Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Friday - Leaving for Chania, Crete

Left home at 12:45pm. Straight to Lund to drop Pebs off and pick up Gisela. Then off to Sturup/Malmö Airport. Long check in line but it goes quickly, but then an additional fourty-five minute wait on top of the hour and a half check in time because the flight is delayed.

Then we're up and away for a boring three hour and fifteen minute flight. Little turbulence in the beginning but other than that quite uneventful. Never understood why parents let their kids stand up on their seats and run up and down the aisle though. It's bloody annoying, especially for people who already don't like flying in the first place. But the wife and I did notice, and have concurred with many others that for some people, the vacation starts on the way to the vacation destination, so they let go of everything, including the kids.

Touch down, then a two minute bus ride to the terminal. Bags arrive quickly and in five minutes we're on the bus, and after fifteen minutes we're on the move. But by the time we get going it is already dark and we can only hope that all the other motorists get out of the way for this large bus, traveling at speed on these narrow roads.

The tour guide on the bus is trying to tell us about the surroundings which we can't see, and after thirty minutes or so, ten minutes from the resort, we suddenly come upon Portos Platanias. The strip is lit up like Vegas, and there are hundreds of tourists. Thousands. Everything looks the same: resorts, souvenirs stores, restaurants, bike rentals, car rentals, ATV rentals, resorts; a never ending strip of commercialism of the worst kind, and we'll be staying smack dab in the middle of it all. As we would come to find out later, this would actually be a good thing. 

Check into our apartment in the Porto Platanias Village Resort and the floor is dirty and there's a used towel in the bathroom. Some youngsters are next door partying and the safe doesn't work. We call the front desk. The safe is extra. Room service will be up to clean the room. And, we missed dinner so food and drinks are in the fridge; dry sandwiches and water. Forget this! To the the strip!

We're on the move, taking in the repetitive sights and sounds, then find a nice looking food joint. In a few minutes we're in gyro heaven - the damn thing was perfect. I wolf mine down and finish the rest of Cat's. Head back to the hotel poolside bar for our all inclusive drink access. Two mojitos please!

The alcohol dispensers are automatically controlled so the bartenders can only make watered down versions of every drink, unless you pay for the real deal. Blah. Night time snack menu: a cauldron of what appears to be soup, and there are no snacks. Interesting first night. Let's see if things are better under the sun.


First thing in the morning, we head poolside. 


The real heat hasn't hit yet and after an hour we're at the breakfast buffet. Now things are getting better. Food is plentiful, varied and pretty good for the most part.

Back to the pool to bask in the sun like beached whales. Speaking of which, it is amazing to see people first eat themselves to death, then in a zombie-like state, waddle to the bar to get some beer and then boil themselves to a red lobster-like complexion. 

Around 11 o'clock we take a walk down to the beach. Red flags are up and the current is definitely strong, but further down we find a calmer section, but the waves still provide enough excitement.

Lordy me, that water is warm! However, unless you rent beach chairs and an umbrella, there is no shelter from that brutal sun, so we head back to the resort, planning for a real sea swim tomorrow.

Sun-bake and then lunch around half past one. Again, the food is abundant and good. I'm eating more than usual, but that's because the food is already prepared and paid for. Poolside again, and in the company of a couple of beers while reading yet another brilliant Conn Iggulden novel

It's 38 degrees Celsius! And the humidity eventually caused me to bus' a half hour sleep. Sleeping under the shade of umbrellas and skinny palm trees is a wonderful thing. I hear nothing but the constant calls of cicadas, screaming children and splash bombs in the pool. Ah, resort peace. Cat wakes me up. Apparently she also feels a bit too resort-ful... we don't want to be like 'them'. To Chania Old Town we must go (with the other tourists). Check at the front desk and get directions. 100 meter walk to the bus stop, 30 minutes to Old Town. 

Wow. Talk about the old mixed with the new. A juxtaposition of old and new and ancient building materials, styles and construction, plastered in every direction, with a heavy dose of the usual tourist crap and a Starbucks on the corner.

