Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Crete ~ Old Favorites and New Friends

We knew when we set out that a week-long trip to Crete, or Kriti, as it is known here, simply isn't long enough to see all that this, the largest of the Greek islands, has to offer. 

So our itinerary was based on  two criteria: revisit some of our favorite places and make the face-to-face acquaintance of several Facebook friends who live there.

Bound for Crete from our departure port Gythio 

The length of our stay in late June was determined by the once-a-week sailing schedule of the ferry we had taken from Gythio, in our Peloponnese region of Greece to this elongated island on the southern edge of the Aegean Sea. 

Our week-long itinerary took us to some of our favorite places

The Itinerary

We arrived in Crete's most western port city of Kissamos, in the wee small hour of the morning.  We then drove to nearby Chania, with its charming old town wrapped around its Venetian harbor. Then, after two nights, it was up and over the White Mountain range to the island's southern coast for another two nights in Chora Sfakia. While there, we did a day trip (by ferry) to Loutro . Then, retracing our route back over the mountains, we headed east to Plaka for another two nights. Our final night was spent in the port city of Kissamos. In this post I will take you as far as Loutro. . .

Driving in Crete is a different experience

As I last wrote, we traveled about the island in our car. One of the advantages of being expats and living in Greece is having your own car for road trips like this.  It didn't take long to be reminded of the quirky - but readily accepted --way people drive on this island. It is normal to pull off to the right side so that those behind you can pass even if there are oncoming cars.

Crete/Kriti, at 8,450 square kilometers/3,260 square miles, is so large that it can easily take five hours to drive from its western end to the eastern, a distance of some 340 kilometers.  


I was most excited about our stay in Chania because I have some very good friends there; friends who I had never met face-to-face.  And while I know many of you reading this have your qualms about Facebook, I can tell you that some of the friendships I have made through that social medium are among the many reasons that I sing its praises.  

One FB friend in Chania has been a friend so long that I don't even remember how we met in this on-line world. It was her family-owned hotel that had booked for our first two nights.

Fagotta bar old town Chania

Despoina's small five-studio hotel, Iason Studios, is located only footsteps from the harbor on a street that in the evening turned itself into a fairy-tale setting. And I knew she was a good friend when she told me that she didn't mind waiting until 1 a.m. for our arrival! Yikes! 

The balcony on our 'Lavender' studio

After Despoina got us settled in our studio and headed home for the night, we kicked off our holiday  with a glass of wine at the bar named Fagotto, Greek for the musical instrument, a bassoon. We sat at one of the half dozen tables set up on this narrow street. I didn't think our surroundings could get better until I opened the door and saw our bougainvillea-draped balcony in the morning sun. We couldn't have been in a better location. The suite, which came with kitchen, sitting area, and bedroom, was huge. And our hostess was a charming as I knew she would be! Luckily the Greek government removed the 'wear the mask outdoors' requirement the day we arrived so that she and I could pose for the photo below.

My friend Despoina outside her Iason Studios

The other friends I wanted to meet in Chania were the mother-daughter team who own and operate a jewelry store, Alexia Jewels. We also met on social media when I selected an anniversary necklace from a FB post of theirs last year. The ease of that transaction kicked off our friendship. Throughout the year we've messaged, just to stay in touch.  

I purposely did not post our travel destination on FB as I planned to wear my necklace into the store to see how long it took them to recognize me. I should have known. . .

Alexia and Eveline, friends at Alexia Jewels in Chania, Crete

I had barely gotten to the doorway and not yet entered when Eveline looked up and cried out, "Jackie!!! Is it really you? You came!!"  A warmer welcome I couldn't have received from friends I've known much longer. We pulled out seats and sat and visited as if we'd known each other for years.

South to Chora Sfakia 

Would Niki and her husband still run the small bakery in town?  Would Delfini's still be serving the Sfakian Meat Pie we still talk about seven years later? Would the village look and feel the same?

Sfakian Meat Pie Four cheeses and lamb - still being served!

One of our favorite places on earth is the southern coast of Crete, home to Chora Sfakia and Loutro, villages that we return to each time we are on the island. Not only did Niki and Markos still own the bakery, they have added a second one. Delfini's was still there, serving our favorite meat pie and our favorite waiter is still working there and brought that pie to our table!  

An old coffee shop with a new look in the village 

The village has definitely modernized its waterfront but all our favorites were still there. Many people  even looked the same as we remembered them. We were especially happy to see none of the businesses had fallen victim to the lengthy Covid lockdown we experienced in Greece.  

We had booked a hotel that we'd not stayed in before and found it to be one of the most upscale places we have ever stayed in. A spacious room, huge bathroom and a terrace that could have accommodated many more than the two of us. From the terrace we could watch the ferry arrive from its run along the coast. 

Our upscale room in Chora Sfakia

For you hikers, this is the ferry that hundreds who hike the Samaria Gorge take from the end of the trail to meet buses parked in Chora Sfakia that will transport them back to their vehicles at the trailhead.  

Approaching Chora Sfakia by ferry

We took the Samaria, as the ferry is named, to Loutro the tiny village a bit further west for a morning of  walking along Memory Lane as we have spent two past Greek Easter's in this picturesque spot. (That blue link will take you to more tales and photos of Loutro.)  

Loutro in southern Crete is accessible only by water

With this stop we were half way through our week and I will pause the story there and take up with the rest of Crete next week.  Thank you for the time you've spent with us and welcome to our new subscribers and followers!!  We hope you'll return for the second half of our trip. Until then, stay safe.

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  1. The scenery is beautiful, and, oh, that meat pie! I totally understand "online" friendships. I have a bunch of friends I've known from blogging, and have met in person - it's such a wonderful feeling!

    1. So agree. . .the blog has opened the world of friendships and the other social media is icing on the cake. I wouldn't have you among my friends if we hadn't met in the blogosphere! xxx

  2. I had been wanting to go to Crete (we have a time share there) and I wanted to know how long the ferry takes to Athens. It looks so interesting to explore!

    1. We have always taken the overnight ferry from Crete to Athens as it is a very long route. The one we took from the Peloponnese was 7.5 hours.

  3. Once again you have blessed us with an amazing destination. The narrow streets and shaded courtyards are so quaint. We can almost feel the ocean breezes. Can't wait to see what installment two will bring.

  4. Well it is coming your way quite soon! Thanks for stopping by!!

  5. Beautiful! Hope the wildfires there aren't affecting you.


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