Friday, 20 May 2022

Our Greek Odyssey - Chania by Foot

We're back! Last week, we travelled to Greece, revisiting the country's largest island, Crete. We stayed in Chania, one of the longest continually habitated cities in the world and regarded by the island's residents as the spiritual capital even though the title was passed over to Heraklion in 1971. This was to be our eleventh trip to Greece and Tony's first, it was Jon's second visit to Crete & my third.





Back in September 2020, we'd spent three nights in Chania and were spellbound by the shimmering waterfront, crumbling masonry and web of alleys that made up the old town but, revisiting in Spring, with the snow-capped peaks of the White Mountains hovering over the red tiled rooftops, we were almost rendered speechless by its beauty.


Surrounding the harbour is a jumble of Venetian streets, a maze-like mediaeval old town contained by ancient city walls and littered with Ottoman, Byzantine and Minoan ruins. 








Our base for our seven night stay was Eleonora, a quirky Venetian-era three-storey corner house in the old town, a minute's walk from the harbour, which we'd booked via Booking.com. The owner was Sophia, a glamorous Greek widow with a penchant for leopard print and Spandex.


Despite only having booked rooms, Sophia insisted on cooking for us every day, bringing trays laden with spanokopita (spinach & cheese pies), prasopita (feta & leek pie), yemista (stuffed peppers, aubergines and tomatoes), dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), tzatziki (cucumber & yogurt dip), lemon roasted potatoes, melopita (honey pie), galaktoboureko (custard pie) along with juice made from the oranges she grew in her garden. If you think Greek cuisine is amazing - food freshly-cooked by a Greek housewife will blow your mind! 

Our flight landed at 9pm on Tuesday and, with Chania only a short hop away, we'd checked into our rooms, dumped our bags and were tucking into mezes washed down with Mythos on the harbour less than forty minutes later. After years of long-haul travel & the subsequent jet lag and exhaustion, a four hour flight across Europe is an absolute breeze and, after a couple more beers in another harbour bar, we were amazed to discover that it was gone 1am.


On Wednesday morning we breakfasted at a hip seafront cafe with a sensational view, ordering poached eggs with goats cheese for me, the same with prosciutto for Tony and an omelette for Jon. 



Afterwards we cracked open a book of Chania city walks I'd bought online, exploring the old town and stopping off at the Folklore Museum which had been closed last time we'd visited.





I was delighted to discover that the tales I'd heard tell of the abundance of beautiful Spring wildflowers weren't a Greek myth.






This hill, said to have one of the finest views over Chania, was in a somewhat edgy part of town, flanked by derelict buildings daubed in anarchist graffiti and a favoured hangout of dreadlocked young men with large dogs and even larger sound systems. After taking a few photos we'd headed to a bar back in the labyrinthine old town for iced coffees when Tony realised he'd lost his phone and, even worse, his bank card was tucked away inside the case. Jon tried ringing it in the hope that it was in the depths of his bag but it wasn't to be. We retraced our steps back up the hill where a young chap came running towards us. He'd found Tony's phone and was waiting for us to come back. Although he was reluctant to accept, Tony insisted on handing him a generous reward. God bless the Greeks!


I'm wearing the £2 Free People jumpsuit I'd scored in a charity shop a few days previously, it was the perfect thing for scrambling across the rocks of the Venetian harbour (built in 1579).




By 2pm we'd worked up an appetite so we headed to Platinas 1821, a shady square named after the year a priest was dragged out of the nearby church by a rebellious mob and hung from the plane tree which still stands in the centre. We'd eaten here twice before, declaring the Cretan salad, along with the complimentary watermelon raki and homemade chocolate brownies that followed, to be one of the finest lunches we'd ever eaten. Our third visit didn't disappoint.

Cretan salad isn't to be confused with Greek salad, in addition to tomatoes, peppers, olives, onions and cucumbers it also includes dakos (rusks soaked in tomato sauce), capers and, instead of Feta, it is topped with tangy mizithra - freshly-made ewes milk cheese. 

Next stop was a visit to The National Football Museum, which consistently wins Trip Advisor's prestigious Travellers Choice Award. Admission is free and the young guide an absolute joy, his passion for football really shining through. We gasped at seeing shirts worn and signed by legends such as Pele, Johan Cruyff and Maradona but the pinnacle of the trip for the boys was being allowed to handle the actual European Cup, won by Greece in 2004 (and possibly the closest any Englishman has ever got to it!)


We strolled around the shops, Jon treated himself to a denim bucket hat, Tony bought a tee shirt and I remained mesmerised by the mountain view.



I posed in the same spot the last time I visited, although it was a lot quieter so I didn't impede any tourists back then.


Cretan wine is fantastic. We shared a carafe of the local red (£4) at one of the harbour bars before returning to Eleonora for piping hot solar-powered showers. 


Is there anything more beautiful than a Mediterranean sunset? Even the locals never tire of it.



After a few beers in Mammoth, a hip and happening rock bar which specialised in playing bands from Birmingham and the Black Country (Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest) - they must have known we were coming - we ate at the bombed out ruin To Adespoto, one of the locations where The Two Faces of January, the Hollywood movie based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, was filmed.

