Showing posts with label Bill Kitson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Kitson. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TPThursday: Circling the Cyclades

Die-hard travelers like us aren’t content to be preparing for the next trip, we must be thinking about future journeys as well.  (From a practical standpoint, if you plan to use frequent flier miles, you need to be planning ahead!)

Our travel compass for our next year is pointing towards Greece.  And with so many favorite islands there, it is going to be difficult to narrow our focus to visiting just a few of them. 

As our planning discussions pick up momentum, Joel started talking frequent flier mile seats and I pulled out photos from our first journey there ~ when we circled Greece’s Cycladic Islands:


We are agreed that as much as we love cruises, we prefer Greek ferries to cruise ships when it comes to experiencing the islands. Modern ferries, such as this NEL Lines fast boat, in the harbor of Naxos Island can’t be beat for comfort and convenience.

Spending an evening at a Greek taverna, savoring good food and drink, isn't possible if you are racing back to a departing cruise ship. Why visit Greece if you can’t have some taverna evenings, right?

Traveling by ferry is as casual as life itself. We love waiting for a ferry departure. We sat at this small café in Mykonos watching the cruise ship in the distance to pass the time. No stuffy airport waiting rooms nor long security checks here.


Our days went far too quickly - no matter which island we were on.We were easily entertained just watching the daily rituals of the island fishermen as they off-loaded the day’s catch and began preparing the boats for the next morning’s departure.


By now you know we prefer the off-the-beaten-path back roads and villages.They just offer so many unexpected experiences. . .I mean, how often back home does a passing herd of goats block your route?


By taking those off-the-beaten path routes we found beaches like this one. . .


. . .and sunsets so stunning that they seemed surrealistic.

If You Go:

Map picture

Our first trip to Greece took us to four islands in the Cycladic group, Siros, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos. It’s so easy to succumb to the spell of any one of them that it is difficult to move on to the next. . .until you get there and you find yourself not wanting to leave that place either. We made advance reservations for hotels on our first two islands because we were there during the Easter Holidays (when everyone on the Mainland heads to an island). The other two we booked upon arrival.

If you’ve been reading the TravelnWrite Facebook page you know I’ve been including updates from fellow travelers who’ve been visiting Greece this year or who live there – all are reporting calm and serene environments and business as usual. (Novelist Bill Kitson has a guest post on TravelnWrite about his recent stay in Crete.)

Thanks for stopping by on this TPThursday. Hope you’ll head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos and travel tales. And then come back again!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Volcano Didn't Blow the Vacation

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in London when the first reports of Iceland’s volcanic eruption flashed across the television screen. I suppose we should have started fretting about the affect it might have on our flight home – via Iceland – later in the week. 

You know us better than that by now:  we started thinking that we might have to stay in Europe longer: Tough duty! 

cretan peoplenplaces 002 Meanwhile in Greece, our friends, Bill and Val Kitson were trying to return to England. . .and this is their story:


Having lost 10 days of our holiday to the volcanic ash cloud last year, we couldn’t believe it when our travel plans were disrupted again. This time it was the return journey, however, and the delay was only 24-hours.

Having said that, we were uncertain whether or not the flight was going until check-in time at the Heraklion, Crete airport.

Having learned that nobody was flying to Newcastle that night, our next concern was, what would happen during the delay?

As independent travelers, we had booked “flight only” on a plane carrying mostly package holidaymakers. They would be catered for, but what of the independents?
crete 2010 003 We needn’t have worried.

We were with Thomas Cook, the oldest travel agents in the world. Instead of a night in the Crete airport lounge, we were taken by coach to a resort complex twenty minutes away to Gouves Park Resort complex, an all-inclusive center catering for mostly family holidays.

Although it was way past the normal hour, a buffet-style evening meal awaited us. Then we checked in to a comfortable ground floor room. Because of the distance from reception, there was a golf buggy to take our luggage. Breakfast and lunch next day were provided, and when we returned to the airport, we were at last able to set off home, even though we’d a wait while they sorted a small technical problem with the plane.

On arrival at Newcastle, we were handed a letter by Thomas Cook’s representative, confirming details of the delay, should we wish to claim on our insurance. Although some travelers might have had to do this, with connecting flights, or lost working time, as all we’d had to pay for was one glass of beer and one glass of wine, we didn’t think it worth bothering!

