Friday, 11 August 2017

TROPEAN DAYTIME LOOKS


Anne H here following up on my July holiday to Tropea.  I have featured Tropea itself on a number of blog posts (here, here and here) and thought that this time I would focus on the clothes I wore on holiday, split over two posts featuring daytime and evening looks.  One of the key things with me is that I reintroduce the same clothes year after year.  I don't know about anyone else who lives in the cloudy and often wet UK, but my summer holiday wardrobe is completely different from my usual outfits and really only gets used a couple of weeks each year. Hence, I tend to only buy the odd new item each year.  


The outfit above is a rerun of last years - the blue longline shirt is from Zara and a really useful addition to any wardrobe as it can be worn as a cover up or, as here, over trousers. The linen trousers are also Zara and the sandals were purchased this year when on holiday in Rome.

If I was looking for a shirt like this now I would go for this one from Zara  because I really like the structure, or this flowing shirt from Mango.  



I did actually buy these trousers this year when in Rye.  They have a fab elasticated waist and a loose unstructured style that I love for holiday but never wear when I am home in the UK.  They are by a brand called d.e.c.k by decollage and seem to be stocked mostly by independent retailers. The top is another from Zara and is a really cool swing design with lots of pleats.  Both items are man made fabrics but still cool to wear on a hot summer days. The sandals are from Next and I have had them for ages - sadly they are due for the bin now as the metalwork is coming away.  



The top below was purchased earlier this year - so much for me saying I don't buy much summer clothing, clearly a lie!  It is from a brand called Aspiga and is a really light cotton and comfortable to wear, again as a cover up or over trousers.  This one is available on their site in the sale and also comes in white. They are brilliant site for summer beach wear including some beautiful sandals, so well worth a look.  


Relieved to say that I have had the cotton turn up trousers for a number of years and they have a bit more structure to them than the linen ones so make an outfit look a bit smarter. They are by a brand called YaYa, again stocked by independents, but I think these cotton blend M & S trousers are pretty good too.


The next outfit is also a re-run, being a white top from River Island and black linen trousers from Zara.  I like this pair from Next as they are long enough for me. I tend to favour full length trousers over cropped or capri and like a flowing shape for summer wear.  For a similar top I would go for this one from Fat Face via John Lewis as it has a similar length and feel to it. 




When we were in Rome a couple of years ago I bought this simple cotton top from Muji in both blue and white.  It is not somewhere you might naturally think to go for clothing, but they have a great range of simple classic designs in natural materials. 


The trousers are the YaYa ones previously featured, but wait for it some more new shoes! These are my favourite, most comfortable and the third pair that I have owned, so almost a re-run.  They are Varca and are made in Menorca.  I first came across them in Majorca when my daughter was little and I bought a pair for her and quickly realised that they were a very clever design - a sling back that does not come off your foot... perfect for a child or adult. Then I discovered them in the UK years later for adults so I got buying and never regretted it.  I go for the flat version and they are so so easy to wear, I can walk for miles in them. 


Back with some true oldies - this H & M sleeveless top is an old favourite and a lovely slate grey. It washes like a rag and is a really flattering cut and length.  I have again teamed it with Zara linen trousers and those Roman sandals.   I try to get maximum wear out of what I have taken by teaming different tops for day and evening with the same trousers - as you will see on the post next week. 


And just to share some sunshine from our days in Tropea. Which I am missing so so much now.  Got the heating on and a cardigan.  Yep, truly home in Blighty.  







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Friday, 4 August 2017

ANNE BOLEYN AND THE GARDEN OF ENGLAND


Back to Anne H this week - as both Anne C and I have been in separate countries for pretty much the last two months!  I am continuing my trips round the UK, this time spending a week in Kent to attend a friend's son's wedding and then taking in some of the sights of the beautiful "garden of England" county. Above is the outfit I wore to the wedding which was held in Princess Diana's old school West Heath, a fabulous venue for such a special day. I am wearing a dress purchased from Fenn Wright Manson - the Montpellier design - and which is now in the sale at £118. The shoes are from Carvela Kurt Geiger and I teamed them with a clutch and pashmina from Simply Devine in Tadcaster. 


