Category Archives: island hopping

Travelling – Gladiator Sandals

Gladiator Sandals Naxos Greece

I had what I called my gladiator sandals since 1999 when I went to Rhodes and they  accompanied me abroad on every single subsequent holiday. By 2006 they were showing signs of wear and were not expected to see through a Greek island hopping adventure. I  made it my mission to see how long I could keep make them last.

The Gladiators made it through the island travels and surprisingly lasted another two years when an important part of the shoe infrastructure failed (one of the straps snapped).

After Rhodes, they had been to the Greek islands of Skiathos, Cephalonia (twice), Santorini (twice), Crete, Thassos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios (twice), Sikinos, Amorgos, Milos and Sifnos.  I finally had to accept that they were irreparable whilst on the island of Folegandros so I thought that this was a suitable place to say goodbye and I  left them there to become part of the Greek earth in whatever landfill site they ended up in.

I really loved those sandals!

 

Blue Doors of Europe and North Africa

Wooden Door of Catalonia Besalu

Catalonia, Spain

Door Detail Dinard Brittany France

Brittany, France

Dublin Doors 2

Dublin, Ireland

Milos Greece

Milos Island, Greece

Doors of Ronda 1

Ronda, Spain

Burgau Algarve Portugal

Algarve, Portugal

Essaouira Derelict Doors

Essaouira, Morocco

Amsterdam by Delph

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Black Forest, Germany

More Doors…

Doors and Windows of 2015

Sardinia – Doors and Windows

Brittany – Doors and Windows

Blue Doors of Essaouira

Doors of Catalonia 1

Doors of Catalonia 2

Doors of Catalonia 3

Doors of Catalonia 4

Doors of Dublin

Doors of Northern France

Doors of Portugal

Doors of Siguenza, Spain

The Durrells in Corfu

Corfu Post Card 1984 Old Town

“If I could give a child a gift, I’d give him my childhood.” – Gerald Durrell

Every now and again, and I am not sure why, the story of the Durrell family living in 1930s Corfu gets remade into a television series.  There is a new one right now on the BBC in the UK.

I had visited Corfu almost thirty-five years ago but although on that occasion I toured the island from north to south and from east to west I came as a holidaymaker rather than a traveller and I saw everything but didn’t see anything.

Corfu Tonn Greece

This third visit to Kalami continued to nudge my memory and from what I can remember it hasn’t really changed a great deal at all – the Venetian elegance of Corfu town, the lush green vegetation of the interior, the twisting roads, the soaring mountains, the views that so enchanted Edward Lear and Henry Miller, the limestone ribbed bays where we spent our lazy days were all very much as I remembered them now and suddenly it didn’t really matter that I hadn’t paid attention to these details all those years ago because now my head and my camera were full to overflowing with all these unchanged images.

In my opening Corfu post I mentioned that I had prepared for the visit by reading Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ which forms a sort of Corfiot trilogy alongside brother Laurence’s ‘Prospero’s Cell’ and Henry Miller’s ‘The Colossus of Marousi’  all written about many of the same places, and often the same people, but from quite different perspectives.

Gerald Durell Corfu Greece  Lawrence Durrell Corfu Greece

Previously I had stayed south of Corfu town in the resort of Perama where it turns out that Gerald Durrell lived with most of his family (his mother, brother and sister).  I say most of his family because although his book, ‘My Family and Other Animals’ (and the TV series) would have the reader believe that he lived there with all his family it turns out that he didn’t live with older brother Lawrence at all.

Lawrence and his wife Nancy lived some distance away in Kalami in the White House and curiously Gerald doesn’t even mention her once in any of his Corfu books possibly because they were written twenty years after the event and Lawrence and Nancy were long since separated and divorced.

Nancy Durrell

The White House claims an association with younger brother Gerald but it seems he never lived there at all.  In fact it is entirely possible that he never even visited the place because Perama is over forty kilometres away and eighty years ago there were no asphalt roads or cars or even public transport that would have made an afternoon visit comfortably possible.

White House Kalami

Gerald it seems was prone to extreme exaggeration and although his books are entertaining they miss the truth by a mile.  Actually I tired of them.  I enjoyed the first but the second was written when Gerald was in his fifties and had clearly lost touch with his childhood and with reality and I gave it up half way through.  He said himself that he didn’t enjoy writing them and only did so to make money to finance his naturalist expeditions and this I am afraid is blindingly obvious.

Gerald never mentions either that is mother Louisa was hopelessly addicted to the gin bottle.

I much preferred the work of Lawrence with his sublime descriptions of life in Corfu (and equally curiously he doesn’t ever mention the other members of his family who lived here at the same time), a diary of vivid memories that for me at least bring the place to life.  How wonderful it must have been to live in this place all that time ago and experience a life of bohemian indulgence.

Sadly the truth turns out to be that Lawrence was a misogynist, a bully and an abuser and the idyllic life he describes may only have been spasmodic or one sided.  Henry Miller refers at one point to ‘black eyes for breakfast’.  I find it a shame that a man who could write such elegant prose should also have such a darker, unpleasant side.

