All posts by kritsayvonne

Living a dual life between the UK and Kritsa, a village in Crete that provided the inspiration for my historical novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. Happy to share knowledge and experience about living in East Crete, I'll answer your questions and/or guest blog.

Eastern Crete – A Notebook

517D17qjCKL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ One of my favourite travel writers, Richard Clark has a new book out focusing on my favourite region of Crete. Well, I live there so I cheerfully admit my bias. Richard has a knack of taking you on a journey through his eyes that either makes you nod in appreciation with a ‘Yep, that’s what I thought/saw about that place’ or ‘Mmm, I must visit there.’

Many guidebooks about Crete are unfortunately out of date and only skim the places they mention. Richard brings a fresh approach, and gives more detail while encouraging your own exploration. I’m proud to say I was able to make a small contribution to the book and thoroughly recommend it.

To learn more about the book Click Here.

The photo on the book cover was taken in Elounda and I’m looking forward to standing right there to soak in the view. Congratulations, Richard for capturing ‘my’ end of Crete so well.

When I visited the Amazon site to copy Richard’s book cover photo I noticed the price of my novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa has a limited price reduction on the Kindle version so it is an excellent time to buy if you want to add to your summer reading – Click Here.

Happy summer reading. X





Kritsotopoula Memorial Day

The second Sunday in May is one of my favourite events, held near Kritsa, Crete. Villagers hold this annual memorial to celebrate how Rodanthe, now known as Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa and her fellow rebels fought against a combined Turk and Arab force back in 1823.

DSCN4250.jpgWhen we first came to Kritsa the only memorial to this significant battle was the date, 1823, daubed on a piece of pipe at the roadside. It is still there, but now a magnificent sculpture by British Kritsa resident, Nigel Ratcliffe provides the centrepiece for the memorial service.


DSCN4182Local children, and other key participants in the event, were transported the 3k from Kritsa to the battle site near Lato in the popular Little Blue Train.  Once there, smiling teachers had a task, similar to herding cats, as they organised the youngest ones for flag carrying duty.   They looked so proud as they led the procession and then stood patiently beside the memorial during the service and wreath laying.

DSCN4180I’d not even switched my camera on when I saw this tot. At least I caught enough of a photo to show how tiny she was. To me it was as if she’d stepped out of the pages of my novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. She looked just how I describe young Rodanthe the Christmas she received her first and only complete set of new clothes.

Ceremony over, participants and audience enjoyed a lunch of local foods, while Kritsotopoula enjoyed her solitude once more.


If you’d like to read my novel, based on the true story of this remarkable Kritsa woman Click Here.

Hamorprina to Krassi Hike

Although we left Kritsa in sunshine, there was a cool wind and we thought it would be a good day to do a hike that has languished on our ‘must do’ list for a long time. If you take the road from Malia towards the Lassithi Plateau and drive uphill for 4.5k you will reach this layby/picnic area. DSCN3482.jpgThere is a clear sign showing you are in Hamorprina, and there is room to leave two or three cars off the road. From here we could see it was still sunny down at the coast, but clouds were gathering over the mountains. With hindsight, it would have been best to put the hike of until another day as the breeze was chill and the overcast views disappointing.

DSCN3485.jpgThe clearly marked path was a doddle. The difficulty came from the steepness of the first two kilometres. When we stopped for a coffee, I checked my Wikiloc route tracker and my husband said it wasn’t working as it had barely recorded 2k. In fact, it was working well and our total walk in the day was 10.6k. To view the map and details on Wikiloc Click Here.


As we neared the bottom of a peak loose dogs made me nervous. I had no need to worry, the owner of the smallholding watched us approach and kept the dogs under control.

After this, we enjoyed a stroll to the village of Krassi, famous for huge platanos trees, Venetian water cisterns, and an atmospheric scene in Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa when Christian rebels enjoyed a night of revelry.


The high spot of the day was in Krassi – yummy coffee with cinnamon cheese pies, drenched in honey. Well, we needed the energy burst!

The thought of walking back over the mountain, and down very steep scree, was not attractive. We decided to walk along and down the main road – not something I’d recommend in the tourist season when roads are busy.

This hike is back on the ‘must do’ list. Next time we will team up with friends to leave one car in Krassi, and then we can all go down to the start at Hamorprina. As long as we choose a bright, cool, and windless day we’ll have fun exploring further up the mountains and skip the road walk down.

