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And the Oscar goes to.......

The Oscars
The Oscars
I didn't watch the 87th Academy awards this year, it would have meant staying up until five o clock in the morning, owing to the time difference between Greece and America.

Besides, I more or less knew the outcome, or so I thought; “Boyhood”, the film expected to win Oscar after Oscar did not do well at all.

"Boyhood"
"Boyhood" 
I am so pleased!

It has to be the worst film I have seen, if not the worst, then, the most boring.

“Boyhood” surpassed my all time bad film: “The Singing Detective”, a 2003 film starring Robert Downey Junior.

I had watched this film with my daughter and her boyfriend Dimitris, my daughter and I gave up on it very quickly, Dimitris watched it until the bitter end and declared it brilliant!


"The Singing Detective"
"The Singing Detective"

I think there was a bit of “Ego” going on here as he was the one who chose the film!!!

The film that did take “Best film “ award, “Birdman” starring Michael Keaton, in my opinion was only marginally better!


 Michael Keaton "Birdman"
 Michael Keaton "Birdman"

I had managed to see all the films nominated for “Best Film” in the run up to the Academy Awards:

“Birdman”
“Boyhood”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“American Sniper”
“The Imitation Game”
Selma
“Whiplash”
“The Theory of Everything”


I very much liked “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and was happy to see it win four Awards:

“Best Original Score”
“Best Production Design”
“Best Achievement in Makeup and Hair-styling”
“Best Costume Design”



"Grand Budapest Hotel"
"Grand Budapest Hotel"

Ralph Fiennes played the part of M. Gustave, the Concierge, brilliantly, but, for me, Zero, the Bus Boy, played by Tony Revolori, made the whole film.

Julianne Moore, nominee together with:

 Reese Witherspoon “Wild”, Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”, Felicity Jones ”The Theory of Everything” and Rosamund Pike” Gone Girl”,

  received, and rightly so, the “Best Actress Award” (Her first Oscar) for her convincing acting in “Still Alice”


"Still Alice"
"Still Alice"


Julianne Moore"
Julianne Moore"


A harrowing story, about Alice, a woman, who, prematurely develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Eddi Redmayne, nominee along with:

Steve Carell “Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”, Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”,

took the Oscar “Best Actor” for his portrayal of Steven Hawking in:

 “The Theory of Everything”

This is another film that I personally found rather boring.


Eddi Redmayne as Steven Hawking
Eddi Redmayne as Steven Hawking


A film I did enjoy, “The Imitation Game” Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, was nominated for eight Oscars, it only managed too take home one One:

“Best Adapted Screenplay”


Benedict Cumberbatch "The Imitation Game"
 Benedict Cumberbatch "The Imitation Game"

“Ida” by Polish Director, Pavel Pawlikowski won “Best Foreign Film", a good film, but, I was disappointed that the Greek film “Little England”, exceptionally good, was not nominated.



Ida. Best Foreign Film
Ida. Best Foreign Film


Greek Film, Little England.
Greek Film, Little England. 

Reading reviews this morning, it doesn’t seem the host of this year’s Academy Awards, Neil Patrick Harris, was much of a hit, unlike Ellen DeGeneres, who’s “Group Selfie” last year, went viral!


Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris, the host of the 87th Academy Awards.


Ellen DeGeneres' Group Selfie
Ellen DeGeneres' Group Selfie

There were a couple of good quotes that I must add to my collection (I love quotes!)

“Fear is the condom of life. It doesn’t allow you to enjoy things”

This was uttered by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who won “Best Director” with Birdman.


Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Best Director. Birdman.


J.K Simmons, “Best Actor in a Supporting Roll” (Whiplash), and his acceptance speech was easily the best of them all, said:

“If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call ‘em. Don’t text. Don’t email. Call them on the phone. Tell ‘em you love ‘em, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”


J.K.Simmons
J.K.Simmons


One highlight of the show, was Paticia Arquette’s acceptance speech, for her award “Best Actress in a Supporting Roll” for the film “Boyhood”

She wants “Equal Rights for Women”

Bit old hat Patricia!


Paticia Arquette
Paticia Arquette


Lately, The Academy Awards seems to be turning into a “soapbox” for causes!

Last but not least, which actually is the beginning of the whole show, is:

 “The Red Carpet”

This year, the ever stylish Kate Blanchette, was the best!!

Always chic and classy!


 Kate Blanchette
 Kate Blanchette


Dear Kelly Osbourne, has no one ever told you, that less is more?



Kelly Osbourne
Kelly Osbourne


Jennifer Lopez, we can forgive, after all, she is Jennifer Lopez!



Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez


”Star of The Show” must go to Lady Gaga, not just for her magnificent rendering of  “The Hills Are Alive” from “The Sound of Music” but for her bright red washing up gloves!



Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga


Lady Gaga:

 Never fails to disappoint!

It's carnival time, go mad in Greece!

Carnival
Carnival

I first arrived in Greece, at the beginning of February 1977, the winter season, no tourists and not much happening.
I spent about ten days here before making a quick trip back to England and returned by car.

We disembarked, Sunday lunchtime, at the port of Patras, into the midst of absolute chaos; it was the climax of the famous Patras carnival, the largest in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe.


Patras Carnival
Patras Carnival


Thousands of people, or so it seemed, gone completely mad, all in fancy dress, dancing in the streets, Bony M’s “Daddy cool”, blaring from loud speakers, and the finale, the ritual of burning “The King Of The Carnival”


King Of Patras Carnival
King Of Patras Carnival


What had happened to Greece whilst I had been away?

It was Apokries, meaning “goodbye to meat”

Apokries, the Greek carnival is not just a one day event, it starts about three weeks before lent, Smokey Thursday (so called, because of the smoke billowing out from  meat being grilled) is one highlight, friends and family gather together and eat all the meat they can, they have forty meatless days ahead!


Smokey Thursday
Smokey Thursday

The following week, the last one before lent, is “Cheese Sunday” (Tyrine), as now meat is prohibited, but dairy produce is allowed.

The last weekend is the climax, all day street parties, and all night madness, the celebrations end with “Clean Monday”, a public holiday.

This is a day of picnics, non-fasting foods and unleavened bread, “Lagana” and then some kite flying, “The Koulouma” an ancient ritual, traditionally carried out on Philopappou hill in Athens.



Lagana-Unleavened bread
Lagana-Unleavened bread


Many a clean Monday has been spent with MGG (My Greek God) running up and down a Greek beach trying to launch a kite on a calm day!


Koulma, Flying kites on Clean Monday. Painting by Notis Xanthi
Koulouma, Flying kites on Clean Monday.
Painting by Notis Xanthi

I never really enjoyed this carnival period, probably because my children thought that I was super woman, and could produce numerous fancy dress costumes, from nothing, and in no time!

Everyday seemed to be a dressing up day, school parties, friend’s parties or street parades, and they never wanted to wear the same costume twice!!


Loutraki Carnival
Loutraki Carnival


How I wanted my daughter to dress up in the beautiful princess outfits that were displayed in the local shops, she was having none of it, ever the tom boy; all she wanted was Batman or Spiderman!

When their teenage years arrived, I had a respite from my “creativity”, the carnival was not “cool”, it was for kids, I breathed a sigh of relief; this was the end of the dreaded carnival frenzy.

Then, just when I was not expecting it, it sneaked back!
At the age of about 24, my daughter and her boyfriend revived the frenzy!



Carnival frenzy!
Carnival frenzy!


Weeks before the event, they were discussing costumes; luckily, they had noticed my disinterest and didn’t involve me in this, ha, I had escaped.

But no, wait, Mother had to make, or assemble the costumes; it was starting all over again.


I do have to admit though, they had some very good ideas, and the end results were brilliant.

My favourite, was the one where they dressed as plants, I can’t tell you how long it took me to cover them in metres and metres of green leaves!



I'm just a plant!
I'm just a plant!

As you can see, it was well worth it!

Can you spot Nais?


Spot Nais!
Spot Nais!


Then we had the “Rose Histories”
When talking about something smutty, or unmentionable, oh, all right, I’ll say it: porno, we say blue in England, here in Greece they say rose (Pink)


Rose stories
Rose stories


Here they are as Geishas; I did the make- up!



Geishas
Geishas


French mime artist, Marcel Marceau, again, I was roped into doing their makeup.



Marcel Marceau, mime
Marcel Marceau, mime


This year, nothing was mentioned about the carnival, I kept my mouth shut, didn't want to jog any memories!

It is the last weekend of Apokries, no strange items of clothing or tubes of white face makeup have been brought into the house.

Am I speaking too soon?


Don't speak too soon!
Don't speak too soon!


Are Nais and Dimitris, this very minute, out buying stuff, that super mum is expected to magically turn into a “work of art” costume?

I can’t finish this post, without showing some of the exquisite costumes, seen every year, at the Venice Carnival.


Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival



Surely, Venice is the carnival to end all carnivals.



Venice Carnival
Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival masks
Venice Carnival masks



Enjoy this weekend of madness!!!





La Vie en Vin: Nemean Greek Wine and Snow In kalavrita, Greece

Greek wine
Greek wine

Our good friend Robert, from England, visits us every year, usually in February.

As February is not exactly the time to be lounging about on a beach, we use the excuse of cold weather, to check out the inviting bars, tavernas and restaurants that the area has to offer.

We eat, dink and become merry!

Tourism: Greece takes the prize! “Best European tourist destination 2015”.

Greece
Greece


Greece needs all the help she can get (I won’t bore you with details of the Greek financial crisis), and she’s getting it, through tourism, Greece’s most lucrative industry.

 Some of the most innovative marketing concepts and ad campaigns, shown on social media and in the press, have really pushed up the number of visitors flocking to see this beautiful country.

Just this week, Athens, was voted third out of twenty, in:

 “Best European tourist destination 2015”.

Bordeaux won first place and Lisbon second.


Athens
Athens



Over a period of three weeks online voting, people were asked;

 “Which city is the best destination in Europe?”

I cast my vote, no prizes for guessing which city I gave my “click” to!



Another clever concept to get Greece out there, again including the public, was the campaign;


“I’m an Athenian too”


Athens
Athens


This was AIA’s (Athens International Airport) campaign, together with “Marketing Greece”.

 People were asked to take photographs of Athens, and then send them in to the competition.

This encouraged people to get out and about with their cameras and gave us “Non-photographers” the chance to see some fabulous, sometimes unusual, pictures of this ancient city.


The three lucky winners won a five day stay in a five star Athens hotel, plus return air tickets.

Talking of air tickets, Aegean Airlines magnificent ad campaign paid off, along with their superb service, of course!



Aegean Airlines says thank you.
Aegean Airlines says thank you.


For the fifth year in a row, Aegean Airways have won;

“Best regional airline in Europe

They also have one of the best in-flight magazines that I have seen:

” Blue”

Read Blue magazine, online,


Let’s not forget Greece’s main airport, Athens International Airport. Eleftheros Venezelos, which had the honour of winning;

“Europe’s Best Airport for 2014”

 in the 10–25 million passenger category (Airports Council International - Europe (ACI Europe)


Athens International Airport
Athens International Airport


Athens airport also has a very good magazine;
“2board”


Athens International Airport
Athens International Airport


I’m so lucky; I have my very own Greek Goddess, a frequent flyer, who brings me all these quarterly magazines:

 My daughter Nais!


AthensAirport and Aegean Arline magazines
Athens Airport and Aegean Arline magazines



Here she is, doing her own bit of campaigning for Greece!



Nais on Kimolos Island
Nais on Kimolos Island



Last, but not least, our own picturesque little town of Loutraki, is right now being promoted in Stockholm, Sweden, at the “Grekland Panorama Travel Fair”

Loutraki, by the way, has been awarded the blue flag, for clean beaches, for the last twelve years!



Loutraki
Loutraki




Loutraki promotion in Stockholm
Loutraki promotion in Stockholm


Have I convinced you?
Are you coming to Greece this year?
Do, you won’t regret it!






