Monday, 21 August 2017

Crete Diaries June 2017. Another Decade Begins.

Today is 30th June, I'm in Crete and tomorrow I will turn sixty. I spend time today thinking and wondering what it means to be entering this new decade.

 TEN

When I turned ten at the end of my first decade I had what I remember as being my first and only birthday party of my childhood. I think on other birthdays I had a cake with my family and was allowed to invite a friend.
There were conditions to this party. No one was invited until about a half hour before it began. The reasoning was, my mum didn't want any of our neighbours to buy presents they could ill afford.
I don't think children's parties were so big back then in 1967 certainly not the way they are today with themes and soft play area and bouncy castles. Oh what we wouldn't have done to jump on a bouncy castle. I did receive a few gifts from girls whose mothers had ran to the corner shop in a rush to buy something for their daughters to bring. I think my mum had just made it harder with the last minute invites but she meant well. They were probably cursing her as most people wouldn't go to a party without at least a card.
When my dad came home from his work a short while after the party started he had seen one solitary child playing in the street at peever. He asked her why she wasn't at the party as she stayed just across the street from us. The truth is we had fallen out and I hadn't invited her. I wasn't best pleased when she appeared at our front door with my dad to join my party. I was taught a few lessons on that tenth year.
A friend's presence is more important than any gift money can buy.
Never leave anyone out. It's awful to be on the outside looking in.

TWENTY

I remember the joy of turning twenty and I was no longer a teenager. It was also the year I would be married so it was a very exciting year. I  had the milestone of my twenty first birthday the following year to look forward and my first as a married lady.

THIRTY

When I turned thirty I had two children of five and three.  I celebrated this birthday by going out for a meal to a Greek restaurant with four of our friends.  I remember being reluctant to leave my twenties behind. I had to be a proper grown-up now.

FORTY

It was party time when I turned forty. After only remembering one party from my childhood I was determined to have one now. We hired a hall and a disco and invited all our friends, it was a great night and I still enjoy looking at the photos. It was marred by the fact that my parents couldn't attend. My dad wasn't feeling well and mum didn't want to leave him. We didn't realise it was the start of something serious and he passed away with a sudden illness a few months later.




FIFTY
I have no recollection how I celebrated my fiftieth birthday. Hubby and I probably went for a meal. I don't think I liked turning fifty and just wanted the day to pass.

SIXTY

HOW do I feel tonight,on the last day I can truthfully say I'm fifty something? Well, I'm on the beautiful Island of Crete, the sun is shining everyday and I have my lovely husband beside me.
 I have two children whom I love dearly and who are happy and settled with their chosen partners and to top that I have three beautiful and amazing granddaughters.
How I feel is thankful. I am thankful that despite not always being in the best of health I'm still here, alive and kicking (although not very high admittedly.)
A few months ago my long time childhood friend passed away very suddenly not long after her 60th birthday. My brother passed away three years ago after a short illness at only 54 yrs old. 
So tonight on the eve of my birthday I am thankful and happy that tomorrow I will have reached the age of sixty. I will swim in the pool here in Crete and hubby and I will go for a special meal tonight and toast absent friends and family,the ones we wish could still be here. When I return home I'm hoping for a small celebration with my family.
Another hope is that when this decade comes to a close I will still be here writing about my seventieth year. Until then I rather agree with the idea that 60 is the new 40!
     


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Crete Diaries June 2017 : Boat trip, Gramvousa and Balos.

A boat trip today to Gramvousa and Balos. A coach picks us up from the hotel to take us to Kissamos where we will be transferred to the boat. The coach took a few detours to pick up passengers at their various hotels. This gives us a chance to see more of the surrounding area and different hotels.
Once we're all aboard it's a pleasant hours journey to Kissamos.

We arrive at the port and the penny has just dropped that we are not going on a boat cruise like the ones we usually do in Turkey where we lie on mattresses on the deck and sunbathe, no nothing like that at all. We are going on a huge ferry with hundreds of other holiday makers. My husband thought there must be about 500 on board.

