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BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008

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Roger the Skiffler 16 Jul 08 - 07:47 AM
Roger the Skiffler 16 Jul 08 - 09:09 AM
katlaughing 16 Jul 08 - 09:58 AM
Ruth Archer 16 Jul 08 - 10:30 AM
Roger the Skiffler 17 Jul 08 - 06:11 AM
Anne Lister 17 Jul 08 - 06:21 AM
katlaughing 17 Jul 08 - 02:01 PM
Ruth Archer 17 Jul 08 - 02:26 PM
Roger the Skiffler 18 Jul 08 - 06:02 AM
Dave Masterson 18 Jul 08 - 08:17 AM
catspaw49 18 Jul 08 - 09:17 AM
fat B****rd 18 Jul 08 - 03:02 PM
Roger the Skiffler 02 Aug 08 - 04:53 AM
Anne Lister 02 Aug 08 - 12:13 PM

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Subject: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 07:47 AM

Although we may not feel able to return to K******s, we won't stop visiting other Greek islands. As my reports from other places don't seem to have generated unfavourable comments Joe & I decided not to take those Postcards down and I venture to share my latest visit with you, albeit more circumspectly than hitherto.
        We have been through Skiathos several times en route to the other Sporades and have braved its interesting airport (short runway has sea at each end, planes refuel at Lemnos or Volos to avoid carrying too much weight into Skiathos) several times and whiled away an hour or two in harbourfront tavernas waiting for ferries. We knew its reputation for long sandy beaches ("the best in Greece" as they all say!) and wooded interior.
Knowing the popular beaches were also accompanied by large mass market hotels and apartment complexes, we researched accommodation carefully. Fortunately, the place we chose was just as described. It was next to a long sandy beach but had its own "private" beach ( no beach in Greece is actually private, you can always approach from the sea but don't try it on Skorpios!). There were a few apartments, a studio and two cottages. Built around 20 years ago it had lovely gardens with mature trees (koukounaries pines, olives and tamarisks) and flowers: bouganvillia, pelagoniums etc. We had one of the cottages, older style (not concrete cube) but with working bathroom and aircon in the bedroom for no extra charge. It was at the top of the garden which wound down to the beach with lots of seating areas dotted about so you could get sun or shade at any time of day. Our cottage had its own covered shady terrace and an open sunny one with umbrella. Both faced the sea so we had a view across the bay to the capital, to the offshore islets, Skopelos in the distance and away in the far distance the hills of Evia.
        Only two other English couples arrived with us and there was one other couple in residence who left our middle weekend so our beach rarely had more that six people on it, even if people swam round from the busier beach, and we often had it to ourselves. We had beach chairs an umbrellas to take to the beach but no sunbeds- but we had our own beach mats and as it was sandy not stony with clear seas it was ideal. The nearby beach had sunbeds in three rows, so close to each other people complained they couldn't move their beds round to follow the sun and were usually in the shade of someone else's umbrella.   Its proximity to our accomodation meant we could take advantage of the four tavernas (all excellent) and the hourly water taxi to the town (15 minutes pleasant journey with coastal views: though we only did it twice). Did we feel smug? Does Paula Radcliffe shit in the street?
The beach was quite narrow so wash from larger vessels often came right up, not high enough to swamp beach chairs but towels had to be whisked out of the way- well we needed some exercise. There was a sort of pesoula ( one of those stone benches built along the wall of Greek churches and older cottages) at the back of the beach so we kept things like cameras on that, away from risk of swamping. A young seagull was obviously used to being fed for he walked around quite close to people, unafraid.
We had envisaged using the excellent coastal bus service to visit the other beaches but locals and holidaymakers who had been before advised us they were even more crowded with rows of "walruses" on wall-to wall sunbeds and only tacky fast food on offer. Having seen how crowded the buses were ( OK, we did it when we were younger but the idea of standing up for half an hour with your nose in someone's armpit in 32 degree heat no longer appeals – we did that commuting in London for 15 years!) and seen the taxis overtaking on the blind bend near the villa we decided to stick to the watertaxi!
We did walk round to two other closer beaches, not too crowded and good lunchtime taverna but no better than our own. In fact we only had a couple more taverna lunches, we had most lunches on our own terrace. There was always something to see: ferries, yachts, watertaxis, fishing boats (not many of those), people waterskiing or paragliding from the other beaches: made me exhausted just watching!
        As well as the 4 tavernas we had 2 and a half supermarkets and a bakery in 5 minutes walk. The walking was "interesting" as the coast road is very busy and there was no pavement on our side and only a short length on the other side, do you risk crossing twice to get the extra safety? The "40k- pedestrians" warning sign seemed to spur drivers to speed up and go closer to the wall or gutter.
The road was the only downside to the accommodation as the traffic noise was always there when you were outside, however the cicadas did their best to drown it out- I've never heard them so loud and persistent – even the locals commented on it. The jewel in the crown of the development was the general factotum, "Fofi". She ran a a very tight ship but with a ready smile and nothing was too much trouble. She warned us not to post our postcards in the box on the harbour which was only emptied once a week and instead took them to the post office when she went for her mail on her scooter with her bright yellow crash helmet- we called her the yellow peril!
        We used the aircon sparingly, but the first time we switched in on it dripped on Sheila's pillow. I though she was making too much fuss. I could have made the point that it is the woman's place to sleep in the damp patch, but I value my remaining teeth! I did suggest she wear a shower cap. However, once Fofi was alerted the aircon man was hounded until he arrived at 7.30 in the evening and said the electrician had wired it to the light circuit so it didn't have enough power. We had already been warned only to use one item on the power circuit (shower, kettle, aircon, hairdryer etc) at a time. The electrician arrived promptly the next day and problem solved. Fofi noticed the loo cistern was filling up too slowly and the plumber arrived in hours. He found silt in the pipe, the sterna where the water was stored must have been low.   However, plumbers are the same the world over: he didn't tighten the pipe on replacing it and had to be recalled to stop the resultant drip.
