I love Crete, Part II

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July 20th 2013
Published: July 20th 2013
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On our third day we left Chania and started driving along the road in the direction of Kissamos. We thought we might stop there and spend a day or two. Most of the way to Kissamos seemed to be wall to wall tourist resorts and hotels. The day was overcast, the wind was blowing and there were a lot of tourists sitting in cafes looking glum. The town of Kastelli is on a wide bay, surrounded by mountains. It looked very pretty but as we drove along, there seemed to be no break in the tourist resorts and before we knew it, we were at the end of the bay. I had wanted to take a boat and visit Balos for the day but you have to stay there nearly all day and we didn’t really want to be outside on the beach all day in an unprotected place, in particular because it wasn’t so warm and the wind was cold. So we decided that we would drive on in the direction of Falassarna and spend the night there.

Falassarna is a beautiful beach on the west coast. It is off of a very nice winding road that starts in Kissamos and goes down to Elafonissi and Paleochora. The weather still wasn’t the best, it’s a beach resort with not much to do with the main (and perhaps only) attraction being the beach. Even though the wind was really starting to get on my nerves and it was raining a bit by now, after lunch we went for a long walk along the beach. The hotel we stayed in was 35 Euros a night and no thrills. Wasn’t particularly attractive but was fairly clean and the room looked onto the beach. I don’t remember that we ate dinner, I think that we went to bed early. I woke up in the middle of the night. Couldn’t find a light switch and just lay there in the dark listening to the wind. It sounded like there was a mini hurricane raging outside. I eventually got bored and went outside onto the balcony. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sit outside in the cold wind but when I opened the door, I was met by a blast of hot desert wind. Facing the Libyan Sea, with the hot air in my face and a million stars in the sky, it really did remind me of hot nights in the desert, I even had sand in my eyes.

In the morning the weather still wasn’t so nice so we decided we would continue the holiday somewhere else. As we were driving out of Falassarna the sun finally broke through, just in time to take a photo. You can’t see the white plastic green houses that dot the entire area, somewhat marring the view. We rejoined the road down to Elafonissi and after a very pleasant drive arrived there to good weather and blue skies. Unfortunately, the wind was still raging and it was quite cold. It’s a really nice beach but there was no protection from the wind and apart from some hotels and tavernas at the entrance doesn’t have any facilities. We must have found one of the only places, out of the wind. We wedged ourselves in between two big rocks and enjoyed a few hours there.

We continued driving in the direction of Paleochora which was pretty much the end of this particular road. We hadn’t done much reading before we left and only had some vague ideas of where to go. Micha had read that it was nice with quite a lot of taverns and cafes. Micha had originally wanted to stay around Chania because he wanted to have something to do in the evenings. After a fairly boring evening in Falassarna, I also wanted something with a few more options.

Paleochora is on a peninsular and has two sides to it with a Venetian fort on the tip. We drove in on the side that has a big, wide beach. The wind was raging and there was nobody on the beach. I was starting to get a headache from the wind pounding on my forehead and was wondering if we should just head inland and stay in a mountain village. We almost drove out of the village but decided to go inside and take a look. We could see water at the end of the streets that crossed to the other side and we thought it might be a little more protected.

It seemed like a very pleasant little town with a main walking street, lots of restaurants and cafes. Not being the tourist season yet and because it’s not on a main road, there weren’t too many tourists. It was definitely an older crowd, with a lot of Europeans and also Greeks from Athens, some young families and couples. We reached the other side and there was no wind, the water was calm and the harbor was really pretty with mountains all around.

We parked the car opposite the pebble beach and started going along the hotels on the beach front asking if they had a room for the night. The first few were full but we quickly found a room, 40 Euros a night with a good breakfast included, rooms simple and clean, bed quite comfortable and the most important feature – a place to sit outside and while away the time. It also had air conditioning, satellite TV and wifi but we didn’t use them. We ended up staying three nights. We would have stayed longer but we didn’t have any more time.

