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Our Crete Adventure

Posted by Pam, 14 July 2006 · 3,141 views

Why “Our Crete Adventure”? Well, when we first started planning this holiday it was going to be the first time we had ever travelled totally independently. Not that we’ve done a lot of package holidays, but normally had accommodation pre-booked and transfers arranged, but this time we wanted to explore Crete more especially the south-east which we had never visited and one of our main objectives was to find an area where we felt we could happily live in retirement.

So, I booked flights, a hire car and hotel for the night in Iraklion. I asked for the car to be delivered to the hotel the morning after we arrived as we had one previous experience of driving in Iraklion and found it horrific!

Our rough itinerary was as follows:

Drive to Matala on our second day and spend a few days relaxing there including a drive around the Messara and its villages to get a better feel for the place.
After a few days drive south-east stopping at Arvi on the way – I had fond memories of the village from 25+ years ago and remembered a charming little village on the coast with banana groves behind stretching to a small monastery up the hill, which had been a lovely walk.

Drive to Sitia and maybe spend a night there, and then a couple of nights in Kato Zakros to relax, before making our way back to the north-east and nearer to the airport.

So, what actually happened?

Well, between planning the holiday and arriving there the Big Party had been planned in Matala and Dinny had kindly booked us an apartment, so first few days sorted – not as big an adventure!

We arrived in Iraklion on time, got a cab to the hotel, great sigh of relief. biggrin.gif Big relief was because we had to cancel our last holiday as I broke my arm two days before – Bob pretty much had me wrapped in cotton wool this time! Time for a beer and stretch of legs before shower and meal. Only problem was on the way back I stumbled on a step and sprained my ankle, oh s***. laugh.gif wub.gif wub.gif

The following morning I could hardly walk, hire car arrived early and in all the panic, Bob forgot to pick up my passport from the hotel and didn’t notice the car was parked the wrong way in a one-way street. We managed to get out after a 45-point turn and high-tailed out of Iraklion vowing never to drive there again.

We arrived in Matala in the early afternoon to find Dinny waiting for us at the bar and spent a happy hour chatting over a beer or two. Dinny also kindly got me a load of ice from the bar and guided us to our apartment, which was great, HUGE terrace and view over the bay. We were very happy sitting there relaxing for the next couple of days, while I rested my foot.

Saturday the Big Party, see Santo’s blog for full details, but my best memories are of sitting on Dinny’s lovely terrace, chatting away and gently supping beer (and raki) with some great nibbles. We’d never met anybody before, though had chatted on this site, but soon felt we were amid good friends.

Monday we set off on our adventure, though unfortunately had to drive into Iraklion for my passport. The traffic when we hit Iraklion was appalling! Anyway, got that sorted and headed down to Arvi on the south coast. We left the main road at what must be pretty much it’s highest point and started the trek down a long and wiggly-waggly road, rather scary at times, but we took it slow. Unfortunately when we got there the village proved to be disappointing – the banana groves had been built over or covered by plastic greenhouses and we couldn’t find the monastery. I suppose you should never go back to a place after 25 years.

Tuesday – left Arvi early and negotiated the steep drive up the road – only 13 kilometres but it felt like much more. At this stage I decided that I could not inflict another long drive on Bob so decided to stop at the first decent place past Ierapetra, which was Makrigialos. By this time the weather was hot – over 30, so when we got there we just found the nearest available room and descended to one of the beach bars where we happily passed the afternoon over a couple of beers and lunch and I swam a few times. cool.gif cool.gif This particular beach bar had a well-cosseted young cat who shared our tuna salad. Makrigialos is lovely, nice cove and harbour and we had some of the best food of the holiday there - we’ll definitely return. We had another lazy day there before travelling on – had thought of doing some walking (my ankle was fine by then), but just too hot!!!

Thursday – travelled up through Sitia where we stopped for a lemonade. Nice town, but fairly busy, so decided to travel on and stopped in Palekastro for a couple of nights. Nice village and we had a lot of entertainment sitting in a bar on a fork in the road, watching the chaos of the traffic – no road markings or traffic lights and cars turning in all directions, stopping for a chat in the middle, but no accidents. We walked down the road for the afternoon to a little beach with a couple of tavernas. The taverna we chose had a really large Macaw and a smaller parrot, who both occasionally let out a loud screech. That evening we had dinner in a small taverna where I think we were the only foreigners and there was a large family party, lovely food too.

Friday – day trip to Kato Zakros. The drive wasn’t too scary, except for the last bit and the ruins were fascinating. I was rather disappointed with the village though and glad we hadn’t chosen to spend a couple of days there.

Saturday – we then decided we needed to get nearer Iraklion, so drove over the mountains to Sissi. That really is a beautiful drive – the road is lined with oleander and gorse bushes and some beautiful views down to the sea. We stopped for coffee halfway over the mountains where there were a group of locals having their lunch with beer and wine (and probably raki was well). It was only 11am, but they’d probably been up since 6, anyway. We stuck to coffee – Bob wasn’t going to drink while driving on those roads. Arrived in Sissi safe and sound and found a room by asking around. Only problem is they were still getting it ready for the season, and we watched the family re-grouting the swimming pool while we relaxed over a beer on our balcony, rather hampered by the kids wanting to use it as a football pitch – very entertaining.
Sunday, Monday – 2 pleasant days relaxing in Sissi, which we did like. There’s a lovely little harbour and creek there, full of flowers on the sides – another place for a return visit.

Tuesday, back to England.

So, how was our adventure and will we do it again? Definitely – same time next year. Two things we will do differently – hire a more powerful car ( our Fiat Punto did struggle on some of the roads), and do more research on accommodation in the places we are planning to visit beforehand – we could have got better rooms and locations if we had.

As for our objective of deciding on the area to settle – we think near Matala – Pitsidia or Sivas if we can find the right property. Lovely as the south-east and north-east is, some of the roads are scary and I wouldn’t fancy negotiating those in the winter.

Pam & Bob

Whilst it was good to hear about the Pitsidia party it is great to hear about the rest of your stay too.

We also love Sissi and were there shortly after you - it looked like the children must have won the day because the pool was still lined with various bits of equipment and footballs and it didn't really look like it would be ready for the onslaught of tourists.......... Assuming it was the same pool of course and not another in a similar condition!

Thanks for the comment, Yvonne - I've been racking my brains for the name of the place we stayed in, but can't remember. It was a couple of hundred yards outside the main village on the main (only?) road on the right hand side as you're driving in, one older block where we stayed and a new block which they were also hurriedly finishing off and a pool bar that they hadn't stocked yet. It was really quite fun sitting watching other people work while we were relaxing! Also, they filled the pool on our last night and the birds were getting really excited over the prospect of a big bird bath - kept on swooping over the pool to see if it had filled up enough yet - memories, memories.


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