The sterna for the complex was next to our cottage so the pump occasionally went on in the small hours when the gardener arrived to water or other residents took early showers. It didn't disturb us, we slept till 09.30 one morning.
Fofi also brought us some holy water from her church to drink on the first of July and a small ouzo bottle full of the same to take home. Greeks believe this gives you health and happiness for the rest of the month. Apparently we can keep filling it from the tap as long as some of the original remains (sounds homeopathic!). As Sheila is Cof E and I'm a former Methodist, occasional Quaker, we're not convinced but it was a very kind thought.
        Did we do nothing for a fortnight? Not at all. I read several fat books, we sunbathed in moderation, enjoyed the clear sea, and apart from the coastal walk we did one inland walk into the hills until we could see the other coast. The weather was too hot and not cloudy enough for much walking. We had a heavy thunderstorm one day which pleased the locals and it was overnight so didn't disrupt our plans. The interior as still heavily wooded with little agriculture except olive trees and we saw no livestock. Many of the inland hotel and villa developments seemed shut up (but the peak Greek holiday season hadn't yet started) with "Warning guard dog" signs. These always depicted a ferocious German Shepherd whereas the reality (when one was visible) was a friendly mongrel mutt who would come to the gate wagging its tail!
We went into town twice to get cash and do some shopping. The main shopping street was pedestrianised which didn't seem to apply to scooters. We did see one pulled over by a policeman (on a scooter) but it may have been for not wearing a helmet. On the other hand, as the rider was an attractive young woman, he may have just wanted her phone number- he seemed to ignore the old men whizzing past! In the old town where the streets were narrow, cobbled and higgledy piggeldy and designed for donkeys, "dodge the scooter" was even more fun as there were fewer shops to leap into!
Two important events for the locals were Navy Week and the premiere of Mama Mia. When we were on one of the other beaches we had seen a wreath propped up on a beach bed. In town we saw one at the statue to the unknown sailor. There was a whole week of activities from a Harbour Clean-up (other Greek islands please note!), warship visit, concerts, and wreath laying at sea, especially to mark the sinking of the submarine Lambros Katsonis in WW2. There was also a firework display one night and we had a grandstand view from our terrace as we enjoyed our nightcap. Mama Mia was partiallyfilmed on Skiathos and Skopelos and locals were full of tales of how close they got to the stars, though we heard conflicting accounts of who was most friendly, and "close" was relative- heavy security, I gather.
        We always had our binoculars to hand, apart from the shipping (including the fake 5-masted clipper-cruiser Club Med 2- not to my mind a good looking ship) there were plenty of birds and butterflies in the garden, swallows, martins, hooded crows, sparrow, seagulls (much quieter than UK ones!) and those little green-brown birds in the olive trees that defy positive identification , by me any way, too many similar ones to choose from! One olive tree against our covered terrace held a changing colony of insects: cicadas, ants, shield bugs, beetles, butterflies. I wondered if the UK Research Councils or the Smithsonian would give me a grant to study the ecology of an olive tree. I could sit and watch it for 3 years. I expect someone has already done it, plus I would have to keep records and write a thesis…nah! (When I retired I toyed with the idea of having a T-shirt printed: "Being retired means I never have to do another friggin' Excel spreadsheet ever again"). There was always something to do- after swatting a wasp, one could spend a happy half hour watching the ants find, dismember and remove it. Oh, no, we didn't waste our time!
        I haven't mentioned music. Well, there were clubs of every sort for the younger element. I did see signs for a Blues club run by one Colin Kingsley in town. One of the local tavernas had karaoke once a week, we avoided that, although once back on our terrace we could hear it wafting across the bay-seemed to be only one singer, the organiser presumably- our cicadas and Sheila's MP3 player seemed a better bet. My vocal chords remained unexercised, to the general relief.
        Early on I mentioned " two and a half supermarkets". That's because one was shuttered and locked. We were told it opened the previous year, a new build on the main road, next to an established supermarket, but without the necessary permits. When it attempted to open for this season it was closed by the police pending payment of a huge fine plus the necessary permissions. It opened a couple of days before we left, either having fulfilled the requirements or hoping to raise the money by trading in the peak Greek holiday season any way!
        Fofi said at the start of our second week that "The Greeks will be coming" in tones that Rome might have been warned of the Visigoths. However, two pleasant young couples with small children hardly drove us off the beach.   As we left, however, two carloads with teenage children were moving in so the beach might have been full. We were pleased for the owners as they had had fewer UK visitors with the weak pound and other financial worries here and high fuel costs everywhere, I gather there have been lots of bank repossessions of property in Greece as elsewhere.
        I think we acquired two lots of brownie points: we helped Fofi erect a cot for the next occupants of our cottage and I killed a rat on the beach (it was staggering about from the effects of poison, it seemed kinder to give it a quick dispatch). Although we were supposed to vacate by 10.30 am (for a 5.30 flight) she let us stay till the taxi came for us at 3. This meant we had a full morning on the beach and we showered, changed and lunched before going to the airport. Fofi was a real star. She's having a knee replacement in October and Sheila has promised to light a candle for her and Fofi has promised to 'phone us to tell us how it went.
Came back to find we'd missed lots of rain, garden gone mad.
and I've only put on about 4 pounds in weight, back to the walking, Roger!