Agios Nikolaos Myths Debunked

Stand by for shock revelations…. the gem of Agios Nikolaos, Lake Voulismeni is NOT bottomless, and it has no link to the volcano in Santorini. DSCN3417.jpg

How do I know this?

I joined a dozen other members of INCO, (the local International Community association) for a walking tour of Agios Nikolaos, led by one of our fellow members, Tony Cross a keen geologist. Throughout our 5k walk Tony kept interest levels high pointing out the geological evidence to explain how the town is built on limestone, the exposed remains of underwater landslides, shaped by fault lines and water erosion.


Our group met in a cafe by the marina and hadn’t walked far before Tony pointed out the first evidence of underwater landslides.

Lucy the dog enjoyed her walk but showed no interest in the rock formations.


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So, in summary, and I hope I listened carefully, the nearly 50m deep lake is not a volcanic crater as many suppose. It was once an underground cave, formed when water from a spring created mist to dissolve the rock above. When the cave roof collapsed it left a sinkhole. The tall cliff  at the rear of the lake is the scarp slope of a fault line. Although once a freshwater lake, it became stagnant when an earthquake cut off the water supply and blocked the outlet.  During the 1860s French forces stationed in the town dug the canal making it a saltwater lake.

INCO logoIf you spend time in and around the Agios Nikolaos area and would like to know more about INCO, the local International Community organisation you can use the contact form below to request details.

I thoroughly enjoyed the morning looking at Agios Nikolaos through different eyes, thank you Tony.

A Climb Up Roza Gorge – Crete

DSCN3244.jpgGreek Orthodox, Easter Monday in Crete was a perfect hiking day. With Kritsa friends Hilary and Phil and my husband, Alan we set of in two cars for the Roza Gorge. This gorge is 50km southeast of Heraklion, in a wooded area of ​​North Dikti Range, next to the road leading to the Plateau of Lassithi. This walk is 3.5 km with a climb of 300 m.

After leaving our car at the top of the gorge, above Kera village we piled into Phil’s car to drive down to this start point, easily accessible from the village of Gonies – as we found out after driving down the scary way!

DSCN3279These stone slabs made an excellent place to stop for a drink. Over the years many people must have enjoyed a rest in this spot and I’ve an inkling a character in my third novel might just pass by this spot. What third novel? Well, I don’t know yet…

Anyway, no time for idle thoughts, onwards and upwards.

DSCN3281After a winter of low rainfall it wasn’t a surprise to find this waterfall dry. It certainly made this part of our climb easy. Good job as the toughest part came next. Although it was very steep, the route was clear, with a few patches of loose scree to scramble over.

We were intrigued by the odd snails, next to a pointing finger in a photo above. I’m fortunate to have a friend who is a keen amateur naturalist and he says thay are called Door Snails as they seal themselves up with a little door inside their shells when conditions get too dry.  Steve writes an excellent blog about Cretan Nature CLICK HERE and I’ll whisk you over to his 2016 post mentioning Door Snails.

Back in the Rosa Gorge – Near the top we needed to walk along a narrow ledge where metal posts and a wire fence provided some reassurance as we watched Griffon vultures, a buzzard, and crows.

What a delight to find this lovely look out point near the end. It certainly made a fabulous picnic spot. It is reasonably accessible from the road near the village of Kera so we can revisit to share the view with people who are unable to climb the gorge.


I’d always thought the name Roza Gorge was due to the pinkish colour of the rock faces. However, one of my favourite Crete based websites, Cretan Beaches explains how the gorge once served as a place for disposing of sterile animals. In light of this, local people referred to the place as “Stira Za” meaning sterile animals, and this was later paraphrased to “Sti Roza”. Anyway, however it got its name the Roza Gorge is a fabulous place, and I thank you for joining me. X

Still Life in Crete

20140703_134951.jpgDriving off the beaten track in Crete often brings lovely surprises, and in this post I’ll look back to the time we found the remarkable village, Avdou. Why did we stop there? No idea. I can’t remember if we were driving through the pretty Lagada Valley on our way to or from Lassithi. It is a lovely road with access to for off-roading, horse-riding, hiking, walking and bird-watching.

However, for something completely different, I recommend a visit to Avdou if you’re in the area. Don’t go midday day in July if you’re hungry though, we only found a small supermarket open, and that was the delight.

