June 21, 2019: Knossos and Psychro Cave

Friday. GT2 Day Thirteen. Aptera, Crete, Greece.

Dominica got me up early today, six o’clock! Today’s plan is to drive in the early morning all of the way back east to Iraklio and go to visit the ruins of Knossos, the biggest attraction and historical site on Crete. Dominica and I did Knossos with Liesl and Luciana back in 2016 when we were living on Crete. The girls we got up around seven thirty and we got straight onto the road.

We found this morning that our house is without Internet access. During the night it was shut off because the house owners had not been paying their ISP bill and we got a notice from the ISP that the bill was weeks past due and had been shut off for non-payment. So all of our long, overnight uploads that had been running for twelve hours failed and will have to be started over once we get Internet access again, which could end up being a few days! Now we have to deal with this while we are out today, and now we don’t know if we will have Internet until we get to Italy. Very stressful.

The drive was easy enough. About three hours. Our little Fiat Panda makes a ridiculous amount of tire squeel and squeaking brake noise wherever we go and has become a bit of a joke.

Everyone was hungry when we got to Iraklio. I had been trying, like I have been for days, to get my passengers to pay attention to what is along the roads and say to stop places to eat on the highway where it is cheap and easy, rather than waiting until we arrive at a place then trying to find food in cities. But no one did and so we were on the main street of Iraklio trying to find someplace with food and some way to park to get there.

We did manage to find a bakery and got a small amount of pastries before going to tackle Knossos. I should mention that if you go to Knossos directly, there are expensive, but handy food options directly across the street in the touristy shopping strip.

Knossos was packed. So many people there today. And it was hot. We did the whole thing pretty quickly. No tour guides for us today like Dominica and I got last time. Emily did not want to have to wait for a guide, and we did not want to linger in the heat. If it is your first time, I would recommend a guide. It is nice to learn about all of the stuff. But I would also recommend going in cooler weather, on an overcast day. The site is very exposed.

Knossos went well and the crowds slowed us down only a little and did not pose any problems. We were very hot and done with it by the end, though. The heat is taking a toll on us day after day.

Since it was so early in the day, Emily decided that she wanted to do the hour and a half drive to the east, to parts of Crete where Dominica and I have never been, to see the Psychro Cave where “Zeus was born”, and where Europa was taken to be hidden. It is at the top, or near the top, of “Goat Mountain” and the mountain is covered in goats.

The drive to “Goat Mountain” goes way, way up into the Dikte Mountains and then to an amazingly beautiful high plateau that you have to drive around to get to the cave site. A really cool drive.

Once we got up to the cave site, we parked (parking is two Euro and fifty.) And used the WC, and I bought us some freshly squeezed juice to cool us down and give us energy for the hike up to the cave, which is a bit of a hike. In fact, the hike is so far that it is about the same as the cliff hike that we did yesterday, but is wider and has trees along much of it and way more of a breeze. They say that the walk only takes ten or fifteen minutes, but that was not at all the case for us. It was more like thirty or forty minutes for us to get up to the cave.

That was an exhausting hike. The restaurant with the fruit juice and said that we looked young and healthy and had sensible shoes (the girls actually wore sneakers today when we were only planning on doing an outdoor museum, but sandals yesterday for a cliff hike) so recommended the hard trail up. That was a bad idea.

The cave is very short and small. You go down old cement stairs with almost no lighting so you can’t always see where your feet are going to go, and then you walk a small circle in the cave, and back up. Coming from the US, this was a super tiny cave, the smallest I have ever been to see. The railing was not too impressive, either, but there was some.

The whole cave took probably five or ten minutes, essentially all of that time being clinging to the railing to descend safely. We all agreed that the cave was way too plain and needed to have some kind of signage or displays or something in it. For supposedly being of great mythological importance, there was absolutely nothing in the cave to see or do. You just walk down, look at the rock walls that are just plain rock walls, and climb back out. The most boring and short cave any of us has ever seen. And no reason to see it, it’s just a hole in the ground. Total missed opportunity to teach Greek culture or mythology.

So the verdict on the cave was a big thumbs down. Not worth the drive, not worth the climb, not worth the money, and in fact, not worth even going into even if you are already standing at the top of it!

We did the long walk back down the donkey trail, saw lots of donkeys and goats, and grabbed some icred teas from the goat store at the bottom of the trail and got back in the car and drove back towards home.

Emily wanted crepes for dinner, so that is our mission. We drove back to Rethymno and tried to get crepes there. But the city was a mad disaster of traffic. Everyone anywhere seemed to be out trying to get dinner in Rethymno. It was insane. No way to park, not even a way to drive through town!

We went up to Atsipopolo near where we used to live and hit our old bakery. I took Emily and Madeline in, they bought some food, and we asked about a crepery. The girls there said that the only one around would be back in Rethymno, so that was a big “no” for us. Instead, we are driving on to Xavia to try to go to the twenty four hour Salt and Sugar crepery that we had talked about a few days ago.