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 09:09 AM

I forgot to mention the annual survey of swimwear colour preferences which I know my audience are gagging for...
Although the mature woman of style and grace still prefes the classical elegance of black -as family loyalty compels me to point out- emerald green still seems to retain its popularity from last year, although multicoloured rather than block colour seems more popular this year. There were also a few sightings suggesting that leopard skin prints might be on the way back- a regrettable move, never a good look IMHO.My tip for next year, lavender seems to be coming up in popularity.
Among the mature Athenian and Italian male there is still an unfortunate trend to hold on to the Speedos of youth ,even when the spare tyre has become a complete replacement set for an 18-wheeler. I prefer baggy shorts, since the term "washboard stomach" when applied to me doesn't signify flatness, but the availability of a convenient beergut to rest the instrument on.
I didn't mention that I was pleased to see that despite the presence of large numbers of tourists,not all of whom are a credit to their country, the locals still retained their traditional
filoxenia. The shops rounded prices down rather than give small change and the tavernas brought freebies with the bill: sweets, cakes, brandy, cherry brandy, and in one case mastika, that spearmint tasting liqueur from the mastic tree (from Chios, it also gives that particularly persistent chewing gum). An aquired taste, but, hey,it was free and impolite to refuse so..."aspro pato".

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: katlaughing
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 09:58 AM

YES!!! Thank yew, thank yew!!!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 16 Jul 08 - 10:30 AM

Ihada lovely week in Skiathos last year, and enjoyed it very much. We stayed in Skiathos Town, and I liked the culture of strolling around in the evening, just people-watching. We also got to see some traditional Greek dancing (a proper inter-island competition, not the "Greek night" stuff put on for tourists) in the open-air theatre up at the castle.

Glad you've had such a great time!

We got back from Haraki in Rhodes a week ago. Lovely little place, formerly just a fishing village, but even now small enough and quiet enough to be really relaxing. it's just a pretty, crescent-shaped bay with some small hotels, and a handful of tavernas, with the beach pretty much outside your door. VERY clear water, great for snorkelling. Beaches never over-crowded, and the tavernas compete for your sunbed custom - free drinks!

