Archive for the ‘Crete 2017’ Category

Chania Harbour and Porto Veneziano hotel

After leaving Palaiochora I went back to Chania for three nights. This was my third holiday in Crete and all of them have featured nights in Chania so I was wondering if I would be getting bored with the town. But not so – I find it as delightful and entrancing as ever.

This year I was staying at the Porto Veneziano hotel. I found it to be very good. It’s a much more modern hotel than any of the others I’ve stayed at in Chania – indeed, it’s almost the only new structure around the harbour. So the rooms were very modern and comfortable and there were good facilities on the ground floor. There’s no restaurant (well, apart from a buffet breakfast area) but that’s not a hardship – there are a million restaurants around Chania harbour, including a couple just outside the hotel. This hotel is right at the eastern end of the harbour, very close to the Venetian Arsenal, which was also new to me – previously I’d stayed at hotels at the opposite end of the harbour, which is a good half-mile or more away. I found some areas of Chania that I’d never explored before – the area further east of the harbour, round by the Sabbionara Rampart and the walk around the bay to the east of that. I was also closer to the oldest part of Chania, ‘Kasteli’, the low hilltop immediately behind the eastern end of the harbour. There are archaeological excavations around that area which reveal the history of the settlement that became Chania going back to Minoan and even pre-Minoan times – nearly 4,000 years ago. Some areas have been excavated and have interpretative displays, in English and Greek, available to read. But the highest point of the hill is occupied by much more recent buildings, so what might lie beneath those areas is still unknown. As ever when looking at very old archaeological sites, I’m completely thrown by the fact that the historic ground level is a number of feet lower than ground level today. Who knew that 4000 years of rubbish would have such an effect?

Here are some more pictures of Chania harbour:

On my first full day in Chania I actually went to Heraklion! I did this on the regular public bus which took longer than I had remembered – about two and three-quarter hours going, and a solid three hours on the return. I had thought that the journey time was more like a couple of hours or so, but I was mistaken. My target in Heraklion was primarily the Historical Museum of Crete which I found easily and which was good. There was a particularly good room on the ground floor about the Ottoman conquest of Heraklion in the 17th century, and the way the defences of the city were enhanced over the previous fifty years or so to combat the threat. Another display featured a large number of icons – all beautiful and colourful, and ranging from very skilled and sophisticated to icons that are cleary the work of more rustic artists.

After spending a couple of hours or so in the museum I went down to the harbour where there is large Venetian-era fortress (the Koules fortress) which has been restored and opened to the public in recent years. It’s a truly monumental piece of architecture with walls some yards thick in order to withstand the Turkish attacks. All to no avail in the end…

On my final day I went to a resort not far from Chania, Kalyves. I had been looking at this as a possible place for a holiday for Val and I together someday – it’s not too far from Chania and and not too commercialised. In the event however I came away a little underwhelmed with Kalyves. I think if we go there it might be better to spend a few days in a good resort hotel  somewhere like Platanias, in the developed strip west of the town, before going back to Chania for a final few nights. But I finished the day with a beer in a bar in a road away from the harbour – very quiete, a bit hippy, and not too commercial.

Fisherman with a view

Then the following morning I had to leave. I took a final few pictures around the harbour; I bought a small piece of local art ceramic from a small gallery; and then it was time for the taxi to the airport to wait for the flight home.

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I eventually got to Palaiochora just before lunchtime on Thursday. While I was waiting for my room to be ready I reacquainted myself with the town, and walked around for a couple of hours. From one beach to the other, and a climb up to the Castro at the end of the peninsula, did the trick. A cappuccino and sandwich at the Castelli snack bar above the sandy beach also helped.

I checked in and then just rested at the hotel for a couple of hours – after all the travelling I was ready for that. Although the weather was better – it wasn’t raining, for example – it wasn’t very warm either so sitting on the beach wasn’t quite right. Eventually I decided it was time to go out and eat, and I had a Cretan meal in a traditional taverna, ‘Portofino’, overlooking the stony beach. I had a Graviera Saganaki starter (a fried breaded cheese dish – very tasty) followed by “lamb and potato from the oven”, which was also good if very filling. Then back to the hotel for an early night.

Friday was the highlight of my stay in Palaiochora. Starting just after 10 o’clock I walked up to Anidri village, about three miles away. There’s a good kaffeneion there in the old schoolhouse at which I enjoyed the best cheesecake in the world, but the main point was that Anidri is at the top of the eponymous Gorge, which leads down to Giaskala beach itself about three miles from Palaiochira. Immediately after starting the gorge path I found the old (14th c.) chapel of Agios Giorgios – St George – complete with frescoes of him slaying the dragon. The chapel is very small and very peaceful, and well worth a visit.

