Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Olive Picking in Athens~Greece

Last November I travelled to Athens with my food blogger friend Heidi. The whole trip was planned so that we could attend the olive harvesting and see the olives being pressed into olive oil.

Greece is the third largest Olive Oil producer in the world. It's warm climate and hilly terrain makes it the perfect place for the olive trees to grow. There is a mythological story that states that Goddess Athena created the Olive tree for the Ancient Greeks so that they can sustain life. 

The olive trees start to form new branches in the spring and you can see the new growth and flowers blooming. Throughout the summer the olives grow under the Greek summer heat. The olive trees bask in the summer sun for months and finally they are ready for harvest in October and November.

Olive harvesting is a labour of love. The majority of harvesting is done by hand. Large green nets are laid under the trees and the pickers shake and comb the branches using a special rake to release the olives from the branches.

My first hand experience at Olive harvesting was very interesting and it made me realise how much effort is needed to comb the branches to harvest the olives.

We had a wonderful opportunity to have a hands on experience harvesting olives. It certainly was fun and very interesting, however it was hard work as care has to be taken to ensure the olives do not get damaged or bruised during the harvesting process.

Once harvested they are gathered from the nets, picked and sorted removing any leaves and branches before they are  loosely packed in crates for safe transportation. 

The olives are cleaned and washed before they are either preserved or pressed for oil. The olive oil production starts in early October and ends late December.

The art of pressing the precious oil out of the fruit of the olive tree has been passed on from generation to generation. This interest and commitment to the cultivation of the olive tree has made Greece the world's third largest producer of olive oil. 

We were fortunate to visit an small Olive Oil Mill in Athens to see how the olives were pressed to extract the oil. It was interesting to see the olives transferred from the crates and sacks into a large feeder. We were able to walk around the mill and watch the entire process they went through from cleaning, pressing, centrifugation, decanting and filtration to reach the final product.

Most Greeks own olive trees and they harvest and press olives to make enough oil to last them throughout the year, until the next harvest. The smaller mills similar to the one we visited in Markopoulon -Athens offer the facility to have small quantities pressed for domestic use.

The manufactured olive oil is graded and the grading all depends on the climate, soil, olive variety and the harvesting methods of the olives. All these factors are of importance to get a good quality olive oil.

There are three types of Greek Olive Oil

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

All Greek olive oil is extracted by a cold pressing process which is chemical free. For the oil to pass as Extra Virgin Grade they need to have an acidity level which is less than 1%.  

Refined Olive Oil

Any pressed Greek olive oil that has an acidity level greater than 2%, has to go through a refining process. Once it has been through this process it is mixed with 35% Extra virgin olive oil and graded as refined olive oil.

Olive Oil Pomace

Olive Oil Pomace is generally used in cooking and the regulation states that is has to be solely made from olive oil and must not contain any other oils. The Greek olive oil pomace is a blend of kernel oil, extracted from the pulp and pit solids to which a minimum of 5% extra-virgin oil added, to enhance flavour and aroma.  

Next time you buy olive oil do make sure you are aware of what you are buying as not all olive oil is the same grade.My olive picking experience in Athens-Greece was amazing and I learn't a lot about the different stages of olive harvesting and manufacture. I was fortunate to be able to take home my very own freshly pressed Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (We did not have bottles on hand but luckily we were able to take the oil home in some empty clean water bottles.)

My Athens travels have been really enjoyable and if you would like to follow my journey please check out the posts linked below:

Places to visit around the Athenian Riveria

Dining out in Athens

Things to do in Athens

We stayed in Athens for 7 days. In my next post, I will share my experience of a Greek Cookery class with the Greek Key, our trip to Poseidon Temple in Sounion and the day out to Evia Island.


Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Lock Down Home Renovations and New Engineered Wood Flooring

  Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash
2020 has been a testing time for everyone as we faced challenging times during lock down. Statistics show that so many people chose to learn languages, started cooking, gardening, and learning new skills such as DIY. Many of us took the time to renovate our homes and tackle all those pending jobs that needed time that we had put off.
We also took the opportunity during lockdown by replacing the floor in our dining room. We wanted a wooden floor so it's is easy to keep clean and any food spills can be easily cleaned up. We worked out our budget and after considering all options we opted for engineered wood flooring which is more affordable than solid wood flooring. This is because they are made with several layers of part wood floor, part man-made materials such as MDF and plywood. 
We were also advised that engineered flooring is great for areas affected by humidity and temperature as floors expand and the engineered floors are less sensitive to this change so there is less risk of damage and warping to the floor.
The floor specialists also explained to us that properly manufactured, engineered wood flooring is made using a cross ply contraction. This means that each layer of ply is staked with the grain running in the opposite direction. The plies are laminated together, which helps to prevent expansion and contraction.
Photo by Thanos Pal on Unsplash

There is a choice of finishes too, so you can choose any colour and style to fit in with your décor. I love the grey finish as it goes well with a modern design whereas the wood colours are nice for a more homely classic look. You can check out the full range of the different styles of the floor finishes at Flooring 365. They also provide samples and offer an excellent choice in designs.
The installation is easy, the flooring is durable, it is easy to maintain and keep clean too. In the winter we find the floor is not too cold although you can easily add a rug for the winter months.
We are so happy with our choice of flooring that we are considering redoing our day room with a wooden floor too. That is out next project to do in the next few months.
**Collaborative Post

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Staycation in Bournemouth

We are almost in mid-August and lockdown has been going on for almost 5 months. With the current situation, holidays and travel abroad has become difficult and uncertain too. However United Kingdom is a large country with so many beautiful places to visit that it’s time we all considered a staycation. You can do a city break, countryside break, highland break or a beach break. The options are numerous, whether you choose a camping holiday to staying in a luxurious hotel or hire a chalets in the forest, stay in a caravan, or even stay in Air BnB. Travelling in the UK is fairly easy as there is a vast network of public transport, trains, coaches and busses, however we find it easier to drive and its convenient to have a car to enable us to explore the surrounding area. If you are opting to use public transport, it is important to be prepared to follow all government safety measures such as keeping social distancing where ever possible and wearing masks and gloves and carrying hand sanitiser.

This year we chose Bournemouth in Dorset which is in the South of the UK as our staycation holiday destination. It offers activities for all ages from young kids to teenagers and adults too. It also has many surrounding places you can visit during your stay such as Poole, Christchurch, New Forest, and Southampton which are all within a 45 mins radius.

Bournemouth has 7 miles of sandy beaches; all rated a European blue flag. There is plenty to see and do in and around the area. The beach has a pier which has zip wiring activity and there is an observation wheel on the beach front as well an Ocenarium. There is a small entrance fee to walk on the pier.

There is also the Aruba bar & restaurant on the pier that offers family dining in the day and you can enjoy evening drinks whilst enjoying the sunset. At night the place turns to a night club so you can dance the night away. During the July and August there are also beach front fireworks show every Friday night at 10 pm.

The nearby Bournemouth Gardens are perfect to enjoy a picnic, play a game of mini golf or just relax around the band stand and enjoy a live music. For the theatre lovers Bournemouth Pavilion offers theatrical shows or you can catch a movie at I sense Odeon cinema. For the younger generation there are the new escape rooms and Bh2 complex in Bournemouth too.

During the summer months the central beach at Bournemouth gets very busy and crowded so it makes sense to visit other nearby beaches at Sandbanks near Poole, Alum Chime Beach, Durley Chine Beach, Boscombe Beach, Fisherman’s Walk Beach, Southbourne Beach and Hengistbury Head which are less busy.

Hengistbury Head, a headland jutting in the English Channel between Bournemouth and Mudeford Quay, it is 20 -30 mins away and the perfect place to enjoy a day at the beach. Here you will find a range of lovely beach huts that you can hire for the day, there are some that you can stay overnight as well. 

