Saturday, September 25, 2010

Our Place in Lindos

If you ever get a chance to come to Rhodes, stay in Lindos. It really is a lovely little village. There are no cars allowed in the village so the town is fairly quiet and safe. The streets are too narrow for vehicles anyway. There is a certain amount of charm in trying to find your way through the rabbit warrens. The place we stayed was wonderful. It was fairly simple amenities wise but had a killer view from the deck. The window in the picture is the way you came out onto this rooftop deck. It was the roof of the home beneath. There was a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and second room that could have been a living room if there were only two of us but because we were four, it had two beds in it and not much room for any other movement. It didn’t matter however, because the rooftop deck was the place we all wanted to hang out anyway. It was only 330 pounds for the week. The web link is

Four last things about Greece

1. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere! At first I felt sorry and a bit appalled at the thought of all these homeless animals but after four weeks I can see it kind of works. The animals go wherever they please and the people are usually affectionate towards them. The restaurant owners feed the animals table scraps as they come. It is interesting because all the tables are outside so the animals are roaming around as you eat. The cats are the worst, believe it or not. They will sit staring at you while you eat. Once there was a wall behind me and the cat leaped onto the wall and stared at my dinner the whole evening. I was having prawns. I was just waiting for the thing to leap onto the table and drag one of the prawns off my plate but he only watched. The cats seem to come in and out of people’s homes too. We actually had to close the window to our Lindos place or we’d find a cat playing inside with the garbage. Yes, playing.

2. We discovered kite surfing on Rhodes at the very southernmost beach there. The beach was incredibly windy so there were lots of windsurfers zipping back and forth but a far more exciting sport to watch was kite surfing. It was kind of like the snow boarding of the water. The sport has a person on a wakeboard kind of apparatus with a harness around their waist. The harness is attached in the middle of the chest to a line on a huge kite. The surfer also holds a handle bar in both hands attached to the kite. The surfers zip along the water like wind surfers but then the kite actually pulls them right out of the water to spin and flip in the air. It looks wildly exciting. Julia has decided she will take up this sport as soon as we will let her.

3. I know we’ve gone on and on about the roads but the one last thing that needs to be mentioned are the potlumps. I want to say that the roads are generally pretty smooth but every so often the pavement breaks into potholes and once we saw a potlump! This really does beg the question, doesn’t it? I mean, how does one get a beautifully paved lump? I can only imagine that in the 45 degree heat, the paving crew came across yet another rock in the road and just paved right over it. It made a bit of a rough ride but we were in a rental car and the lady who rented it to us said, “You’re fully insured so I’m not even going to check for any marks before you leave”. That’s just soo Greek.

4. I had no idea the olive was so significant. Really. Oh sure, I’d heard the old legend about how Athens got its name, (told in an earlier blog). They always say how many uses the olive has as though this is a given fact. Personally, I thought sea-water was pretty handy but that’s just me. Then you drive through the millions of olive trees throughout the countryside, sometimes creating a maze-like feel. I swear there are more olives in this country than blades of grass. However, it wasn’t until our guide through Knossos on Crete began telling us about it that I realized the full impact this tree has on the culture. She swore the first olive tree came from Crete. Is THAT where Athena got it? She also said olive oil is the leading export of Greece. I can believe that. Then she told us that men should use a drop of olive oil after shaving to make the skin baby smooth. Tom has yet to try this. Mix a little with yogurt to relieve sunburn and if that isn’t enough, buy this book of 101 uses of olive oil to help convince you. 101 uses?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rhymie thing that im to tierd to name

Our home in Rhodes is nice,
but we happen to have no ice.
That’s sad because it’s very hot,
cold water really hits the spot.
It’s hot out on the deck,
but it’s fun so what the heck.
You crawl out the window to get there,
but the stool is wobbly so beware.
The rabbit warren is a musing,
because it’s so confusing.
This is Lindos, Greece.
rhymed by Julia and Rhys!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Samaria Gorge - Holly style

Our last day on Crete we joined a tour bus group to the Samaria Gorge. I signed us up for the tour because it was difficult to do the gorge without help. The bus picked us up outside our apartment at 5:30AM. That is very early for a walk. After picking up many others, we arrived at the gorge around 8:30am. The Samaria Gorge is the largest gorge in Europe. It is 18 km long and drops 1.6 km from top to bottom. In other words, a normal workout for my mom or Shirley. The tour guide on the bus told us it was a VERY strenuous walk and to wear good shoes. He also told us if we weren’t able to do the first 4 km in the time allowed, we might as well turn around and hike back to the top because it wasn’t going to get any easier. I wondered why he was telling us all this on the bus to the gorge. Wouldn’t this information have been better BEFORE we got on the bus at the crack of dawn?

