Archive for the ‘Athens’ Category

Reclaim the Streets

May 16, 2020

We hear the sound of birdsong, the streets are traffic free, the cities are pollution free.

There can be no return to normal as normal was not normal.

We have been jolted into another now. We must maintain our city centres car and pollution free.

The first businesses to reopen coffee shops, tables outside, social distancing maintained,  dwell time relatively short.

To achieve this, coffee shops need to be able to spread out into the streets, out into the squares, the norm in Athens, indeed the norm across Europe, when one coffee shop in Lincoln requested this they received an emphatic no from Lincolnshire County Council, not even the courtesy of an explanation.

Unfortunately we will not agree to you increasing the number of tables and chairs you use or the size of the area that you have at the current time (your enclosure needs to still be only outside the frontage of your premises).

Kick starting the local economy, improving the ambience, worthless council jobsworths don’t give a damn.

Our High Streets were dying before the covid-19 pandemic. The loss of Big Business, corporate chains, from the High Street is no great loss, it was destroying the High Street. If we are to recover it will be through small local independent businesses.  That is why we must allow indie coffee shops, and only indie coffee shops not chains, next restaurants, to expand into the streets. Not pubs and bars as we do not want drunks on the streets.

Local businesses spreading into public space helps everyone, safeguarding staff and clientele through social distancing, improves the ambience of the locality, especially if No Smoking, and for many local businesses it will mean life or death, the difference whether they survive or not.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has recognised people are going to be reluctant to use public transport  therefore we have to encourage walking and cycling if we do not wish traffic levels to rise. But if wishes to improve cycling and walking, must also make our city centres more attractive by encouraging local councils to facilitate indie coffee shops and restaurants to spread out into our streets.

Deliveries to the pedestrianised areas,  park on the periphery and deliver by handcart or trolley.

Sheffield, an unusual city in that prior to the covid-19 pandemic a city on the up, a marked contrast to most decaying cities. And why? Independent businesses everywhere.

BBC Radio 4 The Food Programme recently featured Sheffield, the focus on how indie food businesses were bringing life back to Sheffield. With the exception of Marmadukes I would not agree with their choice of examples, but the gist yes. I could list several examples, South Street Kitchen, Marmadukes, Steam YardSheffield Cheese Masters, Bullion bean to bar craft chocolate, ShuJu Taiwanese pop-up kitchen at Union St.

Mention also needs to be made of Now Then, an indie magazine that features local culture and indie businesses, interesting articles and art, well worth seeking out.

Through reclaiming the streets, we are operating at the interface between business, environment and society, a component part of Doughnut Economics, where the local economy is designed to be regenerative and distributive, with people and the environment at its heart.  We kick cars out of our town centres, we plant trees, we improve the ambience, we create a space where local businesses and communities can thrive, breathe clean air, or simply relax with a  good coffee, read a book, sit and watch the world go by.

One of my favourite places to sit and relax, Little Tree, a bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop, not far from The Acropolis.

In Exarchia, an anarchist district of Athens, they set up road blocks, boxes with plants,  created traffic free zones. The city authorities also act, they are extending the pedestrianised areas around The Acropolis.

No international travel anytime soon

April 17, 2020

I won’t be booking a summer holiday at this point. Let’s put it that way. — Grant Shapps Transport Sec

Airlines trashed the planet then spread covid-19 around the world.

It cannot be return to normal as normal was not normal.

We have peace and quiet, can hear birdsong, low levels of pollution, traffic-free streets.

Greece which is in lockdown, has explicitly barred tourists from UK.

UK is in lockdown for a further three weeks.

UK is headed to be worst effected country in Europe thanks to failure to act sooner.

FCO advice, no foreign travel indefinite.

Insurance companies have pulled travel insurance, those that still offer, have excluded codid-19 cover and I daresay hiked the price.

When people have experienced lockdown, social distancing, they are going to think twice to pass through a busy airport, sit on a crowded plane.

A Qantas flight to Brisbane on Monday in middle of covi-19 pandemic, passengers packed in like sardines, illustrates why no one will be flying anytime soon.

EasyJet grounded indefinitely, forecast to run out of money by August, is it their idea of a joke, we will leave the middle seat in a row empty?

If assume Airbus A320, would have to have one person on a row of three seats, no one in the row in front or behind, no one in the row aisle opposite. If assume 100 euros flight Gatwick to Larnaca, would have to charge 900 euros. And this is not even 2 metres separation, nor does it take account of breathing in the same air for over four hours.

In China, one passenger on a bus infected nine fellow passengers.

