Travel: Bruges, the stuff of fairytales

Today, I am thrilled to share my travel experience in the magical town of Bruges (Brugge) in Belgium a few years back, plus, I’m going to sprinkle some extra Hollywood fairy dust on it. If you have watched the movie In Bruges, then you are well acquainted with the hilarious camaraderie between Ken and Ray, two paid hitmen who arrive in this medieval town to await further instructions from their boss.  Bruges welcomes them shrouded in mist like a fairytale land of absolute magic. Yet, Colin Farrell who plays Ray, keeps moaning about everything from the moment he arrives. His constant winging is a brilliant act of comic relief to an otherwise thrilling tale of murder and violence. What makes his grumpiness so entertaining is the ridiculous idea that Bruges could ever be the cause of discontent.

Just an hour’s train ride away from central Brussels, Bruges greets you modestly as you exit the station, as if it were a place like any other. And then, you get to the market square (Markt) and as you raise your eyes to the misty top of the Belfort tower, you start to think that this place is perhaps not like the rest, after all.

Then you begin to look around properly, your eyes resting with admiration at the quaint buildings that line the square on the other side from the tower. Before you know it, you’re captured by the beauty of the scene, and you begin to smile as the timeless sound of horses’ hooves on cobblestones reaches your ears and carriages of a bygone era pass you by.

This is when it hits you and your eyes truly open. Everyone seems to wander around with a cheerful expression on their faces. Couples of all ages walk hand-in-hand and you decide to follow one of them, picking the one that seems to walk more confidently, guessing that they know where they’re going. Soon enough, you feel pleased with your choice because at the back of the Belfort tower where they’re headed, this is where the real magic awaits!

Every lane in that direction will sooner or later lead you to the most enchanting streets and canals. Houses are built on the very edge, walls are covered with moss or draped with ivy and every stone bridge is an invitation to cross to the other side. Andy, my husband, and I chuckled away as we visited this part as so many of these lanes and canals feature in the aforementioned movie!

In the early morning, the Belfort tower is often shrouded by mist while the rooftops below it glisten… The water is perfectly still and, as the first rays of sunshine emerge through the clouds, it begins to sparkle, the beauty of the scene taking your breath away.

It is no surprise that around Bruges, one can come across the most cheerful of tourists. Here, it is impossible not to find joy in one thing or another, such as the stunning vistas, the superb architecture, the lush greenery, or the many wonderful eateries, bars, and shops on offer.

The photos in this post were all taken during my last visit to Bruges years ago just after Christmas Day. I chose this time of year as I’d heard about the stalls and the ice rink that bring extra bustle and cheer to The Markt during the holiday season. I was well compensated for this choice!

A misty view of Bruges from the top of the Belfort tower

If you are fit enough to handle it, a visit to the Belfort (belfry) tower is a must. Beware: not for the faint-hearted or the claustrophobic.

The indoor spiral staircase seems to go up forever at no less than 366 steps. There are rooms at intermediate levels where visitors can stop to catch their breath before carrying on with their ascent. The view from the very top is spectacular and is definitely worth the trouble.

I personally never miss out on an opportunity to visit churches in historical towns and my findings in Bruges were most thrilling. First and foremost, there is The Basilica of The Holy Blood (Heilig Bloedbasiliek), a church that houses a precious holy relic: a phial that is said to contain drops of Christ’s blood. If you have watched the movie “In Bruges”, I bet you’re smirking right now! One of the most comical scenes in the movie involves Ray (Colin Farrell) begrudging Ken (Brendan Gleeson) for making him visit this church. The truth once again, is totally different. No one will fail to appreciate the beauty of this precious place of worship that was restored in Neo-Gothic style in the late 19th century. Before leaving the site, make sure to visit its hidden gem: St Basil’s chapel that is located underneath the Basilica. Although remarkably less ornate, it has a unique atmosphere and you’ll be rewarded for your time.

The Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) is also a must see. Its towering spire is a key landmark of the Bruges skyline. Although the exterior was built in an austere Gothic style, the interior is classically Gothic with touches of Baroque. This church is amazing in many ways but the most fascinating thing about it is that, surprisingly enough, it houses a unique treasure of Renaissance Italy: “Madonna and Child” (1504-1505) by the legendary Michelangelo.

Walking around Bruges is a real treat for the amateur photographer as you can see in the above pictures.

 

Yet, by far, my favorite part of Bruges is Minnewater, a tree-lined lake near Minnewaterpark. Truly, it’s like entering a fairytale land. The beauty of this place continues to haunt me today. Horse carriages stop there for a short sustenance break. This is a great chance to photograph beautiful horses and the forever smiling carriage drivers, as well as the multitude of swans and ducks on the canal.

Begijnhof

Catch two birds with one stone while you’re there and visit the Begijnhof as well with its eerie ancient walls and tree-lined expanses of greenery. This beautiful enclave almost feels haunted shrouded in the morning mist. Back in the 13th century, it used to house women (béguines) who were left single or widowed by the Crusades.

Are you an art lover?

There are two major museums in the area – The Groeninge and the Memling – both of late medieval art by various artists such as Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling. There are several museums in Bruges and the truly insatiable for the arts can obtain a list at the tourist office located at The Burg (another central square close to The Markt).

 

Our fish meal in Singe D’Or (Golden Monkey) was a visual feast!

