Monday, 30 April 2012

26. Zakynthos

Zippity-doo-dah!  I've made it to Z! 

And my final entry in this fabulous A to Z challenge is... (drum roll)...

The island of Zakynthos - also known as Zante!

We discovered Zante in 2007, abandoned it for a much less enjoyable holiday in Crete in 2008, and have been back there every summer since.

Zakynthos is a Greek island not far from the Peloponnese (part of mainland Greece).  In fact, you can see the Peloponnese on a clear day.  It is also close to Kefalonia, the setting for Louis de Berniere's wonderful 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', which you may have read.  (If you haven't, what are you waiting for?!)

When we first started going abroad as a family in 2005, we agreed that we wouldn't go to the same place twice, but that went to pot when we fell in love with Zakynthos.  It's an amazingly green island - it rains almost all winter - and the people are like none that I've met anywhere else.  They are naturally warm, can't do enough for you and genuinely value the holidaymakers.  There is little in the way of work on the island apart from farming olives, raisins or wine-making, so the bulk of people's income is made during the holiday season.  Sadly, the wonderful restaurants are making less and less every year - and I'm sure it's the same all over - as 'all inclusive' holidays become more popular.  I can see the financial reasons for an all inclusive holiday, but a huge part of the experience for us is deciding where to eat each night and the pleasure of being recognised and greeted like old friends (year in, year out) by the restaurant staff.

If you fancy trying out Greece for the first time, I highly recommend Zakynthos.  Unless you like to party with the youngsters, avoid Laganas (although the beach is beautiful) and go to one of the other resorts.  Tsilivi is our haunt, but Argassi is also good, although smaller.  Tsilivi is a real family resort with lots of bars and restaurants but isn't too loud or spoilt.   If you want somewhere smaller and quieter, you could check out Alykanas or Alykes.

Anyway, here - for the final time - are some photos!  Bye for now and thanks so much for reading!

A perfect example of Greek warmth and friendliness - Angela (L) - the lady we always book our trips with!
Kefalonia in the distance

Thanks so much for reading - this A to Z challenge has been brilliant fun! 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

25. Yarmouth - Great or not so...

It's such a shame when a place can't live up to its name.  I love Great Yarmouth, but I have to admit it should possibly be re-named Once-great Yarmouth or just plain Yarmouth.
Great Yarmouth is a seaside town in Norfolk, which once had a thriving fishing industry.  Today, despite the best efforts of the council to
jolly it up with lights, it's a bit ... run-down.  Don't get me wrong, it's still popular with a lot of people who holiday there year after year (we met some  a couple of years back who had been coming and staying the same hotel for 10 years) but there's just an air of "could try harder".  It still has charm, though, and if you're looking for a seaside holiday with lots of slot machines and fun-fair rides, Great Yarmouth is ideal.  Just don't go looking for a restaurant with table-cloths along the sea-front.

To me, Yarmouth's saving grace is its rollercoaster - a huge thing built on a wooden frame which has been in situ since 1932.  It doesn't have any of your stomach-turning loop the loops or vertical drops, just good old fashioned height and speed. It's exhilarating and not too terrifying for cowards like me!

I used to visit Yarmouth as a teenager when we holidayed in a nearby village and my best friend and I bought our first illicit pack of fags there (in the days when nobody asked for ID if you had boobs and make-up) and smoked them without inhaling just to look cool (which I'm sure we didn't).  As an adult, I brought my kids to Yarmouth for days out at the Pleasure Beach followed by a ride down the sea-front in a pony and trap and fish and chips straight from the paper.  Often in the rain.  Ah, the good old British seaside!  More recently, my husband and I came for a friend's party and spent the afternoon wandering in the rain, eating chips and riding the rollercoaster.  It was quite romantic!

What am I saying?  Scratch that first paragraph - Great Yarmouth is great! 


Friday, 27 April 2012

24. X...

  Yes, ok, clearly I didn't think this through before I started my alphabetical journey.  Stop sniggering now.
Anyway... I've picked the place beginning with X that I  like the sound of best :  Xinxiang. 

 Xinxiang is a fast-expanding Chinese city in Henan province with a population in 2010 of  5,707,801.  Isn't it fun, learning together?  Textiles and processed foods are its major manufactures and it is home to three universities.  Unfortunately, my very expert knowledge of this city has now come to an end, so here are the photos.
Thanks for stopping by to read today's rather pathetic offering ;-)  I promise the final two will be places I've actually visited!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

23. Walton-on-Naze, Essex, UK

   Walton-on-Naze is a seaside town, still popular with holiday-makers and day-trippers, although I have to say it's had its heyday.  It's a place that is very dear to my heart as a lot of my early memories are rooted there.  My grandparents (Nana and Grandad) had a house there and when my grandad retired they moved to live there full-time.  Nana's sisters came from their respective homes in Rainham (Essex) and Luton (Bedfordshire) with their families and my sister and I got to play with my mum's cousins' kids (not sure what that makes them - 'third' cousins?) in Nana and Grandad's extensive garden or on the sandy beach which was just across the road.

