Sunny photos and the latest news

Hi peeps! It’s early February, yet the sun is shining here in my little town near Athens and I couldn’t feel more blessed. I hope, wherever you are, that your weather is mild and easy to handle. It’s been crazy so far in many parts of the world.

I’m writing today to share the latest: Α fun Corfu newspaper, and some of the photos I took last week with this awesome camera:

Canon Powershot SX610 HS

I received this Canon Powershot SX610 HS as a gift in the post recently. Canon Greece sent it to me so I can use it in my travel posts!  I took it to the seafront of my little town and had a lot of fun testing it. This camera is wonderful, and I am not just saying that because it’s bad to look a gift horse in the mouth! It’s very easy to use, and the zoom is fantastic… I can tell Canon’s generous gift will be motivating me a lot from now on to keep exploring and sharing… Here are some of the photos I took – click or tap to enlarge!

 

See the red camera on Amazon US!

See the white camera on Amazon UK!

Did you enjoy these sunny photos? You’re welcome to friend me on Facebook where I frequently share delightful images from my part of the world.

 

Check out this wonderful — and FREE — monthly newspaper from the island of Corfu!

 

 

Every issue of The Agiot is full of fun stuff, holiday stories and news from the island.

Read it online, or download the PDF. It’s FREE either way!

Allow for a few moments for it to load up. Check it out!

 

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A report on KDP Rocket: How to rank high in Amazon searches

Are you an Amazon author? Struggling to find the right keywords that will enhance your book’s visibility in Amazon searches or in your AMS campaigns? Well, I wrote this post today just for you and it’s a must-see!

In 2017 I purchased KDP Rocket, a magical piece of software that helped me find keywords for my books that actually worked! KDP Rocket truly opened my eyes about what people type every month on Amazon by the thousands. Most of these keywords I’d never have guessed in a million years.

Thanks to this app that’s built by The Kindlepreneur (Dave Chesson) and his team of software engineering geeks, my books now come up in searches for many popular keywords in their niches – something I used to only dream about.

Is this something you’d like for your books too? Well, help’s here. Today, I am going to take you by the hand and show you what KDP Rocket can do for you. In detail. You’ll see all its fantastic search modules and then I’ll let you decide how indispensable it is.

Okay, I hear you…

WHAT DO I NEED IT FOR?

KDP Rocket can find you the best keywords!

WHAT KEYWORDS?

Well, at first, it used to help only with the 7 keywords in the KDP bookshelf but, since a recent upgrade, it now provides a multitude of keywords for AMS Campaigns too with the click of a button. In seconds.

Plus, KDP Rocket helps you identify and research your competition too.

To be exact, KDP Rocket is your best companion for three different kinds of searches: keyword searches, competition searches, and AMS keyword searches. The app’s main screen reflects this clearly:

Let’s start with Idea Search. This is what you’ll use to choose the best 7 keywords in your KDP bookshelf.

Let’s say your book is in the Mystery genre. Let’s type a relevant keyword like ‘mystery books’ and see what happens.

KDP Rocket - Idea Searches screen

KDP Rocket – Idea Searches screen

Whoa! In just a few seconds, KDP Rocket came up with juicy details for the particular keyword, but also for similar ones that Amazon customers search for.

Bonus: With this app you get to see keywords you’d never have imagined existed, and often, they’re extremely popular too.

Now, let me explain in detail this screen for you:

Number of Competitors shows how many books are ranking on Amazon for a particular keyword. Ok. Now let me tell you something really interesting: You would think that the higher the number of competitors the harder the competition would be, right? Yeah, I thought the same. And yet, Dave Chesson tells me that this can’t be further from the truth. Actually, this number is so misleading, Dave didn’t even think it deserved a place in the app but it only got in because his beta testers preferred it to show.

So, what matters here is not the number of competitors, but how easy the keyword makes it to rank among the top 5. This can be easy with a lot of competitors, and hard with a lot fewer. So, take this number for what it is, i.e., just a number for your info, and don’t let it daunt you. To see what actually measures how competitive the keyword is, I refer you to the ‘Competitive Score’ below.

Average Monthly Earnings shows you the total of revenue for all the books that rank for this keyword. This does not include paperback sales. It does include ebook sales and KENPs but to what ratio only Amazon knows.

Note: Dave is working on an awesome addition to this! Later this year, KDP Rocket will have a toggle switch for ebook vs paperback sales. This will allow users to flip the switch in order to see the revenue for ebook AND paperback sales separately!

Google Searches & Estimated Amazon Searches: KDP Rocket lets you know how many people type a certain keyword per month on Amazon and also on Google. This way you get a general feel of the popularity of genres/niches among the general public too. Nifty, huh?

