Books read in 2016

  • Lollipop Shoes Joanne Harris
  • Chocolat Joanne Harris

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Monastiraki Square and Acropolis
So early Tuesday morning saw us making our way to Heathrow with just two small cabin bags and a pacsafe travel bag housing our laptops, cameras/phones, kindles and other paraphernalia we decided we couldn't do without for the next six weeks. First stop Athens. Although I had visited mainland Greece and many of its Islands over the years I had never been to Athens before and it was at the top of my list mainly because of its Acropolis and associated archeological sites. As direct flights to Samos don't start until next week it was a great opportunity to combine Athens with this trip as Samos is only a short forty minute hop by prop plane.

Arriving at Athens airport we took the Metro into Monastiraki Square which was where we would be staying for the next two nights. The district of Monastiraki is the ideal place to stay for visiting the Acropolis and has a distinct village feel about it being full of quaint streets with vintage shops, lots of cafe's and restaurants and the entrance to the flea market. Our hotel A for Athens had a rooftop bar and restaurant which is where the above pic was taken.

Fabulous Enastron
As we only had a limited time in Athens we decided the short trek through the square up to the Acropolis to view the Parthenon and other ancient buildings would be best done early in the morning before it became to hot and crowded followed by a long leisurly lunch. Lots of restoration work going on, however as this fabulous ancient temple complex dates back to the 5th century BC its not surprising and the surrounding views over Athens are breathtaking.












Folowing our visit to the Acropolis we wandered back down and meandered along the gorgeous narrow pedestrian streets of the Plaka district in search of our recommended restaurant for lunch. Having been advised to avoid the tourist restaurants our helpful receptionist at the hotel recommended the Enastron as being frequented by locals and serving authentic traditional Greek food. He was right, chickpeas baked in the oven, simple but delicious, feta with honey and sesame seeds and a lovely little pie called pastourma and this just for starters. Mains called for grilled beef liver perfectly cooked for Lovejoy and chicken souvlaki for me washed down with a bottle of dry white wine from an aromatic Greek grape called Moschofilero. The service and surroundings in this little place were just perfect. Feeling rather full after lunch we continued to wander around soaking up the atmosphere and taking pics of the district and even some Athens street art.


The following morning we discovered there would be a transport strike from 11 o'clock meaning no metro to the airport so we left earlier than anticipated and hung around the airport until we could board our flight to Samos. I'm finishing this post on day 12 of our trip, I have 32 days left and a lot has happened since leaving Athens, however sadly my blogging is not keeping up with events. We have been all over Samos and tomorrow we are going over to Kusadasi in Turkey and will be visiting the archeological site of Ephesus and apparantly the house of the Virgin Mary. Ancient ruins may not suit everyone but I'm in heaven.







Monday, 23 May 2016

Athens, Samos, and Greek island hopping

Beautiful Klima bay Samos at sunset
Eagle creek load warrior international
I'm buzzing with excitement and unable to write much for this post as tomorrow we set off on our six week trip to Samos and I'm trying to pack everything I need into a cabin bag only. This is an experimental packing trip as next year we intend to travel for approx 4-5 months on cabin luggage alone. It's my roots I'm really worried about lol

We did buy some compression cubes but after much trial and error decided that we could pack more stuff without them. There is something incredibly freeing about not having much luggage although my friend thinks I'm barmy, she needs a bigger bag than this for an overnight stay.

I will be taking my laptop so hopefully will post snippets of our trip as its happening. we will be spending two nights in Athens then flying to Samos on Thursday. We will be exploring Samos in detail and completing some of the fabulous Nightingale walks. We will also do a little island hopping to nearby Chios, Patmos and Ikaria where apparently most of the population live on average 10 years longer than those in the rest of Europe and America with one in three Ikarians living into their 90's. I need to find out what their secret is or maybe i'll just ask my mum lol.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Advanced fabulousness, my mum and a trip to Lille



Me and mum 
It was my mum's 86th birthday last week and being more into giving and receiving experiences than giving and receiving stuff me and Lovejoy took her on a trip to Lille to celebrate. 

