Saturday, 29 August 2020

Crete - Day 8 - The journey home.

You know that you've had a really good holiday when you are very sad to leave and you realise that you are going to miss the people who became part of your life for a week.

It is so sad to see how the fear of COVID-19 has negatively impacted the tourist economy here. There have been so few deaths but such draconian measures implemented! Hopefully the post-mortem will be done and government heads will roll! Incompetent donkeys!!

I have to fill in a passenger locator form for coming back to the UK. Compared to the Greek version the UK one looks like a typical UK government IT project. Crap and not fit for purpose. An example.. We are travelling as a family and I can put my kids on the form but not my wife... We're all travelling on the same tickets, same flight, same eventual destination etc.. Go figure!

The Greek one, easy! My details, passport number etc, flight details, hotel details and I just had to add Anna and the kids to the same form! Easy! 

We had a leisurely 'get ready and have breakfast' and then got packed up and handed in the room keys for the kids room. The message that we could have our room for the day had survived the change of reception staff so I stashed the important documents in the safe and headed out for coffee!

After this, we walked out to do some souvenir shopping. 

Reuben bought a t-shirt that he could have bought at home (for more money) and a few other small Greek souvenirs. Holly bought a lovely olive wood bowl which I think is exquisite; beautifully made. 

After this seemingly never-ending shopping trip, we found ourselves in the harbour area where we sat and baked in the shade (it was about 1 pm at this point.) Holly and Reuben decided to go off and price up some baseball caps for Reuben to possibly buy; alas, the one he liked was too expensive for him! 

At about 3 pm, we decided that we could do with some food as we would be landing at 12.05 am Saturday morning. We finally succombed to the "hello family! You want to eat?" and stepped into one of the restaurants bordering the coastline. The food was amazing! Anna, Holly and I all had gyros, pork or chicken with salad, pita and some fries. On the street the food would be wrapped in the pita but at the restaurant, it was all on plate with tzatziki! Absolutely nostimó (delicious).

We had a really good chat with the proprietor, a buxom Greek lady who was probably about 7 years younger than us. She had two children, 9 and 7 years old respectively. She offered her view on all this covid nonsense (in fairness, we did ask her how badly it had affected her trade) and it was pretty much identical to mine, 'a lot of fuss over a bad flu that, in Greece is hardly killing anyone and those it does are generally pretty ill anyway. 

After paying for the meal we departed the restaurant and headed back to the hotel for a shower and for me to sextuple-check all of my necessary documentation to allow me back into England. For some reason, I always seem to be totally task-focused on getting back home to the point that I really do not enjoy the journey. I'm usually semi-justified in this as proven today when waiting for the taxi back to the airport from the hotel. I saw a grey Mercedes turn right down the road than the hotel was on about 5-10 minutes before we were due to be picked up. I thought to myself "I bet that's our taxi" but waited... Nothing... I stood on the corner looking for other taxis but none were for us. Eventually I acquiesced to my nagging doubts and sent Reuben off on a mission to see it the taxi was an the back of the hotel. He got about 5 yards down the road and said "the grey Mercedes is coming back up. It was our taxi!

The ride to the airport was smooth and scenic and after half of the journey being in silence, we asked the driver about 'the island on the right. We could not shut him up after this. He was talking about broken government promises to expand the airport capacity on Crete, but it was all hot air and empty words! I guess politicians are liars the world over! 

Check-in at foreign airports is always a stressful time for me as most of the officials seem to be bored, in a hurry and expressionless; this was even more so with masks on, making their 'snapped' instructions so much more difficult to fathom. We eventually made our way through and snaked inexorably to the departure gate... B9... 

We settled down here and waited until the flight was ready to board. The time dragged but finally we made it onto the plane and took off heading into the bad weather we had left behind.. 

There's nothing like a stormy August day to make you want to jet off to get some sunshine....... 

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Crete - Day 7 - Culture

Well this is it.. The last full day before we fly back to, by the looks of it, a bloody cold and wet England..

The weather today did not disappoint again! Beautiful clear skies and 30°C. The humidity was a bit higher though which made it feel stupidly hot! It reminded me of Southern Italy where the temperature hit 40°C.. Stifling! The heat seemed to be bouncing right off the pavement and rebounding into my legs!

Anna had been looking at trip advisor and found an open air museum to Cretan life. 

A family had started to build the museum in 1986 and had kept it quiet from friends and extended family for fear of being thought of as crazy. They had a vision of telling people about authentic Cretan life back from the turn of the 19th century and onwards. I found it fascinating!

There lady who worked there had been there for 21 years and was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful! 

