I promise I haven't died.
I want to say that I've been busy, but really I've just been procrastinating by doing exams and the like. You know its bad when you procrastinate by actually doing work - in my case, writing 1,500 word essays. I've tried to write this post a couple of times, but lost momentum halfway in. That was until today, when I was just innocently reading The Book Thief and overdosing on chocolate when a girl from my old school messaged me. "Omg", it said "I love your blog. I so wished I'd spoken to you whilst I went to school with you". And pfft, that didn't make me die inside at all, what. So basically, I now have an insane amount of pressure to write a half-decent post, so sorry if I don't deliver, all you Emily's out there*.
Okay so, a handful of days ago, my family and I started talking about how we wanted to go abroad for a week or so, perhaps the Amalfi Coast or Rome. I kind of just shrugged this off, because I'd literally spent my Summer trudging around London and Watford. My dad was like, no I'm good thanks, so BAM, two days later I was on an aeroplane to Malia, Crete, party central. With my mum. And it was awesome.
As some of you may know, I have a problem with taking photos. I can go out for the day and take hundreds of photos of a cigarette balancing on a tree, or a baby on some swings. So, naturally, I probably took over 2,000 photos in total whilst on my stay in Greece (keep in mind that we were literally only there for a week). I will split up my trip to Greece into two parts, but that still leaves a lot of photos. Bear with.
So my first day in Crete was spent travelling and running over people's feet with my suitcase, so I think we'll just skip that part out and move on. The second day, however, started by me awaking from a four-hour slumber and wondering where the heck I was. Then, the minute I heard the incessant chirping of the crickets and breathed in the air that was so humid that it was almost an effort to respire, I was like "oh right, I'm in Malia".
I spent the morning trying to impress the hotel staff with my Greek (to which they laughed and said I have a "long way to go", the cheek), and then we took off to the classic Strip of Malia, where all the partygoers go to, well, party. If I'm being honest, it was kind of sad that this cute little Greek town has been turned into a place where people go to just get drunk and do The Thing. It was all 'foam parties' and 'booze cruises' - where is the authentic Greek culture? Where is the rich history behind this? Why are the locals being sent away to the "olde town" whilst skinny white boys carrying six packs vomit up tequila onto their land?
Malia beach, by the way, would be beautiful if it weren't for the severe congestion full of tourists burning their pale flesh. So, we stopped there for a bit, cramming to get a view of the ocean, before heading back to our hotel Maria Rousse. There, after taking advantage of their awesome pool and overindulging on ice-cream, our rep (Calvin? Kevin?) told us about the "classic" drinking forfeits that they have over here, where they pour beer down your throat (Suffragette, anyone?). Naturally, I first thought he said spit instead of beer, and that led to a very awkward conversation.
I asked one of the hotel staff what his name was, and you know when you ask someone something and they reply and you don't understand so you ask again, just to repeat this vicious cycle? Well, as not to embarrass myself further, I then proceeded to nod. To this day, I'm sure his name is the Spanish verb for 'we live'.
The Olde Town was definitely my favourite place in the whole of Malia. You get to see all the locals in their little communities and big families, with the children playing football in the street and the elderly nodding off on chairs outside their houses (this is actually a really common thing). These houses, by the way, were all rustic and messy and absolutely stunning, and just how I expected authentic Greek houses to look like.
We ate at a place called Kaleman for dinner the first/ second night, which served pretty awesome food. The only problem was the rogue bug that landed slap-bang in the middle of my food - apparently I screamed and a bunch of people jumped from surprise, but eh, let's not get caught up in the small details.
The third day was spent walking so much that I'm surprised my kneecaps didn't spontaneously combust from all the friction. We walked down this massive stretch of dust road, which was filled with rusty, quaint buildings - classic Greek buildings that people actually live in (funnily enough). They just seemed so unnaturally stunning that I assumed they were a bunch of antique holiday homes.
