Karen and Mike’s accommodation was more of a suite and was called the ‘Gatsby Room’. Quote from the Aynhoe Park website – “The 28 bedrooms and suites of Aynhoe Park are all shrines to opulence and individuality with a nod to history in each”. When I was quickly changing for the barbeque scheduled for that evening, Ralph was in my room happily playing with an antique Meccano train and car!

At Aynhoe Park - Rob & Emma's Wedding

Rob & Emma – now happily married and Mr & Mrs Whelan!

The barbeque was amazing, offering fantastic food and wine and there were log fires, rugs and furs draped everywhere – for if we got cold. It was lovely to be with my family for this wonderful weekend occasion and we all had such a great time!
I loved all my quality playtime with Ralph and of course, Zoe and Rich and Ash and Emma – who is due to give birth to my Granddaughter in early August!

It was Rob and Emma’s wedding on the Saturday and we were treated to the best food and wines I have tasted in a long time!   It was simply wonderful!  After the speeches, the beautifully decorated reception room was changed into a magical dance floor – the lighting was phenomenal and we partied until early morning, as the fun continued in the underground nightclub!  It was a completely enchanting weekend and we all had such an amazing time!

At Aynhoe Park - Wedding

Looking stunning! My Nieces, Sophie & Hannah (Bridesmaids) with my Sister Karen (Mother of the Groom)

It was sod’s law that my lovely friends Jill and Rick, had booked their holiday to stay with me for 10 days from June 26th to July 6th. I could not spend any of that time with them and it was so strange for all of us… that I wasn’t in Crete with them!  However, Jill and Rick and their whole family have booked accommodation in Almyrida for next summer and so I will get the chance to spend time with them all then.

At Aynhoe Park Wedding

Enjoying the wonderful wedding at Aynhoe Park – Myself, Sister Karen, Friend Deborah and Family Friend Caroline!

Overall and looking back, this past month has been a strange one. To be in the UK during the hottest summer on record since the summer of ’76, and to get so engrossed in the World Cup football (well done to the England team for all their efforts and achievements!) – felt oddly strange amongst everything else that has been going on! For the last 10 years I have spent every summer in Crete.

Playing Polo with gorgeous Grandson Ralph at Aynhoe Park

Playing Polo with gorgeous Grandson Ralph at Aynhoe Park

The day after I returned to Crete, I watched the semi-final between England and Croatia at my local Vangeli’s Taverna and Sports Bar in Plaka. The Taverna was packed with people I knew and like everyone in England – we were all so disappointed when Croatia scored that second goal! Even so… I stayed out and had a real blast until after 4am!

I set up my stall for selling by the beach in Almyrida on Friday and it was for the first time in over a month! I have never been away at this time of the year, never mind for so long! This is the peak period for selling my unique Seashell Mosaic Collages to all the visitors – both new and returning to Almyrida. It felt good to be back! Almyrida and Plaka are currently full of tourists and I loved meeting and chatting to some of them, as well as catching up with friends.

Photo Album – Memories of Rob & Emma’s Wedding

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Zoe & Rich’s Wonderful Wedding on Crete!

After a truly exhausting weekend of cleaning my house and outside areas, which I had dreadfully neglected all winter and beyond, Zoe arrived just shy of two weeks before her big wedding day! It was all go for the first few days, with appointments and last minute details to attend to. We also had a shopping day in Chania, where I finally got a pair of shoes and a bag to go with the dress I bought in the UK a year last April! I was so not personally organized for this wedding! Zoe bought her Bridesmaids gifts and toys for the three children that will attend.

On the Tuesday before the wedding, Zoe and I collected Rich from the airport and I drove them both to the apartment overlooking Almyrida Harbour, which they had previously booked for the wedding week. It was gorgeous – so clean and new and just 70 steps down to the beach. We were warmly greeted by the Greek owner and his wife who brought freshly baked Kalitsounia and shots of Honey Raki to welcome the Bride and Groom to be! If there is one word you can always say about Greek hospitality – it is ‘Superb’!

