Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The Not Quite As Distant Holiday Diaries - Rethmyno, Crete

 


What a welcome! Thank you so much for your lovely comments and messages, you certainly helped lift our post-trip, quarantine blues.  


Ready for the next installment?


From Chania we caught the bus to Rethmyno, the first time I'd used public transport in six months (longer for Jon, he hadn't been on a bus since India). The bus runs every half-an-hour, costs €8.50 and the 65 km journey takes just over an hour. In Greece masks are mandatory for all passengers over 5 years of age. A masked conductor patrolled the aisle throughout the journey to ensure the rules were being followed. We've read that it's not uncommon for the police to stop buses and to do spot checks, throwing non-mask wearers off and issuing fines. Everyone abided by the rules, there doesn't seem as many Covidiots in Greece as there are at home.


Rethmyno is the island's cultural and intellectual capital, a relaxed university town overlooked by an imposing Venetian fortress, nestled in the foothills of Psiloritis, Crete's highest mountain.


Our home for the next three nights was this bougainvillea-covered apartment above a potter's studio. With the amount of cameras trained on us every time we sat out on the balcony we started to feel like superstars although I'm pretty such the tourists were more interested in the flora than the inhabitants.


Despite being Crete's third largest city, like Chania, Rethymno is an easy-going and laid back place with an old town packed with generations of fascinating Venetian and Turkish architecture, pretty much indistinguishable from one another. Ornate wooden doors, balconies and ancient stonework crop up everywhere with a number of mosques and elaborate Turkish fountains hidden in obscure corners.  

Show me a dilapidated doorway and I'm a happy woman.


Rethymno is in a different prefecture to Chania. While mask wearing remains mandatory indoors, at entertainment venues and on public transport, you don't need to wear them in the street.




The seventeenth century Rimondi Fountain is a Venetian survivor with its lion head spouts looking over Platia Petihaki, in normal times said to be the liveliest part of town. Rethymno was pretty quiet during our visit although a couple of the coffee bars did get crowded at night (we gave them a wide berth) 


Towering above our apartment was the ruins of the Fortezza, a huge Venetian fortress, large enough to shelter the entire population of Rethmyno in the event of a raid. 

Said to be the largest Venetian castle ever built, the Fortezza was a response in the last quarter of the Sixteenth Century to a series of pirate raids (by Barbarossa in 1538 and Uluch Ali in 1562 and 1571) that had devastated the town. The Italian-designed fort took ten years to build but, in 1645, fell to the Turks in less than 24 hours. 


When the English writer Robert Pashley visited in 1834 he found the guns, many Venetian originals, to be entirely useless. 

Through the impressive gateway you emerge into a vast interior space dotted with the remains of barracks, arsenals, officers' houses, earthworks and deep shafts. At the centre is a large domed building which was once a church and later, following the fall of the town to the Turks, converted to a mosque dedicated to the ruler, Ibrahim. 


I'm not sure how busy the Fortezza normally is but when we visited we shared it with two other couples, perfect for taking photos.

When we'd checked into our rooms our host, Frosso, warned us that Medicane, a tropical cyclone was on the way and severe weather warnings had been issued for the next 48 hours. Apparently high winds aren't a common occurrence in Rethmyno so I needed my hat to keep my hair from blinding me.


Although Medicane wrought havoc, washing roads away and destroying villages on the Greek mainland and causing the evacuation of tourists in Zante and Cephalonia, Crete was mercifully spared. We had hours of torrential rain and the mother of all electrical storms but luckily it was throughout the night and didn't curtail our activities (other than our sleep).









Rethymno's Archaeological Museum occupies the church of St Francis, once part of a Venetian monastery.


The gorgeous Venetian gateway behind is decorated the lions, the symbol of Venetian rule.


The collection within in the museum is staggering, ranging from Bronze Age axeheads over 100,000 years old to jewellery, amphora and pottery dating from as far back as 4000 BC, all found within the province of Rethmyno.


Helpfully each exhibit bore the image of a camera, with a red cross through any that couldn't be photographed.