After spending a couple of hours here we noticed a gate to the beach and enquired about the cost of parasol hire. It was very good and the beach looked great so we camped out here until 5pm, at which time we packed up and headed back to the hotel for a shower followed by a drink at the hotel bar and dinner. 

As we walked past reception, the lady who checked us in and dealt with the first night shenanigans, confirmed our taxi and said "to thank you for being such a nice family and to say sorry for the inconvenience on the first night - we could have the room until the taxi arrived" 

I am genuinely going to miss this place, the hotel and the staff have been absolutely fantastic. From Denda takin the mickey out of my sunburnt forehead to the guy without a name badge who served me coffee every morning with a smile, remembered what I wanted and poured it as soon as he saw me. Yep! I'm definitely going to miss this place! Great people and great weather! 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Crete - Day 6 - Short and sweet

... Like the wine I have just drunk... Except for the short bit...

It was a fair bit of the rest of the wine I bought yesterday. 

Blah blah blah... Woke up etc.. Perfect shower... Great breakfast... 

Kids went parasailing.. 
(they are there, promise)

They loved it 
Anna went in the boat that was towing them. 

Then we went to the same beach as on day 2!

It was really hot but due to the more expensive suncream, no one got burnt! Reuben looks like one of the locals! 

After this, we walked back to hotel and we had dinner followed by some local beer and wine in our room! 


No idea what to do tomorrow... 

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Crete - Day 5 - Throwing Shade

Actually a better title for this would be 'seeking shade' for a start it would be accurate! 

I ended up waking at 7am again, it is honestly like I have some built-in alarm. I looked out of the window and remarked for the fifth day in a row "crikey! It's sunny!" another glorious day with not a cloud in the sky. 

I believe that I have finally mastered the shower! You just have to turn the water on to about half pressure and wait for about 30 seconds. Bliss! 

After Anna and I had showered, separately (we are social distancing), I waited to see if there was any signs of life from the kids' room.. Not to smegging peep! This Greek air is really making them sleep in. Or maybe it could be the 11pm bed times... 

Anyway, suffice it to say, I had to knock on their door for about a minute until they made a bleary-eyed appearance. 

We got ready and went down to breakfast which was, as usual, nostimó! 

After breakfast, we decided to not break with tradition and go for a coffee across the road it was just as delicious as ever! Thank goodness some things never change! 

While I was finishing my espresso, Anna went to book a parasailing excursion for the kids. While trying to make herself understood because of the GCD - government control device (mask) the lady serving her said to "take off your mask, there is perspex between us! 666 used to be the bad number.. Now its 2020" I thought that was quite telling from someone who works in the tourist industry! Quite how they are staying afloat in this 'fear porn' climate is beyond me! 

After booking the trip, which includes transfers to the area, we went back to the hotel room to read until it was time to walk the 100m to the bus stop for the Rural Crete Experience trip. 

Wow! Totally wow! They totally undersold this! It was 5 hours of non stop fun and sightseeing... Actually I'm lying, it wasn't non stop! We stopped three or four times. 
The first stop was a monastery right up on a mountain with some spectacular views of the valley 

And of the actual monastery 

The second stop was an olive oil producer which was absolutely fascinating. Straight after the olive oil producer, we went on a tour of an incredibly old town that was dying out but refused to succumb to commercialisation. 
This was absolutely stunning. It used to be, earlier in the 20th century, a real centre of commerce and produced many different goods ranging from cigarettes to cartwheels! Apparently the population is now 150, mostly old who get visited in the holidays by their younger relatives. 

After this we pressed on and stopped off at a taverna. I had a local beer, Anna and Holly had an ice-cream and Reuben had a crepe... It was freakin' massive! There was possibly some food envy occurring.. 

On the way back, we stopped off to take some photos of a dam than was completed in 2012.. The resultant lake / reservoir is 3km long, 55m deep at its deepest part and typically holds 30 million litres of water. 
If you look closely, you can see part of the village that was submerged (in winter, only the roofs are visible) 

When we got dropped off after the tour, we went back to the hotel, showered and had dinner. 

We then went out to the beach where the kids had a night swim while I sat on the beach and wrote this whilst drinking some local wine, it's a bit sweet for my liking but delicious nonetheless (no idou huv srtang ti is! Hic.) 

Right-oh! Reading time and mroe wnie! 

Monday, 24 August 2020

Crete - Day 4 - Κακό αντηλιακό

I think that title sums up today...

But that's the spoiler! 

I woke up early today, 6.30 am and lay in bed waiting for my alarm to go off.. Holly had tried get me to commit to a 'get up time'; I swear that girl is a nazi she would certainly pass for Aryan... So I complied without really thinking and said 7 am.. I needn't have worried, both of them slept through their alarm...

