Category Archives: Walking

Beaches, a new bathroom and at long last, some bananas!

I was told officially this morning by my neighbour Nikos, that summer is over and it is now autumn. Today, I was supposed to be on the island of Spinalonga today with his wife Maria but I woke up to thunder and rain so the trip was postponed. This is the first rain since the end of May and badly needed but for me, I wish it had waited until tomorrow! However the rain is very much needed, so I am not complaining.

I start with the fun. Throughout the summer, we have had some very invigorating cycle rides to Tholos and a nice walk up our local gorge.

We celebrated a birthday.  Birgitte lives nearby and invited us and many others on the local boat for the day.

and we went to the island of Pseira,

and then onto the beautiful beach of Agriomandris. It was the first time, John and I had arrived there by boat and it is such a lovely experience to see this beach from a different angle.

There were a few random people at the beach already but they were quickly included in the proceedings – bubbly, wine, a wonderful barbecue produced by the captain of the boat and a lot of chat, plus this magnificent salad.

This beach is the first contender for paradise in this post.  The trip back was pretty dramatic however, with a very wild sea and rocks to avoid.

It reminded me of being in a funfair where you have complete faith that you will survive, but on the other hand my body does not like the sensation and I did feel a bit queasy. But it was a wonderful day.

John and I celebrated 33 years of marriage in our favourite local spots – Bobo’s taverna in Pachia Ammos

on Tholos beach where our friend Tasos bought us a glass of wine each

and in Mochlos for some lovely food.

More recently we booked an apartment 50 metres from Kouremenos beach, near Palekastro on the east coast, only 20 minutes from Siteia. The beach is lovely and has some human interest too as it is a prime spot for those who enjoy watching windsurfers.

Palekastro, a village of over 1000 people,  is only 5 minutes away in the car and given the very narrow streets, John parked the car in a small car park on the edge of the town. I got out of the car and my first view was of pomegranates,

which are beautiful to look at but hard work to eat!

Then we visited the local Folk Museum, set up by the local Cultural Σύλλογος which was a real joy, partly because of the interesting and well displayed exhibits but also because our guide Δήμητρα, proved to be an excellent communicator.

She has a degree in social work but cannot find a job and is considering her future. In the meantime, we benefited from her knowledge and her very friendly personality.

We learned that Palekastro was a very small place until the 1940’s and then people started coming there to live instead of in villages in the hills.

The museum was set up like a house with different rooms to display the traditional clothes, tools, bedding, furniture etc.

I would really recommend a visit.

On the wall of the school, there were some murals which were very nice. Some were pictures of well known Cretan men and another of Kouremenos Bay.

On the following day, we went to the Minoan archaeological site at the settlement of Roussolakos.

We had gone there before with our friends Vince and Rosie. It was a lot warmer this time and so nice to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. The archaeologists have hoped to find a Minoan palace there but as yet, it has not yet been unearthed. However, like many Minoan sites, the setting is so wonderful that  sitting amongst the ruins is enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe visit also encouraged me to think of a winter project, starting in Sitia Museum where I could look at what was discovered in Roussolakos.

We were staying only a quarter an hour way from another beach which I also put in the ‘paradise’ category – Itanos.  We drove past Vai, where bananas are grown on a large scale and then a huge area of melons (the car had to be stopped so that I could appreciate fully the sight)

and then to Itanos,

where all we did was sunbathe and enjoy the wonderful clear sea (not our boat though!)

But the important development this summer, apart from buying a flat in Cornwall has been the new bathroom in our house here in Crete. It is very beautiful and well worth the wait.  There was a scary change early on when the old bathroom was demolished.

And then, there was some delay. Some of the appliance ordered, like the wash hand basin, were late because of Greek holidays in August and the electrician was on holiday when the electrics were ready for his attention. During this time, John and I decided the living room and dining room paint looked distinctly grey so decided to show we still could something in the DIY stakes and painted both rooms.

Άλκης, who was in charge of all the work, kept smiling in all the adversity and in the end coped with the pressures and now we have a beautiful bathroom!

The bath has some jets and with some bubble bath (το αφρόλουτρο), you can sink into a wonderful whirlpool of froth (ο αφρός)! This new Greek vocabulary arose during our first Greek lesson on the new session when I tried to describe my new bath!!!

