Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Although we don't actually own a home in Santorini, we have been going there on holiday for the past 15 years and apart from just one year when the hotel was fully booked, we have been staying in the same lovely little spot every year in Perissa.

Our friendly hosts Ellie and Eugene are always giving us little treats so we almost feel part of the family.  In fact our respective  two daughters, Marianna and Louise, played together when younger and have both grown up to be independent young women with lives of their own - though Ellie and I do like to swap stories of the horrors of those teenage years and the worry about their futures.

One of the things we love most about Santorini is the laid-back atmosphere.  There are no loud clubs in Perissa, no gangs of young people, and in truth, not many families with young children. This tends to be a couples resort - possibly because there are very few large hotels or with facilities and clubs for kids.

This year - as every year - we take someone new along with us because we love to show people around and take them to our favourite places. And this year is was the turn of our friends Colin and Karen who paid their first visit there, and absolutely loved it.

Top of the list of things to see are the capital of the island - Thira, and the artists playground, Oia, both famous for their stunning sunsets, but also for the brilliant shopping - as witnessed by the Kardashian Klan in recent years!

Thira- the capital

Thira houses the main port for the cruise ships and this year the authorities have limited the number of passengers allowed to disembark to 8,000 from 10,000.  But that means that Thira is very crowded during the day, and that the shops tend to be expensive to cater for them.  

The journey from the port up to the town is either by cable car or more traditionally, by donkey. But these are no ordinary donkeys since they work so hard carrying the tourists up the 588 steps.  My personal view is that this seems a little cruel, but having read some of the history of the island, they have been successfully used for centuries carrying imported goods and people from the port up to the town.  I think you have to make up your own mind about supporting local customs or taking the modern route.

The jewellery on sale in Thira is just amazing - store windows drip with luscious gold and precious stones of every colour - emeralds, sapphires, rubies, as well as diamonds and pearls, and every designer watch imaginable. But I have discovered a small boutique selling gorgeous costume jewellery and always treat myself to an unusual piece each year.

Oia - a haven for artists

Oia is a favourite with artists of all kinds, with galleries and museums celebrating crafts of every kind.

The town is well worth a visit to watch the famous Santorini sunset, being at the furthest western point of the island. However, the streets are narrow and sometimes difficult to negotiate through the tourist population, but this year it seemed extra busy - so much so that we couldn't get near the best vantage points to see anything. Tip - if you do want to watch the sunset here, go early and be prepared to have a meal, sit, people watch and wait! There are some lovely bars and restaurants with amazing views, so this is really no hardship.

This year too they have built quite a few new shops in Oia - selling the most gorgeous jewellery and cute shoes and clothes, but there are also a couple of designer shops selling Pucci, Gucci and Dior as well as stylish Greek boutiques specialising in linen, cotton and fine knits.

Accommodation along the western coast tends to be more sophisticated, upmarket and pricey, since all have stunning views of the Caldera - the "cauldron" - which is the crater left after the catastrophic volcano blew away half of the island 3000 years ago, leaving 1000 foot drop down the cliffs into the sea.  Many of the hotels are built into the cliff face and from a distance look as if they are perched precariously along the edge. You can actually visit the volcano and the hot springs, and although still showing signs of activity, it is currently dormant.

Megalachori - a favourite spot

Magalachori is another favourite spot we like to visit.  This ancient pretty Greek village is not a touristy destination, but is where many of the local islanders live. With a maze of tiny streets featuring traditional houses, this is the real Santorini - the Greek equivalent of our chocolate box homes. There are just three or four restaurants and a couple of snack bars and shops.  This year we ate in the stunning Meze restaurant with pretty candles and gorgeous bougainvillea tumbling around picturesque stone archways. There is just one very exclusive hotel, the Vedema, where you can pay up to £3000 a night in high season for a family suite - but it looks fabulous! If you prefer a villa or traditional Greek house, they are available to rent, but this is not the norm for Santorini.  Accommodation is usually in small hotels, or for a budget holiday, village rooms or apartments over shops and bars.  These tend to be quite basic but functional, since most tourists tend to spend their days on the beach or visiting the local sights.