Lemon Frappacino please! And now for obligatory tourist photos and sampling of some ice cream. 

We were expecting some half diluted mango and lemon ice-cream. The store owner had asked me why I laughed when he said his ice-cream was the best. Isn't everyone's the best? However, he pointedly told and showed us that he was putting the lemon ice cream in the cone first as it was a bit sour, so the mango flavour therefore will be not be affected. 

Well, the man certainly knew his trade; eating that ice cream was like biting into a ripe mango. Guess I shouldn't have laughed. (Can I get some cream with that mango please!)

Head back to the resort after a couple hours. Crowded bus going back and some anxiety because we don't want to miss our stop, but damn, everything looks the same! Luckily some landmarks were imprinted on my brain (Cinema 6D - looking cross-eyed through 3D glasses?), so it didn't really matter that we couldn't make out what they were saying when calling out the stops. 

Shower, dress for dinner, and over-dressed, we enjoy the food on a cool Crete night. Order two Sex on the Beach's, sit by the pool and enjoy the fruit punch. 

 And it's only 10 o'clock! But, it has also been the first full day, and at a resort there is only so much to see and do. So, up to the room for some Swedish TV (channel 4) and shut eye. Tomorrow is another day.


Breakfast time. Only 2 days and the theme is already clear: Food. And how much of it you can consume will take up half the day. Thankfully they do vary the breakfast options so at least everyday you can try something else. 

Poolside, same spot, and I guess this will be our routine for the next 5 days. Not sure if we will venture anywhere else but to the beach, but I am looking forward to the cool breaking waves, continuously pounding the surf, and being away from the pool. If it wasn't for my book I wouldn't even be at the pool for more than 5 minutes. The waves here are caused by the pounds of bellies hitting the chlorine surf and sending big ripples every which way.

Still, I like people watching behind the safety of my sunglasses.

1:30 - lunch time. Hmm. The thought of more food after sitting in this heat isn't so appealing, but lunch service ends in an hour so it might be best to get it over and done with. But first, a dip in the pool. And now I get it. A little swim in that cool water makes the previous hour's roast seem like a distant memory, and now, back on the pool chairs under the sun, the reheating begins again. It can be addictive, and for some it obviously is, but doing this day after day still doesn't make sense to me.

But a pool can never compare to a sandy beach and crashing waves, and we had the best time so far after lunch, spending a couple of hours on the shore. Perhaps tomorrow we will venture further down the coast and see if it gets even better.

Back to hotel for some rehydration, light drinks and ice cream. No more swimming today. Read, relax and then... dinner. I don't think I have ever eaten this much food in two days. Not that I am showing any weight gain, and I don't feel bloated, but I can't remember what it is like to even feel hungry. 


More of the same, but a light breakfast this time. Not that anything is wrong with the food, but there is the annoying fact that you must eat by a certain time or miss breakfast altogether. Outside the resort there is food galore, but an all inclusive vacation is paid for up front, and dammit, you want your money's worth.

It's hotter this morning. Humid and a bit sticky which I guess is a good excuse to hit the pool chairs even earlier. And so we did, from about nine thirty to half past one. I'm plastering myself with sun tan lotion as it doesn't take long for me to go from cafe latte to chocolate milk. Actually, this already happened after the first day in the sun, so I am trying not to become invisible at night.

Lunch comes and goes in a blur of paella, beef, fries, fish, salads and ice cream, and then we head back to the room. We need a rest from all this eating. Apart from walking about and the occasional dip in the pool, only our jaws are getting any exercise.

That sun just won't quit though, so off to the beach and to our spot. Luckily it's still available, and I rediscover a simple pleasure - swimming underwater for as long as my lungs allow. No waves this day, and that's okay as it is ideal for swimming further out to sea. I'm about 60 meters from the shore and can stand easily enough, only needing to keep my head above water. The sea is a little colder today but it has been the hottest day so far, so for once I am thankful for colder waters.

