Friday 7th October To Paleochora via Elafonissi 127km
Another fine morning, although it felt cooler at breakfast, but soon became hot. We looked down to see several people swimming in the sea.
As we continued, there were numerous roadside stalls selling honey.
We came to the tunnel at the start of the Koutasamasados gorge, and after driving through it, had views of the impressive gorge. At Elos, a new bypass had been built - but signs were directing cars through the village - they obviously didn't like losing their custom!
We'd made good time, so continued with our plan to visit Elafonissi - a spot in the south west corner of Crete which has become really popular. We managed to pull off on one of the hairpins to have our tea/coffee under the shade of some plane trees.
We arrived at Elafonissi at midday. There were very many cars, parked haphazardly in large parking areas. We found a spot, and set off across the huge expanse of flat sand where the swarms of visitors were scattered. Because we'd read what a fantastic place this was, it didn't quite grab us, although we could see the attraction of the immense area of shallow warm water, with the chance to wade out to an uninhabited island.
Shady coffee stop
We waded out and managed to find some water deep enough to swim in. There were shoals of tiny fish. Adrian continued to the island while I returned to the beach. We then wandered back over the decrepit boardwalk, passing the few tavernas and stalls. We had been glad to visit, but now set off to find somewhere to eat our lunch, being 1 o'clock.
We drove back a short way and turned off on a road to the Monastery of Assumption. The shady car park was a quiet place to sit under the trees for lunch before we walked over to look up at the monastery. We took a rough track to view a beautiful rocky cove.
Now 2.20, we stopped to have one last look at the sea where a camper had found an idyllic spot to stop, before ascending into the hills again.
When we reached Elos, we drove through the village this time before joining the road to Paleochora. The road was lined with sweet chestnut trees - we stopped to gather a few nuts.
Monastery of the Assumption and the delightful cove beside it
Now we descended to Paleochora, and located Hotel Aghas, at the northern end of the town in the centre of the peninsula which makes up Paleochora. We had no sea views here, but our room was spacious (3 beds), and the balcony looked out onto greenery. We stopped to have a reviving cup of tea before driving out to see something of the town.
Driving to the eastern side of the peninsula first, we soon came to an area with many eating places. The beach on this side is pebbly, on the other side it is sandy.
At the southern end, we came to the remains of an ancient castle. It was very atmospheric as we wandered over the stony site in the warmth of the early evening. There were wonderful views of the barren remote slopes to the east.
Collecting sweet chestnuts
A man was sculpting in wood - Adrian had a chat to him.
We stopped on the western side of the peninsula and wandered onto the coarse grained beach as the sun went down.
Back at our room, we sat on the balcony with our aperitif, looking at our onward route for tomorrow.
Afterwards we walked back to find somewhere to eat. Adrian had looked at Rough Guide, and we made for two veggie restaurants. The one we chose 'The Third Eye' was excellent. We sat outside in a 'garden' and ate delicious food. The owner’s son Luke chatted to us afterwards. He was Cretan/New Zealand, and loved travelling, so talking came easily!
We wandered back along the pleasant little streets to our hotel.
Man carving at Paleochora Castle
Paleochora castle and the view of the town from it
Saturday 8th October A glimpse of the Samaria gorge 83km
Another lovely morning!
We went down early to breakfast, but nobody was there! The lady arrived soon afterwards and began bringing us breakfast – it was a good breakfast but it came in bits and pieces! No-one else was about, but we did see two other guests eating before we left at 9.20.
Our first stop was at the little supermarket by the beach for Adrian to get his tonic.
After we set off, we soon began ascending into the mountains eastwards, with views down to the coast at Sougia, where we were heading. There were wild goats - later we saw many more. We stopped beside plane trees at 2,600ft (800m), it was beautifully quiet.
At Temenia there was again a newly painted white church with red tiled roof and blue window frames. The village was a distance away, but this was obviously the communal place - there was a surfaced area with lots of seats beside a hall. We had coffee here before starting off on all the hairpins down to Sougia.
