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A Caress of Cretan Calm

26 March – 4 April 2018

“Seems I got to have a change of scene
‘Cause every night I have the strangest dreams…….
.”

I’ve recently written a catch-up Crete visit blog and used a track by Jittery Joe as its title, so why not use him again, he was really in his prime in 1969. In any case, it’s a good excuse to make a link to another of his youtube movies.

Every time we make a visit to this Shangri-La island we seem to arrive dead on our feet, but thanks to a little help from our friends P&M, we’re always feelin’ alright by the time we leave.

This time around our habitual busy work schedule had once again caused us both to be running on empty during the weeks before departing from Luton to fly eastward into a welcoming evening sky. P&M’s welcoming open arms were there to greet us at Heraklion airport and we were instantly immersed into another world. One that’s lived at a more relaxed pace, filled with happy smiling faces speaking a language and employing typography we can’t understand, but where our ignorance is bliss. And what’s more, despite the tragic state of the Greek economy, roads in better condition than the UK!!!

Arriving in the peaceful tranquility of moonlit Agia Pelagia near Spili, the only sounds to fill the air were the distant occasional clangs of wandering goatbells. The following morning, breakfast on the terrace in warm morning sunshine. Immediately we were enshrouded in relaxation mode. We just drank it all in. It was impossible to resist.

The next ten days drifted by in typically leisurely Cretan pace. We explored Rethymno and the grounds and fortifications of the Fortezza; had a guided tour of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete; drew and painted on a different scale for a change in my Olive Grove Studio; explored the narrow streets and harbour of Venetian flavoured Chania and the hillside village calm of Ancient Lappa; found aged and decaying murals in lonely hillside chapels; walked isolated mountain tracks with my trusty Cretan guide; enjoyed the beachside community haven of Matala, with the Mermaid Cafe, mentioned by Joni Mitchell in her song ‘Carey‘, a track on the album ‘Blue‘; witnessed sunsets and starry skies to die for; ate good Cretan food, drank excellent ‘Karydia Brother’ wine.

A relaxing, unwinding, de-stressing, calming and thoroughly restful visit……………..however………………there was one occasion potentially detrimental and harmful to my health.

What began as a normal Friday evening spent in a bar in Plakias quickly evolved into a particularly stressful nail biting one. As any lifelong follower of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club would confirm, supporting this team is a roller coaster ride. This year has been a good one, but it’s still had its share of ‘moments’. Having found a bar with a TV and a Skysports football channel available, I endured one of the most traumatic games of my life. The season has ended well, but watching my team hang on with 9 men to beat Middlesbrough can only be described as an absolutely nerve shredding experience. The following week it felt like history repeating itself as WWFC survived two penalties in added-on time to beat Cardiff. Only a Wolves supporter knows what having unyielding loyalty to the old gold and black really feels like.

However, even having said that, this was an isolated anxiety-associated episode. As far as stress is concerned, Crete is the perfect antidote!

“You feelin’ alright?
I’m not feelin’ too good myself…….
.”

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Cretan Season in the Sun

19 – 26 October 2016

“We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun…….
.”

Having just returned from another visit to Crete I was about to write a new blog when I found that there wasn’t one from my previous visit. I suddenly felt very confused. After experiencing such a stimulating and rejuvenating environment surely I couldn’t have forgotten to reflect upon it? Had it mysteriously disappeared? Or had I really been too busy to actually do one.

A look at the calendar and then it all became clear. Yes, I was busy. The trip was made two years ago, during the Autumn half term break while working at Rowlatts Hill Primary painting the ‘Once Upon A Time’ mural. However very soon after we returned our world turned upside down, as Mum’s health took a serious turn for the worse and sadly she passed away. It could be said that this visit was the calm before the storm. The writing of a reflective Crete blog was obviously lost in the maelstrom of events which occurred during the weeks that followed and which saw that difficult year through to its conclusion.

Before embarking on a new blog therefore, I’ll make amends and write an old one first.

It’s the last week of October 2016 and all is still well. Our busy schedule has been replaced with a few days in the sun, in Peter & Monica’s exceptional company, staying with them in their idyllic world in Agia Pelagia near Spili, and our minds and soul nourished and enriched once again with warm Cretan hospitality; watching a sleeping dog soak up the sun while drinking a chilled glass of Fix beer at the Agia Fotia Taverna in Agia Fotini and listening to nothing but the sound of lapping water; exploring sights of significance in the history of Crete, the monastery at Arkadi and the WWII monument and bridge at Preveli; finding plants both beautiful and strange while wandering the paths of the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete, a haven of tranquility created out of the ashes of a fire in 2003; looking at the jaw dropping sight of the upper entrance of the Samaria Gorge; indulging in the sights of the beautiful Amari valley and taking a hike up to the summit of Mount Samitos; luxuriating in the peace, shade and uninterrupted birdsong of the Olive Grove studio; savouring a glass or maybe three of the latest batch of my Kaydia brother Yiorgos’ excellent home brewed wine; the leisurely hustle and bustle of cafe life in Plakias and Rethymno thrown in for good measure.

We couldn’t foresee the events that were about to unfold, but that break gave us the energy to face it. We’d found an island of calm, and the peace and tranquility of Crete had given us the strength to confront anything an impending storm could throw at us.

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