Archive for the ‘Crete 2016’ Category


I said I would say more about my stay at the Casa Delfino hotel in Chania, so here it is.

First a bit of background. I saw this hotel last year and was attracted to it – it looked very inviting, and definitely up-market and luxurious. It’s deep in the heart of the Old Town near the western end of the harbour, and seems to occupy a complete block – there are entrances to it all over the place. Through one of the gates a beautiful courtyard was visible. When I planned this year’s trip I decided to spend most of it elsewhere in Crete but finish with a couple of nights in Chania. I remembered Casa Delfino, made an enquiry, and booked one of their smaller room for two nights.

Initially I came away with slightly mixed feelings, but on reflection that may have been because I was on my own. Thinking about it, I get the feeling that hotels like this are for couples – or families – who are looking for a high-quality experience that they can enjoy together. They’re not really looking for a more social time. As a result I felt a little lonely – I wasn’t able to strike up any conversations with any of the other guests – but had I been with Val I think we would have been able to relax and enjoy each other’s company in the beautiful surroundings. It’s also the case that it was very hot while I was there – 40º on one day – and this inevitably curtailed the use of the outdoor, communal areas. That beautiful courtyard was just as beautiful as I remembered but was also very warm, even in the shaded areas, and the unshaded roof terrace was deserted. The rooms and indoor public areas were  air-conditioned and therefore wonderfully cool and refreshing.

So if those are the reservations, what are the positives? Well, the hotel’s website says that “Today, the building’s rich and colourful heritage is as much a trademark of Casa Delfino as the exceptional hospitality and elegant interiors“, and to a great extent that’s true. The service was exemplary; the accommodations were superb, even in a basic room – the suites must be amazing; the setting and location is wonderful; and the breakfasts were excellent. I also had a spa treatment which was a definite highlight. Any reservations I had are probably due to the fact that I wasn’t their ideal customer, being on my own. I think that if I’d been with Val it would have been perfect.

All of that said – it was not cheap, even for a basic room. It’s a high-quality experience, but also an expensive one. Best in short, concentrated doses.



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Crete 2016 – Back home

Well, it’s over. After a long, tedious but punctual flight I landed at East Midlands airport just after 11pm yesterday, along with about half-a-dozen other planes. As a result it took a long time to just get off the plane – all the buses were busy – and then get through UK Border Control – the queue stretched out of the entry hall, down a couple of corridors, and back out onto the airport tarmac. At least taking a while to get through there meant that there was no real holdup in the baggage hall – the bags were already on the conveyors by the time I got there.

I had a certain amount of fun finding the Premier Inn but did so eventually, and hit my pillow at just before 1am; which was actually nearer 3am, Greek time. Then I woke up at about 5:30 and, because I felt quite wide awake, decided to get up and get on the road as quickly as possible. As a result I was pulling into my drive just before 7 o’clock this morning, which meant that Val and I had a chance to see each other for a few minutes and have a chat talk before she headed off to Stoke at about 7:15.

I did learn something interesting while waiting for the flight home. I had a chat with a couple who had missed the flight out a week earlier because of the hold-ups own the M1 – I blogged about this in an earlier post. Because of the holdups they missed the flight – they arrived at the airport at about the time the plane was taking off. When they spoke to Ryanair they were in fact offered a free switch, either to a flight on Friday from East Midlands, or a flight at 7am the following morning (last Tuesday) from Leeds Bradford and they decided to do the latter. They left their car in the car park at East Midlands and hired a car, one way, to drive to Leeds Bradford which they reached later on Monday, and they spent the night in the public lounge at there airport. Obviously they had to pay for the car hire themselves, but it was good to hear that Ryanair responded so positively to their problem – I think Ryanair would have been within their rights to say “you missed the plane, so that’s it”.

So that’s the end of this year’s Greece trip. Here’s a link to a Summary & Review page about it.

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Chania harbour, late morning, 20 June 2016

So today I’m heading home. This has led to some complications. My flight isn’t until 8:50 tonight and I had to check out of the hotel at 1pm. However, they’re letting me loiter around the hotel reception area (which is air-conditioned), so that’s helpful. I had a last wander round Chania before checking out.

I’ve also decided to not bother with the transfer to the airport that I’ve already paid for. I would have had to get to the bus station, which would have cost €7 or €8 in a taxi – it’s far too hot to think about walking, especially with my luggage. It turns out that a taxi all the way to the airport is only €25, and given that it will be much easier, that’s what I’m going to do.

So the flight is at 8:50pm Greek time, and from push-back at Chania to doors open at East Midlands it’s scheduled to take 4h 15m. Take off the two hours time difference, and I’ll be landing at just after 11pm UK time. Then I’ll sample the delights of the East Midlands airport Premier Inn for the night, before finally getting home some time tomorrow morning.

