Like for many things in my life, I believe freedom is a state of mind. I build the prisons in my king and my ming stays trapped in there because I chose it to be that way. And breaking free is another choice I can make, but -alas!- don’t make often enough.
Being with friends, sharing a bottle of red wine, walking in the rain, caring only for what matters, forgetting the must’s and should’s for a brief moment — this is freedoms. It comes in many forms and shapes, I might not be able to describe it properly, but I know it when it’s there.
Take some time and appreciate all the good in your life. And there lies freedom. There lies happiness. Open your mind and let it in.
It’s Monday, it’s January, it’s probably cold and wet (unless you’re in Australia in which case what do you even know about this sorry excuse of a day???) and you’re like “why are holidays over?”, “when will I see my family again?”, “how will I get back into exercising and dieting when all I want to do is watch everything on Netflix accompanied by equal amounts of junk food?”, “is it too soon to already ask my boss for my next days off?” (the answer is no to this last one, go for it, definitely NOW!)
They call it Blue Monday, I call it pretty much every Monday, especially those so close to some of the best times I’ve had in ages (see Christmas holiday with family and my closest friends) and then again so far away from any kind of exciting adventure. And on top everything, work, work, work, so much of it that I sometimes can’t think of anything else during the day…
So, what is there to do to get out of this state of mind? (Because at the end of the day it is a state of mind, if you’re healthy and your loves ones are healthy as well and you have a half decent job, most sorrows are not real – they’re just a state of mind).
If you have a large budget: go travel. Book now. A quick city getaway or the vacation of your dreams in Thailand, go and do it. Check dates with the person you want to take with (or not), and go book. NOW. Did you do it? Ok, that’s great.
If you have a small budget: go for dinner and a movie. Sweet and cosy, will really lift your spirits. Also, because on Mondays restaurants and cinemas tend not to be super crowded. What is the movie you should go watch? Good question as in Belgium (at least at the moment), the offer is kind of crappy. Murder on the Orient Express or Molly’s Game might do the trick — they’re good movies AND entertaining as well.
If you have no budget: go Tinder. I actually have never done it (does this make me cool or unreal), but don’t tell me there is no fun checking out strangers online just to see what the offer is out there (and potentially finding someone you know -oops!- or potentially finding someone you don’t know but you kinda of really fancy – double oops).
Whatever you do, have fun. And remember: tomorrow might be another blue day. But it’s closer to Friday 🙂
So, new year, new me? Possibly, but what I’d definitely like to do is dedicate a bit more time to this little corner of the Internet that I can claim “mine”. And since I’m keeping this space for things that are worth living for, I’d better do more and more of them!
2017 was a challenging and somewhat weird year. I won’t remember it for anything good or bad, I won’t remember it at all I believe. I mostly got lost into work, missed my family and friends and Greece a lot, complained a lot, fell more in love with my boyfriend, stressed more than I should over work, got praised for it, and vowed never to do it again. I cried more than I have in year, but then again, nothing worth crying for happened in my life. So I’m keeping my hoped high for 2018. There must be something more shiny and beautiful waiting for me this year. I have my set goals that I won’t reveal here in fear of jinxing them. Or sounding completely stupid 🙂
For what it’s worth, 2017 went away the best way possible: with a great short trip to Thessaloniki, the great city in the north of Greece that is a real gem if you’re looking for a quick city trip. Since we spent last Christmas in Athens, we thought to try Greece’s so-called “co-capital” this year. If you fly to Thessaloniki from Belgium off-season, you can find extremely cheap tickets with Ryanair from Charleroi. And it’s really worth taking the trip for three very simple reasons: the sights, the food and the nightlife.
What to see
Everything! Walk across the sea, marvel at the great sunsets at the port, visit one of the great museums in the city (the Jewish Museum, the Cinema Museum, or the Biennale). Go grab a coffee at the top floor of the Olympion cinema in the heart of the Aristotelous Square or make your way to Ano Poli to marvel at the city views. Just wander and take pictures along the way 🙂
Where to eat (note: the following choices are mostly for meat lovers, although you can find plenty of vegetarian options, the Greek cuisine has something for everyone)
Everywhere! The best street food you can find is at Laikon (address: Politechniou 24) – go for the meatball in bread – the best I’ve ever tried.