Mum had never been on the Eurostar and it was on her bucket list. We were catching the 8.04 train from St Pancras so stayed over night in the Premier Inn on Euston Road which is pretty much directly opposite the station. What Premier Inn's lack in character they more than make up for in comfort, cleanliness and good value for money. One and a half hours later we were in Lille. It took us longer than that to get to Brighton a couple of weeks ago.


I'm very proud of my mum,  she may not dress in garish colours and ostrich feathers but she's bloody marvellous and not just for 86, she gamely kept up with the two of us wandering all over Lille, eating and drinking and generally being bloody good fun. Advanced style eat your heart out.

C&A in Lille what joy



Lille is situated in North West France approximately ten miles from the Belgium border and is a lovely quirky medieval town full of the most wonderful boutiques, eateries, patisseries and architecture. We wandered round the gorgeous pedestrian streets of the old town which combines old style Flemish influence with modern shopping malls and everything in between. We even found a C&A much to my delight.



Au Vieux de la Ville
Carbonade Flamande
We discovered that the best places to eat in Lille are without doubt the Estaminets and the most well known in Lille is the Au Vieux de la Ville which we loved so much we went twice. These are frequented by local people and can get really busy however, we went early so had no trouble finding a table. Estaminet means small cafe and these were charming places full of character and quirky bits and bobs not to mention wonderful artisan food like Carbonade Flamande a wonderfully falling apart beef stew and Rabbit with prunes. 

Apart from losing ourselves wandering through all the quirky streets leading off the Grande Place (main square) we visited Lille Cathedral, the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille, France's most recently completed Cathedral and a national monument. The Cathedral was completed with a modern facade in 2000 in time to celebrate the millennium.
medieval entrance to the cathedral
modern facade 
two sides of the same coin

Just beautiful


Gorgeous stained glass window

Pillars of the Earth
Lille is a charming quirky medieval French town and we all loved it but the most memorable part of the trip for me was spending some quality time with my mum.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Brighton Rocks

Birthday Girl


It was my 57th birthday on Friday so we decided to take a trip to Brighton for the weekend. Being on a bit of a budget due to forthcoming trips we stayed in a small hotel in Kemp town called The Limehouse with what was described as a room with a sea view but technically turned out to be in my opinion a sea peep. However the room was quirky clean and comfortable and we weren't in it for long spending most of our time wandering, exploring and eating and drinking.
Massive delicious Rhubarb and Ginger Gin

Kemp town is historically known as an actors and artists quarter and is characterised by a network of quirky streets with specialised shops, hotels cafes bars and pubs. The first port of call having checked in and deposited our bags was a little cafe called The Manor which lured us in by advertising speciality gins. Rhubarb and ginger gin with juniper berries and a light lunch of fish cakes and salad hit the spot nicely as we had a meal booked for that evening and it was already past three o'clock.

 That evening we went to La petite Maison. Set in the heart of Brighton's lanes where they focus on serving quality fresh sussex produce. I do remember enjoying my dinner and its accompanying bottle of red, however, I do not have a pic due to too much Gin.

Saturday saw more wandering and exploring the Lanes and more eating and drinking. There were lots of quirky interesting shops to explore and many examples of street art which apparently rival the remains of the Berlin wall for sheer beauty and extraordinary creativity. A reproduction of Banksy's Kissing Coppers is located on Trafalgar street which I stupidly forgot to take a pic of, however here is  selection of some of the art I did remember to photograph.





I found all of the street art fascinating, and the scenes I saw were stunningly beautiful and striking and its apparently all down to the forward thinking of the Green Party Council. During our exploration of the Lanes and North Laine I a came across lots of interesting little shops, below are just a few.
The sewing machine shop (not)
The front, side and rear windows of this shop in East street are entirely filled with an array of antique sewing machines so that at first glance it is impossible to make out what the shop is selling. It actually sells very expensive clothing from The British All Saints Spitalfield brand. The name All Saints was inspired by both the All Saints Road in Notting Hill and 60's TV icon Simon Templar as the Saint. I've had to look this up but I do remember the Saint, perhaps thats why there is a street art version of the Saint.
Gorgeous chocolaterie
Fabulous irregular choice shop window. Having bought a pair of these as my wedding shoes online I was thrilled to find an actual shop in Brighton. Those yellow ones with the red flowers have my name on them, however, I was good and didn't buy a pair.