Cafes lined the road by the beach of this little town, although the road we came on is the only access except by walking. A footpath goes from here back to Paleochora, the first part along a gorge. We drove to the western end of the 'town', and Adrian walked a short way uphill, but the going was too rough for me. I sat on the pebbly beach by the pretty harbour.
Further back along the beach, Adrian had a swim, but the uneven pebbles and the waves were sadly again too much for me.
We ate lunch sitting on a low wall beside the beach, in the shade of a tamarisk.
Now we ascended into the mountains again, taking the road at Rodovani to Omalos, our stop for tonight after we have viewed the Samaria Gorge.
We drove on up and up passing tiny villages. At Agias Irini, a walk starts to the Agias Irini Gorge.
Soon afterwards the road separated at 3,250ft (990m), in this gorgeous mountain scenery. We could see right down to the north coast at Hania. A large flock of sheep huddled into the shade at the side of the road.
Looking towards the harbour at Sougia
The start of the gorge walk
We continued ascending - to a 'pass' at 3,670ft (1120m) and then descended a little but by the time we came to the end of the road at the start of the Samaria Gorge we were at 4,193ft (1280m).
We stopped to look down into the gorge, where younger and fitter people can make the long hike down to the coast (6hrs). It did look spectacular.
Sheep huddling in the shade
Later more sheep were herded past us
We watched as one or two hikers returned, before driving the few miles to Neos Omolas Hotel in Omalos, arriving at 3.30.
It was windy by the hotel, but not on our balcony as we sat with our cup of tea. With the leaves on the trees turning colour, it felt quite autumnal, but we are at 3500ft (1070m) tonight.
We ate in the restaurant downstairs. With all the wood, it seemed like an Alpine resort. The pleasant waiter handed each person the detailed menu, then came and said the few options available! We both ate a really tasty courgette, potato and cheese bake, which went well with the carafe of house wine.
Looking down into the Samaria Gorge
Sunday 9th October North and south to a 'resort by the sea' 153km
It was different to be cool in the morning.
We felt rather out of place with all the serious hikers setting off to walk the Samaria Gorge! We were practically alone to eat breakfast, which today included freshly squeezed orange juice instead of the watery stuff usually serve up.
The mountain scenery looked absolutely beautiful as we set off at 9.30. We soon passed hundreds of goats on the road, and had to edge our way through.
Today we were driving north to Hania to take the E75 east until we could turn south again.
Very soon we had an amazing view down over the north coast with the two long peninsulas of Robedos and Granivonsa sticking up.
We passed the botanical gardens built in 2006 by brothers who had lost their olive groves to fire. I would like to have visited, but was not feeling good today, even if we had had time.
At Fournes where there was another immaculately white painted church with a red tiled roof, we had to wait while a funeral car 'unloaded'.
A bit further north we came to Agias reservoir, which is supposed to be really good for birdlife. We walked along a boardwalk to a 'hide', which was set right behind a large tree! All we could see was a coot, and a heron taking off!
We drove around to an over-smart taverna beside the water, where we saw another heron, and many more ducks of all sorts.
Looking to the coast as we drive north through the mountains
When we reached the E75 we drove eastwards, turning south when we came to Vrisses.
Adrian noticed a sign to an ancient stone bridge. We’d missed our turning, so were on an odd bit of road. We stopped and found an idyllic spot with the Greek/Roman/Venetian bridge right beside a little white chapel. A broken concrete table made a fine place to have our lunch which I had recovered enough to enjoy.
Agias Reservoir - a rare sight in Crete
Now we ascended mountains, travelling southwards. At Askifrou we had note of a war museum, set up by a local man. It was a wonderful place - now run by his sons, one of whom gave us a guided chat (in broken English), along with a granddaughter. The room and balcony were crammed with dusty helmets, guns, and all sorts of memorabilia, mostly local, including a Norton motorcycle. The museum isn't government funded, so relies on donations. We hadn't known of the great involvement of Crete in the Second World War.
Delightful lunch stop beside the chapel and ancient bridge
Continuing south, we stopped to view the Imbros Gorge, driving though several short tunnels. It was an impressive view down to the flattish land beside the sea, after the seriously steep descent from the mountains. We then began descending on a continual serpentine until we reached sea level.