I don't know about you guys, but I have never been to an all-marble cemetery. But, that's exactly what we passed as we continued our walk down this long, deserted road. The coffins were out in the open, and were all made of this gleaming white marble. The tombs were larger than I would have imagined, and a small white chapel shadowed over the land at the back.
We went down to Malia Port, which is insanely overrated. All there was was a couple of rusty boats and two local children staring at me as I tried to take semi-decent photos of the nothingness surrounding us. Don't get me wrong, it was a cute place to stop at, but I wouldn't walk a mile just to see it. If you walked down a little bit though, you would get to the beach. Pale sand, choppy turquoise waves.. it was magnifique. And, at the edge of the water was a small white lone chair. I don't know why, but the simplicity of an abandoned chair overlooking the waves was really beautiful.
We continued our trek, leading us to a small resort called Malia Park. As nice as it was, I don't understand why someone would pay to go all the way down to Greece, just to stay in a big resort and stay there the whole time. I always thought that the whole reason behind going abroad would be to explore new places, cultures, languages, and the such - not stay by the pool all day - but eh, I could be wrong.
There, we ordered some quick food, and were served by a rather grumpy waiter. Once we finished ordering though, he was like "all inclusive, yeah?" and we said that no, in fact we weren't. His features then shifted slightly, and so did his attitude. From then on, he was a lot more positive, and even put extra ham in my vegetarian sandwich which was thoughtful.
For dinner that evening, we ate in the roof garden of Stablos and Elizabeth, which gave us a great view of the square below, which all fitted around the church with a clock tower dusted with birds. The food portions were crazily large, as in the starter alone could have fed three people. And my madre and I both ordered two courses each. I kid you not. We were practically bursting at the seams when we left.
I have found that countries with hot climates such as Greece and Turkey tend to have roads filled with people on mopeds - which makes sense, considering how much cooler they will be (both temperate-wise and status-wise). But never before have I seen people riding with literal animals tucked into their armpits, like I did on my third day in Greece. The loud rip of a moped erupted from the road to the side of me, and I looked over to see a man riding, with a small fluffy dog under his arm, fur ruffled by the wind. And what's more insane is the fact that I saw people both on the phone and smoking, driving at the same time as they held a kid on their lap. I have to admit that they're very skilled people, but boy is that a weird sight for the eyes.
Day four started with a bang. Or more accurately, the crashing noise of my mother trying to prise open the balcony door.
By the way, there's this one little patisserie in Malia which sells the best ice-cream I've ever seen. I don't know what it's called in English, but the title printed above the door looked something like Syovpo's. I ate an insane amount of ice-cream (oh hey there, lactose intolerance) from that shop, with the only problem being that the owner had a tendency to close up the part of the shop that sold ice-cream at super random times of the day, and for no apparent reason.
Anyway, the forth day was pretty laid-back, as we just walked around and tested out food. We ate dinner at Toto Loto, which was pretty good if you ignore the fact that they charged us for the "complimentary" ouzos. The tables were awesome, with slabs of glass covering a whole collection of postcards from various places and events - but the dead pufferfish that stared right into your soul was a definite downer.
I spent the rest of the day out in the warm weather, writing. According to my notes from that day, I basically just thought about my Greek expectations. To summarise, I imagined crumbling white handmade buildings (thank Mamma Mia for that one, kids) with locals riding up steep paths on donkeys. For some reason, the fact that we were going to Malia, a part of Greece famous for partying, didn't completely register with me, hence my surprise at all the gigantic commercialised partygoer things.
Day five consisted of me first exploring around a little Greek chapel, and honestly, I've never seen a chapel this beautiful before. Every inch of the interior was plastered with Ancient Greece -esque images, with the typical religious figures you'd expect to see but with thicker eyebrows and darker skin (hey there, insanely tanned Jesus with spidery eyelashes). It was a burst of colours and shapes, and will probably be the most insanely beautiful chapel I will see in a very long time.
