After paying a 30 Euro fee for overweight luggage, we took the short flight to Crete on Aegean Airlines. The weather seemed much cooler in Chania than it had been in Athens, and we were very thankful for that! The taxi ride took about 20 minutes and we were dropped off in a shop-filled alley with the driver motioning which direction to walk (no cars allowed). The path was cobblestone and the wheels on the luggage were not very happy about all the bumps in the road. One of my four wheels had been damaged and I would pay for it for the rest of the trip. After walking up and down the various alleys and not finding our hotel (Casa Leone), Kenzie told me to stay with the luggage and that she would go off in search of the hotel. I positioned myself and all the bags against a wall and waited. Kenzie returned about 10 minutes later laughing. She said she finally found a shop owner and asked for the hotel. The lady said she didn't know where it was, but since the open windows made eavesdropping quite easy, someone yelled from an upstairs shop where to find it, then someone else from the opposite direction also chimed in with directions.
We found Casa Leone a few minutes later, and a hotel employee rushed out to help us with the bags. Once inside, we were invited to sit on the balcony overlooking the harbor until our room was ready.
We were given fresh peach juice and an enormous plate of cherries, peaches and watermelon while we waited for our room. It was a lovely suite, with room for 4-6 people. I reserved this room when I wasn't sure if Jason and Laura were coming, and then at one point, we thought Kostas might join us. There were double-doors leading out to a balcony overlooking the harbor, and we enjoyed the view for the next 3 days.
For dinner, the hotel owner had suggested a place right underneath the hotel. I had remembered all the threads on the travel forums advising us to avoid the harbor restaurants and to find places to eat away from the tourist area. We walked around a few minutes but we were starving, so we went back to the place the hotel owner recommended.
The next morning we slept well past the hotel breakfast-serving time, so we had no idea what we had missed until the following morning. We walked all over the town, stopping for a little fish therapy
and shopping. We bought matching silver rings and enough olive oil soap to bathe all of LSU.
We spotted this in the sky from the harbor area. A flying blow-up boat??
We walked a couple of miles to a beach in Chania.
After we returned to the hotel, we got dressed and left for dinner at Tamam. This restaurant had great reviews on travel forums, and friends had also suggested it since it was so close to our hotel. We were enjoying an appetizer when a large group of rowdy young men in the back started singing Happy Birthday in French. Then they tried it in English, and once again in another language that we couldn't make out. It was very obvious that the guys were heavily intoxicated. A few minutes later, a young man approached Kenzie. He was struggling so hard with his English, but he said this was for her - because she was so beautiful. It was a jagged piece of blueberry cheesecake --- with fork marks on all sides. He said he had saved it for her and to PLEASE eat it. Another man joined him at our table and presented us with a half glass of raki. Blech. The men .... and the "gifts" kept coming. Before long, we had about 15 men gathered around - all flirting with Kenzie - but thankfully they ran out of leftovers to bring her. One young man was kind enough to turn his attention to me and I learned that they were in the French military - stationed on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and were just in town for one night before heading back to duty. Bless their little hearts. Our food finally arrived and the waiter shooed the boys away.
The next day was our last full day, so after a delicious breakfast that was bigger than most dinners we had on the trip, we asked the hotel owner to help us decide what to do. She made some calls to see what our options were, and arranged a taxi driver for the whole day. We agreed on a price, and she told us the driver would take us to a beautiful beach, with a few stops along the way to see some other sights. After picking us up from the designated meeting point, he drove about 30 minutes, then pulled over and picked up a young woman on the side of the road. He didn't speak much English, but said to us, "she for me." I guess he wanted someone to keep him company for the day trip.
We stopped first on the side of the road in the mountains. He pointed toward the stairs leading up the side of the mountain and told us to go. We had no idea what was at the top and felt a little foolish about it. There was a small restaurant at the bottom and the employees all pointed toward the stairs, so we figured it must be a legitimate tourist site. The stairs were very steep and there were a thousand of them, so about halfway up, we started questioning this decision. After a very long climb, we felt the temperature drop drastically, and then after one more flight of stairs, we found the Cave of the Wisdom of God.
Next stop was the Chryssoskalitissa Monastery. We didn't do a thorough tour since we were anxious to get to the beach and still had an hour or so to go.
We finally arrived at Elafonissi Beach. It was GORGEOUS! The photos do not come close to showing how beautiful this place was. The water was so clear and it was shallow enough to wade out to all the surrounding sand bars and beaches. We were at the southwest edge of the island. If you took off boating and headed straight south, you would hit . . . Libya. Yikes!!
The beach was amazing and Kenzie and I decided we would have to come back in the future and stay near this beach.
The next afternoon, we took a 2-hour bus ride to Heraklion, then checked into the Lato Boutique hotel.
