May 02, 2011
Jul 15, 2011
With plans underfoot to visit our last 2 islands, Santorini and Crete, we decided not to let a foot problem deter us. We put our best foot forward, and took steps to deal with it. We ultimately did everything we had planned to do, albeit at a slower pace. This included special preparations for our use of the ferries we needed to get from island to island. Ferry staff were very helpful. In one case, Bonnie had 4 guys carrying her in a wheelchair up steps, and in another, they were so careful helping her use the stair chairlifts. I, in turn, became the pack mule, schlepping the load we ordinarly would have shared- 2 suitcases, knapsacks, drink bottle, and food bag (we always travel with food, just in case). That aside, we were extremely lucky, being dropped off and picked up at the ferry terminal by our super innkeeper. On each island, once ensconced in our room, we'd figure out how we would get around.
Santorini As Bonnie described in her last blog entry, the first 3 days in Santorini were prison-like, as she just wasn’t able to stray from our beautiful villa. Not a wheelchair to be rented on the entire island. But our last 2 days there more than compensated. We rented a cute little Hyundai, and bopped all over Santorini, and regardless of what you’ve read or heard, it is way more wondrous than can be imagined. The topology of the island is so dramatic, having wickedly-steep cliffs, continual views of the sea and the volcano which formed the island, rolling hills, exciting mountain roads, lush valleys, with proudly-preserved historic villages, popular seaside resort areas, and churches as common as Starbucks back home. Many are topped with bright blue domes, which gleam in the daylight, and are lit at night to continue the effect. Besides all of this, the island just oozes charm. One night, we drove to a small resort town to attend a folk-dancing festival by groups from across Greece dressed in their colourful intricately-designed traditional costumes. We were among the few tourists there and we watched the dancing well past midnight, drinking in the atmosphere, not to mention the fine local wine while sitting under the stars. That night proved to be the antidote for whatever concerns we had about the rest of our trip. With our mobility back and adding a few of the glorious sunsets, we were back in our groove. Our spirits lifted, we were, nonetheless, so sad to leave this paradise, and vowed to return someday to spend more time there.
We lucked into a great hotel in Heraklion, the largest city in Crete, which in turn, is the largest of the Greek islands. After getting accustomed to the slower pace of the other islands we had visited, the hustle and bustle of the big city was a surprise to us. What most drew our attention to the hotel was its name—Prince of Lillies Hotel. The name stems from a painting found at Knossos, an ancient but well-preserved archaeological site nearby. Being that our name also means lilies, it seemed only right that we stay there. Besides the name, it was in a beautiful garden setting just outside the city, and the welcome upon check-in was so warm, we knew we had made a wise choice. We used the hotel as our base for exploring the area, and in another cute rental car, we drove to a very popular city called Agios Nikolaos, about an hour away. We passed through a lush mountainous wine region, scenic coastal towns, and beach resorts. With a slew of sailboats and yachts moored in its harbours, the multitude of seaside cafes and upscale shops of AgNi made us feel like we were on the French Riviera. The next day, we shopped til I dropped, with Bonnie in wheelchair, and me providing the grunt power. We were having a fun time, feeling liberated, exploring all there was to see. We enjoyed great Greek dinners in small romantic outdoor tavernas, and ended each touring day this way. What great memories we will have of our month in Greece.RotterdamRotterdam was our last European city, from which we would be sailing back to the US. We had flown from Heraklion, and the trip was surreal. Bonnie, unable to climb the stairs into the plane, was strapped to a wing for the flight. OK, so maybe that’s not true. What they did do was almost as good. They took us in the special lift van used to supply the meals to the galley (kitchen) of the plane. So, we entered the plane with the souflaki and baklava.We had 3 days in Rotterdam, which, going in, seemed like a long time for a place largely by-passed by tourists and tour groups. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Rotterdam is a progressive people-oriented city full of interesting things to see and do. It also happens to be a major world port, second only to Shanghai. With almost total destruction in WW2, the rebuilt city is full of ultramodern architecture, museums, theatres, good public transit, and shops galore. We had access to a wheelchair and walked the streets and neighbourhoods of this manageably-sized city. We were impressed by so many things. One thing in particular was the attention to accessibility. It’s only when you’re pushing a wheelchair do you appreciate ramps at every corner, pedestrian-only streets, elevators in the Metro, and so on. We went to a Saturday street market, attended an orchestral performance in a massive cathedral dating back 600 years, and visited their ultra-modern Institute of Architecture, but our absolutely favourite place in the city was its hospital. Why? We decided to check out Bonnie’s foot there. Lo and behold, their x-rays and diagnosis were radically different from Greece. Bonnie’s major fracture proved to be a pulled tendon, painful yes, but structurally sound. This meant that she wouldn’t have to wear a boot any longer and wouldn’t need her crutches for much longer either. As we wrote in our last blog, this was the best news, as our sailing home would be much easier, and Bonnie wouldn’t have a summer of being incapacitated. And now, we could add our Dutch healthcare experience to our hospital world tour! With this blog entry, we board the Holland America ship heading for NYC, its first transatlantic sailing from Rotterdam in 40 years. The city has therefore planned to make it a festive occasion, and there is a full slate of activities/performances for the residents and cruisers to enjoy at dockside, and fireworks as we depart. We will not have access to the Internet for 9 days, but the next entry should cover the cruise, and beyond. All our best, and see/talk to you soon.Cheers,David and Bonnie