20 September 2019. Loutro to Heraklion to Santorini

Thursday 19 September 2019, It’s time to say good bye to Loutro. A few days of relaxing, swimming, enjoying decaf coffee in our room and on balcony. Sunrises and sunsets stunning and breath-stopping. Large clean room in this hotel, very simple. We have a fridge and kettle so it was perfect.

Wednesday about 2 pm we were picked up by small motor boat and taken to the local living place,where many participated in a local cooking class to prepare moussaka. I spent few hours on the stony pebble beach with pristine clear water, with lounge chair. GAdventures covered our dinner, Greek salad for me and some vegetable dishes without gluten. It was nice to have a special prepared meal.

“So everyone is safe back in the hotel after a day full of adventure! And we have even seen the bioluminiscent plancton, the milky way, we have prepared moussaka with heart and spirit, met one great family, did sunbathing, kayaking, some even hiking”. Our tour leader sent this summary of last evening.

Moving Thursday to Iraklion, aka Heraklion …

Staying at Olympic Hotel in Heraklion. Drivers were from http://www.Alpine.gr. Travel agency, nice vehicles. Twisty turns again. Up up. Down down and instead of Chania, today Heraklion. We drive past beautiful beaches, lovely countryside, uniquely Greek coastal culture, olive trees, vineyards, agricultural farmlands, goats roaming.

Minoan culture. Palace of Knossos. I have been to Heraklion but never seen the ancient sites there. Now it is included in my tour and I will enjoy the visit. Our guide name Styla for the ancient site, very Greek accent, with lovely stories. Palace of Knossos. Minoan culture. 4000 BC to 1100 BC. Oldest in Europe. Minus, son of Zeus who fell in love with princess Europa. Earthquake and fire covered the site. Before fairly recent excavation no one knew this palace was here. In ancient times, this area was popular for Agriculture export. Import copper gold for weapons and tools.

In 1878 first excavation here. Palace is massive, 20,000 sq meters. No one believed the founder that it was the site of this historic site. Another fellow, in 1900-1903 financed excavation. Found and uncovered the pieces of this massive palace, including colorful frescoes. In total 1500 rooms, varying between 1 to 3 to 5 stories high. 500 lived in palace. No fortification walls, no warring happened here. Elaborate Ceremonies celebrated change of seasons. Flush toilets existed then! Large clay bathtubs, storage vases, sky lights for air circulation, protection from rain, allowing light to enter, no windows. Elaborate drainage system. Built for stability and flexibility in earthquake lands on island of Crete. Oldest road and small theatre in Europe.

We are finished our tour. It was sunny and hot, however we were able to find shade and places of cool breeze. Taxi back to hotel to freshen up, finish a bottle of rose we got a few days previous, then joined two other gals from Victoria, Janie and Jan. Out for lovely dinner in recommended restaurant located behind the Starbucks.

Apres dinner, decaf coffee at Starbucks, a walk around for the gals to make some purchases for souvenirs.

Up early Friday 20 September 2019 for quick breakfast at 630 a.m. and taxi to Blue Star ferry from Heraklion port to Santorini. It’s a 4 hour ride and our last stop. Tonight is our last sleep on the tour before we begin our flight home.

Loutro, island of Crete, Best of Greece 18 September 2019

D7D7CF0A-F700-4041-BF6E-546C86A14606.jpegWitness to the sunsets and sunrises in Greece was one of my intentions for this trip. Last night I captured the scene as darkness filled in and the colours of the sky giving up the light. This morning, getting up with the natural rhythm of a sleep-filled night on a peaceful island, I enjoyed the colorful sky again, as the sun was welcomed back and the new day dawns.

We arrived to Loutro by small ferry yesterday after a swim, packing and hauling our bags. Please know that this classic style GAdventures tour requires some heavy lifting. No elevators or lifts in these small out of the way island stops. Up up we go on narrow steps many without railings.

