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Confessions Of A Sun Worshipper

This blog post comes to you from the beautiful village of Agia, near Parga, in Northern Greece. I’d love to say I’ve spent the past five days worshipping the sun on a beach and transforming myself into a bronzed Goddess, however that wouldn’t be entirely true …

clouds began to engulf the entire village in a somewhat un-sunny greece

In fact, it’d be a downright untruth! This is my first experience of Greece; I rocked up here unannounced as a surprise for one of my closest friend’s 50th birthday. Kerry and her husband Noel retired here six months ago and I’ve missed them both terribly, so I’ve been really excited as I colluded with Noel and hatched my plans in secret over the past few weeks!

I didn’t bother researching the weather; I was far too caught up in the moment and I worked on the assumption that Greece would be el scorchio all year round and threw a few summer dresses into my suitcase, alongside flip flops, shorts, bikini and sun creme. Davo, my husband, put out his leather jacket to wear to the airport which made me laugh and I persuaded him instead to wear his thin demin jacket, convincing him I knew we were in for a hot spell.

Speaking of Davo, he nearly didn’t make it! On Bank Holiday Sunday, I went to check us in online for our flight and asked him for his passport. He found it, opened it realised that it had expired last month! I operate in a world where everything’s possible so I figured I’d hop onto the Passport Office’s website and I was relieved to discover that their phones are manned at weekends and Bank Holidays. I read up on the Premier same day service and realised that we simply needed to make an appointment and we could easily get things sorted. So Davo phoned straight away to organise a time for the Tuesday after Bank Holiday Monday – we were flying on the Wednesday – to be told that the first available appointment anywhere in the country was Thursday!

I Googled flights and confirmed that he could get a later flight out on the Friday and then simply hire a car and drive from Thessaloniki airport up to us in Agia, to save Noel doing a second airport run. And then we remembered; we’d both sent our driving licences to DVLA the week before to change our addresses! So that plan was out of the equation and to be honest, I didn’t really see Noel and Kerry wanting to spend 50th birthday celebrations doing a 9 hour return airport motorway journey.

The next morning I woke up resigned to the fact that if I had to go to Greece alone, so be it; I’ve done Canada, Australia and Spain alone so this was no different! Mid afternoon, miles away in my own mind, a little voice said “Call and check for cancellations”; so I did. And as if by magic, I was told there was space on Tuesday at 11.45am in London. Done deal. So, by end of play Tuesday, Davo had passport in hand and we were cooking with gas.

Wednesday arrived; we packed everything into one suitcase and set off to Stansted. We queued for a while, surrounded by voices of many nationalities, before putting our case on the conveyor – and the check-in girl frowned. “You’re a bit overweight,” she told us. “Your limit is 15 kilos and your suitcase is 25 kilos!” I asked how much it would cost. “£20 per kilo, so £200″ she replied. I coughed and felt mild panic rising – this was more than I’d paid for both flights and there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance I was parting with that kind of cash! Time for more resource then …

We skipped back out of the queue – grateful that we only had one piece of hand luggage between us – and found a suitcase shop in the airport; we explained our dilemma and were sold a 10kg fold away bag. We then decanted the majority of the case into the bag, mindful not to transfer the things that were taking up most of weight into our hand luggage as they’d be confiscated at Customs – the largest jar of Marmite we could possibly find and also a few bottles of HP fruity sauce that had been requested by Noel!

So – all good; case checked in, passengers through customs and eventually onboard the plane. I hadn’t realised that it was customary to pay extra to reserve your seats on RyanAir and the plane was packed with no spare seats together. Davo and I sat a few rows apart and the flight was smooth although I was mildly disturbed by the child beside me chundering with some velocity into her mother’s cupped hands as the plane was touching down.

And we landed! I disembarked expecting the usual heatwave to hit me which happens when I land in Malaga, Spain – my regular and usual European haunt. I shivered and realised I’d landed somewhere chillier than I’d boarded! However, it was early evening so perhaps that was to be expected?

It was great seeing Noel waiting for us in Arrivals and then begun the four hour drive back to Agia. Noel explained that Kerry thought he was on a fishing trip for the day and went on to talk about the recent weather; cold, rain and sometimes stormy. I thought he was joking until the rain arrived en route back. And I had to ask him to put the heating up in the Jeep too – at the same time replaying in my mind the list of items I’d packed. Yes, that’d be shorts, bikini and flip flops!

Kerry was truly gobsmacked as we got out of the car; it was a really emotional moment for me and yes, I cried as I hugged her for the first time in six months and realised how much I’d really, really missed her. Celebratory drinks followed – Tsipouro and 6 litres of red wine – then apparently alcohol induced amnesia seemed to set in for me half way through the evening, though I clearly understood by the headache I was experiencing next morning that I’d consumed one over the proverbial eight.

And so here I am, five days later. We’ve had fog, clouds which have engulfed the entire village, rain, storms, wind and I think perhaps a couple of hours of sun through the clouds. I’ve spent half an hour on the beach, roamed around Parga and Agia and attempted to get to grips with the language of this incredibly friendly little community which Kerry and Noel have made home – which, interestingly – has a reputation for being spooky and full of witches. I’ve conversed in a combination of pigeon Greek, Spanish and German with a little English thrown in as I’ve endeavoured to communicate in my own “special” way with the locals. I’ve shared my bed with Oswald, the part Norweigan Forest Cat with a spanking fetish (yes, really) and I’ve become re-acquainted with the weird and wonderful traits of carrot-obsessed Moggie the German Shepherd dog, the shared love of both Kerry and Noel. And it’s been lovely watching Kerry and Noel together again – after 25 years of marriage, they still behave like a pair of starstruck teenagers!

I’ve experienced Easter in Greece – which is a week later than the UK. I’ve see a massive bonfire built and lit which represents the Underworld where their God was resting and I’ve watched the fireworks and heard the shotguns go off in celebration two days later as their God rises.

I’ve visited awesome historical sites, including Dodini and Nekromanteion. Every day I’ve worn the same pair of para boots that I travelled from the UK in – and my flip flops are still packed with my bikini and sun cream. I’ve eaten wonderful food – including the fabulous Greek Goulash which is served in a big pot with cheesy chips – and I’ve sampled Hare too. I’ve learnt something new as far as the Economy is concerned; before I came, I emptied my travel bag of Euro currency – why? Because I thought that Greece still traded in the Drachma! I’ve explored Kerry and Noel’s land, full of olive trees, lemon trees heralding the biggest fruit I’ve ever seen, figs and pomegranites.

However – most importantly, I’ve spent quality time and had pure, unadulterated fun and laughter with three of the most wonderful people in my world – and regardless of the weather, my totally unsuitable attire and my sometimes apparently less than dim intelligence which has raised an eyebrow from everyone more than once – it’s been priceless and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

All that remains to be seen is whether I check in online for my flight back to the UK on Wednesday or perhaps hang around for the season to change and the sun to come out … that’s the beauty of flexible behaviour – I’ll just go with the flow and see how I feel on the day …

Be outstanding …