Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Bit of Christmas Magic ~ Catching the Daydream

A recurrent theme of TravelnWrite this past year has been chasing the daydream. Our daydream, to be more specific, ‘that stone house on a hill’ in Greece. 

DSCF0252Much like youth chasing butterflies, we came close, so very close, but it got away just like the illusive butterfly.

Ahh. . .but never under-estimate the seasonal mysteries of Christmas Magic.

Were I writing that famous Christmas column, it would read:  ‘Yes, Virginia. . .it is Christmas and we’ve finally caught the daydream.’

Our Christmas will be spent in ‘our stone house on the hill’ in Greece’s Peloponnese. Something that even as recently as Thanksgiving, we’d have probably never believed possible. But here we are in the house that caught our eye last spring; the one that got away from us last summer.

Details fell into place rather rapidly in the last few weeks.  A deal was reached. Airline tickets purchased to avoid the Christmas sky-high prices and we headed back to Greece last week.

Home for the Holidays

The entryway from the home's parking area
I didn’t show you many photos of ‘the house’ because after the deal fell through, we didn’t feel it proper to be showing someone else’s home.  Now that it is ours, come take the first of many tours I plan to take you on and let me tell you the plans we have for this place; where we plan to spend a few months each spring and autumn:

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The view from 'the stone house on the hill'
We had a number of criteria, first and foremost was view. That we have! The home looks out over The Mani and the Messinian Gulf. Olive groves stretch out before us, with Mediterranean Cypress, and small stone villages giving the feel of Tuscany (without Tuscan prices!).

DSCF0955Speaking of olives, we have our own grove of 17 trees that cascade down the hillside on three terraces.  We’ve been studying up on olive pruning and harvest. (Move over Frances Mayes, we may be producing oil one day ourselves!).

But what won my heart was the lemon tree next to a small patio –’ the wine patio’ it is now called – at the side of the house; a part of a large garden area that cascades down the hillside.

The home’s previous owners took good care of it – they’ve owned it since it was built eight years ago – it was their retirement daydream.
As with all homes, though, new owners have a plan for making it their own and improving it  – we certainly do with this place.  We packed garden gloves, work tee-shirts and blue jeans on this trip and are putting them to use during the short time we have here this winter.

The garden needs some TLC
There’s painting, pruning and planting to be done.
Colors speak to the soul - we want this place to shout!

Out with the old and in with some new.

Temptations at a furniture store
It will take awhile, but I hope you’ll come on long on our journey in this new adventure.  It may lead to a new blog, or our efforts may be recorded every so often on these pages.  For now – it is time to do a little Christmas decorating. . . 

Christmas – in terms of celebration – in Greece comes in second to Easter.  So my next post will take you on a tour of Christmas shopping and decorating ~ we do hope your holidays are going well and that you are sprinkled with a bit of Christmas magic as well!

If I am able to find internet I’ll be linking up with my usual blogosphere buddies this week. Visit them for some amazing travels and decorating ideas:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route  
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Sunday, December 22, 2013

‘Twas the Time Before Christmas

GreecePt12013 001It’s that time of year when suitcases sit empty at the TravelnWrite House

The flurry of pre-travel packing and departure preparation has been replaced by Christmas preparations for a stay-at-home holiday.

But there was a time in our early years together when my work – and its Scrooge-like amount of vacation time -forced us to travel at Christmas (one week of current year’s vacation coupled with one week of the next, made for a blessed two week getaway without zapping my entire year’s 10 vacation days).

So Christmas time was always spent in some far away place;  thousands of miles from family and friends. . . And you know what?

It was a great time to travel!

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We were surrounded by knock-out holiday decorations the filled the hotels (much more elaborate than we’d have done at home), we ate Christmas dinners and goodies that we didn’t have to prepare (whew!) and we had time to enjoy the season, our surroundings and our time together . . .

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This year we had a taste of those old Christmas travel memories when we began the month of December by spending a few days at the JW Marriott in Texas Hill Country, outside San Antonio. The photos in the post were taken there.

