Friday, 17 June 2016

Crete, Greece

 4-11 June 2016

My cheeks are sore by our second full day in Crete, and when I go for my morning dip in the sea it becomes clear why. I've never been a good snorkeler (something about a fear of inhaling mouthfuls of sea water and some unsuspecting seaweed) so, armed with my goggles and wet shoes, dive in and hold my breath as long as I can before coming up for air. Now I know why my mouth hurts. I swam in the crystal clear waters of Crete's northern coast twice yesterday and I've barely been here 24 hours.

Underwater swimming photo
Swimming in the crystal clear waters

It's our summer holiday and were checked in to Meli Palace, somewhere in the rocks between uni goer favourite Malia and sleepy Sissi. The all inclusive hotel isn't our usual style, but it turns out the rumours were true; the food is excellent, the beach is private and the activities on offer will keep even us busy. Tennis, volleyball and kayaking are all on site and there's even an isolated island to swim to and conquer before heading back in time for lunch.

Mark and Claire Gale Kayaking in Crete

Sunday is Greek day in the restaurant (though there are Greek dishes available all week) and I particularly enjoy filling my plate with Greek salad, stuffed vine leaves and souvlaki. Couple this with a hearty buffet breakfast and excellent dinner and it's a good thing there are a few opportunities to burn some of it off!

Reading on the beach
Sometimes all I need is a good book and a sunny spot to read it

We swim, eat and read until the explorer in us can't wait any longer and it's then that we make the 5k walk westwards to neighbouring Malia. Passing though the strip of bars and clubs, we seek out the old town. It's a hidden gem with blue painted doors and flowering climbers decorating the walls at every turn. We are greeted with ice cold sangria and Mythos and watch as the small square sets up for the evenings dinners, most likely a mix of locals of people like us looking for a taste of real Greece.

Malia Old Town
Malia Old Town

To the east of our slice of Crete is Sissi, which we visit one evening for dinner. Its tiny harbour is picturesque, and the few moored boats bob on the water as the sun slowly sets. We settle ourselves at Hemingway's Bar for chilled sweet red wine by the very large glass whilst the aged rockstar-esque proprietor sips his own glass and tends to his cats. Wandering up the road for dinner we are treated to more warm Greek hospitality, some spontaneous dancing and raki before getting a cap home. 2 people ask me if I'm Greek or have been there before, so I guess my tan is coming along nicely!

Greek Taverna with moped outside
Cretan backstreets

Our final night, we book a table at the a la carte restaurant, To Nissi, and are treated to a stunning sunset as we are waited on. Course after course follows, washed down with a few glasses of wine and I can't help but think it's juts the best way to end our week in Crete; feeding our bodies and minds!

Sunset over the beach
We were treated to plenty of beautiful sunsets

Watch our video on Crete below!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Coasteering in Dorset with Land & Wave

"But you did jump off all the higher rocks in Ibiza!" my friend reminds me when I bring up that Mark is planning a coasteering experience to celebrate his birthday. Everyone is invited but it seems this time we've gone too far!

The adrenaline junkie in me is excited a few weeks later as we get wet-suited ready for an afternoon of sharp rocks and steep drops with the Land & Wave team at Dorset's Dancing Ledge. Before I know it the sea is in view. It's a gorgeous day; green fields and spotless blue skies take my mind off what's to come. Then, finally it's time for some fun!

Our guides Ross and Hannah start off light with gentler jumps, helping us acclimatise to the chilly water, slowly building up to the biggest leaps of the day. They're easy enough to entertain, after all the water is a brilliant turquoise and the sun is illuminating the depths below the surface, but taking that final step still takes balls!

I can't believe the time it takes to hit the water but as soon as I do, I can't wait to climb back up and do it again! What a rush! Everyone gives it their best shot and any initial fears are soon replaced with bants and the occasional face plant!

But no one escapes "the gauntlet" - the final challenge where we battle against the swell to traverse a natural wall. I'm literally swept away before an outstretched hand pulls to relative safety, but by this time I'm too busy laughing to be scared! 

Check out the video of our Dorset coasteering experience now!

We ended our weekend with a night at Burnbake Campsite in Studland, Purbeck. This cute campsite was the perfect base for our weekend, and had everything you'd need even for a longer stay. After cooking endless BBQ to feed our tired bodies, we huddled around the fire pit toasting marshmallows until midnight, only to be awoken by the dawn chorus and a screaming child. Such is life on a campsite, but the laid back communal atmosphere meant we didn't really mind, not when when there's bacon baps and hot tea on the go from the friendly food hut!

Burnbake Campsite, Purbeck