Friday 31 August 2018

Self Catering holiday to mainland Greece. The good and the bad.

Bare in mind my starting point for all holidays is Dubai and we live 3km from the Marina and beach. The ideal/perfect holiday destination for a lot of people. Holidaying though in Dubai is very different from living there. A week or two in a foreign country on vacation does not give you a feel for what life is like living there, even if you go to the same place every year. I've applied that logic to our vacation in Greece, but having lived abroad for the past 8 years I do tend to visit new places with the view of 'what would it be like to live there?' We moved to South Africa without visiting first and to Dubai after a weeks holiday.

I had expectations of Greece through other people's instagram and face book updates. When I googled 'Holidays in Greece' up came hundreds of blue and white domed houses as well as images of long white sandy beaches. Maybe it's because we stayed on the mainland and not on one of the islands that it was all very different.

I purposely deselected 'family fun' and 'evening entertainment' yet we still ended up on packed beaches, 10 sun beds deep with music pumping and disturbances well past midnight.

The accommodation was disappointing also. Although it's been a long time since we had a self catering holiday, I had hoped things had improved, but the apartment did not match the online description and whilst it was clean and tidy, it did lack some decoration and equipment to qualify as self catering. There was a two ring hob, kettle and fridge, there was also very basic cutlery and crockery, no peeler, cork screw/bottle opener or sharp knife to prepare even a simple salad. The apartment slept 4 and if I had been travelling with children I would've needed more in the kitchen. The shower, whilst technically fitting the description was actually just a hose and a shower curtain. I ended up sitting in the tray to actually wash as I couldn't hold the shower head, not stick to the curtain and wash my hair at the same time. There were plenty of towels and hand soap in the bathroom but we had to buy toilet paper on day 2.

I had expected more and for what we had paid we could've stayed in a hotel further out and driven to the beach each day. As it was, whilst the beach was only a 9 min walk away and 'mostly flat' it was at the bottom of a very steep slope and as we'd hired a car for the holiday, we drove to another beach in a little village each day.

Whilst the people were very friendly, the area we stayed in was very expensive and rather run down. It took a long time to recover from seeing children as young as 10 being sold alcohol and tobacco, the open trash cans in the streets, which smell, the amount of real fur being sold and the number of stray and injured dogs, as well as being pestered at every restaurant by stray cats.

All in all I won't be visiting Greece again, it didn't live up to my expectations, although we did have a relaxing holiday just chilling out, reading, snorkelling and some of the most fantastic fish we've ever had. Here are some of the more 'instagrammable' photos.

Post Comment Love #PoCoLo 31 August - 2 September

Welcome to Post Comment Love (#PoCoLo).  Same linky as usual for all all bloggers to link up their favourite post of the week.  Just in a different place.  Morgan is on her holidays at Walt Disney World so I'm co-hosting in August to help Stephanie This is my last week co hosting and I've met some lovely, new bloggers over the past month, I'm hoping we'll continue to discover each others posts through this link.

I'm off again on my travels, been back in the UK for a week and I'm now heading to South Africa via a stop over in Dubai either side. I'll be back in the UK in October for our nieces wedding and will return to Dubai the end of October to get my new visa sorted. My mum is joining us for Christmas and then I'm visiting child 3 & 3a in Australia in January before returning to the UK in February and March.

Whilst all this travel sounds glamorous, it has been part of the deal struck with my husband since we started our expat journey in 2011. The youngest of 5 children left home and returned to boarding school in the UK in 2013, since he finished school in 2017, we've had the finances to for me to be able to travel and spend time with our adult children around the world. Child 1, 2 & 2a and 5 live in Gloucestershire and 4 & 4a are in Northern Ireland, but 4 is currently in the Falkland Islands, I won't see him until September 2019, child 3 & 3a are in Australia I haven't seen them for 13 months now.

This photo is from 2017, it was the first time in 10 years that we'd all been in the same country at the same time. I doubt it will happen again for a long time.

I joined in with the #PoCoLo linky a couple of years ago and it's been great to meet a variety of bloggers and connect with a wider audience.

Blogger Showcase: This week is the turn of Sarah from Five Step Sarah 
Sarah is a full time working mum and lives with her 4 year old son, 16 year old cat called Tigger and their dog Winston. As Sarah's blog suggests she writes about DIY/Crafts, fitness, reading, outdoor activities, personal development and design all brought to you in 5 easy steps. You can find out more about Sarah by popping over to Stephanie's post.

Monday 27 August 2018

The Wedding series - tips

This year we've had 2 weddings, child 2 and 2a in June, best friends in July and our niece is getting married in October. I've also been helping with the planning of child 4 and 4a's wedding next September.