Ralph at Franscoise Cafe

Ralph offering everyone a piece of his peach at Franscoise Cafe

After settling Zoe and Rich in, going back to mine for hangers and adapter plugs – not to mention Zoe’s wedding dress which she forgot to pack, I later headed back to the airport to meet Emma and Ralph. Because Ash had organized a hire car before he knew he wouldn’t be able to come to Crete, I wanted to be there to help heavily pregnant Emma with Ralph and her luggage whilst she sorted out the car. I was also worried that she may not remember the way back to mine in the dark. Every single flight that arrived that week was delayed because of the annual French Air Traffic Controllers’ strike. All they do every year around this time in the Summer, is to inconvenience and take away valuable time from thousands of people’s holidays and I wonder what they gain from it? Emma’s flight was no different and we didn’t arrive home until after 1pm that night.

Emma & Ralph outside my house, before leaving for dinner in Almyrida

Emma & Ralph outside my house, before leaving for dinner in Almyrida

It was so wonderful to see my gorgeous Grandson Ralph again. He’s a real chatterbox now and such a happy little boy! Everyone wanted a piece of him and I was so grateful that Emma and Ralph were staying with me for this wedding week. We had lots of fun and quality time together – despite the unseasonal and disappointing weather we had!

Yes – the weather was a major stress because it was so cloudy, windy and humid! All week we had been checking the forecast and I have never known one like it for this time of the year – in all the years I have lived here on Crete! There were literally 5 consecutive days of threatened rain and thunderstorms with Sunday right in the middle of it all! At one stage we thought we may have to cancel the venue and the plan for the Bride, her Bridesmaids and me, to arrive by boat was inevitably shot to pieces!

Almyrida Beach

Emma, pregnant with my Granddaughter and Ralph on Almyrida Beach

Yet as everyone started arriving from the UK, we were all just so excited to be here on Crete together again, that we didn’t let the weather spoil anything. We enjoyed every moment.. dining out for lunches and dinners at many of the lovely restaurants that Almyrida has to offer visitors. We all had at least two sunny days on Almyrida beach together and another at the Langley Resort, which boasts fabulous pools and outdoor areas.

The Saturday night before the wedding we enjoyed a big family meal at Thalami restaurant in Almyrida and then Emma, Ralph and I went home to get organized for the big day. I was painting my toenails at midnight! At 11am the next morning we dropped Ralph off with Karen, Mike, Sophie, Hannah and Rob and headed to Zoe and Rich’s apartment for our hair to be done. The rest of the bridesmaids were already there and the atmosphere was filled with anticipation and excitement.

Zoe the Bride

Zoe looking gorgeous, outside the apartment and ready to leave!

The weather was not good – very cloudy and very windy and we were glad not to be arriving at the venue in an open top speedboat! I returned home briefly, to eat, try and learn some more of my speech, and get changed into my wedding outfit. During that small space of time, the heavens opened and it rained hard for about half an hour! But afterwards the sky started to brighten a little and I hoped and prayed that further along the coastline – where the wedding was to take place – it would be sunnier and less windy. Just before I was to return to Zoe’s apartment, to see her getting into her dress, I put on my own – only to realize that because I had not thought to try the dress on previously – I had forgotten that the length needed taking up! Talk about panic! I knew I had to do something or I would be tripping down the Aisle and dragging Zoe with me! I was panicking about the lack of time left and was shaking like a leaf as I tried in vain to thread the needle! Thankfully I got there in the end and was rewarded with a refreshing glass of ice cold Prosecco when I arrived back at Zoe’s!

The three of us!

Ready for the Big Day, the three of us – Myself, Zoe and Emma

When we collected the bouquets for the Bride and Bridesmaids on the way, we could not believe how beautiful the fresh flowers looked and how they even perfectly matched the miniature dried flowers that Zoe had in her headdress and the Bridesmaids wore in their hair! The same flowers were in large glass jars on all the tables and dotted around the venue and I would highly recommend this affordable Greek florist to anyone. The same Greek family organized all the transport and I know what a logistical nightmare that was!

