The 12 days of Christmas

It being TBT today, I thought I’d repost a seasonal article I wrote in 2015, for newer readers—old hands just avert your eyes. I remember I had lots of fun making all the drawings for this post. Here goes:

 

Christmas can be a tiring and frustrating time. We expect too much, we want everything to be perfect. Some run themselves into the ground, feeling it’s their job to provide that perfection for family and friends. Some expect to be surrounded by luxury and glamour, to be enchanted and entertained. Some just get depressed.

The image of the beautiful family, dressed to kill, with brushed hair and dazzling smiles in front of a tree dotted with tasteful baubles, or sitting around a table laden with a delicious feast is hardly likely to materialize. The gingerbread house will refuse to stay up, and will have to be propped up with cans of tuna. The kids will squabble over their gifts and make faces at the camera, having refused to wear the velvet ruffled garments bought for the occasion. The turkey will be overcooked, and uncle John will get drunk and insult his mother-in-law. Nobody will get the gifts they’d hoped for, and the glamorous party will turn out to be totally devoid of hot babes/dudes. And then the bills will start coming in. (Just an imaginary scenario!)

Perhaps the solution is to aim for less materialistic pleasures. Trying to think what those could be, I came up with the following, somewhat fanciful, list:  of tips for the days to come.

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On the first day of Christmas – Do something for yourself. A little treat: have a massage, go for a ride or a walk in the park. Take an hour off work for coffee with a friend.

 

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On the second day of Christmas – Spend some quality one-on-one time with someone special: spouse, lover, sibling, offspring, grandchild, friend. Or even your dog.

 

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On the third day of Christmas – Resolve to think three positive thoughts per day, every day. Or, to note three good things that happened. Or, to find three things to be thankful for.

 

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On the fourth day of Christmas – Get four old friends together for a pizza and cards evening. Laughs guaranteed.

 

 

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On the fifth day of Christmas – For the last full working week before Christmas, be cheerful at work. Smile and people will smile in return. Five days – it should be possible.

 

 

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On the sixth day of Christmas – Find six good books to read. Browse in a bookshop, or go through the pile on the bedside table. Books take you away from your problems – they’re a door into another world.

 

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On the seventh day of Christmas – Resolve to spend ten minutes each Sunday making a menu for the week. The cooking and shopping will become so much easier.

 

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On the eighth day of Christmas – Make a list of eight fun things to do in the coming months. Book a show, visit places you haven’t seen, explore the neighbourhood. Almost as good as a vacation (but one of them could be a weekend break).

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On the ninth day of Christmas – Bake or buy cupcakes or cookies and distribute them. Food makes people happy.

 

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On the tenth day of Christmas – Get ten people together and have a party. Don’t spend a fortune, or ages cooking – everyone can bring something.

 

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On the eleventh day of Christmas – De-clutter. Find 11 things to donate, recycle or bin. You’ll feel so much lighter.

 

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On the twelfth day of Christmas – Call twelve people and ask how they are. Listen to what they have to say. Not your buddies to whom you talk every day: the old friend you haven’t seen for a while, the elderly aunt who bores you, the acquaintance you heard has not been well. It will make everyone feel better.

I hope this list has amused you, if nothing else. Do I hear hollow laughs? Any other suggestions?

 

 

 

Discovery: a great blog about Greece

Chrysoula Manika – Chrissy for short – writes a stunning blog,  travel passionate, about traveling in Greece. I’m reblogging one of her posts, just to give you a taste. But do go and take a look, it’s full of great places to visit, restaurants and hotels; day trips, fun things to do, where to get street food; she even gives tips on what to pack!
5 reasons to visit Greece in winter
by Chrissy on November 22, 2015 in Travel Ideas
Greece is considered one of the top summer destinations worldwide. What is not widely known, is that Greece is a great winter destination as well, with many sites worth visiting and many activities worth doing. Here are some reasons why Greece makes the perfect winter destination.

imageMeteora

Why you should visit Greece in Winter:


It’s cheaper

If you are traveling to Greece during winter you will see that everything is cheaper and especially in popular summer destinations. There are a lot of Greek islands that you can still visit in winter and although some hotels and restaurants do close, there are always some that are still open with very low rates compared to summer. Also the restaurants that stay open are the ones that the locals visit, so you are bound to eat some good food. So if you don’t have the Greek beaches in mind there are a few islands that can be easily visited in winter, for example Santorini, Crete, Syros, Corfu, Rhodes and Hydra to name a few. During winter all the air fares are cheaper as well, both domestic and international. I have recently booked a return air ticket from Athens to Santorini with only 30€.

imageold town of Corfu from harbour

Less crowded
During the busy summer season everything is crowded. The lines for the Acropolis are big. The little alleyways of the islands are filled with people. On the contrary during winter you will have a more enjoyable experience having the site just for yourselves and a few more. You shouldn’t worry about the weather either. Although it gets cold from December till February winters are usually milder compared to most countries.