The Rough Guide had warned us that Rethmyno's beaches would be packed and best avoided at weekends. On the Sunday we visited we had the entire place to ourselves and were able to enjoy our hastily gathered picnic of crusty local bread, tzatziki, goat's cheese flavoured with thyme and a tomato as big as your head in absolute peace. Travel during a worldwide pandemic ain't all bad.




 A kingfisher - a common sight in Goa, the first time I'd spotted one in Greece.

When Jon shared some photos of the graffiti in Platia Mikrasiaton, behind the Neratses mosque on a travel forum several people were saddened by it, we thought it was rather wonderful.






Look at that sky! We had a feeling that we hadn't seen the last of Medicane.


So what else did we do as well as exploring the maze-like streets of the old town, basking on the beach, climbing up to old fortresses & visiting museums and galleries? Stuff our faces, of course! 

There was Greek salad and Cretan olives (obviously); Fava, mashed white beans drizzled with olive oil & thyme; Sagnaki, pan-fried cheese; Kolokuthopita, courgette and feta cheese pie; Dolmades, vine leaves stuffed with lemon scented rice; Gigantes Plaki, butter beans in a tomato & herb sauce; Tiropita, Feta cheese pies in filo pastry; Kolokuthopita, aubergine and cheese fritters. Jon had lamb gyros.


The Cretan hospitality is legendary. Every taverna we visited gave us free desserts (either cake, baklava or fresh fruit) as well as a small bottle of raki, to aid digestion. We even got free raki when we popped in for an iced coffee at 11am. No wonder the Cretans smile so much!

We made friends with loads of cats. If you're not a fan of felines don't visit Greece!

We admired how, no matter how tiny their outside space, the Cretan always manage to fill every inch with beautiful plants. 


Just like our time in Chania, our three days in Rethymno absolutely fled. Where next? Stay tuned for the next installment of our holiday diaries.

Stay safe and see you soon! 

(For all my Rethmyno photos click HERE)

66 comments:

  1. Well, it was wonderful to hear about your trip so far (train update: the Chavs are playing crappy music on their phones, having just turned up the volume. I hate chav Essex girls)
    It was really interesting to hear about the history and I love seeing your beautiful window! Not surprised you were photographed so much!
    STOP MAKING ME HUNGRY!!!!! I was salivating over those descriptions and pictures!!
    The graffiti is pretty cool. Awww, look at all the cats!!!

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    1. I don't envy you one bit, the tinny music and the non-mask wearing. Absolute torture.
      It's crazy to think that Crete has only been part of Greece for 100 years, isn't it? Such a turbulent history. The food is amazing, the mizithra cheese is the best thing ever, I've never come across it before.
      The graffiti is really attractive, isn't it? I'm not sure if it originated in Ancient Greece, I remember seeing some which was thousands of years old on the walls of Ephesus which was founded by the Greeks.
      Try to stay sane on that train! xxx

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  2. that food, I am SO hungry right now. Love crete and loving having the chance to see it all through your amazing photos. We stay at the other end to where you have been to date - Makrygialos and I cannot recommend it highly enough - not so much to see as you have obviously been doing but for a totally laid back quiet few days (when the places you've been to would be heaving) it's perfect. Hope that quarantining now isn't too boring and the weather isn't too depressing. can't wait to find out where you go next x

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    1. Thanks so much, Julie! I've just found Makrygialos and stuck a bookmark in my Rough Guide, it sounds fantastic. We're definitely planning a return visit maybe in the Spring if we can.
      We're keeping busy within the confines of home, a friend's popping round with a pint of milk in a bit as we've run out. xxx

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  3. My my goodness!!!! What absolute stunning pictures, Vix. The architecture... I have no words! Can't wait for tomorrow's installment. And just to say... that halter dress was perfect! :-) ~Andrea xoxo

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    1. Thanks so much, Andrea! My halterneck dress is a loyal travel companion! xxx

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  4. I hope you are going to the Palace of Knossos! I studied Archaeology (as well as Linguistics) and it's a very important historical spot for both disciplines.

