Not all caves are created equally.

It feels like an impossible task, trying to summarize our recent days. When we chose to stay in Switzerland, we promised the kids that we’d travel and explore, near and far. A bucket list was created and slowly but surely we’re checking off destinations, only to be replaced by more and more places we hope to see.

I do anticipate that one day, perhaps a decade from now, our kids will say “why did you waste all of those trips on us when we were too young to appreciate it!?!?” But think of all the money we’ve saved by doing this trip when they are too young to partake in the cocktails & wine too. We’re in that sweet-spot when we can adventure all day and then deposit the kids back at the hotel while Manolo and I go for dinner. Everyone wins!

This year, the October school holiday, Herbstferien, as it’s called here, coincided with a big work event I was responsible for in Athens. So we planned accordingly, achieving Helena’s Greece bucket list wish on her birthday.

#10! Waking up with mom at the beach-side resort.

Manolo and the kids departed early, as soon as school was done. They stayed right in the heart of Athens, exploring and loving it. I came along mid week and spent 4 intense days hosting our Global Marine Engine Manufacturers Conference. The last of the big events I was responsible for which had contributed to my shingles diagnosis.

Our conference gathering engine manufacturers from the major ship building nations. Treating them to a whirlwind tour of Athens.
Not a terrible spot for a conference. The view from the breakfast room.

But all the hard work, effort and stress was worth it and following up the event with a week’s holiday in the Greek islands was pure heaven.

Surf and sun and sand have an incredible healing capacity. Enough time spent in their midst and one can forget all stresses and worries.

It didn’t start out without a bit of a hiccup but really, without a significant hurdle to overcome right off the bat, how would we have truly appreciated the full depth of the bliss we eventually did find?

We set sail from Athens, early on Saturday morning for the 6 hour journey to Santorini. Exhausted from my work days, we splurged for a private cabin and promptly went back to bed. Once awake, we settled into some window seats to take in the Agaean Sea. As we sailed, I felt my stress slip away.

Early morning departure – up at 5:00 to catch this big girl.
All aboard!
Straight to the family cabin to catch a few more zzzz’s
Once the sun was up, the view was pretty promising.
Our little travelers – tough life.
We are far from being able to afford business class on an airplane but we sure can do it on a boat!
Passing the time.

And then we arrived in Santorini. A scene a little less blissful than I had recalled. Imagine the horror of arriving at high season!

Like a scene out of a dystopian film – had the kids a little freaked out at first.
Hmmm, not an original idea. And this is low season!
Our chauffeur, waiting to take us to our “special” place.

“I found us a cave house.” Manolo had said. “Right on the beach.”

Odd, I thought. I remember Santorini all being up on the cliffs, far from the beach. Hmmm.

We drove in our hired transfer up, up onto the cliffs, then down, down, away from all civilization, towards the beach. Away from what I imagined our cave house would be like.

This is what I had imagined when Manolo said cave house…

We arrived to my nightmare. It was when one of the other tourists in the van said “is this a joke?” that I felt the shingles coming back.

Not what I had in mind…heaven help me.
Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “our humble abode.”

This time it wasn’t me chirping “isn’t this going to be an adventure!” in an attempt to convince the kids that our situation would be ok. This time it was Manolo, trying to convince me that it would be ok and ward off the impending divorce.

“How many nights do we have here?”

“3”

“Right.”

“But look, it’s right on the beach.” And indeed it was. A raging, blustery, howling beach. The kind of beach that snatched away the brand new flip flops your daughter just got. Not the serene beach in the brochure.

To its credit, our cave house was very clean and cozy inside.

Sure, the view looking out of the cave was lovely.
Cozy and clean.

We set out to find dinner. No sign of cute shops or Greek taverns around. Just feral dogs and derelict houses.

Nope, not the Santorini I was looking forward to.

We found a place to eat. Not terrible. And we were in the Greek islands after all. Maybe this could be ok.

But after dinner, back on the beach, I couldn’t get away from the blustery, howling wind. It was cold and hostile and not the holiday I needed.