From there, my madre and I were picked up by our twenty minute late driver. As it turns out, these kind of buses are meant to be filled from front to back, so I spent the journey next to the driver, trying to avoid brushing arm hair with his. He was kind of intimidating, if I'm honest, and would literally race down the narrow Greek roads, stopping for no one, swearing loudly in Greek every now and then in brash tones at the other drivers.
We survived the drive down to the boat, which continued to be fast and seemingly careless (yet surprisingly accurate) the whole way down. The boat was a typical big white thing, and already had a bunch of tourists stuffed into it (I know I'm one too, but yet whenever I see another tourist I point out how touristy they are and make a kind of pfft sound. That's usually when I realise we're from the same barrel of fish). Somehow, I managed to get all lovely and queasy on the swaying-yet-not-moving-forward boat, so when it did start I was practically spinning off the rails. It quickly subsided however, and I loved sailing over the rich blue ocean, with the wind whipping my hair and sun shining on my over-suncreamed face.
Sooner than I would have liked, the boat dropped anchor (made of plastic bottles, like???) in a small place called St. George's Bay. There were only a few other people in the water by the time I was thoroughly slathered in suncream and ready to swim, so before I knew it I had climbed to the top of the boat, held my nose, and literally flung myself off. Despite the fact that I went super far under (at least eight foot) and was immediately blinded by the sheer amount of salt in the water, it was awesome. I grabbed some snorkels - as it turns out, I can't snorkel without getting a good cup of two of water tapped in the breathing pipe and chugging that down - and could see all the groups of little fish swimming around my ankles. The water was lovely and warm, and I adored swimming in the completely clear, calm sea. I could hear the (seemingly never-ending abundance of) crickets in the distance, directed by the soft music playing out from the boat and the waves hitting against each other, fighting to get out. I closed my eyes and felt the sunlight on my eyelids and warm water swaying around my skin. Tourists chatted and laughed, and the taste of sea salt was heavy on my tongue. When I faced away from the boat and the people, all I could see was the ocean going on and on, never stopping, stretching out to the blue horizon, nothing but shades of blue everywhere. You know those perfect little moments in life that you get every now and then? This was one.
After, we had a boat barbecue, where we climbed out of the water and gathered around for sustenance. We sailed back to land, where we were greeted by a small Greek bus and a new driver who was smaller also. Somehow, I got roped into sitting in the front again, but this journey was almost the complete opposite to what we'd had earlier - this one was, dare I say it, almost transcendent. We passed through the towns with Greek music streaming out from the radio, a breeze curling around my face as I looked out to the endless mountains framing the landscape. Honestly? I could have stayed there all day.
This evening, we ate at Taverna Alexis, a cute little place near my favourite chapel. There, our waiter was a kid, kin to the owner, who was fluent in order-taking. His father and grandfather chatted together at the only other occupied table, and you could see the mother working as chef. My favourite type of food place is family-run and.. I don't think organic is the right word, but yeah, organic. I like organic, family-run food establishments. Oh, also there was a goat upstairs, just chilling, which was cool.
The food was good, but it seems that big portions are a common theme around Greece, or Crete at least. Note to y'all, one course is always enough at Cretan restaurants. After that, we went to an ice-cream place that is under a brand quite well known in the US and UK, but funnily enough, sold the worst ice-cream I'd had out there. Just goes to show, really.
We popped into the corner shop real quick before heading back to the hotel, where we saw a local holding a skinned rabbit by its legs, stomach sliced open. The people around him were just like, "yeah it's a gutted rabbit, what of it?"
A quick note - in Greece, I'd keep waking up during the night. My diary from that time says, "maybe it's my body checking I'm still doing the one thing I love most - exploring".
Part two next month---
This post literally took me like five months to buck up and post (insane!), and five hours to get all my notes together and actually write, so I'm going to keep my posts to some kind of monthly-schedule. I promise I won't abandon you again.
(Okay, I disgress, I promise to try not to abandon you again.)
Have a good day (month..?) y'all,
*Yes - Emily. That is totally her name. Pfft.