Every day we’d walk up to the fort. It wasn’t too hot and I liked walking up there in the fresh air. The view of the town and mountains was particularly nice in the late afternoon. We also sat a fair bit on the pebble beach and had lunch and dinner in the restaurants along the waterfront or in the walking street. Apart from the seafood and salads, we also enjoyed the dakos (cheese, tomato, herbs, olive oil on rusks), the stuffed zucchini flowers and vine leaves and the spinach and cheese pies.

One day we drove to Sougia through the mountains. It was all on narrow back roads, took quite a while to get there, with the road winding through the mountains. Spring still lingered and the mountains were covered in flowers and herbs. We stopped several times and walked up the mountain visiting little chapels that dot all the hills. The air was wonderful and heavy with the scent of herbs. It was all quite magical.

Sougia is on a nice bay, with a wide sand beach. A very small place with tavernas and small hotels next to the beach. Some people were camping on the beach, many nudists. We took a walk along the beach as far as the place where you have to go through the water to continue along the coast. We sat and had a drink at a café and later had lunch in one of the restaurants. Nice spot but this was our only unsuccessful meal. My meal was OK, I only ordered salad but Micha ordered fish soup and it wasn’t really fish soup. The waitress did warn us that the soup and fish were separate. Micha shouldn’t have ordered it. Fish soup usually has a variety of seafood that is slowly simmered in broth for many hours. Micha got a bowl of very thin, watery soup and a plate with a few boiled vegetables and a fish head. It wasn’t cheap either. Micha was annoyed, I thought it was sort of funny. I wonder why we only got half a fish, what happened to the other half?

One day we drove on the road next to the coast, past beaches and small bays and coves. We got out and walked, it was quite easy to go from one beach to the next. It seemed every time that we turned a corner into a little hidden cove we would surprise somebody doing something that we would have preferred not to witness. So on that particular day we didn’t find our own private place, they all seemed to be occupied.

We were promised a good breakfast and we got a big breakfast but it was mainly cake and bread. The first day we wondered if anything else was coming or if they had forgotten but every day it was the same. I usually just ate the cake and drank the orange juice. That was enough for me anyway. At the same time as we would be eating our cake, the owner would also be sitting down to his breakfast. Sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend he would partake of huge meals. One time we saw him eating a mega omelet, it looked to be at least six eggs. He covered it all in honey. While we were marveling at his appetite, a group of four Germans sat down. They looked to be about 70, we thought they wanted breakfast but they wanted beer, quite a lot of it too. It was only 9:30 but judging by the laughter it wasn’t their first one.

One evening there was a rock band playing at a bar at the other end of the street. We sat on our balcony and enjoyed the music. At about midnight all the lights went out, the music stopped and complete silence descended. Crete is also beautiful at night, in the dark. With no light from big cities to disturb the night and only the black of the ocean in front of us, the sky was full of stars. The Milky Way is clearly visible, stretching across the sky like a river of diamonds.

At the end of our stay we drove back to the highway near Chania through the mountains. One last beautiful mountain ride before going back to the coast and the road to Heraklion. We got there in the afternoon and spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening walking around the port and doing some souvenir shopping. We finished our stay with a big pot of mussels. We noticed the other diners had all ordered a lot of raki and dessert. It was all complimentary. So we also found ourselves with a plate of fruit, a carafe of raki and a plate of fried dough balls drenched in honey with vanilla ice cream. And it was so good. And though we wanted more, we couldn’t eat it all, it was too much – a bit like Crete itself – so we finished with a few honey balls, washed down with Raki and went to catch a few hours sleep before our early morning flight, already thinking about coming back, wishing we didn’t have to leave.

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20th July 2013

We've traveled the world
When you come back from visiting a few countries everyone always wants to know which country was your favorite. Impossible to answer as you have to compare apples to oranges. But, Greece will always be on the top of my list. Thanks for sharing. Your blog brings back some great memories.

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