2011-2027: Zorba Repatriation And Unexpected Events

2011-12-: Preparation and Planning

Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd September 2021

Another early start to drop Jez back into Abacus for more work to be done … we coffee’d and walked locally into an Andover Park as we didn’t have the car.  Late afternoon arrival back at our usual 5 pitch C&CC site, Woodlands Farm.  

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Replacement rear view and reversing camera …  the last one had fogged over.  Driving a nearly 5 ton vehicle with no rear view is not ideal!

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Lots of resident deer at the farm … mostly Roe and a few Fallow.

The background to this trip is that cars can only remain in the UK for 6 months or they have to be imported.  6 months would be up at the end of October and we also had a load of belongings to take across to the house in Crete.  J’s consultant had not argued about us going to Ireland for J’s daughter’s wedding, but had said no to him travelling to Greece.  So he was going to stay home (in Jez) with CO2, whilst I took Zorba and stuff to Crete.

Zorba the Greek car was collected from the Aged P’s.  Well, eventually.  He didn’t want to start.  A new battery in May, so not that.  Jump started off the Merc.  No power steering.  Googled and apparently it is usual for electronics to go haywire on jump starting.  Switched off and jump started again … power steering worked this time.  Back at the Farm, he was then emptied and all the boxes re-sorted to reflect the fact that James’ heart surgery would mean us staying in the UK IN WINTER.  Then reloaded.  All the PLF and transit rules done and understood.  Route plotted.

Maddy, my daughter co-driver was put on the insurance.   Plan well and truly sorted …. Maddy and I would catch the late afternoon overnight ferry on 6th Sept from Ancona to Patras.  4 hours to do a 2 hour drive to catch the next overnight ferry to Crete, arriving early on 8th. Maddy’s boyfriend, Jordan, flying in on 10th.  All to fly back on 17th.  Friends rate my planning.  They’ve not met my mother or sister, who are scary when it comes to planning, but what could possibly go wrong?!

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Fully laden … no room for you Oscar!

2013: Refusual at the First Hurdle

Saturday 4th September 2021

Final check of all paperwork and in the afternoon I set off to collect Maddy from Farnborough.  Zorba wouldn’t start again, so another jump start and I took the jump leads with me!  I got quite adept at accosting men in car parks to allow me to jump start from their cars! … Tesco as I collected a prescription for J and then Halfords to buy a lithium jump starter pack.  This will be fine, really, honestly, I told myself.  We can just jump start our way across Europe!  Then once there, I’ll take Zorba into the garage to have starter motor and alternator checked.  

Maddy drove back down to Chichester to get used to a left hand drive manual car on the wrong side of the road and parked nose out so we could jump start it again!  We had supper at the Aged P’s as our Tunnel crossing not until 0230.  We thought they’d probably put us on the next available train if we arrived early, so we got in the car to set off …. awful grinding and whining noise.  Then deathly silence.  A similar noise to the last time Zorba had to be low loadered to the garage for new injectors.  Zorba really wasn’t going anywhere.  The whole point of the trip was get Zorba back to Greece and was refusing!  I was on the verge of aborting, until I looked at Maddy’s face … she and Jordan were really looking forward to a holiday.  Decision … a fast decision.  I’d take the Merc.  At least our stuff would get over to Greece and I could bring back some winter clothes, not that we have many!

If you’ve never tried emptying a roof box, removing it … fixing it to another car and reloading it in PITCH DARK …. don’t!  It really isn’t the easiest thing to do.  But we managed it and it did stay on!  The Merc’s seats down, the inside was filled to the gunwales.  Interestingly it is less capacious that the Skoda Roomster – aptly named.  Excess boxes and bags were relocated to the Aged P’s garage … despite their downsizing house move and being told they didnt have room to store our stuff!  Ooops!

Slightly frazzled we made it to the Tunnel in plenty of time and did catch and earlier train at 12.45 p.m.

2014: Tyre Pressure but not Tired

Sunday 5th September 2021

One of the benefits of travelling across the EU on Sunday is that most countries ban trucks unless they are refrigerated goods, so the roads are relatively empty.  Our route was toll free through Belgium and Luxemberg, re fill with cheap diesel, and then toll free through France to Basel.  Bought a vignette for Switzerland and used the free Gotthard tunnel during Sunday night.  As Maddy had not been put on the insurance for the Merc, I was driving overnight.  Once offices opened, we tried to get her on my insurance … no, my ex pat insurance will not cover anyone under 25.  No go with her insurance either as they won’t cover 3rd party on other vehicles if under 25.  We ended up paying for expensive day insurance that ran for 24 hours so she did a couple of good stints behind the wheel.