So we had an extra long drive as we went all the way to the far side of Xavia, way past our house in Aptera. Boy have we been driving today!

We found the crepery that is something like Zaxapn & Afau (Sugar and Salt) and got the most amazing crepes ever there. The girls all got dessert. I got smoked salmon. It was amazing. So good.

It was super late, like eleven, when we got home. Our Internet was back on! The girls all went directly to bed and were silent almost immediately. I stayed up working for several hours and got media uploads going so that we will be essentially caught up for things like Flickr and Instagram by tomorrow.

June 20, 2019: Glyka Nera

Thursday. GT2 Day Twelve. Aptera, Crete, Greece.

Today is Emily’s “inaccessible beach” day. We have chosen Glyka Nera because it is close to us, relatively speaking, and is the highest ranked inaccessible beach on Crete, and because it has the super unique feature of having fresh water from snow melt coming from the top of the White Mountains flowing through an underground river that goes right through the beach. Really interesting stuff, it is not often that you get to go to a beach that actually has something unique going on with it. We did a lot of research on it last night and it seems from watching videos of it that it is going to work out pretty well. I did a bunch of research on the boats and found that the only ones listed are around thirty Euros, which is ridiculous for a five minute trip, but the walk is not supposed to be bad from Sfakia. I showed Emily pictures of the desert cliff trail and she thought that it looked like the way to go. I warned the girls to bring sensible shoes as it was a serious hike.

Dominica was super anxious to have us out of the house. She is tired of people and wants a day to herself. So for no other reason, she woke us all up really early and rushed us out the door. Emily and I had all of our timing set up ahead of time, alarms, plans, etc. But Dominica had been insisting all day yesterday that we had to go super early, but had no reason for thinking so. And kept bugging us to set an early time to commit to being out the door. So we can tell she has had it with having people around.

Because of that, we were probably on the road by eight thirty. Without Dominica, the drive down isn’t bad at all. She is the only one that really gets sick on the mountain roads. Madeline isn’t affected at all and uses her phone the entire time no matter what the road conditions are. Without Dominica in the car, Emily is able to ride in the front making it that much better for her. So she doesn’t even need any motion sickness medicine on the drive.

Last time that we drove to the south shore, we took the western pass through the White Mountains. Today we are taking the eastern pass. It is supposed to be seventy five minutes from Aptera where we are renting a house to Sfakia where we catch the trail head to Glyka Nera.

The drive through the mountains was gorgeous, which is not a surprise after how great it was last time. If you can handle the mountain roads, the views are just spectacular. I really enjoyed it.

About halfway there we came upon Imbros Gorge, which Dominica had been telling us about. It is good that she did not come with us as the drive along the gorge and down the cliffs to Sfakia would have been way, way too much for her just from being in the car, let alone doing anything else. Imbros Gorge made for some wonderful views and something very different from what we have seen around Crete previously. We stopped at a panoramic parking area where they were selling drinks and food. The girls got freshly squeezed orange juice which they said that they have never had anything like before, which is weird because they get freshly squeezed orange juice regularly, but they said that this actually tasted like drinking an orange and that what they are used to does not. I got some coffee and ordered a Sfakia style pie with spinach and fennel which was fantastic. The girls were not able to eat anything that the little restaurant had, spinach, fennel, onions, cheese, all things that they struggle to eat or won’t try. But my food was wonderful, really glad that I tried that.

The little outdoor restaurant had amazing views, and also a mother goat and two babies that hung out there. So the girls got pictures. The babies would sit on the tables, too, which was hilarious.

We did not stay long. Just long enough to do pictures and for me to eat. Then we drove down the cliff to Sfakia itself. The girls were hungry, having not eaten anything on the drive, so we went into the tiny village and the girls looked for a restaurant for lunch on foot while I found a place to park.

Lunch on the beach was really nice in Sfakia. The girls both got hamburgers that they said were really good. I got a veggie pita thing that was really amazing and cost only two Euros and eight cents! Big pita full of veggies and French fries! While we ate we could see the expensive ferries going to and from Glyka Nera. No additional boat options were readily visible to us, so we stuck to the hiking plan. Sixty Euros to see a beach is pretty excessive.

We drove the other way out of town. To get to the trail head on the E4 for Glyka Nera you go west out of town and up the main road till you hit the first switch back. There is room there just above the switch back to pull over to the side of the road and leave the car there. There were probably five other cars there when we parked, so it was clear that we were in the right place, and the trail sign is right there and totally obvious. It is recommended that you put rocks under your tires as it is a rather steep incline for parking.

We grabbed our stuff and got started on the trail. Neither girl had paid attention to anything that we had discussed or the pictures that I had shown (in Madeline’s defense, only Emily had seen pictures of the totally exposed desert rock cliff and she had relayed this to Madeline as a “forest trail” which it was anything but) and so had not through through what a desert cliff rock trail would be like and had not brought the shoes that I had told them to bring, so were hiking in sandals! We saw some elderly hikers go down the trail just two minutes in front of us so figured if they could do it, we would have no problem at all being young and reasonably fit, the girls have just recently been doing their crazy athletic band stuff in the summer heat, so this should be nothing compared to that exercise wise.