We hadn’t wandered far before we saw painted ‘shop’ signs. Some, outside a kafenion or shop made sense, others were fixed above empty properties. Once we realised these the signs told the commercial history of the village, the quest was on…


Each sign had a pictorial description and the dates of operation. Some, like the tinner, had closed their doors many years ago, while the most recent I saw had served local folk until 2002. The slide-show below shares a good selection.


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20140703_133900.jpgBack in Kritsa I showed the photos to a couple of local people and they laughed aloud at this one. No, I didn’t realise, it was the place to get your rams castrated!

There are many empty shops in Kritsa and I’d love to see an initiative like this. Not only would it be a great contribution to local history, it would encourage visitors to wander beyond the main street of shops and imagine what a vibrant village it must have been when people worked and shopped locally.


Bright and Beautiful

As we are experiencing Siberian blasts of frigid wind and snow blizzards here in the UK, it seems a good day to review the warmest, sunniest January day on our recent trip to Crete.

DSCN2560Armed with our book, Circular Walks in East Crete we drove over the hills to the village of Kalamafka where our Three Church walk started.

Glorious sunshine had us striding up a well-defined path. After getting a glimpse of the first church the path teased us by turning away with a long, calf pulling uphill stretch.

DSCN2604How sad, well-intentioned internal repairs have ruined frescos.
An overgrown path led from this church to the next one. As the instructions said we’d need to retrace our steps, we decided not to risk falling down a gully, so this became a two church walk.

DSCN2609.jpgFrom here we looked across to the rock edifice topped with our destination church, yet another Timios Stavros, meaning Holy Cross. Alan spent ages with his binoculars trying to see the path to the top… he couldn’t so we set off again. We soon found ourselves enjoying a spell of easy walking along a gravel track. For the second time on this walk, the route took us away from our destination.


On a steady incline we enjoyed seeing more of the scenery open up and guessed we’d soon see both the north and south coasts at the same time.

So beautiful, and without a breath of wind, people or distracting noises it felt very special.

After passing an agricultural area, we followed a hard to find down hill path. I nearly trod on these Sand Crocus. Stephen Lenton, an amateur botanist has a brilliant website and if you want to see the entry for this plant, or ID a plant yourself, Click Here.

Once on flatter ground, we enjoyed a breather before our climb up. Phew, it wasn’t a vertical climb all the way as the path zigzagged to the top.

At the top we enjoyed our picnic lunch feeling on top of the world looking down on the north and south coasts with the important wetlands of the Bramiana Dam and Lake too.  Ah, that’s given me a good idea for another walk…

What about you? Where do your thoughts go on a wintry day?


Windmill Walk

Good walking weather set us searching for our well used book, Circular Walks in East Crete. My annotation let me know it’s seven years since we did the walk, passing ruins of a cheese factory and many windmills. Even though this is a short walk, just under 2.5 miles be aware of overgrown paths, and a steep ending.

For driving directions from Elounda to the start Click Here 

To view the map of our walk, Click Here

We left Elounda, drove through Plaka and up hill to pass Vrouhas and Selles. DSCN2453.jpgThe next village is Kato Loumas where we parked near the first church. As we drove through Elounda we spotted Kritsa friends Hilary and Phil, so it wasn’t too surprising to hear them toot their car horn as they passed by while we were donning our walking boots.

The walk starts in the alley next to the church.


Turn right by the ruined mill, right fork at the V junction and along a walled track. Lets’s ignore the ominous clouds building up!


Turn right along a concrete track then follow the walled path downhill, the first part is very overgrown. At the bottom of the hill is the old cheese factory and church. While under Turk rule, locals saved themselves from extreme taxes by giving their land to the church. In return, the church charged a tithe for use of the fields. Goat and sheep milk was turned to cheese here as it was easier to transport cheese rather than liquid milk. After Turk rule, land was returned to the original owners.

We were happy to find a key to the church but couldn’t get in, the lock needs WD40!


Carry on along a clear path to a very large well, an excellent rest stop for a flask of coffee. The track continues beyond the well, now heading east. The flower is mandrake and, as all Harry Potter fans will know, is a key ingredient in a potion to restore a person from a petrification spell. DSCN2507.jpgAfter the mandrake I laughed at this gurning rock, surely a candidate for a dose of the magic potion.