Bruges is a town of many delights and the local food and drink could not be an exception. There’s fresh seafood, traditional Belgian stews and delicious beers of many different types such as Trappist, Kriek or Lambic beer. I rather stuck happily with “Brugse Zot” which is brewed locally. The jester on its logo seems to welcome you on the menu at every bar and restaurant in town.

An order of mussels (clams) with fries is a must when in Belgium!

Staying in Bruges makes dinner time an absolute luxury. Among the local dishes I enjoyed Waterzoi (creamy fish in broth), Vlaamze Stoverij (beef stew cooked in Belgian beer), Moules Marinière e frites (steamed mussels in wine with celery and French fries) and the indispensable Chicons au Gratin (chicory leaves wrapped in ham and baked with a cheese sauce).

I highly recommend the following two restaurants:

Singe D’ Or (Golden Monkey)

I visited Singe D’ Or (Golden Monkey) in T. Zand Square for my New Year’s Eve dinner. It was reasonably priced, the ambiance was wonderful, and the seafood was fantastic!

Gran Kaffee De Passage in Dweersstraat 26 was difficult to find in the dark, but it was well worth the hassle, and you’ll do well to visit it at night too! The candlelit interior and the décor are enchanting, while the food and drink are as fantastic as can be.

 

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll find it hard to resist temptation in Bruges! Delicious Belgian chocolates and a wide selection of waffles are available everywhere you look.

Since I mentioned my favorite eateries in Bruges, I might as well also recommend the fabulous hotel we stayed at!

Hotel Ter Brughe is situated on a quiet canal and is a five minute walk from The Markt – the quaint market square of the town, and the Belfort tower. Our room had a view to the canal and stands out in my memory for its quaintness – I must say, I loved everything about this hotel. The service was impeccable and it was beautiful everywhere you looked – including the stunning dark beams on the ceilings. 

Thinking about Bruges, one word comes predominantly to mind: Perfect. To be frank, there’s only one thing wrong with this town; the longer you stay there, the more your heart breaks when it’s time to leave it behind. It is truly difficult to adjust to this familiar, modern world afterwards. Still, as you slowly return to the rhythms and routines of your daily life, it is comforting to know that Bruges awaits you still. The fairy tale will begin again someday, the moment you return.

Have you been to Bruges? Did you travel there at a different time of year, for a specific annual event maybe? Have I missed any places of interest? Have you watched the film ‘In Bruges?’ Comment below and let us know, I’d love to hear your input 🙂

 

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Treat yourself at Christmas with these hot kindle ebook deals

Just think! In less than a week it will be Christmas! I don’t know how you spend the holiday season chez-vous, but I personally reward myself for a year’s hard work with bucketloads of my two favorite things – movies and books! Speaking of the latter, a few of my author friends are doing special offers this week so I thought I’d do the decent thing to spread the word about them and thus to give something back to the awesome indie publishing community that’s blessed me with so much. It’s the Chrismassy thing to do, after all, and it feels great 🙂 Besides, I bet you’ll feel just as great once you’ve got a load of these awesome deals – most of them by best-selling/award-winning authors!

Double-check prices before downloading. Some of these deals are valid just for a couple days, then they go poof! Just like gingerbread cookies when my family comes over 😛

 

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Visiting Athens at Christmas

Last weekend I had a wonderful time visiting Athens. Returning to the city where I was raised is a treat throughout the year, but the Christmas lights made the travel experience truly magical. This time round I visited two different areas for the first time too, which was very exciting!

So, come! Take a walk with me around the busy streets of Athens, full of Christmas shoppers, and then join me at night too, when the Christmas lights turn the popular city corners into a magic wonderland!

After a quick check-in at our hotel, my husband and I relaxed with a coffee and a hot toast at a corner cafe in Athinas Street. It was by the town hall; Kotzia Square across the street was empty at that hour, but the strong gushes of water at its fountain and the multitude of wild pigeons around it made it a pleasure to gaze over at. Half an hour or so later, we were walking down Athinas, then round the corner at the central meat & fish market to take in the vibe of the pedestrian shopping area of Aiolou Street. This leads to Ermou Street, as you may know, which is every Athenian shopper’s paradise.

Ermou was packed, which was no surprise, especially at this time of year. Everyone seemed to be clutching shopping bags or browsing at the festive shop windows.

The famous landmark of Kapnikarea, an 11th-century Orthodox church, is situated right in the middle of Ermou Street. I loved the sight of it under the morning sunlight with a multitude of wild pigeons perching on its roof and the vibrant green bitter orange tree (neratzia) standing beside it.

As we walked up Ermou towards Syntagma (Constitution Square), we came along a rare sight – a ‘laterna’ (barrel piano). Only a handful still survive around Athens. The sight of this elegant gentleman operating it simply begged for my camera to go clicking frantically as he turned the crank and filled the crisp air with the nostalgic tones of a bygone era.

When we reached the lower part of Syntagma Square we realized our timing was off. Only a metal frame of the annual Christmas tree had been set up and the municipal workers were in the middle of putting it together. One of them, as you can see in this picture, was busy washing the covers of the street lanterns in the fountain 🙂

Note: The Christmas tree was lit up just two days after our visit. It’s very different and stylish this year and impressed the crowds that gathered to see it. You can take a look right here.