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Temperature at 10:40

I’ve been in Chania today, where it has been very hot. The image above was taken at the bus station at about 10:40, and of course it got hotter thereafter. It was forecast to reach over 40° in mid-afternoon, and I can fully believe it did.

So I just wandered around this morning, with frequent breaks for water and eventually lunch. In the end I decided that I was so hot I might as well go exploring, and I found a stretch of the Byzantine Walls that are being restored/conserved. I read up on them a bit – ‘Byzantine’ put them back into the 7th to 12th centuries, but I discovered that parts of them are older than that. Some of of the lower courses are eastern Roman Empire (4th to 6th centuries), and the lowest courses of all date from the Hellenistic period (pre-Roman) and in fact re-used stones from an even earlier settlement, Kydonia. So there are bits of that wall dating back 2,500 years. I also found a few other bits of picturesque older Chania.

Then at about 2:30 I went back to the hotel for a few hours, away from the heat. After that I went back out and toured round the leather goods shops. At one point I spotted some Japanese women, all dressed up very strangely- the image alongside is of two of them. Cos-play, I wonder? Whatever their reason, I couldn’t help feeling that they must have been very hot in those outfits. I finished this excursion with a beer.

Then it was back to the hotel to shower and change for the evening. I ate in Kritamon again, and afterwards wandered along the harbour. Right at the far end there was a band playing outside the Mediteranean Architectural Centre, which also  meant it was also playing alongside a local restaurant, and the diners there didn’t seem to be the band’s biggest fans. Then it was on to Noma for a last drink, and back to the hotel at just after 11:30.  Even at 11 o’clock some of the restaurants were still full of diners.

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Casa Delfino courtyard

Yesterday I had a final morning in Paleochora before heading to Chania on the midday bus. (That makes it sound a bit like a western – ” he’ll be on the midday stage, boys”.) It was two hours back to Chania so I was checking in at the Casa Delfino at just after 2 o’clock. I got there from the bus station by taxi – it’s not that far, perhaps half a mile or so, but given the heat I decided that turning up at a classy joint not looking like a puddle of sweat would be good.
I’ll write more about the Casa Delfino later, but in summary it’s a stylish boutique hotel constructed out of several Venetian era houses arranged around a courtyard. It’s quite pricey, but the service is very good – there are lots of staff who seem to speak several languages.

Among the various facilities of the hotel is a Spa. I was quite prepared to give this a miss, but I did look through the list of treatments and one caught my eye: “After Samaria Gorge”. Well, I had to try that. I’ve never had a spa treatment before, so this was all new, and I was a bit uncertain of the procedure. But I had a shower first, then put on underwear and a (supplied) bath robe, and went down to the spa. Everything was very proper. The masseuse explained how I should arrange myself – lying face down, naked, but covered with a towel. Then she absented herself for a minute while I made it so. Then she returned and started torturing me the treatment. First I received an all-over massage, back and front, and I suppose this lasted maybe 20 minutes or so. (The turning over onto my front was done very efficiently – she lifted the towel up and held it in front of her face, told me to turn over, and when I had done so she simply laid it down across me.) After the full-body massage she spent a lot of time on my calves and thighs, because I had indicated that these were hurting following the walk on Thursday. This lasted a good 20 to 25 minutes, and was quite painful at times – she was definitely giving my various muscles in those regions some stick. Finally the treatment finished with a 15 minute or so foot massage, which I have to say was delightful. All in all the treatment lasted for 70 minutes. I certainly knew I’d been treated – I fairly hobbled out, smelling of essence of grapefruit (the aroma I’d chosen at the beginning). As to whether it was effective – yesterday evening my mobility, especially going down steps, was worse than it had been before the treatment (the result of that early steep descent down the steps on the walk) but today everything is a lot easier.

Later in the afternoon I wandered around Chania reminding myself where everywhere is, then (after another shower) went out to dinner at about 8 o’clock. I’d reserved a table at a restaurant I’d loved last year, Kritamon, which was newly opened at that time. In the year since it has apparently changed hands. The food was as good as ever, but their wine policy has changed; there are now very few wines by the glass. And prices have increased – my meal, including two courses and a couple of glasses of wine, came to €30. Compare that to €10.50 in Paleochora. That said, the meal at Kritamon was better.

After that I strolled around the harbour area for a while before coming to rest at Nama, a bar that does good music and excellent wines, where I had another glass of wine before calling it a night at about midnight and heading back to the hotel.

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Beach from Castello’s snack bar

After Thursday’s heroics (!) I decided that a quiet restful day was called for on Friday. I spent some time wandering around the village, and had a cappuccino at what has become a favourite snack bar, Castellos, which overlooks the sandy beach. While I was doing this I noticed that the sea, which had been so rough on Wednesday, was completely calm – there was no wind. Obviously some time on the beach was called-for, and I got down there by just after 11 o’clock. Given that I’m not normally a beach person you’ll be surprised that I didn’t leave it until about 3:30, and had a couple of dips in the sea as well. Both the time on the beach and in the sea were much better and enjoyable experiences than had been the case on Wednesday.

