WESTERN CRETE (SAMARIA GORGE and CHANIA)

We were flying home tonight but I really wanted to see the start of the famous Samaria Gorge walk. The walk was closed in early April but it sounded a great spot to admire the White Mountains. In fact, that drive and the Gorge turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.

Our flight home wasn’t until 9.15pm so even with having to be at the airport by 7.15pm or so for the return of the car, we had all day to explore.

Ancient Falasarna

We hadn’t quite finished with Falasarna though and after a great breakfast (more home made cake which I complimented our hosts on; had a lovely chat with them.Nice people.) Ancient Falasarna was a short walk from one of the small hotel car parks so we got packed up, said our goodbyes and walked the mile or so out to the beautiful north end of the bay.There were a few plastic tunnels and farm activity  but mostly it was just the wildflowers and the hilly backdrop. Spent fifteen minutes exploring the semi hidden ruins; there isn’t a vast amount to see above ground but it’s a lovely spot.

The Samaria Gorge

Well, what a drive it was up through the Lefka Ori mountains! Great road, fine scenery, almost alpine, craggy green snow capped mountains and tiny villages perched on crags. We soon were very high up and mist enveloped us on and off, lending the whole scene an even more dramatic atmosphere.

Lakki

Omalos village itself was on a plateau, a pleasant looking little settlement with orchards and farmland.It’s used a lot by trekkers to overnight in before doing the Gorge walk.

About 10 minutes drive beyond, we arrived at the start of the Gorge itself and parked up. Wow ,what a spot! Dramatic, steep rocky mountains, partly pine forested, plunged down three thousand feet to the gorge floor. There was a lot of trekking signage pointing out hiking routes across the mountains. Very interesting, attractive country. The gorge itself wouldn’t open for another month, being still too dangerous with debris and rock fall from winter. But it looked amazing, that first part of the walk. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy the whole route though , given it’s at low level with steep walls blocking any views. I like being in open country and wondered whether it would be too claustrophobic and ‘the same’ but it did look tempting.

There was a large traditionally built mountain restaurant, Xyloskalos, a very attractive wooden building which was also open for food and coffee. Great balcony overlooking the mountain grandeur. After taking lots of shots, we headed in for a heat; it was very cold up here despite the sunny weather.

I have to say lunch there was excellent. Very traditional Greek savoury food, home made, simple but tasty. A selection of savoury stuffed mini – crepes to start,then a hearty chicken stew and potatoes with stuffed vegetables.All excellent. Good coffee. More places like this please! Inexpensive too.

What a great drive down it was, seeing the mountainous landscape from a different angle. Stopped for coffee in the tiny village of Lakki, with fine views to the hills and the deep valley below and a nice old church, bathed in sunshine . Sat out with café lattes on a lovely terrace just enjoying the superb location.

CHANIA

Chania was our next stop. Quite touristy but the Venetian harbour was beautifully restored and made for a fine stroll out to the lighthouse. The old Mosque was a tremendous sight, with the colourful harbour buildings lining the calm water and the snow covered Lefka Ori behind. Wonderful sight.That mix of east and west is also visible in Rhodes Old Town.Fascinating.

 

Had a drink and coffee at one of the many harbour restaurants and cafes but we chose the wrong one. Poor service and both Chris’s wine and my coffee were mediocre at best. As were the toasted sandwiches we shared. I mean, how can they get something so simple,  so wrong?! Why oh why are these places, in really lovely locations, almost addicted to offering poor quality? I know the answer is – because they can get away with it, relying on passing trade. We’re old enough in the tooth as travellers to know that, but I can’t help but be tempted by a lovely spot. As Chris reminded me, I allow hope to triumph, always, over experience! But I don’t want to sit in a dark little backstreet to get good coffee and food; I want to do that with an inspiring view. Neither do I mind paying over the odds a bit for location. Ah well, the view was nice at least.

A last minute picnic

Our trip to Crete ended very close to where it had begun on Day 1.We had a bit of time to spare and at 6pm, the dullish day had turned sunny and warm. Chris was keen to just push on to the airport but I didn’t fancy spending an extra hour there on such a nice day. By chance, I spied a minor road heading off the main drag to the airport which looked as if it went down to the shore of Soudha Bay. It was very close to the War Cemetery, a tiny cove with a jetty where, bizarrely, a couple of plastic chairs had been left upside down and there were the remains of some decrepit sunshades. Ready made seats, just waiting for us! We’d already picked up some chicken drumsticks, Parma ham, bread and coleslaw at a supermarket in Chania for snacking on before the flight but instead, enjoyed a little al fresco picnic surrounded by wildflowers and the sound of the sea. The Lefka Ori had cleared of mist and looked splendid across the bay. It was a fitting send off from the island and we both wished it  ‘kalispera.’ Perhaps one day, we will return.

For Day 1 of our trip: WESTERN CRETE(RETHYMNON)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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