Archive for June, 2011

Are You Happy?

That is what I asked the Front Door Man at our hotel when we all happened to get into the same elevator. He looked at me and said, “Of course I’m happy.” I asked, “Then why aren’t you smiling?” We have passed by him in the lobby for a week now, and I smile at him when we walk through the lobby. He looks at us but never smiles back. After my question, he then turned to me and gave me a great big smile. I told him that he has a beautiful smile. From that time on he always smiles at us when he sees us.

I believe that this has brought a conscious awareness to this man of how he is greeting people – how he is coming across to the people staying in the hotel. There are people from all over the world coming through the lobby speaking many different languages, but you can always communicate with others by just smiling. It lifts everyones’ spirits and makes for a happy day.

Steve looked at me and said, “Only you could do this. I love to watch how you interact with people. You have such a positive impact on people. They really do listen to you.

As we walked away I couldn’t help but start humming the song, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”

Bringing a smile to someone else makes you smile too – and everybody is happy.

I think that we sometimes take life too seriously (I know I do) and sharing a smile reminds us to lighten up and enjoy life.

Don't Worry - Be Happy!

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On Sunday we woke up to more beautiful weather – sunshine, warm bordering on hot temperatures and blue skies. We had not been out of Limassol since our arrival a week before, so we decided that a scenic drive was on the menu. We headed west out of town on the B6 road that winds along the sea at times at sea level, and at times climbing onto cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The B6 reminds me of Highway 1 in California that also winds along the ocean.  The road led us through many of the small villages along the way which gave us a flavour of the area as well as the culture and way of life. We stopped along the way to visit some of the archaeological sites and take photos of the breathtaking views of the rocky landscape against the sun shimmering on the Mediterranean Sea.

The views and fresh air at one of our stops created a bit of an appetite. As we walked back to the car we passed a painted sign advertising a restaurant with a panoramic view. Although it had a slightly touristy ring to it, we decided to give it a go. After all, is was good advertising. We were what felt like in the middle of nowhere and here was an ad for a what turned out to be a well known restaurant, just down the road, around the bend, and up, up up…

It Was a Good Sign

We got back on the road and turned in where the restaurant sign was and followed it all the way up to the top of a small mountain. It is called Petra tou Romiou, known for its fresh fish and incredible location.

We entered the restaurant which is shaped like a circular aquarium (with us on the inside!) with glass windows all around facing out towards the Mediterranean Sea – what a beautiful view. They took us to our table that looked out at two massive rocks in the water that have some symbolic meaning from a story in Greek Mythology. It was the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite.

The View from Our Table

When they say catch of the day that is exactly what they mean. We went to a display case filled with ice, topped with the fresh fish that had been caught that day.

It Doesn't Get Fresher than This

We were to hand pick the one that we wanted. The waiter lifted up a wonderful looking fish and suggested it  for us to share.

Catch of the Day

The fish called white bream, or A∑ПPOBΛΑΧΟ∑, looked good to us. Then he weighed it and took it away to clean and prepare it. It was cooked to perfection and served to us beautifully presentated surrounded by specially cooked potatoes and mixed vegetables including cooked cabbage. The bread was fresh out of the oven and the butter glided on melting into every layer and pore of the bread.

I asked our waiters, Andros, Yorgos and Andros if I could go around the restaurant and take a few pictures of the different views. They were so excited that we loved the place that much that they said of course and even posed for a few pictures.  We also met the chef and the owner Marios.

Andros, Yorgos and Andros

To complement our delicious meal we were served  a Cypriot dessert – a candied pear surrounded by fresh slices of melon and watermelon. It was a new sensation for our taste buds and a wonderful dining experience. It was now time to say good bye to our new friends and head back to Limassol so Steve could get ready to leave for work.

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Another Day in Paradise –  Limassol, Cyprus

We started the day off by a visit to the Tourist Information Office just down the street from our hotel. We walked into this little building where there were three ladies behind a desk ready to help the next people who walked in – that was us. The tall lady asked us what information that we needed. I replied that we were staying in Limassol and would like to know what local attractions we should visit. She gave us a local map and began drawing circles around the points of interest – the Old Port, the Market, the Cathedrals, and a few archaeological sites.