HEVER CASTLE 



On our first foray into the tourist hotspots of Kent, we visited Hever Castle on a beautiful sunny day. I am a great lover of country houses and have always had a particular interest in the Tudor period, so the chance to visit Anne Boleyn's family home was not to be missed.



It is a visit I cannot recommend enough, from the fabulous cafe to the gardens, and of course the house itself, there is so much to see and enjoy. The history and ownership of the house spanning more than 700 years is amazing and includes not just the Boleyns but Anne of Cleves as well.



The American William Waldorf Astor purchased the property in the early 1900s and was responsible for refurbishing the house and the creation of the gardens, including the beautiful 38 acre lake which was built by 800 men in under 2 years ....just a mind boggling feat. The Italian Garden was created to house Astor's amazing collection of Italian sculptures and overall he allegedly spent £10 million on the house and gardens (£1 billion in today's money!). The lake and gardens alone were reputed to have had £1 million spent on them (£110 million today). Hard to imagine that anyone could invest those sort of funds these days, but he must have been thrilled with the final result.



The walled rose garden was particularly beautiful and now reaching its full maturity.  The first flowering will have been in June but the colours are still amazing and the sheer number of plants staggering. I wouldn't want to dead head this lot!


There are beautiful walks and different gardens throughout the estate and even mazes - a yew and a water one.


WIMBLEDON

I also made my first ever visit to the Wimbledon tournament with tickets for court Number 1 for the quarter finals of the women's tennis. It was a great day out and only marred by the weather - one of the few days of rain in the whole of the 2017 tournament. So sadly there was minimal tennis, although we saw one full match and three-quarters of the second including watching the overall winner Garbine Muguruza play.   


PENSHURST

We made our way to Penshurst, which is less than six miles from where we were staying in Tonbridge, to eat at The Bottle House Inn and restaurant where we had a brilliant meal. I was particularly taken by the pub sign which was really imaginative and has been designed by the son of the owner and handmade by Adam Aaronson Glass Studio.  


The Inn itself reflects the style of building often found in Kent with red roof and white clapper board cladding, cosy interiors and a really friendly and helpful staff to boot.



Having enjoyed a hearty meal we headed down into Penshurst to wander round the pretty churchyard and village which had established itself around Penshurst Place - the ancestral home of the Sidney family. Sadly the house itself was closed as it was evening time but the local hotel The Leicester Arms was open so we popped in for a coffee before heading back.  


RYE 


On our final full day in Kent we ventured by train to Rye which is located in East Sussex. This pretty town with cobbled streets and medieval black and white buildings reminded me of York and in particular the Shambles. In medieval times it was an important Cinque Port and indeed was surrounded by the sea although now the harbour is some 2 miles from the town itself.



The parish church of St Mary's dominates the town and includes some beautiful stained glass windows and is well worth a visit. 



Voted one of the prettiest streets is Mermaid Street which is home to The Mermaid Inn,  notorious for its links to smugglers who are said to still haunt the premises.  The cellars of the inn date back to the 12th century although much of the current building was primarily from the 16th century, so lots of low ceilings and beams abound in this fantastic building.



It has been a delight to see yet another corner of our beautiful United Kingdom and I look forward to venturing to some more new destinations in the coming months.  If you could guarantee sun in the summer months, there really would be no point in venturing further afield!


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Friday, 28 July 2017

CHURCHES, MONASTERIES AND BEACHES


Like most of the Greek Islands, Thassos is rich in history and mythology.  I love the story that the sirens in the tales of Ulysses hailed from Thassos and their beautiful singing voices attracted hapless men to them, before they met their untimely deaths at the hands of the murdering sirens!

However, more likely that the changes in culture on this wonderful island hailed from times when the inhabitants were either invaded by variously the Romans, Turks, Macedonians and Bulgarians, or when visiting prophets, apostles or missionaries visited.

One of the oldest religious sites is at Aliki - which boasts a beautiful beach and small cove, as well reputedly the oldest Christian church on the island, said to date back to the 5th Century.  The remains of the churchyard, sarcophagus and caves still remain, and you can wander through what would have been the church building.  Sitting atop a small hill, the original site has views over the sea and alongside an old marble quarry.


Ancient Thassos was rich in minerals and marble - interestingly the marble is still quarried today, producing a very pretty pale marble with delicate pink veins running through.  Sitting next to the harbour in Thassos town, there is many a large wagon rumbling past with huge slabs of marble strapped to the bed - presumably making its way to the mainland destined for a luxury hotel or villa!