There is a mini Land Train that runs from Bournemouth to Mudeford Quay. It is a popular way to get to the different beach destinations as it makes many stops. If you have younger kids they will enjoy crabbing in Mudeford Quay.

Poole Quays is another place worth visiting; here you will find the Sandbanks Beach where there is a water sports academy. For boat lovers you can enjoy a walk round harbour with boats.

Poole also has the original Lush shop and the famous Poole Pottery. From Poole, you can also get a ferry across to Brownsea Island a national trust heritage site, which is very picturesque with views of Purbeck Hills and worth a visit to see famous it’s wild life, red squirrels. It is a very popular place for camping for scouts and guides.

If you enjoy outdoor activities the nearby New Forest National park, is great for camping and for hiking and there is also a water park there which is a hit with the kids. For the more adventurous you can also visit the Go Ape Activity centre in Moors Valley
Bournemouth has many coffee shops, tearooms, eateries, restaurants and the famous Harry Ramsden chip shop. A visit to the sky bar on the 8th floor of the Hilton Hotel is a must, to enjoy a few cocktails with spectacular views of Bournemouth and Isle of Wight across the horizon.

In Bournemouth, there are many hotels, guest houses, Air BnB, campsites and caravan parks that you can stay at. A varied choice of accommodation is available to suit all budgets.

Bournemouth is the perfect staycation destination to visit. It is popular for stag and hen dos and also suitable for couples and families too. With so much to see and do you could easily spend a week there. Due to Covid, some of the attractions may be closed or require prior booking , it is best to check the website for up to date booking information.

Bournemouth is not only a summer vacation place, you can visit in the winter too. There are many Christmas markets and the Bournemouth Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland complete with an ice skating rink too.

What are your holiday plans this year, do share them in the comments below. Can you recommend some places  to visit in the UK.

 In collaboration with, All views expressed in this post are my own as are all the photos.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Places to visit around The Athenian Riviera ~Athens

Athens has become a favorite destination of mine and last year, I had the opportunity to visit the place twice. Once in March and the second time in November. We were really fortunate with the weather on both trips.Temperatures were 20-24 Degrees C, really comfortable and perfect for sight seeing.
In February we visited all the historic sites and the city centre, the highlight was climbing the Acropolis and visiting the Parthenon, I wrote about this experience in my post Things to do in Athens.

During this second trip, second trip to Athens we decided to stay out of the city and explore The Athens Gold Coast also known as The Athenian Riviera which is a coastal area few kilometres out of the city of Athens. This is an area of many small towns such as Glyfada, Faliron, Voula, Vari, Varzika, Voula and Vouliagmeni and many more surrounding towns stretching from Pireaus to Sunio

Faliron is the closest coastal town to Athens. It has modern apartment buildings, lots of shops, restaurants, cafes and a seafront where you can sit and watch the waves as you enjoy a coffee and pastry. Glyfada another nearby town has a lovely town square which is lively and has a lot of local activity. It is the centre of Coastal Athens, it is surrounded with many designer shops and small malls scattered around, bars and restaurants. In Glyfada you can even find an eighteen hole golf course, if you area golfer and want to play a round or two of golf whilst on holiday.

Voula is another nearby lovely sea side town, it has a beautiful beach where you can hire sun beds, parasols and spend a day at the beach. There are many restaurants, bars, cafés and coffee shops if you get peckish. There are many beautiful apartments in Voula,it is very affluent area of the Athenian Riveria. 

In Voula, on Saturdays there is a lovely organic fruit and vegetables market where the local farmers bring their produce to sell. For a foodie like me, it is food heaven to see so much amazing fresh organic produce. I would highly recommend a visit to this market especially if you are staying in a self-catering apartment.

You will never be short of places to eat in Athens, there are many restaurants, coffee shops and eateries and if you are a vegetarian like me food is no problem as there are many vegetarian options available. If you are a non-vegetarian foodie, than Vari is the perfect place to visit. Vari is well known for its psistaria's these are grill houses that specialise in outdoor cooking, barbecuing and cooking whole lambs, pigs and goats.

If you carry on driving through Vari, you will come to a lovely town of Varkiza. It is thought that this town has some of the cleanest and best beach area in Athens. Again like all the other towns, the beach front locations hosts many shops, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. 

The area of Vouliagmeni is located between two small peninsulas, Kavouri and Lemos. It is a well-known for its wooded area and it has some really nice local beaches both paying and free. In Vouliagmeni, you will find the famous Lake Vouliagmeni. Vouliagmeni means sunken, the lake was formed when the roof of the cave fell because of erosion caused by the high temperature of the running water. The lake is a natural spa and the water is full of minerals that are thought to have healing properties as it’s fed by an underground river and caves. The lake is surrounded by cliffs and underground caves and is very picturesque.

You can spend the day at the lake any time of the year. The facilities on offer are changing rooms, children's play area, gift shop, a coffee shop and restaurant serving food and drinks. You can hire towels and sunbeds which are dotted around the lake. 

There are premium sunbeds as well as basic depending on your budget. The lake has little black fishes that nibble at your feet giving you a free pedicure. Swimming is allowed in the lake and the water temperature is pleasant. I would highly recommend spending a day at Lake Vouliagmeni if you are visiting the Athenian Riveria.

Athens offers a good metro and tram and bus transport so getting around is easy. Car hire is also another option which will offer you more freedom to explore the Athenian Riveria area, the towns and beaches.

There are many hotels around the Athenian Riveria, we stayed at the beautiful Athenian Riveria Hotel. Its tastefully furnished with clean, comfortable rooms which are spacious, bright and airy with lots of amenities. The hotel has a restaurant, bar area and an outdoor sitting area with a pool. The service is outstanding and all the staff are extremely helpful. This is the second time we stayed at this amazing hotel you can read about the Athenian Riveria Hotel in more detail in my post from March 2019.

We stayed in Athens for 7 days and this is just a snippet of the places we visited. In my next post, I will share my experience of a Greek Cookery class with the Greek Key, our Olive Picking adventure, our trip to Poseidon Temple in Sounion and the day out to Evia Island.

You may like some of these posts about Athens:

I would like to thank Lake Vouliagmeni who invited us to spend a day at the lake to enjoy the facilities and also a very big thank you to Athenian Riveria Hotel who were extremely generous and hosted our stay for the entire 7 days. All the views and opinions in this post are of my own experience and are honest.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Are You Looking to Buy a Property Abroad?

We love warm weather and as a family we have always loved our beach holidays. For a number of years we have regularly visited Spain, Canary Islands, Cyprus and Greece, we love the Mediterranean climate, the food, and the sea so we have been contemplating buying a property abroad. There are a lot of factors to consider and think about as we do the research. I am sharing below some of the things that you should consider when making a decision to buy a property abroad.There will be  plenty of questions you need answering. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, read on for some top tips.

15 Terrific Tips for Buying a Property Abroad

For many, buying a property abroad to live out your days in the sun is the ultimate dream. Waking up every day to glorious sunshine can be an appealing prospect compared to the drizzle of the UK, that’s for sure.

While that’s often the case, it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy process. Not least does a move to Spain, for example, require an understanding of Spanish law, an English speaking Spanish Property lawyer, and plenty of forward planning. It’s not all that simple!

The following top tips are designed to help you get ahead of the curve if you’re debating whether to go ahead with such a life changing decision. So, if you want to buy a property abroad, read on to discover how to prepare.

Why Might You Buy a Property Abroad?

There are plenty of reasons for buying a property abroad. You might be looking for a change in lifestyle, a chance to own a holiday home, or a once in a lifetime investment opportunity. It’s true that you can often get more for your money in certain countries, so it’s no wonder that so many Britons live abroad.

It’s by no means an easy process though, and even it’s been a long-term plan for you and your family, it’s still bound to be a daunting prospect full of things to consider. That’s why preparation is key!

Top Tips for Buying a Property Abroad

If you’re considering buying a property abroad, then take note of these top tips to make sure that your transaction is a success.

1.    Choose a Country

First things first – where do you want to buy a property? There are countless reasons why you might choose a certain country to buy property in, including:
  • You may have previously been on holiday to a country that you fell in love with;
  • You might have friends and family living out their lives on the other side of the world, and you fancy joining them.
  • You might spot an investment opportunity in a country you've never even visited. 

The list is endless, but you'll need to think long and hard about what the consequences of your decision will be, and how easy the process is going to be. After all, if you intend on getting to and from the country frequently, it's going to have to be a relatively accessible area.

2.     Learn the Lingo

If you’re buying property in a country where English isn’t widely spoken, you’re going to have to start practicing the language. It’s not as easy as you might think to get by without having the basics locked down.

It’s especially important when you carry out a transaction like buying a property, because there will be plenty of specific legal terms that you will need to understand. So, ten minutes a day on a language app can’t hurt. Si?

3.     Get a Property Lawyer

Now you know where you’ll be investing, and you (hopefully) have a little bit of the lingo in your back pocket, what’s next? Well, now you’ll need to get yourself a property lawyer, who can help to guide you through the process of buying a property.

Plenty of property owners fall into the trap of using lawyers or translators who were recommended by the estate agent or developer. They will often be acting in the interests of both parties.

So, you would be sensible to appoint an English-speaking lawyer who is qualified to practice in the UK and overseas. An English-speaking lawyer will help to make sure that nothing is lost in translation, and will only ever act in your best interests.

4.     Research the Legal Systems

Not all legal systems work in the same way, which can make the process of buying a property in another country much more difficult. While your property lawyer can handle the complicated stuff, it pays to get to grips with what the legal implications of your transaction will be. Your lawyer will be more than happy to discuss everything with you in detail, so don’t be afraid to ask a few questions.

5.     Get to Grips with the Tax System

As we all know, there are three certainties in this world: life, death and taxes. That doesn’t change when you buy property abroad. There will, of course, be plenty of ongoing costs to manage once you complete the purchase, such as annual property tax, income tax and community fees. So, take some time to carry out thorough research of what applies to your property.

 6.     Decide What Type of Property You Want

As with any property purchase, you’ll need to be sure of what you’re looking for. If the property is for yourself, you’ll need to be sure if you’re down sizing, up sizing, or finding whatever you can for your budget. That also means deciding whether you want to do a little bit of refurbishment work, so be sure to bear this all in mind before taking the plunge.

7.     Decide What You Are Using the Property For

Just because you’re thinking about buying a property abroad, it doesn’t mean its necessarily going to be for your own pleasure. You might want to think of it as a long-term plan and, in the meantime, have it as a holiday home or even a small business venture.

There are plenty of ways you can use the property, so thinking outside the box is always encouraged. You’d always be wise to be on the same page as anyone else investing in the property, however!

 8.     Organise Your Budget

You’ll (hopefully) have your budget laid out in front of you and, with a bit of research, you can get a decent understanding of the sorts of property you will be able to get for your money. But we all know that, sometimes, a little bit of fancy financial footwork can push you towards something that may have seemed a little over budget. Think about how much extra money you’d be willing to splash out to land the property you desperately want, and consider what that could mean for your financial situation.

 9.     Do Your Mortgage Homework

This goes without saying: don’t jump on the first mortgage deal you find! It may be a drag to sift through the countless mortgage deals out there, but you want to get the best possible deal that suits your capabilities and needs. Pay close attention to the interest rates and repayment periods so that you fully understand the agreement before you put pen to paper.

 10.   Always Get Written Agreements

On the subject of pen and paper, everything you agree needs to be recorded in writing, and you need to securely store it for future reference. If you have written confirmation of the agreements and receipts, you can immediately fall back on them if anything does go wrong. You cannot dispute a good old-fashioned signed contract.

 11.    Check the Deeds of the Property

 It’s worth double checking that the previous owner to the property owns the title deeds to the property so that they can transfer them across to you. You should also make sure that the building isn’t being used as collateral to pay off any loans. If you aren’t buying a used property, and are more interested in a brand-new development, you can still check the deeds by contacting the property developer directly.

 12.    Check for Outstanding Bills the Owner Might Have

 There’s nothing worse than being hit with an unexpected bill – apart from being hit with an unexpected bill that has nothing to do with you. So, check with the property owner to see if they have any outstanding utility or tax bills that you will have to pay for once you purchase the property for yourself.

 13.    Consider Shipping Costs

 You may, understandably, be wrapped up in the more complex financial arrangements involved in buying a property abroad that you forget about getting your possessions shipped over. It’d be a struggle to get absolutely everything you own overseas, but it all depends on how much you are willing to pay.

 14.   Find a Community of Expats

You won’t be the first to move to the country from the UK, and you certainly won’t be the last. So, do some digging to find expats who have taken the plunge and see if you can pick up some tips from them. You never know, you might just pick up some local friends along the way!

15.  Tell the UK You’re on Your Way

If you’ve bought a permanent home abroad and it’s going to be your main residence, then don’t forget to say goodbye to the UK! By that, I mean an official goodbye, full of all the paperwork.

Tedious as it is, it’s really important that you notify all the relevant bodies, such as the Social Security Office and HM Revenue & Customs. You’ve got to account for everything!

 These 15 top tips for buying a property abroad should cover all bases. Hopefully, now, you can take something away from these tips so you can buy your sunny property in confidence.

Are you currently trying to buy a property abroad, or perhaps you’ve already taken the plunge and have some more tips to add? If you have any tips you can share with me please do leave a comment down below so that it can help me with my research.

Credits-Stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images
**Collaborative post.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Ten Ideas to Make Father's Day Special

Father's day will soon be upon us and it's time to think of how we are going to celebrate this day during lock down.

Here are my Ten Ideas to make Father's Day Special

1. How about starting the day with breakfast in bed for the dad, the kids could make easy pancakes and juice which always goes down well.

2. Plan a picnic in the garden, it's easier to social distance and enjoy. Make some open sandwiches, salad and dips and crackers and a fresh fruit salad.

3. Enjoy some board games and have a gaming tournament in the garden.

4. Have a smoothie station, cut different fruits and keep in Tupperware. Have ice and ice cream at hand, offer to blend smoothies to order. (don't forget the extension lead for the blender)

5. Get kids to make redeemable vouchers for dad depending on their ability and age such as make a cup of tea, head massage, wash car or make a sandwich. 
6. Get the children to bake dad's favourite cookies or a cake.

7. For actual gifts, it's rather difficult to go shopping during lock down, however there are lots of online retailers, where you can order gifts. Some ideas for the perfect gift can be a personalised mug or t shirt, a bottle of wine, an online course. 

You can also get ties, cufflinks, a watch or this beautiful 100 percent leather Montreal casual brown RFID wallet from Trendhim. It comes in various different colours and has ample room to keep cards and notes. It's perfect to keep all the credit cards safe and secure from hackers and it's the ideal size to fit in any trouser or jacket pocket. The wallet also comes in a sleek black gift box ready for gifting. I am sure any dad would love to receive this sleek, smart and stylish wallet.

8. Encourage the kids to make a personalised father's day card using family photos to make a collage.

9. Buy a fruit tree and gift it to dad so that it can be a gift for life.

10. For those dad's that are football mad, why not gift him a personalised leather bound deluxe Personalised Football Book. This gift is so unique and any die hard football fan would love to receive this as a fathers day present. 

The book has highlights of  cup triumphs, great goal and includes details about Premier League, Football League and Scottish League teams. The newspapers date back to 1900 with lots of amazing content about the favourite team. 

There is a choice of 60 teams to choose from and there are six colours to choose fromfor the cover. The book can be personalised with the dads name and a short message from the giver. It comes in beautiful keep sake matching gift box too. 

Of course this football book is not just for father's day, it can make a beautiful birthday or Christmas gift too.
I hope some of these ideas will help you to have a fun and enjoyable father's day during lock down.

**collaborative post