Ierapetra

Yesterday was a road to the lovely south coast town of Ierapetra, and I have no trouble recommending it to anyone visiting Crete. It’s a bit out of the way, which may be why it seemed so devoid of tourists. The market street was essentially empty and even on the beach and in the sea, most of the people seemed to be Greek. All the kitschy souvenir shops were there, and lots of restaurants, but they were largely empty. The water was calm, and lovely, and very clear.
There weren’t a lot of tourist sites. We walked to the end of the beach to see the old fort, which was basically a wall that was having some work done on it, and then we saw a sign pointing to ‘Napoleon’s House.’ Well, that sounded worth seeing. There was a lady sitting at a desk near the front door and I didn’t want to pay so I said let’s go, but Helena asked how much it cost and it was free so I felt a bit foolish but we went in anyway. It would have been absurd for them to charge, but I’m kind of surprised they even had an attendant on duty. One plain room downstairs, with a sign explaining the history, in English and in Greek. One room upstairs, just a wooden floor, no furniture at all.
The story is that the French fleet, on their way to Egypt and lost in the fog, stopped for fresh drinking water, and one man stayed ashore and was given a tour of the island and dinner in a local’s home and stayed the night. He had a boat meet him in the wee hours of the morning and was gone by daylight but left a note, in French, saying ‘If anyone asks who the foreigner was, I am Napoleon Bonaparte.’
Then we went for lunch and, as usual, it was an absolutely huge amount of food. I even gave a couple of pieces of Souvlaki to the little begging dog who, I’m assuming, belonged to the owners, because he was clearly not a stray. The zucchini fritters we ordered as an appetizer were great and the sampler plate, which we had not ordered, was pretty great, too. That happens fairly often here, that they bring out something extra, for no reason at all.
On the way to Ierapetra we had passed an archaelogical site but by the time we saw it we had zipped by the entrance, so we stopped on the way back but the entrance was closed. So, we spent the evening exploring Minoan civilization on Wikipedia. Who says travel doesn’t broaden the mind?
Today is another road trip because we are once more changing locations, to a place in the southwest called Livadi, where apparently they have a beach with pink sand. I’m looking forward to seeing that.

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The Aquarium and Heraklion

Yesterday, we went to Crete Aquarium because we’d heard it’s nice and it was. I got a senior discount, Isabel still qualifies for the children’s discount, and Sam got a student discount, so Helena was the only one who paid full whack and it was, therefore, quite affordable. It was cool, lots of different fish, some sea turtles, lobsters, crabs, ,jellyfish, rays and the weirdest looking of all, morays. One thing I liked was there were plenty of nice, wooden benches to sit and relax and contemplate the big tanks, sort of a meditative experience, as you watched the parade of screaming kids walk by, which doesn’t bother me too much as places like this are primarily meant for people like them.
After that, we went to the beach which was right in front of the parking lot and it was kind of amazing in that it was a completely natural beach – there were no deck chairs and umbrellas, no change rooms, showers and toilets, no nothing other than sea and land, and very few people. It was very nice.
Then we drove back to our place, showered, changed and took a bus into Heraklion. We were quite surprised to see that people were still wearing masks on public transport. Not everybody, but enough that we kind of felt out of place and got some for the way back.
We’re now having sort of an interim morning, Helena has done some laundry, we spent a bit of time at the beach this morning and then just by the pool, and we’re planning on going back into Heraklion for a museum or two this afternoon, and probably a meal.
It’s a lovely place, and of course it’s touristy, but less so than Chania, I think.

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A Conflict of Interests

I have a tremendous internal struggle, a conflict between two essential parts of my nature that plays out every time I sit down at a restaurant, which happens at least once a day when we’re on vacation and sometimes more, and is brought into even sharper focus now that we’re on vacation in Greece where the food is just so damned good, and that is the conflict between my desire to lose weight, which is actually kind of important and even a health issue, and not just vanity, although lord knows (figure of speech) I’, m not exactly lacking in the vanity department either, and my desire to get my money’s worth.
The kids wanted pizza tonight, they’ve been complaining about having souvlaki all the time, which is silly because they’ve had other choices, but they didn’t bitch about having to walk around the ruins of the palace of Knossos today (which I’m glad we saw, but I was a bit disappointed – the massive numbers of people there, looking very much a part of the 21st century, kind of made it impossible to FEEL the antiquity of the place and, in the end, it just seemed like a bunch of old rocks) so I figured it was their turn to call the restaurant, and they wanted pizza.
Anyway, the price was great, we considered just getting one large pizza for the four of us and that might have even been enough, but pizza is deceptive and what looks like a lot can be gone very quickly, so we ordered a large seafood and a medium pepperoni, and it was more than enough. We had to ask for the rest to go, and hadn’t done that yet this trip, and didn’t know if that was an acceptable thing to do in Greece, but it turns out they were fine with it, although I’m still thinking it’s not commonly done because the box was more like a chocolate box and we had to stack the pieces one on top of the other to make it fit.
Well, we were ready to go but then they came around with the complimentary dessert – loukoumades, which are balls of deep fried dough, glazed with honey, and there was a whole stack of them, surrounding a mound of ice cream in the middle. It was exquisite. They also brought out a carafe of some liqueur they called raki, which was wasted on us because I don’t drink, swore it off over 20 years ago, did AA meetings and have been living sober one day at a time ever since, and Helena has never drank much, she might have a glass of wine if she’s forced to at a business function, but more than 2 glasses and she is a bit ill, Isabel is too young and Sam, while we allowed him to sample it, was out with his parents and not with his friends, so not exactly the greatest moment to get hammered.
But we sure did plow through the loukoumades and now, 3 hours later, I’m still feeling a bit stuffed.
Sure got my money’s worth, though.

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A Tale of Two Apartments

Well, the first thing we noticed when we checked into our place in Heraklion was how different it was to our place in Chania. Well, actually, a bit outside of Chania, but we’re a bit outside of Heraklion, too, so fair enough.
First, that was much more of an air b and b vibe, we were the only people in a two apartment house, and we only met the owner once, when she came to let us in. This place is actually a hotel. There, it was a long walk down to the beach and a much longer walk back up. Here, we are about two blocks from the beach, and it’s on the flat. There, we had the pool to ourselves, here, there are lots of kids running around. Helena sees that as a point for the first place. I rate it the other way. There, all the restaurants, the supermarket and everything were along that beach, so we planned our day so that we’d make the trip once. Here, we are in a neighborhood with everything nearby, so that will not be an issue.
On the way here, we stopped in the town of Rethymno, which at first I thought we should just not bother, too much hassle with traffic just to wander around the tourist/market district in another town, but I was pleasantly surprised. Although traffic was a nightmare, once we found a parking place the town was lovely.
We had gyros for lunch, and they were charging fast food prices for table service and the waiter was rushing around, speaking to people in Greek, English, German and he even knew a few words in Czech, or more likely Polish, he said “Djenkuji”, but I was very impressed.
Today, we are off to Knossos to get our history fix and try to be cultured people who are not just here for the beaches and the food.

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Moving Day

Today we are going to leave our cozy little apartment in the hills above Stalos, just west of Chania, where we sat on our balcony for dinner and sometimes breakfast and looked down at our pool and, just beyond that, the blue Mediterranean.
It is 9:15 a.m, our rental car will be delivered at 11, or thereabouts, southern climes not being famous for punctuality, and by noon we will be checked out and on our way to Heraklion, stage 2 of our adventure in Crete. I am munching on black olives because the pack we bought on the first day is still unfinished, the kids won’t touch them, the wife neither, so they are all mine. As are baklava, halva and, after yesterday’s taste test at yet another lovely Greek restaurant right on the beach, dolmades. My family are not, as a general rule, adventurous eaters.
Interesting point: one of the purposes of this trip, for me, was to reconnect with Greek food, but I realized yesterday, just after I ordered moussaka, was that I hadn’t actually had it since the last time I was in Greece, more than 30 years ago, and I didn’t actually remember what it tasted like. I remember that I liked it at the time and had tacked it on to that long and eclectic list of foods I like, but if I tried to recall, with my mind’s taste buds, the flavor and the sense of it, I could not. What if I wound up not liking it after all?
No worries, it was delicious.

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