The ancient graveyard at Aliki

Not too far away is the Archangel Michael Monastery, at the top of a huge cliff, housing a community of nuns, with the most spectacular views over the Agean Sea. Female visitors must cover their arms completely and wear long skirts (but not trousers!) to be allowed into the grounds. We were not allowed into the monastery itself, but wandered through the well kept gardens, past the living accommodation and into a small chapel and priest sitting room.  

The view from the Archangel Michael Monastery


BEAUTIFUL BEACHES


The circular road around the island takes about one and a half hours to drive, and along the way there are more coves, harbours, and small beached than you can count.  The beautiful tranquil waters are a magnificent turquoise colour and are crystal clear - such a wonderful change from the British coastal resorts.

Beaches are clean and free from litter, and everywhere there are colourful flowers overflowing in pots, which is such a pleasure to see and smell - geraniums, honeysuckle and jasmine are in adbudance.






The island is very green, which is probably why we experienced rain during our first week there.  The mountains are lush with forests - home to wild mountain goats and apparently, plenty of snakes!

During our visit to Aliki and the tiny stunning village of Kazaviti, however, we were reminded that natural disasters are never far away.  Last year forest fires devastated swathes of the island around the village and Aliki - the sad blackened tree trunks a stark reminder of the devastation caused when dry thunderstorms and lightening caused huge fires.  Fortunately thanks to the efforts of residents, firefighters, the military and even tourists, there was no loss of life, and only minimal damage to property.





This  ancient tree in Kazatiti managed to avoid the devastating forest fires which swept the island last year


One of my favourite spots was Skala Marion - a stunning little spot with a small beach, next to a harbour.  It isn't a big resort, but a pretty village to stop and have lunch or a coffee and watch the world go by. With crystal clear azure waters, we watched some locals fishing from the rocks - pure bliss!




Hercules and Antigone (our Greek Hotel owners) also took us out along the coast for an evening meal at the fabulous little restaurant Glifoneri in a quiet cove just outside Thassos town - sorry the picture quality is not great, but it was such a perfect evening. There are several tavernas tucked away along the coastline just outside Thassos town, so plenty to choose from.

Another great spot we found was the Tarsanas resort, with accommodation, two fabulous restaurants, a wonderfully comfortable bar area and a private beach with sun-loungers. Owned by the larger-than-life George, the beachside bar offers romantic softly draped loungers, reminiscent of a luxury Caribbean hideaway.  You don't even need to be a resident to use the facilities, though you are expected to buy food and drink.


I hope I have given a flavour of the island - you can probably tell that we had a wonderful holiday and that we loved the place.  And guess what?  We will be returning next year! Such is the power of our blog that some more friends of ours have asked to come with us!
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Friday, 21 July 2017

AROUND THASSOS TOWN

The old harbour in Thassos town

Anne C here - and this is the second of my Thassos holiday blog.  Last week I gave an overview of this beautiful island, but there is much to see and do in Thassos town (officially called Limenas Thasou, which means Port of Thassos) which is where we stayed.

Our small friendly hotel, Antigone Hotel, owned by the lovely Antigone and Hercules, was just a few hundred yards from the main town, but very quiet (apart from the cock crowing in the morning), so was very convenient for bars, restaurants and shops. With cooking facilities on two rings and a full size fridge, the facilities were more than adequate, though I didn't plan to do any cooking while on holiday, but it would probably be useful for those holidaying with children.

We arrived by ferry from Keramoti in torrential rain on the late May Bank Holiday weekend, but miraculously on the 1st of June, the weather changed and the temperature soared.  The ferry port is right in the centre of the resort, and we spent many an hour in bars and cafes watching the boats dock and depart, while enjoying a refreshing frappe or a pastry.


As well as the port for the car and passenger ferries, there is also a small harbour for the fishing boats and tourist trips, with local bars and more sophisticated restaurants and hotels. We spent a wonderful evening with Antigone and Hercules and their two grown sons (Panos and Adonis, with Panos's beautiful wife Maria and new baby - little Antigone) at the local "dirty bar" on the harbour-side.  We sat outside so I have no idea if it was dirty, just that the company was exceptional, although the menu was apparently very limited - they prepared only what they had in the kitchen that day.  It was all washed down with ouzo and a lethal drink called Tsipouro (pronounced chiporo)  - which having tried just once, I gave a wide berth afterwards!