The war museum at Askifrou
Here we turned westwards to drive to Chora Stakias, the tiny capital of this region, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea.
It was a very pretty place, but parking was always a problem and particularly on this Sunday afternoon, so we weren't able to stop.
The road snakes down to the sea
The Imbros Gorge
As we turned back eastwards, we had views out to sea of Gavolos and Gavdopoula islands.
We ascended through low hills, through the pretty village of Kamitades with its white and blue houses and church. It is near here that the Imbros Gorge reaches the sea.
Our next delight was Frangocastello with its perfect looking castle, which is in fact just the walls and towers - it is quite empty inside! We stopped to view it from beside a taverna right by a little harbour edged with tamarisks. There were photogenic rows of red and blue sunshades on the beach.
We now had a short flat drive, before ascending into the hills again. The steep mountains were stark and barren, some coming right down to the sea.
As we drove on, we could see right down to the resort town of Plakias with its stunning location beside a circular bay edged with high rocks.
Now we came to our stopping place for the next two nights - Kalypso resort hotel. We’d wondered about this 'different 'sort of place (for us). It was set right beside the sea, in this barren mountain landscape - a real oasis in the desert. It took us a while to locate the reception - we walked a long way through the 'resort' until we found it. We were booked in by a Bear Grylls lookalike, who then pointed us to our room. We couldn't complain about this - the most spacious yet. with a large patio edged with bougainvillea, plus a small one at the back.
Looking down to Plakias
The room was very large, again with 3 beds, and with lots of places to put things, and there was a bathroom with a BATH!
Apparently there are three swimming pools for us to discover tomorrow, and an evening meal is included as well as breakfast.
It was a long walk down to the restaurant area, which was seated both indoors and outside above the sea. We were confused, as there were menus on display, but unknown to us, there was a buffet set out to help yourself from. The woman receptionist appeared rather brusque when we asked about it, as did our waiter. We discovered that there are in fact a lot of people staying here, but we found a table for two. For hungry meat eaters, this must have been a joy, but we still found things to tempt my small appetite. We discovered after we'd got up to leave, that there were desserts too, but not a great selection. We felt that we weren't really part of this scene, but we couldn't fault it – everything is very tastefully done.
We just drank water with our meal – we'd had an aperitif on our patio, and afterwards climbed back up there to drink a beer. We really enjoyed the warmth and the quiet – unaware of the many other guests here, apart from hearing some disco music later. Adrian walked all the way back to the car to get the little bottle of raki which he'd brought from the restaurant in Heraklion, although there was some to help yourself to in the restaurant here.
Adrian on the balcony at Kalypso
Monday 10th October A relaxing day at the 'resort' 0km
It was lovely to wake and think that we weren't going anywhere today, and could have a relaxing, catching up day. We went down to breakfast quite early, so enjoyed eating with very few people about, unlike last night, and in the relative cool. Again there was a lot of choice, so we were able to get some extras for our lunch. We stopped at the reception area to log in, but after much trouble, found that there weren't any emails.
We had time to look at our onward route. When it was coffee time, we realised that the main patio was far too hot, so sat at the little back one. Then it was time to walk to two of the pools – cleverly designed like the one we had been so impressed with in Lausanne in 1983 – water flowed right over the edge, so this wasn't visible. We had a lovely swim, followed by a short laze in the sun. The only other people here were a group of Russians. We came back to have lunch on the back patio.
Afterwards we went for a walk around the vast complex, including down to the narrow inlet between high rocks, where the diving people left from. From here we walked along a rough concrete path set into the rough cliffs above the sea. Then it was time for a swim in the superb large pool. We were surprised that the pool changed depth, with no signs saying how deep it was. We climbed back up to our room, when it was time to try out the bath.
Our balcony and one of the pools
We enjoyed our aperitif on the patio again, walking down to the restaurant at 7.30, when it opened. The doors were still shut, but soon they opened, and along with a few others, we traipsed in. We sat at a table over the pool (nobody using it) and enjoyed the buffet meal. We had some freshly cooked fish, which attracted the cats! There was no raki put out tonight, so we came back up to enjoy the rest of our wine on the patio. There were some clouds tonight , but it was still warm.