 

We felt disappointed that we weren’t going to see the Christmas tree during this visit to the city, but were compensated as soon as we went up the steps and walked over to Syntagma Square proper (and the Greek Parliament building). Just as we arrived, the guards at The Monument to the Unknown Soldier began to move. The sight of the evzones (also called tsoliades) is always a special treat!  Here’s a little taste of the perfect sync they displayed that morning:

Did you know? The foustanella (skirt of the evzon) has 400 pleats to symbolize the 400 years of slavery under the Othoman rule. Their red cap is a symbol of the blood shed by the Greeks in the Greek War of Independence in the 1820’s.

Hot tip: The evzones move around the monument like perfectly synchronized toy soldiers at half past every hour. They change over on the full hour and every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. the changing of the guards becomes a full-scale spectacle, so time your visit to Syntagma square right! The Evzones are not allowed to speak or move and can only blink to give their supervisor answers to his questions about a possible need – to ease an itch, to straighten their clothing or to wipe the sweat off their forehead, for instance. Tourists used to be allowed to stand beside them for a photo but now only children are allowed to do that. Adults stay strictly under the steps these days. The Evzones will not move from their post of their own accord, not even when their life depends on it! Back in 2001, a Molotov fell beside an evzon during a demonstration and his white-and-blue guardhouse caught fire. He didn’t bat an eyelid and only moved to save his life after receiving permission from his supervisor to do so! More info on the evzones, Greece’s pride and joy, here.

After the impressive display from the evzones (which never fails to lodge a knot in my throat!), we visited a nearby department store that sorted almost all of our Christmas shopping. By the time we finished we were ravenous so we took the Metro to our favorite area for chow 🙂 Where, I hear you say?

Well, Andy and I always wind up in Monastiraki for lunch. When it’s time for a special treat we tend to narrow our choices to either souvlaki, or fish and chips, and both are on offer there at exquisite establishments. For souvlaki we go to Bairaktaris or Savvas, for instance, but that day we both craved Guinness, mushy peas and tartar sauce 😛 So, off we went to our favorite haunt of The James Joyce Irish Pub.

We love this place, and the only thing wrong with it is it’s too far from home to enjoy more often! That’s what makes their delicious fish and chips and a pint of Guinness a memorable experience every time 😉 We didn’t go over the top, mind you, which meant we didn’t order the onion rings too, but boy, is it even better when we throw caution to the wind about our waistline! Well, next time maybe 😛

After a short rest and a shower back at the hotel, we barely had time for a cup of tea (courtesy of our generous hotel!) before heading back out, this time to enjoy the Christmas lights after nightfall.

We took the Metro to Kerameikos and made a beeline for Technopolis-Gazi. It used to be a coal gas factory back in the day, but nowadays it’s a cultural center that hosts events and exhibitions. No matter when you’re planning to visit Athens, I urge you to visit its site and see what’s on!

This month it houses The Christmas Factory, a magical wonderland for kids. Emphasis on the ‘kids’. And here, I have to do something I never do, and share a little rant. The rather pricey ticket of 5.50 euros (for Greek standards) makes sense when you’re accompanying children as they can enjoy a plethora of things. For instance, they can meet Santa, make crafts, and even go through some kind of magic tests to get a ‘wizard certificate’. So yeah, I recommend this without any qualms if you have kids in tow. If you don’t, I’d give it a miss because as an adult, you’re getting nothing for your money. Unless, of course, walking around and browsing at stalls is worth 5.50 euros for you, but I really doubt it 😉

The rides may look like fun but they are not included in the ticket – something they meticulously omit to mention on their website. Furthermore, the stages of the music shows promised on the same site were empty, and the draws on The Tree of Wishes where they’re supposed to give out presents all day long had not started yet this season according to the nearest ‘elf’ I asked. So yeah, that was a blatant rip-off, and hubby and I were very bemused. I hate negativity, but when I feel taken in as a consumer, I feel compelled to share. But perhaps you have kids and still want to check it out. Great choice in this case, and that’s why I decided to include it in this post. Here’s the site of The Christmas Factory and I suggest you book online to avoid any long queues outside the venue.

Thankfully, our good spirits were restored, and our Christmas spirit especially, when I suggested to visit Psirri. Now, I know this is silly, but I admit to have never visited Psirri before that day. In my defense, this place only became popular in the last ten years or so. Before, it was one of those shabby and grey, if not iffy, quarters of Athens not worth giving a second look. But, somehow, everyone kept banging on about it in the recent years, increasingly if I may add, so I thought it would be high time to see for myself what the fuss was all about.

Psirri is a minute away from Monastiraki square. Literally, you leave the square behind you with Ermou to your right, and enter the first lane you see in front of you across the street (like Agias Theklas or Pittaki). In under a minute you are in the vibrant heart of Psirri. The best time to visit is at nighttime as it’s bustling and magically transforms into something super-cool.

When we got there we were immediately dazzled by the lights, and overwhelmed by the nostalgic bouzouki music emanating from traditional tavernas such as the quaint ‘Orea Penteli’.

By the way, other highly recommended eateries in Psirri (from what I hear) include 21and ‘O Mavros Gatos’.

Quaint tavernas, cafes and bars greeted us from every corner as we explored Psirri. Tiny lanes under strings of Christmas lights beckoned to us to take a closer look and we felt compelled to do it. One specific little street – Pittaki – simply took our breath away, for that is where I saw the most beautiful Christmas display of my whole life.

I read the sign and the writings on the glass window and realized to my shame I didn’t have a clue. Now, I am one of those people that never goes anywhere without preparation. To find something so awesome in my own city that had dared to go under my radar all this time seemed preposterous. What on earth is Little Kook? I asked myself. I had never heard of this place! A quick google search told me all about it. Two Greek entrepreneurs had teamed up together to make Little Kook, its strange name owed to the imaginary friend one of these cool dudes had as a child.