Competitive Score: This is the nitty-gritty of the process, the real juice! A number above 70 means the competition is hard and the keyword should be avoided. A number below 35 suggests the competition is easy and your book will have a good chance to rank high in searches (if you choose this keyword to be among your seven). Remember, ‘Number of Competitors’ does not matter – THIS does!

Please note that Amazon doesn’t allow the use of the word ‘kindle’ in keywords for your bookshelf. KDP Rocket lists keywords with this word because people use it in searches. But don’t try to use these – Amazon will email you demanding that you remove the specific word.

While on the subject of keyword research: You will find that whether you use singular or plural form you will get the same results in your search. e.g. ‘mystery book’ vs ‘mystery books’. This is also the case when you change the order of the words in any way. For example ‘mystery books murder’ and ‘murder mystery books’ will produce the same results.

Ok. Back to the last image (inserting it again here for your convenience.)

You will notice that on the right of the lines some say ‘Analyze’, and others say ‘Check Competition’.

When you search for a keyword, all lines initially say ‘Analyze’ on the right, and only mention part of the data. Only when you hit ‘Analyze’ on a line it gives you the ‘Average monthly earnings’ and the ‘Competitive Score’. It also changes the word ‘Analyze’ to ‘Check Competition’ so you can follow with that step in your research.

As you can see in the above screen, ‘Mystery Books for Boys Aged 12-14’ is a keyword worth looking into more closely. You probably wouldn’t have guessed it without KDP Rocket, and yet, people ask for this 266 times per month. The total revenue related to searches for this keyword amounts up to $6,719 and the competition is low – i.e. the Competitive Score is only 25. Needless to say, for every keyword you choose, relevance/honesty is key or else you’ll be looking for trouble. So here you won’t choose this keyword, no matter how precious, unless your book actually targets this age group.

As you probably realize by now, KDP Rocket also comes in handy in the research you will do BEFORE you write your next book. This is so you can find in advance a niche with easy-to-beat competition that has a high demand and great revenue possibilities at the same time. Use it to choose the title/subtitle of your next book to reap the same benefit!

Back to our research. Once you’ve found a keyword that looks good on KDP Rocket, the next step is to hit ‘Check Competition’ on the right of the relevant line. The next screen will show you in detail the bestselling books and authors for that keyword, their earnings, their book covers, how old the books are, and even the categories the authors have chosen for them!

To protect the authors’ anonymity I will not show you the competitors’ screen for any of the above mystery-related keywords. If you hit ‘Check Competition’, this is what the screen looks like for another, random keyword:

KDP Rocket - Competition Searches screen

KDP Rocket – Competition Searches screen

Keyword, books and authors are not displayed above as I just explained, but you can see, among other things, the daily and monthly earnings of each competitor (book and author). If you choose a line, the book cover shows up below in the square where it says ‘Select a competitor to view more stats’.

ABSR = Amazon Best Seller Rank

Bonus: This screen also helps you identify what type of book cover is selling best for the specific keyword or genre!

Furthermore, if you hit ‘Unleash the Categories’ in that screen, KDP Rocket shows you the categories this specific book is ranking in on Amazon.

If you click on ‘Check it Out’, you are taken to the actual product page of the book on Amazon US.

Ok. Back to the main screen.

So far, we’ve covered how to find keywords (Idea Search) for your KDP bookshelf and how to research the competition (Competitor Search).

Time to show you the latest addition to KDP Rocket – AMS Keyword Search.

Again, I can hear some of you wondering…

WHY DO I NEED THIS FEATURE? CAN’T I USE FOR MY AMS CAMPAIGNS THE SAME KEYWORDS THAT I GOT FROM MY IDEA SEARCH?

The answer is, yes, you can use them, but for AMS campaigns you can use and SHOULD use, a lot more.

Let me explain: As you know, there are several restrictions to the kind of keywords you can use in your bookshelf. For one, you are not allowed to mention other books or authors.

Amazon Ads is a whole different ball game though. Here, mentioning the competition is a MUST if you want to stand a chance in the game.

Take a look at the below screen. Note that I am using the tab for AMS Keyword searches.

I typed the keyword ‘Angel romance’ and I got 9 pages of results. This is the first page:

KDP Rocket - AMS Keyword Searches screen

KDP Rocket – AMS Keyword Searches screen

See? Not only did I get relevant recommended keywords, but I also got names of competitive books (and their authors) for this keyword. KDP Rocket picks up the actual bestsellers, which means these are the books mostly requested during searches for this keyword.

So… If you add these author and book names as keywords in your AMS campaigns, you’ll be in for much better chances of your ad getting some eyeballs and clicks.

All features of KDP Rocket are easy to use. The app will save you hours of work with your Amazon Campaigns and even makes it easy to copy your keywords onto them. Just download the data from your KDP Rocket into a CSV file (see later in this post.)

