Saturday, 17 August 2013

Feeling like a grown up - viewing houses

It has begun. Yesterday JJ and I, we did our first viewing for a house to buy.

We've been thinking about it for quite some time but kept postponing it for no particular reason. London is not easy when it comes to purchasing properties. They’re ridiculously expensive.  Even rent is very expensive in this part of the world. You can’t easily find something in good condition and to be worth its price, unless you relocate to the middle of nowhere.

Of course compromises have to be made. It might take me longer to get to work. I’m fine with that. But I draw a line when it gets up to more than a 1.5 hours one way. We were also talking about getting something with some potential to be upgraded in the future to have its value increased. So, we wouldn't like a completely refurbished, perfect, property. Since in theory we’re not looking for a house for the rest of our lives, but for something to get us on the property ladder. Something we can work on for the next, let’s say, 5 years, with a little of character till we sell it and move on. That is all of course in theory. Reality is a different matter.

So, we went to south London Thursday evening, after I finished work, to view our first property. In contrast to what I said before, it was a newly finished terraced house, with outside garden and more bedrooms that we really needed that spread into 3 floors. It was in our budget, looked great on the pictures and close to a train station that could take us to central London in around half an hour. So, we couldn't miss the opportunity to look at it, when an agent called me. It sounded perfect, yes?

Well, no. The floors weren't really wooden and the walls weren't that robust. There were unfinished bits here and there and it was generally obvious that not the best materials were used during the construction of the place. In addition to that, there was a ‘park’ right next to our garden. The ‘park’ was probably used more by the local drug lords than by children. Overall, it didn't come as a surprise that when something appears too good to be true, well it isn't…

The Money Pit

In any case, it was a start. Now, we’ll start booking more viewings and see where they take us. You never know. By the end of the next season, we might be property owners, with a mortgage for the next couple of decades!!!

You see? That’s what I’m saying that it’s getting all grown up business! I’m talking about budgets, compromises and mortgages and a commitment that will last 25 years that I’m happily making with my partner! I’m now officially, I think, a grownup! Needless to say that, while we were checking the property, I had in my bag the latest Avengers graphic novel, that I had ordered online, and that I also need to google questions to ask when viewing properties. 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Various holidays stories

I mentioned in my previous post about Paros, but I don’t think I mentioned some of the other things that happened during our holidays. For example I didn't mention the fact that I told JJ to drive on the wrong side of the road!

Yes, I did. The first morning we arrived to the island, there were strong winds and the water service to the beach wasn't operational, so we rented one of those 4 wheel motorbikes! I was so sure he would be driving on the wrong side of the road coming from England, so without really thinking and being on a motorbike without a proper driver’s seat, I told him to switch over and drive on the left! Thankfully, there aren't many cars in the town and most narrow roads are one way roads. However, after a while we ran into a car coming from the opposite direction, right at us! At first of course I though what is the idiot doing! And then it occurred to me who the idiot was!

Anyway, (changing subject quickly), another hilarious incident happened to JJ the day we were checking out from the hotel. He went to pay our room while I was still tidying things up. At this point I need to give you some background information. The hotel is run by a couple. He’s Chilean living in Greece for many years and she looked Greek, but I’m not familiar with her background. They've been living in one of the hotel rooms. Living in a small village on an island, things are pretty much totally informal. I don’t think I saw him once were shoes or even a t-shirt. She was normally dressed with cheap white V-neck t-shirts and sport track bottoms. She didn't take care of herself and chain smoked. Of course we didn't mind, since we hardly ever saw them during our stay.

So, the day arrived and JJ went to their room to pay. She went to get the credit card machine and as she bent over to grab it, one of her boobs fell out her t-shirt! When JJ was telling me this, I couldn’t stop laughing. She was either oblivious of the fact or did it on purpose and didn’t do anything about it. She was just waiting there, with her hanging boob, which probable never saw a bra in the last years, exposed. JJ tried and kept a serious fa├žade. Kept looking her in the eyes, entered his pin number, collected the receipts and ran off! Knowing JJ who is generally very well behaved and proper (in most cases) that was an experience (boob job) never to forget!

After we left Paros, we visited Mykonos. We stayed there for a small number of days before flying back to London. During our visit there, we took an early morning boat and travelled to a nearby uninhabited island called Delos. That small island hosts the biggest archaeological dig site of Europe and one of the most important for the ancient Greek history. According to the myths it’s the birthplace of the god Apollo and Artemis. Their temples were very important, mentioned by the likes of Homer and a pilgrimage destination for many.

What you see from the boat upon arrival

A mansion of the time 

Exploring the ancient city

Apart from its major religious significance, it was a major trading port with tens of thousands of inhabitants at its peak. Its fame was such that the area had inhabitants from all over the existing world. To give you an idea, the town had a temple of the Egyptian Isis and a synagogue, the oldest one known. A very wealthy town of the times it is now an important dig site. A visitor now can still walk around the streets of the archaic town, see the temporary architecture, witness the existence of various shops, test the acoustics of the amphitheatre and admire the temples. I strongly recommend visiting Delos if you’re ever in that part of the world. It’s mind blowing.

Next to the dig site, on Delos, there’s a small museum. In there, a visitor can see original mosaics and statues of the area. So, we couldn't miss it. I was happily checking the exhibits with JJ, taking photos. We knew that no flash photography was allowed and we followed the rules. At some point I stood in front of a massive wonderful mosaic and JJ took a photo of me. One of the guards / archaeologists came and told me smiling that no posing is allowed. I laughed with him and asked him why? Am I so bad looking that I made the mosaic injustice? We didn't really pay attention and walked along. In the next room I stood in front of a massive statue of Hermes and JJ tried to take another photo!

Then, out of the blue, a mean looking woman starting yelling at us that no posing is allowed and since I was already told of this, I shouldn't break the rules and we would be kicked off the museum! I was gobsmacked! I switched and talked to her in Greek. Immediately her tone and attitude changed since she realised I was Greek. That fact didn't go unnoticed to JJ who was naturally annoyed. I admitted to her that I thought the previous guard was joking about the ‘no posing’ rule, since it didn't really make sense! I asked her the reason behind this and she didn't know. She just said it’s a museum regulation!

The temple of Isis

We didn’t let that event affect our feelings regarding the visit. Delos is utterly amazing and worth the visit. The boat trip with a tour guide lasts for half a day and doesn't cost that much. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Back to reality - Paros 2013

It’s been almost a week since we came back from our holidays! I think that yesterday it really struck me with the fact that we’re back! I know I can be a bit slow. I was in a very happy mood the previous days, until yesterday morning. I woke up thinking that it’s Thursday and the weekend is around the corner. Then I got that disappointing feeling that no, it’s still Wednesday and it suddenly hit me. I’m back to wishing for the weekend and my holidays are over!!!


little church by the sea 

I’m not complaining though. They've been truly amazing. We were staying in 2 islands, but managed to visit 3 more. The first part of our holidays was while we stayed in Paros. That’s one of the Cyclades group. It has amazing sandy beaches and that distinctive architecture of the area. Almost all buildings are white, with rounded edges and flat roofs.

small boat

It was my decision not to stay in the main town of the island, but the smaller 'Naoussa' village at the north part of the island. The main town where the ships go can be somewhat busier and noisier. However, Naoussa is smaller, cuter and closer to the famous beaches of the island. Visitors can get the daily water taxis to 3 different beaches to spend the day, without having to worry about petrol and parking spots etc. That was a service we used quite often.

taking the water taxi to the beach

Our daily routine mostly consisted of me going to bakery to get fresh breakfast stuff like koulouri, spinach pie or bread rolls, first thing in the morning. We would then sit in the balcony for breakfast, feeling the morning sun and admiring the view. We would then get ready, jump on the boat and being taken to one of the beaches around Naoussa. In most cases we would go to the lovely ‘Monastiri’ beach. We would stay in that beach for the next 5 to 6 hours. We would rent an umbrella and chairs, sunbathe, play rackets, swim or even hike in the nearby conservation hiking area. JJ loved snorkeling and I was so happy just feeling the cold water on my skin.

Late in the afternoon we would go back to the village, rest and then go out to explore the alleyways and various narrow Naoussa’s lanes for dinner and drinks. It can be quite a party town, if you’re looking for this kind of stuff. We could hear our hotel neighbours coming back from partying around 8 or 9 in the morning. But we’re not really that kind of people. We like spending our days doing various activities than sleeping and getting up with a hangover late in the afternoon, missing what the day had to offer.

walking around the village of Parikia

Oh, and the food was exquisite. After staying for so many nights in the town, (more than a fortnight), we were able to get to know local people and find restaurants visited mostly by them. So, we were able to avoid the main touristic areas and see the other side of the island. What I also found very endearing was the fact that after a couple of days we were running into and greeting people that we met in shops and restaurants we had visited. The local people were so friendly. JJ was also working on his Greek. I told him how to order things in coffee places and restaurants. Staff really loved that.