Showing posts with label Chania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chania. Show all posts

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.

Linking soon with:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bill Kitson: On Vacation from Crime

We thank Bill Kitson, our English crime writer friend, for this report of his trip to Greece last month:   

We visited  Athens en route to Crete. Our itinerary was to fly there, spend a couple of days in the capital, before taking the overnight ferry from Piraeus to Chania. That left us with one decision, where to stay?
folenaxosathens 022 The hotel I’d used in the past was proving more expensive than we were prepared to pay, added to which, the reviews were less than encouraging. After searching the internet (taking Joel’s tip), we settled on the Hotel Kimon, a boutique hotel close to the Plaka and the cathedral, within easy distance of the Acropolis.

One of the disadvantages was the lack of an elevator, but the stairs were quite manageable, even for us oldsters. The reward on climbing them was a comfortable, well appointed room with TV, air conditioning and wi-fi.

Continental breakfast, included in the cost, is served on the roof terrace, where early diners can grab one of the tables with a view of the Acropolis. On hearing I’m an author, the waitress asked for my autograph, saying that she would put it on her wall, next to that of Bono!

The roof terrace is also open in the evening, and although the hotel does not serve evening meals, you might want to take a bottle of wine up there as the capital drifts off to sleep, and sit looking at the magnificent spectacle of the Parthenon bathed in the glow from the floodlights on all sides.
The cathedral is close by, a fact that you should be aware of, as the bells will ring at 7am. No need to pack an alarm clock, though.

There is considerable noise from the large number of motorbikes using the narrow streets of the old town, but I suspect that will be the case wherever you stay. A combination of the lack of space in the streets, and the high price of gasoline has resulted in these being the most popular mode of transport.

Accommodation in a superior double room with 2 occupants at the Kimon Hotel in early May, was  €80 per night (approx. $116)

cretan peoplenplaces 002
Our flight time for the return journey had been changed, so we left Loutro, the village on Crete’s southern coast (where we met Joel and Jackie last year), a day early and spend a night in Chania on the way to the airport. This enabled us to avoid a very long day’s travelling.

On the advice of our friend Pavlos, (pictured above with Bill and Val Kitson) we’d asked him to book us a room at the Hotel Nefeli, close to the bus station, and directly opposite his cousin’s fish and vegetarian restaurant, reputed to be one of the best in town.

The Nefeli is beautifully appointed, with a high standard of cleanliness and decor. There is an elevator to all floors, rooms have TV, air conditioning, balconies, wired broadband and a mini-bar. The breakfast dining room is on the first floor, and on the ground floor there is a bar and lounge. There is also a roof terrace, but we didn’t venture onto that.

This is five star accommodation at less than five star prices, and having sampled the cousin’s restaurant (His name is George, by the way, which made it tricky, because Pavlos has somewhere in the region of six cousins called George), we can vouch for the quality of the food. Try the salt cod and chips, but only if you’re real hungry.

The old town is within easy walking distance, as is the harbour area, and there’s a superb market close by, where you can buy all manner of herbs, spices, gifts and food of all descriptions.

Accommodation at the Hotel Nefeli in May cost a mere €55 (approx $80) for a double room with 2 occupants. That, we considered to be a bargain.

So what happened to Bill and Val when Iceland’s volcano blew about the same time they were heading home? He’ll tell you in the next post.  Bill’s fourth book is out and the fifth in the Mike Nash detective series is slated for release this fall. It is also Crime Writers Week in England - June 13 - 19. Those of you living there may be lucky enough to see Bill at one of his speaking engagements.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Goat bells, olive groves and gorges

Our first week is coming far too quickly to an end. We've taken the advice of Andres, our co-manager/host at Lefka Apartments and taken the off-the-beaten-path roads to places where the tourist buses don't, actually couldn't go, because of the narrow roads and hairpin turns along the way. Think Hart's Pass in Mazama or the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Our little Renault, a car the size of Herbie my VW, is about as big as one would want to be in on the single lane roads that lead through a gorge darkened by the cliff overhangs to heights that are so dizzying that you really don't want to look down from the guard-rail-less road carved out of the rocky hillside to the drop below. The island's Samaria Gorge is popular with hikers and a well-known tourist destination, but our travels through Therisso Gorge only a few kilomters from Chania was pretty spectacular. The roadwayloops its way up hillsides in hairpin turns so sharp that you breath a sigh of relief to have successfully navigated them.

