After opting to take our Hawaiian vacation on Crete, and catching a few hours of sleep at the Navy Gateway Inn and Suites (NGIS) at Souda Bay, we struck off, exhausted and jet-lagged, but happy to be in the warm sunshine, for Iraklion. The travel and leisure office had found us reservations at a hotel, so at least we didn’t have to face trying to find a place to sleep when we got there.
Several leisurely days spent ambling along the old Roman Port (in our shirtsleeves!), devouring calamari at seaside tavernas (coat-less!), and attending the Greek Independence Day celebrations in the city (sun! sun! sun!), we were refreshed and ready to continue our tour of Crete.
The car provided us with maximum flexibility. We were able to leave the main road and poke around the many nooks and crannies along the Cretan coast. Having our own wheels also allowed for maximum flexibility – we went where we wanted, when we wanted. Except for the immediate vicinity of bigger towns (there are only two major cities on the island), we experienced very little traffic.
We visited the painted ruins of Knossos- not historically accurate, but impressive to view. They were “excavated” during a time when archeology was a more fanciful profession, and imaginative reconstruction drew romantic visitors from around the Continent.
The rest of our time was spent on a rambling tour of seaside towns, ancient ruins, and picturesque tavernas. The weather was fine, the food was fabulous, the retsina was tart, the views were stunning, the people were friendly, the pace was relaxing – everything we had dreamed of when planning our trip to Hawaii. It was all happening on Crete!
Just about two weeks later, we made our way through the mountains back to Souda Bay for the Patriot Express (PE) flight back to Norfolk, via Naples, Rota, and Lajes.
There was hardly anyone at the Souda terminal, and the PAX Rep informed us when we marked ourselves present that everyone would have seats – happy news! The jet pulled up and we all piled on for the long flight home.
At Naples, we had enough time for me to hoof it to the NEX to get my Italian phone chip recharged and grab a real Italian espresso at the coffee shack. The Rota stop provided everyone time to hit the little food court attached to the terminal – because, heaven knows, we needed more food! Then we were off again to Lajes…
…Where the broken plane curse struck again! We boarded the plane, and then sat, and sat, and sat, until they announced we were returning to the terminal. The airplane equivalent of ABS had failed. A new part was being flown in, and we were all remaining at Lajes overnight. Buses were summoned to take us all to lodging.
The next day involved more waiting in the terminal and on the plane while the maintenance crew tinkering with the part. The warning light continuing to flash (the pilot kept us informed). Finally, the crew decided it was a failure of the warning light and not the brakes, and we would just go. Everyone was a bit nervous, because we had been told the day before that normally this issue would not be a problem, but the runway at Norfolk was very short, and we really needed to be able to stop in time. O-kaayyy.
The flight was uneventful, but the landing at Norfolk had us all on the edges of our seats – or as close to the edges as we could be considering we were all strapped into our seatbelts extra tight – just in case.
Everything worked as hoped, and it was a relieved plane full of passengers that spent the next hour and a half(!) standing in line waiting to be processed by immigration. Fortunately, our passports had received exit stamps at Lajes, and we were good to come home.
We spent a couple of extra weeks visiting family in the east, and when the 72 hour forecast looked promising, we made a beeline for Dover and caught a flight back to McChord.
Our “Hawaiian” vacation on Crete came to a close just as spring was beginning to unfold in the great PNW, lightening up the skies and drying out the soggy soil. Perfect timing, and another happy space a adventure for the travel journal!