March 18, 2016: Ηράκλειο

Finally today, for the first time since we arrived on Crete, we are heading out to actually “see” something!  It is crazy that we have managed to live on Crete for a full season, three entire months, and we have not managed to have a single outing to actually go anywhere.  Of course that is not entirely true as we have made it to Rethymno a few times and last weekend we came into town for the Carnival, but that is all our local city and not really going anywhere.  It does not really count.  Today is different. Today we have a hotel reservation, a place to be and stuff to do.  We need to get moving.

Dominica and I were both awake way too late last night and everyone overslept horribly this morning.  We had planned for this and it is not the tragedy that it might have been but it is very annoying, at the very least.  Dominica had managed to get up early this morning to deal with getting some laundry drying so that it would be dry and able to be packed, but she fell asleep again after that and it was around noon when she ran around in a panic waking everyone up.  Whoops.  We had originally wanted to have gotten up around more like nine in the morning and gotten out to Irákleio (written as Ηράκλειο in Greek) by ten or eleven this morning, but as we had to return for the third day in a row to the Rethymno hospital we were not able to do that.  But now we were going to be later than necessary at the hospital, too.  Argh.

So we moved pretty quickly, more or less, and were out the door just after one.  We had to pack up the GoPro, the Nikon camera, stuff for the kids to do, clothing, snacks, medicine for Luciana and everything into the car.  This is our first overnight away from the house in Prines since New Year’s Day!

We are getting very good at getting down to the hospital.  We zip right through the city, straight to the hospital itself and know exactly how to park and even know the parking guy now!  This is getting to be easy and routine.  We have been to Rethymno General more than any place other than our home and the corner store in all of Greece.  That’s a bit sad, but no one can say that we are not really “living” on Crete.  This is real life and not in any way a tourist situation.

We were the only people in the waiting room today, our total wait was only about three minutes.  Super fast in and out.  While waiting for some lab results I got to see the news on a television in Greek showing the Turkish president talking at the Council of Europe – a few hours later the BBC announced that a deal to handle Turkey’s flow of immigrants had been reached.

The stop by the hospital was a very fast one and all we really did was see the doctor from yesterday, get confirmation that Luciana was on the right antibiotic and were on the road to Irakleio in no time.  Very glad that we figured out the parking situation yesterday as that made today so fast and easy.

Before heading out from the hospital we jumped into the “MiniMall” (which is very misleading as it is not as big as a normal coffee stand) to get coffees and pastries for the drive.  Unlike normal times when there is meat in everything, Lent means that all of the pastries are meat free.  Yay!  There was nothing that Liesl wanted, she wanted to return to our favourite place and get pizza, but there was no time for that.

The weather was nice today and the drive east went smoothly.  No one got sick and no traffic issues.  We did stop, just before the city, to go into the same gas station where Liesl got sick the last time that we came out to attempt to see Knossos a couple of weeks ago.  I had promised Liesl that we would stop here to get some snacks as there had been nothing that she had wanted to eat at the coffee stand.  Luciana, of course, demanded that we buy little Barbie toys there as this gas station has a decent toy selection of real stuff.  Both girls had a list of things that they only know are sold here from last time that they really want.  They ended up talking us into allowing two toys each which is a bit silly but it made them very happy and it has been a while since they got much of anything.

Getting into the city and to our hotel was quite easy and there was simple parking right on the street directly in front of it.  Dominica had found a great rate for two nights for a triple room at the Athinaikon Hotel, right down by the Irakleio water front, just one block south of the main port.  The hotel turned out to be great, far better than we were anticipating.  Very empty, which is surprising as the shoulder season is just drawing to a close here and the tour buses are to be seen all over the island, but there were a few people about.  The front desk was super friendly and helpful.  Our room is quite nice, nothing fancy, but lots of space and great WiFi which is a very nice change of pace and something that we were very worried about.  We have a huge balcony although the view is into a resident alley so not very exciting.  But fresh air and space and a full table and set of chairs, it is quite nice.  We have a fridge in the room too, thankfully, which is very important as Luciana’s antibiotic requires refrigeration and we needed a place to store it.

We set up in the room but were not there for very long before setting out to explore.  It was after four when we arrived at the room and the sun was starting to get low.  The front desk had given us a map to do a walk to the Venetian Harbour, which is the thing to see in Irakleio so we wanted to be sure to do that tonight.

Ciana at the Playground

The total walk was five kilometres so a decent walk considering that it was late and that there were a lot of elevation change along the way.  We walked past both of the main city parks.  We decided to cut through the first one and, as always, Liesl’s keen eye spotted a small playground and the girls insisted that we stop, which was actually good as they have gotten far too little time at playgrounds since we have been in Greece as there is none near our home so we took a little time for them to play and work out their “have been sitting in the car”-ness.

Then we cut through the city and got a bit lost and ended up walking through an odd neighbourhood and having to go down tons of stairs to get down to the harbour.  But we popped up right at the edge of the Venetian Harbour and it was, more or less, perfect.

The Venetian Harbour was very neat.  Dry docks and the old fortress from five hundred years ago.  This was where the Venetian fleet was built and set sail during the height of the Venetian Empire.  So much of it is still intact.

Irakleio’s Venetian Harbour. Dry docks in the centre.

Dominica and I really enjoyed this bit of history.  Venetian History is abstract enough that Liesl is not aware of it yet but she was very interested in the fact that this was five hundred years old and very visibly useful buildings right in the middle of the city.  The old Venetian cisterns are still used every day by the city as part of the water supply!

On the way back we walked through the giant pedestrian market in the middle of the city.  It was huge and very nice.  We had not expected this in the middle of downtown.  This really must make this part of the city great to live in, if you can afford it.  Although I am sure that all summer this is just packed with tourists.  There were tons of shops that clearly were not intended to be selling much of anything to the locals.

Irakleio’s Pedestrian Centre

We worked out way back to a creperia that we had seen on the walk down to the harbour an hour earlier.  The girls had seen Hari’s and demanded that we go there for ice cream.  Dominica and I saw the sign for their savoury crepes and liked that idea.  So to Hari’s we walked.

Strawberry Waffle at Hari’s

At Hari’s the girls split a strawberry Belgian style waffle, which they both agreed was the best waffle that they had ever had in their life.  Real Belgian waffle, of course, and not the thing that they call that in the US.  Dominica got a light crepe that was basically a Mediterranean salad in a crepe.  It looked very good.  I went for a Cypriot crepe filled with cheeses, mushrooms and a farmer sauce.  It was absolutely amazing.  Every one loved their food.  Very happy that we chose Hari’s.

From Hari’s we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.  I worked on SGL updates and posting pictures from last week off of my iPhone until the batteries died.  I had to plug in the laptop across the room sitting on the floor as there are almost no electrical outlets in our hotel room.  There is a nice enough desk, but no power to be used by it.  Everyone was pretty worn out and just wanted to chill out in the room reading or playing on their Kindle Fires.

At eleven I decided that since my laptop battery had just died and everyone was done for the night that I would go out for a nice, evening walk on my own.  So I set out going north from the hotel down to the new port of Irakleio and then going east along the water front for a ways and then climbing up one of the small hills into a hotel and then residential area and exploring a little bit before heading back to the hotel a little after midnight.

In bed before one and read “Somewhere Different” until I was ready to fall asleep.