It took two hours to get all the guests down to the splendid traditional, large old Greek Family Beach House and grounds, complete with it’s own little rocky beach and where the wedding was to take place. Guests were provided with refreshing Pimms and lemonade while they waited their turns with the minibuses. Situated further along the coast toward Souda, this privately owned beach house is reached via a long, narrow and precarious track with a sheer drop to the sea, and then a very steep drop in the road leading down to the house. Much later Mihalis was so professional and calm, overcoming a big problem when we started to ferry the guests back to Almyrida and the loaded mini buses could not get back up the steep hill!

Walking Zoe down the aisle

Walking Zoe down the aisle

Despite all the transport obstacles we had to overcome, it was so worth the worry because it was a truly charming and wonderful setting for a wedding! It had been decorated so beautifully, with festoon and fairy lighting in all the olive trees. But it was the weather that really came up trumps for us all! Earlier when it had rained in Plaka, it had stayed dry at the Beach House. The sky was blue with fluffy white clouds and the wind had completely dropped. The sun shone from the moment the service started until the beautiful sunset during the reception.

For the second time, the wonderful honour of being Mother of the Bride and walking my beautiful Zoe down the Aisle, I felt overwhelmingly proud! Emma also looked amazing as a Bridesmaid and a blooming Mother-to-be. The service was conducted beautifully and was very emotional with a touch of humour thrown in. Ralph was an angel and the sun shone throughout the ceremony!

Zoe & Rich taking their vows

Zoe & Rich Taking their vows

The caterers were superb and had gone way beyond what was expected of them. We all enjoyed delicious spit-roasted lamb, Beef Stifado and Sea Bass, which followed a superb array of traditional Greek starters and nibbles. There were numerous desserts and the red and white wine flowed freely. There was a bar for anyone preferring beer or spirits. My speech was a little jerky to start with, but I managed to remember most of it and I hoped I did Zoe proud! Rich’s speech was so like he is – emotive and heartfelt and spoken with tears in his eyes throughout. He especially mentioned the sadly missed members of our family – dearest Leonie, who passed away suddenly last October and who’d said wild horses wouldn’t stop her from going to Zoe’s wedding… Ash – because he was in Malaysia for his job in the RAF, and not least of all… our lovely Mum and Nana, who was unable to attend because of ill health. All week, we had been in constant contact with Mum in Spain, Skyping her every day and keeping her posted with everything that was going on. We kept monitoring her health whilst we were arranging for her safe return by Air Ambulance to the UK.  We sent Mum regular updates and photos throughout the day.

Our Wonderful Family

Our Wonderful Family – minus Mum and Emma’s husband Ash

Whilst we were all tucking into the delicious Greek wedding meal, we were entertained by a really talented and funny guy playing bongo drums and later walking around the tables singing with his guitar! The band, called Small Change and complete with saxophonist, were phenomenal! They had rehearsed Zoe and Rich’s ‘first dance’ track and the Band’s cover versions of all the classics that were on Zoe and Rich’s playlist, were brilliant! What a talented group of musicians! Everyone was dancing right up to the time when they had to pile into all the minibuses for the journey back to Almyrida and Nikita’s Place – where the ‘After Party’ was being held. Again, this had to be done in many trips as cars cannot pass by each other on the narrow track and we had a few problems, as I mentioned earlier.

Rich makes his memorable speech

At the Reception, Rich makes his memorable speech

At Nikita’s we all danced and partied till the wee hours of the morning. Many of the friends Zoe and Rich have made here on Crete and most of Almyrida’s locals also joined the celebration and it was the end of a very happy and memorable Wedding. But most of all… it far exceeded Zoe and Rich’s expectations for their Big Day! It just goes to show that despite all the undertones of stress and worry – about my Mum, the weather and a host of other details… true love conquers all!

