Travels in Crete 4: the anniversary

THIS IS NOT so much travels in Crete, just a picture-log of two special days in Crete. The reason I’m posting this is twofold: (a) it was a great two days for Sarah and myself; and (b) I don’t have much else to tell you about at the moment (you can see I’m running out of ideas!). I won’t bore you with too much detail as many of you won’t be interested, but the pictures are quite fun (well, for Sarah and I, anyway).

The two days covered our 4th wedding anniversary in Crete (see post ‘Travels in Crete: Mochlos’, May 30, 2014).  On the first day it all began early in the morning …….


Sunrise in Mochlos (6.30 am)


This first day was our actual anniversary (22nd July) and was spent on a deja vu trip. We started off at 9.00 am at ‘Nick’s place’ with champagne by his pool. Nick of the Laing (new Welsh gentry) needed to pick his boat up from Agios Nikolaos, so Sarah and I went along for the ride. And what a ride – it involved three boat trips (RIB, main cruiser boat, then dinghy). We took the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) from Mochlos to Agios – Sarah referred to it as a ‘white-knuckle’ ride (she started off at the front of the RIB which was a mistake!) but it was great. Then we collected the main boat (Beneteau 46) in Agios and Nick took us back to the marina harbour where he picked us up four years ago after our wedding by the lake in Agios, and then we returned to Mochlos. The marina revisited and the return to Mochlos were the deja vu bits. So here comes the picture-log:


Champagne at Nick’s at 9.00 am!


Champagne view of Nick’s pool and beyond (I’m in the wrong business ….)


Picking up the RIB in Mochlos for the ‘white-knuckle’ ride to Agios Nikolaos


The harbour at Agios Nikoloas where we were picked up by Nick 4 years ago….


At the end of the journey back in Mochlos – transporting to the dinghy from the main boat to go ashore was probably the most difficult part!

The following day we actually celebrated the anniversary (a day late as Nick was not available on the previous evening). It was a good turn out for the evening dinner at Koxilia, including, as ever, our good Greek friends from Mochlos Mare (Panayiotis, Sterei, Yiorgos & Demeter) where we stayed on our wedding night four years ago; also Willie & Liz from Istron (down the road a bit); Tina, Tristan & Deanna from the archaeological school at Pachia Ammos;  Nick, his daughter Caren, her husband Martyn, and their children Milly & Lucy from Wales.  Fortini joined us briefly, and so did a musician called Niko who played for us for a glass of raki – no idea who he was or where he came from – or where he went!P1000723

Lucy & Milly and Niko, the ‘impromptu’ musician 


Martyn’s selfie – of us all (well, nearly!)

Sarah and I (and Nick) left Koxilia around 12.30 am and headed for Bar Raki. We had a fabulous evening with great company and got home at 3.30 in the morning. We had a ‘quiet next day’ – certainly didn’t get up in time for another sunrise – but had another full moon rising the following week:


Full moon rising from Koxilia’s (9.00 pm)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

Being over 60 I was complaining to my good friend, Randolph Peabody-Gryppe that I was feeling somewhat unfit. He sent the following instructions to remedy the situation:

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.

With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. Each day you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.

After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags.

Then try 20-lb potato bags and for those of you who feel really strong, try to get to where you can lift a 40-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.


Travels in Crete 1: Mochlos

LET ME tell you about CRETE. It’s a paradise island and the Cretans are wonderful people (well, most of them ….).

Sarah and I began our adventures in Crete in 2001 in search of the archaeology of the Bronze Age of the Minoans (c.3000-1100BC – I’ll tell you about them next time). Sarah had dragged me ‘shouting and screaming’ (maybe a slight exaggeration) into archaeology when she came home one Friday evening and, over a glass of wine or two, asked me if I wanted to learn about archaeology (she had studied it at university in the 1980s and wanted to start up again). Anyway, I said I might be and she replied, “Good, because I have booked us both into a course on ‘Practical Archaeology’ at Sussex University starting on Monday”…….. the rest, they say, is history – well, ancient history, actually.


myself and Sarah always smiling in Crete!

