Week 672

Sunday, 7th November, 2021

Better sleep last night but we were still up at 6.30 am. Out walking in sunshine before 9.00 am. It is a lovely time to be out in a lovely place. While so much of the world still sleeps after a hard week’s work, they leave the countryside and beach to us.

It’s lovely and green around our house and the grass, trees, birds, rabbits, squirrels combine to make it an enjoyable walk.

The sun rises over our beach of shingle.

Our beach is not so easy to walk on because it is loose, deep shingle but the paths along the edge are there to encourage us.

We have done a couple of early hours of exercise because we have guests for Lunch today. I’m looking forward to it. We’re having line-caught, wild sea bass griddled in the garden. Wonderful!

Monday, 8th November, 2021

Had a lovely day yesterday and a really enjoyable Lunch with M & P. We griddled fish outside in glorious sunshine and ate with the conservatory doors open as the sunshine streamed in. Lovely conversation. We talked about plans to visit them in Florida in March next year and about property prices. We are still looking for somewhere to invest from our Greek House sale. We have flitted from UK …. to France … to Spain. What about Florida? Property prices are incredibly cheap.

I was inspired to do some research. I have been looking in Manatee County, Florida near Sarasota on the coast just below Tampa. This property featured above is on at under £400,000.00. It’s on the Lakewood Ranch and comes with this lovely pool and fitness centre, a kitchen you’d need binoculars to see the ends of and 4 bedrooms plus 3 bathrooms. I don’t know how US property is in terms of an investment potential but it could produce a rental income when were are not there.

The world is a wonderful place. Yesterday I posted images of the present. Today I post pictures of the past and the potential future. John Ridley sent me this autumnal photograph of a scene from Ripon.

Lovely sunshine again this morning as we set out for an early walk. Tomorrow, I will have to be up very early to get my exercise in before we drive to Gatwick. Virtually everything is ready …

Tuesday, 9th November, 2021

Many would say I’m mad. Others say I’m obsessive. I prefer to think that I am committed to my goals. So it was that I got up at 4.00 am and was jogging down the road soon after. Got to get my exercise routine largely completed before we fly. Delightful morning. Really warm and quite light. I did my route with a happy heart. Exactly at 4.55 am, the birds started singing. I beat them to it by almost an hour.

Back home by 5.30 am , it was all systems go with last preparations before driving to the airport. First flight since November 2019 and first ever wearing a mask for the entire time. Going to be an interesting experience.

A kiss in the sky over Gatwick.

Everything about the flying experience illustrated how hollowed out it has been by the pandemic. The Long Stay carpark was half empty. Normally, we have to search for spaces. The airport was quiet and our flight half empty. We had 3 seats for 2 people. 

Having been up early and out exercising, I slept through a lot of the 3hrs 20mins flight although there was terrible turbulence as we crossed the snow covered Alps which woke me up. In Athens airport we have never disembarked, gone through security, collected our bags and got a taxi so fast in our lives. It was all down to lack of passenger demand. A 40 mins taxi ride – €45.00 – to our hotel, the Electra Palace.

More than 30 years ago, I read a book by Austen Kark, former Head of BBC World Service. It was about his love of Greece and described the journey he and his wife had gone through to build a house in Nafplion on the Greek mainland. It inspired us to buy a field and build a house on a small, remote Cycladic island over 20 years ago. Austen Kark was married to Nina Bawden, author of children’s fiction like ‘Carrie’s War’ which I had taught in my early career. As they supervised their house build, they would stay in the ‘Electra Palace Hotel’ in Athens. 

Sadly, Bawden was badly injured in the Potters Bar rail crash in 2002 in which her husband, Austen Kark, was killed. I went on to build my house and stay in exactly the same grand, old hotel in Athens. We have been staying there every year sometimes a number of times each year for the past 20. We really missed not going in 2020 and have returned this week to reconnect. This photo is of the little Lobby.

Wednesday,10th November, 2021

A lovely morning although we were up a little late … 7.00 am (Greek Time) / 5.00 am (UK Time). I ate scrambled egg for Breakfast and felt absolutely ‘stuffed’. Our table overlooked the Acropolis and so does the balcony of our Suite. It is really lovely to be back in Greece, in general, and Athens in particular. I want to share the experience with everyone!

After Breakfast, we went out to Monastiraki Metro Station and bought 5-Day travel passes for €8.00 each.This allows us unlimited travel and we set of for Kalithea in the sunshine.

