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Crete

Crete

We spent the first week of October in Crete, to catch some last sunshine before the dark and cold time starts there – and actually have a week of SUMMER which we hadn’t had this year! We chose Crete because there is a direct (charter) flight to Chania from Tromsรธ. The flight time is about 5 hours. I left my gps on during both legs of the flights, so you can see our route below ๐Ÿ™‚

Flight path to (in green) and from (in red) Crete

We rented a car, as our accommodation was at the other side of the island. It took quite a lot of time searching the internet before we found something we liked. Most of the accommodation on Crete is in big blocks next to the beach, and we wanted something more private and less touristy. We found a cottage called Sarich Cottage. It was located in the east of Crete, in a very small village. It took about 4 hours to drive there from the airport. Here are some photos of the cottage (which Paul refused to call “cottage” as it didn’t have a thatched roof…)

The cottage and our rental car The view from the terrace in front An impression of the cottage: the kitchen, bedroom, living room and terrace

The next morning we drove to a nearby beach and sat in the shade underneath a tree enjoying the view and the warm temperatures.

Enjoying the view in the shade The sea has such beautiful colours there!

We also visited a really nice village on the sea, called Mochlos. It’s very small, but it has many tavernas right on the waterfront. We ate there a couple of times, a great place! The second photo shows the view as we drove up from the village. Olive trees everywhere!

Mochlos, a cute village with nice tavernas right on the waterfront The view as we drove up - lots of olive trees. The island has ancient ruins and we thought about swimming there, but the sea was very rough.

We drove a dirt road into the mountains, stopping at a very old olive tree – claimed to be more than 3000 years old! Very impressive.

Olives! I tried to eat one but it wasn't very tasty - they're not ready until November This olive tree is said to be more than 3000 years old... impressive!

A bit further up we decided the road was getting too difficult to drive, and we went for a walk. Nice views! The white flowers were everywhere, not sure what they are, but they are pretty. We watched the sunset from the top of the hill, and suddenly we felt the earth move quite clearly. Not violently, and no rocks started rolling or anything, but it still was a strange feeling to feel the hill move back and forth. We later found out it was a 5.0 earthquake in the sea not far from where we were.

Paul enjoying the view, and watching the crazy road that goes high up in the mountains These plants were everywhere! They grow from bulbs that look like garlic, but no idea what it is

We walked around Pachia Ammos, the village on the beach closest to our cottage. It was a very windy day, and the waves were crashing on this little pier.

A very blurry photo, but the sea was impressively wild!

The next day we explored the south coast. We had both bought snorkelling gear, which we were eager to try out. We found a nice little beach and had fun snorkelling. The beach was right underneath a monestary (Moni Kapsa) overlooking a gorge called Perivolakia gorge. We decided to go for a walk in the gorge. There are a lot of gorges on Crete! This one was really beautiful, steep rock walls glowing orange in the evening sun.

Entering Perivolakia gorge Deeper into the gorge - it was so beautiful there!

There were some goats walking around, and lots of caves. Paul climbed up to one of the caves; he said you could smell the goats use them as shelter ;). We walked quite deep into the gorge, and at some point you could smell wild thyme – so nice! It’s possible to walk all the way to the other side and come out in a village at an altitude of 500 m, but this takes several hours and not sure how to arrange transport back, so we turned around and went back to the car.

These prickly plants were everywhere - best to walk in long trousers! Paul climbed up to one of the many caves in the gorge. The goats seem to use them as shelter.

This is the view from the beach where we went swimming, towards the monastery and (on the left) the entrance to the gorge.

The monostary Moni Kapsa at the entrance to the gorge (seen on the left). We spent a while on the beach here, swimming and snorkelling

The next day we went to Elounda, because we had read this is a great place to go snorkelling. There are ruins of a “sunken city” which sounded very exciting. On our way to that place, I took this photo. Paul thought I was being mean taking a photo but this couple just made me giggle… each to their own, but not my idea of the perfect holiday ๐Ÿ˜€

This couple made me giggle...

The “sunken city” was not as excited as we were hoping for – mostly piles of rocks under water. We did see nice fish though. Afterwards we drove to another village (Plaka), from where there were lots of boat trips available to Spinalonga island. We didn’t go on any tours, just walked around and enjoyed a nice ice cream.

Fishing boats Enjoying an ice cream

There were some nice shops there too!

