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.

1408-1414: Wonderful Walks and Minor Medical Matters

Saturday 11th – Friday 17th January 2020

Still based in Kalyves, essentially riding out a spot of some bad weather and sorting out some medical issues.


Walks 

One walk took us from a new-to-us hill village – Kalamitsi Alexandrou and out through olive and orange groves, with lovely views of the White Mountains.  The destination was the Holy Monastery of Agios Georgios at Karydi.

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The monastery on the horizon.

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The entrance … EUR2, wasn’t sure where to leave the money so just left in inside.

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All this complex for just one resident monk.  And I heard his deep vibrating snores echo around.  He appeared later and got the chap who had been sat on the terrace to drive him somewhere. 

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The 12 arch oil factory 1860 within the monastery complex.  Large scale olive production started in 1829 and provided a many local families with employment.

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Our picnic on the terrace outside … notice the lady with her feet up … she’d been washing up whilst the monk slept … division of the sexes here.

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A coffee back at the village cafe and Corrie made herself at home.


Lars, our Swedish resident friend led us on another walk, part of which we’d done before … we parked up behind Almyrida and walked around Douliana and Tsivaras … mostly mixed leaf woods, more oranges and olivestwo cave churches.

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Lars assured us that there are no poisonous snakes in Crete.  J explained how St Patrick had banished all snakes from Ireland.

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Some of our route was old Minoan roads … these huge and smooth slabs have stood the test of time.

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Inside one fo the cave churches.  We’ve been astounded at the honesty and trust here in Crete.  One of the churches had money left on a shelf … 


Beach Cleaning

Armed with gloves and plastic bags, we did our bit … a lot of plastic gets washed up after storms.  This was a Greek and Ex-pat combined exercise.

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CO2 are soooo starved, that they have to wear muzzles at Kalives … people dump cooked bones and there has been some talk of poison being put down.  So much as CO2 both attempt to remove the muzzles, they stay on for their own good.  The orange ‘kerchief is part of Brian’s over sized duvet that was cut down … should get a pic of all 2 dogs sporting their orange (sorry, Brian, TANGERINE) fashion wear!

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The official photo of most of the litter pickers … I am there … about a third in from the left, at the back, between two incredibly tall men.


Medical Matters for the High Maintenance Man!

Let’s talk hearing loss … J had a test about 18 months ago and was told he was borderline for hearing aids.  However, I now often have to repeat myself 3 times … and usually what I say, ain’t worth repeating even once.  The handsome Dr Manos in Kalives, booked a hearing test in Chania.  Moderate loss in both ears at high frequency … no wonder he can’t hear me!!  We went straight around the corner to a hearing aid specialist.  The lovely Vera had stuck green wax in his ears to get the shape last week and we went on Monday to collect the hearing aids.  Time is NOT money in Crete.  We were there over and hour and a half, checking the programme and no echo … I had to ring James from the street with passing cars for a test.  We left with the hearing aids, having left no deposit, or print of our credit card … all Vera had was a phone number!  Take them away and come back in a few days to see how you get on.  Her English is better than our Greek but not good, so people from surrounding shops were drafted in for translations.

We returned on Thursday and another hour to go through warranty and make some adjustments.  Oh, and to finally pay!  James actually hearing what I say now…. RESULT.  And his phone is blue toothed so he can select programmes, volume and …. play his music through them … even phone calls go straight to them (sadly I only now hear half the conversation!!!).

 

A wobbly tooth was inspected by Gorgeous George … locals name for him, although I concur.  It will fall out on its own … a conversation about implants.  I went to pay … he refused to take any money!  

 

Taken on Trust

As well as the trust with us walking out with the hearing aids, having not left any means for the shop to trace us should we have absconded, I had a similar experience.  My phone battery was ‘unhealthy’, so I took it into a large shop in Chania and left it with them for a couple of hours.  Picked it up and got out some money … no, you take this paper and pay up stairs.  I had the phone in one hand and the paper in the other, passed the door to the street … I could so easily have walked out.  You’ll be pleased to know I am one of those folk who tells restaurants if they’ve forgotten to add an item to the bill, so I did pay … all of EUR28.