We walked, went into a supermarket to buy some bottles of wine and then took the Metro back to our hotel. Coffee and newspapers and then out for a long walk through Kolonaki and the Embassy area towards Panepistimio and the University area all in lovely sunshine but quite busy and noisy with City traffic everywhere.

Just a little glass of Vimto.

This evening out to our favourite street-side restaurant for grilled sea bass and salad and another walk before an earlier night to recover. Actually, it will be midnight (Greek Time/10.00 pm UK Time) for Pauline and 1.30 am Greek Time (11.30 pm UK Time) for me. I have to watch Sky Newspaper Review followed by BBC2 Newsnight before I can sleep.

Thursday, 11th November, 2021

A delightful evening visiting old times like the Ithaca Restaurant we ate at one cold night perhaps 20 years ago. We walked down Odos Ermou – Athens Oxford Street – and listened to the buskers and the excited chatter of all the young people. We were young once. Time is running out and we must take every chance that lies ahead. This chap was waiting just for me. I sent the photo by WhatsApp to Kevin. We ate griddled Sea Bass and Greek Salad for Dinner and walked back to our hotel to watch a Netflix film.

Slept quite well although I’m not coping with Breakfast. I’m really going to have to give it a miss. Went out for a sunny walk to look at the Omonia Square development. It wasn’t half as impressive as the Greeks would have us believe. Two years they’ve been working on it. We went round the huge fish and meat market. Pauline bought bags of dried Oregano for her store cupboard and we fended off all sorts of desperate hawkers from restaurants to clothes shops and two determined young women who insisted I was the double of George Clooney and should buy my wife a single stem rose. Funny to see all the Greeks wrapped up as if it was mid-winter whereas I was in shorts and tee shirt. They would never survive in Northern England!

Omonia Square

I spent an hour on the phone to Scotland this afternoon talking to a delightful girl from BT who was working from a shed in her garden as she tried to sort my email delivery out. It often goes wrong when I’m abroad and it is difficult to live without it it. The hour was enjoyable but not completely successful.

At least we managed to enjoy a complimentary bottle of the hotel’s red wine as I talked. Scotland, apparently, was cold and wet this morning and she had the heating on in her shed. I was sitting on the balcony overlooking Athens.

Friday 12th, November, 2021

Metropolis Square

We walked back in the darkness across Metropolis Square from the restaurant last night and then got up at 5.00 am this morning still in darkness. The Acropolis was still lit up and visible from our balcony.

We decided to go out for a walk in the quiet, dark streets that were still wet from the street cleaner’s work overnight. We walked around the base of the Acropolis past the Museum, through Thissio – the home of Theseus, the legendary King of Athens. Few people were about but lots of stray cats and the occasional homeless man, huddled under coats and sleeping on cardboard. We walked for about 90 mins and then returned for breakfast.

This is a lovely, old hotel and our suite is very comfortable. The corridors feature copies of ancient artefacts and reliefs like this one outside our door. The modern, top floor Restaurant looks out across the city.

The modern, top floor Restaurant looks out across the city and out towards the hills of Athens.

Through the Restaurant window out across the city.

After breakfast this morning, we are going to take the Metro down to the port of Piraeus to renew our acquaintance with the ferry traffic that we have used so much over the years.

Saturday 13th, November, 2021

Beautiful morning. The sun is up. The sky is blue. We’ve already had breakfast even though we pledged last night not to have any because we were so full. It is 7.30 am (GT)/ 5.30 am (UKT) and I’ve found my thoughts straying to what I’ve left behind just as much as what I’m going to do today. Strange but true. 

Yesterday was so warm and sunny. We took the Metro down to Piraeus and walked in the sunshine round the port we know so well. It was very quiet with Ferry boats tied up and few passengers. The colours were beautiful. 

“Deep greens and blues are the colours I choose.Won’t you let me go down in my dreams and rockabye sweet, baby James.” I just love the colours of the Mediterranean/Aegean seas, the warm air and the delicious smells as foreign languages drift over the city.

Fruit Seller outside Monastiraki Station

We took the Metro back to Monastiraki station and bought huge punnets of  sweet, ripe figs to carry back to the hotel. Pauline called at her regular leather shop in the Plaka where she has bought so many bags, sandals, shoes, etc. This time it was belts which all needed shortening and new holes punching. Lovely people who do the whole process from tanning hides in the local factory to selling finished products in their market shop.

The city is preparing for the Athens Marathon tomorrow. I’ve have been hard in training and think I’m ready. Unfortunately, my wife believes I would die in the attempt and, despite the lure of the insurance payout, insists I can only spectate although I could walk the course today.

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