We get our room assigned and have free time in Loutro. We have a fun local lunch, purchase supplies for coffee preparation in our lovely spacious, although very plain room. Crisp white sheets and towels that have been laundered and hung on the line in the hot sun, no loofah required. Ha ha

Later in the afternoon we have a lovely cooling swim in the sea, pebble beaches. Bring water shoes, and a cover up. There are lounge chairs and umbrellas to rent, we don’t. The sea is salty, cooling my body down. Socializing and chatting while trying to keep balance from the wave motion, as we sit on large rocks. Clear, pristine water is delightful to all the senses.

We dine with some of our group in Pavolos restaurant at the bottom of the steps. Sea view. Local food prepared, same waiter as per lunch. Highly recommended for us. We enjoy. Apres dinner we join the rest of the group at Christina’s lounge for beverages, sitting along side the sea. In the dark, with lights reflecting we can see far into the sea. Incredible how clear the water is. How black the sky with fantastic star gazing. We identify some constellations, the moon is reducing in its circumference as the full moon was a few days ago. Sweet sleep. The hoot of an owl is enjoyable, last evening and now in the morning still.

Sitting out on the balcony with sea view, this morning with our instant Starbucks coffee packages, and cream / milk we purchased yesterday. Feelings of decadence, peace, kindness, appreciation, lost and found in the moments as they gently pass one after another.

Today another swim. In the afternoon we head to a local place for cooking class, swimming, several hours of local living experience in remote Crete, Greece.

Tomorrow we will head to Iraklion and then on to Santorini for our last night stay before our flight home.

Stefi is our guide, a strong feminist woman with great social skills and five year experience and commitment to GAdventures brand and being a CEO (chief experience officer). We tell her last night how brilliant and inspiring she is. Hugs and appreciation given and received. We try to tell her every day. She receives it well and honors what we describe as how we see of how she shows up in our world. Thank you, Stefi. Love spending these two weeks with you and watching, “I can see you from here”

Stay tuned from truly yours,”traveling consultant” and Best of Greece.

Pamela

September 17 2019, Agia Roumeli

Agia Roumeli, on west side of Crete. 17 September 2019

The clear green-blue color and gentle cool sensation of the salty sea, combines to make this destination one of relaxation and sensory magic. The taste and smell of salt, the buoyancy laying motionless on the gentle waves this morning, enrich my second swim in this part of the sea. The water is so clear, although I can see the contours and details of each rock and stone below, I can’t touch, rapid drop off. Not silty sand, simple clarity. It’s amazing, tranquil and so incredibly beautiful and relaxing. I could bob around all day in the gentle surf.

I believe it is referred to as the Libyan sea and we can barely make out the African coast from here. Wow!

Sand and pebbles on the beach, protection with beach shoes allow me to walk along in relative comfort, in meditative trance of the sounds of the waves gently acknowledging the shore, pebbles dancing next to each other with the undertow. Rocky coastline sandwiches both sides of the coastal town where we stayed only one night. Peaceful slumber listening to the waves lap and sway.

I am presently sitting on the balcony, painted traditional white as one sees in Greece, with Santorini-blue painted shutters. Magical, magnificent, relaxing, inspiring. It’s already 28 degrees by 10 am local time. Almost no breeze can be felt now. Not a single fluffy white cloud in the sky. Only blue as far as I can see.

The power was out last night in the whole town. Generators working to ensure coffee and breakfast will be served.

On the balcony, my feet and toes in the sun and warmth, little bit of sea sand hanging on for the ride. Happy feet. Happy me!

September 16 2019, Best of Greece continues

Since my last post we spent a night and two half days in scenic Nafplion. Spelled a few different ways. We walked to the stone beach and did not partake, we enjoyed a cool breeze from our balcony with view of the mountains and sea. Beautiful bright pink bougainvilleas throughout the old town. It was nice down time.

Chania town yesterday, we arrived early about 630 am after the overnight ferry from Piraeus. Four to a room, bunk beds, with dining on board. Some of the passengers of this overnight cruise have bed rolls set up in the hallways staking their claim for the night ride.

No time for shower or cleaning up, we went for an orientation walk. It’s one of my fave places, Xania, Chania, on Crete in Greece. We see the Main Street, have a great breakfast together …. then went out for the day strolling around. Some shops opened at ten, it’s Sunday here.