The slipway from the old boat yard

Taking a walk from one end of Thassos town to the other, (probably about two miles) we came across the remains of the old boat yard, complete with the original slipway.  There are no boats there now, just a small marble beach and a taverna. We walked through the woods behind the beach, which offers magnificent views, where we stumbled on a tiny church (of which the island has many), and then back into the main town.

Since marble is still quarried on the island, it was surprising to see that they use up all the small chips on the beach - not sure why, except that it's probably cheap and looks pretty - but plays havoc with your feet, so not great for sunbathing or walking on unless you have a sturdy sunbed and shoes! There is another beach called, not surprisingly, Marble Beach, with even more marble spread over the sand.

They also use the larger chunks in part against the harbour walls as a sea-barrier.  (Hubby pictured walking with our friend, but he hates being in photos!)

The marble coastal barrier near the near harbour - (hubby in the striped top)


ANCIENT THASSOS


There are ancient ruins dotted around the town, in fact all over the island, including the Gates of Zeus and Hades just near our hotel - basically a lot of stones in an overgrown garden. I have looked for the origins of this site, but apart from finding that the House of Hades was the gateway for the dead to enter the underworld, where they were met by the King and Queen - Hades and Persiphone - the stones were probably an ancient graveyard or mausoleum.

The ruins of the original centre of Thassos

The ancient agora (city centre) of Thassos, close to the old harbour, was discovered relatively recently by French archaeologists during excavations in the late 1940s/early 1950s and was the original city of Thassos, with its city gates, municipal buildings, commercial, political and religious centres.  Built between the fourth and second centuries BC, it is now the subject of a research programme to determine the architecture and topography of the site, funded by the architectural institute, the French School at Athens. Surprisingly, you can wander freely around the site - situated opposite the architectural museum - free of charge and without restriction.

The old harbour in Thassos town - you can see the live webcam here which swings from the old to the new harbours where the ferries dock


SHOPPING


I'm not going to lie - I did do rather a lot of shopping - and will probably save my Thassos purchases for another blog to show my holiday haul!  Thassos Town does have a lot of touristy shops selling everything from olive oil to toiletries containing donkey milk, and the usual sunhats and bikinis, but there were some little gems in there too.  I have previously mentioned Iris Gold for reasonably-priced jewellery, but there were a couple of nice boutiques selling costume jewellery, handbags and pretty summer clothing.

I have a thing about Greek doorways - me pictured outside a lovely old wooden entryway

Eating and drinking


There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, and because we visited with friends who have an apartment in Thassos, we tended to stick with their tried and tested favourites.

Mylos in the centre of the shopping area, just one road back from the old harbour was my favourite, serving wonderful warm fresh bread with tzatziki, tasty prawn saganaki and delicious chicken souvlaki - we probably ate there three or four times and were never disappointed.


Because we were there early in the season, as is the custom in Greece, even after you have paid for your meal, they bring out free wine, delicious honey-soaked cakes and refreshing watermelon - sometimes you just can't get away!


Another doorway - though this was for decoration only

Another favourite was Ambrosia owned by the wonderfully friendly George,  who served up his best tsipouro even after we had paid.  It isn't my favourite drink but you don't like to offend.....

Fish is a popular dish on all menus - mostly freshly caught that day as the fishermen come into port - with catches including octopus (calamari) to dogfish and gavros (anchovies). I didn't particularly eat much fish as they do tend to keep the bones in when they cook them, but it is an island speciality.

We had one fairly miserable experience eating out, but I won't go into that or mention them here - maybe we just caught them on a bad day as they get good reviews on Tripadvisor!

Photo a bit blurred - you couldn't keep up! Lovely Hercules with our friend Karen having a dance

GREEK DANCING 


However, we did have one absolutely fabulous night at Mouses - complete with a Greek band and dancing.  Gone are the plate-smashing days, banned by the government in 1969 apparently, but I remember it from Greek restaurants in the 80s and 90s, so they threw hundreds of paper napkins around instead as the tempo of the music increased! We were all exhausted but it was great fun, though I'm glad we didn't have to sweep up afterwards!