Yes, I'm the one in the stripy top! Nana far right, my sister on left, Mum behind us.  1975.
My grandad died when I was four and when I was ten Nana moved to live near to us, so the house was sold.  The new owners subsequently sold the garden at the side (where we are standing in this photo) and built a house on it, so when we walk past it now it looks barely like my nan's house at all.  It's still there in my mind, though, which is what matters.  I often feel like knocking, just to ask if I can wander round the house and feel for traces of those wonderful childhood days, but I haven't because they'd probably think I was either up to no good or mad.  For the same reason, I haven't taken a photo of the house!

Here are some photos I took in Walton last month.  Thanks for reading :-)

We had a beach hut in this row

Rejuvenated boarding houses - now probably homes

When I was a child this was a ballroom and entertainment complex.  Now flats.
Taken from the pier

Walton Pier

 You can't go to the British seaside without being silly on the pier!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

22. Vienna

I haven't been to Vienna - Austria is one of the places I'd love to visit - but my main reason for choosing Vienna as my entry for V is this: 

A bit of a cheat for today's post, maybe, but I love it!  Here are some amazing pictures of Vienna too!

Anyone been there?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

21. U... it has to be the U.S.A.

'It's hard not to be fascinated by the U.S.A.   The impression from news, films and documentaries is that everything is on a larger scale than here in the UK.  The rich appear to be richer, the poor poorer, the cities busier, the landscapes more dramatic... Whilst we in the UK are portrayed as quietly eccentric (can't deny it, personally), the media paints the citizens of the U.S.A. as loud and 'crazy' - "It could only happen in America!" 

I hasten to add that this is not my personal view of the citizens of the U.S.A.  It stands to reason that there are plenty of quietly eccentric people and people who are neither loud nor quiet, crazy nor eccentric and just want to be left alone to get on with being a person rather than a stereotype, thank you very much!

The diversity of the huge landmass that makes up the U.S.A. is what fascinates me.  The extremes of temperature, of wildlife, of life-style - the fact that a plane journey is required to get from place to place in the same country!  (I know that we have internal flights in the UK, but let's face it, people walk from Land's End to John O'Groats!)  Food is fascinating too - the difference in portion size in restaurants is reported by everyone I know who's been to the U.S.A. - and the different things you can buy in supermarkets, cheese in its many forms being just one of my fascinations!  The language difference is so interesting, too.  Apart from the spelling differences (colour, color etc), the whole meanings thing:
fanny/fanny...(it doesn't mean the same thing, hehe!)

Sorry, got a bit below the belt there.  I could go on, but I won't because if you've been kind enough to stop here and read my blog, I know you have others to get on to!

Thanks for stopping by!  Feel free to add to my feeble little list of meanings :-)

Monday, 23 April 2012

20. Trebarwith Strand and Tintagel - back in Cornwall!

Yes, I'm back in Cornwall again.  If you've been hopping in and out of my blogposts during this challenge, you will probably have noticed I'm a tad obsessed with Cornwall.  We had so many happy holidays there when the kids were younger (we didn't see the point of taking them abroad and then feeling resentful because we had to keep getting off the sunloungers to PLAY with them) that it is a county that will always be dear to my heart.
We holidayed close to Tintagel - the legendary birthplace of King Arthur - in 1998 when the kids were 6 and 2.  The ruins of Tintagel Castle are extensive, but are set on top of a cliff so our visit was a slightly alarming experience with a lively 2 year-old in tow!  Our daughter didn't want to leave the castle (now nearly 16, history is still her favourite subject) and then our son got the hump about something or other and my enduring memory of the visit is us dragging them back down the hill into the village with them howling their eyes out.  In the end, I don't think either of them could remember why they were crying but they still couldn't stop!  We ended up laughing - if we hadn't, we'd have ended up crying too...
Trebarwith Strand is a popular little beach close to Tintagel, excellent for surfing and also a great place for the kids to play as there are lots of crops of rocks and large pools.  It was here that Barry and the kids hired their first wetsuits and did 'boogie boarding' (lame surfing for amateurs).  We also had the dust-caps stolen from our car wheels one time, but we won't dwell on that!
These are photos of photos, so apologies for the quality.

