Winter in Greece: A typical day

Winter in Greece: A typical day

Rainy days and Mondays always make me…well…pretty damn happy actually. I know, I know. You only want to hear about hot sunny days, turquoise waters, fresh orange juice and palm fringed beaches. I have written about those things previously, but this blog is about real life, and in reality it rains in the winter. The sun takes time off, having worked overtime all summer, and winter in Greece is just like winter elsewhere. Okay, it’s quite mild. No, it’s not muddy. Yes we still go to the beach when it’s sunny. It’s nothing like winter by most people’s standards.

So, what do we do when it’s raining and grey and the sea look likes a bowl of vegetable stew? The answer is that we embrace it. For us, winter in Greece is about hibernating, slowing down, waking up naturally and drinking tea.

Nap time…

A life without routine…

We dreamed of a life where we could wake up without an alarm clock, eat when we were hungry and have no routine. In the UK we were so used to living our life by days, weeks, months, clocks, alarms and every other human invented measurement. After years of working and saving, we had finally achieved what we longed for.

We’ve created a lifestyle where we don’t have to work very much anymore. I work part time in the summer, and Mr SN works for a couple of months per year in the UK. This will change once Walnut cottage has been renovated and is making us an income, but regardless, we have an abundance of free time to do as we please. What would you do if you didn’t have to wake up for work anymore? After a week of lie-in’s, would you feel lazy? During the winter, we began to fall into a rhythm of rising late, drinking too much tea and accomplishing very little. Instead of feeling jubilant, we felt lazy and unmotivated. We’d been handed what we wanted, yet we were stood like freed prisoners, squinting out into the daylight, unsure of where to go.

One day, for a reason I should remember but can’t, we decided that enough was enough. We needed to establish a routine in our lives, because even though we’re not lazy by nature, we had slipped a little. We were lacking satisfaction, plus lie-in’s aren’t special when you can have them every morning.

Introducing a routine…

We’ve now introduced a kinda, sort-of routine during the winter in Greece, but it’s flexible, and we still have loads of tea breaks. If we’re ill or the weather is really bad, then we can change the plan. We still allow ourselves to wake up naturally, because alarms suck. Even a favourite tune loses it’s charm when it wakes you up at 6.30am and you can’t find the light switch.

I’ve implemented the rule that when I wake up, I get up. It’s a simple rule, but it’s the hardest bit. No-one is expecting me to be somewhere, no-one will reprimand me for being late for work. I’m the boss for 6 months of the year, and I need to toughen up on myself.

A typical winter day in Greece…

Once I’m up and dressed, I feel the need to reward myself for such an achievement with a filter coffee. I fill up my reusable coffee cup, slip on my wellies and coat and head out into the maze of olive trees that lay beyond our front gate. Dora and I meander through the dewy blanket of bright yellow flowers and listen to birdsong. When the sun is out, the mountains rise majestically against an azure blue sky. When it’s overcast, the clouds cling to the peaks like the froth on top of a good beer.

This is my time to reflect, to think, to plan the day ahead, and to acknowledge how grateful I am. Nothings beats beginning the day with a little humility. I’m insignificant against the backdrop of mount Psilorites and the olive groves, and I should never let my ego tell me otherwise.

My coffee cup is empty and Dora and I loop back towards home, passing by our favourite orange tree which is neglected. Fruit drops to the floor and I pick a couple to juice when we get home. Dora-dog bounces about with excitement, mistaking the oranges for balls.

Depending on the route, we pass Walnut cottage, our stone ruin. The mandarin tree in the garden is laden with tiny orange fruits the size of coins. As we near home, villa Theodora comes into view; all whitewashed and terracotta tiles. I’m ready for the day, Motivated, keen.

I’m ready for the day, Motivated, keen.

Mini tangerines…

The day will unfold with a mixture of DIY, cottage renovation, gardening, baking, blog writing, cat feeding and lunch eating. When the days work is done, the log burner is lit and dinner is cooked in heavy enamel saucepans.

Evenings are spent cuddled up around the log burner, reading books on keeping chickens, playing board games***, eating dinner, boiling carob syrup and watching films.

***Side note: I HATE games. I only play because I feel it’s the ‘done’ thing. People in films play board games (whilst wearing retro jumpers) when it’s raining and the fire is going. Maybe you’re not supposed to actually enjoy them?