Meanwhile, Cat is roasting on the beach, and after the third time out it is time to head back for a Long Island Iced Tea, a Piña Colada and the shade of an umbrella.

Think we'll just sit here with the sun going down till dinner time.. 


Today was pretty low key, which is to say, we basked in the sun, turning over like chickens in  rotisserie. Nice colour on all sides. No beach this day as we figured we could spend most of our time on the beach tomorrow, and in any case, on Thursday we would be taking the tour bus to Elafonosi, a supposed paradise an hour and a half away. It will be nice to get away for a bit. It's all good, but always the same no matter what direction you look.

Decided last minute to take the bus into town again. We Indiana Jones'd the town in search of...Zara. Oh yes. We heard the rumours about this chain store also in existence in Chania's Old Town, right in line with some Spanish retail clothing stores. If only we had made the left an hour earlier we might have been the first to discover it's location. 

After doing our 'anytime-we-go-window-shopping-we-get-bored-and-don't-buy-anything routine' we somehow found the bus terminal by taking an accidental left this time, and went back to the resort.

Damned if we were going to sit in that restaurant and plow through more food again! To the gyro spot! The Greek gyro is a most reliably consistent food: you know what you're going to get and it knows it's going to live comfortably in your belly.

We walked back after a long spell of people watching/judging. My thought on the various attires was simply if you still have the body for it, wear whatever you want. Some day the perky-ness will gravitate towards the toes and the waistline will expand. Until then, especially in this climate, expose it all.

The Mrs. went up to the room while I fetched some drinks from the bar. We had stopped off to buy some snacks, so some Long Island Ice Tea's and salt and vinegar chips while watching TV was the order of the night. Hmmm, a special on Clint Eastwood. He really is THE man. 

Wednesday - A Fruit Vendor's Tale

Beach day! Well, everyday is potentially beach day, but I think we just had enough of the poolside vibe. True, access to drinks and ice cream was a ten second walk away, but nothing beats that ocean view. 

After two minutes of lying on that hot sand and under that blazing sun we decided to rent a couple of beach stools and an umbrella. Then all was perfect, until... drama! 

A Fruit Vendor's Tale

The fruit man was making the rounds. 

'Fresh mixed fruit! Crete watermelon! Vitamins! Proteins! Natural Viagra!' 

At least that's what it sounded like. Amusing to most, and sales to some, and then, out of nowhere the Incredible Greek Hulk appears. This was no tanned Bruce Banner slowly simmering under the heat. This was an 'I've been angry my entire life' rage monster. Huge. Arnold in his prime. He took the tray of mixed fruit that this guy had been selling, cursed him out and purposely humiliated the man for life by taking a piece of that juicy watermelon and crushing it on this man's head (fortunately, he had a cap on), before finally escorting him off the beach. Judging from fruit man's demeanor, this probably wasn't the first time he'd been caught selling on the wrong turf, and probably not wanting to risk further humiliation, did as he was told. I truly felt sorry for him though. One minute a successful fruit hustle, the next, melon to head and shamed to silence. The melon munchers of course couldn't care less, busily Hoovering down whatever fruit they had left before Hulk came by and slapped it away. 

On second thought, I didn't feel sorry... I felt terrible for the guy. Where else in the world would a grown, appropriately dressed, working man get a watermelon smashed on his head? Publicly? In broad daylight with men, women and children looking on? If that were me, and if the sand wasn't so hot, I would have clawed through it and buried myself. 

But lo and behold, 5 minutes later, he's back! Alas with no fruit. In fact he returned to give back some change owed to the couple from his last interrupted sale. Now, that is a soldier. Respect! Then he ran off.

And now a group of chatterboxes, ten of them miraculously finding ten chairs around us and just won't quit the jibber jabber. I'll take screaming kids on the beach over talkative adults any day. Okay, maybe not today. Tomorrow. Or the next. But still.