Little Kook serves fantastic sweets and cupcakes with a large selection of teas and coffees, but that’s not the reason why it’s hot. Those devilishly clever chaps made it infamous by decorating the hell out of it both inside and outside.

The outside of the building stood before me like Christmas incarnate, capable to charm the pants off the Christmas Grinch himself!

Only recently, the facade had been decorated in a Halloween theme, and earlier in the year it also had a circus theme according to the photos I saw on Trip Advisor. They all looked equally stunning. On the inside, there are a series of themed rooms where punters can enjoy their hot beverages and cakes. There is a ‘knights room’ and an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ room too, for instance. Among the pictures of cakes that I have seen on Trip Advisor, the Villa Hazelnut has already begun to haunt me as I am such a huge fan of praline and Ferrero Rocher.

Sadly, we were there at a popular hour and decided against joining the long queue to get in, but I’m definitely going back to venture inside and grab a piece of cake as soon as I can. Warning: Little Kook is pricey, very pricey. Something like 7 euro for a piece of cake and around 5 euro for a coffee. But if, like me, you think visiting a fairy tale wonderland is worth it, I am sure that won’t stop you 🙂

We left Psirri at around 8:00 p.m. to grab a quick bite in Monastiraki and found the square swimming with people, the odd firework shooting up to the sky every now and then. The Acropolis looked magnificent all lit up above it all. This spectacle concluded our magical, whimsical evening with sheer perfection. It made our falafel-filled arabic pittas and creamy praline croissants from Gregorys all the more divine.

The next morning we were back in Monastiraki, this time to browse through its tiny second-hand bookshops. After picking up a few gems for mere peanuts, we made a short stop in Athinas Street to buy spices from a stall outside the city’s meat & fish market. I picked up sachets of ginger, turmeric, and black caraway for 1 euro each.

Sadly, it was Sunday, otherwise I would have gone down Evripidou street  like a shot from there to buy pastourma (pastirma) from Arapian or Miran (both are historical establishments founded by Armenian refugees in the early 1020-30s), but maybe another time… Walking down Evripidou street is a unique experience on a week day, by the way. The fragrant aromas of spices are rich in the air as you browse through the merchandise on display that spills out from every facade.

Soon, it was time to head home, and we were back in our little town in under an hour. The visit to the city was short and sweet but, somehow, it was such a change from the norm that we felt really rejuvenated. When we got home, it felt like we’d been gone for days on end – a sign that we had had a good time, and that our minds were overwhelmed by beautiful new memories 🙂

Before I go, to say we loved our hotel, the Athinas Street Inn! It is a stone’s throw away from Omonia square on Athinas street and is housed in a stunning neoclassical building. I have never visited a more generous hotel! Not only were we met with open smiles and were made to feel welcome at once, but were also offered fruit as a welcome treat. Furthermore, tea/coffee making facilities plus bottled water were available to us around the clock. The breakfast was also very generous. I particularly enjoyed the cheese omelet! The room and bathroom were squeaky clean and everything smelled fresh. The room, although rather small, had many commodities including a flat TV and free wifi. They also provided disposable slippers, toiletries, and even toothbrushes. Truly, I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough 🙂

Actually, I have a suggestion to make which you may find interesting: If you make your hotel booking (in any destination/hotel and at any time!) with Booking.com like I did, they will give you a discount of $15 for your next trip, and they’ll give me the same too! How awesome is that? Just make sure to get to the site via this link so you can be eligible for this discount. You’ll need to create a Booking.com account too, but it’s free and takes mere seconds to do.

I hope this post brought back fond memories from Athens if you have visited my city before. If not, I hope I have whetted your appetite for it 😉 My city, despite its many problems, retains its original charm. It was wonderful to walk along its avenues again that are lined with imposing neoclassical buildings, and to sample anew the bustle of its pedestrian shopping streets.

If you have a fond memory to share from Athens, or for any questions, I’d love to receive your comments! Wishing you and yours, a wonderful holiday season 🙂

 

Do you love Athens? How about Greek myths? My award-winning fantasy set in Plaka will delight you! Check it out now!

 

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A fun newsletter of Corfu news

Today, I am pleased to introduce you to The Agiot – a free newsletter from Corfu!

The Agiot newsletter is issued in the village of Agios Ioannis. It contains news from the island, and a plethora of fun stuff.

I discovered it recently when British author Hilary Paipeti offered me a short interview for it. You will find our interview in the December issue along with an introduction to my free novel set in Moraitika, The Ebb.

Hilary lives in Corfu, by the way, and has a couple of sites well worth a visit, such as The Corfu Trail and Corfu Walks. Both of them celebrate the island’s natural beauty, and are a must for those interested to explore Corfu on foot 🙂 For a full listing of Hilary’s sites, visit my free guide to south Corfu here.

Below you will find the contents page in the December issue of The Agiot. I hope you will agree so much of this sounds really intriguing!

GO HERE TO READ THE AGIOT NEWSLETTER

You can read it online, but if you prefer to read it at your leisure, just click at the down arrow on the top right of the newsletter to download it to your device. Either way, it’s FREE!

Enjoy!

Note: Visit the ARCHIVES to access all the past issues of The Agiot.