And finally the best news is left to the end!  John’s banana plant is producing some bananas.

Ever since we arrived in Kavousi over two years ago with the plant, there has been some expectation that we would have bananas. However there has been increasing resignation over the last few months that nothing was going to materialise! But a few days ago before we went on the small break to Palekastro, there was an indication that what at first had seemed to be yet another leaf was in fact, something else. Four days later we returned and we can now see the bananas. Every five minutes we look at the plant and the bananas are bigger! Just keeping fingers crossed now that we can actually eat one eventually!

Sheila

 

Fruits, Flowers and a Pigeon War – it must be Summer!

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Last week we had my son James come to stay. In many ways, he is the ideal guest. He made his agenda clear from the outset – sun, sea, a modicum of exercise and plenty of beer! He read, sunbathed, swam, slept and was generally very self-contained. We enjoyed his company, conversation and good humour. It was a great week and we miss him now he has returned to London.

He and Sheila did the two gorges walk to the top of Kastro

and returned via the ancient olive tree where the small taverna has now opened, so I joined them for a celebratory beer.

We had already cycled to the ‘secret’ beach earlier in the week which was fabulous.

Later he borrowed my electric bike to put it through its paces with a trip to Mochlos and then back to Tholos. He covered nearly 30k which is not bad considering there are two major climbs,. He was impressed with the bike and I was pleased that he enjoyed it too!

A further highlight of his stay was a battle which we had with a flock of determined pigeons who suddenly showed a perverse interest in our grapes! It has to be said that said grapes are still far from being ripe but that did not seem to be the issue. The grapes were there and the Greek pigeon clearly has no respect for the property of foreigners!

We tried just about everything – water pistols, hand clapping, shouting, even the use of a high powered water jet but to no avail. As soon as our backs were turned, they would fly in from their vantage points on nearby telegraph wires and posts, land on the pergola and attack the fruit!

Finally, I had the idea of buying some green netting so James and I turned to, spread this over the vines and ‘wrapped’ the grapes so that the pigeons would be thwarted.

Then we sat back and waited. Sure enough, back they came, landed as before but clearly found the netting uncomfortable and retired to re-think their tactics. They still occasionally engineer a fly past just to check whether things have not changed but for the time being at least, they appear to have turned their attention to easier pickings elsewhere!

In a week when the European Football Championship was at its height, I felt that we had managed a narrow victory, perhaps 2-1 but on the other hand, the reality is that it is still only half-time!

Ripening grapes illustrates what a marvellous time it is here in Crete at present as fruits and flowers burst forth to brighten our lives.

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IMG_20160711_185528My banana plants are looking splendid but as yet have not produced any bananas! Imagine my dismay then, when our neighbour Christopher announced last week that his one plant now had bananas! So we walked round later to have a look and sure enough, there they are!

My ‘plantation’ is now looking quite good, so I live in hope.

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The ‘mother’ plant is splendid in appearance but a disappointment, so far …..

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Christopher gave us a gift of one of his aubergines

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and on the walk to his house we saw some pomegranates ripening up nicely.

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Our neighbour’s fig tree is loaded with fruit so August should see us well provided because we can reach over and pick them from our terrace! That said, I am not that keen on figs.

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Sheila’s hibiscus has produced some beautiful flowers of late (see cover photo) and the new bougainvillea is looking beautiful.

The ‘old’ one, we discovered, was actually a bush variety and therefore it was not surprising that it refused to climb and additionally, it hated the windy corner where we had put it. Now it has been moved, it has perked up no end and we now look forward to it flowering later in the year.

And the red chilli plant which Pauline and Chris gave us last year is producing extremely hot fruit, to the extent that we need rubber gloves to pick them!

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Last but not least, is my latest avocado pear plant. They always seem to look OK at this stage of their development but at the end of the summer, they lose their leaves and never seem to recover. However, my cousin Liz tells me to be patient and they will come again next year. We shall see….

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And finally, it is almost two years to the day that our beloved collie, Bonnie had to be put down. I still miss her and here is one of my favourite photos of her, taken at Sunnyside when she was still little more than a puppy.

