Published 5 Feb 03
Greetings! It has been a long time since our last newsletter in early November. We have been laid back, just like the island. So we have a lot of catching up to do. There will be many changes for the 2003 season which we will be ready to announce soon. In the mean time Karin will tell you about this winter.
November on Paros was still quite active. It reminds me of watching ants getting all their work done for the coming winter months. Local farmers are cleaning up fields, getting gardens ready for the next growing season; others making necessary repairs on homes, and hotels; and new construction being started. Most hotels and restaurants are boarded up, and only those stores that cater to the locals are in full operation. Parikia is still quite busy, however.
While Aliki is extremely quiet. I feel like a local now, as shop owners greet me as one of the islanders. That feels nice! I only wish my Greek was better. Some shop owners actually extend some help to me when I attempt to communicate with them in their language. Eventually, though, we end up laughing and speaking English. I definitely need to work on my Greek, but the other day I deciphered a box cake mix in no time, making me realize it IS getting easier.
November saw Michael and I taking a couple of weeks to fly to Ireland on business. My, it does rain a lot there! In some ways, it was comforting to see familiar territory and definitely nice to visit friends. Yet we were glad to return to Paros.
We also needed to make a quick overnight trip to Athens on business; this was made just a few days before Christmas. It was the highlight of the season for me. Athens was magic. Total magic. We went up to the Plaka (the old city under the Acropolis) which is a shopper’s paradise! The area also has old Venetian architecture mixed in with ancient ruins, etc. It was warm enough to take coffee outside at the coffee houses. Then when dusk came, the night became a fairyland with lights everywhere! It is hard to explain them, they are different than what we have in the USA and also in Ireland. No coloured ones, and the designs are different. Suffice it to say, it was awesome!
Christmas in Athens
We walked through the Plaka up through the main shopping street, for foot traffic only, to the National Palace where the changing of the guard takes place regularly on the hour. In front of this palace is a huge square called Syntagma Square. In it is the tallest Christmas tree in Europe!–they say. Every tree within the square was full of lights, but what was so exciting was Santa Clauses everywhere, holding small ponies for kids to have their pictures taken on. Balloon vendors galore with some of the most “imaginable” balloons I have ever seen! Vendors selling cotton candy, roasted corn and chestnuts. Carts full of all kinds of nuts to buy. Merchants selling their wares reminiscent of a souk: sun glasses, shirts, rugs, scarves, hats, gloves, books, paintings, even canaries! Along the street were entertainers from Bolivia and Peru, playing their instruments in hopes of selling their CD’s. (they were selling like hotcakes!). Further along was a group from Jamaica playing steel drums and playing calypso. It was so much fun, everyone jiggling and wiggling! Even I could hardly manage to not make a complete fool of myself with the beat! I wanted SO MUCH to just shed my coat and wiggle all over with arms and legs going to the rhythm!!! But I held back….and it was hard to do that! I love music that makes me want to let go, so to speak. I dance much better in my mind, I might add!
Christmas in Aliki
Christmas in Aliki was probably one of the quietest I have ever spent. I understand the religious experience is saved for Easter. We had a tiny fake tree on our table, with some treasures underneath, and some Christmas music on the radio. That was it. Well, of course we made the day special for us, but yet it was kind of pathetic in one sense, yet refreshing in the sense that it is definitely not commercial. I did not hear a single church bell ring… but Aliki had some lights strung up, and a nice boat outlined in lights on the beach. Parikia had more street decorations, and some of the stores had nice displays. The day before Christmas I was in a video store and some children came in with a small metal triangle to ring and sing some sort of ditty. The idea is to get money! The poor girl in the video store spent most of her time taking money OUT of the till! It is customary to give one Euro to each child. I would compare this to The Wrens in Ireland, and of course in the States, we have nothing like it.
New Years was also quiet. In Aliki it was a beautiful starry cold night. We were invited to join our neighbor, Peter, a man of culture about 72 years old. He wanted to do something, so he put on a fish buffet. He said it was what the Germans do. While he is English, he lived most of his adult life in Germany. I helped him some, but mostly just sat and drank brandy! He is very proud, and wanted to do it himself, but didn’t mind if I was there to help if need be. He also invited his nephew and wife, so after a fashion, it was a party! Midnight came, and after a toast, we all slipped off to our homes, as Peter suddenly looked very tired. Afterwards he told me he stayed up until 5:00 AM watching German TV and the New Year’s celebrations there!!!
January has been a month of variable weather patterns. Some days were so nice we could eat out of doors on our balcony in the sun, put clothes out to dry and take scooter rides to look at fields of winter flowers. The flip side was days of staying inside, keeping the rain from seeping under the doors, huddled in front of a portable heater and drinking coffee while reading books. We worked two large jigsaw puzzles in one week! I suppose it all sounds nice, but I opt for the sun any day! As January ends I think there appears to be a pattern to the weather: Sunny and windy mornings (very fresh), and around 2:00 – 3:00 PM it clouds up with a dark and sinister sky and rains heavily! Then by nightfall it will be clear again only to wake up in the night to the patter of rain, or the flopping around of the rush roof on the upstairs balcony. It makes going into town difficult, because if you are busy and do not watch the sky, then it is easy to get caught in the rain coming home. Not fun on a scooter.
We just said goodbye to hotel guests from Portland, Oregon! They stayed a week, and since they were the only ones here, we got to be pretty good friends! Well, that was easy, because they were Oregonians! It was like having a visit from relatives! We shared a few meals, I was a guide around the island one sunny day, and we ate out one night. Knowing we were coffee drinkers, they brought us 3 bags of coffee beans from Coffee People and Starbucks! WOW!!!!! GREAT!!!!! I impressed her with my Chai recipe straight from Seattle (found on the internet). They felt like they were at home…until they tried octopus in a taverna! Unfortunately, when it was time for them to go back to Athens, the wind kept them from leaving for 2 days. That can be exasperating, but they were good sports. Since they fly standby, at least they did not have to catch any certain flight at a certain time. I know now that our advice to travellers to save Athens to the last couple of days in case the ferries don’t run is a very good advice.
So, that is all for now. I will enclose a picture of winter flowers…..doesn’t it look like late spring instead of January? And now in February the poppies are blooming. . .