Crete: Chania and the Libyan Sea.
We had a good flight and arrived at Chania airport and looked for the local bus. It was a couple hundred meters away from arrivals, which seemed odd but indeed it was the right bus. Cost was total of 5 Euros and I must say getting into Chania was much easier than the last time when we rented a car and drove unto the setting sun.
The bus terminal was close to the old town, not more than a 10 minute walk to our hotel. As we trundled through the back alleys we had to pass by several tavernas with outdoor seating. People kept glancing at us as our wheeled suitcases were making an enormous racket as they bounced over the uneven cobblestones. Suddenly the noise level diminished and I realized that my wife was no longer with me. I turned around and there she was engaged in an animated conversation with two children around 10 years old who had been sitting with their parents at a taverna. It turns out that they had noticed the Canadian flag on our suitcase and they chased her because we were the first Canadians they had seen in Chania. It turns out they were from Vancouver and we are from Vancouver Island. We ended up talking to the parents so our little 10 minute walk to the hotel ended up taking us 45 minutes. Its great to be on vacation and just spending time spontaneously.
We returned to Natalies rooms part of Pension Nora. It is a 400 year old converted home with two suites with kitchen. Natalie has added a canopy over the bed since our last visit. What is it about a canopied bed that makes us think of romance? I had provided some information to a couple from Montreal and as it turned out they chose Natalies as well so she put them in the second room. They arrived around 8 o’clock totally jet lagged from the transatlantic flight and just wanted to find a bite to eat and crash. Its my habit to sit at a bar and have an ouzo while the sun sets but we ended up having dinner and getting to know David and Jennifer. We got them back to the hotel at 10:30 and we went to bed. About a half hour later we heard them coming down the stairs and out into the night. Apparently they got their second wind and went bar hopping on the Venetian harbor. See how fast the Greek bug gets to you.
We had one additional day where our vacations overlapped at Boutique Hotel Glaros in Naxos. It turned out our first night was their departure day and we missed seeing them by 5 minutes.
Chania is in my opinion the prettiest city in Greece. It has that lovely Venetian era harbor with its vibrant bars, tavernas and the waterfront promenade. The back alleys are a different world with rickety buildings, iron balconies and fresh bread cooling in the window. You can easily think you have been transported back 500 years.
On our last night we walked the wall out to the Venetian lighthouse. There were people sitting watching the sunset, buskers doing their thing. Chania is magical.
We took the bus to Sougia. It was a two hour ride through deep passes and high mountain peaks. I don’t think the bus ever got out of first gear. Sougia is a small village spread out in a bay on the Libyan sea. The beach is a mix of pebbles to baseball sized rocks and the setting was beautiful. We stayed at Oceanis rooms. It had a lovely shaded courtyard with couches tables and chairs. We spent hours lounging there over looking the sea. The lady in the next room told me there was a really nice beach around the point off the main beach so I swam around the rock formations and found the beach. I think she set me up because there was a decided lack of bathing suits out there. I beat a hasty retreat but not before a couple holding hands jumped off the rocks into the water. I wish I had the free spirit to do something like that.
One of the special things about this coast is that there are remote villages that are connected by ferry. You can take a ferry from Paleochora to Sougia then to Agia Roumuli where the Samaria Gorge ends. A second ferry takes you to Loutro and then terminates in Chora Sfakion. Thanks to Albastron who has recommended this trip for years.
The area is also the hiking capital of Crete but since I have a bad knee we had to content ourselves with the beach and the ferry trip.
We took the trip to Agia Romouli and spent several hours exploring the village and waking up the path to the end of the Samaria Gorge. Just that little section was so rugged. It was spectacular. At least now I can pretend that I was actually in the Gorge.
We took the next ferry to Loutro a small former fishing village now turned into a spectacular ring of small hotels at the waters edge. What I did not realize was there was an ancient town here in the Venetian period. There are remnants of a small fortification and buildings high up in the headland beside Loutro. It is interesting to note that in the past, safety and defense was the primary motivation while today the sheltered bay and proximity to the water are the main draw.
Loutro is the night port for one of the ferrys. It normally docks about 100 meters from our hotel however one evening we heard the engines but they didn't sound right and suddenly the ferry sailed right past our balcony toward the beach. It gently approached and stopped about 5 feet from the beach, down came the ramp on the shore and out of an alley came a big garbage truck and zip into the ferry it went. You simply have to admire the skills of these Greek sailors.
We concluded our ferry hops at Chora Sfakion where we rented a car and headed east to Agia Galini. It is a town set high up a hillside with views over the Libyan sea. While we were there we had a full moon. Beautiful. I had chosen a hotel that had great views over the water and said it was 200 meters from the beach. It was Iro Hotel and I must say it was the least expensive hotel on the whole trip at 30 Euros a night and it had the largest room with a open concept bedroom kitchen and seating area. However that 200 meter from the beach thing, wasn’t even close. All of the action in the town was on the waterfront which was way down the hill. Coming back up was a long haul. We found the shortest route and planned 4 stops to catch our breath on the way up. The quality of the hotel and the price made this a good choice the walk back up not so much.
While the beach at Agia Galini looked nice from atop the hill when we decided to visit we found it unimpressive in an apathetic sort of way, so we walked back along the waterfront to the harbor. On the way we discovered a rusted steel door in the side of the cliff and decided to see where it went. Fortunately I still had my flashlight so we entered and found two bunkers with steel hatches facing the ocean and then a dark steep stairway that led to the top of the cliff. It seemed to be world war two vintage. I just love discovering unexpected quirky things in Greece.
We had a memorable experience at Omar Taverna. This is one of the tavernas on the waterfront high up from the shore with views over the harbor. This taverna has a fresh take on old traditional Greek dishes particularly their stuffed eggplant with vegetables and their shrimp sanganaki. Getting the bill was also an adventure. I had a 50 euro bill to settle our 30 euro check. The waiter said just give me the 50 and I said no bring me the bill first. The waiter laughed and brought me the bill and I gave him the 50. When he returned half the waiters were with him. He handed me my change and they all stood around expectantly. Being a bright boy I figured I should inspect my change and there was a 500 euro note. I guess my face was a study because everyone in the tavern was laughing now. Joining in the fun I said its OK if you keep my still missing 20 as a tip. They didn't let me go too far with that big euro note. This taverna was just a fun place to dine so we went there twice.
Crete Libyan Sea