Wednesday, 20 July 2016
No day at the beach in Crete
can be counted as a day wasted
I have awoken each morning to birdsong in the garden beside my rooms in Julia Apartments, and from the terrace have caught glimpses of the sunset each evening.
Almost every day, I have enjoyed the opportunities to swim at the beach, which in just 300 metres away, or in the pool. On the two or three days I have not gone swimming, I have been in the mountains behind Platanes, visiting monasteries or exploring Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman remains in the mountains.
There have been day trips to Gramvousa Island and the lagoon at Balos Bay on the north-west tip of Crete, to Elafonisi Island with its lagoon in the remote south-west corner, to the village of Panormos, perched on rocks above two tiny, sandy coves, and to the mountainside villages of Piskopiano and Koutouloufari, in the hills above Chersonissos.
There have been numerous trips into Rethymnon, a small city I have known since the 1980s, to wander through its narrow cobbled streets, visit its churches and museums, and browse in its bookshops and art shops.
There have been two visits to Iraklion, to dine with friends and to stroll along the old Venetian harbour.
Swimming most days has been beneficial for my lungs, providing some relief for the symptoms of my sarcoidosis, and has helped the gnawing memory of old complaint in a shoulder.
But the north winds and the full moon that rose last night churned up the waters on the beach at Platanes all day yesterday so that the waves could be seen breaking out in the far distance and as they rolled in and broke on the shore were higher than my own height.
Red flags were flying all along the long stretch of sand east of Rethymnon, and lifeguards patrolled the shoreline in a beach buggy, whistling at the foolhardy and warning people not to get in to swim.
Of course, there were the defiant and foolhardy who thought they were displaying their courage and strutting their manliness. There have been too many drownings already in this season alone, but this news seldom reaches tourists who are here for only a week.
Despite those days when it was wise not to try swimming in the sea, it was possible to walk in the foam and along the edges of the water, with an awe in and a delight for the wonders and beauty of creation. No day at the beach was ever a day wasted.
I managed to read two books by Bill Bryson at the beach, The Road to Little Dribbling, More notes from a small island and Mother Tongue, the story of the English language, and started reading The Establishment, and how they get away with it by Owen Jones. I have often returned to the beach again in the evening to watch the sun set in the distance, behind the fortezza in Rethymnon.
As two of us were leaving the beach in the late afternoon yesterday [19 July 2016], we saw four tables being set out on the beach in front of the Poseidon Restaurant at the Minos Mare Hotel. It was like some setting for an Angelopoulos movie.
We booked for the two of us, and returned to have dinner as the waves churned up on the beach before us, the sun set behind the Fortezza, the lights came on along the long stretch of seashore like a string of bedazzling jewels, and the full moon rose behind us.
It was the most romantic setting for dinner at the end of a holiday. No day on the beach was ever a day wasted, and this was the most beautiful evening in three weeks.
I am now waiting at Chania Airport, ready to board a Ryanair flight back to Dublin, watching the other travellers and wondering about their experiences. Did they complain about the red flag days on the beach? Did they enjoy the sunsets? Did they eat Greek food, listen to Greek music, visit other beaches, the offshore islands and lagoons, the mountain villages and monasteries?
And it’s back to work tomorrow morning … refreshed, revitalised and thankful.