On the skyline the wind turbines above Plaka were spinning in the freshening breeze. The many ruined windmills along our route show the same technology is still going strong.


I loved seeing inside of this windmill,  the wooden gearing is remarkably intact. We needed the pause as afterwards it was uphill all the way. Where the tarmac road winds up we followed the walled path to cut across it, making it a shorter, but steep climb. The windmill now being used to store agricultural equipment is the first we saw…turn left and the alley emerges at Kato Loumas.DSCN2538.jpg

Hilary and Phil must have completed their trip before us and passed by again. I knew it was Hilary, no one else I know would leave a chocolate biscuit tied to our car handle, yum!

We decided to enjoy our soup lunch in the car, and we knew the right spot above Plaka…


Did the walk do you good? The weather forecast is getting better, I feel another walk coming on.

Sisi’s Fishing Cat


Whenever we are in Crete, Sisi is a must visit place. The village of Sisi, or Sissi, depending on what map you use, is a jewel on the north coast between Malia and Milatos. A tear shaped inlet forms a natural harbour, supplemented by a seawall.

Sissi Kingfisher
Sisi Kingfisher

With so many different tavernas and bars we always find it difficult to decide between lunch overlooking the pretty inlet or the sea. The ‘seaside’ tavernas have decked dining areas over the rocky coast where we enjoy spotting kingfishers busy hunting fish in rock pools. We also watch cats walk across these rocks to get to and from whichever taverna’s customers are most likely to provide scraps. However, this was the first time we’d seen a cat fishing!


4-DSC04509Until summer 2016, one of the boats bringing an influx of customers from Hersonnisos to Sisi, was the pirate ship, Black Rose. Although other boats still arrive this one has now diverted to Malia. It always made a loud entry to strains of  Pirates of the Caribbean, so I guess some people will be pleased she moved on.

Among Sisi supermarkets and gift shops it is worth mentioning Dia Xeiros right in the centre of the village. Here you’ll find a lovely range of handmade products and enjoy a warm welcome from Kalliopi and her daughter, Agapi.


Sharp eyed readers may wonder why Kalliope is holding a copy of Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa… it is because unprecedented female shipping owner, Bouboulina from Spetses, braves a raging storm to deliver arms to Sisi rebels. Here is an excerpt…

Bouboulina’s angry face matched the tempest, and her twisted, lank hair snaked out behind her like a mythical Fury as the wind tore away her screamed instructions. Although able to pull an oar as strongly as the eight exhausted men flanking each side of the open vessel, Bouboulina was wrestling with the tiller. Valiantly straining against furious breakers and peering through grey spray, she wasn’t confident that she’d actually seen the tiny harbour entrance.

With all her weight against the resistant helm, she gambled on the next surge to shoot her through the gap. Certain there was no second chance, Bouboulina just closed her eyes and trusted God. The difference was immediate. Oars smoothly pushed tons of water, the rudder responded, and she had control. Without constant drenching from beating waves, the oarsmen felt the heat of the sun and slumped forward, spent. Although she shared their fatigue, Bouboulina yelled, ‘Don’t slack. Men muster for us. I can smell their raki! Together now, pull.’

As soon as she judged it safe, Bouboulina leapt to the quayside, passed her bow rope to Spiros, then ran to catch her cacique’s stern rope. Even before the vessel was secure, the deck hatch opened and her crew formed a chain to pass out wooden crates streaming water. As the first crate hit the wharf, the Sisi men bowled kegs towards the boat where Bouboulina had orchestrated two lines; the first swung crates to shore, and the other lifted kegs on deck. Within minutes, women appeared carrying baskets of food. Gulping raki, Bouboulina said, ‘Panagia Mou, I never thought to taste this holy water again. What a storm!’

Poppi poured her another. ‘We certainly came out in a sweat of fear for you, and now this fickle wind’s dropping.’

Spiros overheard the women, and commented, ‘The August meltimi doesn’t usually blow this late in the day.’

Although Bouboulina nodded, she said, ‘Tell Kazanis to identify another harbour, I’ll not risk this one again. Those waves nearly beat our oars. Only God knows how we missed being smashed on those rocks.’

‘Well I thank the Panagia,’ said Poppi. ‘If it weren’t for her feast our boats would have put out, and I shudder to think what would have happened. Excuse me, I’ll fetch more food.’

