Time away in Crete

Yes, I know it’s not the Isle of Man, but reluctantly I cannot do any walks at the moment as I have an ankle injury sustained while I was… in Crete, two weeks ago.

This was a walking holiday but I was not sure how much walking I could actually do, so on the spur of the moment I put a sketch pad in my suitcase along with my walking boots and off I trotted to Crete. I have been before, but not stayed on the western side. I had hoped to do the Samaria Gorge this time, at least that was my intention.

We stayed in a beautiful 4 star hotel miles from anywhere in a village called Spilia, a little distance from Chania. If I wanted to do any walks by myself this would necessitate a 32 mins walk each way to the nearest village to use public transport. But I am not complaining. The hotel was so relaxing, with two lovely swimming pools; the food was excellent and each room was completely individual and all scattered around the complex. It had originally been an olive pressing factory.

I did some walks with the group, alternating days, sometimes doing my own thing and yes, I did do some sketching, sometimes just 30 mins sketches and at other times adding in watercolour, but nothing taking more than 2hrs from start to finish. This was an absolute joy and has opened my eyes to painting ‘plein air’. I never want to have to paint anything from a photo again. Just give me an image and let me and my imagination paint the picture.

My highlights of the week are probably rather different from the rest of the walking group. The intrepid walkers did do the Samaria Gorge, but I and others opted for the Imbros Gorge, this being the shorter option and with the opportunity of a boat ride to otherwise inaccessible villages along the coast. I completed the Imbros Gorge in under two hours, then did a quick sketch of a village by the sea and then Loutro after the boat ride. The weather of course, was just wonderful, hot and sunny, but not too hot. Other than that, my favourite times were spent on my own, walking up the hill to the magnificent St John’s Cave at Spilia, seeking out other lesser known tiny chapels built into the rocks, and paying for a tour to Elafonisi beach on a day when nobody in their right mind would think of spending time on the beach as it was really windy, open and exposed! It looks idyllic on the photos but they are deceptive. It was extremely windy! But I loved it, and despite sand blowing all over my paints and painting, my water getting blown over time and time again, and the wind and sun drying out the paint as soon as it landed on the paper, I have a sketch painting that I positively like. It has life and vibrancy, not surprisingly rather more than was actually present on the day. The odd thing about Elafonisi is that the coastal footpath is certainly not flat and even. You have to walk through a boulder field, often clambering over rocks taller than me, but offering views of the most beautiful coastal nature reserve. The E4 footpath goes right round the island. Now that sounds like my kind of walking, at least in my mind. I would go back there again should I revisit Crete, but take a little more care as it was on the last stretch of this that I twisted my ankle and it still swells and bruises two weeks later if I walk on it.

The cave of St John’s at Spilia was a real bonus. I didn’t expect it to be so spectacular. It was huge, with lots of nooks and crannies, so I was able to sit there with the dog I acquired on the way up and just do an outline of the pillar cave. On returning to the hotel, I spent a couple of hours painting it from memory. It is so nice to have 5 sketches /paintings all in one sketchpad and I shall take this with me every time I go away to add others to my collection. Florence will be my next trip in the autumn – just two or three days, but time for my more experiences and sketching. I think a sketchbook will be more memorable than any photo I could take and when I am in my dotage I shall enjoy reminiscing about my time in Crete and other places I have visited.

The HF walking party were great fun. We all got on together so well, and there was a lot of laughter, eating and drinking, and until I did my ankle, we played table tennis too. Thank you to everyone who made my holiday so enjoyable. I shall try and put behind me the absolutely dreadful treatment we got from Easyjet when our flight to the IOM was cancelled having been half way round England before taking us back to Gatwick and totally abandoning all the passengers in the evening and not even providing any food or accommodation! To make matters worse, there were no flights for 3 days. As you would expect, I found an alternative and was back on our island the next day.

So I finish with a slideshow of photos to whet your appetite. Oh, and if you wish to try out the hotel it is called Spilia Village and you can find out more here: https://spiliavillage.gr/

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