It turns out that neither girl has ever been hiking before. I had no idea, it is such a super common activity for me growing up. Whether going to Letchworth for the afternoon, or vacationing in Bar Harbor, Maine or going to the Green Mountains, or the White Mountains or whatever, it’s just part of being a kid. But they had no experience with trails, trail markets, what hiking a trail would entail, etc. This made things a lot harder.

The hike down the E4 trail was hard. First of all, the sun was unrelenting so we were just cooking out there. That always makes things hard. Second the descent is pretty dramatic, so there is just a lot of physical exertion to safely lower yourself that amount of distance. No way to do that without pushing your muscles a bit. The trail was way, way longer than expected. On maps that we had checked, it was shows as being much flatter and only a third of this distance or so. But in reality it was all switchbacks everywhere so we were covering the same ground over and over again that the maps had not shown. This wasn’t “hard” but made for a far longer walk than we had anticipated. And the trail went down and back up many times, so there was a lot of climbing and descending the same altitude several times, adding to the exhaustion. And by not being experienced hikers, the girls moved very slowly so the process took far longer than you would normally expect. We easily were out there for an hour to an hour and a half. But someone who knows how to hike and is in good shape would probably do it in something more like half an hour. We also kept stopping to take pictures and I would spend a lot of time filming the girls walking the trail, so that slowed us down a lot as well. If we had been doing this in sixty degrees on an overcast day, that alone would have totally changed the whole situation.

The whole way down the trail, our only mishap was one slip by Madeline in a totally safe area while she was filming herself walking and all she did was hip-check a boulder rather hard, she didn’t even fall on her butt completely. But we were absolutely exhausted by the time that we finally got down to the beach level. We were hot and drenched in sweat, and our muscles were just worn out. Talk about exercise! But the entire hike was only about two thousand steps according to my watch. So while it was a ton of physical exertion, it was not very far in steps whatsoever.

Once you get down to the beach level, Glyka Nera that you want to go to and the taverna located there and the water closets are on the very farthest side of the beach. You have to watch through an entire “on the beach” nudist colony before you get to it (I had warned the girls of this, too, but it turns out that Emily thought that I was warning them that there was a “new” beach, not a “nude” beach, which doesn’t make any sense, but that’s why she was so shocked when she saw loads of naked old men walking around the beach.) Madeline had understood and like me, had no idea how Emily was surprised. It was pretty hilarious.

Madeline decided that she needed to get under an umbrella and put on sun screen. Probably needed that before the long walk in the exposed sun, in reality. Emily and I headed straight for the water, we were so hot we just wanted to get into the water and cool off. Getting into the water proved to be pretty difficult, however, as the rocks of the beach were very painful. They were hot, but that wasn’t too much of a problem, the real issue was that they were sharp and hurt your feet to stand on them, on the beach and in the water. And once we hit the water, it was so cold.

Glyka Nera’s claim to fame is the fresh snow melt running into the water from the beach and boy do you feel it. The water at this beach is way colder than elsewhere on the Libyan Sea. You can instantly see the blurry swirls in the water from the mixing of the cold sweet water and the warm salt water. The rocks under your feet are cold and if you stand in the right places you can literally feel the icy river flow from between the rocks and up between your toes! A bizarre and very unique sensation.

We stayed in the water for a long time. The sun was so hot and the water so refreshing. Madeline never decided to get in, though. So just Emily and I hung out for a long time.

Up on the beach itself, if you dig down just a few inches you actually dig into the river itself and you get flowing pools of fresh cold water. People do this and use it to clean themselves, I washed out my shirt this way, and to put their drinks in to cool them down! What is most amazing is not that the water pools, but that the water will literally be flowing by from one side of the pool to the other, in the direction of the sea. The painful to walk on rocks here are very smooth (because they were washed there from the underground river obviously) and because of their shape they allow a huge volume of water to just flow through unimpeded, but with their top side staying hot and dry. So you walk around on the beach like normal, without it being obvious that there is an ice cold river just six inches under your feet over the coarse of the entire beach! It’s just amazing. And because of this, there are trees that grow right there on the beach in what would normally be too hot, dry, and salty for trees to grow.

While on the beach I went to the taverna to get us iced teas to drink while laying out. From the beach side I was able to find out that Delfini operates reasonable boat access to the beach and is just four Euros per person to take. So I arranged that and surprised the girls with a boat to take us back to Sfakia at five thirty. They were pretty happy about that. Although Madeline said that she actually would prefer to hike back up the way that we came, and I was totally down for that, too, but Emily was definitely one hundred percent on board with just taking the boat back.

That made the rest of our beach afternoon pretty leisurely. I think that today was the most sun that we have gotten for this entire trip. Madeline said that I was pretty red all over by the time that things were done. Madeline really enjoyed that goats would hang out on the mountain behind the beach and would even come down and drink from the fresh water pools on the beach right in the middle of the people.