 

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Book review: The Truth About Cancer by Ty Bollinger

This book has to be, hands down, the most unforgettable one I’ve ever read in terms of the knowledge it imparted and the emotions it stirred in me. This thick volume is an astounding feat of writing. Not only does it expose the shocking truths about the nature and causes of cancer as well as the devilish greed of gigantic corporations that keeps this epidemic going, but it also provides new hope for a life without the disease.

Indeed, the most wonderful aspect of this book is the way it empowers the reader. After the shock I received from the many hidden truths documented in this book, I experienced a wonderful sense of hope. It is unbelievable how easy it seems to kill cancer once you’ve come to know its weaknesses. Furthermore, it is amazing to find out that simple things like the right diet and supplements, getting enough exercise, sun and oxygen, do wonders for one’s healing. And, unlike the medical world’s lethal cycle of “slash, poison and burn” (surgery, chemo and radiation), nature’s ways have no life-threatening side effects.

I was particularly shocked to read that medical staff who do the chemo to patients often refer privately among themselves to the drug 5FU as ‘five feet under’ which goes to show that doctors are often not just kept in ignorance, but also, even worse, are well in the know of the death they deliver and still choose to let things run their course. This book, just like Ty Bollinger’s astounding docuseries of the same name, made me experience an explosive mix of emotions. Anger and hope stand out among the rest, with the latter being the one that settled in my psyche and only strengthened in time.

I witnessed my mother undergo surgery, chemo, and radiation for 8 months last year, and I thank my lucky stars that my online research led me to discover Ty Bollinger. May God bless him for the information he is sharing with the world. I only hope he has eyes on his back as he doesn’t mince his words and the medical status quo seem to be worse than the Mafia… Thanks to the advice that this author–and wonderful human being–shares in his book, my mother now has the right supplements and diet in her daily life, so she can do the best in her power to stay cancer-free.

Knowledge is what gives us power. And TY Bollinger shares it in this book in abundance. Highly recommended, not just for cancer patients and survivors, but for anyone interested to protect themselves and their loved ones. The statistics are shocking: 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be ill with cancer at some point in their lives. Therefore it has become a part of life that we cannot afford to ignore any more.

 

My rating:

5 stars

Shocking… but a wonderful source of knowledge and hope

 

A wealth of knowledge awaits you here, whether you are struggling with the disease or if you just want to know the truth so you can protect yourself and those you love. Everyone deserves the truth… will you choose to hear it?

VISIT AMAZON

Also!

Check out Ty Bollinger’s docuseries “The Truth About Cancer” with these free episodes – could very well be the most moving/shocking viewing you’ve ever known. The series refers, among other things, to:

  • the nature of cancer and its surprising weaknesses

  • the secret, shocking history of the medical profession, and the reason why natural cancer therapies are kept under wraps

  • interviews with medical professionals who apply natural protocols to treat patients around the world, protocols your doctor either doesn’t know about or won’t tell you about.

  • interviews with cancer patients who were given no chance of survival by the medical system and lived to tell the tale with natural protocols for healing.

Hearing and seeing is believing… The first two episodes are available for free viewing:

 

Check out the latest news and articles on the website: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/

 

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To grab “Facets of Love” for FREE, go here! Planning to visit Greece? Check out our FREE guide to Corfu! For delicious Greek recipes, go here. Are you an author? Check out our FREE promo tips & resources here.


 

Black Friday ebook sale!

Hurrah! Black Friday is here and I am thrilled to share a wonderful array of kindle ebook deals by my favorite writers (and some of my own). These bargains expire soon so hurry and grab them now!

Scroll all the way down for a couple of wonderful FREE PDF ebooks too!

(Check prices before your purchase on Amazon as some of the deals are valid only in selected stores)

FREE!

When Sofia falls in love in Corfu, a mourning spirit begins to haunt her…

On a long holiday with her grandparents, Sofia Aspioti meets Danny Markson, a charming flirt who makes her laugh. Although she tries to keep him at arm’s length, worried that village gossip will get back to her strict family, she falls desperately in love. That’s when strange dreams about Brighton’s West Pier and a woman dressed in black begin to haunt her.

VISIT AMAZON

 

Love will go on forever, seeking a second chance…

Get the remaining books in this heart-rending, riveting trilogy for $0.99 each and only for a limited time. Down from $3.99 each!

VISIT AMAZON

 

$0.99

Christmas is family time in small town, Carlton Grove.

A homeless pup adores a child, and his new master falls for her mom. This heartwarming tale about a puppy, a brave little girl and a single mom who can’t refuse her munchkin the chance to get to know her father creates a real page-turner.

VISIT AMAZON

 

$1.99 NEW RELEASE – Special pre-order price!

If her husband turns up alive… she’ll kill him!

When Fiona lifts her head above the chaos of kids, carpools, and a million things to do, she discovers her husband is missing. As she searches for him, she is forced to realize her life will never be the same.

VISIT AMAZON

 

FREE!

In every myth, there’s a modicum of truth…

For four thousand years, creatus have concealed themselves from humans, who hunted them almost to extinction. Now, one creatus will endanger them all by falling in love–with a human. Prepare to believe the myths. Creatus exist!

VISIT AMAZON

 

$0.99 NEW RELEASE!

Dreams of stardom and a cold-blooded murder collide in 1920’s Hollywood

In 1926 Hollywood while silent screen movie stars reign supreme, a film producer is gunned down in cold blood. Enter Rosie, a pretty bit-player and her bitter, stage-mother, Beatrice. As real celebrities, such as Clara Bow, Lon Chaney, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino float in and out, a chase to find the killer exposes the true underbelly of Los Angeles––with all its corruption.

