Week 16

5th April, 2009

Landed at 4.00 pm. Were intending to get the Hydrofoil service, Aegean Speedlines, at 7.30 am from Piraeus but they had emailed me on Saturday morning to say that they had to cancel. We went to our Hotel on Ermou Street (the Bond Street of Athens).

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We arrived at 6.30 am only having slept on the plane. We fell asleep on a settee in the Lobby until, at 7.00 am, someone suggested complimentary breakfast in the restaurant. You can’t beat the Electra Hotel’s breakfast:

Fresh Orange Juice (Cretan Oranges)
Fresh Fruit & thick, creamy Yoghurt
Bacon & Egg with sausages & scrambled eggs
Toast and Jam
Croissants (Chocolate)
Endless pots of Coffee & Tea

Stuffed as ducks, we take the lift to our room at 8.30 am and shower before falling in to bed. We get up about 2.30 in the afternoon. A cup of tea and another shower and it is 4.00 pm. We stroll out into the Athens sunshine to a local restaurant.

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It is Sunday and Greek Family Lunchtime. The restaurant is heaving. Fortunately, the owner recognises me. There are one or two benefits from being big and we have been going there for years. We order:

Greek Salad,
Gyros (slices of Pork with Pitta bread)
Half a Litre of House Red

Ten minutes later, another Half a Litre of House Red comes over from the owner and a plate of cooked meats to help it down. We didn’t need it but couldn’t refuse it. By 7.00 pm we were strolling back to our Hotel. Coffee in our room with the Greek TV News and then, at 9.00 pm, off out to the News Stands (Periptero) to buy the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph. Back at the hotel, we crash out for the night, catching up on lost sleep.

6th April, 2009

Woke up late – about 8.30 am – and showered. Pauline made a cup of tea. Down on the lift to Breakfast. I won’t bore you with the list again but we went through it. Suddenly we realised it was my birthday. Mum never forgot my birthday until last year. I should have realised something was wrong. Pauline’s Mum has never forgotten my birhday….until this year. I hope nothing is wrong. Well she is almost 95. It is raining outside in the Athens streets. We return from breakfast to our room and Sunday newspapers with coffee. There is no better way to spend a Sunday morning. BBC World, CNN & Mega News keeping us up to date. At 11.30 am we check our bags and go down to settle our bill. Then we go out into the damp Spring air of the Greek capital. I have to buy Pauline a €5 umbrella from a passing street hawker.

Our hotel is on the edge of Syndagma (Constitution) Square where the Greek Parliament buildings are.

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It is immediately obvious that there is a huge demonstration going on. Vans with multiple tannoys are being screamed from by extremely angry men and women. En route to the Metro station which is only a couple of hundred metres away, we call at the Post Office for some stamps. The noise from the demonstration is so loud it is difficult to hear what the cashier says. I ask a young man standing in the queue what the demonstrators are saying. He tells me they are from a factory in Northern Greece which is closing down. They have come to lobby the Minister. The Greeks are big on Democracy and instinctively opposed to Government and Authority. There is an in-built logical fallacy here that is never really acknowledged.

We take the Metro down to Piraeus, buy our ferry tickets and sit with cups of coffee in a portside cafenion until it is time to board.

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We get on at about 1.30 pm. The boat sails at 2.30 pm and calls at Kithnos, Serifos

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Serifos Harbour

and reaches Sifnos about 8.30 pm.

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Sifnos Port

We spend our time reading Sunday papers, drinking coffee and snoozing. Even so, the trip is quite tiring.

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Ferry Interior

We walk off the ferry and down the main street of Kamares, greeting locals as we do. Stavros is waiting for us in his Office about 200 m from the dock. He has a small Fiat car ready for us. He has to dash off to find Oscar, the family Labrador, who decided to make a bid for freedom as he left the house. We drive the Kilometre round the bay to our house.

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Everything is exactly as we left it. Stavros has sent a girl (Luciana) over to clean our house.  We turn the electric blanket on to air the bed and set off to Simos restaurant at about 10.00 pm for dinner

The menu is simple: Salad, Potatoes (Roast or Fried), Home-Reared Beef or Pork, Chicken in Lemon Sauce. I have Pork, Pauline has Beef. We toast my birthday wih a litre of House Red.

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We drive back to the house and turn the TV on only to find the satellite service isn’t working. We can’t get BBC or CNN. More importantly, we can’t get Sport channels and there are two Champions League matches this week. All we have got is two Greek channels: Alpha and ET3. This latter gives a very detailed, five day weather forecast. We learn that the weather should be good until Thursday and then a bit of rain will arrive. We are happy. After a litre of wine and a long day of travel, we are tired and ready for bed. Pauline has aired the mattress with an electric blanket for the past few hours. The bed linen is aired and warmed in the tumble dryer. We have a warm bath and fall into bed. Shutters closed; everywhere is pitch black and silent. We sleep like logs.