Thursday started with another harbourside breakfast after which we wandered to The Maritime Museum of Chania. Jon & I had visited in 2020 but we'd had a gallon of watermelon raki and it was 37°C so we'd not fully given it the attention it deserved.


The museum is housed in the former Revellino del Porto, the fortification built by the Venetians in 1467 to protect the harbour from invasion. 





It's rare for me to wear shorts outside of the garden but these American Apparel zip-sided ones, which I'd bought for a couple of quid earlier in the month seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the hand-embroidered blouse I'd bought in Lindos last Autumn (I nicked the vintage straw hat from the Kinky Shed).





After a cultural hour or so we walked along the seafront towards Nea Chora, the city's Green Flag beach pausing at the monument commemorating the ferry disaster of 8th December, 1966 which claimed the lives of all 200 passengers.


The majority of foreign tourists base themselves at the resorts further down the coast from Chania so the beach is mainly used by Greeks. 
 

After a couple of hours of relaxing in the sunshine we adjourned to a nearby taverna for lunch, chicken and tuna salads for the boys and a traditional Greek one for me, accompanied by a local craft ale. As with everything else we'd eaten so far, the meal included freshly baked bread, a jug of tap water (perfectly safe to drink) and a carafe of raki.


After a few more hours in the sunshine we walked back to Eleonora where Sophia was again waiting with a huge tray of food. Although the temperature was around 24°C on Wednesday and Thursday, after sunset it fell to 14°C so I was glad I'd taken a couple of long sleeved dresses and my denim jacket.


After beers on the roof top (yes, just like in Alicante, we had our own prime sunset spot) we spent the evening in the old town, staggering home in the early hours after copious pints of Alpha beer, mountains of Greek food, endless glasses of free raki and complimentary olives, honey cakes and baklava. 


Yammas! 

See you very soon for the next instalment.

52 comments:

  1. Welcome home, you have been missed 😉

    Oh, the light, that cerulean blue which says "Greece" like no other, it's a balm for the soul this afternoon (where I am about to light the woodburner and curse ineffectively - again - at the rain, wind and gloom).

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    1. Thank you, Jayne!
      That blue is just incredible, isn't it? We were so excited to see it again. The wildflowers and snow-capped mountains made it even more beautiful.
      We seem to have dodged the rain we had forecast. I hope it cheers up for you and sunshine returns soon! xxx

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  2. Your travel blogs never disappoint. I feel if not actually being there, I'm at least experiencing the vibe. The food provided by Sophia sounds amazing and I had to look up what raki is. The jumpsuit really worked for your climb.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sam! I had so many photos it's taken me ages to whittle them down into a blog post. The food was incredible, especially Sophia's. Although there's lots of vegetarian options on menus, Sophia was the first Greek vegetarian we'd come across. She offered to cook meat for the boys but they were more than happy with her veggie delights! xxx

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  3. Welcome back, Vix! What a joy it was travel to Crete with you. Indeed, those snow capped mountains are the perfect backdrop for the shimmering waterfront, but it were those mesmerizing Mediterranean sunsets which truly made me catch my breath!
    Chania looks absolutely enchanting and offering the perfect mix of stunning scenery and culture. And oh, the food! I've just had my "tea" but looking at all those mouth-watering delicacies is making me hungry all over again! xxx

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    1. Thanks, Ann! Those mountains were so beautiful with snow, a weird sight when you're basking on a sun baked beach. The food was incredible, I can't believe I came home weighing the same as I did when I left! xxx

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  4. Oh what a blissful break! Those sunset photos are beautiful and your outfits are styled to perfection as always. What a wonderful host Sophia sounds. I'm hoping you took a photo of her in her lurex/leopard print slendour! It's so good to hear there are honest people around and Tony got his belongings back, especially after you setting the scene in a dodgy part of town. We loved The Two Faces of January by the way. xxx

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    1. I loved Chania on the first visit but seeing it in the Spring blew me away - I couldn't tear my eyes away from the mountains! I should have taken a photo of Sophia with her blow-dried updo and wet look leggings, she was fab! xxx

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  5. Despite currently sunning myself on my own holiday adventure in porto santo I had to tune in for your post, you looked so well turned out and the backdrops are amazing what a fabulous place, you must have found it hard to leave!

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    1. I had to Google Porto Santo and I'm insanely jealous! I hope you have the most fantastic time! xxx

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    2. For some reason blogger isn't showing its me.... Betty! Wood fairy still in sunny porto santo, just off madiera hubby loves your post and is thinking could be us in 2023.....

