Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chania


My sister, Martha, and I continue our extended travels through Europe...





Chania is a pretty nice town. It's the second largest on Crete, after Heraklion, it's not ugly and it's very clean. In fact, Martha and I saw a man just stoop down and pick up a piece of trash as he was walking by. Probably a resident who likes his town clean, which we both thought was fabulous.

We are really loving having a full week on a Greek island at such a low cost, even though coming before high season means both the water and the weather are both too cold for swimming. More time in one place still allows you to have a much fuller experience.

Here's what we've been up to...





Monday was a gorgeous day, much more blue sky reflected on the water, though the wind never really stopped blowing. Martha and I spent the morning firming up some reservations so that we could print out documents at an Internet cafe in town. The time kind  of got away from us, by the time we walked down the mountain and got on a bus, it was after 4.

But the time changed over here on Sunday, and sunset wasn't until 7:30, so we still had a few hours of daylight to play with. Neither of us relished the thought of climbing our mountain in the dark, so we kept an eye on the clock the whole time we were down there. But we will be going again today, hopefully much earlier, so we can spend a full day there.

We stopped in first at the post office, because we were going to mail a few things home. But there was a really long line and we found out it was open until 8 pm, so we put that off until later. As it turned out, we decided to wait until Thursday to mail stuff out, because that's the day we drive around the island and we may buy more things we want to send back.

So we went to the Internet cafe, which was really more like a gaming place. But it was surprisingly comfortable for this type of thing, and the guy who worked there was great. A few minutes, a few dollars to print our boarding passes and various receipts we needed,and we were done.

Next up, an early dinner by the water.

There is a small park where we were that gave the whole area a pleasant feel. We walked alongside it and spotted a rental car place. We plan to drive to Heraklion and Knossos tomorrow, then drop off the car at the airport early on Friday morning, before our flight. We were going to look for a rental online, but this place was right there and we wanted to find out if there was an extra charge to drop it off at the airport. There isn't, so we went ahead and reserved it right there.

I made sure to ask for one that can get up steep hills, because we have to bring it back to spend the night at our mountain aerie.

Martha made sure they had an automatic. I was willing to drive a manual transmission, in fact I thought it might be better on the hills. But it's been decades since I've used a stick shift, and Martha didn't want me to have to worry about shifting while we were faced with unfamiliar traffic signs.

All of the signs here are supposed to be in both English and Greek, but she was still probably right. I'm not sure my brain is up to that level of multitasking these days. And I have to drive, because I'm the only one with an international driver's license.

Thank God there are two of us. It helps to bounce ideas off each other, and we really do make a great team, our strengths and weaknesses complement each other beautifully. It helps that we're on the same page about almost all of our travel plans, and we can both handle all the myriad details involved in this trip, so that burden is shared. It is SO not like normal travel, where you go one or two places, book your flights, lodging and maybe a car rental. There are so many moving parts to this trip, I've got a spreadsheet full of details, because there is no way we can keep it all in our head.

Our itinerary depends a lot on who flies where, because we've run into a lot of "you can't get there from here". And we don't want to fly everywhere, we want to see a lot of the countries we're traveling through. But we aren't following popular routes.

So, for instance, our train from Palermo to the port where we catch a ferry to Malta involves two changes. That's three legs, each with a different ticket and ticket price. But Martha is the queen of finding bargains, whether it's at a grocery store or lodging/transpo website. So I leave that part mostly to her. Once we figure out all the logistics, I wrangle the info into a spreadsheet so we can refer to it quickly.

It has all of our dates, destinations, flight numbers/times, AirBnB hosts names/addresses/phone numbers and more. We use a Google Sheets doc, so we can share it easily and both edit it. We could certainly just write all of this down, but I'd lose my copy within days, no question.

Martha said she thinks her 4 sons may be a little worried about her traipsing around Europe this way. But we've done it before, without any of the technology that's making it so much easier now, when we were very young and clueless. We still often feel clueless the first time we do something in a new place, but it doesn't take long for us to catch on. We're veterans now at taking the buses back and forth into town, we have the exact change ready and the conductor today even remembered where
we get off.

