Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Crete

We got back from Crete yesterday – here’s the edited highlights.

Tuesday

We flew out on a hideously timed plane – 5am departure. This meant we had to be at the airport at 3am to do all the waiting in queues stuff. Not having been on a plane for eleven years, D and I had no experience of the new level of security checks.

The kids had not really slept at all during the night and so, by the time we were nearing the end of the flight, L was either crying or asleep – in ten minute chunks. Not fun! He took against seat belts and I was somewhat concerned that we would find ourselves being restrained in an air-rage incident. Poor P had come out with a cold and her ears got very painful - though this cleared up in a day or so. Once we landed, in Chania, we were straight on a coach to our apartment in Georgopoulis.

Predictably, when we were safely there, and could sleep, both the kids perked up and immediately wanted to swim! But, at the end of the day, P did this – while we all drank tea and cocoa around her. I honestly think this is a first – P is usually last asleep.



Wednesday

Dani and Pearlie went to the ‘welcome meeting’ to find out about the trips being offered by the holiday company, while Leo and I stayed by the pool. We weren’t impressed and found better deals with a local tour operator – more later.

Not sure what else we did with that day – mostly buying food and wandering around getting our bearings. We did have quick trip to the beach and bought snorkel gear, which turned out to be a great buy.

This is the church in Georgopoulis

Thursday

We managed to negotiate local buses to Rethymno – about a half hour ride away.

We ate a picnic lunch in a local park, where the kids enjoyed the sort of fun play equipment that has long ago disappeared from our parks. D and I talked a lot about notions of danger and risk on this holiday – as we saw lots of things that made us gasp – little kids on the backs of mopeds with no helmets, in traffic, and so on.




Leo bought a rather beautiful new dragon in a toy shop – basically blowing all his holiday money in one go! We then went to the old ruined fort and the archaeological museum. The museum had beautiful stuff from Minoan times and Roman times - very quietly presented with no bells and whistles. The history of Crete is very complicated – different invasions and so on – and we saw this old Mosque at the fort.


I have come back determined to get a better organised chronology in my head! I know that there was an ancient Minoan culture, an Arab time, Venetian times, a long Turkish occupation and then brief independence and German occupation during the second world war – but I will seek out something to organise the timeline for me.

It got too hot then and we went to the bus station to look for a bus home. This was somewhat chaotic – no timetables and confusing announcements – but eventually we were ushered aboard a bus and it took us back to Georgopoulis.

Friday

Friday was a very early start for a trip to Knossos. This was a long way, picking up lots of people as we went along. The tour company seemed popular with German tourists, and I enjoyed listening to the German commentary and seeing how much I could follow with my twenty year old ‘O’ level language skills!

The palace was well worth the journey.

We had a lovely guided tour, in English, from a Cretan woman whose daughter had studied dance in London. She told us much more than we would have got from a guide book. Leo and I dipped out just before the end, as he was flagging. So we missed her telling, and interpreting, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. I had a re-telling from Dani and it was fascinating.






This is a wooden copy of the throne of Minos (the king) - the original stone one was there but it was too dark to get a good shot.

We were then free in Heraklion for a couple of hours, where we bought gifts and wandered about. I had to get a photo of this bit of the Cretan approach to town planning.



I'm not being snooty. I rather liked the way things were just evolving and there was not a tendency to 'tidy everything up'.

Saturday

Saturday was another early start for a trip to the Samaria Gorge. Having been warned off attempting the whole walk, by a friend, we found a tour called ‘Samaria Gorge – lazy way’ and did that.

First we went up into the mountains, by coach, in the region of Sfakia. We stopped for coffee at this place with incredible views.



Then across the plane and down the other side of the mountains to a ferry. This took us to the end of the Samaria Gorge. The ‘easy way’ was, in fact, 8km of tricky walking in the hottest part of the day. But it was amazing scenery. The kids did very well – not ever having walked in such conditions before. Leo insisted on taking off his shirt and we were worried he would burn – but loads of sun cream did the trick.









The beautiful crystal water of the stream was clean enough to drink. The kids spotted some of the KriKri – the wild goats that only live in the gorge.



Back at the ferry we snatched a quick swim – strange stone beach and cold sea – the Libyan sea on that side of the island.

Home again for a dip in the pool and relaxing.

Sunday

On Sunday we took a little tourist road train from Georgopoulis to the Kournas Lake. Something mad happened to us and we took the children out on a pedalo. Neither D nor I are good with vehicles (except bicycles) but we managed. The Cretan relaxed attitude had overtaken us and we refused a life-jacket for Leo, rather than have him moaning about it all the time. The lake is actually deep, cold and big, but I reckoned both the kids could have made it to another pedalo – luckily we didn’t have to find out.

The lake was clearly a place where Cretan families like to spend a Sunday afternoon. We stopped for a swim and Dani tried out her Greek in a Taverna where the guy spoke no English. She was disappointed that he didn’t seem to understand a word! Most of the time we were embarrassed by the fluent English and obliging attitude of all the Cretan people we met. D and I talked a lot about tourism, culture and ethics. We’ve avoided holidays abroad since the kids came along and neither of us had ever been on a package before. We didn’t come to any clear conclusions about it all!

We all had a swim in the lake but P, in particular, was a bit put off by the muddy, insecty, environment – and the big, assertive geese!




Back in Georgiopoulis we went to the beach. In the evening we had a lovely meal out. P only really liked the chips (they were very good!), but Leo enjoyed baked Feta and fried courgette. D and I were given free Raki, but it was like rocket fuel and we couldn’t drink it! Vegetarian eating is easy on Crete - lots of yummy options.

Monday

Our last day was a pool and beach fest! One of the best things about this holiday was the opportunity for the kids to swim every day – and usually several times a day. They both got the hang of snorkelling – P braved the sea and saw fish. Leo confined his snorkelling to the pool – but loved it. I snorkelled for the first time too – my prescription goggles and a nose clip in place of the mask. My goggles mean that I can really see the fish, and so on – without them everything is a blur.





I am sitting here typing with a hacking cough (came back on the plane!), and horrible great red lumps, where I have reacted badly to mosquito bites! The mozzies were voracious. The kids didn’t react badly at all – they haven’t had enough bites in their lives, apparently. Dani wasn’t too bad (anti-histamine brought her bites down) but nothing is touching mine and they are huge – a couple are two inches in diameter and burning/itching. Ah well, I reckon that’s the price you pay for flying abroad and damaging the planet.

Overall, we were very glad we went on this holiday. Crete is a beautiful and fascinating place. I don’t think we’d do a holiday abroad every year (even if we could afford it) but it was lovely to get up every morning and know you could swim.

D and I both read ‘Weight’ by Jeanette Winterson and ‘Instances of the Number Three’ by Salley Vickers. Leo polished off one and half Humphrey books and wrote a lot in his diary and book of Moley stories. P did LOADS of kakuro and enjoyed working out the Greek signs everywhere. Dani knitted too.

So, that's it. Now we have to start planning for Hesfes…

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

And my nose did'nt clear up in a day or so, it cleared up in about 3 days. So there.

Allie said...

Ok, ok - I guessed my account would have to be corrected in at least one place!

Pete said...

We "did" Crete last year, based down in Matala (much more convenient for Phaestos), but I'm jealous you did Samaria. We managed Knossos on our last day before heading for Iraklion airport... wanna go back NOW!

Claire said...

Sounds like you all had a great time! I've been wondering when we may travel abroad again, having not done so since we had children. Your account of the flight out there has certainly made me stop and think!

Lucy said...

What breathtaking photos - and a wonderful experience for you all :)

peri said...

Sounds fabulous - lovely photos.

Allie - I got a couple of bad bites recently and tried an old fashioned remedy - bicarb & salt mixed into a paste with a little water - smear it on & leave it to dry - it really helped - especially at night when I was scratching my ankles in my sleep. The only downside is as it flakes off you shed salt all round the house. But I'd use it again the relief was blessed!

Helen said...

Looks like you all had a great time. Lovely photos too!

HelenHaricot said...

when chris and i went to crete - wonderful hols whilst i was still a student - i also got bitten horrendously. i picked up some great cream a t a pharmacy there - part steroid and part antihistamine. the only thing that worked!
sounds like you had a great holiday.

a said...

Your holiday looks and sounds wonderful. Really enjoyed reading about it.

Anonymous said...

lovely pics, thanks for sharing.
see ya monday
Liza xx

Sharon said...

Glad you all had such a good time.

Gill said...

I really enjoyed this post - especially the town planning pic! That's classic :-)

And the amazing views took my breath away just from the photos!

KWYM about timelines Allie - I keep meaning to try and fill in the huge gaps in my mental one too. *Big* job, though!

Welcome home, you all! Hope the mozzie bites soon get better xx

Dawniy said...

wow what a fantastic time you all had :)
the prescription goggles sound fantastic - I didn't know they were available - i want a pair!
I'm pleased you had a good time :)

'EF' said...

Lovely to have you back and blogging :)

Thankyou for the pics and info about Crete..Willow is fascinated with Crete and would like to go there (maybe one day we will, but I am terrified of flying now)..and now we have a real life tour in pics.