After going back to the hotel I finally had that long-awaited beer. Then after cleaning myself up, doing the ‘Walking the Samaria Gorge’ post and having a frankly unsatisfying meal, I hit Paleochora’s best wine bar. Probably Paleochora’s only wine bar, but I had several glasses of very enjoyable Greek red wine at very reasonable prices, so I went back to the hotel happy and rested.

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Taken at the top

Yesterday I successfully walked the length of the Samaria Gorge. For those who haven’t heard of it (and a year or so that would have included me), it’s about 16 kms long, with an additional kilometre or two at the bottom for the walk-out to Agia Roumelli. There’s also a 1250 metre drop in altitude.

I arranged an excursion through an agency in Paelochora, starting at 7:30 yesterday. The first thing I did was to have some breakfast at a snack bar and bakery just by the pickup point. I bought two filled sandwiches – one for breakfast, the other to eat during the day. This is important as there is no food available during the walk. I also took two half-litre bottles of water, with the aim of replenishing them during the day – there is water available in the gorge. I was glad there was, as the litre of water I’d taken wasn’t enough – I must have got through twice that amount overall. I wore a hat, and I wore good footwear – I don’t think ordinary trainers (and certainly not sandals) would do. I have a pair of North Face walking shoes – think ‘tough trainers’ – and they were a good choice. Boots would also do, of course, but would be very heavy and hot. (more…)

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Just a quick post to say that I managed to complete the Samaria Gorge walk. I’ll do a fuller report with images tomorrow, but this post is just to report success, and to admit that I’m rather pleased with myself. The whole day lasted just over 12 hours, and I was walking for just under 7 of them. But as I say, I’ll do a full post tomorrow.

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Last year I was attracted by the walk down the Samaria Gorge, but in the end I didn’t attempt it – I blogged about my reasons here. This year, however, I’m going to do it. As I’d hoped, there are excursions from Paleochora to the top of the gorge and I’m booked on one tomorrow.

It starts at 7:30 am and takes us to Omalos, which is a small village some distance inland and up in the mountains, and is near the start of the gorge. I’m not clear if we get dropped in Omalos village (which is two or three kilometres from the top of the gorge) or whether we get driven to the top. I hope the latter – it looks as if there is a reasonable road to the start of the walk. Then after 15 (or 17) kilometres the weary hiker arrives at Agia Roumelli, another small town/village along the south coast. This is the one that doesn’t have any road links to anywhere; instead there’s a ferry from Paleochora that calls there. The ferry back leaves at 17:30, and takes a bit more than an hour to get back to Paleochora.

There are a couple of things that could still spoil the plan. First, if the weather is rough – specifically, if the sea is rough – the ferry doesn’t run. However I gather this will be known early in the morning and in that case the whole excursion is cancelled. The other problem is my propensity to tummy upsets – one of these was part of the reason why I didn’t do the walk last year. However, I’m reasonably OK so far this year, and I’m well-supplied with the appropriate medication! All being well, I shall do it tomorrow.

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Well, I’ve spent a day in Paleochora and I’m beginning to feel that I’ve exhausted its possibilities. But never mind.

I had a leisurely start to the morning – up at 8:30 or so, breakfast a bit after 9, did some blogging, and at about 11 o’clock ventured out to take some more pictures and explore a bit more. You can see some of the pictures at the top of this post. The exploration didn’t take long – I was having a cappuccino just before noon (according to Italian practice, cappuccino must always be drunk in the morning, never afterwards). Then, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I explored all over again, but failed to find anything new.

I did find the bus station, however. Obviously this was where the bus stopped when I arrived, but at that time I was more concerned with recovering all of my luggage and then finding the hotel. Finding the bus station is important for when I escape leave on Saturday morning.

I then decided to go and sit on a beach, and perhaps even have a swim. This involved going back to the hotel and changing into my swimming costume, and also involved buying a towel – the hotel aren’t happy at the idea of their towels being taken to the beach. So that all took up some time, and what with a late-ish lunch I was heading to the beach at about 2 o’clock. The temperature in the town – actually, I’ll start calling it a village – was hot, a bit over 30º, but there was a stiff wind coming off the sea and straight onto the sandy beach. This actually made it feel pretty cold, especially sitting under a sun shade. The idea of sitting out in the sun was appealing but would have been silly, I think – even though it didn’t feel hot the sun was still shining fiercely, and there are limits to the effectiveness of the factor 30 sun cream I’m using. I did however get into the water; my first swim in the Med for a few years. It was fun at first making my way through the waves breaking onto the rising beach, but the bottom seemed to be of variable depth and I realised that I seemed to be being drawn further and further out. So I scrambled back towards the beach which actually took a bit more effort than I had expected, and made my way back to the lounger I’d bagged, feeling (if truth be told) a little relieved to be on dry land again. Treacherous stuff, the sea.

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