After two hours, the four Euro per chair fee is proving its worth. There is a slight breeze, but make no mistake, the umbrella overhead is working overtime; I have not gotten an additional tan so far today. Why are there still no waves though? Is the tide out? Ah well, a swim further out is in order. So, I went out but discovered that as far as swimming goes, I am not in shape. And the extra food still in my belly is not helping matters. Treading water, I rest a bit to let my heart rate settle down. As with most activities, speed is my motivation so I expend quite a bit of energy getting from point a to point b as fast as possible, rather than just taking my time. I swim back to shore at a leisurely pace. It takes a while. No rush though; just holding onto these rare moments.

Seems like everyone had the same idea that Wednesday is beach day. It's 11:30 and the place is now packed. I go back for a swim a couple more times and work up an appetite just in time for lunch.

After lunch, pool, drinks then dinner. After dinner, a stroll, people watching, surprisingly bad ice cream, then back in the room around 11. Took a while for me to fall asleep since my excitement had been building up towards our trip to paradise tomorrow.

Thursday - Paradise

Up bright and early a little after seven, and down for a quick, but filling breakfast. We're officially tired of the food, but we're headed home tomorrow morning, so what's another dose of eggs and bacon? 

As usual, the sun is out in full, and we set off at 8:30. Truth be told there was not much to see during the first half hour, as once we left the 'tourist zone' the real Crete started to look the same in every direction - the landscape, while still sporting healthy trees and plants, still looked heat blasted, and I started wondering how many people suffer from heat stroke or simply faint on a daily basis. But, living in a climate such as this, the body adjusts, and in addition to the motorcyclists and cyclists, there were many out running or on professional road bikes, training just like anywhere else. 

We made one stop, at a cave, and after about 200 steps up the side of a mountain, we were greeted with a sign which read 'Welcome to the cave of the wisdom of God'. Hmmm. Not much wisdom to be found here. Would have been wiser to have saved our energy and stayed in the bus.

Back on the narrow, winding road to Elafonisi, we're beginning to get bored. Ten minutes away from our destination, according to our tour guide, I'm still trying to figure out why we are still so high up, but then the bus suddenly cuts left, the road narrows even further, and we're right on the bumper of a pick up van with a very happy dog, 'surfing' in the back, dropping altitude quickly. A little glimpse of a coast line, a flash of some deep turquoise coloured water, and next thing you know we're told to exit the bus. The bus will be leaving at 3:30, so until then, enjoy. Four ours to kill.

So, this is what passes for paradise these days? Well, we'll take it!

Sure, if it wasn't for the thousands of tourists like ourselves, it would have been a real piece, but in spite of us, what a place! The reef, nature's active filter, purified the water so it was crystal clear. No seaweed, no seashells; nothing but soft sand with a pinkish hue (from finely crushed seashells apparently). 

This we could do every day. As mentioned before, our staying in the heart of the tourist bubble was better than staying in the resorts outside of it. The resorts in those areas are your world and you would have to rent a car or take a bus just to see anything else. And we (actually, mostly me) were already stir crazy after the first couple of days.

But this place was truly amazing. It was so massive that in spite of the 2000+ plus beach goers, there was more than enough room for everyone. The food vendors didn't have eye gorging prices, so, for example, a beer was only 2 Euros, even though there was no where else for miles to buy refreshments.

The pictures cannot do this place justice, and I did wonder if I would ever return to Crete, and would it only be to end up right back here? Would it be worth the time and money and risky drive to experience this piece of paradise?

We stopped at a restaurant/cafe/bar on the way back for about 45 minutes.

From there we could see the road we would be following, carved out the side of the mountains, with not much guard railing to lend some sense of security.

Cat fell asleep on the way back, and once back at the resort the focus shifted to dinner one last time, and then planning for departure the next day. All in all it was a great trip, even if we didn't really do that much (as you can tell from the repetitiveness of these blog posts). But the point was to eat, sleep, swim, sun bathe and relax, in no special order, and that mission was certainly accomplished.