Friday, February 24, 2017

The things that happen when you go looking for humpbacks.


It really could have gone wither way.  Back in 2010, I flew to Seattle, drove 3 hrs to Anacortes and took a 2 hour ferry to the San Juan islands, all with the goal of kayaking with orcas.  It is a beautiful part of the world and I'm so glad I got to see it and would go so far as to call the trip a rousing success but for one noteworthy fact. We saw zero orcas. Not a one- ok, well, maybe one if you count the one we saw on the ferry back to Anacortes but that was not the point.  Afterwards, I continued to exchange emails with the owner of Seaquest, the kayaking outfit we used and eventually learned that ours was the only trip all season that saw no orcas.

My fortunes improved the next year when I flew to Cancun, drove 3 hours to Chiquila and took a 30 minute ferry to Holbox in the hope of swimming with whale sharks. This one was a slam dunk. I was able to swim with 3 whale sharks, saw countless others from the boat and enjoyed three days of stress-free island living at its best.

Monday, February 13, 2017

That Day When You Pretty Much Have Knossos to Yourself...


Look up the TripAdvisor reviews for the Palace of Knossos and three themes prevail. 1) Fascinating archeological site. A must see. 2) Phooey, not authentic enough. Arthur Evans used concrete in his restoration and we hate him. 3)Sweet baby Zeus, why are there so many people here?! So very many people!

To be fair, the majority of the assessments fell squarely into the first category and rightfully so. The complex, located 8km outside of Heraklion, is what remains of Europe's oldest city and is pretty darned impressive. Of course, I can say this as someone who had the chance to visit on a cool sunny day in February, when we encountered  maybe a half dozen other visitors, tops. If I were to attempt the same thing on a sweltering summer day while 3 cruise ships are in port and a mob of sun worshippers from the nearby resorts are itching to get cultural, I might not find the experience quite so magical. I suspect that if I had to stand five people deep to get a better look at the throne room, a common complaint for the category three people,  I too might be cursing the mother of all Minoans by day's end.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rethymnon/ Rethimno/ Rethymno/ that city between Chania and Heraklion

Last month, I was in Chania with plans to visit nearby Rethymnon and Heraklion. It was the lowest of the low season and I figured it was a good time to take advantage of the sparsely crowded streets before the tourists returned. Sure, the skies were a bit gray and the temperature was hovering in the 40's but the idea of potentially having the ruins at Knossos to myself more than made up for it. And then I woke up. Like literally. I had set an alarm to catch an early bus but as soon as I shut it off, my phone mocked me with the day's weather forecast. All I saw before pulling the blankets over my head and going right back to sleep were the words "snow and sleet".  Forget that noise. I wanted some Greek history, not an Arctic expedition.

Now it was February and I was back in Chania. The sky was blue, the temperature had inched up into the 50's and that highly unwelcome snow (the first since 2004) was a distant memory. I finally hopped on  that bus to Rethymnon. Or Rethimno. Or Rethymno...it all depends on whom you ask. Since there is no direct transliteration of the Greek to Roman alphabet, the phonetic translations are all over the place.