1878-1888 You’re Evicted, Come and Get Your Stuff!

Tuesday 27th April – Saturday 8th May 2021

OK, so Im STILL playing Blog Catch Up, in a big way!

They’d discussed it, considered it and discounted it before.  So we thought leaving our stuff at the Aged P’s house was OK.  Then we got that phone call.  We’re selling and down sizing.  Please come and get your ‘stuff’.  Research and a really useful FaceBook called Group Road Trip: UK to Greece & Back and we were fairly confident on what paperwork, tests etc we needed.  Right to transit is a very powerful travel card.

On another FaceBook group someone asked about getting a dog from Crete to UK, on behalf of an elderly friend.  We offered if the dog was not too big.  It turned out to be not one but two LARGE dogs.  The owners had been on Crete for 16 happy years, but infirmity meant they could no longer cope and were relocating back to their family farm in Kent.  We agreed to transport them!  Mad!!!   So our road trip became a Canine Odyssey! 

Departure Date was booked on 27th April, so we could enjoy James’ birthday on 26th.  Just before this Karl cooked a memorable birthday meal with his signature work of art cheese board and short rib beef which was unctuous.  We officially didn’t need PCR tests as transmitting Italy, but Minoan said we did, so we had them done at 8.00 that morning.  Results back at 2.00 – first hurdle cleared.  We collected our 2 guest dogs so all 4 could get used to each other before we crammed them into Zorba the Greek car.

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Rex was a nervous dog and took a while before he’d come into the house.

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Car seats came out, giving us a flat space for the 4 dogs.  All our SCANT luggage was tied vertically to the head rests to give the dogs lying sown space.

The Route

Day 1 – 27th April:  Departure onovernight ferry from Chania to the Pireaus on Greek mainland.  

Day 2:  Driving up to Igouminitsa for a longer overnight ferry to Ancona, Italy.  

Day 3:  Arrived in Italy late afternoon so drove for a couple of hours after curfew (had a form in case we were stopped) to a pre-booked dog friendly hotel.

Day 4:  Antigen tests in Reggio Emilia and drove to another dog friendly hotel near Nancy France.

Day 5:  Up through Belgium mostly to a hotel outside Calais. Constantly checking if Antigen tests were uploaded by the lab … considered going via an airport … moved crossing and booked an extra night in Calais.  As well as being the weekend, it was also a bank holiday across most of Europe … so everywhere shut!

Day 6:  Should have caught a morning train, but antigen tests were still not available online!  Sunday … wandering the delights of Calais!

Day 7 – 3rd May:  Free and fast antigen tests and late morning train.  Dropped Millie and Rex in Kent.  Collected UK car from Aged P’s and drove both cars onto our house in N. Devon for our quarantine.

 

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 Day 1:  A sunny spot on the Chania ferry before we set sail.  The cabin was very stuffy and smelly … with 6 bodies …. dog breath and flatulence!!

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View of the Drapanos Hill and Almyrida.  Gillian messaged me to tell she was on the Kalives beach and waving at our ferry, , so we waved back … not that we could see each other!!!

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The evening was spent completing all the transit during curfew and Passenger Locator Forms we needed for each country.  Fun!  A whole new level of admin and stress!  It was good we had, as there were a number of road block in Greece and one chap wanted to see the ferry to Italy form … think he was miffed he couldn’t fine us for breaking the out of prefecture rules.

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The ferry stopped at Heraklion before crossing overnight to Pireas.

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Day 2:  Early morning off the ferry and straight to a beach for a dog walk.

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We were in plenty of time for out evening sailing from Igouminista, so lots of dog walking and a really good gyros for supper.  We’d seen this old tub sail into port, but couldn’t quite believe that it was our boat.  But it was and it did make it to Italy.  Trucks but very few passengers.

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Day 3:  We didn’t arrive in Ancona until late afternoon.  So plenty of time to sample the extortionate EUR4 coffee, but it was an Pukka Italian espresso.  

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View of Ancona port.

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Early evening walk as soon as we found a beach once off the ferry.  Despite lots of coaxing, only 2 of the dogs pooped the poop deck.  Can you imagine holding a wee for 18 hours????  Cabin marginally less hot and stinky than the previous crossing.

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Milly, that’s Oscar’s bed!

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Settled in their own beds after lots of bed hopping!  Fabulous hotel with no charge for dogs and large room.

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Day 5  Whilst J was driving, I was checking for tests, investigating if anywhere was open for new tests, changing the Tunnel and booking an extra night in the calais hotel.  We couldn’t find anything open other than a few small service station shops, so breakfast and lunch were chocolate.  Supper was an emergency tin of COLD cassoulet I’d bought en route.  A tough day in many ways.

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Day 6: Tourists in Calais!  Think we’d done most of the sights by lunchtime!  Only 6000 steps seeing the Town Hall, Vauban citadel and lots of municipal gardens … one style of planting …. only 2/3 flower varieties and straight lines.

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Being Sunday , Covid and a BH weekend, we couldn’t find anywhere for a coffee and only found 1 restaurant open in all our walking around Calais town.  We ordered a takeaway … chicken and fish pie.  But again it was COLD, as the restaurant assumed we’d heat it up at home … hotel foyer microwave broken!  We were making good headway into our Greek wine stocks by this time!  Since Brexit, we are limited to 18 litres of wine per person, so we crossed with just under that!

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Day 7: Free antigen tests done, with print outs form the lab.  Dogs in the Tunnel French pet area … tiny and boring compared to UK side … national attitude towards pets?

 

Quarantine in our house in North Devon was OK.  We did pay for test to release, but lost a day due to when the weekend fell.  On the 2 days we had to post the test results we took the long way round to the post box.  And our neighbours walked CO2 a couple of times.  They would have taken them out more often, but the weather was dire.  Felt cold.  We cleaned both cars.  Did admin.  Still felt cold.  Sorted stuff in the shed.  Did some exercises.  And watched far too much TV!   Still really cold.  And thank you to all the Crete folk sending us pix of the warm weather there!  Mum had knitted me 3 garments, the first to be sewn together was a super chunky jumper, which I then lived in!

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We got through a lot of logs!

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Great excitement … a McDonalds McFlurry on release day!

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Tide out at Combe Martin.

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We ate well once released … this was the take outs for putting together at home from Thomas Carr Michelln *  and Lin and Bo, over in Exmoor fed and watered us! well.

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Mackerel and scallop tortellini.

1733-1877: Resident in Greece

3rd December 2020 – 26th April 2021

OK, so Im playing Blog Catch Up, in a big way!

A Tale of Two Houses

The Drapanos house was a Winter let and we wanted a permanent tenancy contract for when we came to convert the beige floppy bit of card (Photo attached with a single staple) to the credit card style biometric residency card.  So after the Christmas and New Year festivities we started house hunting.  It was all a bit gloomy to start as so many places would allow not dogs.  And if they did, they had to be housed outside.  The Greeks don’t have the concept of ‘pet’ like us.  Can you imagine our pampered pooches being tethered day and night outside?  Not happening.  Having put a post on FaceBook a UK based lady made contact and suggested we look at her house in Almyrida.  We shot over there as we were just about to sign on the dotted line for another house.  It was filthy but I could see through the dirt.  James took my word for it.  This house was cheaper and bigger … and didn’t have a pool as we didn’t want the expense of the maintenance.  So we went for it.

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Leftheris Villa:  Our winter home.

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Not a bad place to do Pilates.

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It’s a dog’s life!

The new tenancy contract ran from the start of February, so we had two months of double rent.  Expensive, but it allowed us to stay over in our mountain retreat the we were meeting up with Drapanos friends.  We had access to the new house for a week before we moved in … just as well as we had to move cockroaches and other bugs out!  The house had not really been lived in for some years and the basement flat was particularly bad.  Even when we left to come back to the UK, we were still sweeping up stinky worms daily despite spraying to terminate them … twice.  Our two set of Drapanos friends are kindly checking on the house fortnightly and Julia sends me pix of the worms they are still sweeping up!  They don’t actually do any harm, but climb walls and stink if squished.

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Just YUK! 

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The Almyrida house  (our half is this side) … no name or even a street name.  Tried to send a letter to myself … we think Hassan’s Cafe now takes in post.  The garden is dog proof … Oscar would have been out if he could have found a way.

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We had to buy a few items of furniture … this one is a chest of drawers … I won’t reveal how long it took to assemble!  Or that the missing part was found tacked under J’s shoe!!

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CO2 have their end of the sofa …

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They’re very comfortable there.

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We made good use of this!

We really love the house, not just because it is relatively inexpensive but it has a warm vibe, views of the sea and the White Mountains, which have snow until June.  The basement is virtually a self contained flat for guests.  We’ve put a desk in there so I also use it as the study.  We live mostly on the ground floor: lounge / kitchen with double doors through to a covered terrace.  Our bedroom upstairs has an en suite and a large balcony with even better views.  There is a difficult neighbour …. shame!