Two amazing dinner places are Nea Foliaand Extravaganza. The first if a no-nonsense traditional Greek tavern with the most delicious and reasonably priced food I’ve ever had. Do not miss the kavourma burger, which is made from Greek buffalo meat. Extravaganza comes with a selection of great and very reasonably priced cocktails. You should definitely try the french fries with bolognese sauce and fried egg. Sounds weird? I thought so too. Until I tried it. After that, I felt weird I had not had it sooner. Both places are very popular, so make sure to book in advance (or go early!)
Where to stay
We stayed at Gatto Perso, an amazing apartments hotel situated in the city center that I could not recommend more. The rooms are decorated in the English country style, which makes for a great clash with the more urban surroundings of the building. The staff is super friendly and helpful, there was really nothing I did not like about our stay there. If you’re a smoker, ask for the room with the little balcony 🙂
Other great hotels for all tastes! (but always right in the heart of the city :)):
I was reading Leandra Medine’s account of how she managed to go on holidays with nothing more than a carry-on and I was captivated by her writing of how she “watched the sunset steal [her] vacation” at the end of her trip. And this was my exact feeling when I was leaving Corfu, although in my case it was a bus stealing away one of the best weeks of my life.
This year we did not make fancy plans for our summer holidays so we ended up saying “let’s just go home”. Corfu is actually home for my boyfriend, he was born and raised there and his family still lives there, so we thought to keep it simple. I was happy to go, but totally freaked out as well as this would be the first time I would meet his parents (or anyone’s parents for that matter — I mean parents of a sexual partner, I’ve met parents before of friends, classmates, random parents on the street). Two years after starting dating and one year after living together, it was probably about time.
And yes, I was totally freaked out, because I’ve no idea how to behave in these situations. I want to be my best possible self so that my boyfriend can proudly show me around to his family and friends. At the same time, I get mad at myself for wanting this very thing, like I have to leave my true self on the side….but to cut a long (and dramatic) story short, things went really smoothly. I should probably know by now that lovely children (my boyfriend) come from lovely people, and his parent were no exception. Would probably be good sometimes to write an article dissecting why I get so stressed whenever the “meet the parents” discussion comes up!!
So, Corfu. To put it plainly, I fell in love. And I will go again next year. And I would recommend to anyone I know to go. Again and again. It is such a big island and so full of things to do and see, it can really cater to many different types of tourists: families, teenagers, young couples, older couples, groups of singles, girls’ groups, boys’ groups, anything really, foreigners, Greeks. Maybe mountain lovers will be disappointed, but for the rest, I’m sure there is something for everyone.
I catch myself thinking several times per week: what am I doing in Brussels? Why don’t I go back to Greece, things are difficult and people are struggling but all this beauty will heal our hearts. I know of course it’s not that simple, but that week at Corfu made me really relax, take my mind off anything that was bothering, I managed to leave my stressed and anxious self behind and enjoy summer at its fullest.
Beaches at Corfu are stunning. You can find the very crowded and touristy ones (like Paleokastritsa), the quiet and still-virgin ones (like Rovania) or the friendly and unpretentious ones (like Yaliskari – if you go there try the restaurant on the beach, it’s a lovely spot and the food is pretty spectacular). You can do some kitesurfing at Halikounas or have a completely cosmopolitan swim at the Mon Repo (which is actually IN the city of Corfu – please take me back now!).
The most Instagram-able beaches? Some of the small bays at Paleokastritsa and Canal d’Amour of course. Also, the ground at Canal d’ Amour is very rich in clay so you’ll find plenty of people walking around covered in mud essentially. Which gives you the feeling of this amazing natural spa right on the sea. Gosh, the beauty!
Corfu also has spectacular spots to enjoy the sunset. Cape Drasti and Logkas at Peroulades are great although potentially too crowded. If you manage to snatch a spot at the 7th Heaven Bar at Logkas a couple of hours before the sunset, just stay there and wait for the moment to come. The moment is almost magical – the bar starts blasting dreamy lounge music and everyone goes quiet for the last seconds before the sun is lost behind the hill. The funniest thing is that people actually start clapping once it’s over!! Yeah sun, good job!!
Do you want to enjoy the sunset while comfortably sitting at a restaurant enjoying some of the best food on the island? No problem at all, the Mouragia area is full of restaurants with great views of the sunset. My personal favourite was Andranik — we went twice there to try moth sofrito and pastitsada – two of the most traditional dishes on Corfu (I’m officially hooked on sofrito, it’s probably the best thing about dating a local…!)
The city of Corfu is magical in the evening. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live your day to day life in a place like this. Do you get the constant feeling that you’re living in a movie? Or do you ever get enough of all this beauty and just get used to it? I suspect the latter – like with everything in life – but still, strolling around these little streets, holding the hand of a loved one, can transform you in a way. Thinking back to that moment in the middle of a rainy, stressful day at work, can have an even bigger impact.