Ceramic balls - loved the colours! A shop selling all kinds of things from the sea, amazing place!

What I loved most about our holiday was being able to eat outside for every meal. I was usually up before Paul, and took a book and a croissant to a comfy spot on the terrace. I was never alone though, there’s always company – cats! There are a LOT of them, and they are stray cats though they look like they are taken care of and fed quite well. I love cats, so I didn’t mind the company ๐Ÿ™‚ There are stray dogs too, but luckily not as many – I am a cat person and definitely not a dog person, they scare me.
Paul enjoyed eating pomegranates, they grow them a lot on Crete so he didn’t have to buy them – even in our garden there was a pomegranate tree.

Cats are everywhere... I believe they are stray cats, but they look healthy and well fed Paul enjoying his favourite fruit, which they grow a lot on Crete: pomegranates

We drove to the mountains, to a plateau (Katharo plateau) at 1100 m altitude. Quite impressive to drive up so high in the mountains, through more or less deserted landscape, until you suddenly come to a fertile plateau with lots of farms. We stopped at a big tree to have a break in the shade.

A fertile plateau, at about 1100 m altitude! A big tree

There was also a taverna there, where we had some fresh orange juice, and traditional yoghurt with honey – very nice!

Enjoying the shade of the big tree. In a hot climate, I can imagine how a tree like this can become the centre of a village One of the many goats we met in the mountains

On the way down we stopped and followed a path leading to a cave. It wasn’t a very deep one, but I had never before visited a cave that you can enter by yourself ๐Ÿ˜‰ and was quite impressed.

Inside a cave! It wasn't very deep but it was impressive to visit a cave without having to take a guided tour ;) Strange formations, and I don't understand how they can be diagonal like that! (the black shade in the foreground is because my lens is too big for the flash)

We stopped at Kritsa, a nice village on the way down to the coast.

Kritsa seen from above

It was built on the hillside and it was a maze of narrow streets, fun to explore! There were also a lot of shops selling cloth, which was the speciality of this village. I really enjoyed visiting this village, as it didn’t seem so crazy touristy as most of the places on the coast (even though this village is a tourist attraction too).

The narrow streets in the village I loved walking around the maze of narrow streets

This village is well known for woven sheets, mostly sold by old ladies ;) Lots of places to eat outside... often there were old men playing backgammon

You'd often suddenly find a tiny church on a little square. Some people even built one in their own garden! Almost all houses are plastered white, often with bright coloured doors and window shutters. And the electricity meter next to the door :D well I guess that makes things easier for the meter reader!

We made a day trip to Vai, supposedly the only palm beach in Europe, on the eastern most part of Crete. Unfortunately we chose the only rainy day during our stay in Crete for this trip! The beach was beautiful, and the snorkelling was really great there.

On the way to Vai, we stopped in Sitka, where we found a bakery with lots of cakes, mmmm! The beautiful beach at Vai... shame this was our only day with rain!

While we were snorkelling, the rain turned into a proper thunderstorm with very heavy rain. We decided we might as well stay in the water, while everybody else was leaving the beach as fast as they could. We thought it wouldn’t last that long, but it did… So in the end we did come out of the water, to find our bag on the beach half soaked. Try to change clothes while it’s raining heavily… we thought we could use the changing rooms, but it turned out everybody had left the beach, including the shop/cafe owners, and they had locked all the toilets and changing rooms :|. In the end we waited for the rain to stop while in the car with the blowers on ๐Ÿ˜€ย When the rain stopped, we went for a walk around the palm forest. It’s quite big, but unfortunately you can’t walk through the forest as they are trying to protect the palms.

The palm beach at Vai... And if you think it must have been cold, no, those were just the only clothes I had with me that were still dry! I was boiling in them.

On our last day before leaving, we decided it was time to explore the village we had been staying in ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s called Vasiliki, and it only has about 150 inhabitants – of which I estimate the average age is somewhere around 80 ๐Ÿ˜€ We ended up walking in the mountains, to a viewpoint where you can see both the sea on the east side and on the south side. This is the view walking up…

The valley that our village was in, and in the middle you can see Ha gorge

It was a nice walk, and we also saw a big bird of prey from the top. It was too far away to see what it was – they have vultures here which I would have liked to see!

Going for walk in the mountains We wanted to take a picture of ourselves, but then we spotted a big bird of prey and watched that instead of the camera!