Today literally was a carbon copy of yesterday, got up, showered, dressed, breakfast, got ready to go out and went to that amazing coffee shop across the road! (hint, we'll be going there tomorrow too!) 

This is where it changed! Instead of turning right out of the hotel, we turned left! We really know how to have fun! 

I had read that there was a beach this way so thought we'd take a slow walk to try and find it. 

On the way, we noticed a sign that was advertising a ride around the small villages that would give us a glance into Cretan life! At €80 it looks expensive but then it is 5 hours and does look quite long.

We persisted on and after about 1/4 of a mile came to a supermarket from which we bought some water. 31°C certainly makes you appreciate chilled water!

We eventually found a beach underneath a taverna, paid the €8 to hire a parasol and 2 sun loungers and hit the waves! The sea was lovely and warm and so clear! For the first time in many years, I actually enjoyed swimming in the sea. 

I swam for about an hour or so and got out, dried off in about 5 minutes and retired to my sun lounger to carry on with the PAT. I have to say the book is certainly picking up the pace and is really enjoyable. 

At about 5pm, we packed up and, after noticing than Anna looked a little sunburnt, stopped off at the supermarket for some nivea suncream. 

This choice was confirmed as good after Reuben had a shower and looked rather sunburnt too! Only I seemed to escape it (apart from the previous days roasting which is fading nicely after me wearing my baseball cap all day, the right way round this time! 

After dinner, lamb, turkey, fish, stuffed courgette, mussels, cheese and fruit, we set off on a jaunt over to the harbour. 

Before we went I loaded up Google translate and came up with this:

Écho idi fáei efcharistó which should mean I have already eaten thank you! Now either the Greeks are just incredibly polite and were just humouring me or my Greek was passable.. Or a bit of both!

We got to the harbour and the kids played cards 
And Anna and I enjoyed the view 

When we are done here, we are going to buy a bottle of local red, retire to the beach and drink! 

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Crete - Day 3 - Lazy Children

Slept like a baby last night... No... Wait... That's not right; I didn't wake up every hour, screaming demanding boobs! Ended up waking at 7 am and sleepily ambled to the shower armed with the knowledge that I was now 'master of the shower' and would not suffer the shock of freezing water again... Wrong.... I got the small hand-held shower nice and warm and pulled out the switch to engage the large overhead outlet.. There can't be much pipe distance between the small outlet and the large one but it was like someone had replaced the pipe with a liquid nitrogen-cooled tank! I was hit with a frigid blast of water that woke me up with the efficiency of an angry German.

After zis rude avakening, I got dressed and waited... Firstly for Anna to get up and have a shower, which she duly did and then for the kids to show some semblance of movement! 

An hour later and still nothing.. So I knocked on their door for about 5 minutes (well it's seemed like 5 minutes - was probably a minute at best). Eventually, Holly appeared at the door looking like the bride of Frankenstein, hair everywhere and a complexion that a leper would balk at! So this is what teenagers look like before they've made themselves look presentable ;).. I exaggerate, she just looked sleepy.. (is that better Holly? Please don't kill me!). Apparently she reads this which probably doubles my audience. 

Anyway, ripping on Holly aside (Reuben looked just as bad) we finally made it down to breakfast which was freakin' amazing! Most things the same as yesterday but with some small changes like bacon. I did my usual, had a continental, meat and cheese, followed by fried egg, mushrooms etc and then some Greek yoghurt and, this time honey! Absolutely amazing. A couple of coffees later we returned to our rooms and headed out across the road for a... coffee....

(Yay - a photo by Mat) 

Oh... My... Goodness... That coffee was nóstimo! (hopefully Greek for delicious if not, I'm dead) I'll definitely be going back there tomorrow.

After this we skipped back to the room, caffeine you see, and packed up with a view to going to the beach! 

We set off and walked down Hersonissos main street and over to the harbour. We had heard that there was a lovely beach over there but there must be a thing called subjectivity because we couldn't really see one.

(view of the harbour) 

We carried on walking around a headland but alas just more of the beach bars and hotels. You clearly need to get well away from the towns to get to a large sandy beach. 

We walked a little further and eventually the hotels gave way to smaller tavernas that had sections of good beach. We paid the €7.5 for a pair of sun loungers and parasol and I sat down with a 'post apocalyptical thriller - PAT' (still waiting for John Dolan's next offering - I'm sadly up to date! Shameless plug time but seriously, go onto Amazon and look for 'Everyone Burns by John Dolan and go from there! Beautifully written with some amazing dark humour and sublime character development) the PAT was slow going to start with but seems to be ramping up a bit now. Should be a good long read!