Go visit the Paleo Frourio, aka the Old Fortress, that was keeping Corfu safe from pirates. The views are great in the day time, but at night it turns into a magical place (don’t be afraid to go late at night, there are a great number of tourists and locals visiting event until midnight and there’s also a great bar in the Tower).
Another great spot to visit is the Kanoni, where the views of Pontikonisi and the church of Panagia Vlaherna are one of the most soothing sights you can enjoy on the island. We went for a late coffee around 20.00 and we were lucky to see many planes come and go from the airport that’s just next to the Kanoni.
And then there is of course the music. Corfu has a huge tradition in music, there are hundreds of marching bands in every town and village and it seems that most locals play at least one instruments. They also make for a great sight with all their different costumes, so make sure to try and catch a live performance when you’re there, which won’t be too difficult anyway.
I was a happier version of myself at Corfu. I’ll be looking at these photos and try to preserve the feeling for as long as possible. Until next time.
My boyfriend giving me presents is always a very funny process (for me at least). He’s really bad at gifting, he always gets panicked whenever he has to get someone a present, he can never think of what a person would like or want and he ends up scrolling the internet like a madman until a few hours before he needs to get to a party or a birthday celebration.
Of course I think this is lots of fun, because I’m the exact opposite: I’m a great gift giver. And through the years I’ve realised that the way to do so is to PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention people! To what your friends say they’d like, they’d need or they’d enjoy doing but never have the time or the company. And then offer it to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive (that’s what vouchers are made for! you can just buy a part of the product or the experience, ), but you can always put a smile on the faces of your loved ones if you just pay attention to the things they like and then you make an effort to offer them.
And that’s what my boyfriend did, which made his stressed face and hesitance to offer me my gift this year even more adorable. He knows I love picnics, he knows I want to do more of them (not that we can do so many given the Belgian weather, but still, a girl can dream), and he knows that I love doing them with friends….so voila! The perfect gift!
The VonShef backpack is truly amazing. It is so practical and works really well – our bottles of rose and still water remained chilled for more than 3 hours despite the heat, which was something I really appreciated (it’s a huge bummer having to run to the store for fresh wine in the middle of a picnic!). And it really has everything you will need for the picnic (the only additional thing I had to bring with me was a few toothpicks, everything else is already in the bag!!!).
We had such a great time that day and it really felt like a perfect way to celebrate my birthday and my boyfriend for implementing so well the first rule of the art of gifting: pay attention 🙂
When it comes to holiday destinations in Greece, I’m sure you all know Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, but what about the rest of the amazingly beautiful places my country has to offer? Like the mountains? Like the sea? Like mountains by the sea???
Yes, that’s a thing in Greece and I happen to have the perfect place in mind to suggest to you in case you are looking for a summer holiday in Greece away from the crowds but immersed in beauty and the blue of the Greeks sea and sky.
We were there recently for the wedding of two very good friends of ours from Brussels. The wedding took place at the villagePinakates, one of the less known villages of Mount Pelion but a truly beautiful and picturesque one. The wedding was just lovely, the couple really respected the colour and the vibe of the village, keeping it simple and completely traditional (which was a very refreshing change from all the glitter and fireworks going on at weddings these days).
The day was warm but not too hot, and in the evening especially we definitely made use of our light cover ups as sitting underneath this 800-year old sycamore tree really gave us the chills (both figuratively and literally!)
We stayed at Hotel Stoikos, a traditional guest house with extremely friendly staff and a whole lotta unpretentious-ness. Our room had the most breathtaking view I’ve ever had in a hotel room and I was so happy to wake up there every morning. Life can be good in so many easy ways.
The day before the wedding our lovely hosts had organised a beach party for us at Mediterraneo, a great beach bar at the Ampovos beach of Afissos, one of the most beautiful villages next to the sea. We danced and drank our way through the afternoon and by 10pm we were completely starving.
Enter the Giorgaros tavern at the central square of Vizitsa, another cute village to explore if you’re in the neighbourhood (unfortunately, there is no website to link to this amazing restaurant, but it’s the only one at the square you can’t miss it, I promise!!!)
How to reach Mount Pelion:
The nearest town with an airport isVolos,however there are not so many airlines flying directly there. Next best thing is Thessaloniki’s airport SKG. You can then rent a car from the airport and drive for a bit less than 3 hours and…..voila! You’re in paradise 🙂