Then it was on down the gorge. This took about an hour, so it was much simpler, shorter and easier than last year’s walk down Samaria gorge. Nonetheless it was a very enjoyable walk. At Giaskala beach there’s another taverna where I enjoyed a glass of fresh orange before the walk back along a dusty road back into Palaiochora. I’ll admit, this section was somewhat underwhelming. Then it was back to the hotel at just after 3 o’clock.

I ate in Portofino again that evening, this time rather less successfully – “beef from the oven”, which was tasty enough but of which there was a huge amount.

Saturday was my last full day in Palaiochora, and I spent it exploring the beaches. In the morning I walked out along the road leading westwards of the town, along the sandy beach, and then walked back along the beach itself. I paddled! The weather was sunny and warm, but again there was a stiff breeze which was hitting the sandy beach hard and it wasn’t the right place for sitting on a lounger. So I headed up to Castelli again and had my first serious junk food of the holiday – a club sandwich + fries, which was in fact delicious, and which was followed by a glass of draft Alpha. In the afternoon I put on my swimming gear and walked up the stony beach to a beach club – Perla Cove – where I bagged a lounger and enjoyed an hour on it. This beach is out of the wind. I did try going on for a swim but the beach is, as I’ve mentioned, stony underfoot (and thus painful), while the rocks that are permanently under water (even just a few inches) are very slippery, so I thought better of this. As an alternative I headed for the bar above the beach and let the barman mix me a gin and tonic. Then back to the hotel – slowly.

View from Castro cocktail bar

I spent the main part of the evening having first a cocktail and then a meal at Castro, a restaurant/cocktail bar on the way up to the the actual castro. It’s stunningly located, high up above the town, but the wind got up and I was in shirt sleeves, so I ended up very cold. The plate of pasta was excellent, however, and the glass of raki at the end had a certain warming effect. Either that or it helped me stop worrying about the cold…. A quick trip back to the hotel was followed by a visit to Monica’s Garden, Palaiochora’s best (only?) wine bar where a glass of cretan wine was enjoyed. Then back to the hotel for the last night.

The following morning it was time to move back to Chania. One last look around Palaiochora after breakfast, finish packing, and then I was on the midday bus.

Last look at the beach

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Chania in the rain

It’s early summer (OK, late spring) so it must be time for my holiday in Crete. As usual I’m there for a week, with the first four nights in Palaiochora and the remaining three nights in Chania. Bearing in mind last year’s long wait for the flight home at 9pm (and the consequent very late arrival ay East Midlands airport) I looked for more convenient flight times and booked with BA out of Heathrow. Outbound flight would be at 7:05 am and the return flight would be at 13:45, Chania time. Of course, the very early outbound flight necessitated an overnight stay near Heathrow the day before, and indeed flying our of Heathrow meant I would have to do the Totley to Heathrow drive twice. The flights were on successive Wednesdays

The drive down to Heathrow was easy – 165 miles straight down the M1 and onto the M25, it took three and a half hours with a couple of shortish stops, and I achieved a magnificent 54mpg! I got to the Premier Inn on Bath Road at just about 2pm, checked in, and decided to go into central London. This required a bus from outside the hotel to Hounslow bus station followed by a Piccadilly line tube, and the whole experience took about an hour; so a bit of a faff.

While I was wandering around St James/Piccadilly I received a text from BA – my flight would now depart at 9:05 the following morning, i.e. two hours later. In and of itself this didn’t bother me too much – I would still have needed to get to Heathrow the day before. But it could have an impact on my plans for the following day. With the flight originally planned to arrive at Chania at 1pm I would have had plenty of time to get the last bus from Chania bus station to Palaiochora at 4pm. But an arrival at 3pm would put the operation in considerable jeopardy – getting through immigration, retrieving luggage and getting into Chania by 4pm would be tight, and any further delay would rule it out. And a later taxi wouldn’t be an option – it’s 75 kilometres from Chania to Palaiochora, over the mountains, and this would cost £££ (or €€€ actually). So I decided to book an emergency room in Chania for the first night and was able to get space in the Casa Veneto in the old town, for €51. I also contacted the Hotel Glarios in Palaiochora to tell them I wouldn’t be there the first night. (more…)

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