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I was among some 1,200 conference attendees and outside each conference room a festive tree and poinsettias made it clear the Holiday Season was upon us.

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Amazing what a couple of Poinsettias will do to enhance everyday décor.


And a gingerbread display filled the hotel foyer with cowboy boots as big as the State of Texas!

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The decorations that filled the grounds and the building provided a chuckwagon-sized helping of Christmas Cheer and guests couldn’t help but be caught up in the festive feel of the season.

We hope this Christmas Season you will be caught up in festive surroundings 
and that your hearts will be filled with Christmas Cheer!

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We thank you for the time you spent with us today during this busy season ~
hope to see you back again soon! As our greeting card says this year, 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

Where ever your holiday travels 
- actual or armchair -
have taken you. . .


. . . we are hoping you’ve found a bit of
Christmas Magic there.


Our wishes for the Happiest of Holidays  and our thanks for being a part of our TravelnWrite life!

~ Jackie and Joel

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas: Finding Saint Nicholas

Santa Claus – fact or fiction?   Saint Nicholas – fact! 

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And if you don’t believe that, just head to Bari, Italy and visit the Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of St. Nicholas).  The remains of this Patron Saint of sailors, merchants, children, archers and thieves have been resting here since 1087!

Because the church was built on what was previously the residence of the Byzantine Governor (Catepan’s Court) historians can’t quite agree on the stages of construction.  The underground Crypt where the remains are enshrined was consecrated in 1089. 

Whatever the sequence, the end result is an enormous structure; one well worth visiting.

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We visited the Basilica of San Nicola  this fall when the Celebrity Silhouette stopped for a day in Bari.

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Depending on the version you choose to believe, Saint Nicholas relics were either ‘removed’ or ‘rescued’ from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, located in present-day Turkey by a group of sailors and merchants from Bari.

SilhouettePt12012 335There had been great competition between Venice and Bari, both seaport towns on Italy’s eastern shores.  But legend has it that the saint passed by Bari on his way to Rome and had chosen it to be his burial place.

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The Nave at Basilica di San Nicola

So, who was Saint Nicholas and what’s the link to Santa Claus? 

Saint Nicholas, who was born around AD 270, is believed to be from whom the present day Santa Claus evolved. Saint Nicholas was a real human being born in the village of Patara, which at the time was a Greek holding and today is part of Turkey. 

Saint Nicholas was orphaned at an early age and is said to have given away his entire inheritance to help the sick and suffering. He dedicated himself to serving God and became known as the Bishop of Myra and known for his love for children, concern for sailors and their ships and his giving to those in need.

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The Crypt at Basilica di San Nicola
Known for his giving of gifts, stories abound about his generous acts, and much like all stories about him vary. Perhaps the most popular story to carry through the ages is:

There was a poor man who was unable to provide his three daughters with dowries. Without anything to offer prospective husbands (other than love, that is) the daughters would most likely have been sold into slavery. Then without explanation, on three different occasions, a bag of gold (or gold balls – depending on the version) appeared in their home providing the funds for the dowries. Some say the bags were tossed by Saint Nicholas through an open window – others say down a chimney but each landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Oranges are used in symbolize the gold balls . . .have you ever found an orange in your stocking and wondered why?

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History shows he attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

His death on December 6, AD343 continues to be a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Since 1951 the basilica had been home to a community of Dominican Friars and is now an active ecumenical center.

If You Go:

Map picture
The Basilica di San Nicola is on the piazza of the same name within the remaining walls of the ancient city of Bari. It was a 20 minute walk from the cruise ship dock, a bit further from the Central Train Station. We didn’t use the recommended shuttle.

Hours: 7,30 – 13,00, 16-19,30; Entrance is free. 

For information on the Basilica:

For information on Saint Nicholas:

All photos in this post are Jackie Smith’s with the exception of the photo of the Russian icon of St. Nicholas from The Elsner Collection. It is used under Creative Commons licensing agreement with Wikipedia: Photo by The InstaPLANET Cultural Universe .


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