 

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Our first aperitif on the upstairs balcony.

As part of the rent, we do some maintenance.  So this year, we’ve cleared both levels of the garden and planted herbs.  Well, Spiros did all the hard work.  He also supplied us with a generous ton of logs for next winter.  We have a trade … cakes from me and oranges, raki (sure is strong) and wine.  He also supplies really high quality olive oil.  Apparently the average Greek family will consume about 80 litres p.a.  Stupidly, I did not bring enough when we return to the UK and I’ve had to buy expensive supermarket oil … really nothing like as good.  Oh, and we’ve also had all the wooden shutters, doors and windows re-varnished … in some cases they had to be glued back together first as they really were in a poor state of repair.  Looking good now … 

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Spiros handiwork … you couldn’t walk between the over growth.  Discovered 3 lemon trees and a small orange tree. 

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Basement garden.

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Thats a lot of G&Ts!

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New stones coming for the garden … amazed the truck didn’t roll down the steep hill.

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Herbs … had to do a fair bit of weeding before the new stones were laid.

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The first orange blossom in our garden.

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Shutters, doors and windows being repaired and painted.

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Looking good.

Walking

With such amazing and varied scenery we continued to do some new and revisit other walks.  With lockdown there were usually restrictions about not walking with others.  At one point we couldn’t even drive elsewhere for exercise.   We had planned to do odd trips over the island, but Covid …

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Finally some Autumn leaves.

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View from one of our regular walks.

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Another monumental olive tree …

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… Oscar inside it!

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Socialising

With lockdown, events / fund raisers etc have all been cancelled, so we have only been socialising with a few people where we could.  We were allowed to meet up for Christmas and New Year … spent both with Drapanos friends.  Karl and Julia are amazing cooks so the food ain’t too shoddy!  Restaurants and cafes closed, but most were open for take aways.  Our favourite restaurant in Drapanos, Eleanora’s, supplied us pretty much weekly.  But we also liked a chicken dinner from the souvlakerie or grill in Kalives.  Restrictions lifted just as we left to return to the UK!!!

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Michelle kindly loaned us a Christmas tree.  Other decorations had come with us in our motorhome Christmas shoe box.

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Favorite takeaway:  Grilled fish from Eleanora’s …. and it’s all MINE, MINE!  J likes the battered fish.

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Visiting the wine cave for the Christmas purchases was an experience … lots of tastings and spent far too much money!

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Christmas Day.

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And I opened my stocking from the Aged P’s.  They buy items for Clare and my stockings on their annual travels.  This year not many countries … South Africa, Switzerland, France and of course UK.

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Not a work of art, though it was.  Karl is an amazing cook … passionate about it.  His Christmas dinner was something special.

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I tried to compete with New Year’s Eve canapés.  We had to celebrate NY early due to 9.00 p.m. curfew … But it was midnight in Pakistan!

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Julia patronises a particularly good patisserie  … this is the traditional New Year cake … one lucky person finds a coin, if they don’t crack a tooth on it.  James was that lucky person and he still has the coin.

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Cake lady with Valentine cakes!

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Julia and Ant loaned us a proper monopoly board … shouldn’t have challenged them to a game … she has a killer instinct!

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We started to feel a bit low and slow with persistent lockdown.  So we had a few Planning Picnics in a lovely bay.  Working on the principle that if you have a diary full, even with chores, the time passes more positively.

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I think the incredible water colour where we had the Planning Meetings helped lift our mood too.

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Gillian and I spotted the “How much is that doggy in the window?”

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Painting project:  Gillian wanted to reduce some of the wood effects in her house … so we attacked them with chalk paint and effects.  She was a quick learner and was soon going solo.

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With so much live stock CO2 have had to show restraint!

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We had a few appointments in Chania and walked back along the Venetian Harbour just before Christmas.


Residency

Having got our beige residency permits in November, I had to change mine to a biometric come the new year.  James, Ireland being in the EU, keeps his floppy beige card for 5 years.  It will be rather dog eared by then.  To get my credit card sized card, I had three trips to the main Police Station in Chania … submit the forms, documents and evidence of payment, come back for digital finger printing (not sure why this couldn’t be done at the same time) and then to collect the card.  Lots of horror stories of folk having the wrong documents and leaving it post 31.12.20 to apply.  And different Police Stations wanting different documents.  So it was a jubilant moment when I collected mine.

Both J and I have 5 year residency permits.  During this time we have to spend a minimum of 6 months p.a. in Greece.  No hardship!  After 5 years, we can apply for 10 year and have more freedom to be away from Greece.  