The ferry journey was enjoyable and there was a self service restaurant where you could buy lunch or soft drinks. We hired a sun umbrella as we were told there was none on Balos beach.
As we embark on Balos beach 500 people try to do so at the same time down two flights of stairs.
We have to negotiate a very rocky uneven ground to get to the beautiful beach. 
It is not beautiful, it is Stoney and rocky and what sand is there is boiling hot.

We spread out towels on the rocky sand and put up the umbrella crawling under it searching for some shade.  Ouch! Oh! No! Lying on stones? No way I can't have that. I'm turning sixty during this holiday, I'm far too old to be lying on a bed of stones I need a comfortable padded sunbed and preferably a large cold drink in one hand and a book in the other. No chance !

"Let's go for a swim to cool down." Getting into the water was like one of those challanges on I'm a Celebrity. First we had to cross the boiling hot sand full of sharp hot pebbles. Next came the slippery chunks of sea grass, and then the hidden holes beneath the water where I fell and jarred my knee. 
Before the water was quite deep enough to swim in you had to just throw yourself in. 
The water was ice cold. All we could do was laugh as we looked around at the amount of people in the water,on the beach perfoming the walk on hot sand dance to get to the sea. After a short swim we did the same walk again in reverse and went back to the boat. The stop there was for an hour, ha ha, we lasted about 30 mins.


Balos beach.You can't see what the ground is like underwater here. I read that the earth here is always sinking and shifting so maybe that's the reason for deep holes in the water. They might have told us!

There are ruins of a Venitian castle at the top of that hill. Needless to say I didn't attempt it but many did,maybe it was better than trying to get into the sea. 



Next stop was Gramvousa, the island of pirates (I have no idea why)
This we are told had a beautiful sandy beach listed as one of the best beaches in the world. It also has sunbeds. Yes, it had 15 sunbeds for our 500 plus people and the visitors who are already there when we arrive. The walk to the beach was just as bad as the first,like walking on land where there had been an earthquake and I found it very challenging.
All the sunbeds were full but we lasted a bit longer here by about ten minutes. The sand was a little softer but eventually my bones were too sore to lie any longer so we went back to the ship. As I was sitting on the sand and running my hands through it I found the tiniest shells I have ever seen and I brought them home for my shell collection in my beach themed bathroom. I've just seen online that you are not allowed to take the shells from the beach. Oh well no one told me!

On the journey home we inadvertently sat behind the bench where the children's entertainer did her stuff. She was dressed as a clown with a slightly scary face and wearing glasses, she was also the most annoying person ever. She made more noise than all the children put together between blowing a high pitched whistle and screetching. The clown was making balloon animals for the children and made quite a good job of them after her third or fourth attempt at each one. I felt sorry for the parents who had to travel back to their hotel with huge balloon flamengos, dogs and swords. It would have been so much quieter if she had given them iPads.

So we have learned today that when in Greece as in Turkey make sure you know what kind of boat trip you are signing up for. Ask how many people will be on board and if you will be sunbathing on hard rocks or sunbeds. 
We have been disappointed a few times in both Turkey and now Crete with beaches we have been told are beautiful and turned out not to be. Imagine if they saw some of the beaches we have in the UK. The only thing we can't provide here is the sunny weather. 


This is the second beach the beautiful one! 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Crete Diaries; June 2017: The Old Town of Chania.

Chania old town is full of charm. It has everything I like all rolled into one. Just outside the old town there is a indoor market. This building is built in the shape of a cross with butcher stalls occupying one wing,fishmongers another, fruit shops and clothes and souvenirs the other two. There are also a few cafes dotted around. I don't fancy having coffee in the one across from the fishmongers.

It has been there since 1913 although they started building it in 1908. It was also occupied during the war by German soldiers,so quite a history which is why it's a listed building.

I love the smells of these markets as you move from butchery to fruit to fish and then to spices. The decoration of the stalls and the creative way everything is set out is a work of art.
Oh I forgot the cheese stalls.