Bonnie 2003 in heather

But to end on a lighter note, Andy won again at Wimbledon which is about the only good ‘Summer’ news to come out of Britain for the past few weeks. Now, is he Scottish or British???

John

A boat trip, a bare bum and a wedding!

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I see that well over a month has elapsed since our last Post but life has been busy here in paradise and time for such fripperies has been in short supply. Summer has arrived and there is much to do, including looking after our suntans and getting regular swimming!

Various visitors have come and gone – cousin Liz and her brother-in-law David, friends Rosie and Mike from Kent and cousin Felicity and husband Stuart, from Scotland.

Liz is known in the family as my favourite relative (or is it the other way about?). Either way, it is always fun having her here and as expected we had a lovely time with her and David.

Towards the end of their stay, we spent a couple of nights at Sisi which was great fun. The weather was great. We explored the village and surrounding area, ate some excellent food and managed a couple of swims.

The highlight of Mike and Rosie’s stay was a boat trip to Pseira

which for those of you who know the area is the island in front of Tholos beach, which has the remains of a Minoan village just waiting for the archaeologists to start digging!

We had a great day in the company of a number of friends, including Walter and Brigitte and Pauline and Chris, got to see the far side of the island which is dominated by sheer cliffs and small caves,

as well as having a swim from the small beach near the ‘harbour’ – if indeed it can be called that (λιμινάκι in Greek, meaning tiny harbour).

There was also a picnic on the beach to which everyone contributed. On the way back, Mike was even allowed to steer the boat – boys with their toys!

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We were also invited to Eleni and Bernard’s house on the south coast for a lesson in how to make crepes. They are from Brittany and Bernard was particularly keen that Mike spoke Welsh to him because it is quite close to Breton. Other than the hilarity caused by our generally poor attempts to cook crepes, it was particularly amusing to hear the Welsh National Anthem being sung in Breton!

 

 

 

With Felicity and Stuart we walked the Gorge of the Dead at Zakros, which is always a treat.

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The oleanders are out here at present so not only was the gorge looking especially beautiful, the road to Sitia was also very attractive too, which in part at least, makes up for the nightmarish twists and turns along the way. The trip was nearly ruined by the car getting a puncture as we arrived in the upper village to start the walk and for a while it looked like I might not be able to go. However, the fellow at the local garage produced some magic substance to insert in the hole with a sort of bodkin which sets and seals and we were on our way in under a quarter of an hour.

Perhaps the highlight for Felicity however occurred earlier in the week when we were in a taverna at the beach in Galini on the south coast. I realised at one point that she was not concentrating on whatever boring story I was relating and it transpired that her attention had been broken by the sight of a bare (male) bum on the beach in front of us, which clearly she found particularly attractive! It turned out that it belonged to our friend Hans (of H2 fame) who was of course delighted that his nether regions caused such excitement!

In the middle of these two sets of visitors, we made a short visit to Scotland to go the wedding of Linda and Gordon in Aberdeenshire. The trip started badly in that when we got to our hotel, they had let our room despite us having confirmed the booking the day before. The hired car then failed to materialise and when it did, I managed to prang it.

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To cap it all, the weather was terrible!

However, we got to stay with Sandy and Winnie and it was good to see them and there was also a visit to Claire and James in Stirling, where the great-nephews were inspected and found to be delightful.

On the way, we inspected progress on the new Forth Road Bridge.

Then, as we drove north on the Friday, things improved and by the time we arrived at Moira and Stewart’s in Crathes, the sun even made an appearance. On the day of the wedding itself, the weather turned beautiful as the bride and groom arrived at Craigievar Castle for the service.

We had a great time meeting up with old friends and were so pleased for Linda and Gordon that they had such a brilliant day. Scotland was looking at its best.

We then returned to Edinburgh and lunched with Philippa and Malcolm and the other set of great-nephews who we can confirm were also delightful.

In Edinburgh, where the weather continued to be grand, we stayed with Mairi and Norman and Sheila managed a few sets of tennis on the lawn.

Some retail therapy was undertaken on the Monday and I fitted in lunch with my old friend, Nick.

Thanks to everyone for there hospitality.