    Amazing pictures and awesome commentary, Vix! I love seeing all the cats (they are everywhere in Italy too), and glad you made friends. Oh, that food looks scrumptious! Happy to hear that the cyclone mostly missed you - what's a little wind and rain, eh?

    I love your travel posts! So much fun! They are also a TON of work, so kudos to you for banging 'em out so quickly, Vix.

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    1. Alas, we didn't get to Knossos this time - we needed a car and the village car hire place in our final destination had closed for the season but there will be a next time and we will get there.
      I didn't know you'd studied Archaeology, you're such an interesting woman. xxx

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  5. Another wonderful post, Vix thank you. Create looks amazing.

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  6. Magnificent, what a Beautiful place... the Architecture, the Plants, it's all picture Postcard perfect! Such Fun, I'm vicariously coming along, Thank You for getting me out of Lockdown, if only on the Canvas of my Imagination.

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    1. Ah, bless you! I'm so glad you enjoyed your brief escape. xxx

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  7. I am so enjoying seeing Crete , it was always on my list , will it happen who knows . This is just beautiful , the history and stunning architecture and the street art is fantastic too. The photo of you with the bouganvillia is gorgeous , no wonder it was well photographed. Your feast made my mouth water. You missed your calling as a travel writer. xxx

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    1. You'll get there eventually, Jill. I'm sure of it.
      Crete really is a joy, we hope to go back in the Spring and see the wildflowers in full bloom, Covid and travel restrictions permitting. xxx

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  8. i was wondering if the storm was near you - saw shocking pictures in the newspaper..... i´m glad you where safe.
    the beflowered balcony is wonderful, a perfect frame for you in that stunning dress!
    you photos make me happy: flowers, cats, ancient architecture and yummy food - what´s not to love :-D
    i wish in our public transport/trains would be some mask control - sometimes i do not know where to sit while surrounded by covidiots......
    xxxxx

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    1. It was a pretty wild storm but the footage of the damage on the mainland made us realise that we'd got off really lightly.
      Greece is so beautiful, great food, wonderful architecture, hospitable people, wildlife in abundance and cats. What's not to love?
      I've heard the same about public transport in the UK, what is the matter with our countries? xxx

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  9. Crete looks so incredibly beautiful How fantastic that you went xxx

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    1. I'm so happy that we were able to travel, a fortnight's quarantine is a small price to pay. xxx

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  10. You're back!!!! For some reason I wasn't alerted that you had posted :( and hadn't been checking either as I believed you were away for a month. Your photographs are simply stunning - the Mediterranean colours just pop from the page. You obviously had a fabulous time and the memories will help you through quarantine. I have only visited Corfu which was also beautiful. Greek sunshine, eh??? Not much of the Scottish sort here at the moment (though I confess, I am delighted that we have had rain! A sure sign of age).

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    1. Hello Catmac! If I'd known what 2020 had in store I would have booked a month when I found the flights.
      I love Corfu, so green and lush. Crete was a lot more rugged and untamed although just as captivating.
      There's definitely a lot of rain here today, I don't think I'll need to get the watering can out for a week or so! xxx

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  11. Each photo is perfect Vix, one better than the next. I love the photo where you're surrounded by the pink flowers. So pretty.

    And your food photos have made me hungry. Right, I'm off to eat! X

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    1. Thanks so much, Jess! Greek food, the food of the gods! xxx

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  12. Thanks for sharing all of your beautiful holiday snaps. I feel like I'm on holiday with you!!

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    1. My pleasure, I'm so glad you enjoyed them! xxx

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  13. Woww, lovely post!, so lovely photos of the architectural details and beautiful old doors (I'm also a huge fan of them, their colors are fab!). Love to see every flower and every colorful façade, even the Street Art, which looks cool and creative!.
    The food looks more and more Delicious, and I'm in love with the collage you made with your photos of cats!
    Looking fabulous in your maxi dress, dear Vix, this post is a joy for my eyes!
    besos

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    1. Thanks so much, dear Monica! I knew you'd appreciate the balcony! xxx

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  14. Crete looks beautiful and also incredibly peaceful.
    I love the dress you wore to the Fortezza and the balcony photo is positively Shakespearean!
    My mouth is watering looking at all that delicious food.
    Hope the weather's bright today, it's not bad here, autumnal but sunny, not a patch on Crete though. xxx

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    1. What a difference a week makes, last Saturday we were nearly expiring with the heat, today we've lit the wood burner and drawn the curtains already. xxx

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  15. I am convinced travelling life is the way to go. I'm glad you felt safe everywhere you went.

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    1. I agree, Sam. Nothing is more life affirming than seeing how other people live their lives in different countries. xxx

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  16. Spectacular colors! But I'd have been content to sketch those amazing doorways, gateways and architectural details with a soft pencil on a paper napkin... I'm not a fan of graffiti, especially rude daubs deposited by transient thugs. However, my well-traveled brother assures me that transient thugs have been daubing on public walls for millennia. He ate at a restaurant in Baku and noticed an inscription carved into a wall of native stone. A waiter translated it: "Says, 'Caesar sucks.' Romans were here, y'know."

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    1. How fascinating about the graffiti in Baku, somewhere I'd love to visit! I remember seeing it in Ephesus, a rather rude illustration highlighting the fact there was a brothel nearby!
      It takes me an age to walk down a historic street, even the derelict building hold me in thrall! xxx

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  17. Great to have your second instalment Vix along with all the interesting facts. Was good to read it on such a filthy day as yesterday was, I spent most of it of it “blog watching” Much better today, very Autumnal but bright and dry.

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    1. I love a day of "blog watching", I've done the same today! xxx

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  18. Amazing photos Vix! Ah Bougainvillea, one of the best things about the Mediterranean!...as well as the food! There's good graffiti and bad graffiti, and that graffiti looks good to me too. Can't wait for the next installment. Lulu x

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    1. Hello Lulu! Jon would love to grow Bougainvillea outside Stonecroft but I think we need to move about 100 miles South for the poor thing to stand a chance.
      I loved that graffiti, too! xxx

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  19. Jos and I were thinking about you two when we heard about the Medicane, especially as we had no idea where you were headed exactly. I'm glad that all was well apart from overnight torrential rain and thunderstorm! Rethmyno sounds like another gorgeous little town to wander around. I'm loving the colourful houses, dilapidated doorways and graffiti. The ruins of the Fortezza are impressive, and how absolutely divine is that bougainvillea-framed balcony of your apartment. And all that scrumptious food has definitely got me drooling. xxx

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    1. We had to laugh when Frosso warned us about the storm, what with a worldwide pandemic and Crete being taken off the quarantine-free list days before we flew a tropical cyclone was the icing on the cake! xxx

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  20. Ah Greece, never disappointing. I would love to go back one day if things improve healthwise at all as hubby and I both loved it. Great idea to stay in a few towns, so nice to explore that way. So much to see, do and eat there. Thank you for sharing so many lovely photos, I especially love the one of you on the balcony with the bougainvillea

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, my dear friend! I'm hoping that you and your husband will be able to enjoy Greece again in the future. xxx

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  21. Oh my word that food looks amazing! I have loved seeing all you pictures so it's great to now hear the story behind them. xx

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  22. I love all the door pictures, the pink wall with hibiscus and door is spectacular too (why aren't you in that pic!!) what a fabulous place and what a bonus in these strange times to have it all to yourself pretty much. Bus must have been fun we like bus travel too, its such a good way to really get the feel of a place.

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    1. Jon kept wandering off and chatting to cats, so many missed posing opportunities!
      I'm really keen to revisit both Chania and Rethymno to see what they're like in busier times although I absolutely loved having empty streets and the beaches to ourselves! xxx

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  23. nother place I've never heard of but what a corker! The museum sounded fascinating and what lovely buildings. The food looked gorgeous. I really liked the graffiti but I thought the name of the mountain sounded like a skin condition! But of course lots of medical conditions have names of Greek origin...

    Hope you're managing your self-isolation and not feeling too cut off' lots to look forward too when it's over!