The first 4 km was all downhill into the gorge. The path was steep with few rails or safety precautions. In fact, there were signs periodically reminding us to walk quickly because it was very dangerous in that area. Ya gotta love Greece. We walked along paths with mesh wire above our heads, presumably to help prevent being brained by falling rocks. Imagine the Grouse Grind in reverse, with only Pine trees, lots of loose gravel and stone steps, and you kind of get the picture. By the bottom of this area my knees and thighs were notifying me they had had enough. The scenery was quite beautiful and the air was cool and pleasant. We caught glimpses every now and then of the cliff tops of the gorge soaring over our heads. All in all quite wonderful.

After 8 km we finally entered the gorge, following the route the water would take in the early spring melt. The path was easily lost and the loose gravel became loose boulders. Every now and then one of us would rediscover the path and the walking would get easier. I wondered what happened to the trail during the spring melt. Did they have to reblaze the trail every year? Parts of it looked particularly precarious and unstable, like a really good rush of water would take the whole thing out.

The canyon walls crept closer together and we were warned to keep our voices down lest we caused a rock slide. Again, we saw signs asking us to move quickly to avoid the great danger. It was about this point that Julia started to fade and we had to pull out the Scooby snacks to lure her along. We didn’t feel too safe sitting to rest when it was obvious the Greeks thought this was not a place for a picnic. We all began to feel our feet as well. There were rest areas every km or so with toilets and water but the wasp population discouraged lingering. The temperature rose but the sun was still blocked by the steep walls so it was bearable.

At around km 11 or 12 we arrived at the narrowest part of the gorge. The wind howled through the area and at the narrowest point was quite fierce. Once through, however, the wind disappeared completely. Weird.

The rest of the walk was fairly flat as we came out of the river bed. Even after we left the park, we still had another couple of km to walk and now the sun was out in full force with no shade. We were exhausted but thankful we had not stopped to long to rest because it was still only about noon.

By the time we reached the ocean, the four of us had HAD it. We were filthy dirty, sweaty, achy, and exhausted. We limped to the furthest café we could find. At least that is what it seemed like. The café was called Restaurant Gigilos and I felt sort of pulled towards it. It was a lovely place to relax but didn’t live up to its somewhat enticing name. We spent the next few hours frolicking in the waves. This was by far the best ocean swim we’ve had. Once our feet touched the cool salt water, it was like we hadn’t just spent four hours beating them up. I highly recommend it.

There was no car access to the village so we had to take a boat to another little village further along the coast to meet our bus. We left at 5pm. By the time the bus dropped us back at our apartment it was 8:30pm. It was a long but satisfying day.

On Tuesday the 14, Julia and I got some freedom and went to a mini golf & etc. place by ourselves. The place had Go-Karts, the world's greatest invention1, trampolines, a bull ride, water motor floaty circle things, climbing nets, mini golf, and maybe a few other things. When I saw the Go-Karts, I knew I had to go (kart). The guy said we had 5 minutes total on the kart, which is a surprisingly long-and-short time. We agreed that I would have 3 minutes driving and Julia would have 2 minutes since I was so excited. The thing could fit 2 people, which was Julia's mistake. I drove on the very edge of the track flooring the gas, whipping around corners at top speed with the wheels screeching! It was so much fun - until Julia's turn. She drove a bit then tested the brakes. Then picked up a little and hit the left wall. The guy watching us told her to be more careful. Next we played mini golf. They didn't understand the meaning of "Par" so there was no par, just shots. We both had our good holes and our bad holes. I had the record high and low, with 2 and 24. I beat Julia by -19: she had 89, I had 108, and I always win. Then we went on the buckin' bronco and we had 2 turns each. Julia went first, and fell off almost right away. On her second try she got 44 seconds. Julia filmed me on the thing, and I got 45 seconds! Then we talked about how cool the Go-Karts were as we walked back towards our apartment, looking for food. We went to a Pita Gyros2 place, and they were the most delicious ones I had yet! Gyros consist of pork, tomatoes, onions, tzaziki, and spice wrapped up in pita bread. Dad says they are like the Greek hot dog, and they're everywhere!

