Showing posts with label Armchair Adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Armchair Adventures. Show all posts

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Armchair Travels To Far Away Places

It is winter in the slice of the Greek Peloponnese we call home. Sometimes winter here can be as harsh in its wet and windy way as springtime and fall can be gorgeous.  After two blustery weeks we've concluded this might be one of those more nasty winters.

Our Village - wind, rain and waves

The rain -- admittedly, badly needed after the summer's drought -- has been making up for lost time. We've had very little of that Mediterranean sun in recent weeks. The wind gusts so strong that they can topple heave planted pots, often knocks out internet when we least expect it. In recent days we've kept the fireplace at the ready in case we lose power, which means we lose heat as well.

Waves are 'Hawaii-sized'

It is the kind of weather that calls out for a warm beverage and an armchair and a journey to somewhere exciting.  Thanks to the written word, we've taken some interesting trips of late without setting foot outside the door. Here are some of our destinations and the writers who took us to them: 

Greek Islands:

We journeyed back in time and to two Greek islands with books written by Australian writer, Charmaine Clift. Clift and husband, George Johnston, also a writer packed their bags in 1954, leaving post-war London to live and write on a Greek island. 

Her first book, Mermaid Singing, tells of their life on the tiny island Kalymnos, known then as the home of sponge divers.  Not finding quite the life they were looking for they headed to Hydra and that story is told in her second book, Peel Me a Lotus.

Hydra Island, 2020

They lived for almost a decade on Hydra and were key players in the informal bohemian community of writers and artists there, a group that later included Leonard Cohen.

You need not be an expat to enjoy these tales of life on Greek islands in the mid-20th Century.


We headed back in time again reading in this historical novel by another Australian writer, S. C. Karakaltsas, The storyline going back and forth in time links the narrator, an old man, to his childhood  and the horrors it held.  A Perfect Stone is set in both in modern-day Australia and Greece during the time of its Greek Civil War, 1946 - 49.

Anyone who has dealt with aging parents will appreciate this book as well as those who have an interest in Greek history.


Yes, we've just returned from Italy and one souvenir I always bring back with me is a book about the place we are visiting, purchased from a real brick-and- mortar store there. Luckily Bologna, our first stop, is home to a university and has as many bookstores as it does coffee shops. It can be fact or fiction.

It was a murder mystery, A Quiet Death in Italy by Tom Benjamin that came home with us this time. It was such a page-turner that I've now ordered another of his books.  I was glad all we saw was the beautiful side of Bologna and not the sinister one we found in his novel although when the mist moved in at night and the streets emptied we could understand how he got his inspiration.

Bologna street scene


It has been far too long since we've been to France. We were supposed to go there last year but Covid took care of those plans. 

So I got my shot of Paris by finally getting around to reading a memoir published in 2005 by a Canadian journalist, Jeremy Mercer, who found himself living at the iconic bookstore, known as Shakespeare & Co.   I found Time Was Soft There a somewhat far-fetched memoir, but then again, I wasn't there and truth is often stranger than fiction!

Located near Notre Dame, the bookstore is still popular (you can follow it on social media or order books from it on-line). The most fun would be shopping there. It is located at 37 Rue de la Bucherie.

Middle East

The Middle East serves as the basis of the narrative but this action packed spy thriller has taken us from France, to England, the United States and Spain.  Another page turner by Daniel Silva with such detail that sometimes you forget it is only a novel. . .

Desert sands of the Middle East

The clouds are darkening and it could be time to light that fireplace soon. So I'll sign off for this time around. Hope you'll be back for a bit of Italian train travel. . .and thanks for your time today!

And I haven't mentioned it for awhile, but signing up to receive our posts as emails, is a snap with our new distribution service.  So if you liked this and want to hear regularly from us, just head to the TravelnWrite  home page and fill in your email address!

If you have some time how about telling us where you've armchair traveled to lately? We'd love to see some book recommendations from you!!

Linking with:

Monday, September 9, 2019

Lights, Camera, Action, Popcorn. . .Greece!

Stolen jewels. A hint of romance. A bit of danger.  A scene that makes your heart race, with Hayley Mills, the Walt Disney star of the mid-1900's trapped in a Greek windmill and escaping by clinging to the canvas blade as it spun past.

My introduction to Greece

That was my introduction to Greece. 1964.

Thanks to Walt Disney's movie 'The Moon-Spinners' filmed on Crete, starring Mills, Eli Wallach, Irene Papas and Pola Negri - I had an action-packed introduction to Greece. It planted the seed . . .

I knew that someday, I was going to Greece (Back then, I certainly wouldn't have thought I'd be living here, but I sure did want to visit!)

A movie sent me chasing Greek windmills. . .