Xamam, clothing store opened at 11 ish, Greek time..lol. It has expanded some since my last visit. Sandali is a shoe / boot store across the walkway. I think I have been to Crete maybe 4-5 times previously. Always leave some money here when I am lucky to stop in Chania. In November 2019 on the cruise we will stop in Heraklion, however I am arranging a taxi to bring me along the coast to Chania for more shopping experience and to see the coastline of this island.

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We spent 4 hours in the Xamam shopping store, and had a wonderful time playing dress up. Just next door was an amazing one of a kind Greek designer jewellery shop. There are lots of tourist places and shops of every kind. The lighthouse is iconic, the stone walls and fortresses. I opted not to goin search of the beach this time. We all met for dinner as a group, authentic Cretan cuisine. Very satisfying. I am eating Greek salad every day,sometimes 2-3 meals. My belly feels good, no worry about celiac response or cross contamination of food that way.

Dining together last evening after our big shopping day in Chania. Up this morning depart the Arkadi hotel, picked up by a van big enough for us and luggage – 18 of us including driver. The front seat is broken, I am in row two. Popping ginger, with patch behind my ear and Travel gum at the ready we head to the other side of Crete. I have never been to this side before, nor have many others by the feel of the intensely windy and narrow roads, hairpin switchbacks. Rocking from side to side. We arrive safely. Bags unloaded and driver leaves us. We drag our bags down stairs and to catch ferry to take us to our next stop. Tiny village, maybe 200 population. We drove over the mountain range to get here, now we take a ferry to our destination today.

It’s cool here by the water, clear, clean and mostly tourist free. Few folks and cars coming off the ferry. Maybe locals? It’s an interesting and peaceful stop on itinerary. Many grab coffee while we wait a few minutes and then carry our bags and load up for hour ferry ride.

On the ferry, crystal clear water, sparkling in the hot Grecian September sun. Ferry makes a stop at Loutro where we will stay tomorrow night for two nights. Tiny village, seems to be all small boutique hotels. Beautiful clear blue-green sea and beaches. Kayaks dot the bay and along the journey, turquoise with purple hue, yellow / white sparkle on the water. Fabulous stony rock formations. A Greek Orthodox Church on the red stone rock. Picture perfect, not a cloud in the clear blue sky, a little breeze. It’s going to be relaxing and an opportunity for beach swims. Lucky us! Most of the tour group will do some hiking in the gorge today.

Today we stay, arrive atTerra Hotel at Agia Roumeli, Stakia, on this west side of Crete. Hot day, nice breeze. Cool sea swim after lunch. The town filled up, mostly young people it seems, couples, some restaurants and bars, hotels and apartments. Very basic stay, but adequate. The views and experience of the sea, from our balcony, iconic white painted hotel with blue shutters and doors. Actually some of us staying at Calypso, seems to be the same owners, just one side of the road or the other. Dinner tonight at 730.

Tomorrow back to ferry and two nights in Loutro.

Stay tuned for more Best of Greece! Photos on facebook
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Pamela

Inspiration in Greece, 14 Sept 2019

Greek inspiration 14 September 2019

Penny inspires us at Delphi. I have had the exceptional fortune on my trip to meet and be guided by Penny. She is a lovely person, so passionate about her country and the history of Greece. From practical historical perspective connected with situational interpretation to the very personal stories with deep expression and passion.

I have suggested that Penny be the tour guide if at all possible when I come again to Delphi in November while on Oceania Marina cruise with my family and travelling women.

I also invite her to be one of the women on my personal list, Circle of Genius. A person that I can consult if I need to, but more importantly to hold in a position of admiration and caring, that I admire and adopt as a mentor by virtue of how she shows up in the world. I have many people on that list now …. it grows with time and experience. Thank you to the many people who hold that space for me in my life and give me inspiration and mentorship.

We are shown some musical notes and lyrics from antiquity, written in the stones in Delphi. Language and music requires melody, accent. Discovered the lyrics, the notes. Without melody it is just a guess how the song would sound. For me, this was a new way to interpret music and history, culture. Accent is melody.

UNESCO United Nations Education Science Culture sites in Greece has 18, highest per population of the world. Dense with cultural significance …. what comes first? The stories as they are passed through the ages and shared from our ancestors, validated or interpreted through archeological findings …. then new pieces of the puzzle are found … shifting our understanding as new connections are made. Much like how my brain works in thinking …. maps and pathways are formed, deepened, altered by the new information. Does it matter what came first? What does matter is the quality of my questions. This is my learning and take away from the Oracle of Delphi.

Today we depart the charming village of Delphi.
We drive through a little ski village, 1000 meters above sea level. Mountain for skiing total 1600 meters above sea level. Beautiful stone work for the buildings. 2.5 hour drive to Athens. Onward to Nafplion today.

Orchards of silver green olive trees, vineyards, Cyprus trees, stone caves of grey and deep dark rust, deep green leaves of dense foliage of the orange trees, low green shrubs, large lazy aloe plants, golds and whites of sand and elements coexisting and contributing to the great geographical puzzle of Greek landscape. Hilly and mountainous,green valleys connecting elements and displaying the artistic canvas of nature.

Italian and Greece … Una fatsa, Una ratsa. One face, one character. Singing, dancing, family, tradition, good neighbours.

Greece, Roman, Develop science, history, philosophy, literature, art, politicians, cosmopolitan, democracy not so warriorlike, barbaric, uncivilized, aggressive.

We stop at Mycenae ruins. A fairly recent archeological dig I believe, of a time almost unimaginable. I opt to sit this one out. Massive amounts of bus tourists speaking as many languages as there are. Hot sun, warm breeze, with wild wind gusts making me take off my hat for fear I won’t see it again. A bench, wooden, in need of repair, people watching in present day as they visit antiquity.

Do we know the stories from the stones or did we learn from ancestors and now discover the truth, or our understanding of the truth?

The town bells are ringing in song as I write this. I stop to hold the moment. As Pema Chodron guides me “stay…. stay”

Driving to Dusty Delphi

Drive to Delphi.
Thursday 12 Sept 2019

Ready to move on, sad to leave magical Meteora. The safety and stories of the stones ..

We get packed up and picked up in a luxury van holding 16 of us. An extra luggage container,the driver is prepared and efficient and loads us with out complaint. We drive for hours through Greek countryside of the mainland safely, with our driver Yargos (George).

I am reminded that how I spend my money is my politics. Where will I buy and what will I buy, will I tip and how much? How I make the choice to travel and the places I go. The driver seems optimistic about these new times, new days for Greece. We talk about both being at Montreal for Olympics in 1976. Small world … so many opportunities in life. With pride and gratitude we talk.

Many conversations and deep talks already on this trip. So special. How is it for women. Notice … support … listen …

Greece is 77 times smaller than Canada. Only 11.2 million population in Greece. Another 15-17 million Greeks living around the world. Third largest concentration of Greeks is in Melbourne Australia!

For quality of life, we all agree Canada is one of top three places in the world. I look off to see herons and cranes in the fields, hear small bells chimes in churches, see bee hives along the roads, little places of worship. Some 88-90 some percent of Greece is practicing Greek Orthodox religion.

We stopped at the museum of the battle of thermopolye. (300 Spartans). We hear stories, consult maps, watch a well done film. It’s a nice stop and many of the tour buddies love being on this site.

The olive trees, silver and green blowing gently and showing their leaves … strong large windy trunks and branches holding space for the fruit and delicate leaves, holding the stories of their time, as far as the eye can see. With tall stately Cyprus trees, dark green holding their own, on their own. So many groves of olive trees, a million olive trees,as far as we can see. Some times can be spotted red terra cotta tile roofs. We climb, the road winds end ever we press onward, gawking out the window and wondering about the olives in this area. Groves and groves, miles and miles, trees upon trees, it looks like carpet. Each tree it’s an ancient story. What is it saying? That one and that one… I try to capture the vastness on my iPad, another corner, another turn, more trees, climbing higher. We talked bout the harvesting of the olives, the season and uses of these delightful fruits.

Cyprus trees are symbolic of the soul. Olive trees of knowledge. Holding knowledge. More switchbacks, more views

We arrive , the acropole hotel guest house. Lunch standard local version of Greek salad. A Greek man, waiter seemed to think I was particularly beautiful and commented several times. .

