Friday, 24 June 2016

Κυριακή Περίληψη | It's all Chinese to me ... ***UPDATED EDITION! EXTRA PHOTOS!**

With apologies to Katerina for, most likely, writing something that adheres to no grammatical rules whatsoever in the Greek language ...


Dear FOQ

How are we all doing?

I apologise for the greatness-nay-lateness of this post. Life. Oh life. Ohhhh life, as Des'ree once famously sang, intervened.

But here it is, to raise your spirits after a wholly dispiriting, scary, worrying day.

---

This fortnight, I have mostly been ...

Reading



Man alive.

Even by her own admission, Wein takes liberties with history but boy does she write fantastic fiction. And I'm not just saying that as someone who used to work for the publisher. She really is terrific. And she writes these strong, female characters in history who you really wish had been given due prominence (had they even existed).

Then reading:


which I found very accessible, and not entirely a million miles away from Jane Eyre.

And now reading (with thanks to Sean at the Station for his Recommendation):


Watching

Oh heck yes, the new series of Orange is the New Black!


I've missed these girls. And their witty repartee. And their nerd specs. And mildly homicidal tendencies. I'm avoiding dropping spoilers except to say, Stella [Ruby Rose] is old news. Alex is back and she's bada$$. Nichols is back and she's even bada$$...er.

And Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" is just superb. Always.


(Lolly, not so much.)

But ... where is Sophia?!

Uke-ing ...

... al fresco, in the usual pub's garden this time ...


(until it got too cold and we retreated indoors, but not after a rousing rendition of 'Hotel California'. Our repertoire groweth though my chord progressions are still slow. Eth.)

Travelling ...

... to Greece!

And mighty marvellous it was, too.

I make no apologies for the many, many photographs.

(There would have been more, from the film camera, but the new processing shop in town, handy though it is, takes for, like, ever to process film, charges really quite a lot for the privilege – although they do give you a free new film for every film processed – and they can't promise a next-day return on your films at the weekend. *And they forget you've paid for photo CDs and wrap up your negs with little consideration ...* Think I'll stick to Boots after all for a fast turnaround.)
Check out the adorably hipster grainy film photos I've interspersed almost seamlessly in this updated post! There may be even more but I still have half a film lingering in the camera, waiting to be used ...
We flew out on Thursday 9th, Luisa and I with EasyJet (who managed not to foul up the whole process for once!), and Katerina with Aegean, meeting at about 10.30pm local time at Athens airport. K's mum had already managed to seek out Luisa and me at a coffee shop (I think we had that exhausted, just-landed look about us!).

K's dad then drove us back into Athens, and we headed out for a late-night souvlaki at a taverna, the name of which translated into English as 'Earth's Whispers'.

OK, so maybe by GMT standards it wasn't so late, but you quickly adjust to a two-hour time leap, and it felt like eating at 11pm!


{Looking back towards the taverna}
We ate outside (because it was the most delicious, ambient temperature when we arrived), and I enjoyed two chicken skewers, some fried cheese (oh man, that was good), fried courgette (possibly, I can't remember) and for afters, dessert, which was yogurt with honey ... and biscuit.

Never thought of mixing in crumbled biscuit with yogurt before but since I got back, I've finally found a purpose for all these little nuggets collected from Puccino's in previous months:

{via here | not so stupid now, eh?}
The next morning we were up bright and early early-ish for an amazing spread of breakfast on the balcony, courtesy of Katerina's mother, complete with some gorgeous coffee and koulouri*


{* koulouri:a Greek bun or bagel}
to set us up for our morning yomp. While K was meeting a friend, her father very kindly drove Luisa and me to the foot to the hill leading up to the Parthenon, and we set about heading up as far as we could.
{** see below re: The Rat}
We set out quite late-morning in the end, and I was expecting blistering, searing heat and hordes – see, I spelled it right this time, Ma QB – of tourists.




OK, yes, there was a very long line for tickets, but Luisa managed to use her wiles to get us onto the hill much sooner (thank you, Luisa), and OK, yes, there were quite a lot of people, but all in all, it was a delicious day, temperature-wise, not too hot but still very sunny, and it made for a very pleasant upward haul.