An important benefit of an EU residency for us, is that we have the right to transit through EU countries between Greece and the UK.  

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Car Repatriation And Introducing Zorba

We drove to Greece in October 2020 in the old Merc estate.  This normally lives on the Aged P’s driveway so we have a car when in the UK.  Dad’s function (not his sole function, you understand!) is to drive it regularly, MOT, pump air into tyres etc.  Mum’s task is all the admin!  Post Brexit, UK registered vehicles can only be in the EU for a total of 6 months.  Pre-Brexit it was 6 months before country before you were supposed to import it.  As we’d arrived in Greece before Brexit, the old rules applied … in other words we had to get it out of Greece before mid April.  We had planned to drive it back ourselves and return in the motorhome, but were nervous due to Covid. In hindsight, we need not have been … I subsequently found a FB group called Roadtrip to UK from Greece and Back … folk detailing their own trips.  And there were quite a number making the trip.  I’d put a FB post out there asking if anyone wanted to drive it back to the UK and we would pay costs.  Julia suggested asking the animal charities.  There are SO MANY abandoned dogs and puppies here and a number of charities work tirelessly to re-home them.  Greeks don’t pay to neuter dogs or cats, and the pups are often found in bags in skips or boxes underneath.  Often lobbed out into car parks.  So if anyone is interested in a new pet, PLEASE DON’T PAY £1000’S FOR ONE THAT PROBABLY CAME FROM A PUPPY FARM … LET ME KNOW!

Cretan Animal Protection operate out of the UK.  Carl left his van on the Aged P’s driveway.  After a delay as he’d tried to catch his flight to Crete with and NHS covid test (duh!), he stayed the night with us.  Next day took his PCR test locally, 4 dogs delivered and caught the 5.00 ferry to the mainland.  After a second over night crossing, he arrived in Ancona, Italy giving himself 26 hours to make it to Calais for his tunnel reservation.  He dropped one dog in Belgium on the way … left the car on the Aged P’s driveway in the middle of the night and then delivered the other 3 pups.  He caught a few hours sleep here and there en route and survived on Monster energy drinks!

Expensive at £1200, but it would have cost us £1500 to use a freight company.  It got the car back to the care of father and gave us peace of mind.  

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Two of the pups being re-homed.

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If she can go on the sofa, so can I!  But that’s not the dog section!!!

In January we bought a Greek car.  You can add about 30% to what you would expect to pay in the UK … it hurts.  Our choice was limited as we wanted enough boot space for CO2 to lie down.  Road tax is around EUR200 for 1.4 litre, but as soon as you go over 2 litre, you’re looking at EUR1000 p.a.  So we have Zorba a Skoda Roomster.   Dull as ditchwater, but a very functional, if underpowered (1.2 engine), run around, which has to get us to the UK.  Prior to setting off for England, we had Zorba checked out by a garage … needed a new timing belt & water pump, brake pads & disks and new tyres and we put new wheels on whilst we were at it.  We bought a dog!!!  So underpowered and VERY EXPENSIVE!

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Zorba.

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The Merc had a flat … the same chap that sold us new wheels and tyres did rather well out of us … we ended up with 4 new tyres for the Merc too.


CO2 BONUS PIX

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1693-1732: Into the Rental House and Into Lockdown 2

24th October – 2nd December 2020

A New Home!

Packing up from the campsite was made so much easier as Carole had let us leave some stuff in the spare room.  Just as well as I really don’t think I would have got it all back into the car!  And once we found the shed key, we managed to shove all the camping stuff in there.  Some of the crockery from the house is also there, as friends June and Karl gave us their old (as in unwanted) crockery set.  Having unloaded we wandered up the road to one of our favourite restaurants …. all of 200m away  Lovely that Eleanora recognised us from last year … think CO2 are more memorable than us.

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Leftheris Villa.

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View from the upstairs deck.  You can see across the bay to Akrotiri and the sea beyond.

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Looking the other way  no, weve not used the pool brr!  The farmer of this house has a raki still: using the grape must.

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I was doing daily exercise here until it got too cold.

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Kitchen, diner and lounge all in one … Carole has since upgraded the TV and so now we are binge watching The Crown on Netflix and rugby on Amazon.

There is no central heating, but Carole has left us enough heaters to have 2 per room!  Despite this, and having our bedroom window open, we have had nasty black mould in the bedroom.  The calor gas fire and damp air and clothes (we had a lot of rain) are the culprits, despite lots of ventilation.  Bleach, a permanent daytime heater and dehumidifier seem to be keeping it at bay.  

