Greece, Day One.
This post was first published on kirstyisabellaparkin.blogspot.co.uk in April 2016
The alarm went off at 4am. We’d only gone to bed five hours earlier, though I’m not sure I slept at all given the day I’d had. Getting out of bed was hard, and I mean really, really hard. The previous day had been simultaneously horrendous, joyous and a little bit life-changing, so I’d been celebrating/drowning rather enthusiastically down the pub the previous night. By the time Toni picked me up around 10pm, my words were slurring (he wasn’t particularly happy about that, but forgave me given the circumstances). I don’t think I’d had enough time to develop a hangover, but I was guttingly sober as I stepped out into 4 degrees Celsius, a typical morning in April. Luckily Toni was doing all the driving (not that I’ve passed my test, still), so I curled up on the front seat in an oversized jumper and struggled desperately to keep my eyes open. We drove from Sheffield to Manchester over the snake pass, and at that time in the morning it was so dark and foggy it was like driving through the clouds, unable to see any further than a few metres ahead of us. The road twists and turns all the way up into the mountains, a great drive on a hot summers day but rather terrifying on a gloomy winter’s morning. If I hadn’t been so tired, I probably would have been scared. Instead, I smoked my lungs away, clutched onto my phone, willing it to make a sound. Cold air whipped into the car through the crack in the window. On the other side of the mountains, as we could see Manchester in the distance, we left the motorway, found a McDonald’s and drove through. We bought breakfast and coffee and hid away in the car park, heating on full; this was our usual McDonald’s routine, though usually it would be burgers at midnight or 1am, not breakfast at five. We had a spot of bother finding our way into the long-stay car park, but once we were sorted I whipped out my iPad and got the camera rolling. The sun was up, and our holiday had officially begun. We checked in our bags and sat in a window seat of the airport, clutching onto Costa frappes.
The flight from Manchester to Heraklion, Crete was largely uneventful. Toni fell asleep quickly, but still kind of haunted by the previous day I was wide awake, and settled myself with a very miniature gin and tonic that cost me a fortune but was worth every penny. Toni had told me that I’d fit right in, in Kalamaki; all they ever did was eat, smoke, and drink away their problems. While he rested, I gazed absently out of the plane window and watched the minutes tick by. I was in no rush. For the first time since I could remember, I had no commitments for the entire week. No work, no home-work, no uni assignments, no doctors appointments or driving lessons, no plans with friends, we hadn’t even planned our week in Greece. He’d seen me break down. He said, “Come with me to Crete, it’ll be good for you,” and I said: “okay”. Two weeks later, here I was.
Almost four hours later we stepped from the plane into sweltering 30 degree heat. What a change that made from the gloomy British weather! Miserable weather has always made me miserable, right to the bone, and I’d just had an entire winterlong of it. The sun felt well deserved, if utterly strange. I was still very much in my miserable British clothes (when shopping for holiday attire, Toni pulled me away from the grunge range in H&M: “we’re going to Greece, Kirsty, not a fucking funeral”), wearing dark skinny jeans and calf-high Dr. Martens. I wasn’t quite convinced by the whole shorts, flip flops and flower crown thing, but I got into the swing of it eventually. It took us a while to find Toni’s dad as we had no way of contacting him with our now useless British phones, and by the time we got into the car I was ready to drop. Two hours and one ‘smiles, drinks and try-not-to-pass-out’ visit to a family member later, we finally made it to Kalamaki on the south coast of the island.
After one of the most long-awaited showers of my life I slathered myself in sun cream expecting to need it, but so close to the equator the sun had almost set by the time we made it down onto the beach. We met Toni’s dad and some friends and family for dinner in a fish restaurant just a couple of doors down from our hotel. I’d grossly underestimated just how close it was and started to roll a cigarette for the walk, but I was still rolling as we walked in and ended up fumbling around with a crumpled paper and filter in one hand and half a pinch of tobacco in the other, the packet held awkwardly under my arm as we walked into this lovely looking restaurant, the kind of place you wouldn’t even dream of admitting you smoked within five miles of in England. Panicked, I managed to finish rolling and quickly tucked it behind my ear, but the moment I sat down a waiter gently placed an ashtray beside me. All of a sudden everybody was smoking around the dinner table, but with it being so warm the windows and doors were wide open, and there was no stuffiness or lingering smell like you used to get in old English pubs.Dinner was a whole host of new experiences (and a great deal of foods I’m sort of glad I got the chance to experience before, little did I know at the time, I became a vegan, Kirsty, 2017). Saganaki, a fried cheese that Toni had been on about for weeks and weeks (which was great), octopus, swordfish and Cretan sardines. To drink, we mixed white wine with Coke (which at the time I found endlessly strange, but again editing this post I have heard since that Coke is the continental alternative to lemonade in alcoholic drinks). I developed a taste for it as the night went on (or maybe just as I got drunker – when you’re that tired, alcohol hits you fast). Towards the end of the meal, the Raki came out. Originally Turkish, I believe it is made from Grape pomace after it’s been used to make wine. You drink it as a shot – it goes down pretty well, if I’m honest. Many, many rounds were poured before the night was through and Toni and I stumbled back to our hotel, falling asleep in seconds.