 

imageme at lake Plastira
Nice cities to explore
Athens, the capital of Greece is a great destination all year round. You will see less tourists in winter and you will get the chance to observe the local life. Apart from Athens and its countless sites that you can visit there are other beautiful cities in Greece worth exploring, Thessaloniki in the north is a very vibrant city with many archaeological sites, a great food and shopping scene and a lively nightlife. Kavala located in the north of Greece as well, is a very picturesque seaside town built ampitheatrically with many sites worth visiting.

 

imageThessaloniki

Great winter destinations to discover
Apart from the big cities and the Greek islands that one can visit during the winter, Greece has many popular winter destinations as well, with great natural beauty. The beautiful villages of Zagorohoria and the town of Kastoria in Epirus, Pelion villages, Arachova and lake Plastira near Meteora in Thessalia. Kalavryta, Mani and Nafplio in Peloponnese to mention a few. All these areas and many more make the perfect winter destination with their picturesque scenery, archaeological sites, incredible nature and local cuisine.

 

imageVathia village Mani

 
A variety of sports activities
Did you know that you can ski in Greece? There are a few big ski and snowboards centers in Greece like the one in Arachova and Kalavryta. Other sports activities include hiking trails in the mountainous regions, rafting in one of the country’s rivers and horseback riding. One of the world’s leading athletic event takes place in Athens every November, the Athens Marathon, where athletes from all over the world come to run the original classic route.

 

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imageMakrinitsa village in Pelion

Now you know and you can too, arrange your winter visit to Greece.

Have you ever visited Greece in winter?

Did you like it?

Click on the blog name to get there – I’m sure you’ll find plenty to interest and tempt you!

7 tips for a Greek holiday

Daily we are subjected to weird headlines: 
* Greek PM Tsipras says no to speedy elections, but…
(His party is riven in half, so he might not have a choice.)
* First taverna  to accept Bitcoin is inundated with tourists.
(Can that even be true?)
* 50% of Germans want Greece to stay in the Euro.
(No comment.)
* Athenians have not left to go on holiday yet..
.(How can they, they have no money.)

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Meanwhile, travelers to Greece have been getting bombarded with advice: Bring thousands in cash. Do not get robbed. Keep away. Beware.

People have been bemoaning the lost tourist season, another stroke of bad luck for the stricken economy. It is said there are many canceled bookings and workers in tourism will have to be laid off. But then friends who did not cancel reported from a variety of islands to say they were having a lovely time. Also my friend Emanuele called from Italy to see how we were faring. He told me a lot of Italians are changing their destination from other countries to Greece in order to show solidarity and spend their money here. A message both touching and cheering.

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My take is the following:

1. COME! The sun still shines, the sea is turquoise, ancient temples beckon. Take a boat, or climb a mountain. Whether you want to party, veg out or sightsee, Greece is still the place to be. Best holiday ever.

2. Bring some cash (just in case). If you lead the simple island life, you won’t need much, especially if you’ve already paid for transport and accommodation. A few drinks, a meal by the sea – swimming and siestas are free. Except if you’re headed for Myconos – but that’s another story. About getting robbed? It could happen wherever you go. Greece is far from being the most dangerous place on the planet. All over the world, most people get their wallets stolen in their local subway station.

3. Go to an open-air cinema: nothing beats watching a film under the stars, surrounded by jasmine and bougainvillea. In Greece, films are not dubbed.

4. Check out open-air concerts (free), or the panigyri (traditional festival celebrated on saints’ name days) at the local church. A lot of islands also put on interesting art exhibitions.

5. Talk to the locals. Most people speak English. They will be more than happy to try and explain the unexplainable political situation – in their opinion, of course! It makes for lively conversations.

6. If things get fraught, just get out of the center of Athens. Everywhere else will be fine.

7. Last but not least, there are bargains to be had. A lot of places – shops, hotels or restaurants – have put their prices down.

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