Heat and dust

Painting by John Miller
Painting by John Miller

What I saw, when I drew back the curtains at eight o clock this morning(Sunday), caused me to utter the Greek expression “Och”.

It is more of a sound, rather than an actual word, used to express surprise or amazement.

What had I seen?

Out there was a thick, soup-like, yellow fog.


Dust from the Sahara Desert, obscuring the sea. View from my bedroom.Loutraki
Dust from the Sahara Desert, obscuring the sea.
View from my bedroom.bedroom. Loutraki


Only it wasn't fog at all, a Southern wind had filled the atmosphere with sand and dust, blown over from North Africa, bringing not only the dust, but a glorious warmth.
 Dare I say spring is here?



Sahara Desert
Sahara Desert



The sea was invisible, the Gerania Mountain had disappeared and cars had their headlights on.




The Gerania Mountain seems to have disappeared!
The Gerania Mountain seems to have disappeared!


This happens quite regularly here in Greece, usually just after I have worn myself out, washing balconies, shutters and windows!


Not the moon;the sun!
Not the moon;the sun!


This time I was let off lightly, yesterday, I was going to do just that but was interrupted by my daughter arriving when I had only got as far as doing the dinning room windows and shutters.

Thank goodness I hadn't done it all; it would have been a complete waste of time and energy.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow, all the sand and dust in the air will be come down as mud, coating everything.

The car wash people will be happy; they will be doing a roaring trade!



Ready for the car wash.
Ready for the car wash.


Look how nice and white my shutters look after cleaning them yesterday, tomorrow they will be a reddish brown with the dust, I will have to do them all over again!



Clean, white shutters
Clean, white shutters


A word about the cat, sorry to all you cat-lovers, but, I don’t like cats.

It is one of four strays that appeared in our garden last year, my son, who does not live here I might add, so didn’t have the trouble of them, started feeding them, you know the rest of the story; they were here to stay.

On the up side, they were all male, no fear of more little kittens, on the down side, they drove me mad!
They got into the house, I was finding them everywhere, and they messed up my nice garden cushions with muddy paw prints and hair.

To top it all, my son gave them all ridiculous names:

Loony, Bobbo, Peppis and Pippis.

One by one, they disappeared, Loony was the first to go, followed by Peppis and then Bobbo.

We are left with Pippis, I call him cat, I just can’t bring myself to call him Pippis!



Pippis aka cat
Pippis aka cat


He’s a vicious little chap, always fighting; I don’t know if you can make it out from the picture, but he only has one ear, he also has various bald patches, all his war wounds!

He was like this from day one, maybe that’s why the other three went walkabout!
Don’t they say that it’s the strongest that survive?

Anyway, I tolerate him, that’s about all I can say!

It seems that the weather was strange all over Greece, my son had gone to a windsurfing championship, the rain had washed out the road, they had to take their shoes off, roll up their trousers and walk the last bit of the way to their destination.


Tsimari
Tsimari

At least here we didn't have rain and it was so warm!

After a lovely family lunch, I had made giuvetsi, a family favourite and a doddle to make, see how to make it HERE, we sat in the garden, the temperature was twenty degrees; heaven!

 My granddaughter had a jolly time on her bicycle, despite everything being covered in dust; it seems ages since we have sat outside as a family, I do have my coffee outside every morning, whatever the weather!
 I must say, I do prefer it to sitting indoors.

Later on, the evening news, was full of stories about the bad weather throughout Greece.
Northern Greece had been especially bad, sadly, because of torrential rain, a beautiful historic bridge, said to be the most beautiful in the Balkans, had collapsed.


Plaka Bridge, Epirus
Plaka Bridge, Epirus



The walkway along the Plaka Bridge
The walkway along the Plaka Bridge


The Plaka bridge of Epirus, built in 1866, was sixty one metres long and twenty metres high, what a terrible loss.


Plaka Bridge washed away by the river
Plaka Bridge washed away by the river


Let’s see what tomorrow brings, heavy thunder storms expected.
At least it will wash away all this dust.


Lycavitos, Athens, under dust
Lycavitos, Athens, under dust

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