During all this excitement, Sheila had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which for the uninitiated is an auto immune disorder related to the thyroid. She had been feeling out of sorts for a while which she put down to concerns following my mini-stroke but the problems continued and finally she went to our GP here in Crete who send her for a blood test. Within a week she had had two sets of tests and had seen a consultant endocrinologist twice and by the time we left for the UK had been given medication. It was all very impressive and the cost for everything – just 180 euros! We don’t believe in private medicine but ….. Congratulations and many thanks to the Greek Health Service.

Now she has to get the dosage right which will probably take a few months but other than the fact that she will have to take a pill for the rest of her life (which she hates), we hope the problem will be solved.

Thanks to Mike and Rosie and Felicity and Stewart for being so understanding during their respective stays, if we weren’t always up for trips hither and thither, and also to those who have kindly agreed to re-arrange their visits later in the year.

Last week we went to Sitia with Shona and Rich to see a notary with a view to getting our Greek wills prepared. The procedure was strangely reminiscent of what we had to do in Scotland except that we needed three Greek nationals, who were not related to one another to act at witnesses. So we took our neighbour Maria who seemed to think it was a great excuse for a day out and Shona and Rich took their dentist and Gym manager! All went well, although the cost was astonishingly high and at the end we were not allowed to take a copy away, the reason for which was lost in translation! So, as I said to the notary, we can now die and it will all be OK!

And now it’s back to that sun bed!

John

Don’t count your chickens!

Working out on the Spa Day!

The title of our last Post was ‘And life goes on’ and for those of you with good memories, you will recall that the piece ended with a reference to an upcoming trip to the UK, the main purpose of which was to attend a Memorial Service for my sister.

With the advantage of hindsight, I can now attest to the fact that it is not a good idea to offer yourself as a hostage to fortune with a title such as that ascribed to this last Post! My sister died of a massive stroke last year and the day following her Memorial Service at Mells, I had a mini stroke (TIA) just after we had arrived in Cornwall for a short holiday! Whilst my life was never seriously in danger, I now appreciate what a fine line we walk between life and death and that it could so easily have been different for me, just as it was for her!

The service itself went very well and it was good to see so many family present from all over the world. Thanks to Tim and Liz for organising the event, for hosting lunch the next day for close family and for putting us up! Thanks also to Liz Turner for her hospitality. Good to have Rosie and James there too.

Graham was unable to make it because he was in China but he came down to Somerset later in our trip. He came by train for the day and arrived in some style! The train pulled in, a few folk got off and the train departed. No sign of Graham! A few moments later, Sheila’s mobile rang. He was on the train but the doors in his carriage did not open and he went on to the next station where we had to pick him up!

Meanwhile, it is still not clear what caused my TIA, although a spike in my cholesterol level clearly was a significant factor. The NHS in Cornwall was fantastic and if anyone ever had any doubts as to the justice of the ‘junior’ doctors case, take it from me, they do a marvellous job. I cannot thank all the staff – medical, nursing and administrative, both at Truro and Penzance, enough. The care that I received was special.

It was good to have our daughter Rosie on hand while all this excitement was going on and she lowered our anxiety levels with a visit to (blustery) Land’s End

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and to the Minack Outdoor Theatre to see ‘Oliver’, eating out at local pubs and restaurants and for Sheila, a Spa Day at the sister hotel to the one where Rosie works. Thanks Rose for looking after us so well!

 

Thanks also to Bill and Ann in East Grinstead for looking after us both so well at short notice, particularly after Aegean Airways had refused me permission to fly after having previously agreed. Bill made four trips in all to Gatwick, before we finally got away!

 

 

Life since our return to Crete has been pretty much along normal lines. Greek lessons are often now held outdoors as Summer has clearly arrived and a recent welcome development has been a change of venue to a taverna where we get free coffee!

 

And now finally, we have moved on to passive verbs – B2 level!!!

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We are back in swimming mode too and although the water is still a little chilly, it feels so good to be able to cycle down to the beach, have a quick dip and then (electrically powered) zoom back up the hill to the village – maybe to a waiting cold beer! Sheila has also found a group of local ex-pats to play tennis with every Tuesday afternoon, who are about her level, so she is really chirpy.

