Monthly Archives: May 2018

Greece, Mykonos

It has been 30 years since I was last in Mykonos so I was interested to see how much it had changed. Obviously it’s busier but the charm of the place still remains. Wandering around the back streets is a must especially behind the harbour side. There is even a Louis Vuitton! Quietest time of day to walk around seems to be the afternoon but it starts buzzing from 7pm and most shops are open until 10pm and in summer midnight and beyond. The harbor side is exactly what you expect of an island in the Cyclades and everything feels “fresh” in May and the weather is perfect – not too hot at around 25 degrees but lots of sun.

I’m still a fan.

Stayed at a great hotel – My Aktis which had wonderful views over the top of Super Paradise Beach.

And an excellent meal at Kastros in Mykonos Tow

Crete, Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Excited to visit Knossos which is between 3000 and 4000 years old. It was discovered by a Brit archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans in 1900 (using his own money) and he dug all this up (no doubt with some help from his friends) in four years. In those days they didn’t just preserve they also restored using modern materials – this would not be done these days. As a result some areas look much better than they were when found but equally some are a bit fanciful in respect of how he designed them and what he thought they were for. With the exception of the word Knossos which has definitely existed since the start all other names and references (even “Minoan”) reflect words that Arthur Evans chose to use. It takes about 90 minutes to walk around and strongly recommend you hire a guide for an in-depth understanding of what you are seeing.

Exteriors

Interiors including the throne Room and the Queen’s chambers (dolphins of course!). She also had the first ever flushing toilet system

Then on to the Archeological Museum where we kept the same guide. This is where you see more of the originals and it gives more context to what you’ve seen at Knossos. The museum was refurbed and reopened two years ago so is modern, well lit and easy to understand. The Minoans were very into bulls so I took some pics of different bull antiquities especially for my Taurean birthday pal Barbara – she said she was grateful for the bullocks!

I was very impressed with their ability to make trinkets that are so realistic. They were so creative in a time when you have to wonder how they knew how to make these kinds of jewellery and pots and sculptures. They are lovely.

Then we saw an original fresco of the bull jumping sport that existed then – a male leaps over the bull in a somersault from its head to its tail. What the??? And also a squished skeleton because they put the in jars before rigor mortis set in!

Finally some original frescoes including “La Parisienne” so named by Arthur Evans because she looked like the French ladies of his time. Of course she is not French!

Greece, Crete, Spinalonga

Went down to the waterside of our local village Plaka and took the ferry over to Spinalonga – all of ten minutes.

We then walked around the island which was first a Venetian fortress and more recently used as a leper colony until 1915. The colony was paid for by the Greek government and people appear to have been well looked after but they were isolated from their families and friends although it seems people did marry and have children on the island during those dark times. It is a very photogenic place from just about every angle.

Lots of opportunities for a bit of posing too:). And great to be spending time with my mate Emma

Greece, Crete – a change of pace – the sea, fresh octopus, a cemetery with a view and clear sparkling water.

First two days in Crete have been very laid back after all the places I was visiting in Lisbon. I am staying in Elounda on the East of the island in a hotel with lovely views including Spinalonga – the former leper colony which I will be visiting in the next day or so.

The domed building (which I thought might be where hobbits stay on vacation from NZ) are actually places that used to house water for the villages that came from underground streams. Now they are interesting curiosities. On the right below is Spinalonga and you can see how clear the water is. Also interesting to see the concept of pegging your freshly caught dinner on the washing line!

The little village of Plaka – which only seems to exist because there are boats that take you to Spinalonga is a short walk away. I like the little shrines along the way and especially the cemetery with a view.

I am enjoying my hotel – Domes of Elounda too – as it is set on different levels above the sea so there is a great view wherever you look and an adults only pool. How civilised.

Even better, my mate Emma joins me later today for further adventures in the Greek islands.

Books – what I listened to or read between January and April 2018

AUDIBLE

Force of Nature – Jane Harper.

Having really enjoyed her first novel The Dry I was looking forward to whether the follow up would be as good. Actually I think it was even better. Maybe that is because the setting was one that was particularly familiar to me – an executive retreat for team building. I now know NEVER to organize one in the Australian bush! Her character development of the two main characters (Aaron and Carmen)is a good one and the nature of the crimes she writes about are always interesting and human centered – often based on feelings or actions getting out of hand. I also love the way she shows how relatively close Melbourne and the bush are but how they are effectively two different worlds with not much overlap. Can’t wait for her next one. I read the first one and used audble for this one – I remain a big fan of Audible! So good for multi tasking.

Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan

Everyone has been raving about this book as one of the top ten to read from last year. It is set during the Second World War but at home not at war. The main character is a strong and willful female who wants to be a deep sea diver as her part of the war effort. Her story is mixed with that of Dexter Styles – a mid level gangster who lives within a higher storage of society than would be usual. Have to admit it took me a few chapters to get into it but once I did I could see what all the fuss was about. Always good to read some novels that are plain well written!

The Cactus – Sarah Haywood

Another book about a somewhat obsessive lady who finds herself pregnant in her 40s and comes to the realization that her ordered existence may never be the same again however hard she tries to make it so. It is quite funny and you do want to cheer for the main character to make it.

Mythos – Stephen Fry

I really enjoyed Stephen Fry’s take (he also reads the book) on the stories of Greek mythology. If you love knowing where words or expressions came from or want to know why the peacock has eyes in its feathers or why bees make honey or even where you came from – this is for you. He really makes the whole story of Greek mythology interesting and relevant to today’s world.

THE WRITTEN WORD

How to Stop time – Matt Haig

I am always a sucker for a novel that enables a character to travel across time (but NOT in a sci-if kind of way). This one was enjoyable as the main characters adventures over time – due to the fact he is one of a very few people who does not age which sounds great but tends to mean he is constantly assumed to be a witch of some sort – means he gets involved in all sorts of interesting historical times like working with Shakespeare at the Globe and less cheerfully the Black Death. It is also a love story – and who can resist one of those.

The Tine Between – Karen White

OK story which flits between a woman now who feels guilt over an accident caused to her sister and the story of sisters in the pre war years in Hungary. Easy read. Nothing that memorable.

Once upon a time in the East – Xiaoguang Gulo

When I’m not being a sucker for time travelers then I am also obsessed with anything set in China. This is a memoir of a woman who only meets her parents for the first time when she is six. It describes life in the country and the poverty there very well but also life in Beijing where she goes to study and subsequently the UK where she ends up living. Some of it is quite confronting but I very much liked the style it was written in.

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn.

This really is a book about dark places – both in the real world and in the mind. It tells the story of a woman in her 30’s whose whole family was wiped out when she was 7 in a murder committed by her brother who is now in prison. It flips between the past and the present as she tries to figure out what really happened – and it is indeed dark – but characters are well written if not eminently likeable in many cases. Recommend.

Tell a Thousand Lies – Rasuna Atreus

Recommended by my mate Tania this tells the stories of two sisters in India who want very different things and end up with things very different to what they wanted. Great way to get an understanding of small village life. I thought it was excellent.

How to be a Good Wife – Emma Chapman

This is a good debut novel. Is the main character losing her mind or is something more sinister going on. You decide….

Portugal, Lisbon – last few days – Street Art Walk

My time in Lisbon is coming to an end so I managed to squeeze in a street art tour that took us all over the city – Lisbon is right up there with Melbourne, London and NYC as a street art venue. Although it helps to have someone take you around to find the art.

These are from the Bairro Alto district and include one by Obey (who designed the Obama poster used during the first election campaign)

The first picture depicts the “Carnation Revolution” of 1974 when the dictatorship started by Salazar after the war was overthrown. A very important period for the Portuguese people. The madonna depicts a struggle which has also been a key part of Portugal’s history – the separation of religion and the secular world.

These almost photo quality artworks are of Amalia Rodrigues and a chap whose name I don’t remember – they were both idolized Fado singers (I have become a bit of a fan of Fado while here) and they lived in the Graca area where these are. The one on the bottom right is about the boat refugees (check the image in her glasses). And I love the unknown fado singer in red with her classic lace shawl.

Now here is a brilliant idea. Give good street artists access to a floor in a parking garage and let them do their thing. It makes the place so much more interesting and far less menacing than most car parks and there are plenty of white walls for them to work on – obviously at night only when the cars are gone.

The one at the bottom is another well known street artist from Portugal – Vhils – whose work I saw at Wynwood Walls in Miami earlier this year. This work is done with tiles rather than the etching he is famous for.

Farewell Lisbon, I’m going to miss you.

Next stop Crete.

Portugal, Lisbon – tile frenzy.

Walking around Lisbon means you are exposed to tile work wherever you go ( a legacy from the period the moors lived here). These tiles were hand painted and decorated the exterior and interiors of buildings and churches. Some are purely for decoration and others tell stories about battles or saints. Some were even coded to denote whether the building or company was of Catholic or Freemason origin.

Sadly the ability to make quality tiles is a bit of a dying art and certainly very expensive so while there is some restoration mostly you get to see the original tiles which are sometimes in better condition than in others.

It is one of my favourite things about this city so wanted to share some examples in the same place.