Back to the main screen. And as you can see it looks different now!!! Well, you won’t believe what just happened. I was planning to publish this post today (having worked on it for a couple days) and, lo and behold, a new automatic upgrade just came in for KDP Rocket! You can spot the new addition in the screenshot – and this is what the brand new feature, Category Hunter, will show you :

  • Relevant and niche categories for your book

  • The Amazon bestseller rank of the #1 and #20 books for that category today

  • How many books you’d need to sell today to be the #1 bestseller (or #20) in that category

All of that with a click of a button. Let me show you an example – back to ‘mystery books’:

The first line tells us that to rank at #1 in this category you must sell 1,697 books today – not easy. To be in the top 20 though, 106 books are enough, which may be easy to do if you’re running a KCD promo, for example. This screen also shows you the ABSR (Amazon bestseller rank) of #1 in this category (ABSR 54) and of #20 (ABSR 1281).

If you click on ‘Check it Out’ you’ll be taken to the bestseller list for this category on Amazon so you can check out the books. You’ll also be able to identify the full category name (as you can see above not all of it is showing in the first line).

Oh! And to facilitate your research to the max, the columns are clickable. Click on one and you get the data sorted by that column. Click again on the same column so the numbers can be sorted the other way round (higher to lower numbers and vice versa).

The other lines above show categories that make it easier to rank in the top 20, as you can see. In the third line, for example, KDP Rocket reveals that it’s enough to sell 143 books to hit #1 today in this category. With just 27 sales you get to be #20, and so forth.

I hope you will agree that this is an excellent tool to pick your categories with so you can hit the bestseller lists. Hitting #1 adds prestige to your new releases especially and helps immensely with sales, in my own experience. I’ll also add that making your book a bestseller with the right category is easier to do when your book is priced $0.99, be it during a new release or a KCD promo.

KDP ROCKET EXTRAS

Every screen on KDP Rocket has two buttons at the bottom:

Export: This option stores the data in a CSV file (opens with Excel). Download and work with it at your leisure.

Video Tutorial: This option takes you to a webpage where you can learn the basics on how to use KDP Rocket. You’ll also find there a couple of Youtube videos with great tips and case studies.

Make sure to scroll all the way down for more hot tips!!!

 

I hope this post gives you a good idea of what KDP Rocket can do. For me, it’s indispensable. And in case you’re unsure, let me say that I know how hard it is to find time to learn something new… But I’ll tell you this: it took me less than half an hour to know my way around KDP Rocket since opening it the first time, and all I had to do was watch a couple of videos on the aforementioned tutorial page. Chances are you won’t even need to do that, though, and that’s because this post practically serves as a user’s guide in a way. So, if you’ve been following the information I’ve shared here, you’re practically ready to use the app.

MORE GOOD NEWS:

The newsletters I receive from Dave Chesson often contain the instruction to upgrade to the next version – that is always easy to do and it takes seconds. I have never had any technical problems with the app (unlike another, supposedly reliable keyword-finding software that I purchased earlier on… It proved to be of little value to me and had more bugs than my vegetable patch in high summer!)

Dave and his crew keep working diligently on any minor bugs that come up. Every upgrade seems to make the software better and better, with new exciting features added to it every few months.

Are you interested to hear more? Want to see an awesome introduction video on KDP Rocket?

 

GO HERE TO CHECK IT OUT

 

Please note:

 

Other than KDP Rocket, Dave Chesson has also created a FREE training course where he shows you, step-by-step, how to set up and monitor your AMS campaigns. The course mentions KDP Rocket, but he provides instructions on how to do the work manually throughout the course without the use of the app.

KDP Rocket saves you hours in the process of setting up and monitoring your AMS Campaigns, but it’s certainly not a must.

GO HERE TO CHECK OUT DAVE CHESSON’s FREE COURSE ON AMS CAMPAIGNS

  

HOT TIP!

To test how your book comes up in Amazon searches and have results you can trust, you need to use Google Chrome and open an ‘incognito window’ to do it.

This is so your search does not take under consideration your browsing history… If you access Amazon from your normal browser window (be it in Chrome or Firefox etc), chances are it will show your book in searches because you’ve been visiting your product page a lot, and not so much because its keywords are great. So take no chances and get results you can trust.

To open an incognito window in Google Chrome, click on the three dots on the top right of the screen (see above image). Then, go to Amazon, and search for your keywords. If your book comes up, congrats! You can trust that result 100%.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission from any resulting KDP Rocket sales. If you have found this post useful and decided to purchase the app, please consider supporting me by using the link in this post to do so. This will allow me to continue to blog and serve the indie community. Thank you.

 

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Book review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

It’s not often that I fall in love with a book, and when it happens it truly feels amazing. And that is how I feel, having read this classic American novel of 1951 – a book that I’ve been hearing about from time to time and was very curious about. The narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, is not your average young man. At first, I found him entertaining, half way through the book he began to get on my nerves, but by the end I adored him so much I found myself wishing I could adopt him! Let me explain: Holden is distracted. Very distracted. His words and actions are so random that any sane person would soon start to wonder what’s wrong with him.