1. The printing press is close in 2nd!

2. Shape your mouth like a G and say keyrows with out a solid "kuh" sound, but have your tongue close to the top of your mouth.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The isle of Crete.

I am on the ferry to Rhodes, after finishing a week on the isle of Crete, Greece. I am pretty tired after our hike yesterday but I’ll get to that later. We arrived last Saturday in the port of Iraklion and continued on via bus to Plantinais. This is a 4 hour ferry from Santorini then a 2.5 hour bus ride, all pretty relaxing traveling. In my mind I had Crete as a barren wasteland of heat with a few great beaches. I was completely wrong. I now think that the island is more beautiful than Santorini. It may be the positive experiences we had at every corner of the island. Anyways, parts of Crete remind me of lush Hawaii, dry southern California, sweeping Oregon coast, and the rocky deserts of the Okanagan and Kamloops.

On the first night we went out locally to a small restaurant called Tassos. We were the first ones there which is usually a bad sign. We were served from a small menu and the food was terrific. What a relief from the so-so food of Santorini. The fact that it was about ½ the price also lent itself to a positive experience.

On Sunday we didn’t go too far, we went to Plantinais, a very long strip of tourist trap. It was very fun, we did some shopping but bought no clothing (Julia fighting all the way). We finished at the beach there. That night we made spaghetti at home, it was a nice change.

Monday was the day for business, all the stores were open so we went into the big city of Chania (or Xania) pronounced Hania, to do some banking and find a Vodafone (cell phone, internet). Chania has a very quaint Venetian harbour and the surrounding shops and restaurants were fun and picturesque. At the end of the day we had to wait until 6:30pm to see a full size replica of a Minoan sailing/row boat. So we had a drink and some tzaziki and raki at a local restaurant. Raki is moonshine, similar to skreech. When we finally got into the boat house museum, the boat was terrific.

Tuesday we rented a car, a three day rental, we have stuff to do. I thought of Cheri as we started our beach tour, Cheri loves beaches. Crete has many beaches but two were recommended and we are hitting them both, Tuesday is Falasarna. It is on the NW corner and is a terrific drive. We spent the day there and agreed it was the best Greek beach we had been to, even better then Kamari on Santorini. After 6 hours we headed back tired from swimming and sitting in the sun, you know that tired as only a day at the beach can produce.

Wednesday we drove all the way back to Iraklion (2 hours) to visit Knossos. It is a Minoan palace found around 100 years ago under 60m of soil dating from 3500 years ago. It was an interesting day. It was found by a poet who knew of the legend of Knossos about a Minotaur in a labyrinth. He figured there was something to the town of the same name and 40 years later a rich Englishman found it. According to our guide and Holly, who is really up on these things, this is the place of the labyrinth. The guide said the labyrinth IS the palace and from the layout you can really see that it might be true. In one area the stairs look as though Escher could have designed them. Later that day we stopped in Rathminon, a city similar to Chania, Holly found a bar that had WiFi so she could fix our internet stick, man we have had internet problems, Rhys read a book, Julia and I looked around. I got a haircut and now I, according to Holly, look Greek. Great.

Thursday is a Cheri day again. We take a wild road to Elafanicia Beach in the SW corner of Crete. I am sure you are sick of the road stories I have been telling. I am becoming acclimatized to the high twisting roads. Doesn’t stop me from commenting though. As we go through a one lane tunnel that was built 100 years ago and pop out on a cliff side that has rock overhang I find myself saying “Wow”…turn…”wow” over and over. Holly nods in agreement and shifts over in her seat to avoid slipping off the car. We made a short stop at a cave called St. Sophia. It was worth the 150 stairs and the stop. It is about the size of our house and has many stalagmites; the Greeks have naturally installed a church. On to the beach, Elafanicia is spectacular. It is without a doubt the nicest beach I have been to, better than Tuesday’s. It is a shallow lagoon with white sand and several small islands. The whole site is very large without too many people. The lagoon splits two beach areas and has a small current. What a super place. We take yet another winding mountaintop road along the coastline home. I took a few videos of that drive, I will try posting them. We returned the car. It will probably need brakes.