Tintagel Castle

 Trebarwith Strand


Saturday, 21 April 2012

19. The Seychelles

Honestly, now - who doesn't want to visit the Seychelles?  How could an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean sound unappealing?
There's a feeling of anxiety that taints my daydreams of the Seychelles, however - a panic that they might be swallowed by the ocean before I ever save up enough money to get there.  Some of the islands have become submerged already, which brings home to me the fact that as powerful we humans think we are, we are pretty helpless in the face of nature.
On a more positive note, the Seychelles are the stuff that holiday programmes are made of - blue seas, white beaches, your every need catered for in style...
Who's coming with me?
Who's already been?
The stuff that dreams are made of!

Friday, 20 April 2012

18. R - Blame It On Rio!

I've always fancied Rio de Janeiro but I've never been and I'm in two minds about whether I ever will, if I'm honest.  It's not just the potential cost of such a trip...

If you've seen the subtitled film City of God, or simply read the news on occasion, you will know that there is a dark side to Rio - a world of slums, hardship, crime and violence.  I know that side of the  city is probably off the tourist route, but it's still there.

Then there's the other Rio; the sunny, beachy, expensive, playground for the rich and famous which features in one of my favourite films from the 80s - Blame it on Rio.  It's one of my favourite films for two reasons: a) it brings back happy memories of watching it with my mum and laughing together and b) it just looks sooooo wonderful!  I can't really recommend the film for the acting (watch it and you will find a very young, slightly wooden Demi Moore playing an older, slightly uncomfortable Michael Caine's daughter) but the location more than makes up for it.  It's a slightly unsettling story that manages to be tender and sad as well as upbeat and very funny.  

Breathtaking Rio by the sea-o!

Has anyone reading been to Rio?  Can you recommend it?  Where did you stay?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

17. Q

So, Q...  Nothing comes to mind!

Having Googled 'places beginning with Q' I was amazed to see just how many places actually begin with Q - did you know that Quebec can be found in Surrey and Durham (UK) as well as in Canada?  I didn't but if the website I found can be believed (getting into murky waters here, the internet being what it is), it's true!

There are a mass of places beginning with 'Queen or Queens...' (for obvious reasons) and plenty of other places beginning with Q, but unfortunately I haven't been to any of them and don't have a long-held yearning to visit any of them, either.  So...  here are five of what I consider to be the most charming UK place-names beginning with Q and a photo to go with them!

1.  Quemerford, Wiltshire, UK.  

2.  Quabbs, Shropshire, UK  

3.  Quadring Eaudike, Lincolnshire, UK 

4.  Quaking Houses, County Durham, UK 

5.  Queenzieburn, North Lanarkshire, UK 

Do let me know if you live somewhere beginning with Q so I can check it out! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

16. Penzance, Cornwall, UK

Penzance reminds me of how you don't necessarily need good weather to enjoy a holiday (which is just as well if you're trying to holiday in the UK.)
My husband and I had a holiday in a caravan close to Penzance in 1991, just before we were married.  As you may have guessed from my intro - it was windy, chilly and/or rainy every single day!
When I'd booked the caravan, I'd gone for one that allowed dogs in order to save a bit of money as we had our wedding coming up.  We discovered that the caravans that allowed dogs were cheaper for two reasons:
1.  They were old
2.  They smelt of dog.
Well, you live and learn!
Here's Barry looking thrilled to be in a manky, dog-smelly caravan on a chilly, rainy day in Penzance:

You can see how salubrious the caravan was!

HOWEVER, it was one of the best holidays we've had!  Maybe it was the excitement of our wedding looming, snuggling up in bed with the wind and rain lashing outside, or maybe it was just the wild beauty of Cornwall.  I came home with lovely tanned legs from stubbornly wearing shorts whatever the weather (wind-burn mostly!) and I still think back to the (whiffy) cosiness of that van with fond nostalgia.  We were a few miles out of Penzance where the terrain was windswept fields and winding lanes.  There was a pub about half a mile up the road and Barry delighted in disappearing into fields and howling like a werewolf to freak me out every time we walked there through the inky blackness of those cloudy Cornish evenings. (And, yes, every time I freaked out!) We climbed rocky outcrops, sat on beaches in our thick, Aran sweaters and just enjoyed being together (with the exception of one hushed but stressful row in a Penzance restaurant - all his fault, naturally.)

Here's me at Penzance - note the wind-swept hair and the wooly cardi!

And here's Penzance on a much better, picture-postcard day (not during our holiday!)

Did you ever end up really enjoying a holiday even though it didn't initially live up to your expectations?