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 It got warmer as we moved south … layers were peeled off….

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… and hair tied back … the air con doesn’t work, so windows had to be opened.  I found another use for a mask to keep my hair from blowing in my face.

A few weeks ago we’d had a tyre warning light come on … nail … tyre repaired.  However, having inflated the tyres for a heavy load, the warning light came on again.  Every time we stopped, I was having to check and re-inflate.  Could anything else go wrong?

Having made good time with only a few nanny naps, we stopped in Como and had a proper restaurant supper.  Well deserved.  We had made such good time we had some big nanny nap stops that later that night.

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Maddy had pizza, but my swordfish with caponata was lovely.

2015-2116: Killing Time and Missing the Next Ferry

Monday 6th & Tuesday 7th September 2021

We had made such good time, having allowed for holdups …. but we even managed to get past Milan before the rush hour and so arrived in Ancona at 9.00 a.m.  We parked up at a Motorhome stop that J and I have used a number of times … formerly Auchan, but a few other shops and cafes.  Breakfast and lunch … Maddy clothes shopped, of course!

We drove down to the port mid afternoon.  Paid for our tickets … only to be told the online office had incorrectly used previously bought tickets, but it did mean we paid less than we thought.

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The ship was late in … they didnt send the the text offering me alternative dates until after we had sailed!

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All these trucks did eventually make it on board….

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… meanwhile, I consumed a few of these.  It was Cretan wine, after all.

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We treated ourselves to serviced dining … if you can call it that!  Linen table napery, but rubbish food and service and very expensive.  J and I have never eaten on board before as we’ve the dogs, but never again.  And the cabin stank of ammonia … obviously the toilet tanks needed cleaning out!  The food was almost enough to make you gag, but the cabin stink certainly was!

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Fortunately we’d brough our own brunch.

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With time to kill on the 22 hour crossing, we dyed our eyebrows!

The ship was 4 hours late into Patras so no hope of catching the next overnight ferry.  Oops … my carefully laid plan!  Before we docked, Maddy was onto a booking site and found us a beach hotel for about £50.  We had a lovely supper at a neighbouring restaurant.  A fraction of the price compared to onboard too.  Before we left the port, we found the Minoan office and rebooked our Pireas – Chania ferry for the following evening.

2017: Tourist Day

Wednesday 8th September 2021

The ferry from Pireas was less than 2 hours away and didn’t depart until evening, so we had all day to kill.  We thought about sunbathing …. but it was grey with showers.  Tourists, it was to be.  We drove up the mountains to Kalavryta to a holocaust museum.  I’d been before with J and the Aged P’s but had found it very moving.

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Video recordings of some of the now grown up survivors and girls told of their first hand experiences, making it very real.  Descriptions of how the women and children tried to identify their family and then dig graves with bare hands in the frozen soil, as all the tools had been destroyed when the Germans burnt the all the houses.  Just as moving as the first visit.

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View from the hill were the men and boys were mown down and now where many still lay.

 Maddy is rather fond of Corrie (Oscar too sometimes!) and wanted to see where we had found her.  I think she rather hoped we would see a close relative of Corrie that she could adopt … don’t know who she thought would look after it with her about to go off to Kings to do her Masters!  Fortunately, this time, Accorinth was bare of strays.

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James and I have stayed here twice later in the year so never seen it so dry.  It was about to close, so we only had a quick wander.

This ferry left on time AND the cabin did not stink.  And we’d taken our own picnic, so altogether a better and shorter crossing.

2018: Cleaning Day

Thursday 9th September 2021

We were up in plenty of time to have a coffee on deck and watch the approach into Chania port.  And with no more set backs, we were straight off and within 20 minutes we parked by our house.  Before we unpacked the car, we had to clean.  It had been empty since end April, but unwelcome residents had moved in!  Yep, stink worms and cockroaches again, especially in the basement where Maddy was to sleep.  So debugging and bleaching started at 0630!  Once Maddy’s bed was made, she climbed into it and I continued the clean moving up the house … she gave me a hand for the last bit and then we unloaded the car and roof box.