Kalypso Resort Hotel
Tuesday 11th October North again to Rethymno 61km
Another nice day, but today there was some cloud, although it remained warm. We ate breakfast above the pool and sea again. We stopped on the way back up to get an internet connection, but again there were no emails. We had a pleasant swim in the third pool before leaving this enjoyable 'resort' at 10.30.
Adrian hadn't been at all sure about this place, but we couldn't fault it – everything was really attractively done, with streams of (salt) water running through the site, with even a few large goldfish. It was completely hidden from view until you actually got here, an incongruous oasis amongst the bare, steep cliffs.
We drove back to Plakias, which had looked so glorious from high above when we'd passed it two days ago. It didn't seem so attractive from ground level – maybe because there wasn't the clear blue sky this morning. We stopped to have coffee beside the beach.
From here we drove towards Moni Preveli. We stopped by a delightful Roman bridge, with water flowing beneath to form a small pond.
A swim in the third pool before we leave Kalypso
We continued upwards, stopping by the Preveli International Memorial for Resistance & Peace just before the monastery. It was set in a large gravel garden, with a soldier and a monk in fighting mode. It was surrounded by a wooden fence, but for some reason the gate was locked, so we could only view it from outside. The monastery is a symbol of resistance, particularly during WW2.
Lovely Roman bridge at Preveli
A small road led down to Palm Beach, an apparent idyll of green set in the barren cliffs where the River Kourtaliotiko reaches the sea after flowing through the canyon. We found that this was a fee paying area - fine if you were coming for the day, but it is a long descent (and even longer ascent!) and we would just have been popping in. It's the site in 1941 where hundreds of allied soldiers were evacuated from by submarine after the battle of Crete.
Our route now took us through the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, which was extremely rugged with barren vertical cliffs. When we stopped to view it, we saw the amazing sight high above of dozens of vultures circling before landing on prey.
The Preveli International Memorial for Resistance & Peace
We followed a back route through the hills to Spili, hoping to find somewhere to eat lunch. Our luck was in, as we came to a wooden table and bench set above a lovely deep valley, There was even a litter bin! The only thing it didn't have was shade, but it was cloudy at that point, so we were willing the sun to stay in!
Kourtaliotiko Gorge where we watched griffon vultures
We continued to the tourist town of Spili, which was very pleasant, but quite busy. The roads were steep, but the fascinating thing was a line of spouts gushing spring water, in the centre of the town. It tasted really fresh. There were lots of little cafes and shops. In one we bought some local ouzo.
Now we followed the main road north, stopping at Armeni, where there is a Minoan Cemetery. This was said to be free in our book, but now, with a newly built entrance, it cost €2, so we didn't stop!
At 2.30 we reached Rethymno. Adrian drove through the town until we found our hotel, Palazzo Vecchio, right opposite the fortress. We were able to park on the corner outside while we booked in. The hotel was very smart, with a tiny attractive blue and white swimming pool set in the little courtyard. The receptionist marked all sorts of things on the map, saying 'behind our church' and 'our market'. There was a large private car park opposite, and she directed us in there. After looking at our spacious accommodation – on the 2nd floor, up flights of marble stairs - we unloaded. This is our poshest hotel, and includes a kitchenette with kettle and hob and a balcony. It was too warm to sit there for our cup of tea, and we cooled off with a refreshing swim in the minuscule pool. By now the sun had gone from it and with no sunbeds down there, it was a climb back up in wet cozzie!
Lunch on the way to Spili, where we tried the spring water
When we sat on the balcony with our aperitif, there were really strange clouds overhead.
Afterwards we walked out through the streets of the old town to To Pigadi, a restaurant recommended by our hostess. We sat outside in a shaded courtyard and enjoyed delicious salmon and giant prawns with a carafe of local wine.
The tiny pool at Rethymno
Wednesday 12th October Rethymno 0km
Breakfast was eaten in the little courtyard by the swimming pool. The sky was clear blue again this morning.