Throughout the book, he jumps from one thing to another. Plus he lies, and even when he doesn’t have to, seemingly just for the fun of it. At the same time, Holden keeps saying the word ‘phony’ throughout the book. He can spot lies and deception from a mile away, and seems to despise these things with passion. Talk about a contradiction there! His story involves a roller coaster of emotions and situations and you get to follow it all from his point of view. It all starts in his school, a place he hates, with schoolmates he loves to hate too. I won’t give you any spoilers about the plot, but I’ll just say he leaves school and winds up in New York where he stays in a hotel and meets a few people – some of them he knows, others he meets for the first time. The more I read, the more I was reeled in. I said earlier on that Holden got on my nerves at some point, and that was partly because he kept repeating himself. Normally, repeated words in a book won’t do, but of course, for the specific, over-thinking character, it actually makes sense and shows the brilliance of the author. The writing in this book is truly masterful, down to the last detail.

The character’s thinking, as faulty and annoying as it can be sometimes, is intriguing and will keep you interested throughout. Towards the end of Holden’s weekend in New York, and certainly in what comes after that, Holden’s true colors slowly begin to show, and that is where you’ll probably find yourself caring for this young man more and more, just like I did. He felt so incredibly real, and I was full of concern about him when the book ended for that reason. Frankly, I wish there was a sequel so I could find out what happens to him next! And that, I think, is the true feat of the great J. D. Salinger. This magical book made me cry at the scene of the carousel simply because, there, Holden Caulfield tells us exactly who he is and where he’s coming from. This is a gem of a book. You can’t call yourself a book lover unless you’ve read The Catcher in the Rye. This is one of the best and most unforgettable books I have ever read and I highly recommend that you read it too.

 

My rating

5 stars

Unforgettable and magical

 

Do you enjoy classic books? This legendary story is a must!

VISIT AMAZON  US  UK

 

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Nafplio, a town steeped in Greek history

Today I am delighted to present to you the historical town of Nafplio (Nafplion) in the Peloponnese.

In 1821, the Greeks declared the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire that plagued the country for 400 years. Eight years later, Nafplio became the first capital of Greece and remains to this day a town steeped in history. The old quarter, situated near the promenade, has retained both its feel and look from the 1800’s. This is largely owed to Nafplio’s antiquated buildings as well as the three Venetian forts that surround it: Bourtzi, Palamidi and ‘Its Kale’.

A statue of King Otto in Trion Navarchon square

As you discover the old quarter on foot, the monuments and statues placed everywhere are a constant reminder that you’re in a place once inhabited by war heroes, kings, and gifted leaders of the people. The thought brings chills down my spine every time, and I hope to share that feeling of awe with you today.

So come with me, on this virtual tour of the town, and let’s revel together in Nafplio’s past and present glory. I promise you will be enchanted by its beauty and, if Greek history interests you, chances are you will hear something new 🙂

Syntagma (Constitution square)

Nafplio is a highly touristy town. As well as having a multitude of visitors from other countries, Greeks, mainly Athenians, descend in droves for weekend breaks throughout the year. Their favorite pastime here, it seems, is to sit at one of the bustling cafes, either on the promenade, or at the historical Syntagma (Constitution) Square.

The view of Bourtzi from the promenade (the small lighthouse is visible on the left)

No matter where you are in the old quarter of Nafplio, you will sooner or later wind up in the promenade. Akti Miaouli Street is lined with cafes, all of them offering a picturesque view to the Venetian fort of Bourtzi that stands isolated from town in the middle of the water. Back in the day, a chain connected it to Akronafplia so that unwanted ships could not approach the city. Much later in time, Bourtzi became a prison (the war hero Kolokotronis was jailed here too), then a hotel (19230s – 1960s), and now it’s a popular point of interest for the tourists. Throughout the year, caiques ferry visitors back and forth to it from the promenade. I visited it years ago and took some wonderful pictures, which I plan to share on a separate article. When I do, I will make sure to link up to it from here.

At the end of the promenade there is a tiny lighthouse, where visitors can have a closer view of Bourtzi and the castle of Argos in the distance. On the other side, the view is just as breathtaking:

Palamidi and Akronafplia as viewed from the lighthouse

Palamidi castle and the lower hill of Akronafplia crown the old town to an enchanting effect. A visit to Akronafplia is a must, and the ascent on foot is nowhere near as laborious as the one to Palamidi. Actually, I wouldn’t recommend to brave the 999 steps to Palamidi unless you’re seriously fit! On the other hand, Akronafplia should be a peace of cake to get to on foot if you enjoy quiet, long walks.