With the house pretty much in order, we had supper Almyrida with Gillian … lovely to try a restaurant that has been shut whilst we have been in residence during the winter.

2019-2024: A Holiday

Thursday 9th – Thursday16th September 2021

Jordan arrived the next day, so he and Maddy spent a few days sunbathing.  He is very fair (strawberry blond!) and used more than a tube of factor 50.  We went into Chania, I collected a ring a jeweller friend of a friend had replaced the stone.  I hired a car for Maddy for 2 days and they had an overnight in Rethmyno and visited Knossos Palace.  We ate out a lot … with friends, including a Sunday tea party in aid of animal charities: we ate our body weight in cake!  I also spent some time visiting car dealerships … after a summer forking our thousands on cars, we had decided we really do need a reliable car.  It needs to be Greek as we will be in Greece for more than 6 months each year and big enough to transport us and CO2 to and fro to the UK.  Short list of a Hyundai Kona and Suzuki Vitara … need to test drive and J to look at them in the UK.

On his own in the UK, J dog walked and waded through a pile of admin and jobs.  He had use of my sister’s car for a week and ate in a few pubs and at my parents … just as well as he’s a can’t cook won’t cook man.  I’d left him a few frozen soups and casseroles …. honest!

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 Almyrida with all the sun umbrellas out. 

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I got to walk and run one of our favourite local walks … Plaka head.

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On the way to one of my favourite restaurants, we stopped for a sundowner overlooking Almyrida.

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Chania.

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One of our meals in Eleanora’s.

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Maddy and Jordan flew out lunchtime on Thursday.  Think they had a good time, as they spent most of the previous day trying to work out how they could stay!  Having cleaned their room, I dined back up the hill with friends …. it really was fabulous to see friends after 5 months.

2025: The Return Journey Commences

Friday 17th September 2021

With the ‘children gone I completed the cleaning and got all my paperwork in order.  Rather hoping for an incident free trip as I was doing the return leg solo.

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I treated myself to a good late lunch in Chania at Salis restaurant which has been recommended by Ann … wonderful fish followed by two flavours of ice cream  Didn’t realise each was an entire pudding … I was offered two spoons lol!  Dill ice cream with strawberry jam and watermelon with pickled rind … both delicious.

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To save a little money, I’d booked an airplane reclining chair instead of a cabin … only an overnight crossing … medicine to help me sleep!

2026: Patras Tourism

Saturday 18th September 2021

Arrival in Pireas early morning and I drove to Corinth … I’d booked an antigen test there at 10.00.  I had a walk and beachside coffee beforehand.  Test was only EUR10, so a bargain compared the Kalives ones that Maddy and Jordan had had at EUR25 each.

Still with lots of time to kill, I drove to Patras.  Despite sailing in and out, we’ve never actually gone into the town centre.  I walked up a massive flight of steps to Patras castle … arriving as a sweaty puddle.  The first thing I did once on board was shower!  Fortunately I’d a cabin for this 22 hour crossing to Ancona.  Very few tourists, no British again and mostly truck drivers.  At Pireas the lorry loads were being clambered all over by a private security firm looking for immigrants.  I’d had to open the rear doors and boot.

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Patras Castle steps were right at the end of this boulevard.

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View from Patras Castle. 

2027: Mostly Bored On-Board

Sunday 19th September 2021

Straight off the boat in Ancona and I’d not had to show my double tax cert or even my passport.  More docs had to be presented from Crete to the mainland.  Being Sunday afternoon, I knew to expect traffic heading up to Milan and Como, but there were quite a few road works too.  I got my head down for a bit and then it was plain sailing back through the Gotthard Tunnel at just after midnight and Switzerland.

 

2028: A Good Run and a 3rd Ferry

Monday 20th September 2021

A pretty straight run up to Calais, with another cheap fuel stop in Luxemberg.  On one morning stop, I booked my day 2 Covid test, did the Gov PLF and booked the ferry.  Not used a Channel ferry in years as a) I remember lots of times where I felt sea sick (funnily enough don’t on the Greek ferries), and b) you have to leave the dogs in the car.  This time, I booked DFDS as it was a lot cheaper than the Tunnel at short notice and with a Flexi ticket I could turn up 72 hours either side of my booked crossing and be put on the next available ferry.