Last week, we had our first multi-visitors of the year – Phil, late of Midmar in Aberdeenshire and fellow goat keeper

and mutual friends John and Nicky from Petersfield in Hampshire, where apparently there is a fantastic museum!! Whether there is anything else there of note, remains unclear! The more perceptive readers amongst you, will suspect that there might be an in-joke here somewhere. Thanks to Stan and Jan (whom we look forward to welcoming back to Kavousi next week) for the use of their house for the overflow guests.

We had a fine time with our visitors, which included a couple of walks, (including the lower gorge), the Παναγία Κερά church at Kritsa, the Dorian fortress at Lato and a trip down memory lane for John and Nicky to Agios Nikolaos where they stayed in the mid-1970’s. We also took them all for a long day-trip to Toplou Monastery, Vai Beach (of Bounty fame), Itanos, Zakros and Xerokambos on the east coast of the Island. They also helped with putting up the cover for the pergola. Great to catch up with everyone and hope to see them all again soon.

We are following the media accounts of the Referendum Campaign with growing anxiety. Whichever way it goes, it looks like a close run thing and whist we are keen, for obvious reasons (we do live in Greece after all) that Britain votes to stay in, we hope that if this is the case that it will play a more positive role in European affairs in future. We can but hope! From our perspective, we cannot understand how Britain will survive if the vote is to leave. Any number of jobs which are connected to membership – just think of all the factories belonging to foreign companies which are only in the UK because of Britain being in the EU – must be at risk. Anyway, we can vote and we have registered so we are keeping our fingers crossed that common sense will prevail.

And whilst on political matters, particularly ones that seem not to be getting any coverage in the British media, there is increasing concern here relating to shenanigans in Europe over the next payment of the Greek bail-out money, with the IMF apparently at odds with Europe over what might happen in 2018 if Greece does not manage to hit an unlikely target for a surplus in the economy. In theory, this could bring the Greek Government down and throw the country back into political turmoil. The dead hand of Christine Lagarde seems to be at work again!

But enough of politics. I am as you all know, officially retired from all that nonsense. That said, I have just finished reading Paul Mason’s magnum opus ‘PostCapitalism’. I cannot in all honesty say that I recommend it unless you are already well-versed in economics, especially of the Marxian variety (which I am not). It is probably however, an excellent way to get to sleep at night if you are an insomniac! Fortunately, that is not a problem I usually have and as a result, it did take me rather a long time to finish it.

And now I am looking forward to reading something lighter – ‘Counting chickens for beginners’, perhaps?

John

 

And life goes on

Vai Beach

Sheila is about to order prints from our holiday to the Orient for the photograph album, which is a sure sign that the trip has been consigned to the memory! Greek lessons are well and truly back on track and our first visitors of the new season have been and gone, although as you shall learn that was not without its difficulties. So life in Kavousi resumes its usual pattern as we get on with our lives here in paradise.

Spring has arrived – it’s official! The buds on the σταφύλια (grape vines) are beginning to appear, sometime after our friend Thassos came, unbeknown to us, to prune back last year’s growth. I have been looking out for them ever since we arrived home and finally, at the beginning of the week, after a few days of sunshine, out they came – including new growth on the cutting that I grew and planted out last year.

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Flowers too are beginning to appear

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although they must have got a tremendous shock from the terrible winds which we have had here over the past few days (of which more later). Unfortunately, the blossom on the mandarin and orange and lemon trees have suffered badly and it remains to be seen how our crop will develop as the year progresses.

As mentioned, our first visitors arrived last week from Scotland. Crete was a new venue for both Maggie and Andrew so we could have hoped for better weather for their arrival, particularly after the sunshine of the previous week. Unfortunately, their first few days were not great but it did at least mean that a few walks were undertaken, to Tholos along the high road and back on the paved road (with me on my bike),

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the lower gorge, Azorias and the ancient olive tree and the highlight last Saturday in the sunshine, up the E4 to Thripti where I met them in the car. As an added bonus, the taverna in the village was open so we enjoyed a drink (well-earned on the part of the three of them) together with copious plates of μεζέδες (mese).

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Food-wise, we also had a memorable evening at Bobo’s taverna eating κατσικάκι στο φούρνο (goat in the oven)

We also took in a trip to Tertsa and Myrtos and back through the mountains

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and last Sunday, again in the sunshine, a visit to the east coast, including Vai beach, Itanos and Xerokambos.

