My first full blown trip abroad took me to the beautiful Greek island of Crete.
My parents had booked us on a package holiday to keep things simple, and remembering what a handful my brother and I were, it seems like that was a good plan. We jumped on a coach from the airport and after a couple of hours of bobble-headed napping we arrived at our “small and friendly” hotel in the heart of Rethymnon (I think).
The town backed a gorgeous beach that stretched to the horizon (for a partially sighted girl). The only protection from the searing sand was the endless sun loungers and their accompanying umbrellas. We spent a lovely day down at the beach. My brother went running off to join the banana boat but I was deemed too little and pathetic to join in. Other than that long forgotten slight, it was a picture perfect tourist sun-fest. The only way to make our way back up the beach, and preserve our blistered feet, was to wait until the sun was gone and the sand had cooled.
Crete was a fascinating blend of ancient past and dusty present. I was quite the geek and so I was very familiar with the myths and legends of Greece. Visiting the Palace of Knossos, home of the Minotaur, was a real treat although I remember the complete lack of shade and the disappointment that I couldn’t enter the famous maze and outwit him myself.
During this holiday, my parents tried to introduce me to the midday treat know in Spain as a siesta. As a six year old I was full of energy and these long hours became a daily torture.
I took to spending afternoons happily sitting at the fruit machine in the hotel bar and chatting to the fantastically friendly barman, Andy (who inexplicably let the six year old me gamble my pocket money away). Now, as this was the early 1990s, no holiday cocktail was complete without at least three novelty, plastic items adorning any vibrantly radioactive beverage. Andy supplied me with regular hits of these bright, shiny trinkets. I left Crete with plastic monkeys, plastic swords, cocktail umbrellas, shiny sparklers and any number of cocktail paraphernalia. Later that year, we decorated the Christmas tree with the hoard.
One day I decided to water the flowers on our balcony. With my parents wilting after lunch everyday, I was sure our flowers must need the same sort of break from the scorching sun. Cheerfully I doused the hanging baskets, drenching the large Greek man propping up the bar five floors below. Needless to say, I was marched downstairs to apologise to the unlucky chap.
To avoid any further misdemeanours we decided to go on some day trips. We visited an old hilltop fort where I got to hone my blossoming photography skills. Check out this sunset!
Apparently there was a fabulous taverna here, I remember lots of lovely red lights beckoning us in, my Mum remembers lots of lovely red wine. We also split up on one day and negotiated the Samaria gorge from its two ends. The boys took the high, and we ladies took the easy route in order to avoid perspiring in the 32 degree heat.
On our last day, I told Andy about my Rosie & Co credit card. I had created an ATM at home that I would sit inside and dispense Monopoly money from whilst giggling so hard that the whole thing vibrated alarmingly. Unfortunately, I was informed that as a UK credit card, I was unable to use it at the hotel. The family and I headed to the beach for the day and returned for our last dinner. On our return, I was presented with my very own gold card. Andy had made me the card specially and I treasured it as if it was my first born child. During dinner I used the card to purchase a small bottle of champagne that I proudly presented to my parents enjoying my new found financial station. It was only later I found out they had slipped some money behind the bar…betrayal!
My fondest memory took place lounging by a rooftop pool atop a sister hotel. It was superbly sunny, and we had to shade our eyes whilst we wrote our postcards home, I was asked to contribute my words of wisdom. Looking back, I now know that it was quite a formative moment in my travel life, my first holiday brag…
“We’re here and you’re not, nur nur nur!”