  

  

**Oh and a word about Ratty: Ratty's the travelling work mascot. He's been to Thailand and Sweden, and now Greece. He's probably better-travelled than I am. And he's a toy rat. We should all learn from Ratty. Ratty seizes the day. And everything else put in front of him. Big mooch.

And yes, he does like to sport crocheted pants. What of it?

 

At the risk of sounding glib about the Parthenon, and its surrounds, it really is magnificent.

OK, there's a fair amount of scaffolding erected around as renovation is always ongoing (work did begin on the Parthenon over 2,400 years ago ...) but it's an incredible feat of architecture, and when you look out from the very top of the Acropolis over Athens, it presents such a wonderful dichotomy (oh, do put a sock in it, QB, you pretentious twerp) of old-Athens versus new-Athens.






  

  


{Ruddy tourists.}

{The Temple of Athena}

{Ratty photobombs the Parthenon | #travelswithratty}





 

After I'd had a little wander round the highest point of the Acropolis, Luisa and I made our way back down the hill, then co-ordinated with Katerina (eventually, after both Luisa and I had been flummoxed by country phone codes and the like!), and agreed to meet Katerina and her mum at the museum cafe.

Luisa and I wandered along to the museum, taking in some of the gorgeous architecture along the way.





{Love an ornate gate!}

The museum itself is comparatively modern, with spectacular views, but beneath the glass walkway leading up to the entrance doors are archaeological ruins that are in the process of being made accessible to the public.



Luisa and I had a reviving coffee in the ground-floor level cafe before realising there was a terrace cafe upstairs (we're such tourists ...); I did, however, take the time to savour my first, renowned, 'Greek' coffee – all grounds, all the time, and y'know what? I actually rather enjoyed it!


We then got a free pass up to the second-floor terrace, bypassing the museum itself, and took in the views once more while we waited for Katerina and her mother, who arrived not long after.



{Lovely ladies!}

After a spot of shopping:

{spotted while I waited for the eager shoppers!}

we caught a taxi home for lunch (eaten just after 4pm!); this was an amazing moussaka made by K's mum.

I had seconds.

{Lunch-ready Luisa}


We had a brief rest from our morning's wanderings, then caught another taxi into town, to pick up the Happy Train (the micro-train!), a sight-seeing miniature train that takes you around the city. 


{Photo by Katerina}


{Happy Train, Happy QB! #spesh}
{Syntagma Square, in passing ...}
We alighted in the centre of town and had a little wander round the shopping streets:

{Wall o' shoes}
  


{I do likes me a balcony ...}


before, eventually, finding the public park where Katerina had arranged to meet her friend Artemis and her two children. We had a lovely wander through the park, spying this marvellous origami creation on the way:

{I'm not in the habit of photographing random bins,
so we're clear ...}


Unfortunately we didn't get to see the animals in the park as the park was due to close imminently, so after dodging the rotating watering hoses, and photographing these rather excellent palm trees:



we ambled along to Syntagma Square outside the Parliament building to watch the Changing of the Guard.

It's a fascinating ritual to observe, beginning with the march-in of the incoming guards, their inspection, then the change-over, and the march-out, and I took over 35 photos of the routine alone ...
... which I'll condense into 12 because even if I can't see you making this face:


I don't want to think of you making that face.
Fact: The guards' 'skirts' contain 400 pleats, one for each year that Greece spent under Ottoman rule.
  










We said goodbye to Artemis and the children shortly afterwards, then met Katerina's parents and drove up to Lycabettus Hill to take in the views as a farewell to Athens:



The following morning we were up at 5am and on the road before six to try to catch the bus to Rafina, and meet our ferry. For only €2.50, we were able to take the one-and-a-bit-hour journey to Rafina port, and arrived in plenty of time for the ferry, which would take us on to glorious Andros!