As Poppi turned, she faced the far ridge. ‘Oh Panagia Mou, the hills are aflame!’ A raging inferno was consuming the pine forest west of Sellenari to blanket the mountain with black smoke. At first glance, Spiros thought there was a second seat of fire, then, as his stomach gave a sickening lurch, he realised the nearer smoke line was dust from charging horses.

‘Bloody hell, Turks are heading this way.’

If you’d like to find out what happens next Click Here.

Bouboulina intrigued me, and even though I’d love to see a novel based on her life, it won’t be from me as I’ve decided to focus my writing in Crete. However, she will make a cameo appearance in the sequel, Rodanthe’s Gift, due later this year.

Meanwhile, what Greek/Cretan figure would you write about, or hope someone else writes about?


Visit Lato, a Dorian Gem

Turn right for Lato

Just four Kilometres from Kritsa you can explore the wonderful Dorian archaeological site of Lato. Take the main road to Kritsa, and turn right just as the road starts to ascend. Ooops, if you pass Argyro rent rooms you’ve missed the turn and need to drive around the one way system. The road passes the football club and the entrance to Kritsa Gorge, before winding upwards.


At a Y shaped junction with the magnificent sculpture of Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa you need the right fork. Hopefully you’ll have time to visit the Kritsotopoula first. The small gate is to keep wandering goats and sheep out, not welcome visitors.

A short way after this, on the left, there is a yellow marker to denote the stepped path downhill to Laconia. The battle of Kritsa, commemorated by the Kritsotopoula carving, tried to prevent Turk forces from gaining access to this valuable path. Of course, these steps were used back in Dorian times when the descending path led to the tiny port now called Agios Nikolaos.

DSCN1485.jpgAnd speaking of Dorians…. a few metres further on, you’ll find the parking place to visit the Lato site. Open every day except Monday between 8.00 a.m and 3.00 p.m.

Some August evening’s, atmospheric musical events are held at Lato, often free of charge. I loved it the times I’ve attended, but confess to surprise at women wearing sparkly high heels. Truth to tell they probably don’t think much of my walking boots, although I think they’re better suited to the rough uneven terrain.

DSCN1495.jpgA day time visit to Lato is an unhurried affair. With no anxious guides to hurry you around, there is time to stroll, climb, and sit among houses, workshops, fortifications, market place, and the prytaneum – central hearth of sacred fire kept alight via careful tending by the king and his family. DSCN1498_optimized.jpgAs you stroll through the theatre, temples, public buildings, and cisterns you can ponder on those who lived here in some splendour. To read more via one of my favourite Crete information sites CLICK HERE.

DSCN1502_optimized.jpgIn October 2017, I was ‘hit’ by a Dorian story line prompted by a passing thought about sewage and waste removal. By the time I left I knew where two protagonists lived, what they could see, and how one of them died.  These photos are prompt enough to get me started…one day. Luckily, Lato is a short walk or drive from my Kritsa home, so I can pop back any time I need inspiration.

DSCN1509.jpgThis distant boat, Eclipse seen between hill clefts was moored off Agios Nikolaos for several weeks September/October 2017. It is the super yacht owned by Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich. The local rumour mill was in overdrive and the local paper concluded there is a large property deal in the offing. Whatever he does, whatever he spends, I bet it is not still welcoming visitors after 2,500 years like Lato does.

DSCN1545_optimized.jpgI was intrigued in this corner of a temple… is that a window or a missing stone block?

Whatever the answer, I enjoyed gazing through the square gap.


Visit Eklektos, Elounda’s Bookshop

Beryl Darby chatting to INCO members
Beryl Darby chatting to INCO members

On the way to the centre of Elounda, Crete, just by the post office is Eklektos, a gem of a bookshop. The owner, Lynne McDonald is a font of local knowledge and acts as an unofficial tourist information centre.

From personal experience, I know Lynne loves to support authors of books set locally and I’m proud to say you can find Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa on her shelves. After a busy day out (click here to read Beryl Darby meets Kazanis) Beryl Darby and I were pleased to spend the next day participating in Lynne’s first ABC event – Authors, Books & Conversation. Held in September, the bookshop gave several author’s the opportunity to meet readers over drinks and nibbles.

In addition to local advertising, INCO – the international residents association, supported the event by sending details to their members. The shop and shady veranda buzzed with chat and laughter from the outset, and I know Lynne was delighted so many people came to meet the authors.