We set off to explore some of the old town of Rethymno, revelling in all the narrow little side streets, many with small shops selling clothes, shoes, jewellery and gifts. The streets were pedestrianised, but this didn't preclude scooters, which sometimes zoomed past.
We came to a large square beside a mosque and sat on a shady seat with our morning drinks. There was a school adjacent, and children were happily playing in the playground – it felt like being back home! The whistle went, and a class of older children, wearing T-shirts and leggings or shorts, came out with a teacher to practise marching around the square, complete with claps and stamps. Although it brought back memories of guide church parade, it gave me an uneasy feeling.
Some of Rethymno’s narrow streets
There were many eating places here, as everywhere, but as I wasn't on top form again, we bought a small loaf from a little bakers we passed, and brought it back to our room to have lunch – inside, as it was too hot on our sunny balcony.
We spent a relaxing afternoon, having a swim in the minuscule pool. We shared a pain au raisin with a cup of tea before walking out to explore some of the fortress. We looked in at the restaurant Melina’s on the way, wondering about eating there tonight.
The Venetian fortress was immense. We paid our €3 (oldies rate) entrance fee before wandering through the vast area of the castle. It was just an enormous open area, with one or two restored/rebuilt buildings. There were marvellous views down over the town. It was a good time to visit, as it wasn't too hot.
We walked back, and when we entered our hotel, the receptionist invited us to have some more raki. We sat by the pool with this, chatting to him. He was actually from Bulgaria, and had been here for 8 years. He loved it here, especially being away from the cold of winter. We felt quite mellow as we walked back up the stairs at 10.30!
We'd had a look at the sea by our hotel when we set off, but now we wandered down to the harbour – atmospheric as all the harbours have been. Once again there was a nice lighthouse, and also an old sailing vessel, but Adrian couldn't decide how authentic it was.
Children marching in the square by the minaret
The harbour and a fountain in the old town of Rethymno
We stopped off at a well-stocked supermarket on the way back and bought tonic, lemon (lime), pears and water. Back in our room, we had drinks on the balcony before setting off to find a place to eat tonight.
We settled on going back to Melina's, which we'd looked at earlier. This worked out really well. We enjoyed octopus and calamari, with a half carafe of house wine. My 'chips', amounted to three large wedges of potato, but were good. The food was delicious, and the ambience great. Our raki afterwards came with a moist piece of chocolate cake.
Melina’s Restaurant, Rethymno
We left at 9.30, finding the post box which the owner had pointed out to post our cards. Nearby was a small supermarket where we bought a loaf of bread for lunch. There was a sudden power cut, so it took us a while to pay. We then discovered that we still had our keys from the hotel, so had to return!We left at 9.30, finding the post box which the owner had pointed out to post our cards. Nearby was a small supermarket where we bought a loaf of bread for lunch. There was a sudden power cut, so it took us a while to pay. We then discovered that we still had our keys from the hotel, so had to return! Twenty minutes after starting off, we were on our way again! I had spent ages last night deciding on the best route for today. We opted to take the main road west to just before Kastelli Kissamos, then driving south through the mountains. We wound up, through pretty unspoilt mountain villages, stopping at Voulgaro to get fuel and then to look at a pretty recently painted church in white and orange. Bourgainvillea made a lovely show.
Crete October 2016
Tuesday 4th October Heraklion and Knossos 22km
We woke to a beautiful morning, and watched from the balcony as the sun came up over the town and the sea.
We were pleased to find a pleasant selection of food for breakfast. From our table, we looked down to watch a group of elderly gentleman gathered outside a cafe, chatting and drinking.
We left on foot at 9.30, stopping at a nearby bakers to buy rolls, but it turned out to be a ring of rolls – more than we needed for lunch. We also bought a seemingly expensive baklava, which was put into a box, but even so had leaked out when we opened it later, having made everything sticky. After this, we passed bakers shops everywhere!
We enjoyed walking around the town, with no worries of a car, which we were picking up later. There were a plethora of scooters, giving a retro feel amongst all the touristy and posh clothes and shoe shops. We soon came to the Venetian Square, which goes under many different names, with its central fountain. Nearby was the Venetian City Hall and St Mark's church. Later we saw the church of Ayiou Titon. All were very ornate, with enough icons to keep Margherita happy! We didn't go into the religious icon museum!
