June 15, 2019: Back on Crete

Saturday. GT2 Day Seven. Aptera, Crete, Greece.

We woke up in Iraklio this morning in our small hotel. Decent enough sleep, this place is nice and cheap. If we transfer through Iraklio again in the future, and I suspect that we will, this place will probably be what we use. Perfectly acceptable accommodations, in a perfect location for both the ferry terminal and the airport.

Dominica and I got up and got packed up and ready. The car rental people, Athens Car, are coming to pick me up at ten thirty to go get the car. And we have to be checked out of the hotel by eleven. I needed a navigator to be sure that I would be able to make it back to the hotel to pick everyone up, but Dominica needed to work with Emily to get the rooms checked out and everything packed. So Madeline was assigned the task of going with me. Dominica went to wake her up at ten to get her ready to go, and she thought that it was seven thirty in the morning.

While driving out to get the car, our driver told us about the history of the area, which is Nea Alikarnassos. Which is where refugees from the ancient Greek city of Alikarnassos or Αλικαρνασσος on Asia Minor came to when Turkey expelled them in 1922 after the war. Interesting history.

We got our far, a Fiat Panda, for just $156 for the entire week, and that is with the full insurance included! A great car, with insurnace, for little more than the cost of insurance in the US! And zero hassle. Not a single surprise fee or problem, and they picked us up at our hotel to get the car. Just such great service all around.

We drove back to the hotel without much trouble. I stalled the car once the first time as I tried to exit the parking lot. Ugh. I love driving stick, but hate it when you have to learn a new car. And hate that my feet as so large that they don’t fit next to each other on the pedals.

Dominica and Emily were checked out and waiting for us at the hotel. We managed to fit three of our four backpacks, plus my CPAP bag, and my little orange Amazon tiny backpack into the trunk. And one backpack and the girls’ purse bags went in the back seat with the girls. They are small (the girls) so they all fit just fine. Dominica rode up front and we set off for Chania.

I knew nearly every turn through Iraklio. It’s been three years since we drove this, but it almost feels like yesterday. Crete really feels like home. It is so comfortable being here. And after a few minutes with the new car, driving here is super easy again. I feel the craziness of being a Greek driver coming back to me.

We got onto the highway, GR 90, aka the E75, and headed west. It’s a super easy drive along the highway once you are out of the city. And went pretty quickly.

We were going to be early to get to Aptera, where our house is for the next week and a half, so we decided that we should stop off in Rethymno for lunch either in the old town or along the beach, so that we would have food (we did not have breakfast today) and not have everyone be sugar crashing during the part of the afternoon when there is no real way to get food in the Mediterranean world. It is a bit tough having three people who are all super food sensitive both in dietary requirements and in timing, that are also on a schedule so that they get hungry at exactly the times when food isn’t available, and two of whom hate planning for food ahead of it being an emergency making it almost impossible to address. This is going to be a mounting challenge as this trip progresses.

We drove into Rethymno and it was so familiar, especially once we got to the beach area. This is where we often came for food and for the hospital because Luciana had ear infections while we were living here. We drove right down to the beach, no problem, and parked in the same parking lot that we used when we attended the parade with the kids three years ago. From there we walked the beach until Emily spotted a menu that looked good to her and we dove in there, to the Down Town Restaurant, right on the beach, for lunch.

Emily went for her “tied for first place” favourite meal of a chicken Caesar salad, which did not have anchovies in it like it normally would because this is a tourist area and the owner said “too many tourists didn’t like it”. So the American’s are even changing the local cuisine, that’s how many tourists come here. And Madeline went for the Down Town Salad, but found that prosciutto wasn’t for her. Dominica went for the vegetable risotto, because they could make it with no onions, and it was pretty good. I went for the vegetable spaghetti and thought that it was just amazing. It was an avocado cream sauce which is a Cretan specialty and just so yummy. I devoured that and hope to find it again while here. Not something you would normally expect me to order, but so glad that I did. Healthy, light, and delicious. Loaded with veggies and mushrooms. It was just perfect.

Parking for our time there was a total of two Euros. Oh how I have missed European prices.

Forty five minutes later of a gorgeous drive along the coast and we were in Aptera, just a few minutes east of Souda (home of NATO’s command center.) Our house is up in the mountains (Dominica always manages to pick a place that requires driving crazy switch backs up a mountain), on a super hard single lane, super steep rural road. Totally crazy location. Emily took some videos of the drive, including that part of it, but we will have to drive it a few times with her filming the whole thing because it is completely nuts.

