Monday, 1 June 2015

Greek Salad In Greece

I know it's been ages and I'm sorry.  I said a good while ago I'd post when I had something interesting to say. Well, there's been a few weeks I've sat down to talk to you guys, but I never get around to pushing the 'publish' button.  Then when I do think about publishing, I feel that it's been too long and I should start again.

And so the cycle continues!

So..... Today I plan to sit here with my brew, my blanket around my shoulders (it's chuffing freezing around these parts!!) and I'm going to tell you what I've been up to in the last week or so. Then I'm going to press publish. 

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may rapidly become bored because there will mostly be lots of photos of my jollydays!

In my defense, it's been a good 6 years since our last foreign holiday. This one was only made possible by the generosity of friends and family. To those people, I am eternally grateful. I feel rested and ready to face the world again.

Let me start at the beginning. 

A long time ago Matthew's parents had a yacht in Greece. Zipcode was a fabulous little craft which was moored in a town called Nidri on a little island in the Ionian called Lefkas. Now, most of you won't have heard of this place as a tourist spot and there's a very good reason for that. A rather rich man called Aristotle Onassis bought an island off the coast of Lefkas called Skorpios. Aristotle really rather valued his privacy especially when he got involved with a rather famous woman!
He encouraged the islanders not to chase the tourist Drachma by giving the island money.

Because of all of this, Lefkas is still a very 'Greek' island. Yes, there are hotels and tourists do visit, but there are strict rules governing the development of the island and it's still beautiful and relatively un-marred by it's visitors.

When we were young and fancy free, Matthew and I would holiday in Nidri for a couple of weeks during the summer. We'd buy a package holiday which gave us our own apartment and we'd sail with Matthew's parents on their boat. It's been 12 years now since we've been. Sailing (in my opinion anyway) doesn't go well with small children who have no sense of danger!!

In those 12 years much has happened. Matthew's parents sold their yacht and many of their friends who sailed the Ionian built villas in the area. One such couple are Barry and Trish. They're great folk. They sold up in the UK and moved to Meganissi, another island off the coast of Lefkas. Barry is a building contractor and a very tallented one at that. He built his villa and a little holiday house next door. Ever since then they've been saying we should come out and stay. It was such a generous offer, but life just didn't work out in such a way as we could go.

Well a few months ago while visiting Matthew's parents here in Cumbria, Barry and Trish said we were coming and that was that. I decided that by hook or by crook we would do it!

And so it came that on the 23rd of this month I was crossing things of my lists as I packed cases.... Oh! And I realised that we only had one suitcase! So on the Saturday before we flew out, I was in Penrith buying a new suitcase!!!


When we used to go on holiday, we always used to go to my Mum and Dad's, they'd give us a lift to the airport and pick us back up. So habits are hard to break, and we decided to do the same this time.

Saturday morning I packed all our things and then settled down to chill. I thought we were nearly ready to set off when Matthew declared he had to go to a friend's  to pick up some wood. Ooookkaaayyyy!!!! I thought. The only way to deal with this was to cake up some yarn I'd had my eye on and start a new project. Here is my reasoning for this - I'd made myself a promise that I wouldn't cast on any new projects until my WIP list was in single digits. BUT!!! I'd packed all the little projects to take on holiday! 

I'd been itching to cast on some hand spun for ages. I had 2 gorgeous skeins winking at me every time I passed them! The first has been spun for ages. Cornfield - a merino from Long Draw James if I remember correctly. I spun it into a half decent laceweight. I decided while I was waiting for the boys to come back that another holiday project would be ok. My Thankful shawl is an excellent holiday project. It has a simple stockinette body and a lace edging that's not taxing and easy to read. Originally I wrote the pattern for fingering weight yarn, but the beauty of these body and edging shawls is that you can keep knitting on the body until you've got about a third of your yarn left and then start the lace. 

I'm going to make the lace edging on this shawl deeper than I'd originally designed. I'm going to knit the body until I've got 50% of my yarn left or a multiple of 29 stitches whichever happens first.  This should give me a nice deep lace edging which will go well with the delicate laceweight yarn.

Once the boys got back we set off for the Wirral. We joined my parents for a rather good roast lamb dinner, and then popped out to visit friends. My good friend Steph rather kindly borrowed my boy for the bank holiday weekend at the start of May. She was off down to Lego Land for Star Wars day. While they were there her son and mine took part in a competition to see who could build an X-wing fighter out of Lego the fastest. Ben and Peter won!! I think they were the fastest on that day but not the fastest over all. That aside, they won a goodybag of all things Lego. We went to Steph's to pick it up before we left for Greece. We had a good chat and giggle while the boys played.

