Archive for September, 2010

Quad-Wrangle

Monday, September 20th, 2010

M’lovely Purple Fred – whom, it is now pretty widely known, I love very much – bought me an experience voucher for my birthday last year. As all the experiences it offered, that I was interested in, were outdoor ones, I decided to wait until this Summer – and what with one thing and another, it took us until now to sort out a weekend.

I went quad-biking this weekend! It was flippin’ brilliant :-) We went to Dorset, to Gorcombe Extreme Sports, and with that being a whole hour away we decided to book a B+B and make a weekend of it. So as well as the quad biking, we found six caches, visited Blandford Forum, discovered a nice pub with its own caravan site attached, and had a good laugh (again) at the rubbish-ness of Little Chef.

The quad biking itself was excellent – I’d booked a time when no-one else wanted to go, so I had an instructor to myself, and although there were other groups out, they were on different bits of the course so I always had the training areas to myself as well. There were seven training areas of increasing difficulty, and the instructor led me round each one before leaving me to play for a while. The safety briefing on the last one was “If you’re going to crash, do it up this end…down there, there’s rusty barbed wire and all sorts of s**t”. Then finally, right in front of the café where your friends and fambly are going to be waiting for you, there’s a little “showing off” area, with banked hairpin bends, jumps and all sorts :-)

I think I might do that again.

Crete – part five

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

As promised. a blog of the cats of Crete – and if a picture paints a thousand words. this lot must be worth a few weeks blogging! Most pics are © MiniFred, who loves cats as much as I do…

Pics can be clicked for bigness.














 

Crete – part four

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Gottle’s Guide to being a Tourist on Crete

100910a.jpgCrete has some amazing places to be a tourist, and while lounging by the pool is lovely, if it’s all you do you’ll miss an awful lot. Today’s picture was taken in the Melidoni Cave, one of many places with a grisly past, thanks to the one-time Turkish occupation of the island.

My first tip – and something I like to do wherever I go – is to learn at least a few words of the language. Everybody in the touroidy places speaks English, but I like to at least be able to say “Hello”, “Thank You” and “Help! Purple Fred (whom I love very much) is having an anaphylactic shock because of her nut allergy” – it seems only polite. I didn’t bother this time, thinking “I managed alright on Lanzarote last year” – completely – and stupidly – forgetting that having O level Spanish might have had something to do with that. Hoping to correct my error, at least partly, I asked the girl in the ice cream shop how to say “thank you” – she made me repeat it four times and I’d still forgotten before I left the shop.

Secondly, it seems obvious, but plan what you’re going to do and when – the hottest part of the day isn’t ideal for being outdoors, but there are plenty of indoor attractions to visit, and the caves are always cool! Also, even on hot days it’s cooler up in the mountains. We did a 4×4 safari day (expensive, but in terms of Euros-per-hour it was the best value thing we did), and we were taken to mountain villages we definitely wouldn’t have seen any other way, as well as a couple of places that were already on our ”must see” list. We normally prefer to use the hire car and do our own thing, but I’d definitely do this one again.

And on which subject – if you choose to go self-propelled, get a decent map: Crete has a spider web of tiny roads, and even the fair looking map that Hertz gave us with the car didn’t show more than half of them, and the map that came with the guidebook was even worse. I splashed some cash on the detailed Crete map for TomTom – expensive but well worth it!

Finally – Heraklion airport isn’t the most modern I’ve ever been through :-( .

Still to come – “Cats in Crete” and “Gottle’s Review of The God Delusion” which he read in Crete”.

Crete – part three

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Gottle’s Guide to Cretan Eatin’ (or, the Meat in Crete)
We went to Crete on an “all inclusive” deal, so we had most of our meals in the hotel. This year’s game was that Purple Fred (whom I love very much) would fetch me the “starter of the day”, invariably a Greek delicacy, and whatever it was, I’d eat it.

100908a.jpgWhich is how I came to eat this rather vile looking shellfish, or at least half eat it – when I got to the mysterious brown bit in the middle, PF(WILVM) let me off the rest and let me go straight to main course. I also had shell-on prawn, liver pate (both of which I like anyway), octopus tentacle (which was much nicer than I expected) and numerous tomato-based concoctions.