Total relaxation

My personal trips every year include a visit to the Suite of the Gods Spa and Hotel, overlooking the Caldera, where I usually indulge in a facial and massage with use of the hot and cold pools, and although it is billed as an hour and a half - the staff don't bother you and after treatments you can pretty much stay as long as you like. Not only can you see the volcano and the western towns of Thira, Firostefani, Omerovigli and Oia, but you are directly above the old port and can watch the ferries coming and going and all the coaches and traffic winding their way uphill to the main road. This is also a hotel with a cool laid back vibe set on different levels with surprising corners where you can relax or sunbathe. We have witnessed quite a few weddings there and it looks lovely. We did ask if we could have a peek in the rooms but unfortunately they were fully booked so we didn't get to see inside.

Santorini is an island steeped in history, having been invaded several times over the centuries.  It has had many names over the years, with one theory being that it was named Santa Irene (now Santorini), from a time when the Romans took control, but it was also named Fira or Thira after the emporer's son (now the name of the capital) and has also been called Kalliste.

The resort of Perissa might be considered the poor relation, but we love the old Greek charm rather than the sophisticated resorts.  Prices are less expensive but the location is just perfect for a lazy sun-drenched holiday.  The beach is volcanic black sand (actually grit!) which disappears into the sea via a rocky ledge, so not really suitable for very young children.

There are plenty of lovely restaurants and bars along the sea front, often with chilled live music. Our favourite beach restaurant is Ntomatini where they serve delicious meze, but our very favourite restaurant  in Perissa is on the road parallel to the beach, called Sirocco.  It is billed as a pizza/pasta restaurant with a wood-burning oven, but also serves the most delicious Greek food, and is owned by the chatty Kostas, who closes up the restaurant in October and jets off back to his other home in Australia.

We have worked our way through his menu several times but highlights include a delicious dish cooked in the oven called beef stamna, which we have tried (and failed) to recreate at home, which is to die for. The chicken souvlaki and home-made tzatziki with pitta bread are pretty amazing too. Greek salad is also a favourite, and Kostas always insists on sending over an extra carafe of wine or a couple of liqueur shots at the end of the meal. To be honest we pretty much ate here every night for three weeks and never got tired of the food!

Perissa's neighbouring resort is round the headland at Kamari,  reached daily by water taxi, it is a little more of a polished resort - with pavements rather than tarmac on the roads and floaty curtains around the stone sunbeds (doesn't sound very comfortable to me!).  With a long wide beach, this is probably a better destination if there are children in the party.

Santorini vineyards

The island is famous for its wine - which is largely produced for home consumption, and local wineries all offer guided tours and wine-tasting.  Our favourite is Santos Wines which also boasts stunning views and is a wonderful venue for a wedding, but unfortunately it was briefly closed during our stay, so we ventured to a small new winery which opened just this year. I think they were a little overwhelmed by the number of visitors the evening we visited as the service was slow, but the wine was delicious with a plate of cheese and breadstick nibbles.

Places to see

Santorini is not a huge island and you can pretty much see all of it in one day, though if you hire a car there is plenty to see.  Of note is the fortress town and highest point on the island (if you don't count the ancient city ruins on the top of the mountain) is Pyrgos, while the ruins at Akroteri are now in a temperature-controlled housing following a fatal accident a few years ago when part of the site collapsed.  There is also Mesa Gonia where an earthquake in the 1950s destroyed a small village which has been left untouched since then - and where the church clock is stopped at the time the earthquake hit.

There are plenty of museums to while away the hours including art and Greek history museums, wine museums and even a tomato museum - though we have yet to visit that one!

But it isn't all doom and gloom!  The locals are incredibly friendly, the scenery is magnificent, the weather is hot and dry and it is such a great place to relax and restore balance in our busy lives. And yes - we have already booked again for next year!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


The saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" is so apt for Vancouver Island, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. So I will not ramble on for too long and just let these pictures tell the story for me.

We sailed from Vancouver on BC Ferries, which was a really efficient service taking around 1.5 hours from the mainland and docking at Swartz Bay, an hour from our fabulous accommodation in Sooke.  

And the cottage we were staying in absolutely made the holiday for us. We were captivated as soon as we saw this view as we came down the drive.   The house exceeded our expectations and for those interested in seeing the inside here is a link

Lizzy also featured footage on her you tube channel which is linked here

It was beautifully decorated with every amenity including a hot tub, but the views from any of the three patios, or from the fire pit on the beach, are what made it our little slice of paradise  We ate in most evenings, making use of the BBQ and sitting out watching the amazing wildlife including seals, eagles, otters and herons, right on our doorstep!

The views in the morning were breathtaking and on more than one morning I was up at first light to see the sun rise over the docks.  