Akronafplia offers spectacular views of the town and the beach of Arvanitia, as well as a couple of places of interest – the most interesting being the clock tower and the fort ruins. See the section ‘Suggested Walks’ later in this post for details and photos of Akronafplia.

Leaving the lighthouse, one can either head left towards the old town, or head right for a delightful walk to Arvanitia Beach (again, see ‘Suggested Walks’ later in this post for details and photos).

 

The photos in this post were all taken around New Year’s Day. The city was decorated beautifully, and a pirate ship was put up in Trion Navarchon Square (Three Admirals). Children’s events took place there every day during our stay.

 

A view of Palamidi from Kapodistrias square. Kapodistrias was the first governor of Greece

The infamous Palamidi is visible from anywhere in Nafplio. To visit it, you can either drive along 25is Martiou Street, then up the hill to its main entrance or, if you dare the exertion, go up its 999 steps that begin from the old quarter near The Land Gate (Pyli Ksiras).

A view of Palamidi castle from Fillelinon (philellenes) square on the promenade

Legend has it that the 999 steps of Palamidi used to be 1,000 but the horse of the war hero Theodoros Kolokotronis broke the 1000th with its hooves. Kolokotronis was one of the prominent war generals of the 1820s who freed Nafplio as well as the town of Tripoli.

In Kolokotronis square in Nafplio, there is a magnificent statue that depicts him on his horse pointing towards Tripoli. A similar statue stands in Stadiou street, Athens, outside the Old Parliament building (now, the National Historical Museum).

Although he was a fervent supporter of Prince Otto of Bavaria and rooted for him to become the king of Greece, when Kolokotronis was an elderly man, and after Otto had become king, he wound up being charged with treason. Even more ironically, he then wound up in a humid, tiny prison in the castle of Palamidi, the very place he once entered as a victor and liberator. The prison is a tiny space carved in the rock and is a claustrophobic sightseeing spot on offer to the visitors of the castle.

Kolokotronis is among the most revered Greek heroes. His infamous love for Greece and his commitment to freedom from Othoman rule brim over in his legendary words – you’ll find them translated into English below to the best of my ability.

“Are you Greek? What are you bowing for? Stand up! We Greeks talk even to the Gods while standing tall!”

“Greece is what we want, and it doesn’t matter if it means we will be eating stones!”

His infamous red helmet is a remnant of his service as major in Zakynthos (Zante) in the British army. The helmet and his armor are on display in the National Historical Museum (Stadiou street, Athens). For more information on the life of this great Greek, go here

 

During Venetian rule, Nafplio had the name ‘Napoli di Romania’. The Venetians had fortified the city and had built a single gate one could enter or exit through (1687). A reconstructed version of it survives today and it is called The Land Gate (Pyli Ksiras).

The Venetians had built a canal that ran past the gate and allowed small boats to come in from the sea and moor outside. The gate closed at sun down. Anyone who arrived after that, would have no choice but to spend the night outside. There was a military camp behind the gate – soldiers guarded it  and monitored who came and went.

The first king of Greece, King Otto from Bavaria, was offered the key to Nafplio in front of the Land Gate when he was only eighteen years old (in 1833).

This painting by Peter Von Hess from 1835 depicts the entry of King Otto to the city of Nafplio. The Land Gate is visible in the distance. All three timeless forts of Nafplio are also depicted.

The Land Gate was demolished around 1894 and the canal was gradually filled with soil. Today, it stands reconstructed with the original lion of St Mark on its top, but sadly without its head, wings and tail.

Before the gate stands a monument to a local hero of Nafplio, Staikos Staikopoulos, who freed the fort of Palamidi during the Greek War of Independence.

WHERE TO GO FROM THE LAND GATE?

Next to the aforementioned statue is a cafe with artificial waterfalls and a pond. Behind it there are some steps. If you go up to the road from here you can either take the steps to Palamidi (if you dare!!), or bear to the right and carry on uphill to Akronafplia (to the clock tower and the fort ruins) or, where the road divides into two, head down to Arvanitia beach. No matter what you choose, you’re in for unforgettable sea views and scenery (see ‘Suggested Walks’ later in this post for details and photos).

 

Constitution Square, mentioned earlier for its bustling cafes, is surrounded by magnificent neoclassical buildings, as well as two prominent landmarks: the Archeological museum and the old Mosque (Vouleftikon) with its beautiful dome. The latter was initially a Turkish mosque but when Greece was liberated it housed the first parliament of the newly formed state.

The mosque, which housed the first parliament of Greece, and the old clock on Akronafplia above (picture taken from the facade of the Archeological Museum)

Other museums worth visiting are the War Museum and the Koboloi (worry beads) Museum. Both are situated near Trion Navarchon Square.

 

Walking around Nafplio’s lanes is a pleasure in itself. There are many curio shops and wonderful eateries on offer.

