Monday, 18 April 2016

Adventures in Rhodes – Two Nights in Rhodes Town

 

 

It's the last day of March and we disembark from the Dodecanisos ferry at Kolona Harbour, entering the walls through the huge stone gate. Late afternoon sun spills over Rhodes Old Town. 

From Ippokratous Square we walk up Sokratous Street, usually busy with strolling tourists but empty at this time of year with most of the shops still closed. We follow it to the pink Suleiman Mosque at the top, originally built soon after the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1522; turn right before the clock tower, towards the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. Built by the Knights Hospitaller in the fourteenth century, its fa├žade was destroyed during Ottoman times but rebuilt by the Italian occupiers during the late 1930s. And there is our hotel, Nikos Takis, its location immersing you at once and unmistakably in the history of Europe’s biggest medieval city.

Nikos Takis Hotel is built in the old quarters of the Sultan’s harem in the nineteenth century, and is decorated in eastern style – this is the tip of Rhodes that noses into the coastline of Asia Minor, after all. The founders of Nikos Takis were fashion designers whose clients included Liz Taylor, Sofia Loren, Maria Callas and Jackie Onassis. I loved my first stay in this historic boutique hotel a few years ago, in the Grand Master Emery suite with its terrace view of cruise ships coming in. With the evenings not quite warm enough for lounging on a terrace, the Ontas suite we get this time is perfect – it's got a warm, opulent feel, decorated in soothing reds and oranges and burnt umbers, with old wooden ceiling beams and a bed you could sink a small submarine in. There are hand-painted details and swathes of brocade and silk. I love it. And the welcome is very friendly, there are only eight rooms, and it’s open year-round.
 


I like the happy, relaxed mood on any Greek island when shops and restaurants are just opening and the weather is mild. In early evening, we wander to find a place to eat. We get talking to someone at the newish bakery and pizzeria Il Forno, in a building which I remember as the lovely bar Angel, and I giggle when he hands us what he called a ‘flyeraki’. He tells us a place where we can get good, authentic food, and it turns out to be the place we eyed earlier, Ta Petaladika, a bright, buzzing fish meze place. As an Old Town resident tells us, any restaurant open now is probably good because it caters to locals. We have grilled calamari, salt cod and skordalia (like garlic mashed potato), and a house salad with rocket and pieces of smoked salmon, washed down with the clear spirit tsipouro – which comes in a nifty holder with ice around it.

Rhodes town feels like coming to the city for us, living on tiny Tilos; it’s where we run our errands, but also good for a break, to eat different foods and meet other people. And of course a lovely hotel makes it even nicer. By the time I wake up next morning in the super-comfortable bed, looking out of the window at the old school lit up with morning sunlight and the blue sky above – Yiannis is already leaning out of the window with his camera – I am relaxed to be on holiday. A few opportunities have come up to explore Rhodes again, and I'm looking forward to it.  

After a morning of appointments and shopping – including a browse around a new shop in Mandraki called Eva’s Walk specialising in natural Greek beauty products and food – we sit down to a late lunch at Stavlos. There used to be a bakery here, a couple of streets up from the bus station, but since Theodoraki Street in between has become a happening cafe-bar street for local Beautiful People, this has reinvented itself as a ‘kalofagadiko’ or a place for good food. All around us, young people from Rhodes (and Tilos – look, there’s our football team!) are feasting on gargantuan plates of roast meat and Yiannis orders kebab and chips, but I choose one of my favourite dishes, Cretan dakos, just tomatoes and feta and wholewheat twice-baked bread all heaped together and drowned in olive oil. And I eat half the chips. With a half-litre of cold red wine, it’s just right to send us off to sleep for a while.
In early evening, when the light is good for photography, we head out to explore the Old Town once more. I thought I knew every part of this place from my many wanderings over the years, but no - we get delightfully lost and captivated by its intimate corners. 


 


 



Then we relax back in the room until it’s a reasonable time to find some nightlife, given it’s Friday night and all. Ten o’clock, Yiannis insists, is still far too early to go out but I fear I'll fall asleep if we don't get moving. He's right of course: Legends is still playing some fairly dodgy rock when we arrive but the early start means we bag a couple of seats, have a couple of drinks and eventually the live band starts close to midnight. After the first set we move on and find a cool new dance bar called Oda just up the alley towards Fuego, where I discover a worrying new enthusiasm for Jaegermeister and a type of music which Yiannis shrugs and says could be called ‘industrial atmospheric’. Next day, he grins and asks if I remember half the things I was talking about. And I don’t. But I don’t care. I’m enjoying myself. I’m on holiday.
And we’re off on a road trip around the island.
Part Two follows soon!!!!

My two nights in Rhodes were courtesy of Nikos Takis Hotel, Panetiou 26, Old Town (22410 70773)
Ta Petaladika (‘ouzotaverneion’), Menekleous 8, Old Town (22410 27319)
Stavlos (‘kalofagadiko’), corner of Tarpon Springs and Karpathou (22410 77180)

Winner of the Octopus Competition!

You lovely, lovely people. Thank you for sharing the news of the Octopus being released. Which reminds me, did you see this news item? Surely Inky the escaping octopus heard about the ouzo... Or maybe he just fancied a different, more free sort of life, just like I did. But what I meant to say was thank you for sharing the news of An Octopus in my Ouzo. I wish I could give you ALL free copies of the book. But I only have one to offer right now to our winner this week, Roisheen Childs, who said on Twitter she had her tentacles crossed. You can uncross them now!
You all do so much for me but I'm going to ask a favour. If you read my new book and if it's easy for you to do this, it would be great if you would write a review on Amazon UK or on Goodreads or wherever you like. Much appreciated! Reviews help books to get discovered by others who might like them.
Now I'd better stop wittering on, as I have a real blog post to finish...

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Competition to Win a Free Book

My new book, AN OCTOPUS IN MY OUZO: Loving Life on a Greek Island, is published this week - and look what was waiting for me at the post office yesterday! 
If you'd like to WIN a free copy, please share this post with friends on Twitter using the hashtag #octopusinmyouzo or on Facebook and send me the link. Your name will automatically be entered in the prize draw - easy! Share away, and we'll see if we can get everyone curious about the notion of putting a cute cephalopod in your drink... If you don't use Twitter or Facebook, feel free to share somewhere else (get creative!) and send me a message about it.
Sorry to say the publisher says we have to restrict it to UK only; if you're not in the UK, please share anyway, and if you do, I promise to run another competition for you soon :-) 
Book bloggers are kindly hosting me on their sites this week - so if you have a sec, please head over to Effrosyni Writes or to Linda's Book Bag.
This new book about life on Tilos includes interludes on the island of Rhodes, and I've just returned from some new adventures there. It all started off as a plan to go and run some errands - but it developed into ten days of discovery... So another blog post will be landing very soon.
In the meantime, this was today on Tilos - and that sea was warm...