VISIT AMAZON

 

FREE!

Cody is a shape shifter with some monumental problems… It all started when he died.

Cody has escaped to The Realms from the midlands between Heaven and Hell only to find his best friend is potential food for the resident vampires, his girlfriend only loves him in his wolf form and her mother…well that’s a whole other story. It isn’t easy being Cody, but like a good wolf he’ll do what he can to protect his pack even if it kills him. Wait… he’s already dead.

VISIT AMAZON

 

$0.99

A Readers’ Favorite Silver medalist!

Phevos, an ancient Greek, remembers very little from his childhood. When his mysterious father sends him to modern-day Athens on a time-traveling mission, he feels completely lost. Little does he know that dark family secrets and Greek Gods await him here to fulfill his destiny…

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$0.99

Kendra is determined to make it as an author in Hollywood, no matter the demons she has to face. Literally.

When novelist Kendra Kensington trades her simple existence in Chicago for the glamorous Hollywood life, she discovers the City of Angels harbors more demons than she had imagined. Soon, her dreams of a perfect life spiral out of control when her past and present collide. 

VISIT AMAZON

 

$0.99

Can two wrongs win Mr. Right?

A writer of meddling thrillers ruins the career of a Greek shipping heir then tarnishes his family’s name and faces his inevitable wrath—because to fix him, she needs to break him first.

Available in CLEAN and SPICY versions!

VISIT AMAZON

 

$0.99

A #1 Hot New Release & Bestseller, 2017 IAN Book of the Year Finalist and currently shortlisted for the top 50 Indie Romance Books of 2017.

After fifteen years, will there still be that special magic between Kat and Jason to make their long ago Christmas wishes come true?

VISIT AMAZON

 

Interested in PDF deals? Three of my books are FREE in PDF format. GO HERE and grab them all!

 (Facets of Love is set in Corfu, Athens, and other parts of Greece)

 

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Tales from Lesvos about Archangel Michael

On November the 8th each year, Greece celebrates angels and archangels. The Greeks with angelic names celebrate too. Aggelos, Stamatis, Michael, Gabriel and Stratos are just a few of these names.

To celebrate this big day, I am sharing here a couple of stories about Archangel Michael that locals once shared with me on the island of Mytilene (Lesvos). But first, a brief introduction to angels:

The Greek word for angel is Aggelos, which means ‘messenger’. Different kinds of angels can be found across the angelic ranks of hierarchy. The highest in rank are the Cherubim, The Sherafim and the Thrones. Three of the most revered archangels are Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Archangel Michael is the ultimate military ‘superhero’ that the faithful call upon when in need of protection. His name means ‘Who is like God’. All you have to do is say three times ‘Archangel Michael, protect me!’ and He is said to rush to your side to make sure no harm comes your way. Other than protection, He also provides courage and strength.

Archangel Gabriel is said to provide strength and guidance to those who need Him. His name means, ‘God is my strength’.

Archangel Raphael is the one to invoke when healing is required. His name means ‘Healing power of God’ and He responds to prayers to provide healing on a physical, emotional or mental level.

 Now, to share the stories that the locals of Mandamatho in Mytilene shared with me:

There is a monastery in Mandamatho, which I’ve had the pleasure to visit, and its church is dedicated to Archangel Michael. The church is famous for its ancient icon of the archangel as well as the iron shoes that are also on display there. According to the locals, the archangel wears the iron shoes at night and wanders around their village.

Many claim to have heard loud thuds coming from the roofs at night, and the shared belief is that this is the sound of His iron shoes as He walks around, up on roofs and on the streets, to patrol the village when the sun goes down.

Others claim to have seen His shadow wander around in the church.

The locals replace the iron shoes occasionally, and many offer new pairs from time to time too, seeing that they tend to find signs of wear and tear on them, as if someone actually wears them…

 One of the locals told me this amazing story:

There was a villager who was renowned for being highly blasphemous. All day he’d swear, using sacred names in vain, and Archangel Michael’s was one of his ‘favorites’, seeing that he used His name to swear heavily on a daily basis. One night, he saw a tall man in a dream. He looked very strong and was dressed in a military uniform. The man in the dream began to beat up the blasphemous villager pretty badly. Punches, kicks, slaps, you name it, while telling him of for his blasphemy. When the man woke up, his body was covered in bruises… Needless to say, he quickly realized he had been paid a visit by the Archangel Michael himself and stopped swearing, literally, overnight!

Another local had an even more intriguing story to share with me. It was about a man who had a sick child. One night, Archangel Michael appeared before him in a dream and made a devastating announcement – that he had come to take his sick child away. The man then began to wail, crying and begging the Archangel to reconsider. Then the Archangel said, ‘All right! I will let you choose: Shall I take your child or the cow in your field?’

‘Of course, no need to ask,’ the man replied in the dream, ‘please take the cow!’

When the man awoke, he rushed to his child’s bedside to find it was feeling a lot better, and it was eventually cured. As for the cow, the man found it that morning dead in the field.

(image by LesvosGreece.gr)

The legend surrounding the ancient icon of Archangel Michael goes like this:

The monastery was raided one day by Saracen pirates who attacked the monks and slaughtered them. Only one survived to tell the tale; it was a young monk who managed to hide on a roof and watched the massacre from up there. According to legend, afterwards, he saw a vision of Archangel Michael hovering over the slaughtered bodies of the monks.