 

The stepped street of Potamianou near St Spyridon leads to the Catholic church and Akronafplia (clock tower and fort ruins of Its Kale)

Many streets have steps and are so enchanting they simply beg for the amateur photographer to take a snap. These steps on Potamianou Street are situated a little after the infamous St. Spyridon Church (see a little later in this post for the church’s harrowing story!)

 

It may not look like much at first glance, but this particular corner (just before you get to the Land Gate from St Spyridon’s Church) gave me goosebumps. The signs on the opposite walls informed me that the house on the left, now Dias hotel, was once the home of Alexander Ypsilantis. Across the street, the one with the brown doors and windows used to be the home of Manto Mavrogenous. To think I was standing on the doorsteps of two legends of the Greek War of Independence left me glued to the spot. I just stood and marveled at the facades, reduced to silence for a while, taking it all in.

All the quaint streets on higher ground from the busy shops and eateries await to take you back in time, and the antiquated buildings, draped with bougainvillea, take your breath away. This time, I chose to stay at the heart of this district and I am so glad I did. My hotel, Byron Hotel, was the perfect choice and it consists of two old buildings: The one on higher ground (light blue windows) used to be a stately home, then converted into homes for poor families. The owner offered the information that each family would occupy only one room, and the one I stayed in was quite small (albeit uniquely quaint!). It made me very sad to imagine a whole family once had such a tiny space to themselves!

The church of St Spyridon stands opposite the part of Byron Hotel that used to be The French Embassy. After murdering Kapodistrias at the church’s entrance, Mavromichalis found refuge inside the Embassy.

The part of the hotel that stands on street level as well as the church across the street are harrowing parts of Nafplion’s history…

The church of St Spyridon is tiny yet beautiful. Plus, its doorstep has a huge historical value. Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece, was once murdered at the threshold on his way in to attend mass by two members of a defiant clan of Mani: Konstantin Mavromichalis attacked with a gun and his son Georgios with a dagger. Konstantin was shot on the spot by a witness, and Georgios hid in the French Embassy across the street (Byron Hotel today). He later surrendered and was sent to the firing squad. For a detailed account of Kapodistrias’ assassination, go here

A plaque on the wall near the entry of St Spyridon tells the tale of Kapodistrias’s murder.

Fellow lovers of all things Corfu may recognize Kapodistrias from his statue in Corfu town (as well as from the Kapodistrias Museum in Evropouli, Corfu). Kapodistrias was born in Corfu, and he was a count. After serving  in Russia as the Foreign Minister, he came to Greece and was elected the first head of state when the country was liberated from the Ottoman Empire. Highly educated, an able diplomat and a clever man, he is renowned for his trick that got the locals in Nafplio to eat potato!

Kapodistrias brought potatoes to Greece hoping to feed the starving populace but the locals of Nafplio, who’d never heard of them before, were reluctant to try them. As a result, tons of potatoes began to rot in the stores. This is when Kapodistrias assigned men to unload the potatoes on the Nafplion docks and to guard them night and day, while ordering the men to turn a blind eye should the locals attempt to steal. In a very short time, now realizing they were missing on something that had high value, the locals raided the goods and soon there was nothing left!

As serendipity would have it, I was watching a documentary about Paris the other day, and it mentioned a French pharmacist called Parmentier who used exactly the same trick in Paris (way before the Greek incident with Kapodistrias). The Parisians even thought the potato was the work of the devil, but Parmentier’s ploy, with the use of guards, was a success.  I chuckled no end, and now think it’s quite probable that Kapodistrias, well-read as he was, may have taken a leaf from the French man’s book 😛

Living in Byron Hotel made it so easy to imagine the bygone era of the 1800’s… the decoration made sure of that, and the total energy of the place did too. Everyone among the staff was hospitable and eager to help. We loved the generous breakfast in the indoor sitting area, and especially the bookshelf! Being typical bookworms, Andy and I always chose to sit by it during breakfast (and in the evening for a gratuitous cup of tea) so we could browse at the books.

We both felt we should return in the summer, if only to sample the quaint outside sitting area too. It’s on the terrace of a derelict building next door that once housed Turkish baths.

Guests at Byron Hotel can sit out in the summer on the terrace of a derelict building that used to house Turkish baths

SUGGESTED WALKS

 

A WALK TO AKRONAFPLIA (AND ARVANITIA BEACH), STARTING FROM THE LAND GATE

In the above map, the squiggly line on the right represents the 999 steps to Palamidi. The Land Gate stands across from it (‘Gate of Land’ on this map). From there, if you walk alongside the old fortress wall on the right, around the bend the road splits into two (at Arvanitia Sq). From here you can either go left (downhill) to Arvanitia beach, or take the road right (uphill) that leads to Akronafplia (clock tower and the fort ruins of ‘Its Kale’). Arvanitia Square is very plain – just an open asphalted space. See later in this section for the easiest way to go to Arvanitia beach from there as this is not clearly shown on the map.

