Thursday, 20 September 2018

Paleochora to Chania to Athens

We had our last breakfast at the Blue Horizon and said goodbye to Maria and her mother. Our bus was leaving at 11 so we wheeled our bags through town to the bus station. The ride through the mountains is spectacular. We were in Chania in just under two hours. The Nefeli Hotel offered to store our bags when we returned so we could spend time in Chania before our bus to the airport at 4pm, so nice.  I found a shop in old town that sold raki, a different brand than the duty free and considerably cheaper. I couldn’t pass up a bargain. We also went to the store that sold bracelets and made a few more purchases. Then on to leather street which has a great pottery shop. We had already been in twice when we first landed in Chania and made purchases each time. We have been drinking wine in small stemless glasses and wanted to see what they had in pottery. We found exactly what we were looking for. It was then time to eat. 

We had lunch by the church square in old town. We shared a cheese saganaki, which I wanted to have one last time. Jill was craving schnitzel and I, Octopus. Both came with glorious, perfectly cooked, creamy on the inside, crispy chips. We were stuffed. This was going to be our last meal of the day. We brought cheese, olives, and some rusks to snack on before bed.

We checked into the Sofitel at the airport, as a treat, since we needed to catch our 7 o'clock flight with Austrian Airlines to Vienna and then on to Toronto.

Our holiday was wonderful. I hope those that followed my very detailed blog and accompanying pictures enjoyed their time. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Paleochora, Crete, Greece, Day 7

Paleochora, Day 7

Our last full day in Paleochora and almost the end of our great Grecian adventure. I made a run to the fish shop to buy some squid. The fish shop cat followed me in hoping for a handout. Jill does not like squid but we decided to make pasta for dinner with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes, Jill’s favourite. I cooked the squid separately and added it to my pasta at the end. 

As I did yesterday, I had my breakfast eggs and bacon with a rusk. Rusk is a twice baked barley dry biscuit. It is dark brown in colour and absolutely delicious. Never tasted anything like it. I can understand why they love it here.

The wind was still incredibly strong with gusts that make you hang onto your hat. 

For our last day, we decided to spend the day at Psilos Volakas Beach. The sandy beach across from our hotel was filled with waves and blowing sand but we knew Psilos Volakas would be sheltered from the north easterly winds. We walked along the coastal road and made it in 25 minutes. We were there by 11:30 with just a few people on the beach. We picked two loungers under a palm umbrella in the shade. After a swim and a dry off, we searched for stones and then went up to the cantina for a shared beer and a shared souvlaki. In Greece the portions are large, so sharing works well. Three souvlaki came with the most delicious chips, seasoned and fried perfectly. I don’t eat chips very often, but when I do, I appreciate when they are delicious. Another swim and some reading. I am reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, love it, plus it makes me so sad that he is gone. I watched all of his TV adventures and its his voice I hear in my head as I read along. We were like best friends.

We walked back to Paleochora past the beautiful rocks we were saying goodbye to. Incredible landscapes burned into our minds. After showers, Jill went shopping while I prepared dinner. Having just two hobs with virtually no counter space was challenging, let alone not having a cutting board or a chef’s knife. Did I mention we bought a large frypan? We call it glamping. We made the best of what we had and dinner was delicious. Jill kept mentioning baklava so after dinner, I scooted out to the baker and got one piece of a fabulous baklava from the Vakakis family bakery. We shared one piece. With espresso and Metaxa, delicious! I ate most of it. Yum.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Paleochora, Crete, Greece, Day 6

We awoke to a very windy but clear day. Our plan was to take a taxi up to Sto Scholeio, Schoolhouse Restaurant in Anidri, situated at the top of the gorge, which leads down to the beaches of Gialiskari where we hiked a few days ago. It is 5.5 km from Paleochora. Our plan was to have lunch and then hike downhill to our hotel. We arrived at 12:15 but the kitchen doesn't start taking food orders until 1pm. We had our pick of tables overlooking the gorge with the sea off in the distance. It’s a funky restaurant with brightly coloured tables. The centre of the restaurant is a 600+ year old olive tree, which provided the dapple shade as we shared a beer. 

The menu was extensive with traditional Greek selections dominating. We had read about the restaurant which came highly recommended. Jill had the baked chicken in beer and honey. I went with their most popular main, Tsigariasto, “goat cooked in traditional way”. The goat was absolutely delicious. I love goat, so scrumptious. Jill also enjoyed her chicken as did the cat. I have been wanting to have a Greek coffee and this was my opportunity to accompany the small complimentary sweet cakes. Greek coffee is boiled and somewhat gritty. You can have it pre-sweetened, medium or sweet, mine was medium. Jill didn't like it as it is an acquired taste. I enjoyed it. It was now time for our hike down. 

We checked the time, 2:30. We estimated that it would take us 1 hour to get to the bottom and then another 30 minutes along the coast to our hotel. It was a beautiful hike. As we started out, we had 100 year old olive trees to the right of us and 400 to 600 year old olive trees to the left of us. We met some beautiful roosters and goats along the way. It was hot but the strong wind at our backs was almost pushing us along and cooling us at the same time. More than once I wondered to myself whether we had made the right decision to do this long hike but we hung in there. Crossing the road several times to catch some shade as we walked. We then entered the canyon portion of our descent. It was beautiful. A shame that pictures do not show the grandeur as we felt it. As we reached the coastal road we were relieved that we had just half an hour to go. We opted for showers and drank lots of water in our air conditioned room rather than a swim. An early evening snack was all we needed to get us to breakfast for our last day in paradise.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Paleochora, Crete, Greece, Day 5

Another beautiful warm sunny day in Paleochora. Before breakfast, I made my now daily trek to the fish shop. Yesterday I noticed too late when my Dorada, Sea Bream, was being cleaned, that they had Branzino, European sea bass. So today I was happy to see some on ice. I asked for the largest and he reached under the smaller ones and pulled out a nice one for two. Just 6.5 Euros for a 600 g fish. Sea bass is said to be even tastier than Sea Bream but as it ended up, we liked Sea Bream better because it had fewer bones and we also preferred the taste.

After breakfast we decided to hike to the west of Paleochora by following the coastal road. The rock formations, some with caves, were strikingly awesome. When I see massive rocks with round river rocks, many larger than bowling balls, imbedded throughout I can’t help but wonder how they were formed many millions of years ago. 

The first beach we came across was Kalamia Beach. It was completely made up of large river rocks. I call them that because I don't know what else to call them. They obviously were rounded by the action of water over the course of thousands, if not millions of years. And here we are, man, a spec in time, marvelling at nature’s beauty. Have I mentioned I love rocks.

We then hiked a little further and discovered, Psilos Volakas Beach. A small idyllic cove with a round stone beach with loungers and a cantina. There was less than a dozen people enjoying the sun and the water. The cantina was closed but we sat in their chairs to cool down out of the sun. We sure could have used a cold one. It is low season and a Sunday, but after 15 minutes a car pulled up and started opening up. Jill and I split a beer then unexpectedly out came a tray with two rusks, creamy feta type cheese, salt cured olives and seasoned cucumbers - on the house! Greek hospitality, plus the beer was just 3 Euros. No tourist traps here

We hiked back to our hotel in the heat of the day and cooled down with a short 15 minute siesta in the air conditioning. We were hungry so we went to Odyssey Pizzeria to share an avocado salad and a beer. So delicious! Swim time at the sandy beach and then relax before dinner. I love fish.