We ate lunch on our balcony, feeling a bit like Chad, as our eyes just peeped above the wall! We enjoyed our eggs brought from breakfast with some of the 'roll ring'. Afterwards we shared the sticky baklava.
Then it was time to take a taxi (which came to the hotel in less than 2 minutes), to collect our car. Europcar was right back by the airport. Consequently we had a long wait while other travellers collected their cars. We collected our Nissan Micra and set off for Knossos, with Adrian following the tablet sat nav. We were pleased when we got there to read in Rough Guide that there was a free car park and not to be taken in by the touts enticing you into their private car parks. What we were not pleased to find was that the price for entry was €15, whereas Rough Guide said that it was €6, and €10 for joint tickets with the Archaeological museum! It was now €16 for that so it would have only cost €1 to go in the Archaeological museum – we'd have popped in there if we'd known. We think the busy site of Knossos was paying for the restoration of the Archaeological museum!
This massive ancient Knossos site dates from 1900 BC, although the area was originally inhabited in 6,700 BC! The person responsible for its discovery and early restoration was Sir Arthur Evans, curator of the Oxford Ashmolean Museum. This was in the early 20th Century. The site was impressive to see, but I did get the irreverent feeling of our fellow traveller Bob Angle in Central America – 'It's just another pile of old stones'!
After joining the hordes of visitors in wandering around much of the site in the hot sun, we stopped at the cafe for a cup of tea. We had been pleased at the listed price of €1.30, so weren't pleased when the exuberant waiter charged us €3 each! At least we'd enjoyed sitting under the shady gazebo covered with bougainvillea!
We now drove back to our hotel, Adrian managing to negotiate the narrow roads. We had intended stopping at a large fruit stall we'd seen, but Adrian also wanted to visit a supermarket. On making our way to one, we saw a Carrefour, so visited that instead. Now, with some booze, we headed for the hotel, parking in an open parking area behind it (€5 per night).
In the evening we set off to find somewhere to eat. We had liked the look of the fish restaurants near the harbour, and that was what the receptionist at the desk suggested. It seemed a long way to walk, but we made it, walking through the vibrant centre around the Venetian fountain.
We ate at Fish Tavern right near the sea, and chose a fish platter for two. This we really enjoyed, with a large beer each. Being near to the airport, planes took off over us and we had the sights of the harbour to look at. Numerous small cats pleaded for their supper. A lovely atmosphere – only spoilt by the lady at the next table smoking in between each course.
At the end of the meal, we were brought a plate of watermelon and two slices of cheese cake, along with a small bottle of raki. This gave us the strength to wander back up through the town to our hotel, arriving at 10 o'clock. It had been a good first day.
Monday 3rd October To Heraklion
Adrian had booked this 2 ½ week trip to Crete earlier in the year. Recently we wondered if it would go ahead, as, after many tests, he was found to have prostate cancer. His suggested treatment is hormone therapy for 3 months, followed by four weeks of daily radiotherapy. Once this was known, we could go about thinking again of our trip.
We'd had a wonderfully busy summer, culminating in our 'glorious Golden Wedding weekend' in August, where everything, including the weather, was perfect. Our children & grandchildren came up trumps, as did many of the family.
The weather in England had been beautiful, and we set off at 1.00pm on a day with clear blue sky. Adrian had had a last minute panic, when the computer wifi connection stopped working, but with that sorted we set off for a smooth run down to Gatwick.
We had more confusion here, wondering if we should be at North or South terminal. We were using a different 'Meet & Greet' company, and after our 'diversion' (we always go from the North Terminal!), the man was waiting at the South Terminal when we arrived.
It was 2.30, so we were plenty early for our 4.45 flight to Heraklion. This was lucky, as we found the South Terminal very different from the North one.
We found our way to self bag drop, and then to security, where I had a 'body search' and Adrian had his bag searched.
We continued to Departures, through even more 'shop grot', and with less seating than the North Terminal. We waited until our departure gate came onto the screen, then it was a long walk to our gate, along interminable slow moving walkways.