We have also navigated our way around town, taking care of business, shopping and eating, almost like locals. In fact, the cashier at a grocery store I stopped in at for breakfast stuff thought I was Greek. So we know we aren't radiating a loud tourist aura, anyway.


After taking care of all our business, we went to eat dinner a place on the water with outdoor seating that is somewhat protected from the wind. Not quite protected enough, the tablecloth kept blowing around, so we still had a pretty stiff breeze. But the food was delicious, plentiful and inexpensive, so we were happy. Outdoor dining is one of our all time favorite activities, and bonus points when it's waterfront. Gorgeous weather makes a trifecta, and we hit that today.

Waterfront dining in Chania on Greek island of Crete


We each got two appetizers, Martha with rice-stuffed grape leaves and traditional little Cretan pies with spinach and cheese. I got the same pies, minus the cheese, plus fried zucchini patties with cheese.









We shared a dessert of a waffle with nuts, chocolate sauce, fruit and whipped cream. I love the idea of waffles for dessert and I'm finding it all over Europe. But this thing was a freaking monster, and it was sooooo gooood. Sooooo. Verrrrry. Gooooood.











We also appreciated the bathroom gender designators: a shoe on the women's room, and a pipe on the men's room. Different, and cute.









The street to the waterfront has many of the typical tourist souvenir shops, but also some regular
stores you'd find anywhere in town. There was one place selling nuts by the pound, and had huge bags full right in front on the sidewalk.

And there is a lovely Greek Orthodox church on the same road, though we didn't have time to go in today. Martha went in on Sunday, though, and says it's beautiful inside. So I'll probably check it out today when we go back. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a churchgoer, but I do love architecture. And for centuries, churches had the funds to build, and decorate, some of the most breathtaking places in history. So I do love looking at them.

Then it was back to the station to catch the bus home. European buses are fabulous. No hard seats here, very plush and comfortable. And these are Mercedes buses, so they provide a really smooth ride. Climbing the mountain home was easier than the last time. Probably because the few things in my backpack weighed much less than the roast, vegetables and other groceries I carried uphill that day. Still a workout, but not torture. A
ll in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

Yesterday was not beautiful, with rain on and off, so we spent the whole day and into the night working on our upcoming travel details. I can't believe how long it takes us to get through this, it's like wading through mud. I thought all those hours would be more than enough time to gather info for the whole trip, but we didn't even finish Italy. Also, while I did my taxes and took care of almost all our family business - plus the new stuff that's cropped up while we're here, there is still hours worth of other tasks I'd hoped to get out of the way that I didn't even get to touch.

The thing is, we really just took our time getting settled the first few days we were here, because the whole week stretched out in front of us. Seemed like plenty of time. But today and tomorrow are completely booked with activities and we leave very early Friday morning. Plus, every time we climbed down, and back up the mountain, we were so tired in the evening that we just didn't do much of anything. So...that didn't go quite as expected.

Still, I did get a lot of important crap off my plate that had been irritating the back part of my brain, so I'm thrilled about that. And we will have spent half of our days out and about, which is a very good thing. It would have been a shame to have come to Crete and spend the entire time on administrivia.

Plus, we have a really long layover in the Athens airport we can spend on research. A really long train ride in Sicily, too, though it's broken up a bit by 3 transfers. We will certainly be looking out at the passing landscape a great deal, but I can't imagine that there is 8 hours of fascinating scenery we won't be able to tear our eyes away from.

Harbor in Chania on Greek island of CreteAnyway, today will be spent leisurely exploring Chania, apart from a couple of errands. Then tomorrow will be a day of exploring the island and hunting down treasure. I should have all of the details of that for you on Friday. Early Friday morning, we are off to Napoli via Athens and Rome. A very long day of traveling.

From Napoli, we go Palermo to Malta to Venice. Then the plan is to travel slowly back down Italy from Venice, to catch a cruise ship in Rome which will go to Nice and Barcelona, maybe one more place, and back to Rome. That's as far as we've planned and it takes us to the end of April.

We still have to flesh out details of the trip from Venice back to Rome. We've got a night in Verona booked, as well as 3 more in Cinque Terre. But we want to hit some of the foodie regions in the interior of the country. So that's what we'll be working on for the time being. Will keep you posted.

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