The rocky hillsides are covered with vast amounts of olive groves and goat herds -- many herds chose to lay in the roadway or at its side; it wasn't unusual to make a hairpin turn and find ourselves looking eye to eye with one or two goats. The silence of the hills was broken only by the sound of their hollow tinkling goat bells.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kalimera from Chania!

Kalimera (Good Morning) from our home away from home in Chania, Crete. We arrived here mid-afternoon Wednesday per our earlier schedule of British Air to London Heathrow, followed by an overnight at the Courtyard Marriott, walking distance to Gatwick Airport, followed by a 7 a.m. flight to Heraklion (Iraklion). Our rental car arrangement worked like a charm. A fellow met us at the Crete airport, took us to the car and within 15 minutes of arriving we were on the road to Chania.

Driving here is as interesting as driving in Mexico. . .here they pull partially on to the shoulder and stay partially in the right lane to alert you that you can pass - on hills, curves, straightways, it doesn't seem to matter much to them. On coming cars do the same so the problems arise when the two passing cars in opposite directions both need to be partially over the center line. Keeps the drive interesting to say the least. And as we had been advised, we do not need International licenses to drive in Crete.

Our Lefka apartments really are as nice as all those Trip Advisor reviews kept telling us they would be. We are in a studio, with well equipped (dishes, utensils, microwave, two-burner stove, refridgerator, coffee pot and hot water pot) kitchen, couch, television, two twin beds put together, small but spotlessly clean bathroom and we have balcony that looks out over the pool.
I took the photo an hour ago while sipping fresh squeezed orange juice. . .
The grounds of this 16-unit building are an oasis in this bustling city. The gate leads under an arbor of bouganvilla in full bloom, past canna lillies, towering pandamus, a lemon tree and roses. The pool bar is where we dined last night -- I had pork souvlaki and Joel the bbq'ed swordfish -- served with Greek potato salad, french fries and Greek salad, for 7E and 8E, respectively. Too much for a single meal so will dine on it again tonight. Our complimentary dessert of Greek yogurt with a dried cherry cinnamon sauce was served with muscat wine.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


If all goes as planned by Wednesday we will be in Chania (pronounced 'Hanya') Crete, where we have rented a studio apartment for a week at the rate of 50E per night at Lefka Apartments ( As we re-read traveler's reviews ( of the place we are eager to experience it first-hand. We will be slightly out of the picturesque Venetian Quarter that borders the harbor but are assured that buses run regularly past our apartments, so should have easy access to it and other local points of interest.

Crete is the largest and most southern of the Greek Islands and is the fifth largest of Mediterranian islands. Touring the island will take us from the Bronze Age of its Minoan civilization, to Ottoman mosques and Venetian fortresses . . . and the Greek andRoman temples. . .and the sandy beaches and white mountains.

We land at the Iraklia airport where we will rent a car to drive to Chania and to use exploring at least a portion of the western tip of the island during our stay. (We are assured by several companies that we've contacted that International driver's licenses are not required for car rental here).
Next report from on the road in Crete. . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crete is calling

A week from today our dateline will be Chania, Crete. A friend asked if I would share some of our tips for finding inexpensive accommodations, so here are some of the web sites we've used: We stayed in a waterfront hotel in Paros (an island in the Greek Cyclades)for 40E per night that included a buffet breakfast in April 2008. A quick check of this web site this morning, showed nine listed that are available the end of this month ranging from 20 - 28E per night; and some are studios.

We also use which offers accommodations ranging from luxury to cheap places. Another favorite:

We usually double check to see what other travelers might have said about the place. While opinions can vary widely, if a place gets high ratings many times, we don't hesitate to book it. Such is the case with the Lefka Apartments we have booked in Chania. Trip Advisors comment that they couldn't believe a place was as good as that described by other travelers until they arrived and experienced it. We will report in after our arrival.

We also found on our last trip to Greece that people do wait at the ferry dock with hand-printed signs advertising rooms for rent at incredibly low prices. . .so armed with our web sites and sense of adventure, we are holding fast to the plan to have no reservations in Greece and no set island destination other than our first week in Crete (and that is because we knew we wanted to further explore Crete and would easily fill a week or more doing just that).


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