I arrived a day earlier than I’d booked and caught the 5.30 ferry. Again largely empty other than trucks.  The hour and a half passed really quickly as part of the Flexi ticket bonus is that I had a meal voucher.

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DFDS chicken curry free … as part of my ticket.  OK it was too … better than Minoan / Grimaldi!

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A meal with a view.

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Before I knew it, Dover in sight.

I got hauled over in Dover … why and where had I been.  Was this my car? etc.  I handed over V5, passport, Greek residency, Greek Tax number, Greek rental agreement and explained why and where I’d been.  He conferred with colleagues and checked my boot and I was allowed to leave.  

Back home to James and CO2 by 9.00 UK time.

So this return drive was just over 3 days door to door, with 3 ferries, 2 of which were overnight.  1125 miles door to door.  963 miles in 24 hours including nanny naps from Ancona to Calais.

Was it hard?  No, not really.  Audio books kill the journey.  More fun coming out with Maddy.

Would I do it again?  Yes, if need be.

Maddy and Jordan got a holiday.

We got most of our ‘stuff’ from the Aged P’s old house to Crete.

I saw some friends.

Failed on getting Zorba out of the UK  … Since our return the garage has established that the diesel pump must be disintegrating to cause the new injectors to fail and the battery was also not being charged …. so he is definitely for the scrap heap.  Not one of our better buys.

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.

 

 

 




1450-57: Cretan Swan Song, Wind and Geese Attack

1450: Wind in Plakias

Friday 21st February 2020

We headed down to Plakias for our last tripette before leaving Crete.  Parking was along the sea front, and it was WINDY …  later that evening we moved into a half empty car park so we could get some sleep and moved back to the beach the next morning.

A few apperatif’s in a bar and we posed the question about whether the TV could be tuned to the weekend’s rugby … come back tomorrow and ask the owners.  Supper was at a new to us restaurant in Plakias … the 83 year old mother sat and gave the old instruction to customers – choose a table closer to the fire, and to her middle aged sons – one waiting table and the other in the kitchen.  Great food.

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The wind blowing the white horses.

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Hot beetroot with mash and oil … one of our starters and we shared a chicken dish after.  We were even given two yogurt puddings and two bottles of raki … hic!

1451: AndyPandyCar Suffers Wind

Saturday 22nd February 

On arrival yesterday, the wind had wrenched the drivers door out of J’s hand, causing the door to crack against the wing panel … a terrible noise and paint damage.  So we drove up into the mountains, and along another gorge, to a garage.  EUR10 and a bit of brute force and the door hinges and panels had been bent back into place.  And a dab of paint added.  

In the bar, we asked about the rugby on TV … yes, the English lady owner would bring down her laptop with her UK TV account.  Grateful we had a coffee and an omelette there for lunch.  Back again later on for a few glasses and a French win.

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 Plakias beach in the morning with a brief moment of sun …. that threatening sky later delivered all it promised.

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But the sea was truly an amazing colour.

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I only went a few steps into the tunnel as it was too dark … apparently coal used to be moved along here.  I know the Germans used the caves for storage in WW2.

1452: Walk to Ammoudi Beach Walk and an ENGLAND WIN!!!

Sunday 23rd February 

A local dog from a Plakias hotel led CO2 and I on a walk to Ammoudi Beach … I suspected he’d done it a few times with hotel guests.  

Back to ‘our’ bar for the England and Ireland game.  It’s not often J and I are on opposing benches … delighted to see England finally find their form, however, France have most people’s money for the Tournament.  Geoff, who I’d met in Mili Gorge a few days ago (and wondered if he’d made it over the land slip) arrived in the bar during the game and then joined us at the family restaurant we’d been to two nights ago. 

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He led the way, but didn’t want to play with either of CO2.  On the return, he shot off back for home, but gave a little bark as we passed by, as if to say, what took you so long?

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View back to Plakias.  It is a low rise seaside resort with a long (windy) beach … pretty enough, but not much to hold you.

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Ammoudi Beach … would have made a good wilding spot … with a couple of permanent caravans, but the rugby held us in Plakias.

