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Trip Report Stanbr and Lolly visit Eastern Crete

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Over the past few years we have fallen in love with West Crete however this year we resolved to do the East. This is our story.

Greek odyssey. Its a very long trip from Vancouver Island. We flew from Nanaimo to Vancouver to Toronto to Vienna to Athens and on to Heraklion. Total actual time in travel. 27 hours

In Vienna we cleared passport control and security but were so muddled we never did find the Austrian business class lounge.

We arrived in Athens for a 2 hour wait for our flight to Heraklion. The flight was delayed by an hour and a half, oh joy. Aegean however gave each of us a voucher for a free flight anywhere on their system. Guess we will have to return to Greece again next year
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We arrived in Heraklion and caught our shuttle which took us to our Hotel in Sissi. Demetris from Auto Rentals Crete met us at the hotel and delivered our little Fiat Panda. He gave me a demonstration on how the car worked and then we checked in at Nautilus Apartments. It has two bedrooms a small living area with an extra bed and kitchen and a large bathroom.

It was just early evening so we headed out to the shore to watch the sunset, continued into town to buy groceries and returned to the apartment had a little feast of wine, rusks and cheese That was our dinner.

During our travels we realized that there are often moments when one of us says something that makes both of us laugh so are calling these moments Quotes of the Day

1) In the Athens airport.
Lolly. You are ignoring me. Stan. No I am not. I’m right here. L. I want you to talk to me.
S. Go Away.

2) Lolly. I’m just not functioning. S. Yes I can tell

3) Lolly . Did you get all the instructions on the car. S. Yes but I am so jet lagged I don’t have a clue what he was talking about. All I remember is something about it’s an automatic and a standard but has no clutch and the gear shift doesn’t have a park setting. There is a button he kept pointing at but I don’t know what it does and I don’t plan on ever touching it.

4) Lolly Not tonight

Photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157687405117430


Day 2 Sissi
The next morning the hotel owner brought us fresh eggs from her hen house. Since we had no groceries we walked about a half kilometer into the village. Sissi seemed to be quiet and peaceful with its little inlet and harbour with lots of little bars and tavenas along the waterfront.

The waterfront road entered a pedestrian only path through the grounds of the Palm Court Hotel. It was just like a Disney setting with big Palm trees, bougainvillea dripping from above, hanging bar chairs and the hotel hidden in the palms overlooking the harbour and the village.

We did a more extensive grocery shopping and returned to the hotel for a late breakfast of Bacon and Eggs and fresh bread. Later in the afternoon we walked back into the village for an afternoon cocktail, watching the geese float by and then a walk around the harbour. Later we gathered at a lovely point near the hotel, complete with a rickety bench where people gather for the evening sunset spectacle
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That afternoon we passed a taverna with lamb on the spit. It was Lamb Special night at ELIA Taverna. While it was on the main road, without a water view, the lamb was too tempting to pass up. We just took a table and ordered a liter of the house red wine and the Special then noticed there wasn’t a menu with the price on it. We had to just eat and enjoy and hope it wasn’t going to be too expensive. Along with the lamb we shared a tomato, cucumber and rusk salad with raki and ice cream for dessert. Total 33 euros. Very satisfied with our first day we returned to the hotel for a good nights sleep
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Quotes of the day
Lolly. Do I look awful? Stan. Yes but I taking your picture anyway.
Lolly. Its time for bed and the answer is still, not tonight.

Photos Sissi day 2. https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157661554458088

We have just been home for a week so I am still processing the 3,000 photos I took on the trip. I will continue this trip report once I get the third days photos downloaded.

  • Report Abuse

    I know travel can be very exhausting so I can understand Lolly with her "not tonight" response.

    Maybe a morning "rendezvous" would be more appropriate!

    Thanks for the report . . . I spent my time in Western Crete and it was lovely . . . some day I'll go back to Crete since it's a lovely island with so much to see and experience.

    Give Lolly a special kiss and thank you . . . she's a trooper!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks to all of you for your feedback. My post sat for days with no response so I thought it wasn't attracting any attention so I didn't add anything more.

    jwugg meeting the gang of Creteaholics in Rethymnon was a highlight. I am processing this report daily so I have not gotten to that story yet. Stay tuned.

    Day 3 Sissi, Milatou, and Malia

    Ok this is the day I have been dreading. The beautiful red Fiat Panda has been sitting in the parking lot at Nautilus Apartments for two days. Its very presence has been taunting me. I can feel it challenging me “come on big boy try me.” Lolly has been no help at all. “ What do you mean there is no park on the gear shift and what the heck is that mysterious button.”

    Fortified with strong coffee I approached the car cautiously. Holding my breath I inserted the key and we entered the car. In the drivers seat, I felt I was in control and we started her up. Sure enough the car was in Neutral. Appaently the parking brake holds it in place. I put it in gear and the HUD Display indicated I was in Auto. I touched the shifter and suddenly I was in Manual. OK don’t do that again. I found auto again and we were off.

    The little darling handled beautifully, it was peppy and responsive. We wanted to test it a bit so we input Milatou the nearby village into Google maps and we were off. We made two easy right turns and then a 200 degree left turn around a building and onto a narrow country road.

    Everything was going well until a huge bus appeared on the narrow road. I couldn’t even see it until I was almost through my left turn. We were now in the middle of the road blocking the bus and oncoming traffic. Greeks like to use their horns to indicate displeasure and the bus had a very loud horn. Fortunately there was a driveway directly in front of me so we skulked meekly into that little sanctuary. Now I have to find reverse and back out into the road again to complete the left turn.

    Google maps was efficient and although the road was barley wide enough for two cars to pass I could feel my confidence returning. After all 20 years ago I mastered driving in Greece so for heavens sake I can do it now.

    We arrived in Milatou which appeared to be nothing more than a small boat harbour and some hotels and tavernas so virtually no people around other than two families sunning on the narrow strip of sand at the harbour. We wandered around to take it in. I suspect this is what Spilli was like before it became popular.

    We took the switchback road up to Milatou Cave. The drive was exhilarating and the views down the coast were wonderful however we didn’t feel like we had sufficient energy to do the hike into the cave so we turned toward our original destination.

    We have wanted to visit East Crete for several years however every time I started my research I read stuff about crowds, drunken louts and British tourism going mad. Our experience to date has been totally the opposite. Sissi and Milatou have been peaceful and delightful. We wanted to find out what all the fuss was about so we drove to Malia.

    On the way we stopped at Malia Palace the Minoan site. From the palace we drove to Malia beach. It is a good beach with interesting rock formations, good sand and the lovely lilies. (it’s amazing that anything that beautiful can thrive in such arid conditions.)

    We continued down the road into Malia all the way to the harbour. We didn’t see any crowds and there were virtually no hotels or people around. We were asking ourselves what is all the fuss about here. (OK I know I’m going to get lots of feedback on this but we did return for a better look)

    We gave up on Malia and drove back to Spilli to spend an hour on the town beach. Later we headed into Spilli to take in the sunset from Anixi bar.

    We were so enchanted by the look and feel of Palm Court hotel we went there for dinner. Big mistake. We ordered a half liter of red house wine which came promptly but the basket of bread took 20 minutes. We ordered Fried Sagnaki cheese as an appy and Mousaka as a main. Twenty minutes later the Saganaki arrived and it was stone cold. The Mousaka was at least hot however it came in a small pot and had no resemblance to the picture on the menu which showed French fries and a small salad with the dish. For the first time in my life I asked to speak to the manager. We sent the Saganaki back, and paid for the wine and Mousaka. If you ever want to experience a wonderful setting and an extremely poor meal this is the place to do it.

    Quote of the day

    Stan. After watching a tourist fling himself face first into water no more than 10 inches deep.

    He must have banged himself on the bottom

    Stan. We are trying to pay for everything by credit card yet our cash is dwindling at an alarming rate. How does that happen?

  • Report Abuse

    Yes, how does that happen? We went through an inordinate amount of cash this trip while using Visa for...everything! Well apparently not, but I still have no idea where the cash went. Didn't get pickpocketed I know that...

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    Day 4 Day trip to Elounda and Spinalonga

    Today we planned to get an early start to get the first boat to Spinalonga. However we still lacked full energy and didn’t get up as early as we planned. So as an alternative we thought we would simply drive to Elounda and Spinalonga as a dry run to figure out how to get there and just have a leisurely day. It was an easy drive along the National road. I am amazed that people on Quads are wearing no shirts and no helmets and are blissfully speeding along this highway.

    We were surprised at how much we liked the waterfront area of Elounda. There were so many picturesque tavernas and boats and of course a decent beach. We spent an hour just wandering around. When we return to East Crete we plan to stay here for a few days.

    Based on a trip report I had read, we wanted to take the boat to Spinalonga from Plaka rather than Elounda so we continued up the coast to scout out the process for parking and boat tickets. There are lots of very high end looking hotels on the way to Plaka. Our budget certainly won’t allow us to stay in any of these hotels.

    Plaka has lots of free parking and it was pretty much full which reinforced the advice to arrive early before the crowds arrive. As I mentioned we were still suffering from Jet lag and energy was an issue. I couldn’t get Lolly to even get out of the car to wander around. She told me I was on a scouting mission and I had seen everything I needed to know so lets go.

    The trip report mentioned the wonderful views of Spoinalonga from the road up the mountain to Vrouhas so we took that route. Indeed the views are impressive and every switchback gave us a different perspective of the island. We also noticed there are extensive foundation ruins high up in the mountains. I will need to do some research to discover what they were and how old they are.

    As we returned down the hill from Vrouhas Lolly told me that the GPS was giving her a different return route so instead of going down we turned on a side road and headed back up into the mountains for a hair raising high mountain trip back. The road just kept going up and got narrower and narrower. Fortunately there was little traffic but every time we met another car I had to pull over as far as I could and several times both vehicles had to virtually stop and tuck in our side mirrors to clear. Now I remember why we stopped renting cars a couple of trips ago. The route took us through some lovely mountain villages where it looks like time has passed them by. These were Fourni and Kastelli. We didn’t stop but probably will add them to the must do list next time.

    We returned to Sissi in time for a sunset drink and dinner at Arva. We had a mixed Grill with lamb, Chicken, Hamburger chips and tomatoes. It was quite good. With a half liter of wine 26 Euros.

    Quotes of the day.

    Stan. I had my butt clenched all the way through the mountains.
    Lolly. I wasn’t giving you the gears I was simply making an observation. Stan. Oh I missed the subtlety of your comment

    Lolly. No wonder this doesn’t fit I have it on backwards.

    Photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157687423876990

    Day 5 Lato,Kritsa
    We love Ruins so we visited the Doric town of Lato. It is impressively high up in the mountains. There is enough remaining to give us a pretty good idea of what was there. We explored for a couple of hours and had no more than 10 other people during that time.

    We also wanted to visit the village of Kritsa. My research led me to believe it was a remote mountain village with tiny back alleys too small for cars. Apparently my research wasn’t quite right. Its not high up in the mountains and the reason one shouldn’t drive the car into town is because of confusing one way streets. Nevertheless it is a perfect place to wander around. There are lots of little shops selling local goods and lots of shops with elderly ladies selling embroidered cloth. Competition was fierce.

    We stopped at the Panagia church but it closes at 3 and it was just past three. There was a little shop selling copies of many of the frescos in the church so we at least got to see something

    We found a shop selling unique Silver and gold coloured wall mounted figures. This was the first time we had seen something like that (however over the course of the trip we did see many more examples of this art work) Apparently its all handmade in Chania by Nikolas Dermitzakis. Its unique.

    We returned to Sissi and spent the rest of the day at Avakli beach. Its a hidden gem tucked away in a cove. Two chairs and an umbrella were 7 euros but we also got a bottle of water and a plate of watermelon. Nice touch.

    We went to Remazzo Taverna one of the ones that came recommended in my research. It had a nice view and we had a half liter of house wine, Greek Salad, Stuffed mushrooms and Grannys Meatballs. That Granny can really cook a tasty meatball.

    Quotes of the day

    Lolly. Its not my fault, auto correct turned Sissi into Suzzy and Pippen into poop.

    What do you mean the church closed 9 minutes ago?

    Photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157686320042962

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    (1) About meatballs, I'm always reluctant to order them in Greece because after all, we're far away in an "exotic venue" and meatballs are just so .. home. But then I give in, and am glad.

    (2) Beware auto-correct.

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    There is something just wonderful about those meatballs.

    Next segment
    Day 6 Back to Malia

    We couldn’t believe that we had actually seen Malia’s true tourist center so we went back for a second try. Oh yes, now we understand. The beach in the town was alive with people everywhere. The beach umbrellas were touching each other. Everyone was jammed in like sardines.

    The main beach road was lined with tavernas and shops. Cars were parked all along the route both sides and there were people walking on the road in pairs and groups. At least 50% of the men were wandering about just in shorts or bathing suits. Even on a beach bare chested middle aged men lack charm but on the road its more than a little disturbing.

    The combination of parked cars, and pedestrians effectively reduced the road to one lane. The problem was it had two way traffic with cars buses and trucks all competing for that little lane in the middle. At one point a bus came towards us and filled up the whole road. There were three cars ahead of us who found an escape route by pulling into a hotel driveway but every time one car cleared the road impatient drivers behind me passed and choked off the road again. It took 15 minutes of gridlock before the route cleared and we were able to get into an opening so the bus could get by. I was so traumatized by the event that we parked and found a bar. I needed a drink to steady my nerves.

    The crowds just seemed to disappear (Perhaps there was an early happy hour or something) anyway we escaped and returned to our little haven Avakli Beach in Sissi.

    We dined at Paradoskiao Taverna who provided buns and minced olive paste as a starter. We had a liter of wine (I felt it necessary to double our normal ration of wine, my nerves you know) along with a Greek Salad and meatballs. 25 euros

    Quotes of the day

    Lolly. Should I wear my bathing suit under my clothes? Stan. I’m pretty Malia doesn’t have a nude beach so that would be a good idea.

    Stan. That woman looks remarkably like Dick Tracy.
    Lolly. Well she certainly has a prominent jaw line.

    Photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157687492528830

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