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On their last day here, they walked to the waterfall in Koutsounari while we had our Greek lesson and then caught the afternoon bus to Heraklion where they intended to stay for two nights, taking in Knossos and the archaeological museum before returning to Scotland on Wedenesday.

As we all know however, the best laid plans do not always work out! We are used to very strong winds here in Crete but the last couple of days have been unusual even for here. The southerly winds have a profound effect in the north of the Island where the wind picks up speed as it comes over the mountains. Apparently it was Force 12 in the west and the Force 10 in Heraklion was enough to mean that no flights departed or arrived on Wednesday. In fact the airport was closed. This meant that Andrew and Maggie had to stay another night. No great hardship in itself of course, as long as you are retired with nothing important to get back to, although I seem to recall that Maggie was supposed to playing golf the following day!

One other aspect of the southerly wind which is worth mentioning is that occasionally it brings with it, clouds of dust from the Sahara. What this meant on Wednesday was that the sun was blotted out and the world was turned yellow. Our cameras are not sophisticated enough to record this phenomenon but our friend Rich took the following shot from their house on the south coast (thanks to Rich for use of the photo).

Saharan dust

There were three ‘casualties’ here, as a result of the wind. Firstly, the remaining ‘old’ plastic sun lounger smashed itself to bits against a wall, the cupboard outside the kitchen door blew over, smashing all the clay and china flower pots inside and the car was covered in brown dust. So, with great glee, Sheila dispatched the sun lounger to join its ‘friend’ at the rubbish tip (see last Post), we now have lots of broken pottery for the base of what will in future be plastic flower pots and this morning we had to wash the car! It could have been worse.

And finally, next week we go back to the UK for ten days or so. The main reason is to attend the UK memorial service for my sister Bridget, who died in Canada last year. The service will be held at Mells in Somerset where we grew up after WW2.

Village legend has it that Mells is the subject of the ‘Little Jack Horner’ nursery rhyme. John Horner was a King’s Messenger at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in England and for his efforts, Henry VIII, allowed him to choose one of the deeds of various Manors, whIch he had brought from the Abbot of Glastonbury to London. He ‘put in his thumb and pulled out the plumb’ – being the deeds of Mells Manor, where the Horner family lived until recently. It’s a good story but I now read that there is some doubt as to its authenticity! All the same, I prefer to believe it.

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Mells is a beautiful village and I always love going back but this of course will be a bitter sweet visit. For the last day or so, I have been dusting off my tribute to my sister and re-writing it for the UK audience. Life goes on!

John

The light in Crete

This is a rather self indulgent post, highlighting one of the reasons, I love living here. It is simply about light and colour.

In a period of 5 days on a trip to Triopetra, near Agia Galini, I captured with my camera the different blues, greens, silvers and greys of the sea and the reds, yellows and oranges of the sunsets, sometimes taking the same shot in different lights and times of day and getting dramatic and stunning differences in the colours, of the same view. What we saw was, of course, even better but pictures are a wonderful way of reminding you of the moment you were there and of how, with the same walk, things can look so different, depending on the weather, the time of day and the light.

049John and I had been to the taverna Apanemia earlier in the summer and it was my choice to spent a few more days there over my birthday. I think it is a perfect place for someone like me who appreciates lovely beaches, a warm sea, a friendly and hospitable taverna, simple food,  a nice room and some walking. Every morning, I woke up to sunshine and warmth and then went for a swim.

Then we would find a spot in a quiet, sandy beach and while away a few hours. I would occasionally stir myself for a walk up on the sand dunes, pick up a few pretty stones or admire some pretty flowers which were still coming out, even at this time of the year.

Later we would come back to the room, have a quiet read and go for an evening stroll, maybe discovering  a small church

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or climbing to the top of some cliffs and look down on ‘our’ taverna and beach in one direction

016and the other Triopetra beach  on the other side

019After that, I definitely felt we deserved a good meal and a few glasses of wine.

There is a local yoga centre nearby and I can understand why they chose this spot. There is no stress, only peace. And it seemed that yoga also involves exercise in the water.

Of course, providing this idyllic existence means that the staff and owner of the taverna are not experiencing the same emotions as myself, particularly at the end of a busy season! But they still managed to create a very relaxing environment and here, Andreas, one of the waiters helps us put up the sun shade in our little terrace.