Full marks to the Thomas Cook team at Heraklion airport and the staff at Gouves Park Resort, for turning what could have been a highly stressful experience into a relaxed end to the holiday.

Note:  Click the link to read an article that outlines EU airline responsibilities in event Mother Nature vents her pent up steam.

To those of you wanting to find Bill Kitson’s novels: go to the Amazon carousel on our home page and click on either of his books to get to the full list.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bill Kitson: On Vacation from Crime

We thank Bill Kitson, our English crime writer friend, for this report of his trip to Greece last month:   

We visited  Athens en route to Crete. Our itinerary was to fly there, spend a couple of days in the capital, before taking the overnight ferry from Piraeus to Chania. That left us with one decision, where to stay?
folenaxosathens 022 The hotel I’d used in the past was proving more expensive than we were prepared to pay, added to which, the reviews were less than encouraging. After searching the internet (taking Joel’s tip), we settled on the Hotel Kimon, a boutique hotel close to the Plaka and the cathedral, within easy distance of the Acropolis.

One of the disadvantages was the lack of an elevator, but the stairs were quite manageable, even for us oldsters. The reward on climbing them was a comfortable, well appointed room with TV, air conditioning and wi-fi.

Continental breakfast, included in the cost, is served on the roof terrace, where early diners can grab one of the tables with a view of the Acropolis. On hearing I’m an author, the waitress asked for my autograph, saying that she would put it on her wall, next to that of Bono!

The roof terrace is also open in the evening, and although the hotel does not serve evening meals, you might want to take a bottle of wine up there as the capital drifts off to sleep, and sit looking at the magnificent spectacle of the Parthenon bathed in the glow from the floodlights on all sides.
The cathedral is close by, a fact that you should be aware of, as the bells will ring at 7am. No need to pack an alarm clock, though.

There is considerable noise from the large number of motorbikes using the narrow streets of the old town, but I suspect that will be the case wherever you stay. A combination of the lack of space in the streets, and the high price of gasoline has resulted in these being the most popular mode of transport.

Accommodation in a superior double room with 2 occupants at the Kimon Hotel in early May, was  €80 per night (approx. $116)

cretan peoplenplaces 002
Our flight time for the return journey had been changed, so we left Loutro, the village on Crete’s southern coast (where we met Joel and Jackie last year), a day early and spend a night in Chania on the way to the airport. This enabled us to avoid a very long day’s travelling.

On the advice of our friend Pavlos, (pictured above with Bill and Val Kitson) we’d asked him to book us a room at the Hotel Nefeli, close to the bus station, and directly opposite his cousin’s fish and vegetarian restaurant, reputed to be one of the best in town.

The Nefeli is beautifully appointed, with a high standard of cleanliness and decor. There is an elevator to all floors, rooms have TV, air conditioning, balconies, wired broadband and a mini-bar. The breakfast dining room is on the first floor, and on the ground floor there is a bar and lounge. There is also a roof terrace, but we didn’t venture onto that.

This is five star accommodation at less than five star prices, and having sampled the cousin’s restaurant (His name is George, by the way, which made it tricky, because Pavlos has somewhere in the region of six cousins called George), we can vouch for the quality of the food. Try the salt cod and chips, but only if you’re real hungry.

The old town is within easy walking distance, as is the harbour area, and there’s a superb market close by, where you can buy all manner of herbs, spices, gifts and food of all descriptions.

Accommodation at the Hotel Nefeli in May cost a mere €55 (approx $80) for a double room with 2 occupants. That, we considered to be a bargain.

So what happened to Bill and Val when Iceland’s volcano blew about the same time they were heading home? He’ll tell you in the next post.  Bill’s fourth book is out and the fifth in the Mike Nash detective series is slated for release this fall. It is also Crime Writers Week in England - June 13 - 19. Those of you living there may be lucky enough to see Bill at one of his speaking engagements.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Summer Post Scripts

Seattle as seen from Elliott Bay

I took this photo of the Seattle skyline in September a few years ago as we crossed Elliott Bay en route to Bainbridge Island.  I can assure you, this September looks nothing like it. 

