1330-1335: Olive Groves, Ice Cream and a Monastery

1330:  England Beat the All Blacks & Kokkinos Pirgos

Saturday 26th October 2019

This morning was pre-booked ages ago.  No matter how much the sun shone or the dogs looked wistfully at the door.  We weren’t going anywhere!  England v. New Zealand.  I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, and two tries disallowed.  But they prevailed.  Could it be a Great British Final???

After lunch we wandered around Kokkinos Pirgos – a village of two halves.  There are essentially two streets, the main road and the lower beach front.  The main road had a lot of half built and abandoned buildings.  It really looked like people had seen the opportunity to develop the town for tourists, but then the tourists didn’t come.  When we hit the beach road, there was a bit more life, as in open cafes and bars.  A manky, ice cream … he’d obviously scraped the bottom of the container … yuk!  After the not so good meal when we arrived last night, we didn’t see any restaurants that would entice us to part with our money.  

1331:  Wales Loose to South Africa  Agios Gallini

Sunday 27th October 

Day 2 of sofa surfing.  Sadly Wales will not be in the final with England.  

We had plans to go for a walk, but by the time we’d lunched, it was too late … the hour change makes such a difference to when the long shadows draw in the day.  So a trip to Agios Gallini.  The car park is right down the small town that clings to the side of the hill and by a small port.  Thankfully it was getting on towards the end of the day so we could park.  Pretty and full of bars and restaurants.  A walkway across the bottom of a cliff to the small beach.  We wandered around what there was to see and sat facing the port with an ice cream.  One of the things we love about Italy is their love affair with gelato … at least one gelateria on every street.  Here, we are finding it a) hard to find places that sell proper scoop ice cream b) ice cream that is not slightly off / old and c) has a limited choice of flavours.  So limited that today I sampled Kaimaki flavour … slightly chewy and made from mastic!!!  Please note that most of the holiday makers around us were on Aperol and wine!   Not us, we’ve nearly cracked Go Sober for October!

P1170694

 Agios Gallini clinging to the hill side.

 1332:  Aborted Gorge and Matala

Monday 28th October 

So today we packed up a picnic and headed off to the Agiofarago (Ayio) Gorge.  We stopped at the Moni Odigitrias on the way.  A service was in progress, but worshipers were wandering in and out of the church, sitting around and all eating cake … no-one offered us any :(.  A lovely floral courtyard and views.

P1170705

Moni Odigitrias – pretty courtyard.

P1170708

Obviously they expect tourists here, as there was a two room Monk’s cell for visitors to see.

P1170701

Great views for the monks, including an outside privy.

P1170707

And another chapel at the end of the hill.

From the monastery, the road disappeared and became a dirt track. I walked the dogs a short way whilst J drove and a local told me their had been land slips, so after a bouncy 2.5 of the 5km trip, we aborted.  Shame, as I’d fancied this walk as hermits lived in the caves either side and there is a full church.  Never mind, perhaps another time.  

What to do … we headed off to Matala, known for caves and hippies. We stayed here in a heat wave in March 2018 when we were looking for a sea breeze and discovered a semi abandoned and free campsite.  I stayed here with Maddy whilst James went home for a few days.  We checked out the campsite; it is still operational and we will come back at some point.  A coffee, a wander and then lunch overlooking the very busy beach.  I’m always a bit wary to revisiting places, but Matala did not disappoint.

P1170710

Small chapel.  A sign at the entrance said to enter respectfully … I slid off the very worn step and let rip a ‘shit’, don’t think I entered respectfully!

IMG 3704

Views from our lunch.

IMG 3988

 

1333:  Vori & Kamilari

Tuesday 29th October 

Picnic packed we drove to Vori.  First stop is coffee, always!  We heard and English voice talking to Manoli the barista … could he find two people to turn her mattress.  The English voice belonged to Hebe, resident of Crete for 20 years.  She joined us for a drink and a lovely chat and then we went back to her house and turned her mattress.  How often do you end up stripping someone’s bed only minutes after you’ve met them?!?

The Museum of Cretan Ethnology had won an award, but was pretty old fashioned in its presentation.  Having said that, it had a good display of weaving, tools and household items.  And all the exhibits had English explanations.  We had a little wander around Vori … a lovely village with carved stone lintels.  Everyone saying hello to each other.  Nice vibe.

P1170713

From here we drove up to Faistos … the car park only as we explored the ancient site on our last visit.  We used the wall as the table and got the chairs out for our picnic.  Other than the odd coach running its engine we could forget the car park behind us and just enjoy the view.

P1170715

Kamilari was described as slightly up market due to the house purchasing by expats … certainly the lass that served us coffee spoke excellent English. You could really see the wealth compared to most villages in the way some of the properties had been restored.

1334:  Another Olive Tree and Apolichonos

Wednesday 30th October 

Coffee at the hamlet of Moroni … the barista had no English so Google Translate got us to an espresso, with a little hot water and milk.  Nice chap, lots of smiles and he pressed an extra bottle of water on James as we left.  

With so much of the countryside covered with olive trees, it is no wonder the ancient ones are much revered.  We drove to see the Monumental Olive Tree os Paliama.  Surreounded by much younger trees, it had another gnarled hollow trunk.  Sadly the information board was as ancient as the tree and therefore illegible, so we can only guess that it is several thousand years old.

P1170718

P1170720

P1170725

Naughty me… I climbed under the fence to stand inside the monumental olive tree.

P1170726

Apolichonos is a abandoned village.  We walked down dirt tracks amongst the olive groves; a few now being stripped of their fruit.  Lovely views across to the distant hills.  A smart white washed church and a summer time taverna, plus the requisite sheep bells and barking dogs guarding sheep to get Corrie on high alert.

P1170728

 Baby olive trees – planted deep and with the landscape looked like lots of giant mole hills.

P1170731

Apoloichonos:  Abandoned except for in the tourist season … a small chapel and summer time taverna.

P1170732

P1170733

The abandoned village … didn’t discover why.

P1170734

We’ve seen these large water pipes all over Greece irrigating the crops, but these had water metres with the names fo the farmers on them.

P1170735

We had the goat leg, but this time Corrie brought us the gift of a claw … far too big for a chicken.  

1335:  Moving North Analipsi 

Thursday 31st October 

We have decided that to really be able to get around to some of the more remote places we would like the use of a car.  Emails to about 7 car hire companies (small local ones) yielded only 2 result, one is from Kalyves. A 1250cc Fiat Punto is ours at EUR9 per day on a month by month fee.  We pick it up on Saturday.  The theory is that we will park Jez up for a few days and use the car to get up into the hills and down to small coves.  We will then start to move west along the north coast.  Budget justification is that it will save money on fuel and wear and tear on Jez … he’s done 40,000 miles in under 3 years!  

Today was a wander around Heraklion. James needed to stock up on e juice … he’s switched to menthol and is nearly nicotine free :).  We just had a wander of the proper busy town and lunched with both of us facing the street people watching.  Like Heraklion … it has an honest feel.

IMG 3993

Our over night is a bit further east in Analipsi … what a great name.  This has several large hotels and one huge one … sun umbrellas and bars.  It is surprisingly busy.  We’ll only be here the one night!  Not our cup of tea.


IMG 3960

Is this no shagging in a motorhome allowed, but you can park up?

IMG 3990



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 🤨

IMG 1246

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.

IMG 1259

IMG 1270

IMG 1273

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

IMG 1279

IMG 1281

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

IMG 1282

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.

1041-1048: Oozing along the South East Coast

 1041 – Tuesday 10th April 2018:  Ierapetra

Vet needed for Corrie’s booster injections and rabies blood tests – so straight to Lerapetra to vet Michael and his team…..3.5 hours later all done and the vet missed his lunch, for the first time ever apparently!  But such a thorough examination: ears, teeth, paws skin etc.  Huge thanks to Michael and his team. 

We were starving by now – so where to go?  The answer was obvious – right across the street – “G-spot bar” with ‘playzone’!!! Not a “G spot” in sight and the plays were cards and board games ……  

An evening wander – buzzing town – and wild parking on a town street with a not noisy fairground nearby. 