Friday we wake up at 4:45 AM to take a tour bus to the Samarian gorge for a 17 km hike down 1600m vertical of mountainside to the sea. It takes you through a gorge that has high bluffs on either side for several kilometers. The hike is supposed to take 6 hours. The bus ride is pretty daring and one lady gets sick. She is at the front so she can see the road, no wonder she is sick. We stop at a small town for some coffee, a snack and a bathroom brake. The bus travels a few more kilometers and we start the hike. A small sign recommends no high heels. Down we go on the stairs, stairs, and more stairs. The smells and scenes are very Cariboo country, with all the pine trees and we quickly get down into the valley, which is also steep. After a coupe hours and 6 kilometers it flattens out slightly and we can use different muscles. The soles of my feel are bruised, my shoes aren’t thick enough. We all have different minor pains but we suck it up and soon we are at the “Iron Gates” at 11.5 km mark which is the post card picture point of the gorge. The remaining canyon is scenic and flatter but it’s getting hotter, as we finish it seems like about 32 C, plenty hot for a 17 km hike. We hit the end of the trail and a man tries to sell us a bus ride into the town, we decline, we won’t be cheated out of “making it to the end”. At the town we collapse into a restaurant and order “the best tasting beer I have ever drank”. I don’t share. We have a little snack and go for a very refreshing swim on a black sand beach. The hike took us only 4 hours, so we have a little more time than the other hikers on our tour. We eat a little dinner and catch a short scenic ferry ride back to our bus on a different highway. After a vomit inducing bus ride and we are home at 8:30 PM. Quite a day.

Saturday we are up a 7 AM for a local bus ride to Chania then a bus to Iraklion, then a ferry to Rhodes for an early morning taxi ride to Lindos, on Rhodes. Arrival time? Could be 4 AM Sunday, maybe.

On the first day of school we had an interesting day on Santorini. We went on a mini cruise, on the mini cruise there were things we could do. So first we went out to the active volcano that erupted not to long ago. The volcano had a really cool steam vent with smoke from the lava.

The volcano had an amazing view you could see the ocean all around and the ash too. I never thought that a volcano had a whole island I thought it was just a big crator, but no its an island with a bunch of crators.

After the volcano island thing we went to the hot springs on the other side of the volcano. We got 25 minites in the hot springs. Which was eunuf time to swin there and back. We had to swim off the boat because the boat couldn’t dock in the springs there were too may people already swimming ( like 2 people.) The springs were a copper colour and dyed our bathing suits copper, which sucked! But it kinda came out…kinda.

Then we spent two hours eating lunch on a beach restaurant. If you jumped off the side of the restaurant you land in the water lots of people jumped off, I didn’t I didn’t really think about doing it, sad face. For lunch I had meatballs they were good. I tried some of dad’s octopus, I don’t like octopus, everyone else did though.

After lunch we went on a reif tour our boat had a glass bottom so it would of been really cool if the reif was good. Although we did see a ship wrecked down there and an old crab net. Also a whole lot of small fish but no big ones, and not a single shark.
And after that the boat dropped us off at the bottom of a mountain and at the top is the place were staying . So, obviously, we took a donkey up because there’s no other way right? It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done! We went on a very thin narrow path getting higher and higher. My donkey liked to be as close to the edge as possible and race the other donkeys up, to see who could get to the top first. And I had no control, all I could do was sit back and relax. But how could I relax with death on a thin line? Dad was perfectly fine and so was Rhys (even though Rhys was put in a seprate group of donkeys.) Mom said it the best thing ever she loved it. So I was the only one.

On the way home it was hot. Everyone was seeking shade , even dogs.

So how was your first day of school?