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The Best of Crete: BALOS and Gramvousa

It is my over-the-hump period in Crete, Greece, and I think I may have just been to the best travel destination here.

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“Paradise” is such an overused travel word so I try to steer clear from it, but I think I just found one that truly and completely justifies me using it this time.

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I mean, look at that!!! It’s just Oh-My-God so pretty.

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If you are ever here in Crete, I highly recommend you taking the ferry ride to Gramvousa and Balos.

Get to the Northwestern end of Crete going towards Kissamos. Follow the Port. Get on the ferry. It will first take you to Gramvousa.

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Don’t be a wimp. :D Ascend to the Kastelli (Castle). You won’t regret it. You will see a most beautiful overlooking view of the island.

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It is a piece of Heaven on Earth.

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a

After Gramvousa, the express will continue to Balos. Here is a little tease of Balos…

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Next post I’ll explore more on Balos …

I still have another 6 months here in Greece, but I really think Gramvousa and Balos will be THE meter against the rests of my travel plans here in Crete.

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THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP RECOMMENDS:

Music: On A Mission by Katy B. – Move over dance divas, Katy B. is on a mission to be the best Dance album of the decade in my book by far.
Movie: Inglorious Basterds – Who wouldn’t include a Quentin Tarantino film on their list of recommendations, eh? See also Django Unchained.

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All images are taken with an iPad.

California 1 and the Pacific Coast Highway

Google it as much as you want… If you are searching about one of the best coastal drives in the world, California 1 and the Pacific Coast Highway is always on the list!

Here are the pictures to show you why. … :)

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Malibu

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Ventura

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Muir Beach

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Carmel

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Bixby Creek Bridge

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Malibu

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Point Mugu

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Point Reyes

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Pismo Beach

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Santa Monica

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San Francisco

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Mugu Rock

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Shell Beach

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 Muir Beach

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Point Reyes

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Big Sur

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Drake’s Beach

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Shell Beach

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Malibu

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-.-

Now I dare you … I triple dare you to not take any pictures while driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco (or vice versa) using California 1. I frigging dare you. :D

…. Ow, Keep your eyes on the road as much as possible and stay safe driving it!

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THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP RECOMMENDS:

Music: Pink Moon by Nick Drake

Movie: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Here’s a scene that wins Penelope Cruz tons of awards and nominations including an Oscar victory.

There’s no “I” in team, but there’s two in Santorini.

Exactly a month ago, we finished our 2-day tour of Santorini. Our first day was Traditional Village Tour which includes…

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Mesagonia

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Pyrgos,

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Imerovigli and sunset view in Oia.

More details and images are here – What’s white and blue and churches all over?

Our second day led us to Akrotiri and Red Beach. I suggest you not to take a tour that includes only to these two locations that are near to each other. It’s about 15 Euro per head. Rather, perhaps, negotiate a price with a taxi lower than that. If your group is, say, 4 to 5 people, it’s best advised that you take a taxi, rent a car, or commute by bus. There’s also plenty of four-wheeler rentals in the island in case you want to go around and about the island in style. :)

We first entered Akrotiri of Thera. One of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean, walking inside this covered archaeological site felt like stepping back from the interesting history of Greece. Admission is 5 Euro. If you like archaeological sites then you’ll “dig” this. :) To be frank, it isn’t from me. There are only few pots there. I think I’m better off just looking at pictures on the internet or prints… just saying.

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Next, we walked a few and headed to the Red Beach. But before it, we had a little bit of fun on the rocks… as usual. :)

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Also, a church on the way …

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The water in Red Beach is so gorgeous!

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We only chose to do these two quick stops because of our time restrictions. But, we had a bit of spare time for some quick grub and a little stroll after we checked out of the hotel and before boarding back on the ferry.

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Last Calls…

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…. so now I understand why Santorini is so popular. ;)

More … during our stay in Santorini, I went on a photoshoot spree like never before :)

… go to second page if you’d like to see my pictures…

Naxos, Greece

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Naxos may not be as popular and engaging as Mykonos or Santorini. But in my experience, Naxos was fun! The most fun I had in a while.

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Me and my coworkers explore the island riding quads. It’s practical, convenient, and so so so fun! I felt like a movie star driving a four-wheeler around with incredible, dramatic backgrounds of this European island.

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The beaches are some of the clearest, most pristine I’ve ever seen!

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Agia Prokopios is so beautiful that just couldn’t miss the chance. I finally got to swim in the water here in Greece.