On landing, aircraft would have to be thoroughly cleaned, not a quick turnaround and tidy by the crew.

At airport, temperature screening, facilities to isolate and quarantine.

Cabin crew on an American airline and BA have tested positive for covid-19. Two Border Force offices at Heathrow have died. Fifteen employees of Transport for London have died.

What is sickening, easyJet are still promoting international travel. An e-mail today entitled Imagine yourself in the Canary Islands.

Tax dodging conman Richard Branson who is demanding a taxpayer funded £500 million bailout is flying near empty planes across the Atlantic.

But if not fly, a cruse ship?

Cruise ships are floating environmental disasters, floating plague ships, flights to and from start and end of a cruise.

Cruise ships are floating all-inclusive hotels, a disaster where ever they dock.

Venice is being destroyed by cruse ships.

Athens when a cruise ship docks, streets are clogged by passengers, streets clogged and polluted by tour buses, and no money flows into the local economy.

Those who think we are nearing the end, we are not, we are at the beginning of coronavirus pandemic.

The Black Death ravaged Europe for two hundred years. Venice lost a third of its population and never recovered.

We have no vaccine, there may be no vaccine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, much to the chagrin of the tourist industry, has warned there will be no summer holiday this year, do not book a summer holiday.

AirBnB bookings fall off a cliff

April 9, 2020

With cities in lockdown, airports closed, borders closed, airlines grounded, bookings dried up, AirBnB hosts are bleating at having to refund bookings.

Sorry, we should not feel.

AirBnB is an unregulated sector, it is destroying cities, people being driven out of cities as apartments are let on AirBnB.

AirBnB is not the myth they would like us to believe, someone letting out a room occasionally, or maybe their home when they go away. It is apartments being bought, often whole apartment blocks, tenants evicted, or forced out by high rents. These are the people complaining, who are losing money, who are now trying to offload their properties onto the market.

AirBnB hosts would be operating illegally (nothing new there). Cyprus is in lockdown, hotels not allowed to open. Athens in lockdown, need a permit to go out, which has to be applied for.

EasyJet and other airlines grounded.

Airlines have to refund within seven days, tour companies within fourteen days. Why do AirBnB think they are the exception? Once again shows this sector must be regulated.

AirBnB greed, greedy hosts.

If AirBnB fails, excellent news. It is destroying cities with unregulated lets, driving tenants out of city centres.

With the country in lockdown, police and politicians and NHS staff are pleading with people to stay home, not visit the countryside, coastal resorts, police roadblocks in place, AirBnB is encouraging flouting of the lockdown by offering lets in the very places encouraged not to visit.

Hywel Williams a North Wales MP has called on AirBnB to “identify and delete” any home owners found advertising properties on their site as “Covid-19 retreats”.

Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams claims the online platform was guilty of “inexplicable and reckless inaction” after some holiday homes were offered up as safe bolt holes from the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the UK.

The Arfon MP says a number of properties across Snowdonia are still listed on AirBnB as available to rent ahead of the Easter weekend – and almost two weeks after the Government introduced laws to put the UK into lockdown in a bid to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

There were also reports of homes being let to tourists via AirBnB in Denbighshire and Anglesey.

There should be no bailout of AirBnB properties. Any rescue package would be to make the properties available to homeless, then let as social housing.

AirBnB is a zombie company kept alive on unsustainable debt. It has followed the route of too many zombie companies, hype to artificially inflate the value, vulture capitalists pour in money to inflate still further, then dump on the stock market for unsuspecting mugs to buy shares before the company is found to be worthless. AirBnB has been found out before it could dump on the stock market.

Contrast with FairBnB, which not only works with the local community, supports projects in the local community.

La Pila de Guatemala

December 17, 2019

La Pila a honey process coffee from Guatemala roasted by The Underdog.

Try different baristas, different coffee shops.

Stokes at The Lawn, as always I let Mike choose brewing method, I chose cappuccino and V60, Mike decided on French press.

My reason for trying a cappuccino, had been roasted to suit espresso,

At first I thought cafetiere, but as cooled easily the V60. The cappuccino not so good.

Beautiful colour the V60. Taste of fruits and wine.

All agreed, Nick, Mike and myself, excellent coffee.

Almost a month on, retry La Pila at Stokes at The Lawn. Usually I let Mike choose, today, as roasted for espresso, I chose, cappuccino and V60. Mike chose a flat white.

The classic cappuccino, rarely achieved, smooth and creamy. Not so, but nevertheless interesting fruity notes making the cappuccino an interesting drink. I was very much reminded of cappuccino at Makushi with their own light roast.