The boat back leaves from the taverna and was tiny, maybe seating ten people. Just a fishing boat with a bench in the middle. But the ride was quick and easy. But like the gorge and cliff drives, and the hike down, the boat was another thing that Dominica could not possibly have handled today.

Dominica was at home having her own adventures. A cicada came into the house while we were away and Dominica spent a long time screaming and panicking about what to do about that.

We got back to Sfakia and walked up to the super market where the taxi call desk said that we should just walk the two kilometers back to our car because it was too close to bother with a taxi. But we were all hot and tired, and I was getting sore from so much hiking in a swim suit, so we had them call a taxi for us. It is three Euros to call one, and six Euros (which is the minimum) to go two kilometres. So nine Euros and five minutes later, we were at the car. It is easy, you pay the taxi stand at the super market ahead of time, so there is nothing to deal with.

We got back to our car and started the seventy five minute mountain drive back to Aptera. A long, exhausting day. But we accomplished a lot of stuff.

It was dark when we got home. The girls basically went directly to bed. Everyone is so tired. I stayed up for a while and worked.

June 19, 2019: Ancient Aptera

Wednesday. GT2 Day Eleven. Aptera, Crete, Greece.

We are now, officially, in the “middle” of our thirty day grand tour of Europe. And we are all pretty tired. Actually today, we are doing pretty well first thing in the morning. If first thing is ten thirty. Dominica and I slept in until close to nine. My watch tells me that I got a good night’s sleep. And I feel pretty good.

The Flickr photo uploads from yesterday did not make it through the night, so I had to massage them this morning. All in all, it took ten hours to upload yesterday’s two hundred photos. YouTube did not manage to upload a single video during the course of the night. About three hours left to go on the current post. Ugh. Emily and I did so many great interview videos yesterday, too. And they are going to take forever to get up there. And I am hoping to cajole Madeline into making a series just the same, too.

Around a quarter till eleven the house cleaner arrived. We ended up with the four of us all hanging out in the warm living room (it is a really hot day) sitting around on our phones. Dominica and Madeline were reading, I think. I was chatting with people trying to run down my battery so that I could get my phone plugged in and charging before we tried to do anything today. So the maid had to work around us all morning. But very handy that we have someone to clean the house every few days, this is really nice. Even the maid commented on just how hot it is here. This is way hotter than it usually is here, she said that it was making things very hard.

The girls struggled to decide on what they wanted to do today. As Dominica said, no decision is a decision. I am thinking that I might venture out and check out the local ruins in Aptera today if no one is up for doing anything. Sitting around the living room seems to be the order of the day. There is a little food in the house, so going out for anything is not strictly necessary. Honestly, for me, staying in is better. More chance to get caught up and relax. I’ve lived here, and I am not a big beach person, so continuous trips to the beach is not something that I really need. And the less we go out, the more that our media can start to catch up, not that that is a big deal, but a benefit. At least the blog has stayed up to date the entire time.

It was almost noon when the one video that I started uploading yesterday evening before we went to the taverna finished uploading. So about fourteen hours!

Eventually the girls decided on getting some lunch at the local taverna, the same one that Emily and I went to last night. But we didn’t really eat there last night, we just had drinks, so now we are going for some real food.

Lunch was great. Everyone liked their food, although Emily had been wanting gyros and they did not have it there. I went for broad beans in fennel which was amazing. We had a fun time at the taverna, the owner was hilarious, Dominica loves going there.

After lunch we did not feel like doing anything, so we took a quick drive up to Ancient Aptera, the nearly four thousand year old ruins right here in the village, and spent an hour in the heat going around that site. It is very cheap to get in, I think that for the four of us it was just four Euros. Both girls ended up being free, Madeline as a student, Emily as a non-adult. Dominica and I were two Euros each. A good deal for how cool the site is.

We had fun, especially with the Hellenistic theatre there. That was really cool. There are lots of different things on the site, and there is a movie that plays as well. It was very hot, though, so we were awfully warm. We got some good pictures and video while there. Emily stumbled on a snake that hissed at her, we are thinking that it was a Balkan whip snake.

After the Aptera site we just came back to the house. We chilled for a while and the girls did some swimming in the pool here.

Everyone but me napped for several hours this afternoon. I sat outside and got a little sun and just enjoyed a couple of beers on the patio and chatted with people via my phone. It was nice to get a little quiet time to myself.

For dinner tonight everyone was feeling like a change of pace. There is an Italian restaurant that we cannot see from the road but we keep seeing on maps called Don Rosario that should be right around the corner from us. So we gave that a try and were so glad that we did! It is the neatest place. You really have to know that it is there, you have to turn off of the highway unto an unmarked and barely paved road and go to the end and then there is this huge restaurant that, when we got there, only had about two other people eating, but was packed by the time that we left.

