Sunday, 2 October 2016

MY BIG FAT GREEK HOLIDAY (Part I): MANOULAS, AGIOS IOANNIS



The worst way to get over a holiday is to drag yourself back to reality by sorting through photos while nursing your post-holiday blues. It's self-inflicted torture. If you've been in relationships, you know what I mean. 


Mykonos, like Santorini, is heavily photographed. On a holiday destination I do my best not to be an archetypal tourist who puts myself in each photo of tourist traps to prove to all my social media friends that I've been there. Worse, that I've been there, too. When a location is in danger of becoming photographically stale, I aim for an abstract perspective when appreciating the beauty of a place that I'm completely unfamiliar with. 


In Mykonos, I was drawn to contrasts between blood reds, greens, blue paon, Myconian blues, and whites set against clear and bright cloudless skies which reflect its overcast shadows onto the sea at times. The Cycladic town is distinctly rough around the edges, built with imperfect lines and silhouettes, whitewashed to government-mandated colours, but certainly not without a natural beauty to show off.


It's side street heaven. Where the roads in the centre of town are the width of a double bed, motorists and pedestrians share the right of way.  Balconies spill over streets, in clear violation of planning boundaries in big cities, but negligible for spatial reasons and are actually architecturally charming. 


The trip begins in Agios Ioannis where Manoulas Beach Hotel is located. The latter has been immortalised in the award-winning 1989 British romcom film Shirley Valentine played by Pauline Collins opposite Tom Conti. Ms Collins' character was a Liverpudlian middle-aged (I was horrified to know that middle-aged back in the late 80s was described as someone in her mid-40s) housewife who felt stuck in a world of domesticity. She jumped at the chance of holidaying in the Greek islands when her friend invited her. Married women going away with their girlfriends for a break, leaving the husband and (grown-up) children, was unheard of during those days. But her conversations with the walls had to stop. At least for a while, she thought. She went off to Mykonos, stayed in Manoulas, met a taverna owner, and decided to stay to have conversations with the sun and the sand instead of the walls in her house. 


I urge you to see the film. I haven't met a British woman who has not enjoyed the movie. One of the hilarious lines I laughed at (while watching it on my iPad on the tube) was when Shirley's neighbour said she had turned vegan. Shirley incredulously asked, "but I thought you're Anglican?" Or it was something along that line. But I tell you what, there are still lots of women who can relate to the film.



Manoulas Beach Hotel in broad Greek daylight



A screenshot from the film where Shirley Valentine wanders around the island, with Manoulas Beach Hotel in the background




And myself recreating the same walk in the same area, but at night, 27 years later




First sunset at Agios Ioannis beach



























































I waited for two days to capture a plain blue cloudless sky that sets off the whites




An overcast day 












Nearby Ornos beach at night



A self-portrait. Tried my new tripod, timer, and tinkered more with manual settings 



No, Mykonos is not solely for partying. It can also be a place to sit down in a beachside taverna, listen to the waves rush to the shore, and traditional Greek music (somehow felt like Eurovision festival for a week) with the sound of crickets between pauses. If that's not relaxing enough for you, I don't think we should go on holiday together :)


We'll be on our way to Mykonos Town next time.


See you there.

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