And handbags...lots and lots of handbags.
Walk behind the market past some designer shops then we find the old town. Each street has lots of smaller streets leading off from it and eventually leading to the Venetian Harbour looking out to sea.

As I wander through these streets the smell of leather is so strong it makes me suspicious. I know that not all these bags are leather,so do they have cans of air freshener will the smell of new leather? I wouldn't be surprised if they did. The smell draws me into those shops but as in Turkey most shopkeepers won't let you look, they want to sell,to show you things. I don't know about you but it takes forever for me to choose a handbag and what I don't need is someone in my face while I'm choosing so I came home without a new bag.
The pottery and ceramic shops are in abundance. They make you wish you had more than 20 kg luggage allowance. The colours are magnificent.
Other shops contain the usual souvenirs you will find in any holiday resort the world over. I suspect there is a huge factory in China making them and putting different place names on.

We enjoyed sitting having a drink in the restaurants (of which there are plenty) around the Harbour,in fact that is hubby's hand photo bombing my picture. People watching is a great pastime and you do see some sights! 

The Venetian Harbour was built by the Venetians probably around the years 1320/1356. Many towns around Crete have harbours like this. There is also a building that was a Mosque built in 1625 when the Turks captured Crete. It hasn't been used as a Mosque since 1923 and is now a gallery for displaying local artwork. 



There are just as many clothes shops as there are fancy goods in both the new and old town. Some must be designer as they look very posh inside with no prices and very few rails of clothes. As I look in the window that old saying runs through my head, "If you have to ask the price you can't afford it."
I see many items I can't afford! 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Crete Diaries 2017 : Flying and Arriving

June 2017.

I know that one day I will not want to fly again.It's not a pleasant way to travel but if you want to chase the sun you have to grin and bear it.
Flights are becoming more unbearable. Straight back hard seats, less legroom than ever before. The table that I unfold from the seat back in front of me slopes towards me, well good luck with the hot tea Anne. 
I'm thinking to myself, " Whatever happened to the little string bag which usually sits below the pull down table and holds the in-flight magazine and a sick bag?"
It was a place to pop your book or magazine into and a packet of mints or glasses case. Goodness there's not enough room to move and now they've taken away our little storage place.This is the second flight we've been on that hasn't had one. The flight attendant hands a flight magazine to everyone. Ours is a bit chewed around the edges probably by a child who was bored and it's a bit sticky too but they have to flog their food,drinks and duty free goods so they don't seem to care what they are handing out to us. 
At the end of the four and a half hour flight the same attendant comes to collect the magazines. Everyone seems to have done the same as us and put it on the floor at the window and they have now travelled under seats. He didn't collect many but as I leave the aircraft I see magazines scattered around the floor, lost and forgotten probably looking for the little string bags on the back of seats that used to be their home. 
It will take the cleaners longer to clean the aircraft crawling around looked for the sticky, chewed magazines!

Our plane landed in Chania ,Crete st 6:30 pm,Greek time was 8:30pm and it was getting dark.
Our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was only 20mins and my first thoughts on Greek soil were,
"This looks like Turkey."
Turkey,my favourite place to be, where because of recent unrest we had decided to try some other countries,last year was Malta. I don't suppose any Greek or Turkish person would be too happy at me saying they look similar but each day of our holiday we were to find more and more similarities.

We received a great welcome at the hotel where the manager asked if I was Scottish (I am). He said he knew because of my frequent use of the word lovely (when asked what we thought of the hotel,the view etc.) 
I now find that I do say lovely if asked about how I like something. I will need to invest in a thesaurus and find some other words to replace it, I can't be stereotyped.

The hotel sits at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Chania (pronounced Hanya )with it's sweeping Venetian harbour. What a beautiful (lovely!) view from the balcony.
A few drinks at the bar and then sleep after our long journey.
Tomorrow we will investigate Chania.



LOVELY :  beautiful,pretty,attractive,marvellous, wonderful .....

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

I've been tagged!

