Seven nights in Chania
With weary eyes and flagging limbs, we scanned the bus station for the final departure of the evening. Suitcases were dragged along cobbled pavements; curses uttered; foreheads wiped.
It wasn’t meant to be like this, of course. When we booked to travel to Chania, we didn’t quite realise just how far the Cretan city was from Heraklion Airport. It’ll be half an hour, we thought; a thirty Euro taxi, we guessed. Oh, how wrong we were.
Which is how we’d come to find ourselves in a foreign bus station, at 9:25pm, frantically searching for the last bus to Chania, which was due to depart in five minutes. A bus journey, might I add, that would take a casual three hours.
By the time we finally made it to Santrivani Rooms (we caught the last bus, phew), we were in dire need of air con. Thankfully, our room had not only air con, but a personal welcome from the owner, Yiannis; chilled bottled water; a light bite to eat, and a bed as comfortable as our own.
Relax, Nicole. You’re on holiday…
After a restful nights sleep, it was time to explore the city. For those unaware, Chania (pronounced hahn-ya) is on the North West coast of Crete, and is known for its colourful history—which translates into a tapestry of architectural influences. Upon stepping out of the door of our apartment, we were met with a bustling street, lined on either side with tavernas, independent boutiques and cafes, a mix of Cretans going about their day, and tourists stopping to take pictures of the bougainvillea canopy above our heads.
We weren’t met with the most glorious weather on our first day but, undeterred, we meandered towards the Old Venetian Harbour—a stone’s throw from where we were staying. And there it was: the star of the show. Towering above the ink blue water was the Venetian lighthouse. Built around the late 16th century to protect the harbour, the lighthouse fell into a state of disrepair under Turkish ruling, but was eventually rebuilt in the form of a minaret during the Egyptian occupation of the early 1800s. It’s worth noting that the base of the lighthouse is still the original Venetian base and, oh my, is it a sight to behold. Walking along the lengthy pier, you’re met with panoramic views of the harbour, and the surrounding ocean—an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.
A busy day exploring, eating and, uncharacteristically for me, not snapping a million pictures, was followed by a day of relaxation. Before setting off for Crete, I mentally saw myself going on adventure after adventure; looking back, it didn't happen. On a side note, it’s funny the expectations we place upon ourselves when going away. Maybe, we feel the need to prove what we were up to? To document all of the fun we were having; the cultural hotspots we visited; the things we did. Looking back, I experienced a gnawing guilt that we weren’t doing all of the things, all of the time. But, I soon adopted the carefree Cretan attitude—so what if I wanted to lie on Nea Chora beach all day, with a book, and an endless supply of Mythos?
After a day of doing absolutely nothing, we traced the coastline back to our apartment, where we dolled ourselves up in preparation for dinner. It was on J’s suggestion that we headed to Mon.Es. (I later discovered it’s one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Chania). Housed in a 16th century mansion, Mon.Es is all stone walls and Venetian arches. I couldn’t contain my sense of wonderment, as I took a seat at one of the best tables in the house. As with every single restaurant we visited in Chania, we were offered complimentary nibbles whilst we waited for our mains. J and I both opted for the Lamb Shank, which, when it arrived, looked absolutely delectable. With plates cleared, and local wine drained, we left with full bellies, and even fuller hearts. We were falling for Chania. Wholeheartedly.
Days three & four
Oh, to be on holiday every day. To wake at my leisure; to move at snail’s pace, and to fuel my sense of wanderlust. With a relaxed state of mind, and a sense of spontaneity, we began our third day at the market. Under the delightfully high ceilings, we strolled, taking in the sights and the smells of our surroundings. I picked up a few souvenirs, whilst J marvelled at the abundance of Cretan oils. Onwards to the waterfront, we went—a perfect spot for people-watching as we soaked up the afternoon sunshine.
One thing I loved about Chania was the inclusion of many-an-independent boutique, unassuming against the typical souvenir shops. I must mention Canea, where I dropped thirty Euros on a handmade beach bag quicker than you can say ‘Greek Salad, please.’ Funny, I mention salad, because our fourth night in Chania presented the largest salad I have ever seen. And, I mean e-v-e-r. (Hit the right arrow, below, for proof).
After much searching and bemusement, we finally found the Archeological Museum of Chania. (Turns out, Google Maps isn’t always super-accurate). I’m glad we found it, though, because it gave us the opportunity to delve into the long and varied history of Crete. Be warned: there is zero air con. Feeling pleased with ourselves for doing something high-brow, we returned to our sweet, sweet air con’d apartment, before settling on Adespoto for dinner. Set in the most romantic of courtyards, we were serenaded with the sounds of two Cretans, complete with instruments. I honestly don’t remember us having a bad meal; from the stunning surrounds of our first night, to the mouthwatering Italian on our third night; the mountainous salad of my fourth, to the atmospheric setting of our fifth, every night was perfect.
Our penultimate morning was spent wisely. On that very first night, greeted by the infectious energy of the hotel owner, he made us promise one thing: that we would have breakfast at Phyllo. Yiannis, I’m so glad we did. Just seconds from our place of stay, we’d walked past Phyllo countless times. Tomorrow, we promised. The day after, we murmured. In a way, I’m glad we only decided to stop on the final two days; it felt like we were saving the best ‘til last. Phyllo epitomised all that our trip to Chania represented: the warmest of welcomes; being in the moment, not a care in the world.
It was with heavy hearts that we said our goodbyes to this charming, little city (but, not before the most spectacular steak + sunset). Again, we found ourselves on a rickety coach, with not enough air con. This time, however, we were able to appreciate the journey; the way the coach navigated the rugged coastline of the largest Greek Island. The three-hour drive gave me some time to reflect. On days spent wandering along pretty cobbled streets, and nights spent marvelling as the sun disappeared. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair, with nothing to occupy my time, it dawned on me: Chania was worth it.
Have you stayed in or near Chania, before? Tell me your stories of summers in Greece or Tweet me @nclmullencomms. More photos of our trip, below.
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