An earring had a stone come loose … took it into the key cutting / cobbler place next to our morning coffee cafe to be glued … no charge … 

 

 

1397-1505: A New Decade and Acts of Kindness

Not wanting to sound soppy …. Both James and I are struck with how kind and helpful people are generally, but this last week has particularly humbled us.


1397: New Year’s Eve Festivities

Tuesday 31st December 2019

Walked on Sandy beach and then coffee and pastries.  We left the street parking outside what may have been a council building; lots of folk going in and out, but sideways places at us –  so with thanks to Paleochora…..

In convoy back to Kalives to load with water and then up to friend of a friend parking (again!).   Act of Kindness No. 1: parking for us arranged by Julia.  Self showered and off to Eleanore’s eatery at Drapanos. Act of Kindness No. 2:  Thank you to June, Karl and Lars for inviting us.  Conversation flowed, and the wine flowed faster!  A little Greek dancing to the live band, but not much room for a dance floor as the place was rammed with diners.  A testament to how relaxed andchilled the Greeks are … the kitchen couldn’t cope with the numbers … 90 covers for a small family restaurant, and hot food was still coming out at 1.00a.m.  Important to the Greeks is that it is freshly cooked.  A lot of tourists complain that starters arrive often with the main course and that it is not piping hot.  It comes out of the kitchen when it is ready and most plates are for sharing.  

We left at 2:00 am – the party was still in full swing – including 10 police officers and wives – drink driving???  “Chonia palla” to all – Happy New Year (sort of) – in Greek!!! 

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The sun out again for our walk on Sandy Beach  

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 … there was a cold wind so no-one was taking advantage of this being the nudist area.

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At Eleanore actually trying to capture the family with fine identical moustaches behind us!

1398: Enforced Easy Day

Wednesday 1st January 2020

Slow start and slow day.  Can’s think why!!!  Back down the hill to Kalives.  

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Dogs just got walked along the beach  more snow on them there hills.

 

1399: Doctor and Soup Making

Thursday 2nd January 

Weather was really grim.  Visited the good doctor to arrange hearing test for moi – pardon? Pm – coffee / wine with Ann and K making batch soup amounted to our sole activity!  A continuing good start to 2020 – shall K ask me to marry her – again – leap year – I would leap at the answer… 


1400: Chania Activity

Friday 3rd January 

After two days of inertia and lack of activity.  A trip to Chania for laundry and late lunch at an amazing restaurant – “Tamam” – which in Arabic means ‘excellent’ – how apposite? 

N.B.  I know laundry is usually undertaken in the twin tub, but the inclemency of the weather and not wishing to turn Jez into a 5 day long Chinese steam laundry, meant a paid for self service facility was required.

K met Ann for coffee and received post that had arrived at Ann’s Act of Kindness No. 3:  this is the second time Ann has acted as post receiver for us  … Valarian for Oscar.  Not vallium … but similar!!  The hope is that it will calm his anxiety and over excitement … fingers crossed.

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Tamam Restaurant, recommence by about 3 people.  In old town Chania, so prices a little higher but excellent quality.  A plate of mixed starters, then from the left  Js veal, pork and cheese pie, Brians beef and aubergine puree, and Kseabass with fennel sauce.  All really yummy.

 

1401: A Lars Led Walk

Saturday 4th January

Blazing sunshine and warm – what a change…….Lars was tour guide for our river walk from Kalyves – as Brian was unwell, we took Zoa – who seemed to adopt me … Longest walk (11km) I have done for a year?  Wonderful views of the snowy hills and then a glimpse of the sea.  Through lots of orange groves … a man slowed his car and thrust his arm out of the window proffering a bag of oranges.  We do like the Greeks.  Not only did Lars guide the walk, he had baked a Swedish apple pie which we had with coffee.  And we left with a chunky slab, a Swedish cheesecake and some lingonberry jam.  Act of Kindness No. 4:  Lars!