 1453: James Attacked … by Geese

Monday 24th February 

We walked from the ancient Greek / Venetian bridge, by the old Prevelli monastery along the top of the Prevelli gorge.  This part was easy walking … it got more difficult coming down the rocky path, if you can call it that, to join the steps down onto Prevelli Beach.  We planned to wade the river and walk up the other side, but as J sat down to remove boots and socks, the 3 resident geese charged over with the necks wings outstretched and attacked James, sat on the sand.  Another walker had to beat them off of James with a stick, but not before he had sustained a bite to the ankle.  Geese are known to be as effective as a guard dog … and we can concur, they are as scary.  We therefore decided have our picnic with CO2 guarding us from the geese and return up the way we came.  The negative was the climb back up the steep path, but the benefit was that we were in the sun the whole way back and the views on that side were better.

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Bridge at the start of the walk … could have been a less windy overnight parking too.

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Wild flowers in an ancient olive grove with thick gnarled trunks.

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Just fabulous views.

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First signing of the famous Prevelli Palms.  Lin, our all things Crete sage, told us that there were all burned about 10 years ago, but no signs of that.

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No sign – yet – of the killer geese!

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Fearless mountain dog on the steep climb.

 1454-55: Back to Kalives for Jobs and Another Farewell Dinner

Tuesday 25th – Thursday 27th February 

We arrived back in Kalives late morning.

As part of our getting back on the road, there’s a pressure to get everything straight first, so we cleaned and polished the outside of Jez, including getting on the roof.  Cleaned the inside and outside of the AndyPandyCar prior to returning it after 4 months of abusing it!  Some admin.  I also collected all the ‘stuff’ I want to take on the flight home … and had to head to the Chinese shop to buy a EUR15 holdall.   J on inside Jez cleaning whilst I took 5 bagfuls of laundry into Chania.  Lunch at the Souvlakerie on Thursday, which we not been to before … a couple of glasses of vino and Lars walked past … so he joined us.

We saw him again for supper Thursday evening, in what is definitely one of our favourite restaurants … 3 Cooks in Stylos.  We were joined by June & Karl, Julia & Anthony and Sue.  Far too much food, but we managed to nostimos our way through most of it.

1457: Adieu Crete

Friday 28th February 

We returned the last of the Greek gas bottles, which had been plumbed in since our regulator issue.  With heating running, they have been lasting 6-8 days and cost EUR18.  Not as cheap as forecourt LPG, but not bad.  The gas shop is also a cava … booze shop, so I supplemented the bottle refund with cash and came away with 5 x 3 litres of wine.  Apparently wine in Turkey is expensive, so we will need to add to our stocks … or go dry!  Coffee at Aris’ Fresh & Cool Cafe and farewell to him … he’s been our Ask Aris.  The latest question was where can we get a replacement windscreen wiper … it just so happened that the chap sat next to him runs a garage in the town, so J took Jez up there whilst I returned the AndyPandyCar.

I was a little concerned that I had not de-doggified it enough and with us having spent so much time locally, he must have known about CO2 …  I’d not mentioned dogs when I made the booking (naughty!).  He gave it  a cursory glance inside and out; didn’t even check that we’d filled with fuel.  When we’d collected Lars the previous evening, he’d said that CO2 don’t smell … another benefit of them not liking water.

After lunch, J rested and I wandered up cardiac hill to say farewell to Ann, who has been a gem.  June and Karl popped down with a tow rope and ratchet (ours had broken when a local tried to pull Jane out of sand in Matala) AND they’d bought hand sanitiser and face masks … generous people.  We have met some really good friends in and around Kalives … only 20 months till we will be back and time does fly.  

We arrived at Heraklion in plenty of time and as we didn’t want to go on board 4+ hours before the sailing, we ate the slow cooker supper early, literally sat dock side watching the lorries load.  Sign everywhere stating restricted access, but no one moved us on and I walked CO2 unchallenged in and out of the harbour.  

A few glasses in the cabin, a shower and we attempted to sleep.  My slumbers disturbed by the swell and CO2 (mostly Corrie) who had remembered that they’d been allowed on the bed with me on a previous crossing … my mistake!

When asked where is our favourite place, we have always replied here, where we are now … we live in the present.  But Crete has definitely caught us.  It has everything … incredible scenery with majestic mountains, history, gorges for walking and beaches.  Old villages with their cafes and tavernas.  Great fresh food and the most generous and welcoming people.  We are both very sad to leave Crete after over 4.5 months, but also excited to start on the next part of this trip.  A big thank you for Lin and Bo who persuaded us to first visit Crete Spring 2018 … it is our Happy Place.