Reading the title it sounds as if I've been let out of prison early and they're keeping an eye on me. 
It's nothing like that of course! I've been tagged by author Valerie Poore to answer quick fire questions on my reading habits.
As you know (I hope you do) I have a book review  blog at http://bookswithwineandchocolate.blogspot.co.uk
where I give what I hope is my honest opinion on the books I read. Here goes.....


eBooks or physical books?

Both. I love turning the pages of a physical book. I like the weight and feel of a book in my hand but we have to move with technology and I also love my kindle.
I can read in bed without disturbing my hubby. I can take as many books on holiday as my little heart desires and read in brilliant sunshine.
With my kindle I can also balance it on my knee while I eat a sandwich and drink a cup of tea,you can't do that and turn the pages of a physical book.

Paperback or hardback?

I love hardbacks. I like to smell them! True!

Online or in-store shopping? 

As a book reviewer I very rarely have to buy books but when I do it's probably be online for kindle. I do however love browsing in bookshops. 

Trilogies or series? 

I enjoy a good trilogy,that way I can keep the characters in the story in my life for longer.

Heroes or villains? 

Heros every time. I have no patience for people who are vile although I know a good story usually needs a baddie I can't wait for them to come to a sticky end.

A Book You Want Everyone to Read?

Oh ...so many. That's why I review books,to shout about the good ones. Probably, The Island by Victoria Hislop.

Recommend an underrated book.

That's a hard one but... and mainly because  she's an American writer that you may not have heard of I'd say Tanya Peterson. She's written about four books now all brilliant and on the themes of, Autism,anxiety,depression and multiple personality disorder.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tanya-J.-Peterson/e/B008O742JG/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1490096975&sr=8-3

Weirdest thing you used as a book mark?

Although I have proper bookmarks I can never find them when I need them so really anything that's handy. Torn pieces of paper,sweet wrappers. Here's my latest made by my granddaughter. We made lots for a puppet show and I just realised they make good bookmarks.




Used books, yes or no? 

If it's a book I'll read it no matter where it comes from.

Top three favourite genres? 

WW2 fiction, all woman's fiction,autobiographies

The last book you finished

The Girlfriend by debut author Michelle Frances a psychological thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. Due to be published in April.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girlfriend-gripping-debut-psychological-thriller-ebook/dp/B01M1ENASA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1490097666&sr=8-2&keywords=The+girlfriend


Characters or plot? 

Before I read a book I like to know the plot. Sometimes it takes a while to get to bond with the characters. Where the book is set can make a difference too.

Short or long book?

Medium! A hugely thick book can put me off.


Books that make you laugh or cry? 

Depends what mood I'm in. I like a good cry but I don't read books anymore that I know from the start will be heartbreaking. After a cry I like my next book to be more light hearted.

Our world or fictional worlds? 

If it's a book it has to be our world but I enjoy fantasy films.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover? 

It's probably the cover that would attract me to the book but sometimes it has nothing to do with the story. I don't like covers that have photographs of real people on them unless it's a memoir or autobiography. I have read some books which have been good but I would never have gave then a second look in a book store.

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation? 

Book always. Tv or film adaptations never stick to the book and sometimes change the ending completely. So disappointing.

Series or standalone? 
          I love a series but stand alone is fine.

Long or short chapters? 
        I never notice.

Name the first three books you think of? 

Well because I can see them from where I'm sitting....

The Girl Below Stairs by Jennie Felton


Mussolini 's Island by Sarah Day (my next read)


Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt


Thank you Val for suggesting I do this,it has made me think. 
If you would like to answer these questions on your blog too just write your name in the comments and consider yourself tagged and I'll look out for your post.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Farewell to 2016


I hope you all had a good Christmas and have ate your fill. There's only a few days left until we vow to give up fattening food and get fitter. That will probably last until February when we decide we're lovely as we are and who needs to diet?
This has been a good year for my family as our third granddaughter was welcomed when my daughter and son-in -law's first child was born in October. The joy of holding a new born baby in your arms is immense, another little person to love.