Another favourite restaurant was Pigi's, in the old square (more ruins!), which was closer to our accommodation, a lovely family run restaurant, where I developed a taste for courgettes thinly slices, mixed with cheese and herbs and dipped in flour, fried and served with a mayonnaise-like sauce.  Delicious, if rather fattening!


Next week I will finish off  my Thassos travels, with our various visits to churches, monasteries and beaches.
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Friday, 14 July 2017

MY FIRST VISIT TO THE GREEK ISLAND OF THASSOS


Anne C here. I have been holidaying on the Greek Islands for more years than I care to remember, having visited Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Lesbos, settling on Santorini, where we have been holidaying for the past 16 years.  Friends of ours have an apartment in Thassos, and this year they invited us to travel with them - and if I'm honest, it is an island which did not have any immediate appeal.  How wrong I was!



It didn't bode well when we arrived in torrential rain during May Bank Holiday weekend, and for the first couple of days the weather was a little chilly and overcast.... so much so that I had to go out and buy a heavy fleecy to keep warm. But miraculously on the 1st of June, everything changed - the sun came out, the cafes put out their al-fresco dining chairs and the whole island was transformed!




The first few days saw us sightseeing - and what a beautiful island it is, matched only by the warmth and friendliness of the people.  Of course it helped that our friends had been several times and knew lots of locals, but they welcomed us all with open arms and that innate Greek charm and friendliness which makes us return each year.







TOURING THE ISLAND


On our first day we visited the pretty town of Panagia, high above sea level, where the spring waters are alleged to make you look younger - so of course I made sure I had a good drink of that!  The beautiful local church was being re-painted, all in lovely Wedgwood blue and white, both inside and out.  Typical of Greek houses, they often paint their homes in blue and white, dating back to various occupations when the Greek flag was banned.  They painted their houses in the colours of the flag to signal their defiance of the occupation.



Our next call was to Golden Beach at Skala Panagia - which was utterly deserted the first time we visited but was crowded just a few days later when the sun came out.  I loved this chocolate box hotel (pictured below) just off Golden Beach, though we didn't stay there. Instead, we enjoyed a coffee at Viglis Restaurant (terrible TripAdvisor reviews but coffee was perfect!) , with a fabulous view of the beach on one side and a beautiful small cove on the other.

*The beach resorts begin "Skala ...." with the name of the nearest village - though in reality they can be several miles away.




From there it was just a short ride to Skala Potomia, a wonderful long beach with a small harbour and museum at the end, which was utterly transformed in just a few days, with sunloungers, paragliding, snorkling and jetskis available. 


There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, but if you're looking for somewhere quiet and peaceful - this is probably not the place, although the local wildlife (below) didn't seem to mind!





Thassos is a very mountainous island, so fabulous if you enjoy hiking.  It also has wonderful beaches, lots of small intimate deserted coves - and even a nudist beach.

We visited the resort of Limenaria, which has a new harbour, like most of the new harbours on Thassos, paid for with EU funding,  overlooked by a ruined mansion, which our friends told us is really creepy - allegedly a former war-time German-owned property which housed workers to a nearby mine. Then it was onto Portos which is the liveliest resort on the island - much more of a party town and great for the youngsters, but perhaps a little too lively for us oldies.


No visit to Thassos would be complete without a visit to Iris Gold, where you can take a tour and watch jewellers creating beautiful pieces in gold and silver with precious gemstones, or simply browse in the shop and choose your pieces, which were very reasonable! (Yes of course I bought a couple of items!!)


There is one main road which goes right around the island and we came across a fabulous new hotel - the Blue Dream Palace Hotel in Tripiti, where an enthusiastic greeter offered to show us around.  And what a fabulous hotel in a lovely spot - though in truth, you could have been anywhere.



It was certainly lovely, with plenty to do - tennis, water sports, restaurants, two pools a private beach for swimming, and a gorgeous spa with a water bed which changes colour for treatments! Then there was a small museum on site, and specially themed evenings and cocktail nights. However, if you are looking for authentic Greece, then maybe this wouldn't be the best place.  However, I wouldn't say no to sampling the beauty treatments!







Look out for more information on Thassos, as we explore Thassos Town on next week's blog.
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