In the evening we went to our favourite beach for a last swim. It was another windy day and the waves were huge. I wonder whether it’s just always that windy on Crete or whether it was coincidence? I’m not complaining though, it kept the heat tolerable. We watched the sunset from the deserted beach, it was wonderful to watch the waves crash on the beach.

Paul at our favourite beach. That evening the waves were enormous! It's a bit hard to see, but behind him a very high wave is just about to break Obviously Paul is better at sitting still than I am! Still, I love this picture... it was such a beautiful evening on the beach, our last night on Crete Watching the waves crash in the twilight just after sunset

Our last day was spent driving back to Chania for our flight back, but we stopped in Knossos on the way. I think we picked the perfect day to visit – there weren’t many visitors and it was cool weather. I never took Greek in school so I didn’t know much about Knossos and the myths attached to it, but it was really interesting to see the ruins and learn more. Knossos is the site of a palace that was built from about 1700 BC! The archaeologist who dug it up tried to rebuilt part of the palace himself, as he thought it would have looked like. Of course you can question whether that is scientifically the correct thing to do ๐Ÿ˜‰ but it was very pretty and you got a better idea of what the castle might have looked like. ย It must have been an amazing place back then… An interesting visit!

Knossos, the fresco of the minotaur Paul overlooking the ruins at Knossos The room of the queen - of course I had to get a picture of the dolphins :)

It was sad to have our trip come to an end… we really enjoyed the relaxing week, all the swimming and the great meals outside. Having a week of holiday (and summer!) after Paul’s cruise and before the winter starts was a great idea, we might do it again next year ๐Ÿ™‚

โ™ฅ โ™ฅ Bart & Kaya โ™ฅ โ™ฅ

โ™ฅ โ™ฅ Bart & Kaya โ™ฅ โ™ฅ

My oldest brother Bart got married to Kaya on 10 July! The wedding took place on a Dutch island called Vlieland. It takes almost 2 hours to reach the island by ferry, and you can’t bring your car. The island is quite small, with only one village. Everyone gets around on bikes, and the island has a great holiday atmosphere. There are 5 similar islands (Terschelling is the one “next door”), and Bart and Kaya have spent a lot of their holidays on them. Vlieland is their favourite island, and that’s why they chose to get married there! Perfect choice, also because this was the only island that I hadn’t visited yet ๐Ÿ˜‰

We all stayed in group accommodation which worked out really nicely! Everyone arrived the evening before the wedding, so we all had dinner together and we did some geocaching (a sort of treasure hunt using a gps) in the evening. Below you can see the ladies (plus my dad) team before and after finding the cache ๐Ÿ™‚

The next morning (the big day) we woke up to rain. And not just a little bit, no it was POURING. It stayed like that for hours too… Luckily the town hall was only a short walk from our accommodation! I didn’t take any photos of the actual ceremony as there were a lot of people taking pictures already. The first photo below is taken just before we left to the town hall (the groom with his daughter Mare), and the second photo when we walked back – Mare and my mum are having a nice “OOOOO” conversation ๐Ÿ˜‰

We came back to our accommodation to have some cake & champagne!

Mare seems keen on the champagne too ๐Ÿ˜‰ (don’t worry, it was a child-friendly champagne without alcohol!) And a portrait of Mare and my mum ๐Ÿ™‚

Then it was time for speeches! There were several, including a long emotional one by Kaya’s mum (first photo) and also a long one by Bart and Kaya themselves, with some tears but also a lot of laughter ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul took this nice panorama of everyone listening to the speech by Kaya’s mum…

Then there was time for presents, though most people had given their presents earlier so they didn’t have to take it to the island and back ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here are two family portraits, first one with my parents, my sister, my 2 brothers and me, and then one including Kaya and Paul ๐Ÿ™‚

And a photo with my mum, Mare, Paul and me…

After the speeches, Bart and Kaya had arranged rental bikes for everyone, and we cycled to the other side of the island. Bart and Kaya had a special “freight bike”, see the photo below. We cycled almost 10 km, and we had the wind against us for most of it – poor Bart!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

We had a very nice lunch in a small restaurant there. After lunch, Bart and Kaya went off with the wedding photographer/friend ๐Ÿ™‚ to get their official portraits. We went for a little walk on the beach before returning to the accommodation where we had a big bbq in the evening. The place we stayed had a big garden with a fireplace, and we sat around until late at night. It was a great day! For the official photos, keep an eye out on Bart & Kaya’s weblog. UPDATE: they can all be found here ๐Ÿ™‚