The kids and Anna all played in the sea and had an absolutely amazing time! 

After a good 5 hours here we took a slow walk back to the hotel to shower and cool off before dinner. 

Dinner was pork belly, chicken, fish and Mediterranean veggies in a lovely tomato sauce. Thoroughly delicious! 

Completely satisfied, we retired to the sun loungers by the sea by the hotel and Reuben took a dusk swim! 

Anna has just showed up with some water and a good old cup of tea so I'm going to sign off now! Καληνυχτα! 

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Crete Day 2 - Sun and SURRENDER

Why is it that the first night of a holiday, despite you being totally 'cream crackered'; you never sleep!? Well this holiday was definitely no different except maybe that a bit of stress was added in to the equation. I didn't think they would throw us out of the hotel but your mind can play tricks on you when you're tired. 

Remember how I said that it was dark when we arrived at the hotel well that photo I posted for day 1 was taken on day 2, today. After I'd picked my jaw up off the floor. 

Anyway, I "woke up" at 7 am and had a quick shower. I always end up being the sacrificial idiot with these things.. The shower head was massive and was one of those 'directly over your head' jobbies of which, when activated, there is no escape.. So you see my problem right (apart from the fact that I am wuss who's not mad keen on cold water)? Yup.. Which way do I turn the handle after pulling it out? I'll leave it in the middle, can't be too bad. It was cold... And stayed pretty cold. Now at this point you are stuck. How long do you give it to warm up or do you try and force the issue by turning it and possibly scalding yourself.. I waited, gasping a bit with cold, for about 20 seconds; surely enough time for it to have made up its mind. I eventually summoned the courage and turned the handle anticlockwise.. Nope, colder! OK (please let the shower be working) clockwise... A glimmer of hope.. A bit of heat.. Slowly does it Mat.. You wouldn't want to burn. Ahhhhh perfect.. 

So yeah, that was the shower! 

Get dressed and headed down for breakfast. The serving area was split into 2 sections, cooked and continental, both delicious. Because of all the COVID-19 nonsense it was a 'we serve you' affair which still worked out very well! I had scrambled eggs, sausage slices, mushrooms, peppers and onions followed by ham, cheese, tomatoes and cucumber followed by Greek yoghurt and apricot! Gotta say, Greek yoghurt in Greece is really something else! 

After breakfast we decided to wander up to the roof to see what the pool was like. It was small but perfectly formed! A lovely rectangle of blueness! We lounged about there for a while and I watched the clock.. 11am.. D-day as it were.. Had the hotel heard from the intermediary supplier? I walked down with trepidation, would this holiday turn bad.. Would my ugly mug end up in the Daily Heil, I should practice my 'Daily Mail Sad Face'™. No... Wait... Sensible people speak to their travel agents, not the press. Thank goodness for being normal! 

I got down to reception and they had still not heard either.. Oh well a stay of execution.. 

I celebrated this by going out to get some cold water from the supermarket. 

I took the water up to the pool where I had left Anna and the kids and saw a family that asked if we had a spare sun lounger. Their accent was so hard to place. I was thinking Eastern European, maybe Croatia or something.. That was until I heard their kids in the pool, speaking English. It was when the kids started saying "SURRENDER, SURRENDER, SURRENDER" than the penny dropped... They were clearly French! 

At about midday to 1pm, you know, the hottest part of the day, mad dogs and Englishman and all that.. We decided to go on a little explore. We walked out of the hotel and began to climb up towards Old Hersonissos, much quieter and up in the hills. 

We stopped off on the way for a cold drink at a lovely bar! The owner was really friendly and the waiter was just pure class very entertaining. 

After spending about 45 minutes there we hit the road again and finally made it to Old Hersonissos.

What a gorgeous old town! It had really managed to retain its character. 

(photo courtesy of Holly) 

After this we walked back down to the touristy part of Hersonissos and back to the hotel for dinner! Dinner was lovely, I had a lamb burger (no bun) and a load of pork with apple and celery and an excellent Greek salad. 

One of the upsides of today is that I did eventually get an email from Trailfinders saying that they were urgently pushing the supplier to sort out the small problem of the cancellation. I forwarded this to hotel management and pretty soon after, the hotel emailed me to say that all was well and that the booking was reactivated! This means that we won't be evicted (unless Anna gets drunk* and goes streaking. 

After dinner was done, we went and sat on the beach again and watched the sun set (kinda.. We're facing north) 

We're now planning what to do tomorrow! 

I got a bit sunburnt despite 'chasing the damn shade all day! It's not too bad though, nothing that a cool shower and a good night's sleep won't cure! 

*That will never happen!