Sunday morning dawned grey and damp. I was happy to be leaving the cold miserable British weather for a week.

Dad's garden looks green and lush in the damp

We arrived at Manchester Airport in good time. It's a great airport with lots of opportunities for a little retail therapy. I'd already decided to treat myself to a new pair of sunglasses. The Oakley pair I had are a good 8 years old now and the finish is peeling off around the lenses. I found myself a rather lovely pair of Maui Jim's. 

We had a burger each in Franky & Benny's. I found a piece of bone in mine! Geepers, I thought, good job I didn't break a tooth! That would have ruined the holiday!

Checking out the view while waiting for our turn

Our flight was delight about an hour but it wasn't a bad wait and before we knew it we were in the air. Since we last had a foreign holiday, Ben has decided he doesn't like to fly. He's been getting quite anxious about it. Being the good (?) phamacist I am, I decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. He's not a great traveller and often gets travel sick on coaches, so I gave him a sedating antihistamine! Put him to sleep a treat on the plane and he wasn't nauseous on the coach transfer either! (Win!)  

On Thomson Airlines now there's no inflight meal as such. You can order hot snacks from the trolley and that's about it. Matthew and I decided to have a ham and cheese toastie. It was rather good. However I found another piece of bone in mine! Someone out there wants me to break a tooth I'm sure.

The coach transfer from the airport was good. Just 45 minutes (and a rather hairy drop off at another hotel) and we were in our hotel. The hotel Bel Air is on the outskirts of Nidri town. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good - we're away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurants and bars. Bad - we were right next to a storm drain. Lefkas is an island with huge (ish) mountains which run right down the middle of the islands and when it rains, it really rains! All that water comes running off the mountains heading for the sea. I remember 12 years ago the streets were knee deep in water after one such deluge. Thankfully because of these drains, the water clears quickly. HOWEVER, this isn't the rainy season and the storm drains are nearly dry. Not dry enough however, they're colonised by frogs and mozzies!!!

Lovely view of the pool from our balcony

So on our first night I didn't sleep at all well. If wasn't woken by the frog chorus Paul Macartney would have been happy with, I was plagued by the high pitched whine of mozzies eating me alive despite the copious amounts of repellant I'd plastered myself and the others in.  The frogs gave up just in time for the traffic to start. The bin lorry arrived at 6am and I gave sleep up as a bad job and sat up knitting!

We had a lazy morning waiting to head off to the ferry. It was a 15 minute walk which wasn't too bad despite the fact we were dragging our suitcases along behind us. (Note to self - pack lighter!!)

My pathalogical dread of being late meant we were a good 3/4 of an hour early for the ferry. We stopped in the taverna opposite for a cold drink and Matthew took Ben off to show him all the old haunts. I sat and knit - well, why wouldn't you? I had to stay there and mind the bags after all.

The ferry - not quite time to set off yet

On the ferry, waiting to set sail

Nidri. Pretty isn't it?

Checking out a new view

Land ho! Vathi is in sight

The ferry takes a mere 30 minutes or so to get over to Meganissi. Barry was there to meet us and took us up to our villa.



Don't get me wrong, I've seen photos of the villa on Facebook! I knew it was beautiful, but I had no idea just how gorgeous it would be! 
Brace yourselves for lots of photos - 

This is where I sat of a morning, catching the first rays of sunshine, knitting and drinking tea

The view isn't half bad

That evening we all went out for dinner in Vathi at a taverna called Stavros'. Matthew's parents and brother know the family really well, as do Barry and Trish. We had a wonderful meal and were made to feel like family. Ben wasn't sure what to make of the hugs and hair mussing that went on! He's not overly demonstrative at the moment, and he looked startled to have strange Greek men bear hug him! 

Tuesday marked the real start to the holiday. Barry and Trish have an infinity pool in their villa and they'd said we could use it whenever we liked. So, while the boys were still in bed I decided to go have a good swim. 

Forgive the hazy quality of the photo - I took it through my phone case. Not a bad view from the pool

See? I really did swim!

And that I did! Snag is, infinity pools aren't really designed to be properly swam in! They're for pottering and playing in. Theconsequence of me going full chat for the thick end of an hour was I flooded out their bar! Bugger!!!! Swimming in the pool was out!

I went with Trish into Vathi for coffee and to get some shopping in. Dear me I wasn't ready for Greek coffee! I was on a buzz for hours. When I got home, Ben whooped my arse at Top Trumps and there was significantly more knitting!

It's wine o'clock and time for more knitting - the Arrowhead socks are well on the way to completion

We decided to have dinner in Abalaki bay. I had gorgeous meatballs and pasta. Crikey me the portion sizes are huge! I did, however, make an impressive dent in the plateful.