 Only in Brighton. We could see this chap opposite from our hotel room, it scared me to death until I realised what I was looking at.
Brighton pier

Beach

Brighton wheel
Brighton pavilion

The weather was absolutely bitterly cold but it was a fun birthday weekend.







Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Wendy @ the contented cabin lol

As I've previously commented I'm trying to blog a little more regularly so I thought I would do a quick post re my new garden cabin. After all Lovejoys hard work felling trees and completing the concrete base the cabin is now erected in a corner of our garden. It has a separate part which will house garden paraphernalia etc which means I don't have to have another shed. Our garden is not massive and a separate shed in another corner would not be a good use of space.

   



The garden needs work its taken a hammering due to all the  building work on the house last year and the cabin, has not improved matters. I can't wait to get cracking on the garden I want a Mediterranean feel to it so when I'm not travelling I can sit out there and visualise.





 Lovejoy is painting it as we speak hopefully it won't rain today.



I'm thinking of changing my blog name to Wendy@the contented cabin. What do you think lol




Friday, 8 April 2016

Russian Mafia at work in Cancun

ATM Skimming device
So yesterday morning Lovejoy receives a phone call from the bank enquiring about our spending activity over the previous evening. Did you spend £80 last night at 20.56pm he asked? This threw me into a slight panic because I have been known to have a couple of glasses of wine and then go on a bit of an online spending spree and forget all about it until the stuff turns up, ( I do not do this regularly and not for ages). No I said not guilty. Anyway to cut a long story short we are the victims of the Russian Mafia at work in Cancun. We used the ATM once in the hotel reception. Apparently ATM skimming is big business in Cancun with around $5million being stolen from holidaymakers every month krebsonsecurity.com. The bank informed us that this was the third time they thought our account had been compromised and asked us where we had been. Cancun we said. We checked our bank account and there were two separate withdrawals of £100 each to a timber company in Mumbai dear lord. We are ok we will get the money back but what with this and half the trip taking in Spring Break (we knew nothing about this) I do not think we will be going back to Cancun any time soon. However, I loved the Mayan archeological sites so it was worth it for this alone.

Monday, 4 April 2016

My blogging leaves a lot to be desired.



A beautiful but crowded beach
Kukulkan's Pyramid at Chichen Itza
I am not very consistent with my blogging. Since returning from Mexico life has taken over and my time has not been my own. It's half term in my neck of the woods which means childcare duties. Easter was full on with family staying meaning lots of hosting. The first couple of weeks home I thought I was suffering from the Zica virus or prolonged jet lag.

Now we are preparing the garden to erect a summer house/log cabin/ shed etc. This does not come close to the creative genius of Iliona over at life after money but it did mean removing a couple of trees which much to my concern Lovejoy decided to do himself. I was unhappy about this, I thought he might kill himself, however, he has done it roots and all with just an axe and a saw, the man's a brute.

He is now in the process of laying out the footings or whatever before the concrete mixer arrives tomorrow. Lovejoy does not mind spending money but if he can save some by doing it himself he will despite my bleating constantly "get a man in, get a man in. Also I am baking my granddaughters 5th birthday cake. This is no mean feat as I have set my bar way too high over the last couple of years

Lovejoy taking down our tree (not really its a Mayan chap extracting  tree sap which they use as gum to keep their saliva flowing whilst working. Its like bubble gum without any flavour)

Mexico seems a long time ago now and I am getting Itchy feet again. We had to rearrange our travel appointment re our RTW trip due to half term so are going in a couple of weeks. Trips coming up include Lille, Brighton and a six week trip to Samos starting with two nights in Athens followed by Greek Island hopping with Samos as our base. This trip is an experiment on a couple of levels. It will mean being away from home for longer than a few weeks and also we will be travelling with carry on luggage only (for six weeks, no hairdryer OMG ) More on Mexico coming up when I've finished the cake.