If you take the uphill road to Akronafplia, you are soon rewarded with spectacular sea views…

Behind you, the view to Palamidi is just as stunning – a magical place to be!

Go past the derelict hotel, and you’ll soon enter the old fortress area. The road is paved here, and your transportation back in time begins…

The fort of Akronafplia (or, Its Kale – ‘inner castle’ – as the Turks called it) has housed armies of various countries over time. Originally built by the Romans and Byzantines, it once housed the city itself. Later, Venetian, Turkish, and Greek armies used it, the Turks conquering it twice. The fort even housed Bavarian soldiers at some point; they were appointed here as the guard of King Otto. When they died during a typhoid epidemic, a cemetery was created for them in town and a beautiful Bavarian Lion was sculpted in the rock at the burial site to honor their memory.

NOTE: The lion still survives today and the old burial site is now a park (the remains of the Bavarian soldiers are now kept in the Catholic Church). To see the lion sculpture, get to 25is Martiou Street, and turn left to Mihail Iatrou Street. The Bavarian lion is past the church of Agion Panton. For pictures and more information about the lion, go here. For a map, go here (marked as ‘sleeping lion’).

As you continue your uphill climb past the fort ruins of Akronafplia, you’ll soon begin to find spots with breathtaking views to the city. This is also the case when you reach the clock tower.

The clock tower is a wonderful spot to enjoy the sunset from. The clock and its original tower were placed here during the rule of King Otto. In 1944 the German Army blasted the tower as it stood in the way of their artillery guns. The locals saved the clock from destruction and Greek poet Terzakis wrote a wonderful poem that spoke of  a day of freedom where the precious clock of the city would sound again. That day came to be in 1949 when a new tower was constructed in the same place and the old clock took pride of place upon it.

Leaving the clock behind, you soon get to a point where you can either continue downhill (bungalow roofs of a hotel are visible in that direction) or turn left. I suggest you go left. It’s a very short walk from there to the helipad where the road ends. This spot offers, in my opinion, the best views of Akronafplia:

Palamidi as seen from the helipad on the top of Akronafplia

This view of the slope covered by ‘Fragosykies’ (Opuntia ficus-indica) with the Palamidi in the background rendered me mesmerized. I hope the pictures can convey some of its beauty. The plants were laden with ripe fruit, but I doubt anyone would ever dare venturing down that perilous slope to get them! I risked just a few steps in that direction, enough to admire the view, and it left me truly breathless.

Head back down the same way you went…

NOTE: Another way to enter the fort of Its Kale (instead of starting your walk from the Land Gate) is to enter through its original gateway that survives today, complete with a Venetian lion emblem. You will find it as you go up the steps of Potamianou Street past the Catholic church (earlier in this post I included a photo of this stepped street that’s near St Spyridon Church).

If you fancy a quick descend down to the beach, go to Arvanitias Sq (see map) and find the path through the trees on the very right of the square.

Most people would be quite tired by this point (I know I was!) so I don’t recommend heading back to town along the beach past the lighthouse (see map – it’s about 1 km away). I suggest therefore that you go back to the Land Gate (a very short walk) where you can sit at a cafe to relax with a drink.

By all means, if you have the stamina to keep going, here’s the way to get to the lighthouse from the beach:  Go down to the rocks by the water’s edge and head right (you can walk easily on the flat rock surfaces but comfortable/non slippy shoes are a must). At some point you will find a few steps that will take you to a coastal road. The walk from here to the lighthouse is very picturesque – I share it with pictures in the next section.

 

A WALK TO ARVANITIA BEACH STARTING FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE

From the lighthouse, turn right (to a quiet coastal road) to get to Arvanitia beach.

Around the bend, beautiful corners will start to make you smile…

 

Just like on the top of Akronafplia, the slope here is covered with ‘fragosykies’ too (prickly pear or ‘opuntia ficus-indica’, in Latin). They were laden with fruit during my last visit.

Visitors have carved initials and dates on the plant leaves all over the place so, chances are, they will attract your attention too. If you’re not familiar with this plant, do not attempt to touch its fruit or cut it off. It’s not called a prickly pear for nothing 😛

This is quite a short walk that you can enjoy leisurely  on an even slope throughout. Before you know it you will be on the beach. It is frequented by swimmers throughout the year and you’re bound to spot at least one!

 

WHERE TO EAT IN NAFPLIO

I must start with my favorite – Liatero! It is a new restaurant that brims over with doll-like quaintness. Its pastel colors are bound to catch your eye! The added bonuses are the attentive, courteous stuff and the food that’s out of this world yummy. Try the linguine with sun-dried tomato and rocket, or the hand-made ravioli with spinach and sweet myzithra cheese from Naxos – then you’ll know what I mean! They also serve meat, fish, and seafood dishes.