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We then drove to explore some more and ended up at Mikri Vigla. We had another kind of fun of climbing the rock areas.

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Rocks and water combined … my kind of place! :D The water’s so beautiful.

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We still managed to have a balance between fun and culture. That sure won’t go away. ;)

Temple of Demeter …

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Temple of Dionysus …

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I get to see Ariadne!!!

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To refresh your memory, her story is linked to my older post, Minoan Palace of Knossos in Crete.

At night time, we continued the fun drinking! It’s been ages since I got wasted.  It wasn’t a club, just a bar, so it’s good amount of crowd. I was friendly talking to everybody in the bar, and even dancing to some. :) We even befriended an Irish guy and a woman from Holland. The couple really enjoyed my drunken humor. We continued drinking it up at their place until the next morning. :)

We made the best out of our 4-day weekend in Naxos. Riding the quads was a first for me. We indulged to awesome meal. We unwound, enjoyed the sceneries and the beautiful water, and partied it up at night. We really had a blast in Naxos!

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Images are taken with Samsung Note 3.

Windmills of Lassithi and Dikteon Cave in Lassithi, Crete

There are four regional units in Crete namely Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Lasithi.  Three of which I already presented …

Chania – Chania: A Beautiful Mess
Rethymno – Carnivale in Rethymno, Fortezza of Rethymno
Heraklion – Irakleon, Crete

… So, I now bring you Lasithi …

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THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP RECOMMENDS:

Movie: Once – It’s like a soundtrack album so beautifully presented in a motion picture… featuring the music of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

Recommendation Flashback: Here is a scene from the movie Crash …. Spoiler Alert … Parental Guidance is advised.

Music: Corrine Bailey Rae by Corrine Bailey Rae – Her voice is …. *BOW*.

This one is a must-see live performance vid. Here is one of her covers from a music legend, Led Zeppelin …


Bored, I dropped what I was doing, quickly checked the internet for places to go, and off I walked out the door and drove. I figured I’ve been here in Crete for four months so I might as well visit its forth major region. :D My research took me to Lasithi Plateau and Dictaeon Cave, a cave where Zeus “supposedly” was born.

It was a lot of driving and tricky to get to. So for this post I’m including pointers for those who might be interested in exploring both location.

The drive may be long but worth it. You’ll be surrounded by mountains and fields of greens.

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Yey, isn’t it? :D

Lasithi is about 3 – 4 hours from Chania. From Chania, once you get to a roundabout on the National Road, take right following the sign to Mochos. From here on out, the trick is not to hesitate even if you feel like you’ve been driving for awhile, or felt you already seen enough.

Keep driving until you get to Homo Sapien Museum. You will see windmills there …

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… but don’t stop there. Keep driving … :)

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Just keep driving. You will see some more windmills. It is said there are some (air-quote) 10,000 windmills here.  Yowza! A lot of it however didn’t stand the test of time.

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… Then you will get to this (air-quote) Botanical Park where there are more noticeable windmills.

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… That means you are just shy away from taking a right turn to get to the cave. Just follow the signs. So what do you do?

… keep driving … :)

… it won’t be long til you get to the cave. You’ll know you’re there when you see a parking lot with some souvenir stores and some food places. You will be welcomed with a picturesque overview of Lassithi Plateau.

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It makes you realize how much you’ve driven. :D

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The cave is open til 7 pm during tourist/summer season. Parking is 2 Euro. Entrance is 4 Euros. Bring good shoes and water. Extra lungs if you must. :D I’m kidding, the ascend is doable. ;)

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The cave is small but still whoa-some!!!

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The most recognized cave in Crete, it is said to be where Zeus (air-quote) supposedly was born. There is also a cave in Mount Zeus in Naxos, Greece where they also claim Zeus (air-quote) supposedly was born. I don’t know which to believe. It seems that there are more that are using reference to the cave in Crete than the one in Naxos.

I’ll be in Naxos island this weekend. Yea-Yeah! :D

Now, you can either drive back from whence you came or drive towards the city center of Agio Nikolaos. The drive to Agio Nikolaos is a long one but you will see more mountains, small villages, and of course, more windmills. Just strictly follow the signs to Agio Nikolaos. Again, do not hesitate too much….

…Just keep driving. To me, it’s worth it. :)


 

In the offing: California post, Naxos, another Santorini post, and a special post.

What’s white and blue and churches all over?

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a full traditional travelogue. I think it works here.