L-R Mother in Law, Child 4 & 4a, Peter, Child 2a & 2, Me, Child 1, Child 5, Mum.
Child 3 & 3a were unable to make it over from Australia.

Weddings are BLOODY expensive. There are ways though to keep the costs down. As a guest the cost mounts up, especially for Peter and I, before we even buy our outfit and a gift we have to book flights from where we live in Dubai. However, we had a very small wedding at a registry office, I wore a prom dress to get married in, bought in the sales in Vegas, Peter needed a new suit for work anyway, we had a 3 night for the price of 2 hotel deal in Chester, no reception, no photographer and no cake, although 3 sets of friends turned up to surprise us and we had a meal afterwards in an Italian restaurant on the way back to the car park.

There are so many new things to think about these days that we never had to worry about and the main one for me is that guests don't share photos online during the day and that they leave the Bride and Groom to post first a few days afterwards. It also makes for a nicer day if the wedding is social media free, the wedding photographer will certainly appreciate being able to take photo's freely without mobile phones blocking their view. There are so many new ways to share photo's in high resolution with the guests and I found an app that would allow photo's to be shared on app so family and friends who can't make the day can still share in the event. Child 3 and 3a were unable to travel over from Australia for Child 2 and 2a's wedding.

So after the initial shock of 2 of the children announcing they were getting married and a bank transfer made, it was time to find out if and what input we were to have. We're now someone's in laws and so far I think it's going reasonably well.

Both Peter and I are step parents to each others children. We needed to establish our roles as step parents at our children weddings. At child 2's wedding his mother wasn't invited so no worries about the top table, but child 4's father will be at his wedding but it is Peter who will sit at the top table with me. These are all issues that have to be resolved before the big day when it comes to family and the modern day dynamics.

Then of course there was the outfits. I can hardly wear the same dress at all 4 weddings? Well technically I could but as 3 of them are family do's, I really didn't want to appear in all the photos dressed the same. Living in Dubai there are some fantastic sales and I bought the outfit for the first 2 weddings in Debenhams. There isn't a lot of stuff available for the Mother of the Groom, everywhere focuses on the Mother of the Bride and I fall into 'occasional wear'

There's also the wedding gift to account for. When I asked the internet about what was a reasonable gift amount, it varied greatly.

Something I've noticed quite a lot is there often isn't a 'plus 1' on invites anymore. Usually the invitation is addressed to a couple, whether married or not. There have been quite a few single guests at both the weddings and at wedding number 2, I spent most of the day on my own as Peter was the Best Man, I searched to find out what my role as Wife of the Best Man was, but only came across the partners moaning about how they felt it unfair they sat on their own all day and in some cases turned the invite down, so I wrote about how single guests can feel more involved and not so isolated.

We've got one more wedding this year, the reception is being held in a barn in a field. I've selected my outfit based on the potential weather and it will look great with my bright yellow hunter wellies should it rain.

Next year's wedding is taking place under one roof and I can certainly see the advantages of doing this.

A couple of these posts contain sponsored content, but as I was already writing posts about the wedding and like I said with mounting costs, every penny helps, especially when there are 3 in 1 year.

What it really means being an expat mum to adult children.

We left the UK in January 2011. Child 1 was and still is in a care home, due to her level of disabilities. Child 2 was in Germany. He's now back in the UK and married to 2a. Child 3 had just left home and was living in Reading. He's now travelling the world with 3a and based in Australia. Child 4 came with us to South Africa for 4 years and is now in Northern Ireland, travelling the world with his job and is engaged to 4a. Child 5 lived with us in South Africa for 2 years before we made the decision to send him back to the UK aged 13 for boarding school. He left school last year and is working and based in the UK.

The rest of mine and Peter's family are in South Wales and the Bristol area, with one niece also exploring the world.

We used to take family photos all the time but until the age of digital cameras, most of the pictures were just of the kids.

This is the last photo we had with all 7 of us taken on a family holiday in France in 2003.

It was the last photo we took of all 7 of us until last year and it had been 10 years since we'd all been in the same country at the same time.

In 2017 we all got together for the teens 18th birthday, we met in a car park in Cheltenham to take this picture.

We managed to get the 4 boys together in July the same year for my fathers funeral.

In June this year, child 3 was missing from 2 & 2a's wedding.

In 2019 we'll have the 4 boys together in Northern Ireland for 4 & 4a's wedding.

I have no idea how long it will be, if ever, when we get all 7 of us together again.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Just how instagramable is Greece?

We've just returned from a holiday in Greece, we picked Greece due to the flight time and availability for me from the UK and Peter from Dubai. Neither of us have been to the mainland before and Peter hasn't been to the islands for 35 years. 
I didn't really do much research other than accommodation and car hire, which was based on price as well as avoiding 'family fun' and 'great entertainment' We were meeting in Greece to have a break, a rest, chill out on the beach and read a couple of books, enjoy the food and local beer. We weren't there to party. As soon as I arrived at the airport and saw the number of tour guides and buses, I knew we'd booked the wrong place.