To get to Liatero, leave Syntagma square past the right side of the Archeological Museum and turn right towards the promenade. You will see it in that lane – can’t miss it.

 

We enjoyed dinner in Vasilis taverna with live laiko and rebetiko music – a wonderful dining experience.

OTHER RECOMMENDED EATERIES:

VASILIS: Family taverna, traditional Greek food. Live music on some nights (Staikopoulou street)

CHRISTOFOROS: Family taverna, traditional Greek food (Staikopoulou street)

 

Sokaki cafe/restaurant. Venture inside for its impressive decorative features!

SOKAKI: (Cafe/restaurant) Salads, crepes, quiche lorraine, burgers other dishes. Great indoor decoration. To find it, leave Syntagma square from the right side of the Archeological Museum (as you head to the promenade). You will see it in front of you, standing in a corner.

ARAPAKOS: Family taverna, traditional Greek food – live music on some nights (Bouboulinas Street, on the promenade)

KAKANARAKIS: Housed in the former King Otto Stables (Vasilissis Olgas Street)

GYROKOMEIO GRILL: Souvlaki and other cheap eats. Good value for money! (Sidiras Merarheias street)

SOUVLOMAGIES: Souvlaki and traditional Greek food. Behind the Kapodistrias statue (in Kapodistrias Sq.) is a park. This is the old train station site (OSE company). On the other side of the green you will find the taverna on the left side of the road.

RECOMMENDED CAFES

Relax in the shade with the sound of running water delighting your ears in ‘Propolis’ (meaning, ‘before the city’) by the Land Gate

PROPOLIS: Coffee, tsipouro and meze. Waterfall scenery and sounds – situated by the Land Gate

CAFE STATHMOS: 25is Martiou Street, in the old train station site (OSE company)

NAPOLI DI ROMANIA: Akti Miaouli, on the promenade. Highly recommended. Word of warning: Not all the cafes in the promenade are good value for money (I had the displeasure to visit another, a stone’s throw away from this one, that was way more expensive and offered much lesser value)

XENION: At Syntagma square. Try ‘loukoumades me merenda’ (deep fried dough balls soaked in syrup and covered with hazelnut paste)

 

HOT TIPS FOR MOTORISTS

 

If you’re visiting Nafplio by car from Athens, a little diversion from your route to see the Corinth Canal (Isthmos Korinthou) is well worth your trouble! Just follow signs to ‘Isthmos’ or ‘Loutraki’.

Places of interest near Nafplio include the seaside town of Tolo and the ancient theatre (and the museum) of Epidavros (Epidaurus). If you’re traveling by car, you can drive back to Athens via Epidavros and the village of Ligourio (Lygourio), that is, if you don’t mind an old scenic route as opposed to the new highways.

Ligourio is before (and close to) the ancient theatre of Epidavros as you leave Nafplio – many visitors stop there for lunch. Plenty of fine tavernas on offer.

If you have more days to explore, the ancient sites of Mykenae and Tiryns are great choices for the archeology enthusiasts.

 

Have you visited Nafplio? Would you like to offer a tip, share a memory, or ask a question? I look forward to your comments!

 

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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 😛

 

Did I say cookies? Grab this FREEBIE now!

 

 

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When Molly retreats to North Carolina with Gracie, her ten-year-old daughter, she’s surprised to find her childhood crush, Nick, still living in the area. Months before her retreat, Molly’s husband announces he’s leaving to sail around the world with his best friend. She divorces him and takes Gracie and Harold, her seventeen-year-old cat, to the Smoky Mountains where she spent many happy childhood vacations.

The morning after her arrival, Nick shows up on her porch, and he is even more handsome than she remembered. She feels the flush of her adolescent crush heating up. But first, they must find Harold after he runs out the cabin door and into the woods…

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The quiet summer before her freshman year turns frighteningly weird after Estelle Wright trespasses onto an Army base. Blown into the air and knocked unconscious, she wakes with a nascent superpower. Not to mention a winged horse with a snarky attitude and a mind of her own.

Back home in Atalanta, a serial killer is targeting the students at Goldman University. Before long she must juggle college classes with sneaking out of the house after dark to battle alien monsters…

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Lorena exists in the confines of her troubled past. When her nephew, Braedon, comes along, he frees her from her suffocating life. Then Artie arrives with a few liberating tricks of his own–good food, good company, and a not-so-deaf ear. In the wings, someone else watches and listens. Someone who bears Lorena’s and Artie’s most painful secrets and deepest wounds. Will the couple need a little heavenly help? Only Kayla knows for sure…

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Looking for something heartwarming to read this Christmas? These books will warm your heart with innocent new love and heaps of Greek sunshine. Click or tap image to check them out!

 

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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?

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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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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)

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

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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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For our news, and to grab “Facets of Love” for FREE, join our newsletter! 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.