Our waitress kept trying to speak Greek to us because she said that we all looked so Greek that she couldn’t believe we didn’t speak it. My Greek tan seems to be working. Dominica and Emily really do have the majority of their facial looks and skin tones from Greece so they make a bit of sense. We’ve been being told a lot this week that we really look Greek.

I got salmon a la vodka with penne. Dominica got the house pasta. Madeline went for spaghetti in pesto. And Emily got ravioli. Everyone loves their dinner and we could not even begin to finish it. We brough so much back to the house with us. The whole restaurant was amazing, highly recommended. I wish that we could eat there several more times!

Home, more time to manage media uploads to get pictures available for the folks back home following along. Emily and I made some plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be Dominica’s day off from all of us. Emily wants to go see one of the inaccessible beaches that you have to take a boat or hike to get to. Glyka Nera is ranked in the top three beaches in the area, so is the top contender. All of the travel sites recommend it. Dominica keeps trying to tell us to go really early, but Emily and I want to leave mid-morning, get breakfast on the drive, and get there so that we don’t have too long (like six hours or more) before the golden sunset light starts happening. If we are there in the middle of the day, you can’t really take pictures and you just burn in the sun.

June 18, 2019: Chania Shopping

Tuesday. GT2 Day Ten. Aptera, Crete, Greece.

Hard to believe that we are ten days in to the trip now! Already one third of the way through it. We have done a lot already, but it is just heating up. So much left to do. But a lot more of Crete before we do anything else.

We all slept in a lot this morning. Dominica got up maybe at nine, showered, but went back to bed. I got up finally at a quarter till ten! I was awake a little before that, but did not want to get out of bed. Both girls were, obviously, still asleep. I didn’t get the best night of sleep, at four thirty in the morning I was awoken to Madeline and Emily screaming because there was a centipede right over Madeline’s bed (it was busily eating the remains of another centipede that Madeline had killed apparently) and I had to go kill it for them. So while that only took a minute, it was pretty disruptive to my sleep. How they saw a small centipede on the wall at four thirty in the morning is what I want to know. Had they been asleep, no one would have noticed.

Our plan for today is to explore Xavia (Chania), our local city. Xavia is the second largest city on the island and has some cool history and supposed to have an amazing old town.

I am excited to go check out the archaeological site at Aptera, which is just past the Cretan Corner where we ate two nights ago. Aptera was the biggest of the western Minoan cities and has been inhabited for 3,500 years! It has Minoan, Hellenistic, Roman, and Ottoman ruins. Pretty cool. So neat to picture people living here for all of that time. It doesn’t get too much older than this, especially not in Europe. This predates pretty much everything. And it wasn’t just “people living here”, but it was a walled, bustling city pushing four thousand years ago!

I recorded a little bit of commentary video this morning which I hope to have uploading while we are out for the day. Yesterday I showed that about eight minutes of video from the Lumix takes roughly twelve hours to upload. I kicked off the YouTube uploads before one thirty, and they ran until after two in the morning. That is pretty brutal for us to keep everyone updated. I had to wait on even starting Flickr uploads until after two in the morning and it took hours into the night (while I was asleep.) Thank goodness they didn’t fail or this would truly take forever. And to speed things up, I often do uploads of other stuff, like to Instagram, from wifi connections at restaurants and stuff when we are out so that we are getting double bandwidth to get more uploaded. It’s a challenge to keep everyone up to date.

We tried to wake the girls up at a quarter after eleven. Normally Emily has been awake long before now. Apparently Crete is slowly taking a toll on her. She has been getting up a little later each day.

Twelve fifteen we finally got in the car and drove to Xavia. It is only about fifteen minutes, a very easy drive. However coming from our house the way there is really odd with lots of back roads. Hard to believe that that is the approach to the city.

We had to drive around a bit looking for a good place to park. Eventually we found a municipal spot by the Venetian harbour that was three Euros and twenty for four hours. Not too bad.

We walked around for a bit. The sun is rough today, and it was hard to figure out where we wanted to go. It was so hot. In the nineties, for sure.

We found a little restaurant, The Kostas, and ate there. They listed a veggie burger and some stuff that the girls thought that they would eat. I ordered the veggie burgers (which come without a bun in the plain patty Greek style), Dominica could not get that because it was made with onions (and, it turns out, a lot of carrots, too) so she got the “refreshing salad”. Madeline got chicken “on the spit” which turned out to be a huge portion of chicken on the bone, not something that she normally wants to eat. Emily got a tuna salad with the most cucumbers I have ever seen in a single place.

Lunch took a while before we were hot and did not want to move too quickly from our shady spot, and because the restaurant had a tour group come in just before us and went from a sleepy little place to suddenly having about forty customers and were struggling to feed everyone.

After lunch we walked the narrow, winding old streets until we found the old market. The Chania market is both a large open market building, as is common in these old cities, with loads of stalls selling souvenirs, food, local items, clothing, etc. with a few restaurants mixed in. The streets around the old market are an outdoor market area with loads and loads of shopping. This was pretty much what we were looking for. So we explored both the indoor, and the outdoor markets. All of the girls have some things that they are looking for.