The thing I especially enjoyed was being able to go to Rhodes Old Town and the pretty little town of Lindos, so we mixed beach with some quality sightseeing. There are some really nice antiquities and ruins in Rhodes. The medieval Knights of St John (a very Templar-like order) left their mark on Rhodes, and there are long medieval streets and ruined castles and such, in addition to the ancient ruins. Very nice! Highly recommended!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 06:11 AM

Ruth, I've only been to Rhodes en route to Symi, Halki & Tilos but have explored the old town while waiting for ferries. The open air theatre in Skiathos Town has really been developed since we first passed through, about ten years ago. We always enjoy having a coffee in the nearby cafe while waiting for ferries.
I mentioned the olive tree near our cottage. Like most of its kind it has a splodge of white paint on and with cracks in the bark in a certain light it looked like a human face. We joked about our own miraculous icon- not exactly Turin Shroud! It always amazes me that when people see an image like a face in a biscuit or cowpat or whatever, they always assume it has a religious significance. If it looke like a woman it must be the Virgin Mary etc.

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Anne Lister
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 06:21 AM

We visited Skiathos briefly from our honeymoon on Pelion, four years back. Last year we stayed on Pelion - an easy boat trip from Skiathos, if that's where you are. My former recording engineer Liv and her husband Tony run "Pelion Sail and Cycle" from an idyllic bay at Ag Andreas, just around the coast from Milina, if anyone is passing. Tony looks as Greek as could be (being London Cypriot) but prefers to speak English.
Pelion is a wonderful area, full of relatively undiscovered delights as well as a superb railway ride up into the mountains.

And now I wish we were going back this year ...*sigh* But we'll have to make do with Brittany instead.

Anne


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 02:01 PM

Ah...my armchair travelling is doing really well this year, thanks to you lot!:-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Jul 08 - 02:26 PM

yes - all the big ferries and cargo ships coming in and out were the only thing i found undermined the lovely atmosphere in Skiathos town. Only ever-so-slightly, you understand. The open-air theatre was still fairly basic compared to facilities at home - it felt very much a community facility, and much nicer for that.

Those cafes nearby are wonderful. I love how they're all so beautifully decorated. My favourite was the one on the steps leading up to the old part of Skiathos town, which turns into a kind of chill-out zone for the younger folk at night time. They have had all these big cushions of pretty fabrics made to actually fit the steps, and they string up fairy lights and lanterns, and the beautiful people lounge about drinking fabulously-coloured cocktails - it's really quite magical!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 06:02 AM

....in my swimsuit survey I should have mentioned that I saw signs of a radical change. The older Greek woman outside the sophisticated citied tends to swim wearing a dress over the swimsuit and often a headscarf as well. This year we passed a greyhaired lady hosing down her car in her front yard and exchanged greetings. She was only wearing a bikini (black of course!).


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Dave Masterson
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 08:17 AM

Haven't stayed on Skiathos, just passed through a couple of times on the way to Volos, but Rogers remark about the airport is certainly true. The (very) short runway gives your pilot a chance to demonstrate just how good the brakes are on his plane… thankfully!

We have stayed the last couple of years at Kala Nera, so totally agree with Tabsters remarks about the Pelion. The railway up the mountain to Milies is indeed spectacular. The first time we went, Eileen and I had the opportunity to sing in the Church at Milies to demonstrate the superb acoustics. We returned last year and our guide remembered us and got us to do it again. A return booking! We've arrived!


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: catspaw49
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 09:17 AM

Ah yes......I am so glad you returned to your old postcards.....Thanks Skiff!!!!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: fat B****rd
Date: 18 Jul 08 - 03:02 PM

Welcome back, Thimbles. Good to read your 'Postcards' I'll drop you a mail when you get home.


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 02 Aug 08 - 04:53 AM

Added to my collection of menu humour: "salad with advocate". Well I might need a Greek lawyer and at that price... but it turned out to be avocado!

RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Postcard from Skiathos 2008
From: Anne Lister
Date: 02 Aug 08 - 12:13 PM

Menu humour is easily come across in Greece. We will never forget (nor did we order) the "bowels in spit", were puzzled by the "yoghurt in water jug" and reduced to tears by the thought of "little lamb's pupkins".
And there are more ...

Anne


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Mudcat time: 17 May 12:13 AM EDT

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