Le monde à l’envers

Beach handstandThis is what you say in France when a situation is entirely contrary to the way you think it should be. “C’est le monde à l’envers!” Or another way of saying the same thing: “On marche sur la tête!”

I am tempted to say it is a useful phrase in France – but that would be a cheap shot, undeserving of this blog. Not to mention entirely mostly untrue. If you are sensitive to these small ironies, you will notice them everywhere you go.

Full disclosure: I had to google the definition of irony to make sure I wasn’t using it wrong. Ironically, considering what follows, one of the definitions of the word refers to Greek tragedy.

“A literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.”

Some readers will know that last week found me in Greece on holidays. Leaving behind the changing skies of the Alps, I had every hope of a solid week of sunshine. Instead, this is what happened:

Weather à l'envers

Le monde à l’envers !

I went to visit the Acropolis, the birthplace of civilization, where I was surprised to find readily available public toilets – modern, clean and free. Le monde à l’envers? Perhaps not. It was quite civilized, so that’s just how it should be.

Although in contrast to what is usually available in France, it certainly felt that way.

I took several taxis in Athens and each time the driver spoke no English and had no idea where I was going. I had to show him a map on my phone, which did not seem to help much. Then he would pass me his cell phone to speak to another person who spoke a little English but still had no idea where I wanted to go. All the while driving and texting on a tablet-size device to figure out where to go.

A note on Athens taxi drivers: avoid them. The metro is much more efficient, if rather hot.

I love Greece – it was my third time in that country. It was my first time in Athens, however, and I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer density and size of the metropolis. It was also my first time on the island of Kythnos, a beautiful spot. I will be back. By the way, the sun came out after a day of disruption.

And there is nothing ironic about that.

Where have you been lately? Was it how you expected or le monde à l’envers?

All Crete to me

All Crete to me

After a week on the beautiful isle of Crete, I’ve revised the expression ‘It’s all Greek to me’ to mean something completely different. And I simply must share a few of the things that are all Crete to me.

One of the things I love about living in Europe is how close you are to so many amazing destinations. Crete was a bit far for Easyjet: it’s fine for a quick hop but the seats aren’t all that comfortable for a flight of almost 3 hours. But the low-cost airfares make this an affordable destination for French travelers.

There are just so many things to love about Crete. Here are my favorites:

IMG_2426The weather.  We were worried that mid-October might be a bit late for the beach. We need not have feared. It was mostly in the mid-20s, although there were a few clouds and windy days with cooler temps. That did not keep me out of the water. I love the salt water of the sea, and there were waves enough for a bit of body surfing.

I am fair skinned and usually have difficulty staying put in the sun. But as the sun was weaker at this time of year, I was able to stick it out and have actually got a nice tan on my legs. Too bad it’s just in time to cover them up for winter back home!

 

IMG_2507The beaches. The sand on Crete is like brown sugar, and there is very little else underfoot. You can walk out a long way in the crystal clear water before it gets deep.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2456Under the changing skies, the sea has more shades of cerulean than I ever imagined. The crashing of waves and cooling sea breezes were wonderfully relaxing.

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The food. This is Cretan health food: Feta that fêtes the sheep, tomatoes so ripe they taste like sauce off the vine. Ubiquitous olives and honey and thyme.

 

 

 

Yummy yoghurt thick as whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

Pastries of fine phyllo filled with spinach and cheese.

 

 

 

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The drinks. Some very nice wines: Crisp whites, round rosés and reds of surprising depth. And damn good beer – Mythos – for me, the only drink on the beach.

 

 

 

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The fauna. Everywhere, cats. Feral, feline and offering hours of free entertainment. And kri-kri, the little mountain goats that give us such beautiful goat’s cheese.

 

 

 

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The fishing. Harbors filled with fishing boats of every color. Who bring back the wonders of the sea.

Tiny fish in a marinade. Savoury sardines. Fresh sea bass. Squid and calamari…

 

 

 

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The Flora. Surprising in its colour and variety. Red earth and porous rock. Forests of tamaris trees. Dried golden stems and deep purple petals, sage green and yellow stars.

 

 

 

 

I returned from Crete restored and replenished, feeling like this plante grasse (succulent) that grows wild on Crete – plump little green stems all rosy on the tips.

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Have you ever been to the Greek islands? Do you have a favorite holiday spot?