We stayed on Vlieland for a few more days, I’ll show some photos of that in my next post! It’s hard to find time for the blog though, now that we have a *real* summer here in Tromsรธ, with temperatures of 25 degrees ๐Ÿ™‚ Quite unusual, but really nice! We’re making the most of it ๐Ÿ™‚

Terschelling

Terschelling

Earlier this month, I was in the Netherlands with Paul, for a family party. My dad and his twin sister turned 60 and it was also my parents 35th wedding anniversary, so enough reason for a nice party! Typical for my family, it was not a very typical party… my dad put us all to work in his class room at the school he works at! It was a great success, photos of the party can be found here. It was also great to see my beautiful niece Mare again, she’s 8 months old now and seems to love my camera ๐Ÿ™‚ (probably because she can see her reflection in my lens, but hey).

After the party, we took a train, bus and ferry to the island of Terschelling. This is one of my favourite places in the Netherlands, an island with wide beaches, dunes and forest. We were staying in a hotel called de Walvisvaarder. I had booked a double room, but they gave us the Cupido/bridal suite! A very beautiful room in the loft with nice views!

The next day we rented a tandem bicycle from the hotel. Paul was very keen on trying a tandem, and it was a lot of fun. When you sit at the back, it takes a while to get used to trusting the person in front. It’s very strange to sit on a bike without being able to steer it! Paul even managed to take photos while sitting on the back… (to the great amusement of people coming from the other direction). The other photo is taken at the beach.

The wind had formed nice patterns in the sand around shells… in the first photo you can see me in the distance, taking the second photo.

Paul on a dune top with the flag of Terschelling.

We saw some “inktzwammen”, or shaggy ink cap in English next to the bike path. To me, these mushrooms are very familiar as you often see them in the Netherlands, but Paul had never seen them and was fascinated by the black ink dropping from them in later stages of their life cycle. They are quite fascinating though I find them too disgusting to take macro photos of… instead I took photos of Paul next to the mushrooms (they can grow quite large!) and nice drops on the grass.

Later we cycled through a forest full of mushrooms. Macro photography paradise! We spent a long time there playing with our camera’s.

What we didn’t expect were these huge mushrooms in the dunes. In the first photo you can see very well how tall they were! The last photo taken from underneath the mushroom shows that either there’s aliens living in the mushroom, or Paul should clean his camera ๐Ÿ™‚

Around this area, a lot of people were picking cranberries – the only place in the Netherlands where they grow. Apparently a barrel of cranberries once shipwrecked from a ship from America in 1840 and they started growing. Now you can get many dishes with cranberries on the island, very nice!

We continued cycling to West-Terschelling, the largest village on the island. Also home of the famous Brandaris, the oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands, from 1594! Very impressive that it’s still standing more than 400 years later. The first photo is some advertisement for a sausage of 1 meter long!

This photo shows part of an English submarine from the first world war, recovered by divers.

We were only on Terschelling for 2 days, so the next day it was time to leave already. We briefly visited ‘t Behouden Huys musem, named after the house Willem Barentsz built to overwinter on Nova Zembla. Willem Barentsz is from Terschelling. They named a lot of streets after him, but I thought they could have dedicated a much larger part of the museum to him, as it’s a interesting story! There was a replica of the house, and one room that told the story, but most of the museum was dedicated to other subjects related to Terschelling. Still, a very nice museum!

After visiting the museum, we took the ferry back to the mainland. This time, we were on the slow ferry, which takes two hours. It was very sunny, so we enjoyed being out on the deck and watching all the ships. The sea there has very large tidal differences and is the creeks change all the time. All the shipping has to go through narrow shipping lanes, so you get good views of the ships around you – lots of beautiful wooden sailing boats!

We had a great time on Terschelling, a pity it was so short! A day later we flew from Amsterdam to London, to stay with Paul’s parents. We stayed there for 1.5 week and had a very nice time. Paul flew back to Tromso on Saturday, and I am back in Norwich for three weeks. I have many more photos of our holiday, and hope to upload more this week. I have to give a department seminar on Friday though, so I am a bit busy this week. Anyway, coming soon: photos of Brighton and the white cliffs, and photos of London.