Wednesday 31 August 2011

Pray For Me

I'm packing for five weeks in Australia.  (Though I have theoretically moved home to Europe, I'm going back to Melbourne to wind up some loose ends.)  I have, therefore, lost my mind and my will to live.  Will it rain, will it be sunny, will I pack my wellies, will I pack my shorts, what if I go to Brisbane again, what if it's humid in Singapore, what if it snows, what if there's a heatwave, what if aliens attack?

See you on the other side.

Monday 29 August 2011

Universal Aunt

I travel a lot for work, for pleasure.  The other thing I travel for?  Nephews.  (In fact one early contender for this blog's name was Universal Aunt.)

First there was The Adorable Nephew, who divides his time between France and Greece.

Then came The Gorgeous Nephew, who's currently charming his way across Canada.

Now there's The Adorablet, who likes sleeping, eating and long walks on the beach snuggles.

Have nephews, will travel.

I would go to the ends of the earth / oh, darling, to me that's what you're worth.  

PS This is a wonderful article on the original Universal Aunts.

Friday 26 August 2011

The Poet Sandalmaker of Athens

Thanks to a tip from Alma who, I think, was tipped by Sophia, I found time among the archaeological must-sees to visit the Poet Sandalmaker of Athens.

Stavros Melissinos inherited the business from his father (the first poet sandalmaker) and in its time their shop has been visited by the King and Queen of Spain, John Lennon, Jacqueline Onassis, Kate Moss, Sophia Loren.

On arrival you're presented with a menu of sandal types (some are named after their most famous patrons) to choose from.  I went for the gallico: simple, ankle strap and three straps across the toes.  The sandals are then taken away and adjusted to fit you.  While you wait you can take in the shop, crammed with sandals, naturally, but also mementoes of past customers.

All this for a bargainous €28.

Melissinos Art, 2 Aghias Theklas St (just off Monastiraki Square), Athens

Thursday 25 August 2011

A Tribute to Athena

I am in GREECE, hanging out with The Adorable Nephew and his new little brother, The Adorablet.  On my way to see them I visited Athens for the first time.


Back in the day (and we're talking Olden Days of Yore here), Athenians and foreign visitors took part in the yearly Panathenaic procession.  They walked up to the Parthenon to present sacrifices and a specially woven dress to Athena.

And so, one morning last week, I performed my own tribute to Athena (who combined being the goddess of wisdom with being the goddess of handicrafts) put on my new dress and my bling-est sandals and set off up the Acropolis.

I was fortified by coffee and bougatsa (layers of phyllo pastry with sweet, creamy cheese) and just as well because even at 9.30 it was hot and crowded.

And completely worth it: for the views, the atmosphere and the absolutely jaw-dropping sight of the Parthenon up close.

Everyone has to pass through the Propylaea, the ancient gateway.  Not for the claustrophobic.  I overheard one American girl say to her friend, 'I guess they weren't thinking about people walking up here when they built it.'  Because the Ancient Greeks are famous for their invention of the funicular?

This is the old temple of Athena which got replaced by the Parthenon.  These ladies hold up the stones so gracefully and without complaint.

The Parthenon, which is really as lovely close up as you would hope:

The Parthenon cats:

Afterwards I walked down to the new Acropolis Museum.

Greeks I've met have spoken very proudly of this, and with justice.  The architecture (by a Swiss even!) is elegant and simple and does justice to the fantabulous collections.  It's not often you encounter a museum with a clear villain, but this is an exception.  The baddie is, of course, Lord Elgin, whose rape of the Parthenon marbles is mentioned often.

I've heard a lot of arguments for and against the return of said marbles to Greece; all I can say is that when I stood in the room dedicated to the Parthenon friezes in the Acropolis Museum and looked out the huge windows to the Acropolis itself ...  the marbles meant a great deal more to me than they ever did in the British Museum.

Edited to add, courtesy of Lady Traveller's Little Sister:

Tuesday 9 August 2011

The Little Things - Part Deux

A scented car park in the south of France.  This is not a joke.  According to this website, it's part of a wider attempt to change the public's perception of car parks.  

Monday 8 August 2011

It's The Little Things...

In summer, it is vital to coordinate one's nails with one's ice cream.  

My watermelon nail varnish from Korres; LTLS's yellow from Rimmel; gelato (delicioso) from Amorino in Cassis (

Thursday 4 August 2011

Islands Project

Further to yesterday's post, I went back to (the site of the Irish Islands Federation) to count up the islands.  There are 31 inhabited offshore islands in the Republic of Ireland:

CountyIslandPopulation **
Árainn Mhór522
Inis Bó Finne36
Inis Fraoigh9
An tOileán Rua13
MayoClare Island136
Inis Bigil24
Inis Mór824
Inis Meáin154
Inis Oírr247
Inis Trá Mhór1
CorkOileán Chléire125
Bere Island187
Total Population2944
I'll have to check Dernish, Inisgort, Islandmore, Inis Trá Mhór and Foynes and see if they still count as 'inhabited' - these figures are from the 2006 census.  I will also be adding Rathlin Island, off the Antrim coast.  Volunteers to participate in the project (as much or little as you like), gratefully received.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Cape Clear

Sporadic.  Capricious.  Elusive.  Absent.  (Or do I mean absent-minded?)  Hints to Lady Travellers has been all of these things over the past months.

Things are still a bit jumbled as I adjust to being home - or closer to home.  I'm still making sense of it all, but in the meantime, the travelling continues and I have a new project.  This is: to visit all of Ireland's offshore inhabited islands easily accessible by public transport.  It started off as: to visit all of Ireland's offshore islands.  But there are too many.  So then it became inhabited islands.  And then I realised that, since I don't own a yacht, I'd need a relatively cost-effective way of reaching the islands.  This still leaves plenty.

Last week I ticked the first one off my list.  Cape Clear or Oileán Chléire.  We got the boat from Schull on a GLORIOUS day and walked all around the island.  On our way, we ate goats' milk ice cream, took turns pretending to be Peig and played tractor bingo.  (This is tm LTLS and LTBB who, hearing the boat skipper say there were 13 tractors on the island, determined to outdo each other in spotting them all.  They found 10 between them - not bad.)

Here are the photos!