Today after a nice breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the beach Chris collected our car for the next week. He’d shopped around before we left and had a good deal with fully comprehensive insurance and two car seats. Like the car seats in every foreign hire car they were basic compared to the British ones but were good enough. While he handled the paperwork I got the kids an ice cream each to keep them happy. Once Chris had carefully tested the car and filled it with petrol (and I’d filled the kids with icecreams) we all piled in for a drive.
Sadly rental companies don’t tell tourists the customs for driving in Crete so here they are as far as I can tell
1. If there’s a hard shoulder or space on your right then pull in to let faster cars overtake / allow room for the lorry over taking a coach on the opposite side.
2. If here is any doubt who has priority at a junction then it’s a free for all – you can play safe and give priority to everyone else or force your way through depending on your own driving style.
3. Hard shoulders disappear suddenly at bridges so don’t over take on approach to a bridge.
4. Stay close to the right when going round sharp bends – you never know what’s coming round in the middle of the road!
5. Even a good map (like the AA one) won’t list every village or show every junction. If you are lucky enough to see a road sign follow it and keep heading straight ahead until you find another sign, be prepared for the spelling on the maps and road signs to differ as well!
We passed Hersonissos (a bit like a small Benidorm) and decided to go past Heraklion on the new national road. The kids were quickly asleep and we decided to head back after a while, and wondered whether it was worth looking into the capital city. Coming off the national road into the chaos that is Heraklion was a brave and scary move. Scooters everywhere, no clear priority at junctions and a serious lack of road signs led to a half hour baptism of fire for Chris as driver andme as navigator before we got back to the new national road.
We got back in time for lunch which we ate at the pool side bar, Pergola, this was more snacky than the main restaurants but still had a good salad bar and feta for me. Ciaran hadn’t woken up happy and screamed the pool side bar down to the disgust of some German ladies who had either forgotten what toddlers are like or had brought up the only children never to work themselves into a state. Eventually Ciaran calmed down enough to manage a few chips, meatballs and chicken nuggets. After lunch the kids played angry birds in the bedroom with me while Chris swam and sunbathed.
We went into the main swimming pools when it was slightly cooler. I sat in the shallow kids pool with Ciaran while Ben had an orange juice with his Dad at the swim-up bar. After all showering and having dinner at the seaside each facing restaurant it was bed for the little ones and booze O’ clock for the adults.
Was I mad? After a hectic half week I was frantically packing for a holiday. We had paid a fortune for the privelege of spending a couple of hours (hopefully not longer) in Luton airport, over four hours on a plane and then however long baggage reclaim and the car hire desk took before navigating at night while my husband got used to a hire car. Forget drugging the kids I needed drugs!!
We got to the airport after dosing the boys with piriton, the queues for check in and security were relatively short and we got through to departures with an hour to spare, an hour to feed the kids a sausage bagel, coax a wee out of Ben and do last minute shopping before we were due to board. Sadly we were delayed by an hour. Luton airport doesn’t tell you if you are delayed and how much you are delayed by, they leave it to your imagination, which was working overtime.
After an hour of watching planes we were finally on our one and ready to go. Ciaran had a seat next to me, but after a scary screaming fit (more terrifying for people near us) opted to cuddle me with a lap belt on (second dose of piriton worked a treat) and settled down for his nap contentedly as we taxi’d.
The flight went much better than expected, the boys were happy to snack and read books until we landed (according to Ben it’s like a bouncy castle but better).
Luggage successfully reclaimed and car hire paper work done we found the lady from JJs hire who provided car seats at a fraction of the cost and let us follow her to our villa, saving us all from my navigation skills.
Thankfully we had paid for a welcome pack, giving us the essentials. As Chris unloaded the car I sat the kids down in the kitchen with bread and jam and a drink if watered down juice for their supper, then it was bedtime for the kids. Ben chose his bed, Ciaran was undemocratically put into a cot in the master bedroom.
Chris, a bottle of red wine and I headed out to the poolside to celebrate surviving a flight with two toddlers.
With two little kiddies a fortnight in Barbados may not be practical (financially or in any other sense at all!), having discounted the obvious choice of a holiday (sun for Daddy, shade for me, alcohol for both) as not being family friendly we briefly considered a UK break. The sad truth is that for the cost of a week in an English seaside resort we could have a break abroad (probably in nicer accomodation than a caravan near the north sea too) so we decided to postpone a proper summer holiday this year and have a week set aside for a holiday at home.
The week has started off really well – despite the traditional british holiday weather.
Much to Ben’s delight he was taken to his Nanny’s house with Ciaran while Mummy and Daddy opened a bank account for Ciaran (traditional holiday activity in any family), got lost looking for Loch Fyne in Milton Keynes, gave up and drove to the dammed thing (getting lost is definately a traditional activity in our family holidays) and then had an adult only lunch. I ate off the set menu (Bradan Roch followed by Bream with pesto and fennel) while Chris went a la carte with venison salad and the haddock, chips and pea’s special. As mine came with a glass of wine thrown in I bravely tried to drink wine with lunch and failed – my liver and lifestyle can no longer take a glass of vino with lunch. It was practically a tumbler full of wine that I was given and I managed a paltry third of it! We went home to get our boys and spent the afternoon playing inside.
We took the boys to Gulliver’s Land, a local theme park for 2-13 year olds. Being under 3 foot restricted the rides Ben could go on but we found plenty of fun things, the indoor under 5’s play area, the diggers (I can see a future career for Ben as a digger operator), the carasoul and screaming with excitement at other rides kept him amused. His Daddy bravely went on the roller coaster while I filmed and chased my run away toddler, I bravely went on a freefall ride (everyone else was laughing and cheering, you looked like you were going to cry) before finding a ride pitched more at my level of courage. The Texan Boot.
You sit in a boot with your LO the ride starts and the boots spin around, but, there is a button in the boot you can press that magically (thanks to the mystery of hydraulics) lifts the boot up in the air. We had a tiny tantrum while queueing until I explained to Ben that if he wanted to go on the ride we had to wait until it was our turn (strangely this approach worked). We sat on the boot and I asked him if he was scared and got a little whispered “yes”. He loved the ride, kept wanting me to press the button and begged for more when it finished, so his Daddy queued up with him this time to go on it again.
We got home around half three all tired and and all very satisfied with our day out. As a treat I got a tesco finest meal, moussaka, ceasar salad, two pot au chocolat’s and a bottle of wine (I might even drink it one day!).
Bedtime was a bit of a mess as I rushed putting Ciaran down to try to Ben as well and ended up with two over tired agitated boys awake at half eight. Daddy stepped in.
Today we went to Peterborough, we’ve never been there before (I went there a few times to visit family as a child). Our aim was to pay in cash, sightsee, find Lakeland and eat lunch. Ben enjoyed running around the Queensgate centre and was only a little scared of the noisy workmen outside. We found HSBC, took the kids to a coffee shop for coffee and a snack. I explained to Ben that he could have biscuit or cake and he chose Biscuits, so he had a pack of Loaker while his Dad and I had coffee and Ciaran had a nice feed. Once the biscuits were gone we diffused a major cake tantrum by going outside to look at the parked bikes, before finding Lakeland. Shoppng done we went to the Cathedral. I must confess to being a history philistine, and tried futiley to distract Ben for long enough for his Dad to read the information about the two queens buried at the cathedral (Katherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots).
We stopped at the services for lunch as Daddy didn’t fancy eating in the city centre with the boys. Pizza Hit Express for the two men, milk for Ciaran and a Marks and Spencers salad for me before getting back on the A1 and home.
The children are both in bed now (Ciaran is still in a moses basket – I can’t put off the move to a cot much longer) and Ben is really loving having a whole week with his Daddy. We’re off to the zoo tommorrow (accompanied by my Mum – Ninny to the kids) and I can honestly say that this week feels as rewarding as a proper holiday with two young children with the safety net of being able to get home quickly in a tantrum crisis.