Evenings were spent round the fire pit, tended by Harry, eating S'mores (fire-roasted marshmallows with a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two Graham crackers) which were a new experience for me.

Vancouver island is pretty large (290 miles long x 62 miles wide) so we only experienced the southern portion where we focussed on the local area around Sooke, including Victoria which was around 30 mins away.  We ventured as far as Port Renfrew in the North and across to Lake Cowichan in a loop back to Sooke on one of the days (4 hours driving).  Taking in the spectacular natural landscape of rainforest, lake, beach and mountain on our journey.  

Most days were spent hiking the trails - visiting Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, taking in part of the Juan de Fuca trail from China Beach to Mystic Beach and a long hike round East Sooke Park. Although there were signs in all these locations warning to watch out for bears and cougars we did not see any - part of me wanted to, but from a very long distance away!  

And one day was spent in Victoria, where I can give the only restaurant recommendation as we had lunch at a fabulous quaint eaterie called Fish Hook that was on Fort Street, ideal for a quick, delicious lunchtime meal.  I am sure there are loads of great restaurants but we took advantage of our accommodation and catered for ourselves most days.

Really this part of our holiday wasn't about visiting cities, it was all about experiencing the natural beauty of Vancouver Island.  We were unanimous in wanting to return and see more of the island and would love to experience it in its wintery gloriousness.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Vancouver "City of Glass" 

Vancouver has been on my bucket list for a long time and the excitement I felt about visiting this city was immense.  I am glad to say it did not disappoint and clearly deserves its spot as one of the ten best cities in the world to live.  Its natural surroundings alone, of mountains and sea, were enough to steal my heart, but combine this with its relaxed, cosmopolitan atmosphere and the fact it is so easy to walk around - well, if I was younger I could be tempted to emigrate!  


I can't do the city justice here, but thought I would share some of my favourite places.  This is by no means an exhaustive list and I am sure I have missed some top spots....but then this just gives me the perfect excuse to return and see more.


On our first day there we walked down from Robson Street, having taken in some of the fabulous shops, and headed through the West End to the waterfront to experience Vancouver's natural landscape.  I was beyond excited to see the sea planes (called float planes in Canada)  coming in and taking off and thought they were just fabulous.  We walked along the Coal Harbour Seawalk towards the cruise terminal  and convention centre and up into Downtown back to our hotel, The Fairmont, on W Georgia.  A really nice walk which allowed us to truly appreciate the two sides of this city - urban and natural.  
Me on the Coal Harbour Seawalk

Float Plane Terminal 

The next day, we followed the sea wall round Stanley Park which is a good 9km walk and well worth the effort.  We started on the Coal Harbour side and walked round past the First Narrows and Lion's Gate Bridge, finishing near English Bay.  There is a distinct difference as you round the corner from the Bridge as it is more exposed, the sea is choppier and we were greeted by a seal on the seashore which was just lovely.  

Me near the start of our Stanley park walk

Views back to the Brockton Point Lighthouse 

Lion's Gate Bridge 

Views across the First Narrows to North Vancouver 

Gastown is Vancouver's oldest neighbourhood and the statue of "Gassy Jack" Deighton, one of the founding fathers, has pride of place in the centre of this historic yet trendy area. The docks and waterfront combine with hip shops, galleries and restaurants to create an area that was recently voted fourth in Complex magazines "50 most stylish neighbourhoods in the world". 

Gassy Jacks statue in Gastown
We loved everything about this area of the city, not least the bars and cafes where you could sit and people watch for hours.  

Me in Gastown

BC's Western Boot HQ no less 

A trip to Vancouver just isn't complete without a visit to Granville Island.  We walked to it from Downtown and over the bridge but returned via the Aquabus which is a lot less testing on the shoe leather.  

Entrance to Granville Island and the Public Market 
It is an area that encapsulates a lot of Vancouver's qualities - a waterfront location where a commercial area has been refurbished and a market created where artisans and purveyors of fine locally grown foods can sell their goods.  It also hosts live theatre, music and seasonal events in both indoor and outdoor venues. 

The covered market is huge and the range of food and goods sold is amazing and so, so tempting.  From sustainable seafood to locally grown fruit and flowers, handmade crafts to Olive Oil and micro-breweries, it is all here and of such a high quality - just fabulous.