Act of Kindness No. 5: One of our recent friends from New Years Eve (Karl) arrived with a smokeless Bbq – he and K had been discussing kitchen gadgets at New Year – how kind is that – amazing!  We just need some fuel and decent weather to test it!

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The snow is definitely a little heavier, but so pretty with the sun on it. 

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A real contrast with the snow and the shirt sleeves only temperature amongst the olive groves.

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Oscar and Zoa had a few stand offs and stick pinching moments  very entertaining!

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Cant wait to give this a go  batteries power an underneath fan so it is ready to cook in 5-10 mins and uses much less charcoal.

 

1402-1404: Wet and Windy

Sunday 5th January

Another day for battening down the hatches….supper with Lars at Icarus…. the menu was a bit limited and white wine ran out so red was a good substitute!  Michelle showed a mug she bought Michaelis – the inscription was “I can’t keep calm … I’m a Greek man!”

As the wind speeds increased, we moved Jez – We’re getting good at this – “CluneVanRemovals”??? 

 

Monday 6th January

K had developed a cold – so a bit of a duvet day for her – poor lamb – not even a ‘girlyflu’… I manfully stepped up the plate and plated (nice pun, J) a sort of meal……’great balls of fire’ – well, great balls of meat with a sweet potato and a few leaves of cabbage. I’m now awaiting the call from ‘DastardlyChef’……..  Act of Kindness No. 6:  Brian kept us topped up with coffees and chocolate!

 

Tuesday 7th January

“Revicanusenlome” (anagram) moved Jez back to our beach wild camping place.  K and Brian had a wet and windy walk with dogs around the head at Plaka.  Supper with Brian … K’s take on a Greek classic … pork with celery.

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Juicing session with the oranges … Act of Kindness No. 7:  Lars had hunted us out to deliver them.

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Massive swell and crashing waves off Plaka.

 

1405: What was that?  Pardon!

Wednesday 8th January

Early start – 0700hrs – blimey!  Blood test results for moi – all positive…..off to Chania – pronounced “hhanya”!  Brian came – we laundrified at ‘Easywash’ – coffee’d across the road where I was persuaded to eat most of our cakes – no great problem – Cretan cakes are scrummy. 

Then – to a hearing specialist – for my ‘earring test. The ‘eerie’ result was what we expected – 2 massive ear trumpets to stick in my channels!  Who remembers ‘HMV’ – ‘His Masters Voice’ – visualise the poor dog…. well, perhaps a little smaller. We won’t mention the Euroresult…….

Splendid lunch again at Tamam – noshtimmo….  Back next Monday for fitting of trumpets and more Tamam foodies – life is a breeze – if you can ‘ear it.  Oh dear, this ‘ere lobe theme may run and run…..

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 ere we go … not Shrek wax but being measured for the hearing aids.

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Tamam:  chickpea soup, rice and chicken and bacon rolls … yummy.

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The Venetian Harbour in Chania has suffered with the strong winds … marble paving slabs ripped up …

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… Sand and rubbish thrown up quite a long way into restaurants …

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And this is relatively calm now.

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Dog walk round the back of Kalives … we are parked up towards the far end.

1048-1054: Munchkin Visit and a Change of Direction

1048 – Thursday 19th April: Munchkin Arrives

We set off for Iraklio at 8.30, what an early start for us.  The hire car process was extremely simple … hand over EUR30, no hard sell or any sell for additional insurances and no walk around to note dents and scratches.  I didn’t worry about additional insurance as we have an annual hire car policy.  For that we had a 4 door Nissan Micra 52,000km on clock and suspension on the way out … but perfect for a day for us.

Being in a car, I was able to park in the airport carpark, see James to Departures (he was off back to Blighty for 2 nights) on the plane that brought Maddy Munchkin out to me.  We stopped for a late lunch in Sives, and then had and ice cream in Kalamaki, making good use of the car.  We deposited the car and ate again in the town.  This was a recommendation by one of the cave men, Jeremy, we’d met … he offered us a tour of his cave, but it felt a bit voyeuristic … anyway, the restaurant was un-prepossesing, but the food super.