IMG 1185

Ierapetra.

IMG 1186

Any Greek coastal town of any import has one of these …  A Venetian Fort.

IMG 1188

Napoleon spent one night here … according to the map and vague direction of the rusting sign … this is it!

1042 – Wednesday 11th April: Mirtos

Morning – I ran on a real running track for the first time in 2 years. Repetitions x6 – a 250 metre short track. If I put my fast laps together – it would be 4 minutes for a kilometre!  Quickest for several years…..  K shopped – lamb and sea bass – and wine from a shop/local vineyard.  K:  I had to send for reinforcements to carry it all back to Jez .. J deployed the trusty shopping trolley.

We kept meeting a ‘interesting’ Dutch/Norwegian lady whose Greek finance had died – she seemed very concerned that he’d died in the street with one show off.  She’d seen the police photos  She’s buying a house in nearby Mithi, uphill from here.

 

 

IMG 1190

Pyrgos Ancient mini site looking down to Mirtos.

IMG 1191

Mirtos:  very pretty but too twee.

IMG 1192

 Gourmet supper:  Parchment backed sea bass, with spinach drizzled with oil and garlic and Fava (a puree of split peas).

1043 – Thursday 12th April: Sarakinas Gorge & Gortys

In the afternoon, we drove to the Sarakinas Gorge for our overnight – completely secluded…… Early-ish morning, we set off to walk the Gorge – but after 20 minutes the way became too difficult for our doggos so we aborted. But we had a real flavour of the steep sides – a bit like the Syq in Petra…..

En route to our next destination (monuments to WW2 fallen), we encountered a small mountain town. The streets were narrow – ok, we’ve done this before – easily….the got more narrow – and cars blocked our way, completely. To make matters worse, 2 cars came towards us – more blockages. We had mistakenly drive the wrong way into a one-way street!  (K: to be fair, when I was shown the no entry sign it was flat against the wall so fairly invisible!) We scraped one side of Jez on foliage … hearing the nails on black board sound as we passed – and on the other side we broke a cars wing mirror!  Guess who was driving?  Moi!  K leaped out to spot – the people didn’t speak any English – and one man shouted at her – unusual in Crete….. others were very helpful.  20 minutes later, the 2 cars reversed – which they could have done much earlier and saved a lot of bother.  We scraped through and out of the town – huge sighs of relief – this was Castelbellissimo in Sicilia all over but just as stressful!!!  The joys of motor homing, indeed.

Quiet afternoon (K walked) and overnight parking in the car park of an ancient site at Gortys……much needed relaxing glass of vino or two …    

IMG 1194

Windscreen passenger.

P1160022

Start of Sarakinas Gorge walk.  Only possible when little or no rain.

P1160025

Really impressive high and narrow gorge.

P1160027

This is where we aborted as we’ve not taught the dogs to climb steps.  Oscar had already been scrabbling to get this far.

P1160030

A monument to one of the villages where men and boys were killed by the Germans in September 1943 as reprisals for resistance activities.  

P1160036

This monument was just outside Ano Viannos.  A huge number of names.  Very moving.

P1160040

Gortys:  A 1600 year old Olive tree; surreal as growing around Roman pillars.

P1160044

Gortys:  The Roman Temple of Apollo.  A lot of the rambling site is fenced but easy to wander around for free.  Gortys was a major city by 8BC and later co-operate with the invading Romans, so the city was not destroyed, but developed.  At one point it had a population of 300,000 and the provincial capital.

P1160045

My walk … The neighbouring village is Ayii Dheka, which means Holy Ten.  Ten Christians were martyred here in AD250, this is the tomb of 6 of them underneath a much newer church.  Christianity first reached Crete at Gortys.

P1160047

Ayii Dheka is really authentic … slightly tumble down with odd Roman pillars and stones lying around or having been used in more recent buildings.  The church is where the martyrs met their fate … sadly it was closed, so I could see the actual stone where they were decapitated with their knee imprints.

