Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Greece: First stop - Chania, Crete

After a very long trip from Boston through London to Athens (and a wait for our luggage) we were off to Crete where we picked up a car and headed to the beach area of Chania, specifically the Thalassa Beach Resort.  Now, I have to give a disclaimer here: I did not put together this itinerary at all.  Lucky for our group I have an "in" with a travel agency from Greece, Amphitrion Holidays.  While we gave them the islands we wanted to see, they found the hotels, prepared the transfers, cars (as needed) - basically, all the details.  Having all of that in place, we did not really know what we were in for.  We drove about 30 minutes down the coast road of Chania with our trusty map (the GPS at Hertz was broken!).  Honestly, I drove only really hoping that we would run into the hotel, and lucky for us we did!  That night we settled in, grabbed a bottle of wine and we (Nick, Erica S., Mike and I) drank it, enjoying the fact we made it and toasted to the fun to come.

Nick and I knew we had a beach view from our hotel, and the night before, we saw the pool but not much beyond that.  Waking up that morning and opening the curtain to look out on the beautiful sea and this uninhabited island with a little cave, we planned on sitting out on the balcony any chance we got.

View from our room
The hotel here was great - very modern, and breakfast included.  Our rooms were really large, and actually were lofts with plenty of head space (no ducking needed), which only added to the fun.  The pool area was really nice and relaxing with comfy beach chairs.  The pool even had a swim up bar, but the water was pretty chilly to enjoy that for too long.  At the resort you have to rent the beach chairs for the day, which would have been just fine, but the beaches there are not fine sand but rather little rocks that were a bit difficult to walk on.


Not really having any dinner plans we asked the receptionist of the hotel who suggested Mylos, which was within walking distance from our hotel.  At first we did not think they had outdoor seating, but as the host took us through the restaurant to the back patio we were welcomed by huge flowering trees that provided an amazing setting for our first real meal in Greece.

Back Patio
We let the server pick a reasonably price red and white wine for dinner. Lets just say he picked well, all we asked for was "dry."  At this point we did not know dry wines were a bit difficult to find in Greece!


Wanting to try it all, we dove right in with some grilled halloumi cheese, which was amazing - a cross between goat and mozzarella.
Cheese!
Erica S. and Mike split the grilled veggies (eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini), which were some of the best we had during our vacation.

Grilled Veggies
For entrees, I went with the rack of lamb, which was fresh and actually served de-boned, making it very easy to eat.

Lamb
Erica S. went with the fillet, which was a bit more skirt steak than fillet...

"Fillet"
 Nick got the souvlaki with chicken, pork and beef with a side of yummy pita.

Souvlaki
 Mike got the stewed rabbit, which was amazingly tender.

Rabbit
Obviously for our appetizers and meals we decided to go Greek, which ended up being the theme for our entire vacation!  For dessert we split a trio of sorbets - please notice the lovely little heart and the star.

Sorbet
Finally we thought we were going to end the meal with cappuccinos...

Cappuccinos
 But then were were served fresh watermelon and honeydew melon...


...which was of course followed by shots of ouzo.  I am not really a fan (its the fennel flavor) but of course I tossed it back along with the others.

Ouzo
After dinner we headed out to one of the many bars to grab some beers.  When I saw this Czech import I knew I had to have it immediately - while not the biggest Bud fan, the thought of having a maybe imposter Budweiser was too much fun!
"Budweiser!"
The beach town in Chania was a lot of fun and a perfect first stop to help us relax and start enjoying vacation.  While the beach area was very European, it was not very Geek feeling.  Rather than sticking around the beach town for dinner the next night, we wrapped up our pool time a bit early and headed into the old town of Chania.  Our night before kept us at the pool during the day rather than exploring much more.

After navigating some tricky streets that seemed almost too small for our car to get down, we found free street parking along the water near the yachts.

Harbor
The harbor had all sorts of boats and was fully protected from the sea by a lower sea wall.  Looking over the edge I was surprised to see how clear the water was.  We spent the rest of our late afternoon and evening wandering the little alleyways and popped into all sorts of touristy shops, galleries and cafes. 


Obviously some are more decked out than others...


Finally, after finding our way through the city and out the other side, we stumbled upon the other side of the harbor.


Was walked along the street that was lined with restaurants and hosts begging us to stop at their place, but we went for the place with the best view of the sunset - right at the inlet to the harbor.


It made for excellent pictures!
 
Enjoying the sunset
The restaurants were a bit of a tourist trap and they all know it.  Each of the menus explains the dishes with pictures rather than words.  None of the food was out of this world, but this was the first time we ordered octopus - a real Greek dish.  While this picture looks a bit suspect, it was well cooked and delicious.

Octopus
Looking out over the water and enjoying watching the sunset over the harbor was worth the OK meal. 

Sunset over the harbor
The old town of Chania was great and perfect to wander and see what the city had to offer.  Again, it was VERY European, just not very Greek - having been to Mykonos before, I was looking for all the white stucco buildings.  However, this was a lot of fun and the sunset was amazing!  We accomplished so much in our first two days of vacation - complete with 2 days at the pool that led to some funky tan lines that are still peeling.  Applying suntan lotion has never been my strong suit!

4 comments:

  1. Fantastic! I have always wanted to visit Greece. Those pictures are beautiful!

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  2. AMAZING! love the sunsets and the winding streets of the old town.

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  3. Looks like a beautiful place to be!

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  4. I'm loving your greek adventures. We're planning a trip there this summer and your blog is so helpful! :)

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