Dazzling Zia

Continuing our exploration of some of Kos’s mountain villages we’re making a beeline for Zia.

Set on the mountain side of Dikeos, Zia is surrounded by scented pine forests and stunning vistas.

Essentially it’s a tiny village with shopping streets lined with boutique shops and traditional souvenirs.

If you’re after snaps of a more traditional Greek way of life then this is the place for you!

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It get’s thronged with visitors however so you’ll want to find a place to escape and cool off.

If you head through the village to the furthest side you’ll find the colourful and quirky Old Watermill cafe.

Set high on the hillside it is a perfect vantage spot for a drink and some people watching.

 

But given the sheer abundance of colourful signs and painted windows, naturally I can’t sit still for more than five minutes….

So here’s some rainbow snaps of the rustic decor that the cafe has to offer.

Hand painted signs advertise all manner of refreshing beverages and a sunset view.

Once I’ve exhausted every single permutation of colour and signage possible it’s back out into the main shopping streets.

Canopies provide a welcome shade break as we (I) browse the shops and the man gets impatient.

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He really loves to shop . . . honestly . . .

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A few more pictures of the delightful splashes of colour that you can find in Zia.

Lots of gorgeous traditional blue and whites and tumbling flowers in colourful pots.

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Mountain villages

Hiring a car we’re off to explore the mountainous interior of Kos for a few days now.

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First on our trip is a visit to the Monastery of Agios Ioannis. This stunning little building is a revelation at the end of a non-descript road.

This tiny gem is covered from floor to ceiling with colourful frescos and detailed icons.

Built on a hill above Kefalos, this monastery is surrounded by lush greenery and offers amazing view to the sea.

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There’s seating under the shade of a huge old plane tree, just right for a coffee or ice cream break!

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Luckily there’s also a quaint little cafe that’s furnished in traditional Greek style.

 The whole place is a veritable suntrap with traditional blindingly white walls and bright blue detail.

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There are also some former monestary cells that are currently being refurbished.

The flooring of the terrace is decorated in the traditional black and white pebbled pattern that is common in Greece.

Then it’s off to our next destination, the small hill top village of Asfendiou.

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Above is Asomatos church in Asfendiou village, it has a commanding presence in the tiny hamlet.

The village only has around 100 inhabitants and close by are the remains of many ruined buildings that are slowly being bought back to life with outside investment.

After poking around several of the intriguing ruined homes we’re heading off to our next stop, the enchanting mountain top village of Zia.

Kolourful Kos

Yes I am aware it’s spelt wrong – it’s getting hard to keep alliterating my titles! But as the name of this post indicates, prepare for some colourful snaps . .

First up a random snap of this lovely night time water display at our awesome hotel (did I mention it was 5 star . . !!)

Then it’s back to Kos town where I am entranced by this traditional style street slap bang in the middle of the centre.

From its eye wateringly bright white washed steps to the pops of colour from the primary coloured vases it is a visual delight.

The quaint little old / new street winds its way up to a taverna and fish house.

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I can’t get enough of it and naturally have to be physically dragged away once the man prop gets bored of posing . . .

He is rewarded for his efforts with a large beer however so not sure what he’s moaning about . .

Then it’s off for a tour of the back streets where even more delightful old tavernas are to be found.

Every where you look its a veritable orgy of colourful doors, windows and details.

My eyes particularly love this hot pink and blue combo on an old night club.

Possibly my favourite picture of the whole holiday is this mirrored window in shades of blue and pink.

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That’s it for the whistle stop tour of colourful sights in Kos town. Next up we’re headed to the mountains.

Bustling Bodrum

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A popular day trip from Kos is over to the Turkish port of Bodrum.

The name Bodrum derives from Petronium, named from the Hospitaller Castle of St. Peter and before that it was known as Halicarnassus.

 

As soon as you set foot off the boat you’re straight onto the bustling harbour complete with colourful stalls full of traditional local wares.

Then we duck into the old town’s shopping streets complete with a scene that can’t get more Turkish if it tried!

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Huge Turkish flag, check! Massive evil eye, check! Gorgeous blue and white details, check!

We wander the maze of streets soaking up the atmosphere (and the donner kebaps)

There’s lots of restaurants on Kumbahce Bay that overlook the pretty shingle beach and we pop into one for a beer and a GIGANTIC piece of cake!!

The sheer terrifying joy on my face says it all.

Plus there’s the additional joy of being able to dangle my feet over the sparkly clear water.

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Speaking of crystal clear water, here is the lovely little town beach that runs behind the shops and restaurants.

It’s small but perfectly formed. . .  just like someone else I know . . 🙂

A key lure for visitors to Bodrum are the huge markets including a cavernous indoor one close to the bus station.

To find it head to Dolmus Station and the covered pazar is on the north side of the station.

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Inside you’ll find a labyrinth of stalls with vendors touting everything from knock off designer brands to traditional Turkish crafts.

While out on the street ladies sell oils, herbs and spices to pep up your home cooked meals.

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Some quirky street art catches my eye as usual, bikini clad women with furry rabbits heads!

I feel really rather sorry for the floppy bunny who is looking somewhat perturbed…..

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All too soon it’s time to head back but as we wait for the ferry to take us back to Kos we have a perfect view of the castle.

Built by the Knights Hospitaller in the 15th century it overlooks the harbour and the marina.

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Agios Stefanos Beach

Up bright and early we’re off to the well known Agios Stefanos Beach, stopping to admire some traditional church architecture in Kos town first though.

Agios Stefanos Beach is a stunning stretch of postcard perfect sand that has the added attraction of actual ancient ruins at the water’s edge.

Alongside the stunning turquoise waters, the tiny islet of Kastri, is capped by the picturesque church of Agios Nikolaos.

The golden beach is lapped by crystal clear shallow water and you can walk a fair way out before it starts to get deeper.

The ruins of paleo-Christian churches or basilicas still remain just a few steps from the sea and make for an impressive sight.

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Naturally we have to hire a pedalo to make the short journey across to the island of Kastri (naturally as in, I refused to swim across!)

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Despite it being a fairly windy day the man is determined to hire one with a slide so he can reenact being a man child! Hence some rather amusing selfie shots!

Custom dictates that anyone who makes it across the channel to the island and climbs the rocks must ring the bell at the pretty white and blue chapel

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Here the man demonstrates his favourite posing stance complete with teeny tiny shorts.

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Behind us the sea stretches out into the distance with a myriad of blue and green waters.

There’s some stunning views down to the gorgeous shimmering waters below.

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Naturally the mountain goat’s eye’s light up when he spies a high cliff that he can repeatedly throw himself off….

The whole place is a lovely spot to while away hours of relaxation and contemplation.

Time’s nearly up on our pedal hire so we hop back in the tiny vessel and head to shore.

After a fantastic day we head back into Kos town to “enjoy” some traditional Ouzo. (bleh)

Cruising around Kos

After finally getting to grips with our stroke of 5 star good luck (including champagne for birthday breakfast!) we head out to explore Kos town.

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Hopping on the bus from the hotel we alight at the bustling harbour which is also where you’ll find lots of restaurants and bars too.

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First up it was off to see some cultural sights. Below is the Tree of Hippocrates, a plane tree under which, according to legend, Hippocrates (considered the father of medicine) taught his pupils the art of medicine.

We’re lucky to have seen this early on in the holiday as just days later a huge earthquake shook the island ( and us) to its core and destroyed the beautiful old dome.

We then visit the Mosque of Nefterdar in Eleftherias Square. This impressive building had a beautiful minaret that again was completely destroyed during the earthquake.

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Then there’s a quick spin around the markets with traditional products such as olive oil soap and sponges of all sizes.

There are plenty of shopping opportunities in Kos town with its myriad of little back streets all lined with shops and boutiques.

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Our final stop on the sightseeing tour is the Castle of the Knights that guards the entrance to Kos harbour, also known as Neratzia Castle.

The castle was built in the 15th century by the Knights of St John on the site of a former fortress.

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The name Neratzia means ‘sour oranges’ and is a reference to when orange trees with very bitter fruit once grew around the castle.

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It’s a very dry and dusty site so I am thankful for the shade and colour of the bougainvillea.

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There’s some wonderful views from the castle walls out over the harbour.

The castle is pretty much a ruin inside littered with broken masonry, few buildings to inspect and not much provided in the way of information.

The outer castle was built with thick walls to defend against repeated attacks by the Turks but finally Kos eventually fell to Turkish invaders in 1523.

During the 19th century it was used as the barracks of the Turkish garrison but in 1816 a gunpowder room exploded and destroyed a large part of castle.

After a few hot and sweaty hours exploring the site we call it quits and head for a little more shopping.

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Crazy Kos

Diving straight into our next holiday now *advance warning – we managed four this year.*

(I am aware that sounds very middle class and terrible but we do make big sacrifices in order to travel . . . beans on toast for weeks on end anyone?!!)

This time we opt for a cheap and cheerful package deal to Kos in July. Now this is unusual for us in several ways.

a) We don’t do packages as we prefer to be flexible and see more of a place than is usually possible with package hols

b) We avoid summer holidays as it’s usually too hot (for me) and too expensive (for the man)! But hey, we like to break our own rules sometimes  ..

Plus it was my birthday and I was grumpy so we decided to pick a cheap last minute deal. Needless to say this did not quite work out as we had planned . . . . .

Due to a variety of factors, instead of ending up in the cheap and cheerful room only hotel we’d booked, we ended up in a five star, adults only spa hotel complete with its own private beach!!!

Now usually I don’t do posts on hotels or accommodation as it’s very subjective what people like when it comes to where they stay but on this occasion I can make an exception as a) we didn’t pay for it! and b) it was AWESOME!!

So the story of how we ended up in the Diamond Delux hotel in Kos is as follows . . .

After arriving late (midnight) into Kos due to a delayed flight we were dropped off at our original destination to the horror of an obviously stressed receptionist who rather brusquely told us to “sit there” and pointed at a table with another couple already waiting.

As the rest of the couch were checked in and taken to their rooms it dawned on us that there were no more keys behind the front desk and clearly the hotel had overbooked us.

We were finally told that yes, there was no room at the inn, and that a taxi was coming to take us to a different hotel for two days then we would come back.

By this time we just wanted  to sleep but were quite worried about where we might end up.

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But imagine our surprise when the taxi pulled up in front of THE swankiest hotel we had ever seen . .in fact one we had ooohed and aahhed over from the coach window!

It was the Diamond Dulux hotel and we were to stay for two days (upgraded to B & B no less) and then return to our original hotel. However in the end we were allowed to stay for the entire week! RESULT!

Now we have never, and will probably never again, stayed in a five star resort and good grief how the other half live.

It is no exaggeration to say that a night in the room we were put in should have cost the same as we had paid for our entire weeks holiday . . fluke!

The hotel has its own private beach across the road and the biggest pool I have ever seen in my life. And breakfast was ridiculous, there was even a smoothie station where a staff member would make you your own custom drink!

We even got champagne on my birthday morning . . it’s easy to see why people get hooked on luxury!

The hotel even has its own lovely little chapel that holds weddings plus out door jacuzzi pools and a spa (we couldn’t use that though, that was extra!)

I did mention (cynic that I am) to the man that we don’t get this lucky and we would pay for this one way or another, little did either of us realise how that phrase would come back to haunt us later on during our stay . .

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But for now we are giddy with delight and totally overwhelmed by our rare stroke of fortune, it’s not often that lady luck smiles on us so we’re making the most of it!!

Marvellous Marbella

Last trip of our Spanish holiday now, a return to the lovely little town of Marbella.

Despite it’s reputation as the go to place for vacuous reality stars it’s actually a wonderful place.

Its beautiful old town is crammed full of character, whitewashed walls and splashes of hot pink bougainvillea draped across every surface.

As usual you find a plethora of colourful details tiles on every wall and surface.

Again I enjoy the wonderful displays of red geraniums all mounted in pale blue plant pots.

We take a brief stop for some tasty tapas at the lovely Virgin of the Balcony restaurant.

So named because it is literally underneath this ornate pale blue shrine of the Virgin Mary.

Then its onto the hub of Marbella old town – Plaza de los Naranjos or the Orange Square, named for the fruit trees that fill the square.

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Orange Square dates back to 1485 and is laid out in a typical Spanish Christian design, with whitewashed houses and a town hall, a governor’s house and a chapel on the corners.

After getting out fill of traditional architecture we get our feet wet at the beach.

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Then it’s back to Malaga for a final potter on Malagueta beach before heading home.

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Another superb Spanish trip completed! Fantastic food and beautiful sights. Next up Kos and terrifying earthquakes . . .

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Tonnes of tiles

This post is mainly dedicated to the joy that is the Azulejo. This is a form of Spanish and Portuguese painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework.

Ornate Azulejos are found everywhere – on churches, palaces, homes, restaurants, bars and even subway stations.

They are not only used as an ornamental art form but also act as a form of temperature control in homes, keeping them cool in the hot summers.

The word azulejo is derived from the Arabic az-zulayj meaning “polished stone”.

Seville became a hotbed for the tile industry with potters from Italy established workshops there in the 16th century.

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Over the centuries the Spanish love affair with these highly decorative tiles has grown and grown until they are a ubiquitous sight around the country.

 

Malaga moments

After sating my need to snap mountains of fruit and veg we head into Malaga town to check out some sights.

I’ve previously only seen Malaga cathedral from the outside but as the mum enjoys a good church potter we headed inside!

Original plans would have seen the structure with two towers but funds ran out.

The fact that only one tower has been finished led to the cathedral being called “La Manquita” AKA “The One-Armed Lady”.

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The cathedral is a mix of diverse architectural styles including Gothic in the ground floor, Renaissance and Baroque.

The cathedral was built between 1528 and 1782 near to the site of a former mosque.

Once we’ve had our fill of inspiring religious architecture we mooch around to the Picasso museum (not to visit obviously – that costs money!)

But I snap a few souvenir pics so I feel that i have seen the main bits anyway!!

Then it’s off for a spot of tapas and sangria but en-route I am entranced by some epic scale wall art.

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These fantastic rainbow murals depict a variety of traditional Spanish themes including sultry dancing ladies.

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These fantastic creations are the work of artist Jonathan Morillas and adorn the square of the Jewish quarter.

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Mum acts as a measuring scale to show the epic proportions of these colourful images.

Meanwhile I get a bit freaked out by how many eyes are in this pictures! A bit creepy. . .

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That’s the joy of exploring different cities and countries, so many details to discover!