Wednesday was supposed to be wet. Thunderstorm wet.  We were going to go round to a bay to swim, but we decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed home. As it was the day was cloudy and there was a couple of brief showers but I was braver than that..... I sat in the sun and waited..... in the end the sun shone.

Spot the difference? Yes! You got it! There are threatening black clouds in the sky! Ptchar I say, I'm sunbathing anyway

At the end of a hard day's knitting and sunbathing we went up to Barry and Trish's for tea. Trish made the most gorgeous beef casserole EVER!! There was a whole bottle of red wine and a glass of brandy in it! Holy Sauces Batman! It was a bit good!

Oh, and I managed to finish the Arrowhead Socks. Soon I'll even write up the pattern! 

On Thursday we skimmed stones. Simple things are the best. I cooked my own chicken souvlaki. Not bad! Even though I say it myself.

New socks on the needles - Pansy by British Bea Knits. Great yarn. Quick sharp colour changes. Somehwere out there the boys are swimming

Chicken souvlaki - home made this time.

Friday I decided to swim across Abalaki Bay. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought. Half way across the water was really deep and rather cold. I got cramp in my foot. It took some doing to swim through it.
A change is as good as a rest - the Pansy socks are very nearly done by Friday so I decided to cast on another project. May Morning by Denise Bell. I'm using silk lace weight by Ripples crafts and beads from Hobbycraft. The pattern is really pretty and easy to remember

Saturday I started thinking about going home. A week passed so quickly. Every second was great. Ben and Matthew went for a walk while I packed up the house. They walked around to the next bay, skimmed more stones and had a great time. Me? I packed the cases, cleaned up and then took a quiet 5 minutes to finish up the Pansy socks.

Waiting for that ferry at Spartahori. Sigh, it's time to leave

These ferry guys know no fear. They just charge up to the landing and then put the engines in reverse. The trucks set off before the ferry actually stops moving! Scary Mary

We took the last ferry back to Nidri and went back to our hotel. Ben and Matthew had a quick swim in the pool (a tad cold judging by the colour of them) while I went to the nearest supermarket and bought all kinds of mozzi killer. In the end we splashed out and bought some air conditioning. 
On Saturday night instead of being kept awake by the cacophony of frogs, traffic and mozzies, I was woken by the wind tunnel effect of the air con unit I was sleeping under.
Sunday was time to go home. The coach to the airport didn't leave until 4.30 so we had time to spend at the hotel, we swam in the pool (still cold, but a good size) and  soaked up the last few rays of sunshine.

We landed back in Manchester to 11 degrees and a biting wind. For some reason the airoplane didn't stop at a gate, we stopped right at the end of the skyway and had to use a set of steps to get off the plane. 

Dusk falls. So do the temperatures!

We walked across the tarmac to the arrivals area. My Mum and Dad met us with the car and we set off home. Sideways rain and wind followed us home. We got home just gone midnight, sent Ben straight to bed and got the house straight. By jove it was cold in the house. We were met by 3 of the 4 cats. This was rather suprising, seeing as how they usually sulk and ignore us for a few days. The cold must have driven them home.

Today I woke stupidly early. I thought I'd get up and start working through the mountain of washing. I set the machine off and put the kettle on. I looked out of the window and saw the sun shining. Great stuff I thought, I can get some washing dry outside..... but no..... what was actually happening outside was rain. Granted the sun was shining through the rain, but it was raining none the less. There would be no drying outside today. The weather got steadily worse as the day went on. We've had sideways rain and hail! The met office has issued a severe weather warning for the next couple of days. 

For pity's sake! It's June!! The weather is atrocious. 

This holiday has been great. I've had a wonderful time with family and friends.

On the Horizon - 

Well, the holiday is in the past, but I'm clinging onto the memories. Tomorrow I'm back at work. Wish me luck I'm going in!

On the crafting front, I've really got to focus on In Dreams now. I'm so close to the finish, I think I've got less than 20 rows to go. Snag is they're getting more and more heavily beaded.

My cunning plan for June is to finish up some WIP's. To be honest, that was my cunning plan in May too! But I've chipped away at 3 long term projects last month. Granted I've also finished 2 projects started in May too. Oh, and I've started another 2 large shawl projects. So, I suppose my WIP list is as big as it was back in April! But my intentions are good! Honestly!

So, it's late, I promised to press publish and I'm really tired. So I will publish this tonight. But I'll edit it tomorrow to add in some links. But just in case I don't get back to adding those links - here is the Facebook page for Shamballa. If you're interested in independent travel to Greece. Check out the page. The villa is nothing short of stunning!

Have fun crafting guys. Hope to get back to you soon

Ellen x