Dominica’s big item that she wants is a Greek blue opal necklace. She decided that she was going to get one while we were on Santorini when she saw them in the shops in Fira. But, of course, we knew better than to shop for them there. We have been planning to look for that in Chania for days now. It seems like the place most likely to have them, while not being expensive for tourists. The girls are looking for postcards, hats, and clothing.

After more than an hour of shopping, Dominica finally found a promising shop. She ended up finding an open pendant shaped like Crete and a silver chain for it. And instead of the one to two hundred dollars that we expected to pay on Santorini, the pendant was only thirteen Euros here!

Emily found a slushy stand, and we three found gelato which we had before returning to the car. It was a full four hours of lunch and shopping in Chania. Time to head home. That was all that it took to feel tired. This entire week is the same hot sun, day after day. We wear out quickly.

On the way back home, Emily wanted to stop at the Sweet Corner in Souda for more of her favourite chocolate cake. This is, I think, the fourth trip for her there. So we swung in since we go past it on the way back to the national road. Dominica bought a range of things, including some savory stuff for breakfast, and Emily bought all of the chocolate cake that they had. We bought so much that they threw in some free bread for us.

We came back up the hill to our house in Aptera. Madeline pretty much went straight to bed. Dominica stayed up to read and eat for a bit, but was totally in a “shut down, no talking to people” mode. So Emily and I, by six in the evening, were the only people left to do anything and wondering what we were going to do. Way, way too early for us. Dominica ended up going to lay down for a nap and slept for a few hours, too.

Emily and I walked over to the hotel across the street where we had heard that there was a pool bar. We had checked it out with Madeline two nights ago, but it was closed. This time we walked around a bit and got a better view of the hotel and realized that there is a restaurant inside. So we walked in there and talked to the owner. She said that the pool bar is closed (probably just until it is summer) but that we were free to order from the hotel’s indoor bar and take anything that we wanted out to the pool and were free to use the pool. They were super nice. But we were hoping for a bar with people hanging out, not just the two of us drinking at a hotel bar by ourselves.

We figured that since the sunset light was good, we should do some pictures by the pool. So she threw on a new outfit and we recorded a series of travel interviews to put up on YouTube. Then we went to the pool and spent half an hour doing a photoshoot there. However, we discovered that the sun sets behind the mountain here, so by seven thirty it is already decently dark. The direct sun of the sunset does not hit the house. So our lighting plans did not work out as well as we had hoped.

While we were doing our photoshoot, Emily noticed that the little cat that is part of the pack always hovering around the house had something in the drive way. It was Dominica’s cheese pastry off of the kitchen table! I had no idea that Dominica had left food out, she has been super careful this whole time to tell everyone to always have food in the fridge, freezer, or microwave so as not to attract insects or animals because of how the windows and doors are always open here. So I never imagined that she would have left a cut in half pastry sitting on a plate on the table when she went to take a nap. So the cat just walked into the house, jumped on the table, grabbed the food, and hauled it out to the driveway to enjoy.

After our photoshoot, I took a little time to take a refreshing shower. Then Emily and I drove down to the corner, really it is close enough to walk but Emily did not want to walk back up the hill after going out for drinks, and we went to the Aptera Taverna to hang out. It turns out that the whole village was doing the same thing, it was packed. So was the taverna across the street. And the Cretan Corner in between was pretty busy, as well. There were easily over a hundred people out for dinner and drinks on this little, sleepy corner in the middle of nowhere. So crazy. This is nothing like how it was when we lived in Prines.

Emily got some of the local white wine, which she really liked. I got some raki. We split French fries as a snack. Our next door neighbours from number four up on the hill came down and ate just two tables away from us, too. We really liked the venue, it was super quaint and nice and friendly. What a great little village this is. The one thing, though, is that essentially the entire restaurant was Brits on their holidays. I didn’t see any locals hanging out anywhere. I assume because there are no locals, not because they didn’t go to these places. Aptera has turned into a British holiday village with all of the construction being for ex-pats and vacationers so there are basically no homes anywhere for Greeks to live here and that takes away from the experience a lot. It is a gorgeous location, and the people and services are great, but you do not really get very much real Cretan experience because you are essentially in a multi-owner, outdoor, loosely connected, village scale hotel. When we were in Prines, we were literally the only non-Greeks in the village. Totally different experience.

Emily tried a sip of my raki. It is definitely not for her, she is her father’s daughter.

We hung out until around eleven and came back up to the house. Emily went straight to bed. I worked on getting media transferred so that people can keep up with us. We are starting to fall behind on uploads because we take so much media every day and the Internet here is not fast enough, even working around the clock, to keep up with even the just “moment to moment updates” of our travels! So my top priority is Instagram updates, mostly those I am able to do while we are out and about so that I do not have to use the Internet at the house. Then Flickr is the next big thing, because that stores all of the valuable pictures that are the top priority for later. That I am pretty much able to update during the night so that a day’s worth of photos are online by the next day. Then YouTube gets whatever I am able to upload, which came take quite a long time, as we get only about ten minutes of footage able to be uploaded in a twenty four hour period!