An invitation to participate in a Flash Fiction competition brought excellent entries. The one hundred word story could be about anything as long as it included the word, Bookshop. Clever writers covered a wide gamut of topics, funny, sad, eerie, mythological, and romantic. To read the winning entry by Vanessa Westwell, on the Eklektos website, CLICK HERE. As a prize, best selling author, Patricia Wilson presented Vanessa with a copy of her novel,  Island of Secrets in audio form. Some people commented afterwards they’d have liked the opportunity to read the entries on the day. Perhaps this is something Lynne will build in if the event it repeated in 2018.

At the end of the afternoon an accordion player made an unexpected, but delightful appearance to round off the event. Here author Richard Stevens dances with his better half, Kay. Writing under the pen name Argy Stevens, Richard’s book is called Discrete Reversal and it’s on my ‘must read’ pile for Summer 2018.

As well as providing a great venue for a chat, a cuppa and local knowledge, Lynne also runs a webpage called Bookshop in Crete and a fun Facebook page, Eklektos Books. If you feel you’re missing out as Elounda is too far away for you to drop in, Lynne will send books by post – just visit her blog and select the tag labelled SHOP.

INCO logoPreviously in this post I mentioned INCO, the Foreign Residents Association for Agios Nikolaos and East Crete. This Not For Profit Organisation supports social, cultural, charitable and community activities. Some members enjoy the gardening club, camera club, gentle walking, weekly coffee and natter sessions, ad hoc days out, quizzes, and fund raising among other activities. Each member participates in as much or as little as they wish. If you are unfortunate enough to need time in hospital then the INCO network can answer questions and allay fears. Members don’t need to live full time in Crete.

JOIN INCO – for a subscription of just €10 per year you get a warm welcome with lots of contact information and emailed activity updates. There are members to take your details and subscription in many places including Elounda, Limnes, Kritsa and Agios Nikolaos. If you’d like to know more you can email or ask Lynne in Eklektos bookshop.

I’m well aware this has been a tough year for Lynne, and as well as thanking her for supporting me as an author, I like to take the opportunity of wishing her and the fabulous Eklektos Bookshop a great season in 2018.

Perhaps this is a good time to draw up my must read list in 2018 – easier to stick to than resolutions! In no particular order my list includes Monica – Beryl Darby, Discrete Reversal – Argy Stevens, Seraphina’s Song – Kathryn Gauci, Villa of Secrets – Patrica Wilson, The Ariadne Objective – Wes Davis. I’ll add another two books when John Manuel publishes his next novel and Richard Clark publishes his guide to East Crete. Oh what a surprise… my ‘to read’ list is full of books set in Crete. What about you? What’s on your must read in 2018 list?

Finally, Happy New Year!

Beryl Darby Meets Kazanis

STOP PRESS: Less than one hour before scheduled publication of this post I was shocked and saddened to learn Nikos Massaros, a generous man to the people of Kritsa, died today. My first instinct was to delete this post as it features a meeting with him. I decided to continue with it as a personal thank you to a special man. May your memory be eternal, Nikos. You will certainly be missed. X

wp-1448437265394.jpegAs Christmas is almost here, I wanted to write a special post. It is ten years since I’ve been in Kritsa for Christmas, and although I love this village nativity scene, I’ve used it before.  In the end, I steered away from traditional Christmas greetings to share the warmth of a fabulous day spent with Beryl Darby, author of Yannis, a novel set in Crete on the leper island of Spinalonga.

143725467Over the past few years, Beryl and I have enjoyed a day out in and around Kritsa. As a prolific writer of novels set in Crete, Beryl is always keen to absorb local folklore, and visit  places that might be useful in a future novel.

First stop with Beryl was a visit to the house where Rodanthe, (heroine of my novel Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa) lived in the early 1800’s. Now the house is a museum I’ve a sneaky feeling a future character of Beryl’s will pay a visit to this iconic corner of Kritsa.

If you want to visit the museum take the main road through Kritsa, it is called Kritsotopoula Street, follow this until it becomes a pedestrian alley, then continue to the end to reach the museum.



Nikos Massaros, a descendent of Rodanthe’s family, led a group of dedicated people to bring the museum to life, and this was our lucky day as he was inside to answer questions. Close to this house is the small church of Afentis Christos where Rodanthe’s father used to be the pappas (priest). The church doesn’t look much from the outside, but the new roof and plaster protect wonderful remains of frescos.

