Day 8: Heraklion to Sitia
The final day of the trip out started with a marvellously chaotic unloading of the ferry which was done in a fantastically Greek way. There were three decks of cars with the top one being the one you drive off through. On ferries in Britain and France it's all very regimented and strictly organised with loads of people telling you what to do. The Greek system is to open the doors and then head off for a fag and a coffee somewhere and leave you to it, presumably on the basis that if you drove in you are capable of sorting yourself out and driving off again. Not everyone rushes back to their cars either so from the bottom deck you pick your way carefully through the still-parked vehicles of the upper decks, shuffling forwards in and space you see come free until you see daylight. And that's it - I'd got my car to Europe's most southern island at last!
I was met at about 6.30 by Giannis who is a fine chap and took me straight to the nearest coffee bar for a good strong espresso, then up to his house in Heraklion where he lives with his wife Katerina and their new baby Michaela. A very enjoyable morning passed there with them and other members of the family who live nearby who popped over to say hello as well, then it was off to the airport to get Good Lady Wife #1 and Sam from their Thomson flight.
From there, an easy two and a half hour drive east to Sitia. In the past driving in Crete has seemed chaotic but presumably a lot of that may be due to the sudden change from Blighty however after driving all the way to here it seems rather sensible and ordered. They do have a great habit of following the rules but with the proviso that if you turn your hazards on you can do whatever you want! Want to park on a roundabout? Put your hazards on and nip off for a coffee. Dual Carriageway means you would have a 15 minute round trip to your exit? No problem, put your hazards on and drive the wrong way up the opposite carriageway. All reasonable enough really as long as you have the Magic Flashing Indicators of Invincibility on.
Meanwhile in Sitia, Matriarch Mary had not only tracked down the hotel we were in but spoken to them and issued instructions that we were to proceed immediately to her house. The Greek Mafia in full effect. As Good Lady Wife #1 put it, if GCHQ and the CIA were filled with Greek widows there would be no secrets anywhere in the world, ever!
Mary was on good form and was grumbling that 'my bloody kids think I drive too fast. But I like speed'! I said she should be in Top Gear magazine and she very angrily replied that no, she does not do the drug speed and would not want to be in a magazine about drugs! I had never thought about Top Gear even possibly having that meaning! Meanwhile her grandson Zachary spent the evening teaching us Greek words for things like 'how are you' which was causing him great amusement. It turned out he was teaching us the swear words but telling us it meant something completely different. What I did learn tonight though as part of this was that I have been using the wrong word at Greek hotels, tavernas and tolls on this trip. I've been walking up and confidently saying hello in Greek but it turns out I've been walking up to them and saying a hearty equivalent of 'cheers, to your good health' as an opening line. Oops.