Vacationing with Three Generations from six to eighty-five
How do you go on vacation with a six and half year old, two older parents, and two much older grandparents though very young at heart. This was the question we had to face in figuring out a vacation that would satisfy everyone’s needs. The criteria we started with were the following.
My parents wanted to go on vacation with us for two weeks and were willing to go anywhere but had some limitations on how much they could walk with my dad’s bad back. We all wanted great weather where we could swim and not die of the heat. Jean and I did not want to have to cook a meal or do a dish or have to tell Zoe-Pascale story after story in long drives in the car. Zoe-Pascale wanted everyone to be together, freedom to run around and was open to going to a mini club where she could play with other kids. Jean didn’t want to schlep suitcases in and out of the car and play tour guide day after day. I wanted everyone to have time together and time alone and not get on each others’ nerves. Jean and I wanted some free time not to have to entertain Zoé-Pascale and possibly some time alone. My parents wanted time to read and play with Zoé, but also time to read and relax by themselves. My mom wanted a few excursions and the hopes to visit with some new people (she can’t help herself) and my dad wanted just to be with us and not hold anyone back from doing anything. With all this in mind we reviewed catalogues, searched the web and narrowed it down to renting a house somewhere in Italy or going to a all inclusive club. Jean and I realized very quickly that the all inclusive club was the answer to going on vacation with three generations. No dishes, no cooking, no driving, something for everyone, independence but togetherness and freedom to do as we wished.
After searching prices, locations, and safe travel we had narrowed it down to a Club Med in Italy or a similar organization called Nouvelle Frontier Paladien which leaves from airports only in France. It is a French club that primarily has resorts in Africa and the more Eastern European countries such as Turkey and Greece. We love Club Med but found that the Paladien clubs were moin cher (less expensive) if you wanted to go for two weeks. The second week was almost half price.
Having only gone to Maroc with Nouvelle Frontier we were hoping the club they had in Crete would be a bit higher quality with more importantly better food. I figured if the food was bad, I would just loose weight. Not knowing anyone who had been there we decided to risk it and booked all of us from Marseille to Crete to the resort in Moklos in the north eastern part of the island.
Arriving at 11:00 pm after a plane and bus ride to the resort we were welcomed with a cool drink and a cold meal of Greek delicacies that made us realize the food was not going to be a problem and in fact it was going to be a treat!
Entering our little white washed bungalow with blue shutters and a view of the sea we were in heaven. We opened the doors and windows to the terrace and slept the best we had in a long time to the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below. Dad an early bird was up at 7:30 to have coffee and read until mom joined him for breakfast a bit later. Finally at about 9 we would join and have a selection of crepes, eggs, cold cereals, all sorts of pastries and fruit, yogurt and honey, and coffee. We soon fell in to a regular routine in which mom and dad would take our towels down to the pool area and claim lounge chairs for us under the shade. We’d take Zoe-Pascale to mini-club which consisted of both swimming and an activity in the mornings from 10-12:30.
Mom, Dad, Jean and I would choose between reading, sipping a coffee Frappe (more on that later), swimming laps, joining in aqua gym, exercise class, kayaking, ocean swimming, or taking a walk to the nearby village of Moklos.
Lunch time came before we knew it and of course we couldn’t skip it. Assortments of entrees changed daily to include meat, fish, pork, turkey, chicken, vegetables as well as everyday pasta, Greek salad bar, feta cheese, tadziki (a yogurt delicacy of Greece), aubergine spread, and a spread of deserts from baklava to almond cake to yogurt and honey to fresh fruit and glace. Over lunch we would listen to Zoé’s stories of the morning and talk about life past, present and future. Meals passed slowly and casually with multiple choices and no rush and fuss. The meal always ended with Zoé suggesting we go down to the bar and have a café au lait or frappé. All of us fell in love with sitting in easy chairs facing the pool in the cool shade sipping our coffee after a sensuous lunch. Zoé had what I had learned as a child to call coffee milk. Mostly milk and a drop of coffee. After lunch we would swim and swim and swim in the pool until time for mini-club at 3:00.
Afternoon was a similar repeat of the morning with some occurrences of nap time. More Frappe’s before time to go up to the room at rest and change for dinner. Mom and Dad loved to go earlier to the bar for cocktails and sit among the people and listen to the chatter and engage in some conversation if possible with English speaking guests. The Chefs (leaders or GOs ) as they called themselves at Club Med, spoke French as the norm but there were some guests who mom found and she would chat with as well as the Chefs. We’d join them shortly and then move onto dinner which was always a surprise and wonderful as well. If you didn’t like the main course, there was always the great Greek salad, Tadziki and baklava or yogurt and honey for desert.
Every night there was an event; a spectacle, Greek dancing, a game, or entertainment of some kind. By the second week Zoe-Pascale was thoroughly engaged in the Min-club spectacle in which she had 2 minutes of her own dance. It was fantastic to watch as it was such a different experience from her ballet performance which was extremely difficult.
Besides the food our next fear was the hot, hot weather we had heard about. To our surprise and delight the weather was perfect in the high 80’s and with a sea breeze keeping the air moving, a dip in the pool and sitting in the shade, life was good. We say this as being near the ocean makes a huge difference in feeling comfortable or stifling hot.
On two different days we choose to rent a car and tour part of the island. At 160 miles long we could only hope to see a few sites and take another trip in which we stay on the other side of the island.
On our first day trip we drove along the coast to a variety of fishing villages, swam in the sea, walked among the boats, shopped a little, and visited the picturesque town of Kritsa built on a rock hill about 11 km from Agios Nikolaos. Walking down the street you can see the women of the village keeping up the old Cretan customs of weaving and crocheting. Beautiful table cloths and crocheted lace were being made in front of your eyes. At 12 Euro a meter mom decided to pass up the lace and instead bought some small leather purses and belts for gifts. I indulged in extra virgin Crete olive oil and herbs to make the great Tadziki yogurt dip that we had come to love. Down the coast we stopped at Elounda, a beautiful fishing village with a park for Zoe-Pascale to play in and a view of the island of Spinalonga, which was once a 16th centuryVenetian fortress and later a leper colony.
Our second visit was Knossos, an imposing palace that has been built many times over after destruction from earthquakes and volcanoes over the centuries. Greek mythology tells us that a labyrinth was built under the palace to place the half bull half man Minotaur. Searching high and low for the Minotaur statue we found it was in a museum in Athens. Meanwhile the story gets more bizarre as I read the following interpretation of the Minotaur
Minos was king of Crete, and the first ruler to control the Mediterranean Sea, which he ridded of pirates. He had with him a famed craftsman, Daedalus the Athenian, who was in exile from Athens because he had murdered his nephew (and somewhat too talented apprentice), Talos. Daedalus enjoyed much favor at the court, but he managed to fall from grace by accommodating the queen, Pasiphaë, in a request.
Minos had boasted that the gods would grant him any wish; he made all the preparations for a sacrifice to Poseidon, then prayed that a bull would emerge from the sea. Miraculously, a beautiful white bull swam ashore. Minos admired it so much that he decided to keep it, and sacrificed a different one from his herd instead.
This unwise decision annoyed Poseidon, who avenged the insult by causing queen Pasiphaë to fall madly in love with the white bull. Her request to Daedalus was that he should help her consummate this passion. He did so by building an ingenious hollow wooden cow, covered with hide and with a door on top through which she could lower herself inside. Together, they wheeled it into the pasture where the bull was kept; Daedalus helped her get in, and then discreetly withdrew. Pasiphaë was completely satisfied, but to everyone's horror, she then bore the Minotaur, a creature with a man's body but a bull's head.
Minos, annoyed in turn, sent to the oracle at Delphi to discover how he could hide this evidence of the shame to the royal family. The oracle answered that he ought to have Daedalus build a suitable cage; Minos thereupon had Daedalus build the Labyrinth, an enormous maze, and placed the Minotaur at the center of it. Minos also arranged to sacrifice young men and women to the flesh-eating Minotaur by shutting them into the Labyrinth, where they would wander, hopelessly lost, until the Minotaur caught and devoured them. http://www.minotaur-websites.com/minomyth.htm
True or not, they say the labyrinth was excavated near the palace.
The first palace was built around 2000 BC and destroyed every couple of hundred years thereafter. You wonder, like today, do we ever learn from our history of earthquakes and recognize where we are living and our vulnerability to earth’s movements.
Crete is an island full of archeological sites, rows and rows of olive trees, beautiful blue seas and gentle gracious people and to us it seemed like few crowds compared to the south of France.
Departing early on Monday morning we took the bus back to the airport and flew back to Marseille arriving with ease. We departed as my parents flew back to San Diego having great memories of a special vacation.
In reminiscing the last night about the resort my parents exclaimed that it was the most relaxing vacation they ever had. Mom read two books which she never could do at home, finished her knitting, read books to Zoé and had time to just hang out. Dad and I of course beat her and read about five each and Jean finally decided to forget reading his psychology books and began to enjoy just reading a novel as well. We had time to talk, share, and just be with each other and as importantly have enough space and alone time that we could enjoy each other. Zoe-Pascale said she wants to go back to Crete with all the family every year it was such a great vacation!!! What a testimony.