 

1044 – Friday 13th April:  Blimey It’s Hot … Sea Breeze Needed

We both ran in the morning 2k and 6k – excellent…  K visited the Gortys ancient site, while I cogitated.

It was so hot that we decided to head for the sea and shoot the breeze – at Matala. An unmanned and unmaintained campsite, but with electric, toilets and water – free!!!  A regular hippy colony with many pony tails – K suggested I grow one. Well, I remember 1968, flower power and Haight Ashbury – “If you’re going to San Francisco….wear some flowers in your hair”, etc. 

We were not the only Brits … We met Diane and John – fellow motorhomers from Nottingham. What happens when motorhomers meet?  Drinkypoos, of course! They’d come to Matala for 2 nights … 6 weeks ago!  This is something like their 18th trip to Greece.

IMG 1195

Flowers along K’s running route.

P1160050

Some fine Roman statues …

P1160051

P1160053

Gortys ancient site – Ayios Titos Church 6AC: fenced off, but still remarkable.  It was Crete’s main church.

P1160054

The Odeion: the structure at the back houses the law code, dating from around 500BC.  

P1160059

The Law Code is an ancient Doric Cretan dialect and is written left to right and then right to left, so eyes can continuously follow the script.  The code is a series of rulings on specific cases.  For instance 5 witnesses were needed to convince a free man, but only one to sentence a slave.  The law covered rape, trade, children of mixed marriages and property & inheritance rights … giving historians a clear insight into the Gortys society.  

1044-1046 – Saturday 14th to Monday 16th April: 

K walked to Red Beach – whilst watching nakedbuttocksbathing – a nuddy beach!   K:  I was chatting to the parents of an ex-student in the cafe, when I suspended my train of thought … pert buttocks do that to one!   The campsite bins overflowing due to some campers being silly?  Solution?  A complete site community project to sort it!!!   We supplied the rubber gloves.  Diane and John admired our twin tub, so K Diane went into full laundrification mode… Meal in Jez – and first swim of the year – sans K9s… 

Matala was a hippy town, but the caves on one side have all been fenced off and people are charged to wander around them.  However, there are still occupied caves around the other side, plus a number camped pretty permanently with us.  One such cave dweller is Jeremy … adopted from the USA, public school educated, agricultural collage, chef trained etc etc … he has an opinion on EVERYTHING, but is well informed.

IMG 1198

Looking down onto Matala.  Many caves in the rock.

IMG 1199

Red beach.

IMG 1202

Matala is nothing but a tourist resort with tat shops and restaurants.  Great beach though. 

IMG 0514

John and Jeremy, who just happened to pass as we were hitting the gin.  He stayed to supper.  No prizes for which is the cave resident.

1047 – Tuesday 17th April: The Bikes Came Out

Running again…  Then for Corrie’s first bike ride – a total success – but we decided not to harness them in the Os-car OscarCorrie buggy as Corrie nearly strangled herself!   Kommos beach walk and lunch nearby – ice cream and more vino in Kalamaki… 

IMG 1205

Kommos:  we parked the bikes and walked the beach with the dogs.  Surprisingly busy given none of the 3 tavernas were open.

IMG 1208  1

Lunch in Pitsidhia:  Supposed to be a dry day! 

IMG 1209

Fine bone china coffee cups 🙂

 

1048 – Wednesday 18th April: Bike Ride Number 2

Cycle to Ayia Triadha and Festos. Entrances were free saving €18 – worth a good lunch – lamb for moi and chicken for K –  ‘nostimo’ – delicious in Greek.  Rental car booked as Maddy will arrive tomorrow – and I will depart on her Squeezyjetplane…..  Maddy will love Matala – shops, beach, restaurants – and Hippydom…..

IMG 1215

Ayia Triadha:  some of the best finds were vases, now in the Iraklio museum.  Another site where you could wander at will.

IMG 1222

IMG 1226

IMG 1229

IMG 1231

Festos:  Busier and larger than Ayia Triadha.  The original palace was used as a foundation for a later one.  The central court had amazing views.

IMG 1239