Friday, September 27, 2013

Holiday in Kos

After our free holiday last month in Crete, this month we had another free holiday. My parents decided to invite the whole family on a short trip to Kos. This was partly to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday next month (and also my father's 80th birthday back in March), and partly an opportunity for the whole family to spend some time together. There were ten of us: My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, their 4 children (ages 15, 12, 3, 7 months), and Ivor and me.

We stayed at the Blue Lagoon Village, a luxury all-inclusive resort on the south coast of Kos. This resort contained many pools, restaurants, bars, shops, a water-park, and a beach. All the meals and drinks were included in the package, the staff were friendly and efficient, and the place was clean and well-maintained. My father has difficulty walking, and he was able to ask for rides on the electric golf carts when he needed to (though sometimes he had a bit of a wait). My only criticism of the resort is that the WiFi connection, which cost extra, was not available in the rooms but only in the public areas.

Blue Lagoon Village, Kos

Beach, Blue Lagoon Village, Kos

Readers of this blog will know that I love cats, so I was pleased to discover that in the resort there were two special areas dedicated to cats. There were cat towers for the cats to climb on, with a water bowl, and both guests and staff regularly fed the cats. The hotel asked guests not to feed cats in the restaurants, but encouraged them to take food to the cat towers, or even buy cat food in the mini market.

We went on one day-trip, which the hotel helped us organize. First we stopped at Zia, a village with a panoramic view and many tourist shops.

Zia, Kos

Next we visited the Askleipion, the ancient temple of healing. We climbed the stairs and explored the site.

Askleipion, Kos

Askleipion, Kos

For lunch, we were taken to a taverna recommended by the hotel staff in Platani, a village where many residents are descended from Turkish families, and there is still a Turkish influence on local cuisine.

After lunch we had a brief visit to Kos Town before returning to the resort. We were able to view some of the excavations and the harbour.

Excavations, Kos Town

Harbour, Kos Town

We had another enjoyable holiday, and being with my family made it a different sort of experience. Perhaps one day we will return to Kos and explore it more thoroughly.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Holiday in Crete

In August 2013 we spent a week in Crete thanks to the free holiday we had won. We received a week's accommodation in the Village Heights Golf Resort in Hersonissos. The resort is located in the foothills quite a distance from the busy tourist area along Hersonissos beach. It was a quiet location, but we didn't feel too isolated as there was a shuttle bus into the village (and back) a few times a day. Our apartment contained a living room, dining area, balcony, small but very well-equipped kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. It was comfortable and spacious, and the furniture was full-sized, without the compromises seen in some hotels, though as in most hotel rooms the lighting was somewhat insufficient. We had breakfast and a couple of dinners in the poolside restaurant, and the rest of our meals in cafes or tavernas while we were out, or prepared in the kitchen.

View from balcony toward sea, Village Heights Golf Resort
We visited Heraklion, where we have been a few times before. We returned to the Archaeological Museum, which has been renovated since our last visit. However, the air conditioning was not being used, presumably for budget reasons, so it was rather hot. We saw various finds, ranging from Minoan to Byzantine. I recommend this museum to any visitors to Crete. We had lunch in a cafe in the pedestrianized shopping area, and while we were eating an accordion band walked by playing some sort of folk song. Then we went down the the Venetian harbour and spent a while trying to photograph the impressive waves, while preventing our sunhats from being blown away.

Heraklion Venetian harbour

Waves on a windy day
We also visited Agios Nikolaos, a touristy but still charming coastal town with a lake. That day started out cloudy and overcast, and there was even a bit of drizzle in the morning, which made a pleasant change from the normal summer weather. We walked around the lake, did some souvenir shopping, and had lunch in a taverna where we fed some cats.

Agios Nikolaos lake, view from above

Agios Nikolaos lake

Agios Nikolaos, taverna cats
Another day we went on a guided tour to the Lassithi Plateau and Knossos. I enjoyed the drive through the mountains, where we saw wild goats and eagles. First we visited the monastery at Kera.

Monastery at Kera

Then we visited the Cave of Zeus, but after climbing up the hill we saw the long queue waiting to enter the cave, so we decided not to bother and returned to where the bus was parked and had a drink and looked around the souvenir shops.

We were taken to a potter's workshop to see a demonstration of pottery making. Then we had lunch in a taverna with windmills in its garden. These windmills were the traditional way of pumping water from the aquifer all over the Lasithi plateau, but there are not many of them left now.

Windmills on the Lasithi Plateau

Ruth & Ivor with windmills
After lunch we were taken to Knossos, the Minoan palace, which we had visited before. The first time we were there we saw peacocks living on the site, but they don't seem to be there any more. It was hot and quite crowded, and we wandered around on our own instead of staying with the group. It was good to see the site again.


Knossos dolphin fresco
We also went for a walk in the local villages not far from the hotel. We visited Old Hersonissos, Piskopiano, and Koutouloufari. These villages are in the foothills above the busy coastal area. We enjoyed seeing a more authentic view of Cretan life.

Church, Old Hersonissos

View towards the sea from Old Hersonissos

In Piskopiano we visited the Museum of Rural life, which contained a collection of artifacts related to farming and village home life, and also an impressive collection of traditional Cretan weaving and embroidery.
Household items, Museum of Rural Life, Piskopiano

Courtyard, Museum of Rural Life, Piskopiano

View toward the sea, Piskopiano
We had lunch in Piskopiano and then walked downhill to the touristy seafront of Hersonissos.

Hersonissos beach
We enjoyed our holiday, and found a balance between wanting to go out and see things, and also needing to rest and enjoy some quiet times in the hotel. Crete provides something for everyone. The locals are friendly, the food is excellent, the public transport is reasonably reliable, and we were fortunate to be staying in a hotel more luxurious than usual.