Tuesday 30 September 2008

Wot I done on my holidays

Hello again gentle readers both great and small!
I have returned from my holidays, well you will have probably got that already as I have done a couple of post. So there you have it! I am back in god's sod and like all good A+ students I have the "Wot I done on me holly dayz" 500 word essay ready and I am prepared for the start of the new autumn/fall term/semester. Which means I am basically on the wind down to Xmas.

Last year our outward journey to the land of Homer and Euclid was a complete FUTILE invested disaster. So collective breaths were held, fingers, toes and all bendable appendages were crossed and it WORKED for this year was a breeze! A quick hop from Belfast to Birmingham (UK) then a very pleasant evening with my middle sister and then a 5am flight to Skiathos in the Sporades island chain in Aegean.

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Now I don't want you all going and booking holidays there next year so .... it is really a horrible place, ghastly truly horrible you cannot adequately describe the levels of awfulness that are reached ... OK have you turned off.. good :-)

So for anyone who has kept going, Alonissos is a what we in "Norn Iron" call "Toetee" , or in the more common parlance, "very small" island.There are no big discos, no noisy bars and most of all no northern european arseholes demanding Pukka Pies and cheap cider .. absolute bliss!

I am a simple man and have simple tastes and requirements for my vacations. I want to be able to paint, eat , drink and sleep but not necessarily in that order. Alonissos delivers all that and more.
I stayed in the Paradise Hotel which hangs on the edge of a cliff about 10 minutes stroll from the harbour in Patitiri town. Bessie and Kostas the owners run one of the most wonderful hotels in the world. I, through work, travel all around Europe with occasional trips to the US and Asia and I would gladly mark the Paradise higher than many of the 4* hotels that I have stayed in. They only have 2* at the minute but on the McDonagh Scale they score 10 out of 10 .. yes I do think they are THAT good!

I did some painting every day, it is the only part of the year where I can spend several hours painting and not let the 1001 other things slide. You may notice that I don't paint on paper, this is in fact not as it has been spread around because I am so "tight" that I won't spend money and buy paper. This is NOT TRUE.

There is a long story that explains my stone decorating issues. A story that involves dolphins, gypsies, sunburn, boredom and leaving a little bit of yourself behind when you leave. Perhaps I will fill you in on it one of these days.

Briefly this is a daily routine - I get up and have a long brekkie and a bit of a chat with the other guests. Then go for a wander before it gets to hot. This walk is usually down to one of the beaches on a hunt for material for that day's painting. I have to pass some tavernas (lucky that) which at that time of day are full of Greek gentlemen fiddling with their Komboloi (Worry beads) drinking Greek coffee and watching the world go by. Sometimes I join them on the way to the beach, sometimes on the way back. So it is nearly dinnertime or there abouts when I get back to the hotel. The sun is high in the sky and the temperature is in the high 90's. As I get sun-burnt under a naked 40W bulb I head for the shade somewhere near the bar and get out my paints and ... paint until it is safe to venture out into the sun on late afternoon.

One of the benefits of painting in public is that it is a great ice breaker. People come over to see what I am doing and you get talking and soon you are firm friends. [ Hi Bert,Ria, Roger,Anne and all the other others I met under the trees :-) ].

You may be wondering what happens to the stones (I do 2 or 3 a day) No I don't take them home, I give them away to folk that say they like them ... LOL ... I will never make a fortune but I have met some amazing people and have made some great friends so it is good karma if nothing else.

The food is uniformly excellent in all the Taverna's I have frequented. It has to be said that Roger and Anne [who have been coming to the island for many years cos it is a fantastic place to walk] were of great assistance here as they know everyone and can point you to the best kitchen for lamb/goat/fish or the amazing "Alonissos Cheese Pie".

I do have to add at this juncture that "We don't like Skopelos" a phrase often repeated when Cheese Pies are mentioned. Skopelos is the island next door [and was the location for the MamaMia film of last year] and they are alleged to have "stolen" the recipe and shape for Alonissos cheese pie and made it their own! Should you ever be in the Sporades please do sample the cheese pie on any of the islands ... BUT do not expect to be able to move afterwards if you buy one just for yourself - they are ENORMOUS!

I could go on and on and on boring the pants of you about how drop dead gorgeous the Hora up on the hill is, how wonderfully clear the sea is, how even though the rough guide and lonely planet say Patitiri is not pretty that I beg to differ ... I think it is. Give me the Patitiri harbour any day of the week but then I am probably biased. I can get a coffee, retsina , ouzo or a bite to eat with the minimum of exertion or fuss I even got the share of a coffee and a shot of Tsiporo from a fisherman at 5am when I wandered by looking for somewhere to sit and watch the sunrise.... but i won't drag this on any further.

Oh I have to mention Kostas' and Bessie's daughter Nicholetta and her friends who quite happily played tabli (Backgammon) with an aging Irish hippy without any of that reticence that teenagers feel around adults. Thanks for letting me at least 1 game :-) !

So if you want to experience a "real Greek island" and promise not to ruin it, go to Alonissos, tell them Irish Steve sent you :-) on the other hand perhaps not...LOL...

So to Kostas, Bessie, Nicoletta, Kostantina, and all the locals that made it a holiday to treasure... a great big THANK YOU! You had better prepare for another Irish invasion next year :-)

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