Posts Tagged ‘Chania’

My holiday ended on Wednesday. I was at the airport by 11 o’clock, in the air before 2 o’clock, and getting through UK Border and baggage reclaim between 4:30 and 5pm UK time. I got my car back at 5 o’clock and after successfully negotiating the M25, M40, A43 and the M1, I reached home shortly before 9pm – can’t complain about that. Then there began the post holiday round of unpacking, washing & ironing, of course.

So what did I think of the holiday? After all, this was my fourth visit to Crete in successive years – am I all ‘Crete-d out’? Well, there were times when I was beginning to think so. However, my overall conclusion is that I enjoyed it and I had a good time.

I came to like Heraklion a lot. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was surprised that the town didn’t make more of its port; well, I think I’ve got over that feeling. What I came to realise is that Heraklion isn’t primarily a tourist town, or a resort – it’s the capital of Crete and most of the restaurants and bars are catering primarily for a Greek population. In fact, given that it’s a good-sized city it’s an urban, educated and professional population at that. The number of tourists in Heraklion itself is quite small, I think, and is dwarfed by the local population. Once I’d realised this, I came to enjoy it. Most of the people I was seeing were therefore local people getting on with their lives.

In contrast, Agios Nikolaos was completely touristy. That was probably the most unsatisfying day of the holiday – I got hot and tired and didn’t really discover anything new. And I found the restaurant I visited for lunch less welcoming than the non-tourist restaurants in Heraklion. Little things – in Heraklion, no sooner had you taken your seat in a restaurant or bar but a glass of water would be placed in front of you, together with a small bowl of nibbles, all free of charge, whereas at the restaurant at Ag Nik I had to ask for water, and when it came it was in a bottle that I had to pay for.

Chania, too, shared some of the touristy aspects. The harbour front is undeniably beautiful and I always enjoy walking along it, but it’s also the case that the greeters at the restaurants are undeniably pushy, and again you can get charged for things that you’ve come to take for granted in other places. (Of course, I do recognise that you also get that amazing view.) I enjoyed visiting some lest touristy places, so here’s an honourable mention of the Galileo Cafe, which is on the harbour front, and the Melodica bar on Sifaka, away from the harbour altogether. And I enjoyed really exploring parts of Chania that I’d not been to in previous years – the Splantzia area, for example.

So overall it was a good holiday. But next year I don’t think I will be returning. There will hopefully be other family events happening, on dates that aren’t yet known, so I won’t be making any plans for the late spring or summer.

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Chania Harbour from the breakwater

Sunday was the day I transferred from Heraklion to Chania. This was to be by bus, and I already know it would be a long journey – anything up to three hours. Check-in time at my hotel in Chania was two o’clock and I wanted to be there no later than that. There was also the fact that I couldn’t really get any lunch until after I’d checked in, which was another argument for getting to Chania as close to check-in time as possible. So I walked down to the bus station (getting rather hot in the process) and arrived there at just after ten o’clock.

The buses run every hour on the half-hour, and I was able to get a ticket for the next bus, at 10:30. I’m never sure if they check how many tickets they’ve sold, but probably they do – the buses are generally full, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen people refused boarding at the starting point. Anyway, this bus was certainly full on leaving Heraklion but it slowly lost passengers as we went westwards. The main exodus was at Rethymno, which is about two-thirds of the way to Chania. But progress was fairly leisurely, with frequent stops and some departures from the main road – for example, the bus went into the centre of both Rethymno and Souda, from each of which it then had to get back onto the main road. All in all it was almost three hours three hours after leaving Heraklion that the bus rolled into the familiar surroundings of Chania bus station. The ticket cost just €15.something, which was a bit more than I remembered.


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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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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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On the morning of the last full day of my holiday I walked around the old town early(ish) in the morning taking pictures. Quite by accident I also found the town’s indoor market, so I took more pictures in there. I really enjoyed this couple of hours – I was using a small camera (Canon EOS 100D/SL1, for those interested, marketed as the world’s smallest DSLR) with a very small lens on it (24mm EF-S f2.8 pancake), and they makes for a small, efficient combination. Not having a zoom lens helps in that situation – just raise the camera to your eye, quickly compose and press the shutter.

Here’s a link to a Picasa page with the full set.

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A Sunset cruise



I did a 1 hour ‘Sunset Cruise’ from the harbour one evening. It was in an old boat, just out of the harbour for 15 or 20 minutes to a picturesque spot a few miles along the coast where we stopped, a couple of people swam and snorkelled, refreshments (fruit and raki) were produced, and then we sailed back. And on the way back I got some pictures of a Cretan sunset.

That’s it, really – it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour. Here are a few images. Btw, I learned after the couple in the water came back on board that she couldn’t actually swim…..

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The best things about Chania are the harbour and the old town. The harbour consists of two parts – an outer harbour which is older (although the buildings around it have been renewed and replaced many times) and an inner harbour built by the Venetians in the 16th and 17th centuries during their time in control of Crete. The images above are all of parts of the outer harbour, which today is ringed by restaurants and bars.

The old town is a maze of little streets behind the harbour. It’s also occupied by bars and restaurants, but there is also a wide range of shops selling art, memorabilia, souvenirs and even occasionally some useful stuff – I’ve seen one fruit shop. the shops themselves hit all price points and styles – an art shop with ceramic and/or jewellery costing hundreds of Euros will be next door to a souvenir shop selling the most awful tat, but that’s the way it is in most of the historic ports in the Mediterranean.

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Off to Greece!

I’m having a week in Greece – specifically, in Chania on Crete. I flew out on a very early flight on Tuesday morning – 6:25 from Manchester, which in turn necessitated a stay at a hotel at Manchester Airport the night before, and even then, a 4am start to the day. And after all that the flight was 30 minutes late leaving.

It’s almost four hours to Crete and what with the time change it was two o’clock local time when I eventually checked into my small hotel, El Greco. It’s very small and so are the rooms, and it only does breakfasts, no other meals. That’s not a hardship as you can’t move along along the harbour front or in the lanes of the old town without falling into a bar/restaurant. Actually, the main problem is to stop yourself being physically dragged into them by the at times over-enthusiastic greeters.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon walking around the harbour and the old town, stopping at one point to have a lunch of meat balls with cheese in a tomato sauce which was very tasty. I had to spend some time later sorting out the air-con in my room – it’s tied to the general electrical supply to the room which is only ‘on’ when you’ve put your magnetic room key into the relevant slot, which means that during the time i’m out the air-con is off. But having persuaded it to aim for a lower temperature I was able to reduce the heat in the room. Overnight I just left it on, and in fact slept well.

I ate dinner at a small cafe in the back street just outside the hotel, and had a pork stifado (a goulash). Very tasty; but they served it with fries! Maybe experience has taught them that’s what tourists want. Then it was more walking around the old town and harbour and then to bed.

This morning (Wednesday) I have had a purpose. First I went out and took some photos with the camera on the new light-weight travel tripod, and after that I explored the new town. I was specifically looking for ways of getting to other places, which given that I haven’t hired a car means the bus. After a deal of walking and enquiring I found the main public bus station, which actually looks efficient enough. I hope to go to Rethymnon tomorrow. Now it’s nearly lunchtime, but before that I shall visit the local maritime museum.

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