It is really summer now and we are eating our own grapes from our terrace. For those of us born and bred in the UK, this is seriously exciting!
The temperature for the past two or three weeks has soared well above 30 degrees and one of the biggest challenges is to keep cool. John and I have implemented one or two pieces of action. The first occurs first thing in the morning. We get out of our already hot house, take the bikes out of the shed, fill the water bottles, resist the temptation of coffee and off we go downhill to a little beach at Tholos.
At 9am in the morning, the sea feels particularly wonderfully cool and refreshing. I wake up properly when I am in the water and am aware early in my day that life is good!
There is, of course, the return journey, which is uphill. But because we are attempting to be a bit fitter and do this on as regular basis as we can, it is not such a difficult prospect as it was. Added to that, John has done some work on my bike and it does feel like it moves better than it did. I am hot by the time I get back but after a cold shower and breakfast, there is no doubt that this is a great way to start a day.
Another important improvement in our lives in the attempt to keep cool, is the new air conditioning unit in the bedroom. Occasionally, it is put on during the day with the outside doors closed and is always put on before reading in bed at night. One of our chairs outside is kept in a shady area so the afternoon siesta or reading time can be outside, particularly if there is a breeze. All this being said, it is very hot, day after day, after day.
John and I did decide to have three days away for a change of scene. We went to Xerokambos on the south east coast, a long time favourite of ours. We stayed in the Fytrolakis Apartments, about 50 metres from the beach,
and had a nice view of the sea.
We met up with Mikali and Eleni, whom we have talked about in previous posts, and who run a taverna there. We caught up with their family news. We had not thought to look at the weather forecast as every day seemed to be same but Manolis, our Greek teacher did give us a little warning of what was to come which was an extremely strong wind, only I think in Xerokambos! The first night, staff in a local taverna had to pull the down the plastic windows to protect us all from blowing away. But the beaches were as beautiful as ever.
And John looks particularly fetching, wearing his favourite pink tshirt.
On one of the days, we decided to forego the beach, because of the wind and we went to the nearby village of Zakros. For us, Zakros has always been a place to go through to somewhere else or to start the walk through the gorge to Lower Zakros. So this time, we wandered into the centre of the village where we were surprised to find a new tourist development. We walked into the Digital Museum,
met a very pleasant young lady who told us we could buy a ticket for 5 euros to visit 3 museums. We bought a ticket and on finding out that we spoke some Greek and lived in Kavousi, she gave us a bottle of Zakros olive oil. I suspect that everybody who signed up to the deal, got this gift but it was a nice gesture. We then watched a film about the attractions of Zakros wearing 3D spectacles. We learned about the Minoan Palace and the Zakros gorge with which we were familiar and also about a cave and information about the importance of water to the area.
After this input, we set off going up the narrow streets to the water museum and to the source of the water. I was struck by how well kept the buildings, the paths and the gardens were.
There was even an opportunity for a new development!
We looked on the water museum and were treated to a number of old pieces of equipment relating to the pressing of olives/grapes?
We arrived at the top of the village and had a quiet moment outside the church.
The signage and information were great too and now I know where the next part of the long distance path, the E4, is.
Finally we looked into the Natural History Museum before having a beer and lunch. The taverna owner said he was part of the committee that had developed this package of interesting information and way of seeing much more of a very beautiful village. John and I congratulated him and now tell everybody that we meet about how Zakros is such a nice place to go.
One of the highlights of the last two weeks was meeting up with our first Greek tutor, Nikos, his wife Efi and their two month old son, Konstantinos. I gave Konstantinos a nice rattle so that he can join his fathers band and he seemed immediately to work out what you had to do! I also found a bath book with the numbers in English on it. I felt some early English input would be educational for this lovely small chap!
Because it really is summer, there is a lot of music about. Last Saturday, John and I went to the nearby Pachia Ammos to hear the Greek singer, Melina Aslanidou,
and her accompanying band. She is very well known in Greece and after buying a CD of hers, I realised that I knew a few of the songs from listening to the radio. There were huge numbers of people there, with many families enjoying the music. Again, as in so many of the concerts we have been too, the audience knew the words of the songs, to the extent that Melina let the audience sing on their own. The band were very good with a particularly impressive fiddle player. I wondered if he had ever met Aly Bain! The lighting was very atmospheric,
and what a joy to sit outside, beside the sea at midnight, still feeling warm!
The next night we met our friends, Shona and Rich in Koutsoras, ate a nice meal at Robinsons taverna, right beside the sea and then went to a nearby park to listen to a Cretan band,
who were there to provide dance music for the many people in the audience who wanted to show off their skills.
Again, it may me think that I would like some lessons so that I could participate in this.
Because it is summer, John and I have been getting pretty tired at times because of the heat and this has meant searching for shade and a view of the sea and where better to find it than in a Creta taverna at lunchtime and an increased beer,
tzaziki and Greek salad consumption than usual! However it has also meant that we see some of the issues that face people working in the tourist industry at this time. It is not a soft option for people running a taverna, working huge long hours and sometimes not appreciated that much. We saw a group of Russian tourists come into a taverna, where we were sitting and who seem to feel they could treat the people who worked there with contempt and rudeness. Basic rules of civility did not seem to apply and because the owner did not speak Russian they walked out. The owner was sanguine about the experience. We were very angry on his behalf.
An important part of our summer is that John and I are about to exchange contracts on a flat in Newquay next week. The process of buying a flat without seeing it, has not been so difficult, given modern communication and the fact that Rosie, our daughter, who will live in the flat, has been doing a fine job, being our eyes and ears. It was a little tense though yesterday as John and I needed to sign the documents and then go to Ierapetra Post Office to send the package. Unfortunately, the electricity supply went off at 9am and as we needed to photocopy some stuff, this was an issue. I found out from Maria that it would come on again at 12 but as the Post Office shut at 2pm, there was a bit of pressure added to the proceedings. Then our neighbour, who had agreed to be a witness to our signatures, wasn’t in when we went round with the papers. Eventually, we located Roger, who lives a mile or so away, who very kindly signed the forms. Also we discovered that the name, Sheila Helen Burt, had crept into one of the forms that needed to be signed. My name is Sheila Helen Wood so this wouldn’t do! After a phonecall to Newquay, our solicitor had the change made and sent the form back by email which of course we couldn’t open because the electricity was off. However at 12.30, the sound of the washing machine (having been stopped at 9am) alerted us to the good news that we had electricity and after some photocopying, we finally left for Ierapetra. The documents were posted ‘express’ and all we can hope now is they arrive safely in Newquay at the beginning of next week.
Summer has also meant watching a few films – Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, In the Loop and What we did on our Holiday – and reading some lighter material. Reading about the politics in Cambodia was making me pretty depressed so I made the decision to go in for a bit of escapism (because it really is summer and holiday time), reading some of my favourite detective authors such as Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George and Robert Galbraith.
Now I think I deserve a few of these grapes………………….