Sunshine has been scarce all year and now both the the leaves and rain are falling; evidence that summer's teaser  is over and autumn approaches. We just read  that El Nino is promising a wetter-and-colder-than-before winter.  All the more reason to start planning future travels.

But first, a post script to summer:

* I'm pleased to report that unlike Godot, our missing British Airline miles arrived in our Alaska Air accounts shortly after I wrote about them (such timing, huh?). Bottom line:  if the miles don't appear, let the airline know and don't give up on getting your credits. It's a good reminder of how important your loyalty is to the airlines.
* Bill Kitson, the British crime mystery writer whom we met while he and his wife, Val, were the small village of Loutro,Crete last spring, has a fourth book heading to the printing press and scheduled for a not-to-distant release.  If you missed his guest post about Harrogate, England on this blog go back and check it out. You'll be tempted to visit.

* Our 'armchair travels' during the lazy days of summer included a trip around-the-world with Seth Stevenson, as chronicled in his book,Grounded.  And after Stevenson's references to Phileas Fogg's journey prompted us to go find the book; we enjoyed Fogg's journey in Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  First published in 1873, the story not only provides a great travel yarn, but also a wonderful window into the world back then.

* Our long drawn out cruise-related contemplations that have entertained us all summer long, can sometimes backfire. One of our cruise stops is in a country that requires a visa if you aren't on one of the ship's official tours (we couldn't make up our minds on which of those to take) and now find the reasonably priced tour (about $60-70 per person) is wait-listed.  Next tour is in the hundreds of dollars per person - if we don't clear the wait-list we may see that country from the deck of the ship. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Trip to Harrogate England

Thanks to England's crime fiction writer Bill Kitson for providing the following guest post:

Harrogate, in North Yorkshire, is an "event" town. There is always something happening, whatever the time of year. The International Conference Centre plays hosts to countless exhibitions, from toy fairs, to the spring flower show. In addition there are festivals, with themes ranging from music to crime writing. It was in connection with the latter that Val and I visited Harrogate recently.

The historical connection of Harrogate with crime stems from the fact that it was in Harrogate, at The Old Swan Hotel, that Agatha Christie was discovered following her mysterious disappearance from her home. The event was subject to the 1979 film, "Agatha," starring Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Castles and Countryside
In addition to its own attractions, Harrogate is a great centre for those wishing to spend time in some of the most spectacular scenery with some of the most appealing visitor attractions in the UK. Whether your taste is for the hills and dales, wild moorland or beautiful pastures, raging torrents or gently trickling scenes, you won't be disappointed.

Visitors will find themselves within striking distance of a number of historic castles, some ruined, most still occupied by the families who have lived there for centuries. Or, around the next bend as it were, they can take in the splendid architecture of a string of abbeys and monasteries, whose beauty even the wrecking crews of Cromwell's army couldn't destroy. Other features of the area are some magnificently kept gardens within a number of stately homes (usually better during summer - obviously) or take a trip back in time with a railway journey on one of several lines that run through the most beautiful parts of the county, sitting in a carriage being pulled along by a venerable steam locomotive.

Ale and Cheese
There are other attractions too. You could tour a visitor centre watching traditional arts such as cheese-making or the centuries old brewing methods still used to produce real ale. Afterwards, those who wish to may care to linger and try the produce.

Where we stayed
For our visit to the Crime Writing Festival, we stayed at The Cairn Hotel (part of Strathmore Hotels Group). We've stayed there before and found it clean and comfortable, with the staff cheerful and providing good service. Okay, so it needs a lick of paint here, or a bit of carpet replacing there, but we were only staying there, not living in the place. The rooms are spacious, no wear and tear to be seen in them, and the facilities within all you could ask for.

The terms were the other attraction. Our online booking enabled us to obtain a double room with full English breakfast for two at a price of £55 ($84). This compares with a rack price of £190 ($293) and the price of a room in the hotel staging the festival (only a few hundred yards away) of £300 ($462).
*Rate of exchange as at 07/24/2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Travel - Novel Destinations

The next best thing to actually traveling there, is being transported by some writer whose skills with the written word take us from Kirkland to far-away places.  We've had some great armchair trips this summer to:
          "Winds of Crete" Loutro, Crete