We're also not beach goers really and with our starting point being that we live in Dubai which for a lot of people is a dream holiday destination and we're slightly spoiled when it comes to beaches and resorts and from seeing the gorgeous images that pop up on google when you search 'holidays to Greece' and knowing a little about the architecture, the buildings and aware of the recent economical situation, I was very disappointed when we arrived. It took a while to get over children purchasing alcohol and tobacco and all the real fur for sale.

It's been a long time since we've had a self catering holiday, most of our travel since the kids have left home are in hotels or staying with friends. But had we had the kids with us, they'd have loved it there. 

I didn't take many photo's. The beach pictures showed sun beds 5 rows deep, crowded beaches and other people, other people trying to recreate the pictures they'd seen on Instagram all trying to capture a unique beach experience.

Look closely and you'll see in the centre of the photo a couple recreating the same photo hundreds of people take on the beach, the woman in the white bikini, then had hers taken with her boyfriend. 

So is Greece instagramable? Yes of course it is, you just have to look hard. We captured a sun set and a few other selfies, as well as pictures from the restaurant terrace and of course our food.

You can click on any of the links below if you're interested in seeing more of the construction projects and unusual buildings I've seen around the world, most of them are in Dubai and I'll be back there next week to see how much has changed in the 3+ months I've been in the UK.

Week 158 Dubai Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 161 Dubai Dubai Marina 3 years apart.
Week 163 Dubai New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Arizona and Nevada Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Dubai Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Coventry Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 Dubai New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai The new extension of the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 Dubai Hotel fire After the Address fire 
Week 171 Dubai Unusual designs The Opus Building
Week 172 Dubai District Cooling. Keeping the desert cool.
Week 173 Dubai Can I visit the Burj Al Arab
Week 174 Dubai The Almas Tower
Week 175 Dubai The Cayan Tower
Week 176 Toronto The CN Tower
Week 177 Nevada The Paris Hotel 
Week 178 Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate
Week 179 A Wedding
Week 180 Dubai The World's Tallest Tower
Week 181 Dubai and Wales Al Fahidi Fort and Chepstow Castle 
Week 182 Dubai New Metro Station in Al Furjan 
Week 183 Dubai Ski Dubai
Week 184 Another Wedding
Week 185 South Africa Life in a township
Week 186 Austria Ski Jump 
Week 187 Dubai Green Plant Bio Dome 
Week 188 Dubai Update on the Metro Station
Week 189 Dubai My view from the balcony changed in 8 months

Saturday 25 August 2018

One Daily Positive Week 34 A week in Greece

Well Greece hasn't been everything I'd thought it was cracked up to be, in terms of what I've seen of other peoples photos and from online, but we're staying on the beach on the mainland near Thessaloniki.

It's been a long time since we've had a self catering holiday, rather than staying in hotels and if I'm honest, it really isn't for me. I'm also not really a beach person and while there are some historic sites to visit, they're not really aimed at tourists.

231 Sunday Drove south for an hour and found a lovely exclusive beach restaurant where we had lunch than swam and snorkelled for the afternoon, spent the evening in a local bar watching the football and drinking beer.

232 Monday Visited the city of Thessaloniki, about an hours drive away, drank coffee, had lunch, explored some ancient sites and returned to the apartment to drink beer and read our books.

233 Tuesday Spent the morning on a packed beach, had lunch, showered and drove to another area about an hour away, had a walk, dinner and watched the sunset.

234 Wednesday Drove over to the beech on the opposite side of the coast only 15 mins away, much nicer over there, less people and more sun beds and shade available. Had a free dinner in the evening after the waitress threw a glass of red wine over Peter.

235 Thursday Back to the same beach as yesterday after a lie in and leisurely breakfast in the apartment. Had an afternoon nap then out for dinner, not impressed with my sea bass as I had to fillet it myself.

236 Friday I started the long journey home, an hour to the airport. I flew 2 hours ahead of Peter as I was returning to the UK and him to Dubai. My plane landed half an hour after the coach departed so I stayed in a hotel for the night.

237 Saturday Up early for breakfast, showered and repacked, blogged, drank coffee at the airport and arrived back in South Wales at 7pm.

On the blog this week:

Then and Now - How the view from the balcony has changed with the building of the new metro station.

How much should you give as a wedding gift? We will have had 3 weddings to attend by the end of this year.

The role of the Best Man's wife at a wedding - Tips to make you feel more included.

Speedy boarding with EasyJet - making the most of the hand luggage allowance.