I'm still attending my gym and dance classes although there's no weight loss I suppose it's doing me good from the inside and my heart and lungs are healthier. Now if it could make me a size ten that would be nice. This coming year brings a big birthday for me which I'll be celebrating in Crete so if I can't loose some pounds for that there's no hope for me.

In the wider world what a year this has been. It began with the sad death of David Bowie and ends with the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher. The months inbetween saw us losing more and more of our favourite people from the world of the big screen, the small screen and music and books. I'm not going to list them for fear of leaving someone out but most of us will have lost an idol from our youth who made life a little bit better for us whether it be with their humour or their music. 
With the passing of each one of them we were shocked.
My personal favourite people were  George Michael, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood and Denise Roberson (This Morning agony aunt)

This year terrorism has held us in it's grip as each month brought another tragedy and we remember, Brussels,Belguim,Istanbul,Nice, Orlando and Berlin and the people who lost their lives there and others whose lives have been changed forever because of it.

In June we in the UK voted to leave the European Market and in doing so gained a new Prime Minister,let's hope the good sense of a woman can sort this country out as we withdraw from Europe.

While we get a snappy dresser for PM, America gets Donald Trump and I think we should be afraid ...very afraid!

We can't leave 2016 without thinking of the humanitarian tragedy that is taking place in Aleppo. 
Each day the reported news gets worse and the videos and photographs more harrowing. A city crumbling to dust and it's people trampled on. When will it all end?

If only we had the recipe for peace. If only we could make the terrorist lay down his guns and his bombs. If only the sight of happy families shopping at Christmas or having fun on holiday could seep into their hearts and stop them from destroying it. If only.....
 All we can do is enter this new year 2017 with hope and optimism that the world will one day be a better place.
Best wishes to all my readers for a happy and peaceful New Year.



Thursday, 8 December 2016

Malta Diaries 2016: The Last Outing,Marsaxlokk.

I'm squeezing in one last diary post before Christmas.

The last place we visited was a picturesque fishing village in the south east of Malta called Marsaxlokk.
I have no idea how to pronounce it, I just say it as it sounds.
Once again we took a bus to Valletta where we caught another bus. This is the way to see Malta.
When we arrived at our destination what struck us straightaway was how quiet it was, where had everyone gone? 


We had coffee and cake outside a cafe in the main square across from the church. 

They closed the church doors before we could have a look inside.
The church, Our Lady of Pompei dates back to 1890

Marsaxlokk is famous for the brightly painted fishing boats called Luzzus. If you look at photos online they look lovely but when we visited there didn't seem to be very many about.



I loved the bronze statues of a father returning from a fishing trip being met by his little boy who has a little toy fishing boat of his own. Also the cat looking for some fish to eat.


Look at the streets! No crowds! It was bliss for a while but empty restaurants and cafes are boring 
( I know! There's no pleasing me.) We did find a market where I managed to find gifts for my granddaughters  which were homemade so I was quite pleased.

I think these are really cute. The girls store their purses and play phones and a host of other things in the pockets for when they next come to stay.


My eyes were drawn to these colourful doors. I couldn't get the whole row in the photo but there are lots of photos on them online. I was curious as to when and why they were first painted. Did the residents get together and say," Let's make this a tourist attraction?" Do they repaint them every year? 
I asked myself these questions then I asked Google. It seems they are quayside apartments for the holiday rental market. So now I know.....tourist attraction! 
They even have a pull down screen to prevent the paint being damaged by the sun......clever! 




A not so well looked after old door and tiny window, but I love it! 


We caught the bus back to Valletta and spent some more time wandering around the capital,my favourite place in Malta.
When we returned to the bustling St Julians the streets were being decorated for another celebration, St Julian's Day. We would miss this by a few days which is such as shame as we would have had a great view from our balcony especially of the planned fireworks display. We did manage to see the local band practising as they marched past our front door.

I've enjoyed writing these diaries. I didn't realise we had seen so much of the country until I started writing. My advice to anyone who wants to visit would be, don't go in July or August,too hot and too busy. So goodbye Malta,next year my holiday diaries will be from Chania in Crete.