Don’t we look cute and cuddly…I’m using the boys as human shields from the crazy wind.
Nothing can take away the joy for this kid of being on a beach.
There’s even a buddy to love. What’s not to love about this beach?
Maybe this? The beach view you don’t see in the pamphlet.

Leaving my family to frolic on the beach, leaving them to donate the new flip flop to Poseidon, I went back to our cave.

And I cried.

And I thought “nope, I didn’t go through shingles for this. I’ve worked too hard for this.”

By the time Manolo returned with the kids, I had found a sweet little pension in Fira. We’d go first thing in the morning.

Sleeping fitfully in our cave that night, with the ocean raging at our front door and countless planes roared overhead (did I mention the cave was a few blocks from the airport?) we all knew that I had made the right decision.

And from that point on, every moment of bliss was magnified 10 fold. It was heaven.

Our place was just around the corner from this little spot. And I swear this is the exact place I stayed in when I was here 19 years ago!
This view…
A happy girl…
Every morning, yogurt & honey. Oh how I will miss this.
Cats to be cuddled everywhere. (Pass the hand sanitizer.)
There’s considerably more development than when I was here ages ago.
The poor donkeys work so hard. Thank goodness there’s now a 220lb weight limit. We walked every step ourselves.
Happy to have a rest.

Three days on Santorini have us time to enjoy it all. The absurd luxury resorts on the cliffs and the beaches where lounge chairs are already reserved for next season.

The twilight view.
Next day a boat trip to explore the red, white & black sand beaches.
This is the view from relaxation. These beach loungers are already reserved for next year.
Amazing restaurant accessible only by boat.
Beach girls.
Incredible rock formations on the way to each beach.
Our happy snorkelers.

I do love it when the day comes with a soundtrack. Here’s the scene at the red sand beach.

Dinner in Oia after an amazing day.
Cheers, to a great holiday.
Everything still in bloom, everywhere.

And I did truly & completely unwind. It was heaven.

We even treated ourselves to a little pampering…
Fish pedicures, just like the free ones we discovered in the river in Drumheller this past summer with our buddies. Oh it feels so weird!
Nibbling away all that rough skin.

Tuesday evening we set sail again for Crete. The island I loved the most from my field study here 19 years ago.

The Venetian fort in Heraklion.
The colour of the water is incredible.
Such a pretty early morning view.
Inside the fort – learning about Greek history.
My boy.
Pretty church near the centre of Heraklion.

We rented a car and drove from Heraklion to Chania (pronounced Hanya) and I remembered why it left such an impression on me so many years ago. It may very well be my favourite escape in the world. Put it on your list if you haven’t been.

This is where my cave expectations were realized.

At our lunch stop in the beach enroute to Chania, we searched up some last minute hotel deals to see what we could land for the night. We found a great one, 5-star, amazing reviews, and we booked it. (Incredible the difference between the search results on my phone and on Manolo’s. A difference of over 200€ for a multiple night stay.) So with a few different searches, we got the spot we found down to a really great rate.

And then we arrived. It was gorgeous. So wonderful.

But they did not have our reservation. But we had the confirmation email right on our phone. But their system showed our reservation for November 17th, not October 14th.

Uh oh! My shingles!

They said, this happened already once this week. We think this is a glitch with the Expedia booking system. Let’s see what we can do for you.

Thank goodness it was low season. They had one room left that would fit us. But it was the master suite…could we afford it? They looked at our original booking and gave us a room rate even less than what we found online! It felt like we won the lottery. 2 night of bliss to wrap up our holiday.

They’re going to let us stay!
Now THIS is my idea of a cave house. The jacuzzi and private dressing room are behind the bed.
The view from our roof-top terrace.

The remaining time floated by on a pillow of happiness. Perfect weather, breathtaking views and amazing food.

The pretty, pretty town of Chania.

Restaurants with their own herb gardens.

More cats, everywhere.
Sea turtles in the harbour too. Spotting this guy, along with the octopus the kids saw while snorkeling in Athens, were the big hits of the trip.
The harbour view.
The Venetian Harbour
All dressed up for a dinner out.
The sunset view.
Enjoying Chania.
Garcias in Chania.

It was heaven. So hard to leave. But as the weather turned, we pack our bags and set our sights on home.

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