 

A Very Different Lockdown

Less than 2 weeks after moving in, the whole of Greece went into lockdown.  Last lockdown we were on a sunny Turkish campsite with old and new friends … best lockdown experience of anyone I know.  This time we are in a house and entering winter … this is what was planned for when electing to rent in our Happy Place.  The weekly announcement has declared that the lockdown will continue unto 14th December.  

There is a 9.00 p.m. curfew and you can only leave the house for 1 of 6 reasons.  You have to carry your passport and a dated & timed form (or text a code if you have a Greek sim) at all times.  In reality, it is only preventing us from traveling too far to explore / walk and restaurants and cafes can only offer a takeaway service.  We’ve been good patron’s of Eleanora’s takeaways!  

One of the attractions of returning here was knowing people.  James and I are very used to just each other’s company, but always good to have fun with other people.  I managed a bus trip out with Ann and others along the west coast just before the lockdown.  Fortunately some friends live really close by and we have a lovely part time neighbour … so we have been able to do a limited amount of socialising.  Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are all sorted … good to spend it with friends, when you can’t be with family.  I’ve read of a number of people with school age children who are deciding not to spend Christmas with the grandparents … so we are fortunate not to spend these festivities alone.

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Bus trip looking out over the far west coast.

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Bus trip:  Gorge that could be walked until rock falls a couple of years ago.

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We’ve been playing some games …  the travel Monopoly set proved difficult trying to recognise the names in the Greek alphabet, so I hand wrote, Park Lane, Old Kent Road etc.  Much more familiar.

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No shortages here.

High Maintenance Man!

We’ve had to drive into a very quiet Chania a number of times …. mostly for the hearing aid shop.  The lovely Vera had replaced the connecting wires between batteries and aid so they now worked …. but not much use when one keeps falling out.  She took a new mould and then we had to return to collect the replacement … so far this one stays in!  We are not convinced that the hearing aids will remain trouble free, but for the moment, they are working and J can hear / I don’t have to shout!!!

We have also had a saga with the DVLA to renew J’s C1 (3.5-7.5 ton) driving license.  As he is over 70, he has to have an eye sight test and medical.  On arriving in Crete we had posted the new form and photo’s back to the DVLA.  They then wrote asking for permission to contact his doctor and advising that he would need another eye test … different standard for C1.  They completely ignored J’s letter asking if he could take the test in Crete and sent him through the contact details to make an appointment with Specsavers.  Specsavers were able to email a blank form and we found an optometrist in Chania with the appropriate equipment.  Slightly stressful weekend wondering if J had passed the test. If he failed, we would be facing the decision to downsize the motorhome or I do all the driving.   He did pass … 100% with his glasses on.  A return visit to collect the DVLA form and test results … these were then scanned and emailed to our UK Admin Team (Mum and Dad) who printed and posted it immediately.  Just to cover ourselves, we have also posted the original copies.  Another waiting game now to see if the DVLA will accept the Greek test.

With limited other distractions, we have both got back into exercise … mostly running and some Pilates for me.  J had been increasing his distance and frequency … but then had a really painful foot / ankle.  After 3 days resting it, I started to suspect a stress fracture.  A visit to the Doctor was encouraging as he thought it was not a break, but tendon / sprain.  Anti inflammatories, pain killers and rest.  Almost 2 weeks later and J is now able to walk short distances, but it will be a slow road back to running.  

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Views from the Plaka walk that I / we regularly do as it is not far.

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There are generally 2 cruise ships sheltering in Souda  apparently up for sale.

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Huge Olive trunk … the harvest started early this year … partly so people could get some money into their coffers as the summer season had been so curtailed.  A good harvest this year.

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A walk near Kefalas, where a local creates these wonderful stone structures for others to sit and enjoy.

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We wondered why this path had a fence across it at the bottom … it was slightly over grown and slippery.

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Walk and view from Ebrosneros.

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 Walk near us Kokkino Chora …

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 Kokkino Chorio: Steps down to a deep cave …

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… last time we were here, it was safe to walk across. Wetied CO2 back up top so they couldn’t be washed away.

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A walk past the ancient site of Aptera to …

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 Aptera Castle with amazing 360 views.  That triangular lump is Drapanos hill  we live below it.

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Nearby beach walk.


Residency

We had prepared and brought a lot of documents with us believing we would need them for our Residency Permits.  In the event we were only asked for passports, Greek Tax numbers, EHIC cards electricity bill in the name of our landlady and the tenancy agreement.  A slightly anxious 3 week wait, but we got them.  We have the right to remain here indefinitely … we just need to stay in Greece for a minimum of 6 months for the next 5 years.  James is Irish and I could travel with him freely in the EU (no Brexit 90/180 days restriction), but Residency gives us the right to return here. 

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J’s is valid for 5 years, but mine will need to be replaced with the biometric one by 31.12 … but this has not been yet put in place.  

It was more difficult to open a local bank account.  They needed utility bills from the UK, pension statements, Tax Returns, phone contracts etc etc.  All the paperwork was done, but we had to wait for the Residency Cards before we could collect the pass book and cards.  We don’t actually need local accounts, but the ATMs generally charge EUR3 per withdrawal, and we are saving this fee.  

 

Corrie and Oscar D

Oscar here – her nibs – C – has graciously agreed that I can write this diary – with editorial rights!  It’s been a year (!) since we verbalised our thoughts…..November 2019 – pre-virus……  Since then we’ve been in lockdown Turkey with new friends, back to UK, left Jez for Slovenia repairs – and now back to Crete via our non-motorhome charabanc – Merc K100. I am now seven years young – a mere stripling – C we think will be 4 in February……. As for the owners, well – they are getting on too….  A place called Draftyhouse – no, Drapanos – is our base now – not too far from Kalyves – of a year ago.

Now then, reader(s) – we have this thing called – a house!  It looks ok – it doesn’t have 4 wheels and a steering thingy….you cannot drive it to the beach and park anywhere for the night – it stays in one place… well, for us it will be 6 months.  Inside, there’s a living room/kitchen – up a stairs a bedroom and bathroom. But – in the lounge – there’s a magic sofa that has ben designed for myself and Corrie – no adults allowed – unless Katherine is watching “Harlots” (something about women loose at night?) – or “The Crown” (loose people by day and night – talking posh).  Which means we have a telly – who would have thought it?  It keeps the owners quiet in the evening…

All 4 of us are now Greek residents – which means we can swear in the local lingo – and buy stuff. J is a resident for 5 years – and us until January next – something about a ‘Brexit’… sounds nasty. 

K has bought us special doggy collars – how kind of her – b***ocks!  Mine stops me from barking (after a little bark) – is a dog supposed to not bark?  European Convention of K9 Rights come to mind…  Now Corrie likes to chase and pretend play with sheep and goats – her collar gives a vibrate if she wanders too close to those lovely playthings…spoilsports. We think K and J should have collars – with emote controls we operate if they reach for the gin a second or third time!

Lockdown time again – in all of Greece – this dreadful virus is affecting everyone – we hope it goes away very soon.

We’re all learning Greek – so Kalamera, epharisto and parakola – for now.  Our teacher has promised a lesson in naughty words next week!

Back to the sofa, Corrie…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1681-1692: Sunshine Camping in Crete … Mostly

12th to 23rd October 2020

Woohooo … we made it to our happy place.  This is seriously the only place we’ve come back to in our 5+ years of travelling.  And this is our 3rd trip.  And very happy to be here with the expectations of further lockdowns.

Having set off over a week earlier than planned, we knew the landlady would be in residence of the house we’ve rented for 6 months.  In the event, it was longer than anticipated.  They left on Saturday 24th and we moved in the same evening!  So we had 12 nights to find a bed …. we looked at AirBnB, but they were proving more expensive than we wanted to pay … the weather was great, so the tent on a campsite it was.  We thought about moving site mid stay, but we had such a fabulous pitch and felt too lazy to strike camp only to erect the tent again, so we stayed put.

Since we were going to based in the north of Crete for the Winter, we chose to base ourselves in the South.  There were 3 campsites we could have chosen from, one in Agia Gallini and two in Paleochora … we opted for the latter, as the last time we were there our exploring had been limited by extreme weather, which saw us moving the van twice in in one night.  Camping Paleochora was small, but walking distance to the town, BUT you couldn’t park your car next to your tent.  Camping Grammeno had replied to emails and given us a good price … a super site.  Large and spacious, beach front, hot showers and a shared fridge freezer.  Charming Chris, from England, is the Winter guardian.  He has been resident there for 7 years … his motorhome is never going to be driven away … it is held captive by a wrap around decking, steel roof canopy and fencing to contain his 6 dogs and numerous cats!  He was super helpful, loaning us a hookup adapter and suggested we go on a metre for power … we paid about EUR5 for the whole stay, compared to the flat rate of EUR4 per day!  Pretty good given all our cooking is on electric (hob, instant pot, remoska and the Dometic camping fridge).  We also followed up on his restaurant recommendations … although we were about 5 km from Paleochora, there were 2 good restaurants within walking distance.

Chris did warn us that our pitch could become a mini lake in extreme weather … and it did drop copious amounts of the wet stuff on us for a few days.  J drew a line in the sand to measure the rising water level behind us.  The water came close,  but we did  not have to evacuate.  The tent has now had the best (worst!) that Derbyshire and Crete can throw at it … pleased with our purchase. 

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When we arrived the beach was covered in Sea Daffodils.

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Beachside tent pitch = Beachside office  yay.

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And Beachside knicker line! 

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Many fabulous sunsets  we weren’t up in time for the sunrises!

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It was warm enough for Oscar to need a fur prune.

Generally the weather was full on sun … so we did a bit of walking and recommenced running.  The road to Paleochora was undergoing long term (i.e. taking a long time!) renovation, so was closed from 9.00-1.00, then 2.00-4.00, so unless we wanted to get up with the crows, it rather limited where we went. 

We had two attempts on the Anidri Gorge which we had climbed some of last winter.  Once from the bottom and then from the top … so we have effectively done the whole of it now … and it really aint that long … the lower part does involve a fair amount of clambering, bottom shuffling and hoisting of CO2.

Gillian and Steve from one of the FaceBook motorhome forums joined us for a few days and gloated about having not had to run through hoops for their beige Residency Permit.  We hoped ours would prove as easy … we have come with just about every document we could think they may need.

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Paleochora from the castle  we ventured in here several time for coffee, ice cream, shopping and .

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. a veggie meal.  Absolutely delicious.  These starters were corn crips, avocado with a beetroot confit.  The other was sweet potato with a cashew paste and caponata.  

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Walking up the Anidri (Anidhri) Gorge, which we started last winter until rain made it too slippery … this time it was super hot, so we still didn’t complete it.  Corrie had to be on the lead for most of it … she would like to chase the mountain goats … and yes, she would be able to climb up there.

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Anidri George:  James and I are not mountain goats .. a bottom slide was employed here.

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Corrie off lead and wondering if she should leg it off after goats that MUST be around.

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It definitely was not flip flop walking … don’t know how long these have rested here.  Not our size!

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The Grammeno Peninsula was perfect from walking CO2 from the campsite and even better with a full rainbow.

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Last winter James had bought (expensive) hearing aids and they had stopped working soon after we left Crete.  Then with lockdown, getting them sorted was delayed.  He tried in Hungary, but was told there was a glued in connection between the battery and hearing aid so they couldn’t fix them.  Specsavers in the UK had also had a look at them ….  So we had 2 trips to Chania to the hearing aid shop.  No great hardship as it is a stunning 1.5 hrs route over the mountains.  On visit number 1, Vera (stunning and slim hearing aid lady) kept the hearing aids and then on visit 2, she had replaced the cable and they now worked … for a while!  Slight issue where one kept falling out.  

Whilst on the north of the island we also went over to Drapanos to meet our landlady and see the house. Carole has bent over backwards to assist us with doing a proper rental agreement, which we will need for the residency permit application.  We met her on our 2nd trip to Chania to sign the residency agreement, which the accountant then processed / ratified.

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We drove twice up to Chania to the hearing aid shop.

1663-1681: A Quick Flit!

1663-1681: Packing Up and Goodbye to Jez

Thursday 24th September –  12th October 2020

Back at Coxbridge Farm we proceeded to completely empty Jez … he was going back to his factory of birth in Slovenia.  We had always had issues with opening and shutting the habitation door … sometimes even having to take our boot to it.  This had never been correctly repaired whilst under warranty:  incorrect parts or non-delivery of parts, .  With the constant slamming shut, we had consequential damage to the side wall … a crease!  Adria agreed to repair this … actually not a repair, but a whole new side wall.  But who could be trusted to do this major surgery?  Don’t worry … they will collect the motorhome and take it back to the factory in Slovenia.  Having been warned that we would be without our home for at least 6 weeks, we had formed a plan!

To be fair, we already had a plan to spend the winter in Crete … wanting to be in our Happy Place for another expected Covid lockdown.  We had agreed to rent a house just east of Chania from a friend of a friend.  With no van, we would drive the car over.  It would also mean we would save the expense of hiring a car whilst there.

