Friday, June 27, 2008

New colors from ALS Bikinis

I saw today that US-based manufacturer ALS Bikinis now offers all of its swimsuit designs in a comprehensive range of "limited edition" patterns, in addition to their already existing ones. I really liked the "fire fishnet". I'm pretty sure it would be incredibly hot with their 0331 g-string bikini, which is the one I really prefer from their range.

Danae

Agiokampos, Larissa

This time, I'm taking you away from Crete, as we're going further up north, in the region of Thessaly. Seeing that my boyfriend had some work to do in his homecity, I followed him and we took the opportunity to go swimming in some of the nearby beaches.

OK, not so "nearby", actually; Larissa is in the middle of the Thessalian plain, and the only access it has to the sea is through the beachside localities of Agiokampos, Velika etc. Further to the north, there are some other popular beaches and resorts, such as Neoi Poroi, Platamonas, Agios Panteleimonas and Skotina.

Agiokampos is basically a vast beachside resort, crammed between the sea and the mountain, and extending from the former royal hunting grounds of Polydendri all the way to cape Dermatas of Velika. Being about an hour's worth of driving away from Larissa, it gathers lots of people, although it's nowhere as bad as Neoi Poroi (pronounced Néi Pori) and Platamonas. It couldn't be, actually, since the entire beachside area that encompasses Agiokampos, Velika and Sotiritsa has a length of 14 km (8.75 miles), so there's room for everyone. There are plenty of beach bars, taverns and restaurants there to cater to your wishes and you'll even find quiet corners on the beach, if you don't feel like mingling with the noisy crowds. The beach is practically huge, although it doesn't look like it while you're driving by. It's got a mixture of sand and pebble, so you'll have to decide where you'll lay your beach towel down. The waters are usually clear and clean - thankfully, it's a long way from the muck of the Thermaikos Bay and the water doesn't stay shallow for too long. After walking for about five meters into the water, you're actually swimming instead of walking. Compare that to Agia Marina or Neoi Poroi, where you walk for about 100 meters in knee-deep waters with a soft sandy seabed that becomes murky and filthy-looking as you keep walking and avoiding a huge crowd of people splashing in the now-muddy waters.


Photograph taken from http://www.agiokampos-larissas.gr

Thus, Agiokampos is worthy of being recommended. Clear waters, a huge beach with room for everyone... OK, can you don a thong there? Sure you can. Swim and tan topless? Yep. Go micro? Certainly, as long as it's not one of the "straps-only" designs. Go nude? I don't think so, as the whole area is inhabited.

Danae

Friday, June 13, 2008

Falassarna, Crete

One of the most famous beaches in the region of Chania is Falassarna (you can also find it written as Falasarna). I'm going to say it yet again, of course, that thonging and topless sunbathing/swimming are permitted on practically every beach here in Greece - and, as I've mentioned before, I only know of one beach where toplessness isn't allowed (Loutro, in the south of Crete). Falassarna lies in the westernmost part of the Chania region and going there is rather easy - just take the "highway" to Kastelli (Kissamos) and then continue through the small town all the way to the west. In a village named Platanos, you'll see the signs leading you to the beach.

Falassarna is considered to be one of the nicest beaches on the isle of Crete. It's long, sandy, with crystal clear waters and is practically divided in two beaches: the big beach and the small one, which is located further up north. Unfortunately, tourist development has struck Falassarna as well, with various pensions having been built in places where I'm not sure it's legal to build. The umbrella/beach chair rental plague has afflicted Falassarna as well; now the small beach has very limited space for those who want to be left alone and enjoy the sun and its rocky part, which once was somewhat popular with nudists, has recently become the lair of a few incredibly obnoxious gawkers; this part also cannot be recommended, because of the trash and the tar.

This leaves us with the "big beach". Again, umbrella and beach chair rentals... But, thankfully, there is a generous part still left vacant and you can enjoy your swim there. However, let me inform you that you really should avoid Falassarna on weekends, as it's one of the most popular destinations for one-day excursions and you'll be certainly annoyed by noisy families with screaming kids and yelling moms. Also, before you decide to go there, take a look at the weather forecast: on windy days, you're pretty much guaranteed to get sandblasted.

Falassarna also has some archaeological/historic interest and there are some ruins nearby: around 6th century B.C., Falassarna was founded (named after the mythical nymph-local heroine Falassarna) as the only harbor in west Crete and thrived between the 4th and 3rd century B.C. Around 365 B.C., it seems that geological movements raised the area and the lagoon in which the harbor was built became irrelevant.