As for Henry Miller – I found the ‘Colossus of Maroussi’ rather self-indulgent and heavy going but whilst I have abandoned Gerald Durrell I will return to Miller.

Kalami Bay Corfu White House

I have one last comparison to make.  For ten years I have been in the habit of visiting the Cyclades Islands, specks of volcanic rock in the space between mainland Greece and Turkey and have gleefully declared them my favourites but now that I have been reunited with the Ionian Islands I have to reassess this opinion.  In ‘Prospero’s Cell’ Lawrence Durrell describes the sighting of a Cretan boat in the bay of Kalami and this seems to me to sum up perfectly the difference:

The whole Aegean was written in her lines…. She had strayed out of the world of dazzling white windmills and grey, uncultured rock; out of the bareness and dazzle of the Aegean into our seventeenth-century Venetian richness. She had strayed from the world of Platonic forms into the world of decoration.”

No words of mine could improve on that wonderful comparison of the harsh, barren Cyclades and the soft, abundant Ionian.   So which do I prefer – impossible now to say, perhaps it may even be neither but the Dodecanese instead which is where I am bound for next.

Island Hopping, Back Packing, Greek Islands, Paros

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life Imitates Art

Empúries Greek StatueEdinburgh Street Art

Travel Memories – Greek Island Hopping

Backpacking Greece Paros

“Somewhere…I once found a list of diseases… and among these occurred the word Islomania, which was described as a rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit.  These are people…who somehow find islands irresistible.  A little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with indescribable intoxication. – Lawrence Durrell – ‘Reflections on a Marine Venus’

Island hopping with a bulging rucksack strapped to my back was an immediately brilliant idea when Sally mentioned it in May and invited me to bring my credit cards along and join her for a week or two in the Greek islands.

Sun drenched beaches, friendly tavernas, Mythos and ouzo, I knew immediately that I would take up the offer but at first I was slightly wary of committing to a holiday with two girls addicted to the internet and who sleep with their mobile phones but I have always wanted to be more imaginative about my holidays and to take control and make my own arrangements rather than rely upon a holiday rep from Thomsons or Airtours and those tedious welcome meetings that seem to go on for ever in a dingy hotel lounge when all you want to do is get outside in the sun.

So the chance to do things my way was a real opportunity and I signed up.

Naxos Back street Cyclades Greece

Preparation involved booking the flights and finding suitable hotels on line. This, I later had to concede, turned out to be a bit of a cheat because proper back-packers, I am told, take their lodgings chances when arriving in port, but I just wanted to be certain of a basic level of accommodation.  I was fifty-two years old and had certain standards to maintain! I wanted Olympic size swimming pools, air conditioning as fresh as the mountain air and at the very least a minimum standard of bathroom facility.  Most people go backpacking in their teens or in their twenties – I had left it all a bit late!

Packing the rucksack was quite a challenge! There wasn’t a lot of room in there and it took a number of clothing/essentials trial runs before I achieved the perfect combination of items. I needed my snorkel and essential bathroom items and some books of course and after that I had room for some clothes. It was like doing the hokey-cokey, in, out, in, out and shake it all about until I got it right.

Blue Star Ferry Athens to Naxos

Like most people I always take too many clothes on holiday, that extra pair of shorts, another shirt just in case, and usually some items just go for the ride there and back and never get worn, this time I was sure I had got it about right but for some unexplained reason I took some socks along for the trip. I didn’t wear them of course because all I had for foot attire was two pairs of sandals including my favourite gladiators.

I had the gladiator sandals since 1999 when I went to Rhodes and they accompanied me abroad on every single beach holiday after that – always the first item in the bag.  They were showing signs of wear and not expected to see through this adventure. I  made it my mission to see how long I could make them last.

Gladiator Sandals Naxos Greece

Footnote (please excuse the pun):

The Gladiators made it through the holiday and lasted another two years when an important part of the shoe infrastructure failed (one of the straps snapped) and they had to be thrown away soon after.  I left them in Greece, I thought that was appropriate – a little bit of me is in a landfill site in Athens!

Have you been to the Greek Islands?  Which is your favourite?

Oia Santorini

Greek Islands, Sick, Suicidal or Anti-Social

Greek Hotel Rules

Travel Rules and Regulations…

This year in our hotel room on the island of Amorgos I was amused to find in the guest information folder a helpful copy of the Regulations, Article 8 of the Law 1652/30-10-86 which is a list of rules associated with renting a room.  These made entertaining reading and the following extracts were the pick of the bunch:

Article 1

“The hotelier may refuse the leasing if the clients a) Looks conspicuously ill, b) is under the influence of alcohol or c) has an untidy appearance.”

This seems a bit harsh, whilst I agree that a hotel might not want to let a room to a drunk what if someone who needs a room had suffered from sea sickness on the ferry and was looking a bit green or was just a bet dishevelled at the end of a long day back packing? Who decides what constitutes being untidy I wonder?  My daughter can turn a hotel room into a scene of total devastation and would be obliged to leave after about five minutes or so!