{On the bus ... | probably listening to the crazy woman sitting next to
me fielding yet another phone call at 6.20am ...}
{At Rafina ...}
{Sailing into Andros!}
{Happy passengers!}


No sooner had we docked did we need to track down our next mode of transport: the bus to Chora, where we were staying. Chora is roughly 75 minutes from the port, along some deliciously treacherous hill roads (the man across the aisle from me on the bus did keep crossing himself, which might have worried me more if I'd thought about it, but it turned out he was doing so whenever we passed a church; there was nothing portentous in it).
{The main road through Chora! | I can cope with this.}
{View from a hilltop}
We were ensconced at Katerina's Andros abode shortly before 11am, and we briefly unpacked in readiness to walk to the Lower Square (where many of the restaurants are), for brunch.

{On-the-steps selfie, waiting for the girls to emerge ...
oh hello, is that sunburn on my shoulder already?!}
{Ladies who Brunch!}
I may or may not have had a monumental serving of club sandwich with chips at the Platanos taverna:


which was chased up with a complimentary shot of Raki afterwards (well, I was on holiday).


And all of this, whilst being Observed:


*** A word about the cats.

There are many – strays, mostly – wandering round Chora. And in fact they can be found on other Greek islands in proliferation.

Now, usually, when I have my sound, workaday, rational head on, I am not for cats. And I still can't buy into the deification of cats. Especially in badly spelled memes on social media.

When it comes to animals, I'm for camels. And the office dogs.

And Norgstar's loco Coco (I also had a soft spot for Macey and Teddy back in the day).

{D'aw, Macey-moo!}

And gerbils and hamsters, and maybe stick insects if we're talking manageable pets.

And flamingos although I'm not sure they count.

{"Excuse me?!"}
OK, OK, flamingos count.

But not cats.

Yet. On Andros, I'll admit it; the cats won me over a little bit.

Sorry, family.

I'll try harder next time.

---

After brunch, we began our tour of Chora.

And take it from me, it's stunning. Actually, don't take it from me, check out the photos:

{Statue in the Lower Square}

  


{"Scrappy cat, Scrappy cat, what are they feeding you?"}


  






  

That gent there on the right? He's the Unknown Sailor; a sailor who left Andros and never returned.

{Ruined castle on the rocks, linked to the mainland by ...
... the Arc}
{Let's just have a quiet, mindful moment with this water ...}

  
{And the corresponding shot! | Photo by Katerina}


{Sailing school in session}
{Getting some colour on the milk-bottle legs...}
  



{Not sure if you can see, but those arches and walls are
painted in gorgeous pastels ...}
{Andros: where taking photos of
strangers' entrances is completely
justifiable ...}
  

{... ditto, people's gardens through their
ornate gates ...}

  

We returned to the house, I put on the swimmers, and we made our way to the beach.

The glorious, idyllic, warm beach. Where lovely young men nicknamed 'Johnny' bring bottles of water and cold cappuccinos to your beach chair, and where the water looks like this:

{Obligatory feet-in-sea shot. Look how clear that water is!}

Well, of course you're going to stay there all afternoon/evening until it gets a little nippy. Of course you're going to go in for just one more swim

It'd be rude not to.


See that lighthouse?

It's this one, off of Pinterest!



And it was built in 1897, and restored after World War II, in 1994. 

And Katerina's great-grandfather worked there. (I believe. Is that right? My brain is addled.)



When aforementioned nippiness set in, we began a slow, gentle stroll back to the house (plenty of photo opportunities!):


{Caption please!}


dusted the sand off our feet, and washed it from our hair (with varying degrees of success since two of us were vying for water in separate showers at the same time!), and then sashayed (yes, that's right, we did, we sashayed) back to the Lower Square, to do a little late-night window shopping, and to pick a spot for supper.

{Photo by Katerina}
We chose a taverna with a view, whose name translated as 'Company', I ordered a ton of tzatziki ... and, oh yes, we certainly did have company!

At which point, I issue a warning that there will now be photos of cats.

For those of you who like that sort of thing. *cough* Charlie *cough* Jos *cough* Fern *cough* Sarah Mc. *cough* pretty much everyone not in my immediate family *cough*

Me, I'm back to Camp Meh for Cats.