A Few Helpful Maps

We then asked her about restaurants, specifically ones that serve Cypriot and Greek food were the “locals” go to eat. She then went in the back and brought out a book of restaurants in the area; however she wanted us to know one of her favourites and circled the street on the map and wrote the name next to it. She asked us about a few other towns and cities that we might be interested in and they were the ones that we had on our day trip list. Again she went into the back and brought out specific maps for each of those areas and continued showing us on the map the best route to get there and back. She was so helpful. We thanked her very much for her help and wished her a good day and she relied “good day to you too.” Steve and I left feeling so fortunate to have found someone who is so passionate about her job.  She really wanted us to have a great visit to Cyprus and enjoy what one might think is our holiday. Remember Steve is here to work, but has been working mostly at night.

By now it was time for lunch and we were off to the recommended restaurant.  We drove about 3 kilometres to the Old Port area and parked the car on a side street where we took out the map from the Tourist Information Office and followed it to the restaurant. It was on a side street with almost no inviting storefronts. The restaurant itself was very inviting, indeed. Especially after walking through the hot, dusty streets. The whole Old Port area is being renovated from the ground up. A large marina is in the plans, and all of the neighbourhood streets are being dug up and rebuilt.

Roadworks Ahead

Lots of beautiful granite-looking blocks are being cemented into place on the walking paths, and streets are being repaved. Although it doesn’t look like things are moving very fast, we’ve seen many changes over the last few days. New pavements here, new paths there. They are probably hard at work in the morning before it gets too hot.

Hard at Work

It just goes to show that if you go a bit off the beaten path –  just a few streets away from the touristy area you can find some of the best places that the locals go to eat and shop. Steve and I always make a point of doing that when we travel. It allows us to meet the people of that country and learn about their culture. As soon as they hear our accent (I forget that we have one – I always think that everybody else has one) they ask if we are from America. When we say, “Yes, Southern California.” they just melt and go “ahhh.” They can’t wait to start telling us their stories about visiting there or family and friends that live there. Before you know it we have made new friends. I feel that this is what makes the world go round. You leave feeling that you have touched someone in a positive way and shared something about American (and British!) culture with them as well as learning something about their culture.  Instead of hearing about and seeing all of the horrible things going on in the world on the news every day, it is refreshing to visit these countries and meet the people and see the beauty of the country. In other words, seeing and experiencing the positive in life. There really is so much out there. You just have to go and see it for yourself. People get so excited hearing our stories as we do theirs. Many times it makes our day and many have told us that it has made their day to meet us and hear our stories.

Which brings me to the restaurant that we ate at – Sykaminia. We walked into the restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was air conditioned. We were greeted by a lady named Demetra, wearing a white apron and hair covering to match. She is the chef, and together with her husband Lakis, own the restaurant. She spoke excellent English. There was a board at the front describing what was on the menu. We were about to ask questions since the board was written in Greek, but Demetra quickly said that it would be much better for us to come over to the kitchen where she would show us each of the choices, and to explain the ingredients to us. The authentic Cypriot food had some similarities to Greek cooking, but unique to Cyprus. There were different kinds of beans, rice, soups, fish, and a variety of meat dishes as well as fresh salads with feta cheese. The bread was freshly baked and when we dipped into the tahina that was homemade by Demetra, our taste buds did a dance.

Demetra Shows Us What's Cooking

Fortunately we arrived at the start of the lunch period and Demetra had the time to sit down with us to share some of her stories with us. Our conversation took us from Southern California to England to Australia and back to Cyprus. Learning a little about her and her family, and her about ours. Before long the restaurant came to life as more and more people, mostly locals and  businessmen, entered the restaurant.  Now the place was buzzing with conversations in Greek, German, and of course English. A grandfatherly type man sat down at a table near us, but then proceeded to visit other customers. A couple and their young baby then sat down at that table. A few minutes later the man returned to his original table, now occupied by the young family. The baby’s eyes’ lit up and he said, “Papa!” and it all made sense.