Sifnos Greece

Article 8

“If the room is leased for a fixed time the hotelier has not the right to break the lease unless the client a) transgresses the regulations, b) is taken ill suffering from a contagious disease or any other disease causing inconvenience to other clients, or c) behaves against the commonly accepted moral law.”

This seems a bit unfair on anyone feeling a bit unwell or has a cold with an annoying cough for example and I would be intrigued to know exactly what the commonly accepted moral law is, it sounds as though this could be interpreted as almost anything?

Article 20

“The client on arrival at the hotel must hand over to the hotelier or to the competent director the precious or of considerable value articles and the money that he carries with him, against receipt.”

Can’t help thinking that is going to be a bit inconvenient, especially the money bit, how are you supposed to eat?

Milos Greece Cyclades

Article 21

“In case of illness due to an infectious or contagious or mental disease as well as in the case of death or suicide of a client the hotelier is entitled to compensation by the client for the expenses he underwent as a result of the happening.”

My advice is try not to have any sort of illness that might be messy, such as diarrhoea for example, and if you are going to kill yourself do it in a way that is quick to clear up otherwise your family are going to end up with a large bill.  On the other hand I’m not sure how relevant this illness rule is because under Article 8 a sick client will already have been thrown out on the street and that includes the mental cases who might do themselves in.

Folegandros Chora

My personal favourite just has to be:

Article 23

“It is forbidden a) the preparations of meals or decorations by the clients in the hotel room also the taking of meals in the room with the exception of sick clients, b) the use of petrol engines or electrical appliances, c) the use of electrical current for other purposes than lighting or shaving”.

You will have spotted the inconsistency here because clients aren’t allowed to be sick (see article 8), who in their right mind is going to use a petrol engine in a hotel room and why is it ok to use electricity to shave but presumably not to dry your hair?

Corfu Turtle

It goes on “d) the washing of linen or clothing, e) the placing of luggage in the corridors, f) the changing of position of the rooms furniture and the operating of holes into the walls for hanging photographs, g) the keeping of domestic animals, h) gambling, i) noisy music and songs which might cause inconvenience to others.

This is a pretty comprehensive list of don’ts and I have personally broken at least half of these rules.  I have certainly eaten food in my room, used electrical appliances, washed my dirty underpants out in the sink, played cards for money, kept a turtle in my room, reorganised the furniture on the balcony and put my bag down for a moment or two in the corridor.  On the other hand I haven’t ever used a petrol engine or a Black and Decker drill to make holes in the wall or organised a rave in my room.

Article 24

“If the client violates the provisions of the regulations, continually makes noise and behaves in an improper way he may be considered as undesirable and asked to leave the hotel within twenty-four hours and evacuate his room”

I wonder why, if someone was behaving so badly, they get twenty-four hours notice to leave when a sick person, it would seem, has to vacate immediately – this hardly seems fair!

Have you ever come across any odd rules and regulations when travelling?

Greek Hotel Rules

Weekly Photo Challenge: Connected

Priest on a mobile phone

Like all island towns Plaka on Milos was predominantly white with blue doors, external staircases, playful kittens and discreet little shops, most of which were closed on account of this being siesta time.  There must have been some sort of priest’s convention in town today because there were dozens of black robed ministers everywhere, in the bakery having morning coffee and later in the taverna having lunch and what we thought was really strange was that they were almost constantly on their mobile phones.

Priest with mobile phone Milos Greece

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol – Saint Spyridon

spyridon

I don’t know if this was a special day in Corfu for Saint Spyridon but I suspect it might have been because inside the place was so busy it resembled the first day of the Harrods January sale and people were pushing and shoving and waiting in a long line for their turn to visit the silver casket and to make a request for a miracle cure or for the winning lottery numbers.

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Car Hire Misadventures – The Driving Licence

Winter Tyres in the Black Forest

In the laudable programme to reduce Government excess spending, from Monday June 8, the paper part of the UK driving licence – which shows details of restrictions and penalties – will be scrapped.

This really shouldn’t be  problem but it is anticipated that this might be a nuisance for people who want to hire holiday cars outside of the UK.

I really can’t remember the last time that I was aked to produce my paper copy of the licence.  But, let me predict that all of a sudden car hire firms will discover that this is a requirement of hire and I bet there will be a charge involved.

Never trust a car hire company!

Car Hire Crete

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Greek Chair SantoriniGreek Chair Serifos

The Chora was just as lethargic as the port, a few inquisitive visitors wandering aimlessly around the picturesque narrow cobbled streets and in between the whitewashed houses with paintwork cracked and splintered by the sun.  In the tight, sinuous streets paving stones have been edged in white and decorated with flowers, hearts, sailboats and slogans: “My Kimolos, my paradise”.  Lovely.

At the top the tall cathedral seemed somehow too big and out of scale with the tiny streets and boxy houses.  The streets were ramshackle and without order or planning as they wound their way to the centre and the sixteenth century Kastro, much of which was dilapidated and in ruins with heaps of rubble from collapsed and abandoned houses.

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