It was Pauline Collins as 'Shirley Valentine'  who 'took' Pacific Northwest friend, Barbara Cantwell, to Greece via the movie of the same name. The 1989  film, about a bored, middle-aged housewife -- Shirley Valentine --who ditches her mundane life and her husband and heads to Greece on her own, was filmed the island of Mykonos.

While Barbara lives on an island in Washington State, she continues to escape to a Greek island 'with' Shirley.  

Scenes of Greece 

For our English friends, Bill and Val Kitson, it is watching that toe-tapping 2008 'Mamma Mia' -- filmed on Skopelos island -- that is a must-watch prior to trips to Greece. They say it helps build the excitement for their bi-annual trips to Crete (this spring they watched it before they left and after they returned)!

Bet your toes start tapping . . .OPA!

And I bet everyone of you has seen at least the beach dance scene from the 1964 film, 'Zorba the Greek', in which Anthony Quinn as Alexis Zorbas and Alan Bates, his boss interlink arms and dance the 'siritaki' on a Greek beach. 

Mural in Stoupa - Kazantzakis and Zorbas

The movie was based on a novel written by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, who lived for a time -- a century ago -- just down the road from us in Stoupa village. He'd tried to mine lignite from a hillside behind the village. His mining operation foreman was George Zorbas. . .which gave rise to the subsequent novel.

Me in Crete on 'Zorba's beach' the movie dance was filmed here

The 1964 movie was filmed in Crete.

The idea for this big-screen getaway post can be credited to the former Seattle Times travel editor, Brian Cantwell, (Barbara's husband) for whom I used to write travel tales. After reading my post about 'novel' destinations he asked about movie getaways to Greece (still thinking travel stories) So I set out to find some movies and was amazed at the number I found! Those highlighted are but a sample.  Some, you've probably heard of and others, probably not. 

Ill Met by Moonlight 

Take for instance, 'Ill Met by Moonlight' a 1957 movie shot in Crete. The movie is based on a real life incidient during World War II in which a Nazi commander was kidnapped by British armed forces and Cretan resistance fighters.  The one who led the effort was none other than Patrick Leigh Fermor, the British writer I told you about a few weeks ago. His Greek home (now officially open to the public) is just a few kilometers from us.

Patrick Leigh Fermor House in Kalamitsi

And while speaking of him, another movie, 'Before Midnight' was filmed at his home in 2013.  The film was the final one in a trilogy of movies that began with 'Before Sunrise' (1995) and 'Before Sunset' (2004). Featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, it was shot in 15 days. The PLF House was loaned to the production crew by Benaki Museum.

Donkeys on Hydra are still used as transport vehicles

The Academy-Award-winning 'The Guns of Navarone' filmed in 1961 on Rhodes had a $2 million budget which was quickly blown because of the costs of filming there: the terrain was so rough that many of the locations could only be accessed by donkey and they hired 1,000 Greek soldiers to play the German army.

Island escape and escapade

One that I'd never heard of before writing this piece is 'Surprise Package'  a 1960's movie also filmed on Rhodes. The movie is about an American gangster sent back to his Greek homeland and is supervised by a corrupt police chief and the plot thickens from there. The stars include Yul Brenner as the gangster and co-stars include Mitzi Gaynor and Noel Coward.

Greece for your eyes only

A more recent movie, 'For Your Eyes Only' (1981) takes James Bond through locations in England and Italy and includes scenes shot in Rhodes and Meteora in central Greece where six Greek Orthodox monasteries are built atop stunning rock formations.

Boy on a Dolphin - Sofia Loren room in Hydra hotel

A 23-year-old Sofia Loren played a beautiful sponge diver in 'Boy on the Dolphin' a movie filmed on the island of Hydra in 1957.  Today on the island there is a statue in a park overlooking the sea of a boy on a dolphin to commemorate the movie. We also stayed in the Sofia Loren room at Hydra Icons hotel last year.  

Heading to new adventures this fall

Summer has on its way into the history books and September is definitely showing signs of autumn.  And for those who've been with us awhile, you know that autumn is the time of year we straddle two worlds: Greece and the US.  The next time you hear from us, we will be in the village of Manson on the shores of Lake Chelan in Washington State.  We have a lot to learn about that place we made our 'other home' last fall and hope you'll join us in our journey of discovery!

Thanks for the time you spent with us today!! Safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Christmas in July

We meet some of the most interesting people when we travel.

Many times, it is while sitting at a bar during Happy Hour.  Like that evening in Hawaii . . .

 VegasHawaii2012 309Doug and Carla Scott, were sitting a couple bar stools away from us one evening at  Chuck’s Restaurant on the Ko Olina property on the western shores of O’ahu, Hawaii. 