After a muffled announcement, people began surging forward. We joined them – there appeared to be no order, and then had to wait a long time while descending the stairs.
Once on board, we had another delay on the tarmac, and then taxiing to the far end of the airport to take off. We finally left just after 5.00pm, travelling east over Kent, then as we reached the channel, there were little white fluffy clouds after the clear blue sky.
It became more cloudy as we travelled on, and gradually became dark. We could see lights from towns below, but really missed not having flight screens as on International flights.
We landed at Heraklion at 11.30 pm – 9.30 to us.
There was a couple with a nine month old baby boy seated near to us. They were English/Australian, accompanied by Australian family – it made us think of Ed & family who had recently had a similar family holiday in Crete.
It was very quick going through passport control (me with my new passport)and customs, and then there was our taxi driver waiting, with 'Adrian Bower' displayed on his tablet!
He welcomed us to Crete, then drove us to Hotel Iraklion. We'd enjoyed the warm temperature and the sights of the town. Our room was on the 5th floor, accessed by a tiny lift. The room was quite small, but with a long balcony overlooking the town.
Note in this diary, the spelling of place names are variable, as I and Y, Ch and H, H and I are all a bit interchangeable
Wednesday 5th October Westwards to Haina 160km
It was another lovely morning as we tried to get organised into travel mode - thinking how much easier it is in a camper.
Adrian photographed the old gentlemen outside the cafe when we went down to breakfast.
We got packed up and left at 10 o'clock to travel west along the coast.
Our first stop was at Paleokastro, where we turned down to come to a delightful little sandy/rocky cove beneath the E75 bridge, backed by a small taverna. We sat on a wooden bench by the beach to have coffee. Several, mostly older, people were in the sea. We joined them for our first swim of the trip. The water was pleasantly warm, but I, in particular, with my bad balance, found it difficult to get in as the beach was steeply shelving. It was nice to feel warm after coming out of the water, not shivering under a towel!
We continued westwards towards Rethymno, Adrian fighting with sat-nav problems. At Panormos we came down to a quiet, sandy harbour. We ate our lunch sitting by the beach, finishing up our rolls with feta cheese, and with eggs brought from breakfast. Afterwards we had another pleasant short swim in the calm, warm water.
Soon afterwards we passed two well stocked tourist supermarkets, and Adrian was able to buy the tonic which he'd forgotten to get, then we passed pleasant beaches as our road led along near the sea.
At Georgioupoli (Yeorioupolis) we turned off to explore some of the Dhrapano peninsula. Georgioupoli was a delightful little town with small shops/cafes surrounding a square with fountains, beneath huge eucalyptus trees. We'd stopped beside a house with many sculptures looking like a museum. As we ate an icecream by the square, we thought that this would be a happy place to come for a holiday, and thought so even more when we saw that a river came out to the sea here.
We continued into the hills, passing remote little villages. We wound up to the village of Aspro, mentioned in our guide book as being 'like Greece of old', but were only struck by the new houses which we passed.
We came back down to the sea at pretty Almiridha, a sandy, shallow cove, which would have been nice for children. It was lined with tavernas. A lot of people were lazing on the beach - this would soon have bored us!
We carried on towards Hania, finding our way through to Hotel Poseidon (Posidonio) which was right by a long sandy beach backed by eating places.
We were able to park right outside. Having booked in, and had a look at our room, we waited for the small lift, wondering why it took so long, before we realised it was there all the time!
We sat on our balcony, with views down to the beach, with a reviving cup of tea and then a sundowner.
We then walked out along beside the beach. There was a nice looking fish restaurant right next door, but tonight we continued to another one, which turned out to be excellent. We shared fried vegetables to start - courgette, aubergine and mushrooms in a light batter, then followed this with giant prawns and calamari, all very nice, and accompanied by a pleasant carafe of house wine. A group of 3 young musicians came in briefly and played Greek music (2 with accordions, one with a drum), which added to the happy atmosphere. We were brought raki, and a desert, so felt quite mellow as we walked back at 10 o'clock.