7th April, 2009

Waking at 9.00 am (7.00 am British time), we make tea and toast with Pauline’s Fig Jam made last Summer. We shower and greet blue skies and sunshine. I phone Stavros and tell him about our problems with the TV and the window closure. Normally a Greek will answer, No Problem and come round a week on Thursday to look at the task in hand. Within a few minutes, Stavros phones back to say Katerina’s husband will be round to check the Satellite dish and Nikos, the woodman would send someone round to deal with the window. Stavros is no normal Greek. Unfortunately, the TV man and the Woodman are. They don’t turn up until Wednesday and Thursday respectively

We go to the local ‘supermarket’ – well, large corner shop. Because we will soon spend long periods in Greece and because the Euro is strong against the pound, I have set up an accounts program so that Pauline can record each purchase and its cost in Euros with a Sterling conversion. It also has a Daily Spend model. The idea is that we track our Daily/Weekly outgoings in order to budget more efficiently and we run a comparison with UK prices to inform our spending.

As this develops over the week, it is clear that the overall spend Greece-UK is very similar but some items are very expensive on the island. For example, a 250g pack of Country Life butter in Sainsbury’s is currently £1.00. In contrast, a 250g pack of Lurpack in Sifnos is €3.25 or £2.95. It will do me good to cut down on butter. On the other hand, two plaice fillets which we estimate would have cost us £4.00 in UK cost only £2.20 in Sifnos. I need to eat more fish.

This evening, Pauline makes fish pie. It is out of this world. It is washed down with a delicious bottle of chilled Italian white wine we bought on our way over last Summer. I’ve only got sixty bottles left so we’ll be shopping on the way over this summer. We sit outside with coffee watching the full moon rise over our house. We read our magazines – brought with us for exactly this eventuality and have a hot bath before sneaking off to bed early.

8th April, 2009

All things come to he who waits. Today the TV man came. He looked at the lack of programmes without speaking for an uncomfortably long time and then wearily decided he would have to climb the stone steps to the roof of our Cycladic house where the satellite dish was mounted. We have an unusually large dish – three feet in diameter because we had tried to get Sky. Unfortunately, we are so near the edge of its footprint that we would need a dish the size of Joderel Bank at huge cost to achieve an even intermittent service. However, because of the size of our dish, the strong winds had bent the mount. It all needed reseating. That done, we were soon watching BBC News and getting excited about Liverpool-Chelsea live this evening.

Pauline had been to the Butchers and bought Pork Chops as big as houses. We prepared these for dinner accompanied by Lyonnais potatoes. It was absolutely wonderful washed down with a bottle of claret. We watched Mega News and weather which said that Thursday would be warm and sunny again. The football came on at 9.45 pm (7.45 pm English) but it was a disappointment. Despite scoring an early first goal, Liverpool didn’t play well and lost 1-3. I hate Chelsea!

9th April, 2009

The window man, Adonis, came today on his bright red Yamaha. He fixed the window in no time and went away with a bright, Yassas. The day was scorching hot. We had lunch on the patio – cheese & ham Panninis. (We brought out Pannini maker to Sifnos with us.) Unfortunately, we wash this down with ice cold Italian white wine and, subsequently, I fall asleep. I awake red faced and slink away to find After Sun to soothe me.

10th April, 2009

We pledged to get up earlier today. We didn’t. It was 8.30 am. We have set certain rules for ourselves. We will have a shower every morning. I will have a shave. We will have a bath every evening irrespective of how tired we are. After shower & shave, Tea & Toast (Pauline made bread yesterday and the toast is wonderful.), we go out for a drive to Vathi.

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We walk along the deserted beach in hot sunshine. It is heaven. On the way back we call at a shop and buy packets of seeds while they are still available – Rocket, Radishes, Sweet Basil, Flat-Leafed Parsley. All these things can be sown in mid-July and harvested before we leave at end of October.

Cheese & biscuits on the patio for Lunch with a bottle of chilled Orvieto Classico. Same routine, fell asleep, hot sun, red face, after sun, etc.. Later, did some walking in our grounds. Shattered by the time we get back. Need another sleep. Watched Animal Rescue on TV and the 8.00 pm Mega News. Fell asleep and missed the weather. Had to watch Net News just for the weather. Bath and bed. I seem to spend a lot of time sleeping. I don’t know why.

11thApril, 2009

We pledged to get up earlier today. We didn’t. It was 9.00 am A few clouds in the sky. What’s happening to the weather nowadays? Actually, by the time we have had tea & toast, the sun has all but burnt off the cloud. We are going to the hardware shop today to look at gardening tools. It doesn’t get much better than this.

We drive up to a small village called Artemonas.

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We’ve only been there ten minutes when Stavros arrives in his lorry (bought in Hull five years ago and still under UK plates.) He has come for some fresh gravel to lay around his apartments. He has Nikos with him. I steal Nikos’ cap and make him chase me for it. We tentatively agree Dinner out tonight with Stavros (if Sarah allows him out.) but buy a chicken in case it doesn’t happen.

Back to the house for coffee and biscuits with a magazine. Lunch of Bacon & Eggs on the patio in rather hot sunshine and then an afternoon of sport. Nova TV show live Blackburn losing to Liverpool, Chelsea just beating Bolton, 4-3 and, later, Newcastle drawing 1-1 at Stoke. Stavros doesn’t make dinner and we settle for cheese on toast. Early night tonight. Bath and bed at 11.30 pm.

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