Inspired by the vision, and to honor their memory, he took some of the blood-stained soil, mixed it with wax and made the Archangel’s face as he remembered it. Today, only the head of the full-body icon is on display.

 

Take a 3D walk around the monastery grounds in Mandamatho, and see the infamous icon and other relics inside the church to the sound of ecclesiastic hymns. GO HERE (Language is Greek)

 

Other than the protector of Mandamatho (and the island of Mytilene in general), Archangel Michael is also the protector of the Hellenic Air Force. Every year, on November the 8th and for a couple of days earlier, the Hellenic Air Force celebrates with various events to honor Him. If you’re reading this post near the big day, check out their site for any events near you. Go HERE

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Do you enjoy angel stories? My Greek romantic comedy, The Amulet, features a bunch of guardian angels that will inspire and delight you! Check it out HERE

Browse through my posts where I share spooky messages I have received from my angels from time to time. Go HERE

 

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Do angels tell the time?

 Today, I’d like to share a delightful anecdote from my daily visits to the beach this past summer. It involves a spooky interaction with my angels that both my husband and I experienced and marveled at!

Those who, like me, believe we all have guardian angels watching over us will find it inspiring, no doubt. As for the non-believers among you, I hope you will read this true account with an open mind and wonder what if, just what if, it couldn’t all be down to coincidence…

At the end of the day, the decision is yours. You be the judge! Here’s what happened:

This summer just gone, I drove down to the local beach most mornings. I always put an old watch in my beach bag so I could keep track of the time but one day, I used a different bag and forgot to put in the watch. I realized it wasn’t in the bag when I took out my flippers, before getting in the water. While I swam, I spared a thought for the watch I’d left back home and entertained myself with the thought that perhaps someone from the locals in the water would shout out the time at some point.

Note that the locals may chat a lot among themselves while swimming but as a rule they don’t shout out the time. But, for some reason, I thought of my angels who always deliver whenever I am in need of something, be it big or trivial, and that thought just formed in my mind.

Shortly after, I forgot all about that, distracted by the cool bliss of the sea as I splashed around and did a few lengths with my exercise flippers. Out of the blue, just as I was thinking it was perhaps time to get out for a spot of sunbathing (‘cos a trip to the beach is also about getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, right?) I heard a local shout out, “What’s the time?”

Startled, I turned and realized the question had come from an old lady in the water. She had asked someone who was on the beach. I pricked my ears just as the prompt reply came, “Twenty to twelve.”

I didn’t think much about it at that point, thinking that perhaps it was a coincidence, but it did make me chuckle, and I whispered a thank you to my angels, just in case 😛

I went out to lie down and enjoy the sun for about 20-30 minutes – the time I allowed daily to soak up some sunshine before heading back home. As I lay on my mat later on, I heard someone else shout from far away, asking the time again! The answer echoed just as loudly. It was twelve, a point in time where I’d be checking my watch if I had it with me. And, of course, it was high time I went home so I got up and packed my stuff, pretty amazed by then… People had told the time twice that morning, loud enough for me to hear. On other days that hadn’t happened, not even once. Also, the telling of the time had come at the right points that I needed to know it – i.e. when I was supposed to leave the water (even though I never asked for that!), and when I should be leaving the beach.

Stay with me, as this is not the end. The best is yet to come…

When Saturday came, as my husband wasn’t working, he visited the beach with me, like every other weekend.

As we swam, I relayed what happened that day and we were having a laugh about it. Here I must explain that even though my husband, Andy, doesn’t have any personal experiences with receiving angelic messages, he has an open mind and finds the spooky stuff that I often share with him quite inspiring. So that morning I saw the familiar look of amazement in his eyes and suggested a little game – that we agree to call on our angels to repeat this for us that day. Andy was delighted with the idea. I told him the thing to do was to agree it would happen, having full faith it would, then totally put the thought aside. I explained to him that that was the trick and it was really important. So once we agreed we wanted our angels to tell us the time, we carried on with our swim and didn’t give it another thought.

Andy got tired of swimming first, like he always does, seeing that he is a marathon runner and always practicing for his next run. As a result, he thinks of a swim as a lazy, cooling interlude between his morning run and his lunch, while for me it is the ultimate workout of about 45 minutes. So, anyway, half an hour later or so he was out, stretched out on his beach mat, while I continued to dive and float like a sea otter in aquamarine heaven.

At some point, I turned around, and saw Andy gazing at me, sat up stiffly on his mat, a bright expression on his face that was alight with amazement.

When I asked what had happened he said a couple had just walked past him and, just as they did, the woman had asked the man, “What is the time?” to which he had replied, “Twenty to twelve.”

You should have seen my husband’s face! He couldn’t believe it and couldn’t work out how this could be a coincidence. Not only had the woman asked the time, but she’d done it just as they were passing by Andy (so he would be close enough to overhear as they were almost whispering to each other). Plus, the time was twenty to twelve – just as the first time I’d overheard someone earlier that week.

I hope you will agree there’s some sort of a pattern here! Perhaps those who think the world is ruled by randomness will dismiss this as a coincidence, and it would be your prerogative to believe what you choose to believe. The rest of you, though… the kindred spirits… Just think! Just think what that means!