We found the house without too much trouble and had no issues at all getting in. The house is positively gorgeous. We love it. We did some videos before making a mess of it, too. The pool is great, the views are great, the living spaces are great. There is even a wonderful patio area with a grill, outdoor table, etc. It’s really nice and spacious. The house is absolutely perfect. Although being up on the hill makes it a big challenging to do anything like going to a grocery store or whatever. Any activity requires leaving the house and driving somewhere, we are pretty isolated. So for just holding up in a gorgeous house, it is ideal. For doing stuff around Crete, it’s a bit of work for every trip in and out.

We discovered a little mini market at the bottom of the hill. That will come in handy. Shortly after getting in and dropping off our stuff and making the first videos we let Madeline go lay down and Dominica, Emily, and I drove back out the way that we came to go to a grocery store and stock up on supplies.

We had to go to a little village off of the road down by the beach and found a little grocery store. They were pretty well supplied, though, and we were able to get bread, cheese, turkey slices, sheep ice cream, bottled water, and other basics. Nothing fancy, just enough so that we can eat when we are in the house and get through tonight.

We came home and made sandwiches. Emily and I sat outside and ate together. One thing that is funny about this house is that it is surrounded by cats. So many cats that the house instructions even say not to let them in the house, feed them, or encourage them. And we quickly saw why, there are at least three that regularly try to come into the house. And given how the house is situated, there are basically three doors that are always open to get air flow, and a few windows, all of which allow for cats to just casually wonder in. The cats are all very adorable, for sure. They seem super friendly and healthy.

Emily also tried her first Loukoumi, or Greek delight. Which she liked. She’d never had that or Turkish Delight previously.

After everyone had eaten, it only took about half an hour before we started to think that we were going to be struggling to have things to do. Other than Madeline, who really is perfectly happy to read on her own for indefinite periods of time. Dominica can pretty much do that as well, but not to the same degree. But Emily and I are extroverts and were ready to do something within an hour of getting to the house. We could sense the isolation already. Both of us did spot a pool bar located at the bottom of our driveway (which sounds funny, but it is farther away than you would guess) and that looks promising, but we have no idea if anyone is there or not or if it is really open. So something to investigate. Fingers crossed that it is really open because if so, that will be super cool. If not, pretty lame.

I got Flickr uploads started. Our Internet speeds here are not too bad. Pretty rough for uploading video, but not too bad for normal things and pictures. We will survive for the week. We do have to restart the access point every few hours, however.

Emily and I decided to take a drive to find a bakery. We were raring to go, and Madeline and Dominica were ready to hibernate. So it worked out. We hopped into the car for our second excursion from the house and set off to the west to go to Souda where Google Maps suggests that there are some late night bakeries. Ever since experiencing the bakery last night, Emily is ready to go to one every day now. Greek bakeries and crepes are her awesome new discoveries so far on this trip.

On the way down the mountain we found a poor, lost goat in the road who had no idea where he should go. He kept going in circles obviously trying to find his family. So sad.

Before we left our little area, Emily and I decided to go the opposite direction at the mini market at the bottom of the hill and check out a little restaurant listed by Google Maps as Cretan Corner and highly rated, supposedly. You never know how accurate these Google Maps places are. It turned out to be a crazy, highly lively real intersection with a couple of restaurants packed with people, and one place with live Cretan dancing going on. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. So wild. We totally have to check this place out soon.

We got to Souda and tried to follow the map. We parked by the grocery store landmark that Google had given us and walked around looking for the twenty four hour bakery that the map showed. I walked right to where it was supposed to be and it was super obvious that no bakery had ever been there. Very frustrating. We found another bakery by the grocery store but it was not the kind that we were looking for and they were closing up as we pulled up, anyway.

I had one other place to try, that supposedly would be open until eleven tonight, that was roughly on our way back. It was called the Sweet Corner Bakery and Cafe and is next to the BP on the main road in and out of town. It turned out to be real and open, so we went in.

It was way more “dessert” focused than we had been looking for, but had a great selection of desserts and had pizza, sandwiches, and more for other times that we might be looking for something. We probably spent twenty minutes figuring out what to get for everyone. We ended up getting sixteen dollars of desserts and treats to take back to the house. A successful outing.

We got back to the house and gave everyone their desserts and we all ate together in the living room. Then, everyone was tired and it was off to bed, I stayed up maybe an hour. I took a shower and made sure that Flickr uploads were still moving along, and was waiting for the air conditioning in our bedroom to catch up and cool things down because I do not want to lay in bed and start sweating. It was a pretty hot day. Nothing like we had in Athens or Santorini, but pretty warm.

I checked the weather reports and found that we have been in a record heat wave the last few days. So the insane heat that we faced in Greece was not normal at all. Corsica was way over 103F tonight! Crazy temperatures for Europe, and it is only mid-June. It is still just late spring! This summer is going to be very rough.