Thursday 6th October Hania (Chania, Xania) and the Akrotiri peninsula 45km
This was supposed to be our lazy, catching up day, but didn't really seem that way!
After showers and breakfast, I caught up with the diary, so we didn't leave until late morning.
We drove down into Hania, arriving at a car park at 11.50. No change was given, so we had 2½ hours, which we though was loads of time!
It was hot in the sun as we set off, we were glad to find a shady side street. We came to the very ornate church of St Nicholas which had both a tower and a minaret from its Christian and Moslem Turkish past. Beside it was Square 1821 with shaded eating places.
We wandered down to the Inner harbour and then along to the outer harbour, passing some ancient buildings and walls. It looked very Italian, from its Venetian past, mingled with the Turkish minaret of the lighthouse.
The waterside was lined with eating places, many very smart, but others more touristy, with touts trying to entice you in. We finally settled on one, and ordered a 'small beer', each which turned out to be enormous!
We watched the tourists walk by, and the occasional smart horse and carriage, looking across to the strange mosque of the Janisserris, built in 1645.
Our meal of stuffed vine leaves (memories for me of Margaret Massialas in Athens) and Greek salad, was excellent. We were given the usual raki, with some Turkish delight afterwards. Now the interesting part came! Adrian handed over a €50 note for our €24 bill, and when asked for our change, the waiter and owner went dashing off. It would appear that the change had been given to another family, who were making off with it! We did eventually get it.
We now started wandering back along the narrow, atmospheric alleys full of attractive eating places. I bought some postcards, and we then came to the market. We'd missed the cathedral, but in looking at the time, found that we only had 10 minutes left, so rushed on past the minaret and got back to the car just in time!
We drove on now to the Akrotiri peninsula, stopping first at Kalathas beach, which had sand, blue sea and sky, but was very windy, so I just settled on a paddle. One family was enjoying the water and there were a few takers for the sunbeds.
We continues to Tersanas - a beautiful sandy cove where we both had a swim in the calm water. As I waded ashore, I stumbled on the one underwater rock and fell full length into the sea!
We revived with a shared cup of tea before driving on to Stavros, at the north of the peninsula. This was a divine place - a near circular bay with a barren mountain behind it - referred to as Zorba's Mountain, as it is where the final part of Zorba the Greek was filmed.
The water here is so calm, that many families were enjoying it. We walked along to a delightful old windmill, now part of the restaurant.
We now drove back down the peninsula, stopping to look at Venizelos graves - of a famous statesman and his son, who had resisted the attempted take over by the Turks. It was set amongst scented pine trees, with lovely views back to Hania.
When we got back to our hotel, it was 6 o'clock. We ascended by the tiny lift, which amuses us, as it is dark when you enter, and the light only comes on when you've pressed the button for your floor - which you can't see in the dark!
By now it was time for sundowners on the balcony!
We had decided to eat at the restaurant next door, which we thought yesterday was a fish restaurant. It did serve fish, but we ate veggie dishes – stuffed aubergine and mixed veg, with a beer. Ouzo afterwards (not raki tonight) came with a piece of 'chocolate biscuit cake.'
We walked on down to the Venetian Harbour, with its sea of masts amongst the antiquity. We came to some of the City Walls, which we'd glimpsed last night on our way from the airport. It was a nice sight to see children playing ball games in pitches beneath them.
On our walk back, we came to the Archaeological museum. We looked around the large patio surrounding it, but decided against going in, as it was late morning by now, and we were collecting the car at lunchtime and were then planning to visit Knossos. We read that the museum was being refurbished, but maybe by now it is completed.
We had become hot walking around, so stopped to buy an icecream but the only flavour available for me was vanilla, so not very exciting. It reminded us of a time when the children were small, and Simon asked for 'Pornish'. Flavoured ice creams were rare then. When his 'Cornish' icecream came, he was most disappointed – 'It's just plain white'!
We were now refreshed enough to walk back to our hotel via the cathedral. We passed where the supposedly busy market was held, but there was nothing there. Now near our hotel, we got lost on the last bit in the maze of streets, so it was gone midday when we returned.