For me, the sea is a place where I think of angels a lot… Partly because I often pray, meditate or reflect heavily when I’m in there…. and partly because, for some reason, in the local beach I find feathers floating on most days. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. And it’s impossible for me to see a feather anywhere and not think of angels anyway. So I guess on both counts my conviction was strong that my angels were listening when I wondered if someone, unprompted, would mention the time.

And now I am thinking, if angels respond so promptly and with such perfect timing to trivial requests, imagine what miracles they can do for us for the big stuff, if only we ask!

Till next time, keep believing this world is a magical place… The way I see it, the world is exactly what you think it is. And if you have the choice to decide what it is, why go for anything different? 😉

Albert Einstein said it best with this quote: “The most important question any human being can ask themselves is: ‘Is this a friendly universe?'”

Do you believe in angels? Do you have a similar tale to tell? Add a comment and share. I’d love to hear it!

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Run your Amazon campaigns through BookAds

Today, I am blogging for my fellow authors to share an awesome tip! If you take my advice you’ll save hours and hours of your precious time and, hopefully, earn some more money from your books too!

I don’t know about you but the months of September-October always find me in a state of mild depression, mainly because I keep feeling that time is running out and I haven’t even started on projects I was supposed to have finished by now.

Two are the projects I mind the most that I haven’t been working on:

a) Writing a new novel

b) Mastering AMS campaigns after following the mind-blowing free training course by the Kindlepreneur.

I had the best intentions to work on both this year but, sadly, life got in the way.

And here I am, in mid-October, having just issued a short story collection instead of a novel (because I felt compelled to offer some kind of new content to my readers this year the way I’ve been doing so far), and now it’s high time I wrote that new book that’s well overdue. The other day, I was getting frustrated thinking that for the foreseeable future AMS campaigns would remain uncharted territory for me… when an email came to offer me a wonderful solution.

The email was from Matt Stone, aka Buck Flogging, a highly successful entrepreneur whom I’ve presented in this post along with a couple of his free resources.

So, anyway, Matt has just started a new site where he and his associates, having mastered AMS campaigns, offer authors the chance to sit back and watch as they run their AMS campaigns for them!

Being well informed about the giving nature and the high marketing skills of Matt Stone, for me, the decision to sign up for this service was a no brainer.

Note: When an author signs up for this service, they grant access to BookAds from their AMS campaigns dashboard, but without sharing the password. The author only invites BookAds to become an ‘editor’ for their AMS campaigns. This is done from the AMS dashboard. In this case, a team member from Bookads gains access to the author’s AMS dashboard and only that – they cannot see the KDP Bookshelf/Reports, for example.

Just think of all the time this could save you in your daily work schedule… allowing you to write instead, or to do other kinds of marketing that you actually enjoy or feel confident with.

Check out BookAds and see what you think. From what it says on the site, their customers are making more money than what they spend. This could be the case for anyone whose book looks good on the product page (i.e. has the right average star rating, number of reviews etc).

Since the site is new, Matt is offering this service at the low price of $49 per month for a limited time only, and he’s going to take on a small number of customers at first. I hope you will get to be one of them.

Clarification: The monthly cost for you will be the $49 fee PLUS the charges you will receive from Amazon for the running of the campaign. The site mentions a recommended minimum daily budget of $10. And even though a simple calculation may suggest that you’re looking at a monthly Amazon cost of $300, in reality it won’t be anywhere near that according to Brian Berni who runs the campaigns for the customers of BookAds. When I asked about the total Amazon costs I’d be likely to pay, saying that I wouldn’t be happy to spend more than $100 per month at first, he gave me this answer (that put my mind at ease) and I quote it here verbatim to help you decide:

The daily spend is an average. It is very very very unlikely you’ll be spending that much in a day. In fact, almost impossible. That’s because if I see you are (and not making a positive ROI), I would pause the campaigns that are costing you too much. If, on the other hand, you’re spending more than 10$/day but making 20, I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a different story 🙂

The budgets you see in the campaigns are an absolute maximum the ads can reach, after which they will cut off. As per above, this NEVER happens. I’ve done hundreds (if not thousands) of campaigns, and I’ve never seen an ad go through its entire daily budget. Especially since we typically bid very low. 

The amount you see for those 2-3 campaigns (100$) is the minimum required by Amazon for that type of ad (Product Display). The same as above applies. I’ve never seen any ad even get close to that. Some ads spend around 20$ in their ENTIRE lifetime (6 months). 

 

How to apply for the service:

The application procedure is quick and the screens take you through the 3 steps effortlessly: First, you set up the monthly payment via Paypal or whatever, then you are diverted to a quick video that shows you how to invite BookAds as an editor to your AMS dashboard and, last, lower on the same screen, you fill in the entry form with the details of the book you wish to promote. Done. And you can cancel the service at any time.

Note: The above link to BookAds contains an affiliate link, which means if you sign up for this service I will earn a little commission. This doesn’t affect the fee you pay. Thanks in advance if you use my link to sign up!

In my book, time is precious… and all indie authors suffer from not having enough of it. For me, delegating tasks to people more skilled than me is a huge time-saver as well as the practice of any entrepreneur worth his salt (both Henry Ford and Thomas Edison spring to mind here). I am getting excited as I write these lines, thinking that by putting my trust in someone more skilled than me I can save precious hours of my time AND be in for a chance to make more money than I did before.

Here’s the link to BookAds again… I am off to write my novel now… Thank you, Matt Stone!

SPREAD THE WORD WITH A TWEET:

You don't have to use AMS campaigns, after all! #author #authors #ASMSG Click To Tweet

 

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