More to follow another day …

Pamela

Introduction to Meteora, 10 Sept 2019

Sept 10 2019, Meteora Greece

We arrived by train … had a hot lunch and a walk about town. I had a quick swim in the pool. At 345 pm we were ready for pick up in the van and off to explore Meteora. This is the highlight of the tour for me. I was not disappointed. This is a place that should be on the traveller’s bucket list!

A few people I met on the train this morning were coming in for the day, 5 hours on train both ways with a few hours to see some sights. For us, two glorious days to explore. A choice of van tour or walking tour, tonight we all agreed to sunset tour, about 4 hours visiting one monastery, Byzantine church, and sunset rock to get a spectacular view of 5 of the 6 monasteries on this site. Wow.

Eva was our tour guide,Dimos was the bus driver to Meteora site. Both very knowledgeable, friendly, professional and great to spend the time with. Very strong Greek accent and good English understanding and speaking. Very fun, story telling, Eva was delightful

In about the 9th century hermit monks came to live in caves in this area. Monks later came to build and live in the monasteries. The huge rock formations are dotted with evidence of their existence, then and now. Only six monasteries remain, four for male monks, two occupied by female nuns exclusively. There once were 24 in total built around 16th century. We saw all six remaining.

The first Story we heard, on 23 April, every year there is a ceremony for St. George. We drove by and photographed the stone wall where it is said that a Muslim woman dedicated her head scarf to pray to save husband. He had been injured. A Christian man was moved by the gesture, took the head scarf to the cave dedicated to St George and the husband’s life was saved. Every year since the locals bring up colorful scarves and dedicate to St George. Story behind colorful scarves annually is touching and we see the evidence.

In order to keep these monasteries in working order, some of them produce their own wine, sell for income. In 1988 the monasteries of Meteora became unesco World Heritage sight.

In many of the remaining monasteries, many we will see tomorrow, there are very old art paintings on walls, frescoes and more. In 16th century artists from Crete were invited to come to paint in the monasteries. This art still exists.

In the monastery of St Nicholas, built in the 14th century, two monks only live here. They do all the work of this huge facility. In some monasteries there are staff paid to assist with the tourists and upkeep, and drive up daily as their employment. Only the monks or nuns actually live in the sacred sights. Over time the monasteries have been somewhat modernized for convenience with lifts (elevators) and some with cable cars.

We stop at the Nunnery of St. Steven. We walk through the garden, and see the views from the walls. It is beautifully maintained. 30 nuns live there. There are massive chains still in the stone, from the retractable wooden bridge that once was protection. Now is stone bridge to cross over the cavern below. In the second world war this site was almost destroyed.

One story is that it took 22 years to lift only building materials up from the ground, for one monastery and then only one month to construct the building. Water gathering was an issue at the time they were built, 12,000 litre of water barrel construction to hold the rain water for use.

When built there were some 500 monks residing in the 24 monasteries, in 16th century. Now there are 60 people total, 46 nuns and 14 monks. Since 1960 women nuns conquered empty monasteries x 2 and forever changed history. It is wild and moving to be part of this history.

“For your eyes only” was a James Bond movie starring Roger Moore and scenes were filmed in Meteora. In fun they call it monastery of St. James Bond. One monk only lives there. He is a scientist. Monastery of holy trinity, it is the Hardest to reach. 1936 carved steps in rock, they are Carved by hand. We see the steps from where we are in the van. Wow, what a sight! Imagine the labour involved!

Many wild goats living in the area, we see them in the grasses, and some wander out on the road so we drive around. Less goats these days so there are young forests in the area.

Highest of the monasteries is built 630 meters above sea level. Some frescoes remain and Water cisterns. Many of the construction materials to rebuild the last remaining six monasteries were taken from the sights of the previously abandoned sights.

12000 pop Kalambaka. 2.5 million tourists per year

Byzantine church we visit was built upon the original sight Temple of Apollo 4000 BC. On the Same spot 4000 AD was built this first Orthodox Church. 11 century rebuilt again using same marble and columns from the original temple. We touch the ancient stones and listen to stories.

Amazing place to be part of. Looking forward to more tomorrow. Wow.
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