1049 – Friday 20th April:  A Beach Day

Being a working girl, Maddy wanted a beach day … so we did.  Jeremy came to find us on the campsite and volunteered to join us for supper … we went back to the same place. And I paid 🤨

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1050 – Saturday 21st April:  James Returns

We had planned another beach day, but the wind was up.  Seriously up, every time we went near the beach, we were shot blasted, making it very uncomfortable.  We tidied up and left our free campsite in Matala.  With time on our hands we went to a ‘fake’ Cretan village which was really a hotel and then up to a small seaside village for coffees … not up to much.  Maddy had said she would like to stand in an olive grove … anyone that knows Crete, or Greece will know the landscape is predominantly olive groves!  I chucked and pointed out a few olive trees!  As J’s flight was due after 11.00 p.m., we headed out to supper.  Took a recommendation from a pharmacist and it was really good … Maddy raved about the pork belly.

 

1051-1052 – Sunday 22nd to Monday 23rd April: Chania/Hania

We had forgotten how the Greeks really do got out en famille en masse on Sunday … no chance of getting parked in Hania, so we headed for a campsite just west of the town, by a couple of sandy beaches.  The afternoon saw us basking again!

If you are ever in Crete, avoid Camping Hania!  It was built in the days of small tents only, so they planted lots of low olive trees for shade.  Great in principle, but hopeless for getting caravans or motorhomes in.  A few smaller vehicles managed to swing into a couple of pitches, but no way could we.  So we ended up parked up on the central road.  One water point only, right by the reception which meant we blocked the entrance.    And don’t expect a good night’s sleep … not one, but at least two cockerels from about 4.00 a.m.  I was not happy to pay EUR36 for the 3 of us per night anyway … and certainly not with rubbish sleep.  Decision to leave … We had to reverse all the way out :(, brushing the olive branches.  The owner was somewhat elderly … as I followed him into the reception to pay, he let rip a minor parp …. surely not?  Yes, it was as it was followed by a major long one!  He couldn’t get the card machine to work either!

We parked up by one of the beaches and slept, dozed … late p.m. M showered and we headed into Hania.  Our first choice carpark was unobtainable as two cars had had an ‘incident’ and were not moving their cars, as I guess they were waiting for the police.  We re-routed to choice number 2, but one of the access roads looked a little narrow, so choice Number 3 … a fee paying carpark, which was perfect, as no crowing cockerels overnight and walking distance into the old town and harbour.

Hania definitely has the wow factor.  Pretty narrow streets, a massive waterfront with restaurants and a harbour.  We had coffee, wine and supper … oooh and a super ice cream.  Seems strange to have a pizza on the last night in Crete, but that’s what M and J both wanted, and it was yummy, as was my chicken soup.

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Maddy seems to think that Corrie is hers!!  She became known as the accessory dog when M was wearing black and white.

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And no, she does NOT look like me … M takes after her father.

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1053 – Tuesday 24th:  All Aboard

Maddy caught her lunchtime flight back to Gatwick and we headed for the beach (again) for dog walking and demanding the van.  Our overnight Anek ferry left at 9.20 p.m. and the dogs got to poop in the poop deck again. Comfortable beds and a good strong and hot shower in our cabin. But all too early up, as it arrived at 6.00 a.m.

1054 – Wednesday 25th:  Birthday 1 and Rear Air Suspension

Happy Birthday Maddy Munchkin.  I am no longer the mother of a teen!

Off the ferry and into West Athens … back to Adria Athens to fit the rear air suspension … their second attempt … but we’ve booked the ferry from Patras to Ancona for Friday afternoon, just in case!

*** There is change of plan, cutting short this extended trip.  James needs to be back in the UK for tests and treatment.  We will keep blogging our trip home and when we do anything of interest whilst in the UK.