The food in the hotel was an equal mix of greek traditional dishes, pasta and pizzas and “international” cuisine – the sort of thing most people would recognise. I usually went for the international option, although there was rathe rmore fish than I’d normally choose. PF(WILVM) wasn’t so lucky – the veggie option was usually a bit boring, and nearly all the desserts weren’t appropriate for a nut-allergic person – or for that matter, for anyone eating with them, so I had rather a lot of jelly and creme caramel – not that that was a problem.

Star item – Greek pork chops – about three times the size of anything you’d get in the UK. And ice cream with every meal at the hotel (as well as all the time in the poolside bars).

Nadir item – Greek salad. Tomatoes, tomatoes and tomatoes. I LIKE tomatoes, but it gets a bit tedious eventually!

I don’t think I lost any weight while we were away :-)

Crete – part two

Monday, September 6th, 2010

100906a.jpgFollowing on from my previous blog, Lord Hutton commented “Ooh I have 2 caches on Crete! Did you find them?” Sadly not, Hutters – we didn’t get to those bits of the island, although if we’d realised you had caches there we might have made an effort!

Anyway, to today’s topic…

Gottle’s Guide to Geocaching on Crete
As you can see from the picture, some Crete caches have little hints to help you find them – although in the case of this one we’d already spent some time looking in the wrong place! The caches we did find were :-

Crete: Gerapotamos Bridge and Beach, a fun cache only about five minutes from our hotel. I whacked the car’s sump on a rock after doirg this one.

El Greco, close to a museum dedicated to the painter El Greco. We enjoyed the cache but couldn’t visit the museum as it’s only open on days when the village has electricity!

CretAquarium – can you guess which tourist attraction this one is close to? We parked in the aquarium car park, and I checked the GPS just in case there was a cache close to our route home: Nearest cache 500 feet away – it would’ve been rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Arkadi Urlaubscache – close to the car park for the Arkadi monastery, and with a brilliant view of the winding hairpinned road that’s the only way up. And lots of cats!

Aptera – close to some Roman ruins with amazing baths, vaulted cisterns and a theatre. Also close to a pretty village with an excellent cafe.

Apokorona Vista – next to a fort left over from the Turkish occupation, and with a lovely 270-degree panorama over the island the Aegean Sea.

Karen’s Chania Cache – in the back of a shop in the town of Chania – the sign outside was a bit of a giveaway, once we spotted it.

We certainly enjoyed all the caches we found on Crete – we had a fail to find as well (it’s been confirmed missing), and one we couldn’t get to – but hey, at least three of them took us places we wouldn’t have seen without caching, and that’s what it’s all about.

Crete – part one

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

100903a.jpgWell, Gottle and the Freds are back from our super holiday in Crete – we had a lovely time, found seven caches, visited loads of nice places and did some top quality lounging by the pool. So we present the first in a series of holiday in Crete blogs: today…

Gottle’s Guide to Driving in Crete
I never really got the hang of driving like a local – which was lucky, Hertz wouldn’t have been very happy if I’d given their car back looking like a Cretan had been driving it. But I think I learned enough to give you a flavour.

  1. Speed limits in Crete are ridiculously low – that’s because their roads are ridiculous. It doesn’t matter, no-one takes any notice anyway. They also don’t take any notice of the “no overtaking” double white line up the centre of the road either.
  2. Fuel costs a bomb on Crete – about £1.60 a litre. Also because of the roads, you do a lot of low-gear driving so fuel consumption is higher then you’d think
  3. You probably drive more miles than you expect, because there aren’t many opportunities to turn left – you often have to go on to the next intersection where a U-turn is permitted.
  4. Cretan traffic lights have some odd signals I’d never seen before – like a double amber, amber filter arrows, and double amber flashing filter arrows
  5. If you’re travelling slower than the car behind you wants to go, you’re expected to drive on the hard shoulder (even where technically there isn’t a hard shoulder) to let them pass.
  6. I was quite pleased when we had a free upgrade to a Seat Ibiza (see picture), as I used to own one. I don’t remember it being an underpowered heap of junk, but the new model is bigger – and presumably heavier – than mine was, so maybe that’s it.

Coming soon(ish) – Gottle’s reports on:
– Caching in Crete
– Eating in Crete (think non-stop tomatoes and you won’t go far wrong)
– Being a tourist in Crete
– Cats in Crete.

And I can’t really count it as a Crete blog, but there’ll also be a review of one of the books I read in Crete, Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion