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Trip Report Trip Report Part II: Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Naxos

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Background:
I’ve always entertained romantic visions of the Greek Islands and wanted to visit a few of them. Prior to this trip I’d spent a day on beautiful Corfu… before there were any hotels on the island! I knew that visiting an island a day from a cruise ship would be unsatisfying; I had no interest in a mad dash along each island’s main shopping street. Other than that, I did not know what to expect from each island even after all the reading I’d done on this board and elsewhere. We went with another couple and blessedly Jay did the driving.

RHODES
We flew from Istanbul to Athens, connecting to Rhodes. It cost us less time than flying to Dalaman in Turkey and taking a ferry to Rhodes, given the flight times and necessary overnight. We created logistical problems for ourselves because we wanted to visit Rhodes in the Dodecanese island group and visit three islands in the Cyclades. You Greece experts cautioned me about this but our determination to visit Rhodes won out.

We stayed four nights at the Avalon Hotel in medieval Rhodes Town. The rooms and ambience were lovely at this small inn. The breakfasts in the shaded courtyard were outstanding; you can order anything and everything on their complete breakfast menu for the B & B rate. The whpped yougart with honey, sensational.
However, we had no hot water for 3 of the 4 days of our stay; I felt it took them way too long to fix the plumbing problem. The other negative to this hotel is that there is no manager or owner “presence”. With such a small property it feels odd to see no one “in charge” despite the two clerks/servers who were very accommodating.

Food: The cruise ships depart by four or five, so in late May all restaurants had availability any time we showed up. Its fun to get away from the main squares, wander the back streets and pick a restaurant there. Enjoyed Taverna Fish Restaurant. The owners are charming hosts and the food very good.

Excursion: We rented a car and did a day tour of the island. We drove down the east coast and back up the west coast. First we stopped at Traganou beach, considered one of Rhodes’ finest. Just under 10 miles from Rhodes Town, it is a sweet sheltered bay favored by locals. After some sun we drove on to Lindos. Following a lunch looking out across this idyllic bay, we made for the Acropolis. My sandals with tread were no match for the trek up. The ruins were mildly interesting. I’m not an archeologist and have seen more compelling ruins in Turkey, Italy and France. We cut across to the west coast at Kiplari and followed the road as it turned north and west. Be prepared for goats ignoring traffic rules. It was a full and satisfying day.

Tip: Ask the local shop owners how many ships are coming in each day of your stay so you can make touring, shopping and dining decisions accordingly. The third week in May the weather was perfect, about 75-77 each day.

CRETE:
We were 3 days in Chania, 2 days in the mountains, and an overnight in Heraklion.
Chania
Hotel:
We spent 3 days and nights at Hotel Casa Leone. The location is superb, right on the waterfront. Our room had a tiny balcony facing the water and was just off the main lobby. The hotel staff were most helpful; the breakfasts just fine. My complaints about our room were 1) no cupboards or drawers; 2) a tiny, tiny bathroom with a miniscule shower area. From photos of other hotel advertisements around town, this is not unusual.

Food:
Favorite restaurants in Chania were Taman and Mathew’s. Mathew’s is the English translation; its at the far end of the harbor, beyond most of the tourist waterside places. Everything, especially the fish, was outstanding. The place is filled with locals; the owner is usually around. The ambience is so friendly and welcoming.

Reflections:
I thought Chania was a wonderful town; had we stayed longer I would have declared myself in love with it. Three days there afforded a relaxed pace, two hour lunches, afternoon naps, sunset cocktails near the city beach. I hope to return to Chania and would spend 4-6 days and use it as a base to do the many interesting day trips to various places in western and southwestern Crete.

Zaros, South Central Crete
Hotel and Food:
Our second hotel was in the mountains in south central Crete (near Zaros) at Eleonas Traditional Lodge. This is a get away from it all place. The beautifully furnished and appointed rooms overlook the local mountains. The setting is serene. Most couples and families come for the hiking, swimming, farm with animals. There are many good trails. Saridakis Manolis, one of the owners, has done a great job landscaping this village of cottages. We ate all meals in their vine covered patio in the company of Eleonas’ resident cats. The food was tasty with the freshest ingredients. We were here two day and could easily have stayed a third.

Knossos and Heraklion
We drove from Eleonas to Knossos. Too bad we did not have time to stop at some of the vineyards on the wine route up to the north. Our visit to Knossos was timed to begin after the tour busses left around four. We escaped most of them.
There was an unpleasant incident at the entrance. A guide had come up to us and asked if we might want a group tour or private guide. I liked this woman right away and could understand her English easily. When we decided on a private tour for four, another woman was assigned to us. Her English was not understandable; my friend and I both having hearing losses, wear aids and require clear speech. As diplomatically and apologetically as I could, I explained to the woman assigned to us that I could tell from speaking to her that I could not understand her and cited my hearing problems as the reason for requesting the woman I met a few minutes earlier. This guide really came unglued. She noted that in 15 years of guiding no one had ever complained, stomped off to talk to another official. After tension and confusion, the original guide came over to us and said she could guide us. She told me that when engaging a private guide, tourists has the right to select whichever guide they wish. This guide provided us one of the best tours of ruins I’ve had in years. Her explanations along the reading of The King Must Die by Mary Renault made the ruins come alive.
We drove into the capital, Heraklion, and checked in to the Lato Boutique Hotel. We chose it for its location, very close to where we’d catch the ferry the next morning. The upstairs dining room provided us a meal of convenience.
We had purchased our fast cat ferry tickets in the States so we just had to pick them up in the morning before embarking.

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