Lakis came over to talk to us and to make sure we were happy with lunch. We told him how much we enjoyed the food as well as the ambience, and he told us that theirs is one of the few real traditional Cypriot restaurants in the city. He then offered us coffee or tea.  We noticed on the bill that there was no charge for the coffee and tea and he said that it was a present from them. That is what makes the difference in going to a family owned local restaurant. You become friends and they treat you like family.  We are planning on going back for a few more meals on this visit to Limassol,  Cyprus.   A magical moment on Monday.  Another day in paradise.


Blending the Old with the New

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Steve ‘s work has brought us to Cyprus.

About six weeks ago Steve came home from work and said that they asked him if he would  go to Cyprus in mid-June for a three week rotation.  He waited to see what my reaction would be to this news as he knows that we had agreed that if he has to go to another country for work for more than a week that I would go home to Southern California to visit my family.  He then told me that his boss suggested that he take me with him; I just had to pay my own way. Fair enough.  Needless to say my reaction was of excitement as this was a country that we had not visited yet.  I realized that this meant that I would not be able to fit in a summer trip back home to visit my family. I was a bit torn about this but decided to go with Steve on his business trip to Cyprus.  So Steve & I are planning to spend the holidays with our family in December.

It's Father's Day!

It’s Sunday June 19th – Father’s Day and we are leaving Lincoln for Heathrow, London for our flight to Larnaca, Cyprus.  It is 5 o’clock in the morning. I would have said that we left “at the crack of dawn,” but it has been light outside for some time as daylight appears quite early this time of year in the north.  We arrived at Heathrow Avis to turn in the rental car we had for the drive down. I was ready to get onto the Avis bus to the terminal when I hear a voice say to me, “Hi sweetheart” only to look up and see our friend Jeff who had just arrived from the USA to fill in for Steve while we are in Cyprus – now what are the chances of that happening?  It is all in the timing. So after a quick hello and a hug we were on our way to the plane.

It was a pleasant flight.  You know what they say about airplane food – well we happened to have a delicious lunch – our first taste of Greek food.  We arrived in Larnaca and drove to Limassol where we are staying.  Having the road signs in Greek took some getting used to.  Even the English translations can be challenging.  Limassol is also known as Lemesos, which is closer to the Greek spelling.

The Hotel Pool and Mediterranean Sea

Our hotel is on the beach and our room is overlooking the ocean.  This is my idea of paradise – sunshine, the beach, the pool, and warm weather.  The hot temperature and the humidity hits you when you first arrive, but I am sure that after a few days we will begin to get acclimated.  I will let you know.

View from the Balcony

I have unpacked our suitcases and we are now settled in our room. Our laptop computers are set up on internet and our mobile phones and other electronic gadgets are charging.  We have set a personal record for the number of mobile phones with us on a trip – six!  Steve’s blackberry to keep in touch with work in the USA, Steve’s UK mobile work phone, Steve’s UK mobile personal phone, and my UK mobile.  We also brought two spare mobiles that we plan on getting Cypriot SIM cards for, so that we can talk to each other cheaply while Steve is at work.  The hotel is being refurbished and our room has just been completed. One of the thoughtful touches they’ve added is to install about seven electrical sockets in the room.  We’re using every single one of them!

Mission Control

It’s time to get a good night’s sleep after a long day of traveling so I will say good night, sweet dreams, and I will continue my story tomorrow.

Room with a View

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Hackthorn Estate

While attending an Army Benevolent Fund fundraiser at a beautiful estate home, I met a lovely lady named Lindsay. When you meet a person sometimes you just click with them. Well that is what happened with the two of us. After being introduced that evening, we didn’t stop talking until the event was over, and we hadn’t finished telling each other our stories yet, so we decided that we would meet for tea sometime soon.

Lindsay was kind enough to invite me over to her house so that I could visit the village that she lives in, Hackthorn in the County of Lincolnshire. I gave her my business card and by the time that we left the fundraiser that night, we had become friends.

A few days later Lindsay emailed me asking me to choose a date for us to meet. That is how I came to visit the awesome village of Hackthorn. Since I do not have my own car yet and there isn’t a bus to her village from Lincoln, Lindsay offered to pick me up and bring me to her house. Fortunately it is fairly close, about 15 miles away.