I finally got out of the island of Crete and off to another Greek island. From Chania, we drove for 2 hours or so to Irakleio and then hopped into a 2-hour-or-so ferry ride to Santorini. As soon as we landed on the port we looked for a transport to our hotel.

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We checked in to a very accommodating Volcano View Hotel. Maybe because I was with my girl that they upgraded us to Junior Suite… Sweet! I don’t usually talk about hotels on my travels, but this one is worth recommending. Friendly and helpful staff, clean, free breakfast, and has a great view of the volcano and the water.

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We ate a delicious meal before heading out to our tour – rice-looking pasta with shrimp.

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We picked Sunset in Oia & Traditional Villages Tour. Just something that’s available, and fits our schedule. The Volcano and other Boat Tours are not yet available until the end of May.

The Traditional Villages part took us to …

Mesa Gonia, The Ghost Town village largely devastated by the 1956 earthquake in Santorini.

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– Our tour guide brought up a very neat point – if not for the earthquake, Santorini wouldn’t be as popular as is it today. –

Pyrgos, which got us climb 80 steps for an awesome city overview.

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Souvenir items, typical blue and white Santorini sceneries, churches, etc. are on-scene along the way to the top.

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-There are 365 churches in Santorini.-

Magnificent overlooking views once we reached the top.

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Imeroglivi, a seaside spot that boasts the most luxurious hotels in Santorini. Pfft!

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-97% of jobs in Santorini is … drumroll please … tourism.-

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And last, but not the least, is the ever-famous Sunset in Oia part of the tour.

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Oia is pronounced as ee-yah.

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– Santorini is extremely white and extremely blue, just as the Greek flag. –

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There’s a lot of people waiting for the sun to set. I kept joking as we waited that the sun Tweeted that it’s not coming down that day. :D

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…And the joke was on me. The sun was hiding behind the cloud. :( A major travel woe!

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If you ever come to Santorini, I still highly suggest this tour as it covers a lot of places. It’s 28 Euro per person. It’s relatively cheaper than the other tours or the ones online.

I heard from someone before that he/she didn’t like Santorini because it’s too touristy or too popular that excitement was never there. I came to Santorini with that kind of low expectation. As it turned out, I really enjoyed it.

We came back disappointed with the sunset, but it’s not just the sunset that people should go to Santorini for.

That’s Day One. So much I’ve shared already. 2.0 next month. I’ll leave you with Last Calls, and a tease of my photo shoot that I will share in Part 2. :D

Last Calls …

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A preview of this stud :D for Part 2.

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 Next post: We’re going to the East side of Crete and see some windmills, or a cave where Zeus was born. Or, a California post.

Death Valley National Park in Monochrome

On my first post of Death Valley National Park, the pictures were taken from a cellphone and I edited them using a cellphone app Snapseed. This time, the images are from my DLSR. This is Death Valley National Park, one of the top locations I’ve ever visited. I want to present it the right way with what I got.

It was a constant battle whether I should present the pictures in a color or monochrome palette. I didn’t want to present it in B&W in the first place. Many have been successful with turning their DVNP pictures into B&W. I’m intimidated. I don’t know how they do it!?. Mine pales in comparison. With the images I got, the transition isn’t quite right in my humble opinion. When I posted The City of San Francisco in Monochrome I can proudly say that it’s the kind of setting that’s just the right fit for B&W, but it still honestly eats me that the original (with colors) were not presented. It is hard to present pictures initially in monochrome leaving behind the originals in mystery. Bottom line is that another post of a location I already previously presented… I really wanted it to be different. I decided to compromise…. So …

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The Sophomore Slump Recommends …

Movie: Crash – The ultimate success movie with ensemble cast and interwoven stories.

Recommendation Flashback: Blue Valentine –
Here is Ryan Gosling (back when he was un-Hollywood :) ) playing ukulele…

Music:  The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Retro R&B and neo-soul perfection. Oh Lauryn Hill… come back into the limelight.

Recommendaton Flashback: Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams
The song, however, is not from Heartbreaker, just a personal choice to introduce to you Ryan Adams… Here is Desire …

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This post is part of my monthly California post.

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The problem with showing original images together with the ones that are turned into B&W, revealing the true colors spoils the effect B&W pictures had…

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And then it dawned on me, whatever the dilemma is, however mediocre I present it …. This is Death Valley National Park. I can’t go wrong with Death Valley National Park. The images will speak for itself.

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