We have been visiting Crete almost each year ever since 2001, and in 2005 I began researching early British travellers to the island, particularly Richard Pococke (18th century cleric), Robert Pashley (19th century barrister) and, my favourite, Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt (19th century Royal Naval officer – with a great name!). My plan was to try to establish what, if anything, they may have discovered of the Bronze Age during their visits. Sarah and I spent five summers following these three guys footsteps around the island using their published journals. It was awful work, you understand ….. !! Oh, and you can read my book on my results – see Dawn of Discovery in ‘My Publications’ (or just click here).

Then we really discovered paradise …. Mochlos. This is a small ‘fishing’ village on the north coast of the island about an hour and a half east of Heraklion and 5km off the main road. It’s no longer a fishing village as such, but, as yet, reasonably unspoiled by tourism. It also dates back to the Bronze Age Minoans when it (and its island just off its shores) was a thriving settlement. We struck it very lucky with our first accommodation, Mochlos Mare (click on name for link). This is a very picturesque set of apartments in a beautiful whitewashed building owned by an incredibly generous and lovely couple, Panayiotis and his wife, Sterie. They have this enormous garden which grows practically anything you can think of and they share everything in it with their visitors.


Mochlos from the little church on the hill – Mochlos Mare is bottom right

We loved the place so much that we decided to get married in Crete in 2011. We were actually married by the lake in Agios Nikolaos but went back to Mochlos on Nick’s boat to the Minoan island (top right in pic above) just off the mainland for champagne and then to Taverna Kokylia (on the mainland), for the ‘reception’.  (click on name for link) – now there’s a place to reckon with. Owned by the fabulous Yiorgo (George) it is simply the best! He did us proud on our wedding day and has done so ever since on our anniversaries ……. and all the other times we have been there!


Celebrating our wedding on Mochlos island 



Nick’s boat that brought us from our wedding at Agios Nikolaos to the Mochlos island

Then there is Dimitri’s (click on name for link), which is also a great taverna. He is a lovely chap and his food is excellent. I recall one wonderfully musical night there last year when our good friend, Warner (visiting us from UK), played his violin, whilst a young chap from Sweden played his guitar and his girlfriend sang. It just wouldn’t happen in the UK!


at Dimitris’

In 2012 we decided to stay the whole summer holidays in Mochlos (3 months) and came to the conclusion, sadly, that Mochlos Mare was not big enough for a stay of this length of time. We needed a bigger kitchen at least as we planned to cook-in on occasions (had to for this period of time!!). However, we found an absolutely fantastic apartment, Alexandros (click on name for link – you should be getting the idea now), just up the road from Mochlos Mare. It is owned by two lovely Australians, Peter and Rosa – Peter has Cretan connections hence his desire to buy a property on the island. Fortunately for us he and Rosa chose Mochlos!




 looking east from balcony of Alexandros

2013 also saw us in Mochlos (and Alexandros) for another 3 months over the summer again – and Nick’s fantastic villa was finally completed (he had bought the plot some 6 years ago!). The last time I had seen Nick and Heather (other than in Mochlos) was over 20 years ago in Wales. Then, 20 years later, I heard they had bought a plot of land in Crete – in Mochlos!! Small world or what?


Nick and I relaxing at Kokylia

So that’s how I found Crete.

Sarah produced blogs on our time in Crete in 2012 and 2013 (click on dates if you are really interested or just suffer from insomnia).

Next week let me introduce you to the Bronze Age Minoans of Crete.

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I recall as a student, at my weekly tutorials at Oxford, it was a requirement to produce an essay for discussion. One week, I fear I neglected to make such an effort and I decided to ‘blag it’.  On appearing before my tutor, Professor Sir Lucius Bodmin-Wallbanger, I opened my notebook and with, I have to report, some skill and imagination, pretended to read from it, turning the blank pages at appropriate intervals. Following a formidably inventive conclusion, I shut the notebook with great satisfaction, thankful that the performance had passed off smoothly, and awaited Sir Lucius’ comments.

He stared into the open fire for a couple of minutes, then turned to me with a congenial smile and said, “Read it again, Mr Smith.”