DSCN1303.jpgIn this photo, Nikos and Beryl view the information board placed outside of the church. To see the frescos you’ll need to attend one of only two church services per year on the evening of 5th October, or the morning of 6th October...perhaps I’ll see you there. To read about my first visit to the church in 2015, post renovations CLICK HERE.



Beryl is a keen admirer of our local sculptor, Nigel Ratcliffe, and on a previous visit enjoyed seeing his amazing carving of Kritstsotopoula. Nigel now has another exquisite piece of work showing Captain Kazanis and his rebels, including ‘my’ Rodanthe situated high in the mountains. If you’d like more details, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, my husband kindly drove Beryl and I up to the mountains.

After the Katharo Plateau we stopped to admire the hazy view of Lassithi below, and soon had the company of many inquisitive goats.



Parking near Nigel’s fabulous sculpture I was mesmerised by two men sat under a nearby walnut tree. I had written a similar scene in my draft novel, Rodanthe’s Gift.


Petros, my fictional son of Captain Kazanis, sat in this very spot with his special friend:

Leaving their donkey to graze, the youngsters rested against the skeletal remains of a walnut tree.
‘Did Turks burn this tree, Petros?’
‘No, it was a lightning strike.’
Did nothing last? He remembered the thick trunk, with long guns resting against it, while Pa lolled in welcome shade with his men, all guffawing as they drank raki, plotted and schemed. A lump in his throat prompted him to change the subject. ‘Today we’ll reach my home and I can’t wait to see Zacharias.’

DSCN1343.jpgBack in the present day… The men under the tree beckoned us to join them and proffered plastic cups of raki. Well, it would be rude not to!  This photo shows one of our hosts lobbing a rock at walnuts to provide a fresh snack to nibble with the raki – delicious and thought provoking. As a result my novel now has the following scene.


‘What are you doing, Petros?’
‘It’s a walnut. I’m planting it in the ground.’
‘You’re crying. Why are you sad?’
‘Kazanis Spring must have a walnut tree. It will be a memorial for Pa.’ He dabbed his wet cheeks, chuckling at a sudden memory. ‘I almost killed him once when I lobbed a rock to bring walnuts down. I missed the nuts and hit his head.’ He gave his backside a subconscious pat at the memory of a thrashing. ‘Such a long time ago. I’ll just water this before we leave.’

DSCN1349.jpgHere’s Beryl mingling with Kazanis, Rodanthe in disguise, and the rest of the rebels. Beryl’s mind was racing too as she made a mental note of a story line where a visitor’s car broke down at this remote spot.

Next we drove further along the dirt track as there was another key scene in my story I wanted to share with Beryl.

A magnificent weather sculptured head looks out across a ravine towards Zinia. Through a gap in trees you can glimpse the church where Rodanthe cut off her hair to improve her disguise as a young man. I found out about this head too late to mention it in Kritstopoula, Girl of Kritsa, but it is in the sequel. While looking around, sharp eyed Beryl noticed another ‘face’ on the back of the rock. I was more interested in watching one of the hunters we’d seen earlier descend a path to the ravine. Now I knew how Petros could get from the church at Zinia to this rock head. I love it when story lines fall in place.


Christmas is always such a rush, so I hope reading this blog post has given you a short break. Whatever you do to celebrate the season, have fun.  I shall use spare time to continue tidying up Rodanthe’s Gift ready for publication in 2018. If you’d like me to let you know the date of publication send me your details via the contact form below.


Finally, thank you for visiting my blog, it means so much.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 2018.

Plaka to Spinalonga Swim

Snow hit my part of the UK this week, and it looked beautiful. Even though traffic ground to a halt and untreated paths were hard to walk on safely, we couldn’t resist donning boots and going for a stomp.  Back indoors with a cup of tea and a mince pie, reminiscing on my summer photos once again became irresistible.

DSCN1021.jpgThis time I looked back to Sunday, 27th August when circa 80 brave swimmers raced from Plaka to Spinalonga in two groups. Those wearing white hats set off first to swim to Spinalonga and back. When they were nearly half way across the yellow hat group set off.  In previous years the second group swam right around the island before returning to Plaka.

DSCN1017_optimized.jpgThis year, the off shore wind was so fierce water spouts chased across the channel forcing the yellow hat group to swim to Spinalonga and back twice instead of around the island.

Many boats worked together to mark the correct channel, keep other vessels away and pick up those who found themselves in trouble.

Although it was gloriously sunny, the strong wind made watching uncomfortable, goodness knows what it did to swimming conditions. As this is the second time we’ve been spectators at this event, I guess it takes place every year. If you are in East Crete at the end of August look out for posters advertising the event, it makes a great spectacle.

Meanwhile, I look forward to my next trip to Plaka to enjoy the crystal clear waters close to shore.

Up and Over Thripti Mountains

Across Kritsa olive groves to Thripti

From my balcony in Kritsa, Crete we gaze out across olive groves to the sea with the Thripti Mountains providing a wonderful backdrop. Such a wide expanse means we always have an amazing view no matter what the weather, but perhaps it’s no surprise that a blue sky is my favourite. During the early part of the day the mountains look one-dimensional. Drama begins in the afternoon when the setting sun sends angled rays to bring the mountains to sharp relief.

After enjoying many lazy August beach days we wanted a change of scene, so welcomed the drive up and over the mountains to the south coast. The road to the village of Thripti is tarmac/concrete all the way and suitable for any car driven by someone who doesn’t mind the road sometimes going close to a sheer drop or needing a tight move to pass a vehicle going in the opposite direction. However, to go beyond Thripti, a 4×4 vehicle is best.

A trip to Thripti is a great experience in its own right, and the village taverna does great mezes, small dishes of food to accompany your drinks.



To pass over the mountains, the dusty road winds between towering cliffs and then bumps down to the beautiful village of Orino at the head of a gorge that runs to the sea.


You can also access Orino from Koutsouras on the south-east coast via a winding, safe tarmac road and is certainly worth a visit if you want to see a thriving community well away from the trappings of tourism. There are two tavernas where you can enjoy a drink and mezes local style.

There is a lovely communal theatre area and on previous visits we’ve seen people busy cleaning up after festivals. Our tradition is to take a packed lunch to enjoy on the shady steps. Sometimes a delightful lady has delivered fruit and raki to finish our lunch. A surprise visitor, she appears from nowhere, and then dashes away, she must just love giving in true Cretan style.

We’ve not walked the gorge…yet. If you’d like guidance from people who have walked the gorge CLICK HERE

Meanwhile, here’s a set of photos from Orinio, full of blooms despite August heat.



Down on the south coast the sea looked so inviting, and thanks to Steve of the fabulous blog Crete Nature we knew a hidden rock pool for a lovely swim.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a ‘dip’ in my summer photos.



Delphi Delight

Our final day on mainland Greece was on the south-western slopes of Mount Parnassus, Greece, for a tour of Delphi, the centre of the earth. What? You didn’t know?


Well, here’s the proof. The God, Zeus released two eagles. one each side of the world. They met at the centre of the earth in Delphi where there just happened to be an odd metallic rock; the navel of the world. This rock denotes the place of the original that was revered and wrapped in ornate bindings. An ancient copy is in Delphi’s museum. My uneducated guess is the rock was a meteorite.

A benefit from staying overnight in the ‘new’ village of Delphi was the opportunity to make an early start before temperatures and visitor numbers soared. Unlike most people we decided to tour the site before the museum.

The paths around the archaeological site are well-defined, with information boards to explain what you’re seeing.  The stadium, second in importance to Olympia looked great with lush grass.  In fact our early May visit provided a bonus, as the site was still very green with vibrant wild flowers. Soon it would become tinder dry and we appreciated the huge investment in fire defences with sprinkler systems and hydrants among the trees and on the mountainside above the site. Fingers crossed they don’t get tested!

There is far more to say about Delphi than I can put in a single blog, hence this link to a good overview at Wikipedia .

MuseumApart from the fact there was a huge queue to enter the museum we were pleased to leave it until last, the air conditioning was a treat.

No wonder Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a ‘must see’ place if you love Greece.




We started our tour being wowed by the amazing weather carved rocks at Meteora and ended in awe of the skills of ancient architects.

The road towards Athens and our car ferry back to Crete had some farewell gifts for us. The snow topped mountains looked fabulous under a clear blue sky and our late lunch stop at Arahova, a ski resort was a delight.


I’d love to know what unexpected gems you’ve found while holidaying in Greece….