AThe only day here the routine varied, was on my birthday – receiving cards and presents, drinking fizzy wine in the largest glass I could find,

030eating a cake from the taverna

047and feeling good about all the best wishes from around the world through facebook. But really, the day was pretty similar to the rest (only slightly better!) and I loved it.

Just before we left , there was a magnificent contrast of colour from our own house,

and this rather summed up our stay in Triopetra.

From our room we saw the rocks which give Triopetra, (πέτρα meaning rock) it’s name. I took a number of photos because I felt I was taking a different picture each time.

Then there were the sunsets

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And the different colours of the sea

008I can never get tired of the range of blues.

Sheila

 

On top of the world

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Yesterday certainly, did not start with me feeling on top of the world! We had had Chris and Pauline (Dutch friends recently returned from the Netherlands) round for supper on the previous evening and considerable quantities of vino had been quaffed and the next morning, didn’t I know it!

So it was a bit of a struggle to get over to Koutsounari for midday to meet up with Rich and Shona for a trip to the mountains in their 4WD. Ever since we first came to this part of Crete we have wanted to get to the top of Afentis Stavromenos (commonly known as Thripti, after the village which nestles in a mountain plateau at the base of the final summit). It dominates the landscape of Eastern Crete and when we lived in Ferma, we looked out onto its southern flank from our kitchen window. Now we are in Kavousi, we can view the peak from the north-west when we are at the beach in Tholos. It stands at 1,476m and as such, is a tad higher than Ben Nevis.

Sheila, our daughter Rosie and Sheila’s tennis partner Margarita tried to climb it once from our house. They took the Minoan path from Kavousi to Thripti village to a height of about 850m where I met them with the car (for the return trip) and we all set out for the top.

Unfortunately, the route is not well posted through the straggling village and it took us a long time to find the correct path and by the time we got to the foot of the final ascent (very steep scree and rock) with still about 500m to go, everyone, including me was completely knackered. So, we re-traced our steps, sank a beer or two in the local taverna and left the summit for another day.

To be honest, I think my days of scrambling up that final ascent are over but Sheila is still keen and just waiting for someone to challenge her to do it (meaning some one fool enough to accompany her!). It really is a walk for the spring or autumn when the weather is suitable but a good clear day without wind is also required as well. So far, this year, neither the conditions nor the company has been forthcoming.

So, when Rich and Shona suggested a trip to the top in their Suzuki Jimny, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The mountain is topped by a communication mast and small chapel with a dirt road which zig-zags up from a somewhat better dirt road connecting the mountain villages of Thripti and Oreino. At first sight, it is hard to see how the road can penetrate what seems like an impregnable wall but eventually as we crept higher and higher around ever sharper and steeper hairpin bends, a way through the rocks appeared and suddenly we were in a different world – a truly lunar landscape of unforgiving greyness.

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However, before we got to the top, to our surprise we had to descend to a bleak upland basin at which point the walking path from Thripti joined us before the final half dozen hairpins up to the summit car park. We left the Jimny there, next to the rammel of unsightly buildings surrounding the radio mast, to walk the final few metres to the chapel.

Just above the chapel is the Greek equivalent of the trig point which served as a useful resting place for at least one of the party – literally sitting on top of the world!

We even saw a vulture but no one got a picture!

006Although the day was a little hazy, the view is stunning – a true 360 degree panorama and we spent half an hour or so with no one else there, just enjoying the beauty of the day and the wonderful solitude of the mountains.

The Chapel looked well-kept, even well-used and was the usual mix of icons and other religious paraphernalia.

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Then, poor Rich had to negotiate the return journey back to the main road which allowed the rest of us to take a few photos of just how spectacular a road it is.

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And then it was back to Kimeri taverna in Koutsounari for a late lunch before heading home to watch the results of the Greek General Election with Walter and Brigitta who are just back from Germany. Pleased as we were with the unexpected decisiveness of the result, the celebrations were muted on my part at least, due to the excesses of the night before!

Today, the weather has broken and we have had heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. Just as well we were not up the mountain today!

Many thanks to Rich and Shona for laying on the entertainment, especially Rich who did the driving, hair-raising (and open-mouthed) to say the least.