RETHYMNO, Crete - The retirement adventure just keeps getting better.
I flew from London to Heraklion, Crete on Thursday, but I don't want to leave England behind just quite yet. There were several British highlights last week, but the White Cliffs of Dover were in a class of their own.
Considered an icon of Britain, the cliffs extend nearly 16 miles along the coast facing the Continent. (Yes, that one). The cliffs are mainly soft white chalk and rise about 300 feet above the Strait of Dover. The cliffs have always been a focus for people entering and leaving Britain and they were a welcome sight to returning British soldiers who survived the evacuation of Dunkirk during WWII.
The cliffs held a special attraction for my mother, who loved Alice Duer Miller's 1940 verse, The White Cliffs Poem. Many years ago, I was able to locate an early copy for my mother. She, like many of her generation, fondly remembered the White Cliffs of Dover song made famous by Vera Lynn. It was later recorded by many others, including Spokane's Bing Crosby.
I walked several miles of the breathtaking cliff coastline, a popular tourist site near the Dover Castle. The medieval castle, founded in the 11th century, is an iconic structure of its own, of course. I walked a good part of the grounds and marveled at the endurance of such a man made structure. Dover has so much history. The world's oldest known seagoing boat, thought to be about 3,500 years old, was discovered in Dover in 1992 and is one of several fascinating items on display at the Dover Museum.
But last week was about more than just Dover. My Canterbury hosts, former Spokane residents Claire and Jay Sondhi, treated me to a wonderful jazz concert featuring singer Sarah-Jane Morris and guitarist Antonio Forcione. The concert was in Rye, a very charming medieval community.
My travels also included two visits to the historic Canterbury Cathedral. I have a very vague acquaintance with the concept of religion, but even I had to marvel at the church and its history. I stood only two feet away from the tomb of King Henry IV and his wife Joan.
I am struck by how international England is. During my nine days there I met and chatted with an Argentian musician, a German art student, a Brazilian hospice worker, a South African taxi driver and a Croatian who earned one of her degrees in psychology many years ago at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Sondhi family, my wonderful friends and hosts, are a mini-United Nations, with Claire's French and African roots and Jay's family link to India. But there is more: Daughters Maya, 11, and Ondine, nine, were born in Kenya.
So, now my attention turns to Crete, where I will be staying at a seaside BnB until Monday's departure for Santorini. The one-hour drive from the airport in Heraklion to the port city of Rethymnon was post-card beautiful, featuring mountains, cliff houses and sea views.
One of my tour advisers in Spokane urged me to take time out on Saturday afternoon to watch a particular soccer game which she describes as akin to the Super Bowl. Kimberly Johnson says there's no better way to connect at the local level than to watch soccer at a pub. So, now I have to choose who to root for, Real Madrid or Juventus.
As I write this, I can hear the waves hitting the beach just beyond the garden that is under my apartment building. Concentration can be so hard for a retiree.