The kettle whistles to alert us that it’s boiling again. The excess water is poured into hot water bottles for warming up the bed. The living area is cosy and gives us rosy cheeks but the adjoining rooms are chilly in contrast.

On the days when the weather is horrendous, we hunker down inside, bake bread, make pizza and enjoy the relief from chores. There’s no guilt, we’re allowed to indulge in doing nothing because we work hard the rest of the time.

Special Sundays…

We reward ourselves on Sundays by having a lie-in and an extra special breakfast. We might not take the whole day off, but it’s slower and more laid back. The little shop in the village is open on Sundays, so we take a walk, past the goats, past the war memorial and the house with the big orange tree in the garden. Nikos in the shop is friendly and puts us at ease. He complains that he is cold and we agree that we can’t wait for Spring either. We buy a packet of crisps as a treat and wander back past the big orange tree.

Life isn’t perfect…

Life isn’t perfect. I could leave out the details and make you believe that we never feel down or anxious or unhappy. But the truth is that rainy days can enhance the longing for home. I miss meeting up with friends, mum’s roast dinners and tea and cake at Nanny’s.

We long for crisp winter days that make your fingers and toes go numb. I miss spontaneous catch-ups and bumping into acquaintances in town. We want country pubs with open fires and pints of Sussex ale. These feelings are momentary and fleeting, but they are there none-the-less. They aren’t strong enough to want to go home, but I’m still hoping for a portal that will transport me straight into my parents kitchen as the tea bags are put in the tea pot.

Some days I feel worried that I will never become fluent in Greek and I feel anxious when I am lost for words or can’t be understood. I don’t want to stand out, but I do. I’m new and foreign and I have a long way to go before fluency. Winter in Greece as a foreigner can be tough, but we’re even tougher.

We lead a double life…

We lead a double life here in Crete. Our Winter and Summer existence are contrasted. I know that April is just around the corner and before long I will be running up and down flights of stairs serving boiled eggs and cups of coffee. For the meantime, there’s still another two months before the tourist season commences.

I better get going. The kettle is whistling, Elvis the outdoor cat has found his way in, and is in the cleaning cupboard amongst the cleaning cloths. Nancy the one eyed cat is playing with Dora-dog’s ball, Dora-dog is asleep on the sofa and the seed trays in the lounge are at risk of being used as litter trays.

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31 thoughts on “Winter in Greece: A typical day

    1. Hi Jan and Fred! Thank you…the wonder of technology – I can just imagine you there on the beach…has Fred had his Hakka noodles this evening????

  1. Hi Steph, I’m so glad I spotted you on My New Greek Life and decided to look up your cottage, which lead me here. At almost twice your age I’m still not brave enough to do what you’re doing, but it still inspires me! And thanks for pointing out the reality of ‘normal’ winter days (still want to do it!). Looking forward to the next instalment.

    1. Hi there! We’re so overwhelmed by the amount of lovely people that have messaged us – thank you:) If we can inspire a few people, then our job is done. I’m glad you’re enjoying the programme and the blog, lets see what episode three brings! All the best.

  2. This is the first blog post of yours I’ve come across, and found it very engaging and interesting to read – thank you. Thanks for painting a realistic picture of what life is like in the winter.

    1. Hello! Thank you for your message. It would be very easy to paint a perfect picture of living in Greece, but my aim is to always be true and genuine. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. All the best.

  3. I recently spent 2 weeks at the Captains House in Panormos and fell in love. I have dreamed of ways of making my way back to stay and you both are an inspiration that just maybe that will happen. I saw the picture of your dog swimming in the ocean that we swam in everyday and the pier we walked after dinner every night….. I feel homesick for a place that isn’t my home…. I look forward to following you in your journey and best wishes.

    1. Hi Tawnya! There’s something very magical about Panormos in the summer. Maybe you belong here too:) I’m glad you’re on the journey with us, thanks for reading the blog:)

  4. What a refreshing and amazing life you both have chosen ! I applaud your courage and honesty and love reading your posts and must admit that I envy your way of life. I look forward to reading about your adventures from cold and dreary Canada and only wish it were my life too!