  • Crete - Two outstanding books of vastly differing subject matter have led us back to our favorite spots on this southern Greek island.  
A very used, dog-earred paper-back copy of Winds of Crete, by David MacNeil Doren, that I found in Portland, Oregon's Powell's Bookstore kept us totally absorbed as the author recounted the six years that he and his wife lived in Crete.  The book was first published in England in 1974.
Who Pays the Ferryman? a novel by Michael J. Bird, based on his BBC television series of the same name, took us to some of our favorite cities as we followed the story of Alan Haldane's return to Crete after a 35-year absence and the love story that ensues. We ordered this book, first published in England in 1977, from The Book Depository (which offers free world-wide shipping; no minimum purchase required).
  •  Europe  - by train, bike, horse, boat and on foot in two books by a London journalist, Andrew Eames.
In his, The 8:55 to Baghdad, we tagged along on his 2002 trip from London to Iraq on the trail of Agatha Christie, the legendary mystery writer, who as a 30-something recently divorced woman in 1928 made the trip alone.  He masterfully weaves a biographical account of Christie into his travel tale that had us wanting to hop the next train from London and learn more about Agatha's travels. I came across this book in the biography section at a  Barnes and Noble.

(This book re-ignited our desire to read more Agatha Christie books and have just completed a cruise in her Death on the Nile and took an English garden tour in Nemesis.)

Patrick Leigh Fermor, the British travel writer who at age 18 in 1933 set out to walk the Hook of Holland to Istanbul provided the inspiration for Eames' Blue River, Black Sea, the story of his own journey on foot, bike and horseback along the Danube into the heart of the New Europe.
           Sipping raki with Bill and Val Kitson 

  • England has been the setting for a murder mysteries written by Bill Kitson, the author we met in the tiny village of Loutro, on Crete's southern coast.
The first book -- in what we hope will be a long series of mysteries -- introduces detective Mike Nash, in a riviting read titled Depth of Despair.  I ordered it on-line through Amazon.  While not a travel book, the plot has taken us from tarns in England's Lakes District to Russia and back. It is a book with such a gripping storyline that it we found it hard to put down.   I've just received the second book in the series, The Chosen, also set in England, which by coincidence opens with an article, fictitious of course, from The Seattle Times.

Note: I've been able to add all but one of the books referenced in this post to the Amazon carousel that appears on our blog - if you click on a book it will open an Amazon page that describes the book, author, and offers professional and reader's reviews.  And yes, if you click on one of the books and ultimately buy it from the carousel, we get a few cents from the sale.  (That's a disclaimer; not a sales pitch!)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Novel Destination: "The Writer is Here Now. . ."

A high point of our travels is seeking out  'novel destinations'; those places that come to life for us as result of some fictional story set in some faraway place that peaks our curiosity enough to go there. Such was the case last year in Crete with Zorba's beach in Zorba, the Greek and Spinalonga in The Island

This time it was Crete that led us to new novels. . .or, I should  say, to the writer of those novels.

It was during a lazy afternoon stroll along Loutro's waterfront promenade -- a walkway that bi-sects the restaurants ringing its crescent-shaped harbor -- that we noticed the poster at Taverna Pavlos announcing a series of books 'now for sale on'  As we paused to read it, Pavlos (Paul) the owner, called out to us, "The writer is here now," nodding toward the rooms above the cafe. "He will be here tonight at dinner." 
And it was after dinner that night that we met British novelist Bill Kitson and his wife, Val.  Bill, a retired executive from the world of finance, who keeps you laughing or groaning with his rapid-fire one-liners, writes about murders; murders solved by the character he has created, Mike Nash.  Three books are published and more are on the way.

We continued our laugh-filled conversation the following evening, again at Taverna Pavlos, over after-dinner glasses of raki. Raki is Crete's rather strong beverage sipped in small amounts following a meal. Pavlos has a friend who distills the stuff and bottles it for the restaurant - look close and you'll see the label features Pavlos.

Upon learning we were from the Seattle area, Bill told us his second novel, Chosen, opens with a fictitious article from The Seattle Times that provides the plot's hook.  No, he's never been to Seattle, but he loved the movie, "Sleepless in Seattle."  We've stayed in touch with the Kitson's since we met and we plan to start reading Bill's books upon our return home. . .for those who want to take a look at them, I've added them to the Amazon carousel on the right-hand side of our blog's home page.


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