Today’s Fun Friday post is all about a long weekend we spent in Crete in February. It’s raining and grey outside today and was raining when we arrived in Crete but that didn’t stop us having a wonderful long weekend.
We travelled direct from Rhodes airport to Heraklion airport it was a comfortable and quick journey, I was limping a little that day as I’d fallen down the hole the night before, but the staff of Minoan Air were all very helpful and welcoming.
Friday was raining quite heavily on arrival but we expected that and were able to quickly collected the hire car. As we would be arriving late the plan was to spend the first night in Heraklion then head off down the island the next morning. We were booked that night into the Lato Boutique Hotel, the directions on their website were great, and we were soon taking advantage of their parking service and checking into the room.
This was definitely the first time I’d ever come across free alcohol in a hotel room! We enjoyed the Raki, then headed downstairs for dinner. It was a little early by Greek standards being before 8 but we were hungry after a busy day. The restaurant was booked up for a children’s party, but the staff were very accommodating and served us in the very comfortable lounge bar. We sampled our first Cretan wine and slept very well in their extremely comfortable and warm room.
All of the hotels we stayed in over the weekend were advertised as having heating. You may not realise it, but it really does get cold here in winter and you really will need that heating. I found Crete Travel and really handy website with lots of information about things to do and places to stay at different times of year.
The next morning after a lovely breakfast, we checked out from one of the most helpful hotel desks. The lady working on reception was wonderful. I’d been limping quite a bit and we knew we needed to get me some strapping and maybe a stick if I was going to get about. She phoned around, worked out the best route out of town to our next destination and then checked that the shop on route that sold stuff like that was open.
So we were soon headed down to Chania and our next hotel with a purple/blue crutch and knee support! It’s about 140km and takes about 2 hours to make the trip. We enjoyed the changing scenery of the Cretan countryside, similar and yet different from Rhodes.
We stopped just short of Chania at Suda Bay to visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery. Beautifully kept it was a very poignant place. Both having served in the British Military we have tried to visit the cemeteries to pay our respects wherever we’ve travelled. As always they have an atmosphere of profound sadness and of lives ended too soon. It makes you realise just how lucky we are.
Next we check into our next little hotel in the old Venetian harbour in Chania. The hotel Porto del Colombo was beautiful, old and like all the buildings in the area 3 stories high. We were booked in for 2 nights and our room was on the top floor. Getting up and down the stairs was a struggle, but we did have a beautiful, comfortable 4 poster bed. The staff there were very helpful and friendly, pointing us in the right direction of places to eat and helping us with the map to find our way around the wider area by car. One of them even taught me how to make Greek coffee at breakfast on our last morning.
We spent the rest of Saturday around the town, sitting in tavernas, drinking coffee and the occasional Raki. We found a great ale house in the evening, Rudi’s Bierhaus, run by an Austrian, it had a great selection of real ales from around Europe and some made locally. As a bonus the food selection was also good, lots of cold meats and cheeses, we went with bratwurst and sauerkraut. A great Valentine’s evening, it brought back memories of our German Christmas market trip.
Any plans I may have had to go wandering around lots were curtailed with my dodgy knee, luckily we didn’t know at the time it was fractured! We took it a little easier anyway, sitting watching the world go by, is there anything better?
Sunday in Chania we headed out in the car to explore, spotting snow on the mountains in the distance we went to find it. We discovere later that it’s a bit of a tradition when there’s snow on a mountain you must go up, build a snowman on your bonnet and drive back down the mountain with it. So we did!
The White Mountains or Lefi Ora are spectacular part of this area of Crete. Normally white with the their limestone tops we found them covered in snow. Not just a little snow either, this was the snow plough level of snow! In our hire car we got as high as we could and stopped in an area where there were a couple of a tavernas. Looking more like ski or hunting lodges, they were packed with locals, who’d also taken a Sunday drive to the snow.
We had heard about the snow on Crete, even seen the forecast but were really not prepared for what we saw. I’m definitely not that good with a camera or my mobile phone camera but couldn’t resist the chance to video part of our trip. Next time I’m might hold the phone the right way around!
Later that afternoon, in sunshine by the coast at Maleme we visited the German war Cemetery. The cemetery is immaculately kept by the locals who maintain it, with headstones that are laid down flat on the ground each one for two men. Most of the men died during the invasion in May 1941 as they parachuted into the olive orchards around there.
The next day we headed up toward Rethymno, stopping on the way when we spotted a castle. I have no idea what it was called? We checked in for our last night, into what appeared to be a very quirky hotel with lots of strange mannequins all over the hotel. We soon discovered that the following weekend was to be carnival weekend and they allegedly have the second largest in Greece, each corner we turned had displays or costumes for sale. We will have to go back for that!
The hotel room in the Palazzino di Corina had a 4 poster, it seems to be a theme in these Venetian style hotels. with some advice from the hotel staff we wandered the streets a little, had a good meal in a taverna and did a little tourist shopping. Just had to get a little of that raki and some Cretan to take home. Then we headed back to enjoy the heating in the room and the bath. It had a lovely big jaccuzzi bath. The Greeks on our island don’t really do baths, most of the accommodation only has showers. We have something that’s pretending to be a bath but is child size, I didn’t even realise they were made that small! Enjoying a hot bath for the first time in quite a few years was bliss 🙂
We had a final breakfast the Tuesday morning before heading back to Heraklion in time for our flight home. That’s one thing I love about travelling, having a continental style buffet breakfast. It’s a combination of good coffee, someone else preparing and cleaning up and being able to take your time.
Having spent lots of time travelling around booking flights and accommodation in many different places I didn’t realise that there are still many people who are unfamiliar and a little apprehensive about researching and booking independently. We booked the flights directly through the airline’s web page and the hotel accommodation through booking.com. I would always recommend doing a bit of research about your stay, use something like trip advisor to check out the hotels with reviews from guests. Just bear in mind that we all like different things and have very different expectations and you really do only get what you pay for. Having said that, none of the places we stayed on this trip were expensive, you could pay more or less depending on what you want. We were leant a guide by my parents who’d been years before, although out of date it still gave a basic idea of things to do and see. There’s also advice on the web just search around. Two of the hotels were in old buildings without a lift, they did mention this on their websites, check carefully if you have any special requirements.
Lastly we had great time, there’s a lot of Crete to see and we only managed a little in our long weekend, hopefully we can go back in a different season and see some more. Oh and it’s still raining outside! 🙂