I had arranged an evening horseback ride through the hills outside Heraklion. The owner of Finikia offered to pick us up from the hotel since we didn't have a rental car. We sat near the door watching for his car. Twenty minutes after the agreed upon pickup time, we heard a very loud vehicle approaching that sounded like it was "bassing". I'm not sure what it's called in other places, but it's the sound you hear when a driver has the music blaring with the bass part turned up to the highest level. We both looked at each other. Surely that would not be our ride. As it pulled up in front of the hotel, we saw the name of the facility clearly written on the door. Jeffrey jumped out in a white linen pantsuit screaming that Greeks are always late, and placed us in the back of the van. Once inside, we realized that the music wasn't on and the sound we were hearing was actually the misfiring engine! It was awful. It cycled over and over with this ROOOOOOOOOM BOPPA sound. It was sooooo loud!! Kenzie glared at me with this "where on EARTH did you find this place?!?!?" look as we drove through town picking up other passengers, each of whom had the same shocked "what in hell have we gotten ourselves into" face when boarding the ROOOOOOOM BOPPA buggy. No one spoke. It would have been pointless because no one could hear over the sound of the engine.
I felt a little better after we got out of the heap. There were other people who had arrived before us and they were all smiles. Looking back, they were probably laughing at our screaming arrival.
Jeffrey gave us all helmets, then proceeded to give us rules for riding the horses. In between instructions, he told very politically incorrect jokes. I'm certainly not uptight about most things, but I could see where some people would have gotten extremely upset over his little standup comedy routine. Anyway, the horses at the facility all had bizarre names -- Viagra, Ooooh Baby Baby, etc.
I was given Barack Obama.
Kenzie rode Sex on the Beach.
The handlers were along side us and when the horses would misbehave, they would shout their names and a command, which made for some very funny moments.
We stopped after a couple of hours to give the horses a break. They gave us watermelon wedges and homemade raki. Yick!! If you haven't had it, raki is a synonym for jet fuel!! It is nasty, but when I took one sip and almost heaved, one of the handlers took my cup away and drank the rest out of it.
Barack Obama had a hard time focusing and frequently turned off the path to eat grass. I would have liked to have ridden alongside Kenzie, but Obama was slow and stubborn. I was always dead last in the group. Another man riding directly in front of me most of the time had the letters "FAT" painted in big white letters on the saddle near his butt. Thankfully he was skinny. I'm guessing that was the name of the horse and I suppose mine must have said B.O., which is equally unflattering. Lord only knows what Kenzie's saddle butt abbreviation said!
After we returned and cleaned up, there was a big dinner for us. It was delicious - grilled shishkebobs, meatballs, potatoes and salad, and yes, lots of ouzo and raki. I had to beg for more water. Petrol just doesn't seem to go well with food, in my opinion. After that, a birthday cake was brought out and all the guests sang happy birthday to me. Another cake was brought out for a lovely English couple who had just gotten married. It was a fun and lively dinner and we made some new friends.
Jeffrey encouraged the smearing of cake on faces. Never quite got the meaning behind that. The newlywed got an entire piece of cake squished in her hair. I escaped with only cake to the nose.
The ranch hand who had been partaking in the alcoholic festivities all evening drove us back to our hotel. We managed to avoid the Rooooom Boppa heap. We took the Jedd Clampett jalopy instead. We were thrilled to arrive safely.
The next morning we took a bus for Agios Nikolaos. It was a cute town on the water with tons of shops and restaurants. Kenzie bought a swimsuit and we had lunch by the water.
The taxi drivers were on strike so we found another bus and went to Elounda for a few hours.
Spinalonga island can be accessed from there, but it was very hot and we didn't see many shade trees on the island so we decided we would just see it from a distance this time.
On the bus ride back to Heraklion, we spotted lots of goats in the mountains. It was amazing to see them perched on the rocks. It was hard to imagine how they even got there on those extremely steep surfaces, but they were everywhere. It was like a Where's Waldo book picking them out along the way.
When we arrived back at the hotel, the front desk reminded us that the taxi strike would still be in effect the next day, when we were due to take a ferry to Santorini. The port was walking distance, but it took over 30 minutes. We managed okay, but were still cursing the taxi drivers for inconveniencing us. I was very glad we had chosen that particular hotel. I'm not sure what we would have done if our hotel had been 10 miles away from the port.
The ferry was a medium-sized one (Flying Cat 5). I was happy to see that it was not the smaller Flying Dolphin that Kenzie and I traveled on to Skopelos two years ago.
We worried along the way that there wouldn't be a car to pick us up from the port in Santorini due to the taxi strike, but we stepped off the ship and saw a man holding a sign with our names on it.