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.