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Now that we are babysitting the grand kids since our daughter has gone back to college, we find ourselves back on the academic schedule. No more spontaneous travel--we have to travel during school holidays. We flew Christmas Day to Heraklion, Crete for a two-week vacation. We used two one-way United award tickets to get there and back. Crete receives hordes of European vacationers staying at all-inclusive resorts during the summer. We hoped to avoid tourists by traveling in the dead of winter, and for the most part we did. We only encountered tourists at Knossos near Heraklion, and even there it was not crowded. We did, however, encounter the coldest winter that southern Europe has experienced in many years.
Here are the perils we experienced on our Crete trip:
- We were really cold most days. We had been warned that some hotels don't have heat, but all ours did. The problem is that it takes a room hours to heat up if it has been unoccupied for weeks.
- It hardly rains in Crete in the summer, but we were there in the rainy season, and many days there was driving rain all day. We wore warm clothes and rain gear, but when it is 40° with rain and 30 mph winds, you are going to get really wet. This kept us in our car more than we would have liked.
- We had to take detours because record snow blocked mountain roads. We saw several roads where people had just left their cars that were unable to go on due to snow.
- There were three bookings that we made through booking.com where there was no one to let us in our room. We had gotten confirmation through the website, but when we arrived, we found no one at the property.
- Many tavernas were closed. However, we always did find somewhere to eat, as there is usually at least one place in town open that the locals go to.
- We were able to get award tickets easily. We got our tickets just a couple of months before travel. Christmas Day is a good day to travel just about anywhere, in general.
- We were the only tourists, Greek or otherwise in most places we visited.
- Costs for hotels and the car were about 40% less than they would be during the summer. In most place we stayed we were the only guests.
- We enjoyed sitting by the wood stoves that were burning in the tavernas that remained open. The taverna is the main gathering place for many small towns, and it is wonderful to drink wine and raki there with the locals.