    Take care and stay safe,
    xxxx

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    1. Ha! The auto correct kept trying to change the name of those mountains to Psoriasis.
      I think you'd love the Chania/ Rethmyno area, it's the least visited part of Crete and we were amazed to encounter people still dressed in the traditional attire in the village we ended up in.
      Seven more days of quarantine to go, it's not been too bad, I'm more than happy to stay in today, it's foul outside! xxx

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  24. I've missed you Vix but so pleased to see you've had a wonderful time.I love seeing your beautiful photos-thankyou.The food looks really scrumptious x

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, Flis! Greek food is just lovely, so fresh and simple! xxx

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  25. Glad the storm missed you. Looks like a wonderful trip.

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  26. I love wandering from place to place and every place there is always something different to see. And love friendly and open people. Not like Spain who don’t want you there. A friend of mine who lives in the UK was told go home and that they didn’t want her money nice ehh! Take care and keep safe

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    1. Hello Allie! I love moving around and wandering, it makes the trip last a lot longer - staying in one place and it all blends into one. The Greeks are just lovely, as I'm sure you remember, so hospitable and welcoming. xxx

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  27. What a carnival of colourful cornucopia your pics are on this dark and dreary day. Glad you're both home safe and sound. Hope the lads behaved themselves in your absence?? Have a good weekend. xxx

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    1. Thank you! Bit grim today, isn't it? I keep reminding Jon that it was 38°C this time last week and we were more interested in standing under a fan than looking at the exhibits in the museum we visited. How times change! xxx

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  28. Hi there Vix! I love that pinky coloured buildin, the kingfisher the flowers well evry shot really. I bet it was great getting the beach to yourselves(pity the reason though). I would stuff myself silly with tht gorgeous looking food. I too admire when people make the most of there tiny frontage any garden or house can look better with some love and flowers! How are you finding being back? and how is your lovely garden and the boys? hugs Shazxx

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    1. Hello Shaz! How's the nursing duties going?
      We've been very good, haven't gone out of the gates (other than to wheel the bin out and back) since we got back. If BoJo's reading this we're not the Covidiots breaking the law!
      Managed some pottering and tidying in the garden before Storm Alex hit, it all survived while we were away. The lads are very happy to have us home. xxx

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  29. Wonderful to hear about your trip to Crete being so enjoyable. Greece is truly a beautiful land. I like the sights you showed, the Fortezza fortress, the murals and the graffiti (I never mind tasteful graffiti and I love murals), the little streets, the Venetian fountain, the blue steps, the yummy dishes and the cats. Judging by all the travel posts I read here in the blogland, here are a lot of cats in Greece.
    You look very princess like in your maxi dresses!

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    1. Thanks, Ivana, it really was a joy to escape from the UK for a while. xxx

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  30. I'm glad the hurricane didn't spoil your holiday. I have to say, the way the pandemic's made some tourist hotspots quieter is kind of nice - Bath was actually lovely on the day we went there. Must've been fab having those beaches to yourself!

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    1. We were really lucky, at one point it looked like we were directly in the path of Medicane! When we used to trade in Bath with Judy's we loved getting there at 6.30am and enjoying the peace and tranquility, it was always crazy busy by the time the fair had shut. xxx

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  31. I'm relieved you managed to avoid the worst of the storm. More wonderful photographs but my favourites are the one of you on the balcony, framed by those beautiful flowers and the last one, with the painted steps and potted plants. X

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  32. I loved this description of your time in Rethymno, I was right there with you!
    I love the bougainvillea, the Fortezza, the gorgeous blue sky and a tomato as a big as your head! Oh my lord, the food looks and sounds amazing. I love Greek food so much, and Cretan seems v similar / like variations on it. Gigandes plaki! Discovered by me for the first time in Brussels of all places, but still amazing :-)

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  33. I love a dilapidated doorway too. They're even better when you've had to hop on a plane to see them.
    Looks like a lovely place, thanks for sharing, it's nice to read that covidiots are few and far between over there.
    xx

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  34. Just catching up on your blog Vix (I’ve been a reader for many years) and you could sell anywhere to me with the way you write about your visits, you should have been a travel writer ,although I doubt they are in much demand these days!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix