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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Do Nothing Day

Helena designated today as do-nothing day, which would usually bother me as our vacation time is limited and I want to fill it with as many fun, interesting, and culturally educational moments as possible, but at the end of the day yesterday, I was so tired and footsore that I readily assented, and now I am quite enjoying our little vacation within the vacation, just hanging out at the apartment, finished a book, spent some time in the pool, had a very simple salad and toast lunch on our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, and we may walk down the hill later in the afternoon for a swim, a larger meal, and this evening we’re planning a round of mini-golf, the place doesn’t even open until 5, which is smart, that would be no fun at all in the heat of the day.
Yesterday was also quite a lazy morning, our only plan was to go to Chania for the archaeological museum and the ‘ sunset cruise’ on a glass bottomed boat. Our morning was so relaxed that when we got to Chania and started walking to the museum, it was 5 p.m. and we had to be at the boat at 7:15 and I’d thought it was like maybe one or two o’clock and we had bucketloads of time to spare.
So, we quick marched to the museum, the lady at the front desk slipped us a couple bottles of free water out of sympathy, the museum was interesting but not large so we covered that in an hour and then quick marched back to the port. I was exhausted, my feet were hurting, my back was hurting and sitting and relaxing on a boat sounded pretty good.
Now, I’m of two minds how to review this boat tour (Captain Nestor’s Glass Bottom Boat). On the one hand, it was the highlight of my day and well worth the 10 euro price (although I’m sure I’d have been bored to death and felt ripped off if we’d gone for the 3 hour, 25 euro tour) On the other hand, they were kind of guilty of false advertising. They said they’d take us to an island where we could relax on the beach, swim and enjoy the sunset. Well, what they actually did was take us to withing swimming distance of the island and said, go ahead, jump in. Only a few of us did. I think more would have if there had been someplace to change into swim suits on the boat. Not being too prideful, I just walked up to the bow in front of the cabin and changed quickly, but I think a lot of people, especially the women, might have just been too shy. The island was very rocky, and I got a bit scratched up going ashore, but now I can say I’ve been to a leper colony (the tour did come with a bit of a history lesson)
Also, the glass bottomed boat thing was a bit of a letdown, as we never saw any fish below the boat at all, but you can’t blame the crew for that.
Still, it was a lovely boat ride, a beautiful way to relax at the end of a long day, and everybody was satisfied. So, I’d definitely recommend it, just change into your swimsuit before you go.

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Chania

Yesterday we took a bus into Chania, which isn’t far, about 15 minutes. At first, it seemed a bit of a grotty town. We walked to the port, which was just a few blocks from the bus station, and it was tourist zone deluxe. Lots of restaurants, with people standing at the edge beckoning you in, we had ice cream, there were lots of interesting looking structures around the harbor, ancient walls and such, buskers, a man with a snake which Helena didn’t like much, a glass bottom boat tour which we decided to take tomorrow, which is now today, and so on. We did go to the Maritime Museum, which was smallish and not terribly impressive, but I learned a few things, and it was good to be in a cool place for a moment.
Then, we started looking for a place to eat. Sam said he’d seen one place that was cheaper than the other places, so we followed his lead. At one point, we took a turn off the main drag and were suddenly on a much quieter street, equally quaint and pretty but without the hordes of tourists, it’s amazing, sometimes a short step to the side and the whole world changes. But, we never found Sam’s restaurant so I took charge and we started looking for a restaurant I’d seen online, which we also never found but the place we wound up eating at was a gem. We chose it because it was filled with Greek people, and that is a good way to choose. In the Greek tradition, they didn’t bother with menus, they just took us to look at the food and choose, which we did, without even asking about cost, but it was all good, we had more than we could eat, and the price was way lower than any other place we’d seen.
Then we did some more walking around the port, but the heat was beating us down and I was exhausted and as we were leaving we walked past a very touristy restaurant and I saw a man down, sitting on the ground with a lot of very worried looking people standing around him. He was still conscious, but I’m sure it was some kind of a heat exhaustion thing and soon an ambulance came and as we walked away I was thinking, damn, that could have been me. He was probably younger than I am, by the look of it.
Anyway, I’ll keep wearing a hat and drinking plenty of water and hope for the best. Today, we’ll hit the beach in the morning, i.e. pretty soon, then back to Chania for the archeological museum and the glass bottom boat ride in the evening.

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Trip Day One

Well, we got off to a bit of a rough start but I must say Crete is awesome, and even after one day I can say, if you’re choosing your next vacation spot, this would be a good choice. Our flight from Prague was only delayed by half an hour, no biggie there, but it was absolutely pissing down rain when we took off and my thoughts rather inevitably led to Buddy Holly, Paul Wellstone, that one heavyweight boxer whose name escapes me because I’m not a big boxing fan, John Kennedy, Jr. and all the others who probably should have stayed on the ground that day. The flight to Zurich wasn’t especially rough, or eventful, except in my own mind. When I asked Sam and Isabel how they’d enjoyed the flight, they kind of looked at me as if I’d asked how they’d enjoyed their walk to the grocery store. “Fine,” they said. They are relaxed fliers as much as I am a panicky one.
Then we had to spend the night in Zurich airport, sleeping fitfully on seats not really meant for sleeping, but every single person there was doing it, some more successfully than others. Again, Isabel got in several restful hours. I probably didn’t sleep for 30 minutes straight the whole night.
The flight from Zurich to Chania, on Edelweiss airlines, was lovely. Breakfast was kind of an oatmealy, yogurty thing with blueberries, a strange sort of mini-cheese crepe, bread with butter and cheese and jam, and a cookie.
We’d been told we could catch a shuttle bus to our apartment, but that was a bit of a lie. We could catch a public bus, and then switch to another, and then walk a bit, uphill, if we were willing to wait 45 minutes, so we decided to splurge on a cab. Don’t want to disparage the cab driver too much, not everybody can know every location on the island, but he didn’t have a fucking clue where he was going and tried to drop us in front of the Cactus Restaurant, which was not at all the Cactus apartments. Still, he didn’t give up and, several phone calls and wrong turns later, he got us there, and we only had to wait about 40 minutes for the owner to show up and check us into the room.
The view, which is what sold us on the place, is truly as spectacular as in the brochure, and we do indeed have a balcony with an overview of the Mediterranean. It’s just about a 20 minute walk down the hill, and you have to take that 20 minute walk to eat, to shop, to do anything because there is nothing at all closer than that except olive trees, cacti, and stark, searing heat.
Anyway, walked into town, had a great lunch, swam in the sea, lounged on a perfect sand beach, did some shopping, struggled back up that hill and had dinner on our balcony, staring out at the sea, the ancient, historical, beautiful sea as the sun went down.
Now, I’m going to bed and I feel I’ve earned it.

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Vacation

In about half an hour, a taxi is coming which will take us to the airport, and we’re off for two weeks in Crete, a place I have always wanted to visit. I’ve been to Greece a few times, many, many years ago, long before I was married and had kids, so I’ll definitely be seeing it in a different light, but I’m sure the food will still be great, the beaches will still be gorgeous, and the people friendly, and the ruins very, very old.
Also, the apartment we’ve rented for the first part of the trip, for a very reasonable price, I might add, looks downright luxurious.
So, for the next couple of weeks this blog will be mostly a travel blog, which will come as welcome news to those who are sick of me only writing about politics all the time.
Watch this space!

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