Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cavos Bay Hotel

Ikarian Paradise?  Not quite

by Nancy Snipper

 I’m sitting on the stunning white terrace of Cavos Bay Hotel on the island of Ikaria, spellbound by the breathtaking view before me. Entrancing as Circe herself, the hypnotic turquoise Aegean waters lovingly lap against the rocks; they are beckoning me into the great beyond where sea and sky merge in a mesmerizing palate of endless beauty.  It was my first evening at the hotel. The sunset was exquisite, as was the sunrise which I witnessed… for the wrong reason (more about that later).  
This natural beauty continues on within Cavos Bay located in Armenistis village where restaurants seem to spill into the sea. A splendid array of fantastic sandy beaches - Livadi, Messakti and Nas stretch along the island’s northern side - all within the vicinity of Armenistis. 
Various ascending  hiking paths cut into Ikaria’s spectacular Atheras  mountain chain (over 1,500 meters high) where pine forests, lunar landscapes of incredible formations and the island’s unique 17th-century, primitive slate houses  appear, built into covert mountain sides to escape pirate attacks. From Cavos Bay, the port of entry for one such hike is only ten minutes away. The hotel’s front desk can direct you or you can buy a map at the village supermarket. 
But many vacationers just to want stay put, relax on the balcony off their rooms or dive into the swimming pool which overlooks the sea.   I was impressed by the gleaming white lobby spacious enough to sail a boat. The complex offers 65 rooms. 
I had booked four days as a journalist – compliments of the hotel – the son of the owner did not ask to see my journalist credentials – though I offered; nor was I asked to show my passport. That often happens in Greece. 
But all that changed the next morning.  Although my room was functionally comfy and the balcony vista inspiring,  I woke up at about 5:30 itching like crazy.  Mosquito bites they were not. I spied a suspicious looking tiny black bug moving on my bed sheet and there were lots of tiny ants on the floor. 
I saw that beautiful sunset that Despina, the owner, had mentioned, but it wasn’t that I wanted to talk to her about.  I informed her that I needed to change my room, showing her my bites.    She was very kind and supported my request to wash my clothes for which I would pay (I feared the critters may have retreated into them, as they were on the other twin bed, but bagged. Despina assured me she would wash them herself, but she declined entering my room to see what was going on. 
I went out for three hours, but upon my return my bag of clothes were still sitting in the hotel office.
I was then asked by the front desk receptionist in charge of rooms to produce my passport and my journalist credentials. I was told by the daughter that they were not acceptable as there was no ‘agency‘ listed. The fact she was given four freelance journalist publication press credentials for which  I write one upon which was clearly written “Media Canada”  did nothing to change her mood or mind.  Finally,  I pulled out my contract  from a rather important editor in Canada.  They weren’t interested. 
What really confounded me was the previous evening  I had of my own volition volunteered to show much of my writing to Despina  who had told me that the hotel was half full.
Now suddenly I was told my room was needed and that I could take another room. Oh Joy!  But the room proved to be dismally hot and the view was non-existent. 
I elected to stay in the buggy room; I would brave it for one more night. I saw Despina again, but she totally ignored me.  She sat at the bar with two guests – her back turned to me.
I am writing this not to vet, but to express my deep disappointment - not so much over the room, but the turn-coat uncaring attitude of Cavos Bay’s owners ,  save for the son who was obviously  trusting and  witty.  I never saw him again though. 
 As for the others, their appalling reaction did not match the hotel’s awesome setting nor the care and humanity I have always experienced - for which Greeks are renown - during the forty years I have been writing about this country. 

Footnote:  I am not saying this hotel has a bug issue;  I can only speak about the room I stayed in. 
But they certainly have an attitude problem.  
Also posted on SMR Cultureplus. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writer puts your complaints to good use

                                                           Book review  by Nancy Snipper    

We all do it: complain. Some of the things we complain about are out of our control. We complain about the weather, getting older, parking tickets, landlords, potholes and traffic. We even complain about our in-laws, a difficult co-worker, and yes, our spouses. Most of us vet; we just don’t stop and think about turning our complaints into a strategy whose outcome will produce a positive result.  Amy Fish, a complaint expert, has recently written an 86-page book, titled, “The Art of Complaining Effectively.” This how-to-book enables us to move our complaints out of the negative zone - making them work in our favour for optimum results. The books are now being snapped off the shelves.  
“Essentially, the book offers five key tips – all starting with the letter “C” for complaining. To sweeten the task, there’s a cookie recipe at the end of the book,” laughs Fish.  It’s full of humour, with many funny personal anecdotes wherein Fish herself even finds it hard to practice what she preaches. She certainly can laugh at herself, and you realize this when your read the book. But Fish, takes complaining to heart. 
First off, she tells us to keep calm by letting a little time pass before raising your complaint. “If you call in and you feel upset, you’re less likely to get the problem resolved.  Secondly, you need to be concise: be clear in your head what exactly you’re complaining about. Cross out the ones that aren’t that important. Next, you need to choose the desired result you want – what you are aiming for before you engage in the complaint.”   
Here Fish revealed that so many people just get angry, but don’t give ideas as to how to make things right.   
“Make a suggestion as to how to fix the specific problem. For example, if you get a bad haircut, let them know politely, and let them know what it will take to make you happy. For example, you can ask for a refund, a free product or a gift certificate.”   
Fish’s complaint book came about from both her personal and professional life experiences. She’s been an ombudsman for several Health Care Centres, including Maimonides, Jewish Elder Care and Miriam Home.  
She did this for five years, and is presently Director of Operations and Quality for Maimonides and Jewish Elder Care.  
Needless to say, Fish has met her fair share of complaints and very often they are expressed during her public speaking engagements.  
“Many people will ask me for advice about the personal problems they are having at work or with a family member or friend.  She began to see that another book was needed to address these problems that involve personal contexts. So, she’s working on writing another book. It offers 29 tips that have a trial and error modus operandi application. In fact, the book deals with how to effectively complain to people who are rather “difficult”. We all know about those types. This second complaint book will be out next spring. 
Fish believes in the adage: try, try, try again: but advises us to “Use different strategies if the first or second one doesn’t work”.  
She has a Masters Degree in Health Administration from the University of Toronto, and did her undergraduate degree in psychology at Brandeis University in Boston
She’s also worked at the American Academy of Neurology, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He she specialized in quality improvement which centres on mistake prevention. 
Married with three kids aged 14, 12 and 8, Fish has ample opportunities to test old and new strategies. “Every day I discover new ways to keep my kids on their game.”   
If you read Amy’s weekly highly humorous blog, you’ll discover just how much she has to fend off complaints about herself. After all, it’s not a prefect world, and Fish is the first to own up to her imperfections.   
“The Art of Complaining Effectively” is available at Bibliophile, 5519 Queen Mary Rd.; Espace Tricot, 6050 Monkland Ave.; the Mortimer Snodgrass gift store, 56 Notre Dame St. W.; the gift shops of the Jewish Eldercare Centre, 5725 Victoria Ave .and the Maimonides Geriatric Centre, 5795 Caldwell Ave. 


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Montrealer in San Miguel

Magic versus misery

By Nancy Snipper

You may think it absurd to compare Montreal with San Miguel. After all, one is a huge North American metropolis; the other a tight-knit colonial Mexican town. You may assume that Montreal’s international festivals, remarkable restaurants, stadiums, ski resorts and opera houses are the prime ingredients for happy habitation. You might also imagine that because people from all over the world are adding further culture to la belle-ville - life in the city is fun and stimulating. The truth is no amount of sleek buildings, wide sidewalks, hockey games, hip hoppers, newcomers, notables  and  fashionistas  can make up for the sprit of warmth and acceptability that San Miguel offers.  A city must embrace an ethos and ambiance that cherishes personal freedoms and values difference.  So lucky are those who wake up and say: “I’m so glad I live in San Miguel!”  Here, North Americans and Mexicans with their two languages co-exist in harmony. Each enjoys the difference - in language, customs and way of life; it makes life more fun.  Most importantly, one culture does not attempt to repress the other.  That is what I most cherish about San Miguel.  
When I walk on the streets here, I can smile at the kids, even give them a little hug, and of course say hello in Spanish to strangers I pass on the sidewalks – if they don´t beat me to it.  It`s really sweet. Do that in Montreal, and you are given a menacing look. You may even be perceived as a weirdo. No problema in San Miguel; Here all eccentrics, nerds, wannabes, nobodies, some-bodies and VIPS are accepted – even welcomed with open arms, and age  knows no boundaries here.   
As for Montreal`s old folks, they don’t seem to be anywhere outside. They`re shut away in senior “care” homes where their only company is the one nurse tending to 45 other poor souls. Such is the norm in Montreal. Here in San Miguel, all family members go out together to partake in the evening activities.  There is laughter, music and endless people watching. 
I fear getting old in Montreal. What happens if I become senile, and end up blurting out something in English instead of French?  Will I be fined? Thanks to Bill 101, the French language police of the province happily spend their days walking the streets of Montréal in disguise checking to make sure that no English signs appear anywhere outside the establishment. If you must use English for your business, it can only appear inside the building and in much smaller letters than the French. Unlucky are those who have vision problems. Once again, no consideration is given to the elderly when it comes to reading English outside the home.  Mark my words: you will be fined a handsome sum!  
Such was the case for a famous Italian restaurant on St-Laurent Street, a hotspot for movie stars and local celebrities. The menu had the word ‘pasta’ in it, and for that the owner was handed a humongous fine.       
Word spread all over the world about this ludicrous fine and the malevolence behind the action. The province’s leader, Pauline Marois said it was a mistake and sent her henchmen to scout out lesser known places to punish anyone sporting English signs, and avoid the media. 
 By the way, all those immigrants I referred to - they can`t send their children to English schools, nor can anyone whose native language is English, except if one is born in Canada. 
San Miguel is a community that nurtures us all regardless of language, looks, age and background. I love this place, so for you ex-Montréalers, enjoy the rest of your happy life here. As for those nay-sayers, who will surely castigate me for being so negative about Montreal, just come up for another harsh winter, insufferably humid summer and take a drive on the streets cratered in potholes. Then try to get help if you get a flat tire. You may be standing there for a very long time ... but less longer if you speak French.

Also posted on / Également affiché sur: Culture Plus
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