June 17, 2019: First Beach Day on Crete

Monday. GT2 Day Nine. Aptera, Crete, Greece.

Today’s plan is to be our first official beach day while on Crete. I got up around eight thirty, having stayed up until two in the morning chatting with folks back home and uploading media from the trip. My “as we travel” YouTube channel playlist is updating to yesterday, now.

Dominica got up just after me while I was in the shower. I did some media work this morning first thing, then shot a little establishing footage to kill off the phone battery so that I could get it charging to prepare for the day out.

Emily got up at nine thirty and came downstairs at ten thirty. She said that Madeline was still asleep and had not moved yet.

We decided on the beaches at Paleochora, on the Libyan Sea, as our destination for today. There are two beaches in the village and it looks just awesome. Since no one was up and moving early this morning, it seemed like the logical place to go since we would have to drive a little while to get there. That way we could do our driving during the hottest part of the day, and be in Paleochora for the cooler part of the day and during the golden hour for photos. Emily agreed that that was a good idea.

My battery for my watch got charged up last night. This is my second time having to charge it since getting to Europe. I charged it last in Athens as it was low when we started the trip. So it is holding up well. Other than lacking a map function, it really is an ideal travel watch.

Paleochora is on the south shore of the island, where Dominica and I have never gone. It is a good choice for us because it is a village with lots of amenities, and with two world class beaches right in the village. One faces east, and one faces west. The village is nearly equidistant between Athens, and Libya! We will see how the drive is, though, as we have to go over the mountain pass to the south side of the island.

Emily, Dominica, and I were all completely ready to go a bit before noon. But Madeline was still asleep. Emily had checked in on her and she had not stirred yet. So we were waiting on her for a while. Dominica tried to wake her up at twelve thirty to get her moving.

Route from Aptera to Paleochora, Crete

Emily woke Madeline up a little after twelve thirty to get her into motion. While going to wake her up, Emily discovered our third centipede at the house (the first one was the first night by the television, the second was last night on the wall by Dominica and my bedroom), this one was high on the wall on the other side of our bedroom over the stairs, so we can’t get to it to kill it (it probably did that strategically.) But Emily declared that it was a small scorpion on the wall, rather than a centipede. From a distance, we could only tell that it was about two inches long, not what it was. She said it was definitely a scorpion, and alive and moving, so Dominica was pretty much ready to just pack up and move house given the revelation that a small scorpion was running around on the wall; her family has a history of severe allergies to scorpion stings. So we were in a bit of a panic until I identified it as a small, every day centipede running around and nothing to really worry about. Emily said “what’s the difference?” So today we learned that Emily does not know the difference between centipedes and scorpions. Crisis averted.

Also, today, Dominica realized that the reason that I grew up always closing toilet lids is not just because it looks so much better, and because it keeps things from accidentally falling into them, but primarily because when I was young I learned that toilets are a key entry point for dangerous snakes (as well as some insects and similar things that you don’t want) into your home and that keeping the lid down can be for pest control and safety. So she had me record a YouTube video explaining the history on that.

One thing that we’ve really noticed at this house is that being up in the mountains in a rural area, the cicadas are absolutely out of control. They are so loud that we have a hard time talking over them, recording videos can be difficult, and it makes it very hard for Madeline to sleep because they keep her awake.

By one thirty we were finally ready to head out onto the road to the southern shore.

The drive was pretty long, almost two hours. We went west on the highway past Chania, then we turned south and drove up over the mountains through the pass. Dominica had to work really hard to handle it, it was a very long, very mountainous drive and she does not handle that well. She had taken some medicine and had her wrist bands and we blasted the air conditioning for as long as we could for her.

Central Crete up in the mountains is really beautiful. What a great drive it was. Some really neat small mountain towns along that way, like Kanandos. I wish that we had time to stop and explore some of them, they seemed like great little locations that have escaped the tourists that most of Crete sees so much of.

It was about three thirty when we got to Paleohora (it is spelled many ways in Latin, but its real name is Παλαιόχωρα.) What an adorable little village. We came down from the mountains and were right into the peninsula with the village instantly. The highway just turned into the main road and after a few blocks it felt like I was driving on a pedestrian way so took a side road, found the western beach and just parked because it seemed like driving around the village was going to be a problem.

The town is super quaint, loaded with little seaside shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, a beach on either side of town (one faces east, and one faces west). It’s a very beach town, but with lots of local character.

We went straight to the west facing beach as it was already afternoon. The girls camped out in chairs. We had to pay four Euros per chair, but that was actually not so bad as it gave us access to the chairs for the day and no obligation to buy anything else.