Zoe with her Bridesmaids

Zoe with her Bridesmaids

Almost everyone was returning to the UK just two days later and so we all made sure these days were also filled with fun, laughter and reminiscing about the wonderful wedding. The weather stayed sunny and warm for the last day, as we all gathered at the port end of Almyrida beach. I wanted to spend the last few hours playing with Ralph and my eyes welled up every time I thought of him leaving. I am so thrilled to be going back to the UK for Rob and Emma’s wedding in just under two weeks. It means I will see and spend more quality time with all of my family again soon. I am especially looking forward to seeing my Mum. I miss her so much.. especially after the dreadful ordeal she has been and is still going through.

A Magical Place for a Wedding

A Magical Place for Zoe & Rich’s Wedding

We departed for Chania airport that evening – Emma in the hire car with Zoe and Ralph and me in mine with Rich. We stayed with Emma and Ralph until they had checked in and then Zoe and Rich got a taxi to a beautiful place right on the beach at Agia Marina, for their week long honeymoon. My friend Caroline’s flight was not until the Saturday so I asked her if she’d like to move to mine for the last few days left of her holiday. It must be donkey’s years since we had a chance to catch up on old times and new and it helped soften the loss of everyone else leaving. We had a lovely day shopping in Chania, where we met up with Zoe and Rich. We three ladies hit the high street and Rich wandered onto the Harbour Front to explore, meeting up again later for a lovely late lunch in one of Chania’s pretty Plaza’s.

So ends another amazingly wonderful and memorable Family occasion that I shall cherish forever. I am soooooo overwhelmingly proud of my Family and I am so fortunate to have each and every one of them in my life.

Zoe & Rich - Now Mr & Mrs!

Zoe & Rich – Now Mr & Mrs!

Now all I am wanting is to get back to the UK next week, so that I can finally see my Mum. She arrived back in the UK the day after Karen, Mike and family returned home from Crete, but was admitted to hospital the very next day. We are all praying that she will be well enough to attend Rob and Emma’s wedding? She was not treated well in Spain, in fact she was quite neglected and so her health has deteriorated. We can only hope that our wonderful NHS can alleviate some of her health issues so that she may return home to Karen and Mike’s family home, where she will be so well taken care of. Our Dear Mum and Nana is in God’s hands right now…

PHOTO ALBUM

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ZOE AND RICH BEACH RECEPTION (7 of 183)

ZOE AND RICH BEACH GETTING CEREMONY (69 of 90)ZOE AND RICH BEACH GETTING CEREMONY (12 of 90)

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ZOE AND RICH BEACH GETTING READY (34 of 64)ZOE AND RICH BEACH RECEPTION (77 of 183)

ZOE AND RICH BEACH RECEPTION (81 of 183)ZOE AND RICH BEACH RECEPTION (12 of 183)

ZOE AND RICH BEACH RECEPTION (64 of 183)ZOE AND RICH BEACH GETTING CEREMONY (59 of 90)

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ZOE AND RICH BEACH SET PHOTOS (84 of 90)

ZOE AND RICH BEACH SET PHOTOS (2 of 90)ZOE AND RICH BEACH SET PHOTOS (10 of 90)

Good Riddance to January & February!

I haven’t had time and I haven’t felt like writing a post for what seems like ages. I seem to have been in a depressive state and it hasn’t helped that I’ve had so many time-consuming problems to deal with in January and February. But most of all… My dear Sister Leonie’s sudden passing still feels so raw. I can burst into tears at the mere drop of a hat! Continue reading

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!

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. Continue reading

So Happy to be Beachcombing Again!

When I came back from the UK late October I brought my sister Leonie back with me. She has had many serious problems with her leg over this past year and it was time for her to think about her return to Cyprus. Crete was a natural first step and I really enjoyed Leonie’s company for the few weeks she stayed with me. Continue reading

My New Etsy Shop is Opening Soon!

A whole month has flown by again and I have been totally absorbed and occupied with expanding my art business.  As explained in some of my recent posts – I have been shocked at the fall in sales, which appears to be due to the spending power (or lack of it!) of most of the tourists visiting Almyrida this year.  All the local businesses here have suffered and I have realised that my marketplace is too restricted.  Continue reading