She made a delicious lunch – a wonderful spread of food – remembering that I did not eat any of the meat hors d’oeuvres at the fundraiser reception. She served a vegetarian lunch consisting of three varieties of smoked salmon with a specialty bread that she had bought at a local bakery that makes the breads to order, ready to be picked up fresh that day. Surrounded on the beautifully set table was a variety of salads and a colourful bowl of fresh fruits and berries. The special blend of tea was brewed to perfection to enjoy with the freshly baked dessert that I indulged in.

While Lindsay was finishing the preparation of food, and during the meal as one would expect, we never stopped talking, we barely came up for air – just long enough to swallow our food.

From the moment I entered Lindsay’s house, the warmth and cosiness of her home was so welcoming and inviting that I felt at home immediately, as if I had known her for years. Her beautiful garden was filled with the colours of the rainbow as all of the flowers were in full bloom.

We finished lunch, cleaned up and just as we grabbed our jackets to go off and explore her village, it began to rain. This is England so you must expect it. It was just a light shower that only lasted a short time and then we were on our way.

We walked up and down the small winding dirt and gravel paths. The first place that we came to was the Village Hall. It is a place where the people in the village attend community events as well as a place for organisations to hold meetings. It is also rented out for private parties such as weddings and special birthday celebrations. We met the local ducks that hang around there, as you can see by the photos that they are well taken care of by the locals.

Feeding the Ducks

We then headed down the public path to the local park. We were greeted by two beautiful horses. I was so surprised to see horses roaming free in such a large public area. Lindsay assured me that she knows these horses and their owner, in fact sometimes she helps groom them and then goes for a ride on them with the owner. You could tell by how friendly they were and how they responded to Lindsay that they were familiar with her. They even posed long enough for me to take photos of them. The chickens and ducks also gathered around us waiting for us to throw them a few bits of bread to hold them over until their lunchtime.

Picture Postcard

Free & Easy

We continued our walk through this beautiful public park with its own lake and ducks. Lindsay played tour guide and pointed out a few more of the local sights to me – the stately home that is owned by the family that owns the land around the village, and the village church – St. Michael Church where Lindsay’s family has attended services since she was a young girl. I took a photo of her sitting in the seat that she and her family have sat in when at the church services. She was brought up in this village and told me the fascinating history of the church as well as a bit of her family’s history in that church.

The Family Pew

It was now time for Lindsay to take me home after a beautiful day in her village. As we left the village of Hackthorn and drove down the small winding road and onto the main road to take me home to Lincoln, Lindsay and I talked about how lucky she is to live in such a quaint and friendly village with a picturesque landscape and a close-knit community where everybody seems to know each other and look out for one another, like an extended family.

I look forward to my next visit to Hackthorn to catch up with Lindsay and to meet some of her other friends who have their own stories to share of living in this wonderful village. You can view more of my photos of Hackthorn here.


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The Grounds at Chatsworth House

It’s another bank holiday weekend and Steve and I went to spend it at Brad and Maxine’s, my cousins who live in Apperknowle, a beautiful village not far from Sheffield, where my mom is from.

I drove all the way there. It took an hour and fifteen minutes, only five minutes longer than usual, even though we left on a Friday at 5pm. It was a relaxing and beautiful drive on the scenic route. I’ve never been able to put the words “relaxing drive” and “5pm on Friday” in the same sentence in Southern California.

We had planned on taking a long walk on Saturday depending on the weather, as it always does in England. Thankfully we woke to a beautiful day – good weather, sunshine, a picture perfect day to go for a walk on the wild side. It really wasn’t on the wild side although there were hundreds of sheep and a herd of deer along the trail.

We decided to go to Baslow, a great little village on the way, for a quick lunch and then onto our walk destination, Chatsworth.

We arrived at Chatsworth, parked the car and off we went onto the trail that would take us through the grounds with hundreds of acres of beautiful rolling hills and trees, a lake, and many sheep and deer on the surrounding landscape.

Maxine, Ash, Brad, Maxine, Lissie and Lucky Louie

We walked past a cricket game in progress and stopped to watch to see how it is played and to take a few pictures.