I would have hung out there for a while, but Dominica needed Ibuprofen, which we have been looking for for days and now she has run out and the sun is giving her a migraine and it is an emergency. So I set out on foot to see what I could find. Sadly, though, it was siesta and every pharmacy in the village was closed. All of them. I went to every one listed on Google Maps. And when that didn’t work, I walked the entire village going up and down the streets to see if Google had missed any. It hadn’t. But at least I had a chance to scour the town and I took loads of pictures while I was out. So not all wasted time. Good exercise.

I got back to the girls at five. The pharmacies that we knew about were set to open at five thirty. They were hungry and wanted to order food. The complication being that leaving the beach would mean giving up our chairs and we needed them. A restaurant catered to our area so we decided to just go with that. Veggara ended up having good prices and really good food. Both girls went for “Cowboy Burgers” which were hamburgers with eggs on them. Dominica and I both got tuna clubs with fries. All of the food was really good. Thirty two Euros for the four of us, delivered to us on the beach.

After we ate, I returned and got the Ibuprofen from the pharmacy. They sell 600mg over the counter here, which is the dosage that Dominica and Emily both use, but they normally have to take three 200mg American pills to do that. Dominica estimated that the amount that I bought for two Euros and sixty five cents would have been close to twenty dollars in the US. And would require three times the space. European Ibuprofen is way better for travelers, you get so much more with so much less of your valuable travel capacity wasted. Plus the huge money savings, of course.

Emily also sent me out to find a crepery in town. Google said that the village had none, but that seemed completely impossible. And we were right that Google was wrong, I found one no problem. If this one had not been found, we were planning on going to the Sugar Lab which is supposed to be open until eleven on the drive back to Xavia. And if that was closed, there is supposed to be a twenty four hour crepery in Xavia itself.

Dominica and I went in the sea for a while. The water of the Libyan Sea is amazingly clear and cool. It was really nice. The beach here is fantastic. I was probably in for close to an hour.

Once I got out of the water, it was time for Emily and Madeline’s beach photo shoot which was the primary reason that we were here. And now it was the Golden Hour, so time for the photographs.

Photographs went well. The setting is gorgeous. Once we were done, we cleaned up from the sand, put our stuff into the car and went to Καρακατσανης for crepes. Emily got chocolate and banana, Madeline got chocolate and strawberry, Dominica got banofee. Dominica’s was definitely the best. I got nothing, knowing that I would have to eat more leftovers than I had wanted in the first place. I am not huge on crepes to begin with. But these were quite good.

After crepes everyone was tired, from the drive and the sun, and it was time to head back home. The middle of Παλαιόχωρα turns into a pedestrian area in the evenings, so the streets that we had driven down earlier were now all outdoor seating. Very nice. I love this village. This is my kind of Crete.

By the time that we were in the car, it was dark. We tried returning to go back home but found that all of the roads that we had come in on were now closed, blocking us from the island. We were trapped on the peninsula. Google Maps kept directing us back in circles to the same blocked roads. The village had no obvious way out.

There was a road up into the new town and up into the mountains that I had seen on the map earlier and had wanted to try, but Dominica really didn’t want to take it. But eventually when there was no other option I insisted that we try that before doing something crazy and ended up finding a really easy way out of town and back to the highway. This is clearly the way that they village wants people to be going, but provides no signage or any kind of information to make that reasonably possible. And Google Maps is not updated to even consider it as a possibility. A bit ridiculous. Dominica was starting to panic that we were literally trapped on the peninsula for the night.

We did the nearly two hour drive back to Aptera or Ἄπτερα in the dark. Very little traffic. I was surprised to find a handful of these little mountain villages had squares full of late night diners sitting out enjoying the nights. They seem like surprisingly lively little places that look absolutely fantastic. Totally my style of living.

It was eleven when we got home to Ἄπτερα, to the Stratos house. We found several more centipedes tonight. Four were discovered immediately. I was able to kill two no problem. But two were completely out of reach. This is not making the girls happy. This is a total of seven centipedes that we have found since getting here, and we do not like centipedes. Even Emily is pretty freaked out by them, and she has never encountered them before.

The girls all went straight to bed. I stayed up to get some media uploading. First the Flickr images from my mobile phone. Then wrapping up some videos going to YouTube. I did some normal work, as well. Then I kicked off more Flickr updates and called it a night, heading up to bed. I was surprisingly tired tonight, too. But then again, I did loads of walking in the head that no one else did (about eight thousand steps), and I did the three to four hours of driving alone on mountain roads, I did the photography, and I didn’t get the time to relax on the beach. So maybe it is not so surprising that I am pretty tired.

It felt like we had not been home for very long when I was heading to bed. Maybe an hour and a half. But in reality, it had been three hours. I did not try to go to bed until at least two in the morning!

Our tentative plan for tomorrow is to go to Xavia (Chania) to walk the old town, do some shopping (Dominica really wants to get a blue opal necklace like on that she saw on Santorini but is definitely not going to buy one there), eat, and explore the city. We still have never gone into the city proper, although Souda is part of the metro area and Emily and I have been there twice, now.