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    3. I thought it was you, Betty! You and your hubby would love Chania, it's a bit of a hidden gem! xxx

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  6. Welcome home and what a fabulous post. Makes me want to Greece immediately! So glad you took Tony too. Can't wait for next instalment. Have a great weekend everyone. xxx

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    1. Thank you! Watching Tony's reaction to how stunning Crete was was like going to Greece for the first time, he's decided he needs to retire there now! xxx

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  7. What an incredibly beautiful place!
    Did you have any problems at B'ham Airport? The press have been full of horror stories about queues, but I suspect they're the usual exaggerations. Xx

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    1. It was even more beautiful on the second visit! Birmingham airport was absolutely fine. We parked up, passed through security and were sitting in Spoons with a pint in less than thirty minutes despite all the doom and gloom about queues outside the airport the previous day! xx

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  8. What a glorious adventure, Vix! I am absolutely petrified to step one tootsie out of my beloved United States of America and am too old now to change my ways or thoughts on the subject. But I certainly do *love* traveling to Greece through your eyes. Thank you so much for taking all of us along. ~Andrea xoxo

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    1. Thanks for joining us on our Greek adventure, Andrea. I'm so sorry you don't feel confident enough to travel outside of the USA, the history, climate and people really are balm for the soul. xxx

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  9. Vix love, you are such a good travel writer. I always feel I've been on holiday with you when I read your blog posts.

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  10. sounds like you had great fun :-D
    i really could do with a very lazy stay at a mediterranean waterfront town....... and all the fotographed food makes me very very hungry!
    the snowy mountains are fascinating.
    xxxx

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    1. You would love Chania in the Spring and those mountains would make you feel at home! xxx

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  11. I feel like I've been on holiday reading your post. Looks wonderful and warmer than our winter here.

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    1. Thanks, Julie! While I'm glad we're coming into Summer here I'm sorry it's getting colder and darker for you. xxx

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  12. Wow! Just plain WOW.
    The food of the Greek Housewife sounds amazing--as do the sunsets...
    Would you believe I've just begun to read a 900+page Patricia High Smith: Her Diaries and Notebooks 1941-1995!

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    1. Hello Rebecca! Greece really is magical. I loved Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals as a teenager and was thrilled to discover that Greece was just as beautiful when I finally travelled there in my 20s. I like the sound of the Patricia Highsmith book, she led a fascinating life. xxx

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  13. What an amazing holiday! I do love travelling with you. Such beautiful pictures.

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  14. What an adventure you all had. I am salivating over the stuffed peppers. X

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    1. We did! Have a Google for a recipe for Greek stuffed peppers, you'll love them! xxx

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  15. Folk lore has always interested me.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. I love seeing traditional crafts and old textiles! That museum was magical. xxx

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  16. I will admit to being a tad envious of your return trip to Crete, it looks simply amazing in its Spring glory. Oh the food , Greek food is always good but cooked by a Greek local lady superb. Also envy your short flight, thats the problem living in Oz. Look forward to your next instalment. xx Jill James

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    1. Hello Jill! We are so lucky being in such easy travelling distance to Greece - after all those years of only going to India I'd forgotten just how easy it is to hop on a plane and go out for dinner a few hours later! xxx

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  17. thanks for taking us along for the sunshine, food, and beaches.

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  18. What a fantastically beautiful and delicious holiday. Enjoyed the virtual visit xxxx

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  19. Sounds like you had a blast! I love hosts like that, there’s a lady in Kyoto like that except she wears kimonos all the time! And does banging ramen! Greece is on my bucket list.
    They all seem so nice and friendly. It’s funny tony found his phone here it would be where you left it untouched! As people here won’t steal even the young .

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    1. We did, it was fabulous! I like the sound of your Kyoto lady. You can't beat staying with the locals and getting a real sense of somewhere.
      We said to Tony that nobody would have stolen his phone, theft in Greece is really rare and usually only during the tourist season - when it's the chavvy tourists who nick stuff! xxx

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  20. What beautiful scenery, I can almost smell the clear fresh air. I do love your travel blogs Vix xxx

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  21. Gosh, the scenery looks absolutely stunning there. I'm not surprised you wanted to return. I love to travel vicariously through you, it's just a shame I don't get to enjoy the food as well. Xx

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    1. I wish I could have shared that food m- there was so much of it! xxx

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  22. It’s easy to see why you wanted to return to Chania! Beautiful 😍

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  23. Thank you for the virtual vacation! I envy you being so close to other countries over there - when Greece is just a 4 hour flight away, how could you not go again? I'm glad Tony's phone was found by an honest person; that could have been a disaster.
    How lucky to have found accommodations that included home-cooked food!

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    1. Thanks for joining us on our travels! With Greece being so close we've decided we need to visit more often - we were tempted with a house a few years ago but bloody Brexit put paid to that - so we're going again in a few weeks time! xxx

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  24. I LOVE this post - I feel like I've been on vacation too, Vix! Ah, thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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  25. Welcome back! I missed you. Well, Chania looks fab! You better watch out you don't come back with a pot belly - the booze and food sounds amazing and very plentiful! I've never seen 2 happier men than those 2 holding the cup so proudly! Loved the jumpsuit and the shorts and the lovely blue dress. Greece is certainly gorgeous and I can't wait to go back again. I'm thinking of going in the Autumn....
    xxx

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    1. I came home weighing slightly less than when I left - it's a miracle. I put it down to all the walking - Tony's got one of those tracker things on his phone and by lunchtime each day we'd done 300% of our daily walking!
      You really ought to go back in the Autumn.....we are (and sneaking in another visit mid-way through the festival season!) xxx

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Lots of love, Vix