Given the sheer size of the area, I'd need a large number of pictures to give you an idea of what Falassarna really is like. A small sample can be seen in this picture from Crete TOURnet:


Danae

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Alphamoda "Antiparos" bottom and "Milos" top

I'll admit that Alphamoda is perhaps my favorite microkini manufacturer, for reasons I have already explained. When you get a great range of options, good quality and really good service at prices that won't break the bank, you just can't complain.

Now, the designs I am reviewing are from last year's buying spree; it's a microkini set I put together using the "Antiparos" microkini bottom and the "Milos" top. The Antiparos is a really sexy design that has recently inspired The-Bikini.com's designers and, as is the case with all of Alphamoda's designs, you can select from a range of different backstyles and you can also decide what color the straps will be. Regarding the backstyles, you can choose from the entire range of Alphamoda's backstyles, depending on how conservative or revealing you want the rear part to be. I chose a "triangle" back, which is basically a very narrow thong. Due to the nature of this design, tie-side straps are not available.

It's an incredibly sexy little number that turns heads and gets people talking no matter where you turn up wearing it. Like all Alphamoda's designs, it's unlined, so it really clings very well to your skin and dries fast after you get out of the water. Keep in mind, though, that the lack of lining non-shiny (matt) light colors get rather sheer when wet. This means that you do need to think about hair removal down there; I personally laser everything from the neck down: wax is generally effective and so is electrolysis, but both can be painful (actually, wax is painful) - another stopgap measure is one of Braun's hair removal devices, but those do hurt a bit too, because what they do is pluck the hairs away. If you don't want your suit to turn sheer when wet, either go for a darker color or, if the color must be light, go for the shiny option, which, however, has a smaller range of colors. It doesn't cost more, looks fantastic and is just as durable and well-fitting. I really recommend dishing out the extra €0.80 and buying it with metal rings, as they look gorgeous with it and enhance its appearance. There's another gotcha with the lighter colors, caused by the lack of lining: it's NOT for "those days of the month". But then again, why would you swim at such a time?

Other than the photos on Alphamoda's order forms, I'm giving you another photo, which shows a model wearing the "Antiparos", but not with the "Milos" - her top is the "Naxos".


Now, for the top: Although triangle tops are considered de riguer, I've already got plenty of them and wanted a change. So, I opted for the "Milos", which is a small bandeau top (note that the white fabric is a bit sheer even when dry) and flatters women with a moderate or large bra size. It also comes with an additional strap that you can use as you can see in the pictures. Although I haven't felt the need to use the strap, it's practical - and the top is really practical, too. You can wear it pretty much everywhere, even when out on the town - the fact that it's Alphamoda's most "conservative" top design helps here quite a bit.

On both pieces of the set, the fabric feels soft, comfortable and luxurious, but the fit is still snug and secure - without ever digging into your body (unless you've ordered the wrong size, which would be your fault, given the fact that a sizing table is available). I haven't had "happy accidents" with this set, which shows that it's made to fit nicely and safely onto your body. I understand that some women will be concerned about the "Milos" hiding some skin and making tanning deeply down the cleavage harder; well, this can only be a problem if you live in an area where topless sunbathing is prohibited. I don't have this problem in my area and just go topless anyway. The bandeau deserves to be more popular.

The prices for both these pieces are very good: the "Antiparos" costs €13.80 (€14.60 with metal rings), which translates to roughly $21.7 (or $22.9 with metal rings) with today's equity, while the "Milos" costs €12.90, which today is about $20.3. Now, what can one make of these prices? Well, let's consider the fact that the whole microkini set is handmade to order by a meticulous craftswoman in Greece (as opposed to being mass-produced in a factory somewhere in the middle of nowhere), the available options (which can go beyond the ones you can choose in the online order forms - all you have to do is email Alphamoda and Irini, the designer/maker, will cooperate with you to give a more personal touch to your swimsuit, usually at no extra charge), the low shipping costs and the quality and durability of the product for a bit. If you shopped for an equally well-made swimsuit elsewhere, you could easily have paid double and triple that price. Really, it's good value.

Since I bought it, a year has passed and it hasn't so much as torn a thread, regardless of where I wore it and what I did while wearing it. It's made to easily cope with everyday use on the beach, unlike some other overhyped and overpriced products I've seen (and bought) in the past.

Verdict: Once again, full marks go to Alphamoda for both the product and the service. Very highly recommended.

OK, that's it for today. I'm off to the beach! See you all later!

