Finally, a moment to come up for air! I can’t believe it’s over a month since my last post……so sorry!I know I promised a full account of my travels to St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai here but I’ve added it to my art blog instead – so, if you like, you can read all about it there.
With so much heavy luggage (furnishings for the new studios, art supplies, frames etc) and a sudden yearning for the open road, I decided to forgo a direct flight to Skiathos for a change and with the words of ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ ringing in my ears, drive overland to the island this time, instead.
With 200okm to cover, I was dreading the thought of such a long drive but what a fabulous (and easy!) journey it proved to be!
Completed in just 2 & 1/2 days, we had a clear run all the way without even once exceeding the speed restrictions in any of the countries we passed through Amazing scenery! Superb roads! But a word of warning, don’t be tempted to put your foot down even if there’s no other car or camera in sight; hidden computers/cameras automatically clock your time between toll gates and a posse of police will be waiting for you and will impose hefty on-the-spot fines if you speed (especially in Italy) . We arrived in record time, no worse for wear and only slightly weary – but, thankfully, safe and sound.
After crossing The Channel on the early morning Dover/Calais ferry (arriving at 5.30 am) we drove straight down through France and, by-passing Switzerland, slipped into Italy’s spectacular Val D’Aosta, via the Mont Blanc (Frejus) Tunnel, well before nightfall.
Well-rested from a good night’s sleep (at the Holiday Inn), were up at the crack of dawn once again, with just 6 hours to make our way across Italy to the port of Ancona, on the Adriatic coast, where another ferry would take us on the over-night trip to Igonoumitsa, Greece. Distracted as we were by the eerie beauty of the Northern Italian landscape at dawn; the rising sun reflected in the extensive rice fields of Vercelli, barely visible through the low-lying but quickly clearing fog…….
…..we never thought we’d make it in time – but we did – just – with hardly a moment to spare!!
A leisurely sail down the Adriatic on board the comfortable (we booked a cabin) and aptly named ‘SuperFast’ Ferry, gave us excellent food, a spectacular sunset and another sound night’s sleep:
Arriving at Igonoumitsa, on Greece’s west coast, once again in the early hours, left us barely 5 hours to cross the Greek mainland to reach the port of Volos in time to catch the mid-day ferry (the only one of the day bound for Skiathos). Thankfully, with the new motorway (that cuts through the mountains in a succession of tunnels providing a welcome alternative to the terrifying hair-pin bends and steep, slow climb of the old road!) now completed almost as far as Metsovo, it was not such an impossible challenge – although I would have liked more time to spend in the spectacular regions we sped through:
especially Meteora (sorry, no photos; there was no time to stop!).
Despite losing our way (twice!) thanks to the very misleading road signs around Larissa, once again we arrived on the dock in the nick of time; literally seconds before departure!
By 2.30pm, (2 & 1/2 hours later) we were sailing calmly into Skiathos’ welcoming port.
Then, within 15 minutes, we were sitting on the terrace of Villa Nicara, with a well deserved G&T in hand, counting our blessings and looking out to sea on a beautiful sunny Skiathos afternoon…….We’d made it!
Since arriving, I’ve been caught up in the frenzy of the start of the new season here on the island. With just a week to prepare for an art exhibition, I’ve thrown myself into last-minute painting and framing, adding final touches to the villa:
getting the seriously over-grown garden into shape:
cutting the 10’high grass in the olive grove, making ready the pool:
and completing almost the last of the building project; A brand new pergola to support the grape vine:
that shades the terrace outside the two new guest bedrooms, both now fully refurbished and furnished:
All this in time for the arrival of my first guest of the season; artist/tutor Mary Dillon from Ireland, who along with teaching her watercolours courses will be exhibiting with me, a collection of latest work at the Archipelagos Gallery, Skiathos Town, until mid June.
We now have a sink and running water down at the studio but I decided to put plans for its extension on hold till the autumn. I’m anxious to lay down the tools, turn off the cement mixer and just enjoy the peace and quiet (and the huge amount of work we’ve achieved so far!).
It’s time to enjoy the summer – welcome new and old friends and paint pictures – not door frames! The days are hot and sunny (30 degrees today!) and the evenings pleasantly cool ………..Ah, its SO good to be back!