The V60 a disappointment, OK hot but not good as it cooled.

Mike said his flat white excellent.

Next, a few days later, The Specialty Coffee Shop. Again I chose, a cappuccino.

Not the classic smooth creamy, nevertheless interesting with fruity notes.

What was now left of the bag of coffee beans I gave as a gift to Michelangelo.

Special thanks to Mike barista at Stokes at The Lawn and Mohammad barista at The Speciality Coffee Shop.

Rodolfo and Reina are the proud owners of the La Pila farm. Rodolfo has basically been in coffee for his whole life. When he was young, he used to work on farms as a coffee picker to earn money. And when he was 25 years old, he inherited a plot of land from his father, so that he could start his own farm business.

Little by little he managed to make steps ahead, increase the volume of his coffee, and invest in another plot of land. He names his farm ‘La Pila’, which is a tank for water in this context, as he found a small water source on his farm. He made a small cement tank and decided to use this as a reference for his farm. Water is very scarce and precious in this region.

Rodolfo is very eager to improve the practices on his farm, to keep learning and innovating. He’d like to have a soil analysis done at his farm, so to optimize the root and foliar systems of his plants with adequate nutrition. He also plans to keep investing in the processing area. He came up with a genius system to depulp the coffee with a bicycle! Since 2017 we are working with him on honey and natural processing and are thrilled by the results.

La Pila single origin honey process, location Santa Ana la Montaña, Fraijanes, farmer Rodolfo Garcia, var yellow catuai, altitude 1750m, taste notes molasses, maple syrup, blackcurrant, roasted at The Underdog.

TOMS

December 4, 2019

Passing through Mitropoleos Square I pop in TOMS overlooking the square.

TOMS a weird set up, a coffee shop that is sells shoes and glasses and claims to provide a week’s supply of water to third world need for each cup of coffee sold.

I am always wary of these claims. Far better to work with farmers, improve quality, fetch a higher price for the coffee beans.

The coffee shop, their flag ship store (not that I have encountered any others), was serving coffee in paper takeaway cups, thus damaging the environment of the very people they claim to be trying to help. Also on sale e-coffee cups.

E-coffee cups have recently been embroiled in scandal. Toxins released from the cups into hot liquids, thus best avoided.

A lovely black cat had bagged a seat. At first does not appear to be friendly from the warning meow, but was friendly. Lost in translation.

I have a brief conversation with a man sat outside, even though now I am running late. He says ask next time I pass by, UK still in EU. He makes the point EU makes impossible for countries to leave a one way system, Hotel California, can check out but cannot leave.

He tells me I am paying too much heed to Yanis Varoufakis. Interesting as until that point, neither of us had mentioned Yanis Varoufakis by name, though we were very much discussing his ideas.

Mitropoleos Square

December 4, 2019

I have often passed through Mitropoleos Square in the evening, if time look in the large church, this the first time in daylight.

I learn from a man sat outside TOMS where I stop and have a coffee the name of the square.

I also learn that the large church is a cathedral, and the small old church outside a very old church, built on a holy site using the stones from previous civilisations.

Mokka coffee shop

December 4, 2019

Having looked in their retail shop next door, which is also where the coffee is roasted, it is to Mokka for a coffee.

I watch Greek coffee brewed on a hot bed of sand.

Excellent cappuccino.

It is a pity the coffee shop does not at least have the single origin coffee on sale.

The retail shop closes early at 3-30 in the afternoon. I asked why so early? No demand later.

Located on a busy main road outside Athens Central Market in Omonia.

Very professional staff who take a pride in their coffee.

How many coffee shops visit where grinders dismantled and cleaned every two days, coffee vacuumed out every night, coffee beans put to bed and sealed every night.

Mokka fourth generation founded in the mid-1920s.

Mokka retail shop

December 4, 2019

Usually I am lucky to find Mokka coffee shop open.

As I am earlier than usual and find their retail shop is open, I first look in Mokka shop, it closes at 1530 and this is the only visit I find open.

Massive industrial grinders for their coffee fed from a large roasting machine above, also single origin on a smaller roaster though still large compared to most roasteries in England.

When I asked abut the single origin coffee, I found the staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful.

I chose a Costa Rican single origin coffee.

Then to Mokka coffee shop.

Mokka fourth generation founded in the mid-1920s.

Tricksters

December 4, 2019

Three boxes, one hides an object, move around very fast, punter has to bet where it is hiding.

It does not have to be three boxes, it could be upturned cups.

Trickster I had seen the previous weekend. On the Saturday a different trickster, there on the Sunday, when two tricksters with same trick.

What I noticed on the Sunday, the same people gathered around who I had seen on the Saturday, obviously part of the scam. One fat guy happily bets then loses three fifty euro notes, another when trickster not looking, points to where the hidden object.

As a child I used to see this trick being played in Petticoat Lane.

I encountered these tricksters as I was walking between Thiso and Monastiraki Metro stations alongside the track overlooking the Ancient Agora.

I am blocked when I try to take photos.

Athens first Wednesday in November

December 4, 2019

My last day in Athens, a lovely sunny day, clear blue sky, 24 C.

Shocked to see tea pigs rubbish tea promoted. Bad enough finding this rubbish tea in England without seeing it spread to Athens.

I had intended from Acropoli walk around The Acropolis, Thisio, Monastiraki to Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies, followed by Mokka continue to Plaka.

But first, a detour to Little Tree to pick up a copy of Walking in Athens, a book I had spotted and flipped through several days previous.

En route I note the abandoned e-scooters, trip over one, and nearly go flying.

Schoolkids find one e-scooter that is not locked. They lock when moved. I say take it. They say no, do not wish to steal it. I should have explained borrow for the day, then leave, but park not to cause a nuisance, when no longer in use.

En route look at the derelict mansion featured in Walking in Athens.

Little Tree two copies of Walking in Athens, now only one.

I pass by The Underdog, pop in, but no time to stop.

I do though stop at the little snack bar outside Thisio Metro Station next to Coffee Island. The previous day, spinach pie without the cheese, today cheese pie. A pity as the spinach pie was excellent the cheese pie not so good.

Tricksters I had seen the previous weekend. On the Saturday a different trickster, there on the Sunday, when two tricksters with same trick.

What I noticed on the Sunday, the same people gathered around who I had seen on the Saturday, obviously part of the scam. One fat guy happily bets then loses three fifty euro notes, another when trickster not looking, points to where the hidden object.

Three boxes, one hides an object, move around very fast, punter has to bet where it is hiding.

As a child I used to see this trick being played in Petticoat Lane.

I am blocked when I try to take photos.

A change of plan, usually I visit Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies first then Mokka as one closes one hour later than the other. It also matches my direction of travel. Today the other way around, Mokka first, I am early and it matches my direction of travel.

I head straight up a rather unpleasant busy road from Monastiraki, pass by Dope. But why stop at Dope when Mokka only a few minutes walk away further up the road with superior coffee?

I look in the fish section of Central Market but do not venture in.

As I am earlier than usual and find their retail shop is open, I first look in Mokka shop, it closes at 1530 and this is the only visit I find open. Massive industrial grinders for their coffee, also single origin on a smaller roaster though still large compared to most roasteries in England.

I choose a Costa Rican single origin coffee.

Then to Mokka coffee shop. I watch Greek coffee brewed on a hot bed of sand.

Excellent cappuccino.

It is a pity the coffee shop does not at least have the single origin coffee on sale.

Too late for Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies and I get lost trying to find. OK I know where I am but no idea where to head.

I head to Just Made 33 and find open. Owner not there, I do not stop.

Then pass through Mitropoleos Square.

I often pass through in the evening, first time in daylight.

I pop in TOMS, a coffee shop that is a weird set up, sells shoes and glasses and claims to provide a week’s supply of water to third world need for each cup of coffee sold.

I am always wary of these claims. Far far better work with farmers, improve quality, fetch a higher price for the coffee beans.

The coffee shop, their flag ship store (not that I have encountered any others), was serving coffee in paper takeaway cups, thus damaging the environment of the very people they claim to be trying to help.

Also on sale e-coffee cups.

E-coffee cups have recently been embroiled in scandal. Toxins released from the cups into hot liquids, thus best avoided.

A lovely black cat had bagged a seat. At first does not appear to be friendly from the warning meow, but was friendly. Lost in translation.

I have a brief conversation with a man sat outside, even though now I am running late. He says ask next time I pass by, UK still in EU. He makes the point EU makes impossible for countries to leave a one way system. Hotel California. can check out but cannot leave.

He tells me I am paying to much heed to Yanis Varoufakis. Interesting as until that point, neither of us had mentioned Yanis Varoufakis by name, though we were very much discussing his ideas.

I walk pass Hadrian’s Arch and a lovey stone table in the courtyard of an apartment.

It is then head to Metro, head to airport.