While sipping our Happy Hour Mai Tai’s, I overheard Doug  tell someone they were sailing to Fiji.

Because we are heading that way ourselves this fall, I asked about the cruise line they’d be taking.

Silly me!  These people are sailing themselves to Fiji.

As is the case when strangers, who share a passion for travel meet, the conversation continued long past Happy Hour.

HeivaDougCarla (1)
Doug and Carla Scott
These two nautical vagabonds met and married in Oregon. In fact, the first time they sailed together was on the Columbia River. Then their work lives took them to landlocked Albuquerque, New Mexico for the next 18 years.

Leaving the Conventional Life Behind

Just as we decided to jump ship and leave the conventional world behind for our Mexico adventure and subsequent life of travel, you might say they jumped to a ship and left  the conventional world behind.

MoondanceHaha2008 (1)

They didn't shake their sailing 'bug' in the high desert and by 1988 were researching sailboats; they also had decided to sell  ‘almost everything’ and buy one.  In 2000 they found Moondance, a blue water cruiser for two, (pictured above) had her shipped to California and lived aboard her for eight years getting ready to begin the life of cruisers.

After leaving San Francisco in 2008, they spent a year and a half sailing around the Sea of Cortez and by February 2011 were in Banderas Bay on Mexico’s west coast preparing for the Puddle Jump to French Polynesia.


In April 2011 they spent 22 days sailing to the South Pacific; they spent seven months there exploring Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands, Moorea, Huahine, and Bora Bora. The photo above was taken at Tuamotus Bay.

VegasHawaii2012 159They arrived at the Ko Olina Marina in January 2012 and decided to make it home for the next year and a half. 

Our chance Mai Tai encounter happened at the end of their stay, just as they were beginning preparations to head out again for the South Pacific.

The four of us planned to continue our conversation while we were all at Ko Olina  (we were at our Marriott timeshare home) but never quite managed to get in more than a brief chat . . .usually during that popular Chuck’s Happy Hour.

But we’ve stayed in touch and are now following Doug and Carla as they are sailing to the South Pacific.

They’ve sailed 1,200 miles from Hawaii to Fanning Island and on July 4th arrived at Christmas Island, both part of the Republic of Kiribati  made up of  33 islands spread over 2,400 miles.

If their story has sparked your wanderlust, check out their blog, by clicking this link:  Following Moondance for their tales of the South Pacific.

That’s it for Travel Tuesday the day we feature either tips or tales about people and places! If it is your first visit, we hope to have you return soon. And to our many regulars – thanks so much for continuing to travel with us!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Armchair Adventures: Arizona’s Novel Destinations

“Novel destinations” have enhanced our travels through north central Arizona. Using the recommendations from so many of you, we’ve started some armchair explorations of Arizona. Today I’ll tell you about a few of them as we head out to north eastern Arizona. . .

Map picture
   . . . land of the Navajo, Hopi, and Hualapai Indian Reservations.

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal police – a character created by award-winning writer, Tony Hillerman introduced us to the Reservation.  

With the help of the delightful owner, I selected a couple of used paperbacks from a towering stack of Hillerman’s books on display at Bent River Books and Music, 1010 N. Main Street  in Cottonwood, a small town not far from Sedona

Thankfully, Hillerman’s  got more than 35 years of writing under his belt and a few dozen more adventures waiting for us now that we’ve discovered this New Mexico author.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that in addition to never having read Hillerman, we’d also not experienced  -- until now --the writing of Louis L’Amour, the author of some 89 novels set in America’s frontier – perhaps his best known being the Hopalong Cassidy series. (Photo is from his website which can be accessed by clicking his name above.)

I chose at random, The Haunted Mesa, from a bookstore at the Phoenix airport. The story based on the disappearance of the Anasazi, or 'ancient enemy’ as the Navajo called them – it is so engrossing that I can barely put it down.  And I’ll certainly be reading more of his books – soon.

Product DetailsI must thank a clerk at Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Scottsdale for suggesting Phoenix Noir, a collection of short stories by contemporary authors set in or near Phoenix. It is not a book I would have purchased had it not been recommended – it is dark.  The stories aren’t those that appear in tourist publications, yet it was one of the best books I’ve read this year because it gave me a look at the ‘other side’ of the city. I read them in short doses and let each story percolate before moving on to the next.

Phoenix Noir is part of a series of books published by Akashic Books; all are noir (dark) short stories and the dozens of cities in which they are set stretch across the globe from Seattle to Barcelona.

This post kicks off a new monthly feature at TravelnWrite – our Armchair Adventures. They require you pack nothing more than a book to your favorite chair.  If you have a ‘novel destination’ to be included in future posts, send it our way.


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