As we continued on the foot path we were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of sheep and their new babies – baby lambs. I stopped in my tracks and started taking pictures and more pictures and moving along the path taking more pictures until I had taken almost fifty pictures of sheep and their babies. I was so excited that they were actually posing for me. They just stood there looking straight into my camera lens waiting for me to take a picture of them. It was obvious that these animals are used to people walking through their fields so they didn’t run away from us. Our walk took us around two miles of this huge estate and I ended up with two hundred pictures. I’ve selected a few dozen of my favorites that you can see by clicking here.

Sheepish Grins

Mom & Baby

We really appreciate the time that we spend outdoors enjoying nature. It was a beautiful day. We love going on walks with my cousins Brad, Maxine, Lissie, Ashley and Lucky Louie, their dog.

Inspiring Scenery

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I was honoured to be invited to attend the Making of the Mayor Ceremony on the 24th of May at the Guildhall in Lincoln by our friends David and Sandra. David is a past Mayor and both David and Sandra are Council Members. They know how much I enjoy attending events that are history in the making here in the city that we live in – Lincoln.

The position of Mayor of Lincoln was established in 1206.  That is 805 years ago. Almost 300 years before Columbus made his famous discovery. Well over 500 years before Thomas Jefferson and friends put their signatures on the American Declaration of Independence. How  amazing is that?

We approached the entrance to the Guildhall and were welcomed by the Town Crier as we entered the Guildhall, along with past Mayors, Sheriffs, and other guests.  Winding up the staircase are wooden boards hand painted with the names of the Mayors and Sheriffs dating back from 1700 to the present.

A bell began to ring to summon the council members to the council chamber. The bell here in the Lincoln Guildhall is said to be the oldest bell in the country.

I was taken to my seat and made a new friend – Sandra’s sister Wendy. Waiting for the remainder of officials and guests to arrive gave us an opportunity to take in the beauty and history of this  amazing building dating back to the 1500’s. It is actually built within the Stonebow Gate. It is steeped with history and makes you wonder who was there before and what kind of conversations went on.

The Stonebow, Lincoln

The furnishings of the Council Chamber is made mostly of oak from Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest. It creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. The antique light fixtures give off a warm glow that compliments the hand painted oil paintings of various people who were part of history in Lincoln. The large wooden clock that hangs on the back wall of the room is like a piece of art and its workings are actually built into the roof.

There is a big comfy chair where the Mayor sits. As history tells it, the Mayor’s Chair was used to carry the Mayor around the city during processions, so it had to be made big and strong and comfy. It must have been not so comfy for those carrying him about.

At last they are ready to begin and the official calls the meeting to order. I witnessed the Councilor Kathleen Brothwell being sworn in as the 805th Mayor of Lincoln and the 10th woman – yeah!!  The first woman Mayor of Lincoln was elected in the1920’s.  That is more than 700 years of male rule before a female was elected into the office of Mayor.  Even though she is a woman, she is still addressed as Mr. Mayor, as it is addressing the office of the Mayor – not her personally.

Kathleen Brothwell, Lincoln's new Mayor

The Mayor chose her Consort Mr. Jeff Boyall, her Sheriff, Mr. Robin Renshaw, and the Sheriff’s Lady Mrs. Judith Renshaw.

During the ceremony, a tradition unique to Lincoln took place as the new Mayor was officially ‘married’ to the city with a 16th century gold ring, which is worn once during her inauguration and again on the Mayor’s official birthday visit to schools in February.  The previous Mayor Jeff told the story of how he thought that he had lost the ring because it wasn’t on his thumb when he entered the school that he was visiting. What he didn’t know is that it had slipped down the sleeve of his robe. When he returned to the car he moved his arm down to open the door and the ring fell out onto the ground. Needless to say, he was a very happy man as he know that the history behind it made the ring irreplaceable.

Seated, left to right: Wendy, Sue, Lance, Hilton; standing: David, Sandra

A delicious  luncheon followed, and included a toast to the Queen, a few congratulatory speeches, and a visit to our table by the new Mayor – who gave me the centerpiece of flowers as a gift  to take home.

The Centerpiece

It was history in the making and I enjoyed every moment of it.

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