Once Jez was empty … again abusing my Aged P’s goodwill, attic, garage and shed, we drove down to N Devon, via an over night on a friend’s driveway in Bristol.  Jez was left with a motorhome dealer there and within a week was collected on a closed lorry to be transported back to Slovenia.  We were able to track his progress on the Tracker.  Part of the planning was again to buy and wrap all our Christmas gifts … Mum was unimpressed the first year of our travels when I left all the wrapping for her to do!

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Costa iced caramel latte … my go to packing drink!  Not sure how many I managed.

The packing the car was a challenge.  We planned to camp en route, so had the tent and kit we had trialled in Derbyshire.  Summer-ish and winter clothes, dogs and their kit, cooking kit, Christmas gifts from family etc etc … all to fit into the car.  The day before departure, it was all at the front of the house ready to be packed … in the persistent rain!  Bear in mind, I may not have many skills, but packing is one of them … taught by Dad on our family camping holidays … Mum and Clare sorted bedding, Tim sat in the car reading and I passed dad things to pack or helped erect the tent.   It was quickly obvious it would not all fit.  Maddy and I did an emergency trip to Halfords to buy roof legs, bars and the biggest roof box they had … a snip at >£600 NOT!.  And slightly annoying as we already have legs and bars that fit the car in the shed in N Devon, but hey ho … after a few tricky attempts to close the roof box, we got it all in.

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CO2 lying on top of pilates mats, duvet, pillows etc.  A bit of a leap up!

We are really lucky people.  We had brought our departure forward by 8 days, concerned that borders would start closing again.  Just before we left, Switzerland closed to Brits (that was OK, we planned to go via Austria anyway) and the day after we arrived, Italy also closed.  Although in reality, we heard of folk crossing between countries with no checks.  Another major piece of luck was that the DVLA returned James’ C1 (to drive over 3.5 tons post 70 years old) application form wanting further information and a new photo.  This was a major piece of good fortune, as without a physical licence, James would not have been able to drive abroad.  If stopped by police and unable to produce the licence, they would have deemed the vehicle uninsured!  Quick as flash, J said, right, we will keep it and post it all back from Greece so he could share the driving.  It expired on 12.10.20 … the day we arrived in Patras, mainland Greece.   It would have been a real struggle for me to drive that distance for 5 days solidly.

With poor weather initially and then tiredness, we abandoned the camping idea and about 4.00 o’clock each day, I messaged AirBnB owners to get a good price for an overnight.  I had tried a campsite cabin initially, but it was more expensive than an apartment, and thankfully there were quite a few that allowed dogs.  Out of the 5 AirBnB that we used, all were <£65 (cheapest was £19!) and all, bar one, were very comfortable.  

So our route was 1180 miles from home to Ancona.  Overnights in Belgium, with Kerstin in Reutlingen, Verona and close to Ancona.  An 18 hour ferry from Ancona to Patras, an overnight near Patras and then another overnight ferry to Chania, Crete.  The journey took us exactly 7 days with only a 30 minute difference door to door (Ash Vale to Chania).

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A very quiet Tunnel. 

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Our first AirBnB was a stones throw from a free aire … missing Jez!

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First overnight apartment.  I was expecting really uncomfortable beds, but they were all OK … gone is the day of lumpy rental mattresses.

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Leaving, after packing the car, in teaming rain.

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We really cannot get lost … ancient Garmin, Co-Pilot, Dash Cam and old iPhone for audio.  Console of the Enterprise?

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£10 for 3 giant bars … just had to.

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Overnight stop, walk and supper, with my old mucker Kerstin in Reutlingen, Germany.

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Similar to the chicken parmesan I ate in the NE … this was equally delicious … chicken in a paprika cheese sauce.

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A lucky rainbow.

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Rain eased as we crossed from Austria to Italy over the Brenner Pass … and scenery got interesting.

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 The grotty Italian AirBnB – something out of the 1950’s.  And by no means the cheapest.

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Yes, we cruised to Love in Italy, where else!

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Spotted near Ancona … the future of cruise ships?

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Time for and Italian lunch before Ferry No.1.

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I know my dinner is up there, surely it IS time for it NOW?

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Dog walk near Patras after the long (18hrs) crossing … they have to poop the poop deck on board and Corrie is Miss reluctant.

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Time for first lunch in Greece; shared Dukos and Shrimp Saganaki … nostimos.

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Waiting dockside to load for Ferry No. 2 … we had to turn around on board … so much easier in a car.

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Coming into Chania, Crete port in the morning … somewhere there is Kalives, not far from our rental house, which is more up in the hills.