More than two weeks ago I arrived at Chania airport on the island of Crete, the largest island in Greece, where I'm caretaking a villa.
I took a chance on this trip, not knowing what I was getting into when responding to a travel forum solicitation for someone to take care of the property, which includes a dog and a cat, for 11 weeks from mid-November through January.
I was thousands of miles away in Malaysia when I started corresponding with the owners, a young, American ex-pat couple. The photos they posted were gorgeous and we seemed to work well together online, so I was inclined to go for it after a lengthy stay in Southeast Asia, just for the change.
Still, you never know, right? They didn't know me either. But we played our hunches, struck a deal, and I booked my flights.
Now I'm so glad I did. What a wonderful place to be!
I'm just going to post photos, captions and some of my journal notes, only slightly edited instead of rewriting everything. Beginning at the beginning, I think you'll get a feel for how much I like this place.
Arrived yesterday afternoon after a long tiring trip, five flights in 36 hours, but made all connections: Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur, from KL to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Dohar, Qatar, then to Athens, then to Chania, Crete. My hosts picked me up for the 45-minute drive from the airport in Chania to Vrisses, where I’m staying at the YesCrete Retreat.
It's beautiful and quiet here nestled in the foothills of Crete’s White Mountains. The air I’m breathing is crisp, clear, fresh and cool, quite a difference from the warm, sodden, often smoke-laden air in Southeast Asia that I’d gotten accustomed to for most of this year.
Food in the local village market in Vrisses is fantastic. Everything I hoped for and imagined. Fresh yogurt, tons of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh-baked whole-grain breads, nuts, olives, a variety of locally made cheeses, great bakeries, and my fridge was stocked with homemade Crete wine on arrival.
The main house where I’m staying is surrounded by olive trees, lemon trees, pomegranates and grapes. I hear sheep and goats bleating in the distance.
Tav, the dog that I’m taking care of, is a sweet, friendly rescue pup, about a year old, and there’s a cat.
It’s harvest time for olives on Crete. In the afternoon, several of the neighbor men came to pick the tiny olives off the trees surrounding the retreat. They brought fresh wild lamb for their meal which they shared. The young sheep are hunted for food in the White Mountains behind the retreat. My friends killed, butchered and barbecued the meat, and served it with tasty homemade wine, bread and a salad of fresh greens. The meat’s not cut to exacting requirements, just chopped up with the bones, and it was delicious. Andreas, who had to cover his laryngectomy hole to talk, took a ball of foil out of his pocket, opened the foil and took out a pinch of black pepper to sprinkle on the meat, then offered the pepper around the table.
Tomorrow we’re all going to the house of Dimitrius, another neighbor, for more grilled lamb and wine, this time there’ll also be a pilaf made with the water that the meat was cooked in. And I understand Dimitrius plays ping pong.
I was also invited for a walk in the morning with Dimitrius, and for hikes in nearby mountains with the owners of the house I’m staying in, Rob and Christine. (Their trip was delayed, and they are leaving in a few days, and staying in the guest house while I’m here.) Meanwhile, I’m learning much from them about the house, where to get things, etc. So it’s working out well. They are American entrepreneurs, looking to market the villa and other empty properties in the area, that often stay vacant in the winter, to independent, long-term travelers like me during the off-season, which is now. Practically no tourists anywhere. But I’m told the island starts getting hot and crowded in the Spring.
Now, at dusk on my second day here, the sun’s rays are blocked by the mountains and dark shadowless blue-gray skies are turning toward evening. A fire is crackling in the fireplace, I’m making fresh ginger-lemon tea for tomorrow, listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes.
Things are working out.
(I should have more from Crete in another post tomorrow. Stay tuned.)
Quotes For A Good Life On The Road
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
-- Anthony Bourdain
Now see my complete collection of travel quotes online by clicking "Quotes For The Road" under "More" in the menu above.
Solas "Best Travel Writing" Awards
Saysha: What Happened?
13th Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
(Read it here)
'More About Me?
I'm a retired journalist from Hawaii who tired quickly of retirement and hit the road as a slow, solo world traveler in August 2016. I've spent time in 20 countries on four continents. Currently I'm in sunny Merida, Mexico, waiting out developments in the coronavirus crisis before moving on. Meanwhile, learn more about me and my travels at Nomadic Matt, and Expat Focus, and in a great story by veteran Borneo newsman and prolific author James Ritchie about our meeting in Kuching, Malaysia, A Confluence of Adventure Writers .
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