Saturday, February 16, 2008

Crete: Chania

Now we aimed to reach the north coast again, this time heading across central Crete in a north-westerly direction, on much smaller, winding roads. The map we had wasn't very accurate, and the road signs were more confusing than helpful. We came to a decisive junction, at which one sign pointed us to go right, and a sign just a little further suggested we go left. We stopped the car and looked closely at the map, and finally decided to take the route to the left, which seemed to make the most sense. Whether or not it was the quickest route, I cannot imagine that the other would have been nearly so lovely. As we moved into the center of the island, we curved around rocky mountain tops, including Mt. Kedros, with small farmsteads here and there around the bases, and flocks of goats wandering about, and neatly planted patches of olive trees.

We came to the north coast of the island at Rethymno, and began searching for a certain restaurant, Avli, which had been highly recommended. After parking near the port, we walked through a maze of Venetian style streets, and finally came upon our destination. We walked through a dimly lit interior, and came to a central courtyard with full trees, and lush plants, and took one of the few seats in the shade. There was only one other table occupied, which made for a lovely lunch: we enjoyed tapanade and bread until our salads arrived, and then I had a delicious duck plate with orange and tangerine sauce, and a glass of local rosé. The food was as good as we expected, and the atmosphere was even nicer than we could have hoped for, so it made a wonderful little break after driving across the island. We wandered through the streets again, looking at interesting shops, including one bookstore, although I didn't find anything particularly interesting.

Next we headed to Chania, which would be our ultimate destination on Crete. Our room at Casa Delfino was right on the ancient port, and the maps didn't indicate that it was impossible to drive very close, so it took some ingenuity in order to find a place where we could park for several days. The ancient port area is a beautiful circular walkway, and wonderful buildings grown up around it, with circuitous walkways all throughout. We spent about two days just enjoying the lively atmosphere and the food, and the fact that we could walk through this little section of the city completely shaded from the blistering sun of the heat-wave.

After this respite, we boarded an overnight ferry back to Athens. We watched Crete fade into the distance until the sun had nearly laid down over the horizon, and then we ate a nice dinner at a restaurant aboard the ferry, and went to sleep in our cabin. Over the next few days in Athens we saw the National Archaeological museum, returned to the Acropolis and the Agora, and made our way to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was a breathtaking way to end the trip before flying to Prague and Paris.


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