a note

Here's where to look if you want to know what I'm up to. You'll find photographs, sketches, anecdotes, ideas and updates, including - hopefully - book publishing news. I can't promise to post regularly while I'm travelling - and I can't promise to be witty or clever, but I will promise to be honest. No fake news here.

This post is late coming as I’m now in Montenegro, but once I left Aegina I was too busy sightseeing, travelling, writing for NaNoWrimo and editing Novel#1 (editing is taking longer – and proving trickier than I imagined) to find time to blog. A five hour train journey from Athens to Kalambaka helped me to get some words down and I did contemplate writing on the bus trip from Kalambaka to Corfu but that thought was almost immediately dispelled by the nauseating road. I am not normally one to get motion sick but bus trips through winding, hilly roads make me seriously queasy (it did not help that the movie they’d chosen to show on the bus featured gory torture scenes!)

What a good way to start this post, but I suppose it goes to show travel isn’t all sunshine and roses - sometimes it’s nauseating bus trips, accidentally ordering weird food, blisters and wearing the same clothes for days on end. And now that I’ve rambled on, I’ll go back to the beginning - after we left Aegina - which is where I left you in my last blog post.

We arrived in Athens off the ferry and the business of Athens was in stark contrast to the laidback lifestyle on the island. It was all hustle and bustle and people and noise. We had to find our way to the train station, then managed to buy tickets and got on a train we assumed was going in the right direction. As we waited for the train to leave the station more and more people crammed on - it was only mid-afternoon but that train felt more crammed than either Melbourne or London in peak hour…

We managed to disembark the train at the station we wanted and walked a kilometre or so to our hotel. This was my first longish walk carrying my backpack - which weighs almost half as much as I do! I don’t want to ditch anything either because most of the weight comes from my notebooks and art supplies … I will just have to get stronger, and in the meantime get Gordon (my partner) to help me lift it on to my back so I don't end up like an upside down turtle.

We found our hotel. Our room had a fancy chandelier that there was no switch for and smelled of stale cigarette smoke (high up on my list of least favourite smells – but people can smoke anywhere they like so I’ve had to put up with it). We dumped our bags and set off on foot to explore the city, which also smelt - like a mixture of blocked drains, urine, smoke and exhaust fumes. Am I selling Athens?? I actually really enjoyed it, despite its odour.

Buildings and streets in Athens. There are so many grand old buildings that are abandoned and graffitied.

A Norwegian I met on the ferry across (he could not believe we were heading north for the winter; he was wintering in Greece) said that half of Greece’s population lives in Athens. It is sprawling. A contrast of old, preserved historic sites and crumbling, graffitied once-grand buildings. We had limited time in Athens but we went to the Acropolis (which the Norwegian said we shouldn’t miss, although he emphatically warned us against Bulgarian and Albanian pickpockets, which, thankfully we saw none of – and all the Albanians we met in Albania were very nice!).

View of Athens from the Acropolis.

Views of the Acropolis (including the Parthenon, centre).

After a brief two nights in Athens we headed to Kalambaka ... which you can read about in my next post.

Tomorrow we’re packing up and saying goodbye to our island home. We’ll be on the move for the next week – heading to Athens, then catching a train to visit Meteora, several buses to Corfu, and a ferry to Albania – so I’m not sure when my next post will be…or where I’ll be.

I am so grateful for the month we’ve had on the island. I feel like I’ve finally recuperated from the stress of my PhD – and it has been so inspiring. When we haven’t been exploring I’ve been writing, writing, writing.

I know I’ve said this before but during our time here I finished writing the novel I’d been working on for the last 12 months. A big achievement – and I felt good about the work – like it was the best thing I’d written so I decided to start querying literary agents about representation…then realised my novel is rather, no VERY, long for the genre. As a consequence, and to give my novel the best chance of succeeding I’ve had to be ruthless. I’ve tightened and rewritten scenes – and managed to cut 4,000 words, which felt like it was a lot harder to do than writing 4,000 words! I’ve still got several chapters to edit and hope to cut another 4,000 words by the time I finish.

I’ve also started writing novel number 2 as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and as of day 5 I’m on track to write 50,000 words by the end of November (averaging 1,667 words per day). Happy days if I do! Though I’d never share the draft I produce during NaNoWriMo with anyone. It’s too messy! There'll be serious editing and redrafting to do in the following months…

Now for the sights. Two days ago we set off on our biggest walk to date, which was to visit the Cathedral and Monastery of Saint Nektarios and the ruins of the medieval village of Paleachora. Paleachora was the capital of the island between the 9th and 19th centuries AD. All that’s left of the village are its churches (33! We visited 16) built high on the hillside – the village had magnificent views! The churches are in varying states of repair as you’ll see from my photos. They were fascinating – and if you’re interested in reading about them and the history of the site I recommend reading this.

After stopping for a rest at a lovely leafy restaurant where we ordered “spicy cheese salad” which turned out to be a feta dip with bread and “pie of the day” which was more like a spinach and feta pastry (I’m enjoying the disparity of what we think we’re ordering to what we're served) we decided to follow the coast and take a different route home. It was a great way to see more of the island but after so many hills and so many kilometres my feet began to throb and the sun began to set. Thank goodness for twilight, because my phone was running out of battery and we had no torch. We arrived home approximately 7 hours later, after 20km and 128 flights climbed (according to my phone). Not a bad effort.

Twilight and we were still walking!

This is a super short post to let you all know I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year. That's National Novel Writing Month FYI. During November I'll be trying to write the first 50,000 words of my second novel (also an upper middle grade fantasy and book 2 in a series – you can read more about Book 1 here). If you are interested in holding me accountable I'll be posting my progress on Twitter.

Today I have managed 2,100 words and rewarded myself with a swim, a custard tart (the bakery here is amazing! It's lucky that I have to walk up a really big hill every time I visit so I don't feel so guilty about all the sweets!). Am feeling good about the story so I might go back for a few more words while we're still staying in one place.

Reward swim!