'Twas the heat that turned me temporarily, I tell thee. The heat.

Oh but this one.


No?

What about this moochy one? This double act (not counting me)?


No?

No, me neither. Obviously. (OK, a bit. I was won over a bit. By both. A bit.)

(The food was pretty darn good. There was a lot of it.)

---

The following day was the definition of relaxation. To the point whereby I had to remind myself I was on holiday and to remember to relax rather than fulfil a need to do things (though of course I did; those souvenirs weren't going to purchase themselves now, were they).

But all in all, our Sunday on Andros looked very much like this. Book just out of shot.



{Photo by Katerina}




Sun. Sand. Sea. Selfies.

Sunburn.

And, yup, this happened.


Oops. Well, when in Greece, right?

#aniseedflavouredburps

It was however accompanied by:

{Hot dog!}
{Ferrero Rocher ice cream | Yep, that. And very, very good it was too.}
{Weirdly, though, none of us were compelled
to order whatever this was ... #lostintranslation}
That night, to commiserate all too soon Luisa and my departure from Andros the following morning, we went out once again, this time for more souvlaki at a little place on the 'main road' (where we could sit and people-watch, with the church behind us).



Kebab and chips ... but no bus stop in sight. What is this madness ...?

And there were more cats.

More. Dang. Cats.

Kittens, specifically.

Charlie, brace yourself ...




I'm pretty sure these kittens would love you if you wanted to adopt them ... You'd have to speak in Greek to them though. But that's OK. I know how to say 'thank you', 'where is the toilet?' 'bus' and 'airport' so you'd be all set.

The sky the following morning looked considerably more like this than the heavenly blue of the previous days, so it was almost pathetic fallacy for the homeward journey.


{Ah, there's the bus stop!}
But it was a truly splendid few days, I actually saw proper summery sunshine (from which this wretched little island is still pitifully lacking), ate some mighty fine food, and spent time in these ladies' excellent company.

I leave you with this rather wondrous drone video of my island. ("I thought we agreed it was our island ..." paraphrased liberally from the original and best Famous Five TV series ...)



Thanks, Katerina, (and your parents), and thanks, Luisa, it was a fantastic long weekend.

Celebrating ...

... my church's 150th anniversary with an open day, and Victorian playground!


Saturday was crazy-busy, with happenings all day; I missed much of what was going on but had a lot of fun overseeing the Victorian playground, which had been painstakingly thought out – the children who visited really enjoyed it; pretty sure quite a lot of the adults did, too! I took an hour out over lunch to go and sing with the choir; our internal jury is out as to whether we Nailed It (the Rutter was a bit a-stutter) but apparently we made a great sound.

So that's nice.


And on Sunday, I was also celebrating

... Father's Day with Pa QB, Sis and Sis' Manfriend. (Ma QB was holidaying!)

And much pie. So much pie. Clever Sis (with her GCSE in Food Technology some 19 years ago) made individual steak and ale pies, with veg, for mains



and I made something approximating a pear pie-thing in puff pastry hastily constructed with thanks to the Internet.

We missed the rain long enough to take a gorgeous and mildly restorative walk around the environs:

{Stepping stones!}

{The actual Faraway Tree! (Probably.)}
{Duck stylin'}



{Random baublage}



Still had no appetite for the rest of the night. Much pie for the WIN!

... and that's about it.

Pinterest Pins of the Fortnight

{Sun? I remember sun. It's that thing that happened
when it wasn't freakin' raining as if
the world was about to end.}


Fortnightly Finds
{via here}

  • Take Up Space | by Vanessa Kisuule | on YouTube | This is fantastic. Thank you to my gorgeous Charlie for sharing this



---

This fortnight's QB Birthday Honours, albeit belated in many cases, go to the following Lovelies, who've been doing the whole Celebrating of Birthday Shenans recently: Ms Charliepops, Ms Norgstar, Jan and Jude.

Happy Birthday to you, Lovely Ladies.



And finally, I leave you with this totes adorbs photo of a proud mummy sausage dog and her newborn pups ... in tiny hats. 


Laterz, procrastinatorz!

qb xx