    1. Hi there! Thanks for reading the blog…I still forget that other people are reading it too! I’ve never been to Canada but would love to go there one day. I’m glad you’re enjoying the journey with us, there are ups and downs, but we’re committed to following our hearts. Honestly, the best bit about it is meeting people (in the virtual world) like you. It feels like we’re creating a little community of people that all have something in common:) all the best.

  5. Steph I remember when you were a teenager and I was teaching you how to cook pasta dishes in my Kitchen, we talked about travelling. So glad for you both that you made it a reality and have now followed your dreams and aspirations to doing what makes you both happy. Will visit one day with your Mum. X

    1. Dawn! It’s so good to hear from you! It’s so spooky, because I was literally thinking of those cookery lessons you gave me today. How weird that I then found your message. I have such fond memories of you teaching me to cook like a real Italian. Those recipes have stood me in such good stead, and I go back to them time and time again. I now apply the same principles (good quality vegetables, olive oil, garlic, herbs and seasoning) to lots of different dishes too. Matt always says that I can make a meal out of anything, and it’s thanks to you:) Hope you are well, wish I’d had time to see you at Christmas. Next time I’m back we’ll have to have a cuppa:)

  6. It was very nice reading about your experiences in the winter here in Crete. We are a retired couple from Finland, who love Crete and are now spending the second winter in the small village Kampanos in Chania prefecture, near Lefka Ori. We spend the summers in Finland, because it is usually nice weather there and here it can be too hot, and because I want to meet my relatives and friends. Some of them use to come to visit us here, too, and now in May my sister shall come here with my 86 years old mother who has always loved Crete, too.
    So, we all are waiting for the spring, and it should be warmer next week already.
    Best regards, Maarit

    1. Hi Maarit. Thanks for your message. It sounds like you have a lovely balance of Finland and Crete. We’re considering spending even longer in the UK this winter, as we love our friends and family so much. How lovely to have your mother over to visit – we can’t wait for Spring either, there’s not too much longer to wait now. The almond tree in our garden is beginning to bloom and the rose has leaf buds coming. Thanks for your message, all the best.

  7. Good on you for having the courage to follow your dreams. I have also lived in Greece and enjoyed the simplicity of the lifestyle.

  8. Great blog….just found it this afternoon and read it all, (while ‘working from home!), and look forward to reading more. Made me look forward to next week’s visit to Crete for the Rethymno apokries even more

      1. Enjoyed it so much! Feels like grabbing on to a little bit of Crete and the Panormo/Perama area in particular during the times we’re not there. So looking forward the being back in Panormo next week. Keep up the great posts!

        1. Thanks so much! I absolutely love writing it – I sometimes forget that anybody else is reading it! I’m sure you can’t wait to get back to Crete. Safe travels.

  9. I’ve just recently started to read your blog and have seen you on the tv programme too. I’m really inspired by what you are doing as my husband and I would love to emigrate to Crete – we dream about it so often! We’re learning Greek and love our holidays there but at some point in the future, who knows?!
    Thanks for your honest, descriptive writing – I’m feeling that it may still be possible!

    1. Hiya, thanks for your message:) My aim is to inspire people and help them along the way. It can be so scary and daunting to make a big decision. Sometimes it’s far easier to just keep things the way they are and to talk ourselves out of it. It sounds as if you, like us, have already fallen in love with Crete – we’d definitely say ‘go for it’ if you’re considering moving over:)

  10. Hi I’ve signed up to your newsletter and I’m following your brilliant blog. Your living my dream. I can eventually retire this year at the grand old age of 66. I am hoping to rent a place in Greece for the next year once I’ve stopped work.still young at heart and loving the Greek way of life I feel I should give it a go. You only live once.

    1. Hello! Thanks for reading the blog and joining us on the adventure. Congratulations on retiring soon, I bet you can’t wait.

      How exciting to be planning a stint in Greece. Make sure you keep in touch and let us know how it’s all going:)

      1. Thank you I am looking forward to retirement and spending some quality time in my beloved Greece! I did take a year out some 20 years ago from my job to be a holiday Rep for Thomson hols it was a year to remember. Plus I made memories to treasure working in Corfu. Ignore the negative comments they’re only jealous. I’ll keep in touch for sure. Xx

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