Nectarines that you could just pluck off the page


We had some fabulous meals while in Vancouver and I have highlighted two of our favourite restaurants here and have listed others of note at the end of this post.  

at 1147 Granville

We went here for brunch on our second day making sure to get their early as it does not take reservations and is so popular they run a waitlist. By the time we left there were quite a few folks on that list.  We really enjoyed the meal here and if time had allowed would have returned for an evening meal as well.  They combine really fresh homegrown ingredients served with fabulous freshly brewed coffee in a rustic, warm environment.  

Between Gaoler's Mews and Blood Alley in Gastown.

Just the location says it all - Gaoler's Mews and Blood Alley!  This restaurant, which does take bookings, is on the site of Vancouver's first jail in Gastown.  Again we were here for brunch and really savoured the cocktail, coffee and amazing food.  The French influence was clear and this is a more formal restaurant than Twisted Fork and well worth the visit.  

L'Abattoir Restaurant, Gastown

L'Abattoirs' Bar area where they mix a mean cocktail

1017 Robson Street 

And this one is all my daughter Elizabeth's fault.  She loves chocolate covered apples and completely convinced herself that because it is an apple it must be healthy, even when she went for the chocolate, caramel and nut options.    I thought I was being quite circumspect by ordering a chocolate coated ice cream, not realising the coating is at least a foot thick (ok a slight exaggeration), but oh so good.

Other places we ate at included:

ABODE on 1223 Robson Street, where we stopped for a hearty breakfast.
POURHOUSE on 162 Water Street, Gastown a fine dining restaurant where we enjoyed dinner although thought it a bit pricey
STEAMWORKS on 375 Water Street, Gastown - a micro brewery where we sampled a Ceasar Cocktail (a must have while in Vancouver)  and a simple pub dinner before heading to the theatre to see The Book of Mormon.  

Wednesday, 7 September 2016


As we move towards to the Autumn season we thought we would focus on accessories and in particular scarves and how to wear them.  A scarf can make such a difference to an outfit and is a perfect transitional piece to add an extra layer and warmth as we move into the cooler months.

Our first scarf is from H&M and we have teamed it here with tan suede wedge shoes from George and a Fiorella handbag purchased from TK Maxx.  A really autumnal palette of russet, oranges and browns, which will work well with both black and lighter tones.

And for the scarf we have chosen a classic tying perfect for an oblong scarf, whether it is a lighter material as this scarf or a soft knit such as cashmere. Simply fold the scarf and wrap it round your neck so the ends are to the front.  Allow for one side to be around one-third longer than the other and then tie a knot in the middle of this longer side.  Position the knot where it sits  best for you and then thread the other length through it. This is perfect for either allowing to hang free or tuck inside a jacket.

Our next set of accessories are based around a navy and cream palette with some vintage pearls the perfect embellishment. Featured here are some Manolo Blahnik sling backs that were purchased in last years sale  together with the Victoria Beckham handbag.   Anne H got them to wear at her daughter's graduation with a simple navy wrap dress and cream and navy vintage jacket.  For this feature she has teamed them with a navy and white scarf from Cos.

The cotton mix of the scarf is perfect for this style that wraps round the neck but it would also work for a heavier woolen scarf in the winter months.   Take the scarf and wrap it once round the neck so the ends face to the front with one length 3/4 longer than the other side. Take this longer length and take it round the neck again and tuck it under the previous wrapped section.  Then take the shorter length, wrap round the neck as far as it will go and tuck it in securely.  

Now for a more glitzy evening look with a rich ruby velvet scarf with tassle trim, some vintage kitten heel Prada mules with purple bows and a silver embellished handbag with metal chain. The silver grey necklace and matching bracelet are from Laura Ashley and are perfect for catching the light with a subtle glimmer.

This is a really simple way to wear an evening scarf and velvet in particular looks great as it drapes so beautifully.  Simply gather the scarf in your hands and drape it over the shoulders so the ends are facing the back.  Adjust the folds so that it drapes softly over the front and you have a really elegant look for the evening.

For our final look we have gone back to a daytime look, teaming a vintage handbag with a multi patterned cotton scarf from Zara,  glimmering  wedge shoes from Bellissimo, which is one of Paver's brands (bought at the McArthur Glen outlet in York) and a heavy necklace in black and gold from Uterque.

This style is perfect for a pashmina or heavier woollen knit as well and is really easy to achieve. Take the scarf (this one was a summer sale purchase from Zara) and drape it over your shoulders with the ends facing the front.  Allow one end to be slightly longer and take this and wrap to over it's opposite shoulder allowing the material to softly fold and sit over the other end that will hang underneath it.

© Sensational Baby Boomers

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