Danae

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I think I've seen this one somewhere before

Today, a friend of mine who subscribes to spanish swimwear manufacturer The-Bikini.com's mailing list forwarded to me a notification he received of two new designs they launched recently. It's the "assymetric" string and a tank top and you can see them here. I like the sheer fabrics and all, but I really think I've seen the bottom before. Actually... The bottom is almost identical to Alphamoda's "Antiparos". Compare for yourselves:

The-Bikini.com's newly-launched "Assymetric":


The Alphamoda "Antiparos", launched a few years ago (in 2004, if I remember well):


Are the similarities a coincidence? I think not. Well, I won't go out and say "oooh, look, so-and-so ripped off Alphamoda (or any other brand)". Far be that from me; I've seen it happen in various forums with certain members always aggressively, incessantly, irritatingly and troll-like accusing other companies of copying Wicked Weasel. The similarities between The-Bikini.com's new design and Alphamoda's "Antiparos", however, are very obvious. And, as much as I like the idea of sheer fabrics, I still prefer Alphamoda's own take, which (a) is the original design, (b) offers many more options as to what the end product will look like (strap color, ring type, backstyle), (c) is made to really good quality standards, (d) I've been very satisfied with Alphamoda's friendly and prompt customer service and (e) Alphamoda's original design costs a good deal less: €13.80 (€14.60 with metal rings) as opposed to The-Bikini.com's proposition which costs $28 (€18.16). I must say I've yet to buy anything from The-Bikini.com myself - I've heard words of praise regarding their quality and I've seen a friend of mine in one of their suits; they do look nice, but, as I have no personal experience with them yet, I won't claim their quality is lower, higher than, or equal to Alphamoda's; I believe they're similar in terms of quality. Then again, and assuming that they're both pretty much equal in terms of quality, I can only say that Alphamoda, with its customization options, low shipping costs and lower prices, offers greater value.

Danae

Monday, June 2, 2008

Agia Marina Beach, Crete

Yesterday, I decided to go for my first swim this summer. The most convenient, as far as distance is concerned, beach is considered to be Agia Marina, about 6 km from Chania. The various travel guides will have you believe that it's a really wonderful beach etc. Well, like I said, it's convenient. It extends from Kato Stalos all the way to Platanias and from that point onward to Maleme and Kolymbari, albeit each time with the respective regional names from the nearby villages and communities. Here, I'm going to talk about the main Agia Marina beach, i.e. the part from Kato Stalos to Platanias.

It's one long, sandy beach with very fine-grained sand that sticks to your feet with the slightest droplet of water or sweat and is a serious pain to clean up. Although it's a habitat for the endangered sea turtles and keeps getting awarded a Blue Flag each year, I've yet to see the slightest sign of protection provided to the turtles. Certainly, the noisy beach bars with their bright lights, the (mostly) permanent umbrellas from the ubiquitous beach chair rental businesses and the 24/7 human presence on the beach do nothing to let them lay their eggs in peace. It really amazes me that it's always awarded a Blue Flag. It looks like the Greek tourist industry has made a huge mockery of Blue Flags and the people in the EU still haven't gotten wind of what's going on here.

There are lots of beach bars on this beach. Too many, if you ask me. The worst offender, of course, is the most popular, named "Ammos & Ilios" (Sand & Sun); finding a (horribly mangled and tatty) beach chair there is practically impossible on most days, it's overpriced (as is everything in Greece thanks to the mafia-like tactics of the oligopolies that rule the country and have sucked the blood out of everyone ever since the drachma was replaced by the euro) and incredibly noisy and crowded, with the jerks playing "beach tennis" being a major pain in the ass to every beachgoer. Really, you can't even walk on the beach without risking getting hit by a beach tennis ball.

The waters are really shallow; you have to walk for about 100 yards into the sea until the water's reached your waist or your chest, depending on where you tread. The seabed is sandy - and the strong currents mean that the sand easily shifts from under your feet, often catching swimmers by surprise. If you decide to swim there, be careful and alert - the currents are strong and we have at least ten drowning victims there each year. Also, in the afternoon, after the sand and everything has been stirred and shaken by the crowds splashing in the waters, the waters get really muddy.

As for getting there, it may be only 6 km from Chania, but there's too much traffic - and slow traffic at that. Just be patient. It'll take you anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour to reach Agia Marina, depending on the traffic (and the occasional accident). Of course, then you'll have to find a place to park your car. When you do, make sure you take advantage of your luck; who knows, you might also get to win the lottery.

As usual with all Greek beaches, thonging and toplessness are OK here, although very few of the local people (only women) wear thongs. It's the fear of the Power of Gossip, you see. I personally don't care - I wear my thongs and microkinis everywhere.

Overall, would I recommend this beach? No. I don't like it at all. Then again, if your idea of going to the beach is noisy beach bars, you'll like it. Personally, I've grown out of this whole thing.

Danae