The Whitelocks have a neighbour called Sheila who has been going to Crete for many years and she recommended that as a group we should stay at the Three Brothers Taverna (more...) in Chora Sfakion on the south coast of west Crete. The Swansons will join us. After Hugh had arranged all the flights and rooms we invited Garry and Amanda to join us which they did and were lucky that there was room on the flights and in the taverna.
|Saturday, 16 September - The trip to Chora Sfakion
Sunday, 17 September - Testing the waters
Monday, 18 September - Westwards to Loutro
Tuesday, 19 September - A day out and about
Wednesday, 20 September - A day on the beach or reading
|Thursday, 21 September - Walking the Imbros Gorge
Friday, 22 September - A day on the beach or reading
Saturday, 23 September - A night in Athens
Sunday, 24 September - Returning Home
We are picked up at 12 o'clock by Millers taxis. Hutch had picked us up from Southampton airport a month ago. We had just arrived back from France from a wedding we had attended at Clermont Ferrand. Hutch drives us to Denmead where we pick up Gary and Amanda. We elect to drive on the A272 to Gatwick as there appear to be some traffic problems on the A3/M25 route. We arrive at Gatwick at about 2 o'clock and after getting through baggage dropping and security we all make our way to Garfunkels where two of us have all day breakfast and one has scampi and chips and the other has a ham and cheese sandwich. Three of us have a pint each of Guinness, one has a glass of white wine. Guess who? Hugh comes and sees us while we are at the table. Later Mary pays us a visit at the table. We make our way to gate 105 which is quite a long way away. When we get there people are already boarding on to the plane. We follow them. Our seats are in row 22 along with Hugh and Jane and Bill and Mary. Gary and Amanda are a couple of rows behind us. The flight takes off half an hour late and it's quite full. We arrive at Chania at about 10pm. After getting through passport control we collect our baggage and go into the arrivals hall. We are met by Pandelis a tall gentleman. He escorts us to his Mercedes minibus. We all clamber into it and our baggage is put in the boot. It is about 24C. It takes about an hour and a half to drive south to where we are going to stay. We go over the mountains reaching a height of about 800 m. Most of the way is along good roads but there is a narrow road that goes down the hill to the village where we are staying. Pandelis parks the van in the middle of the village, Chora Sfakion. We drag our bags up the narrow street to where the Three Brothers Tavern is. The place is closed. It is after midnight. Pandelis phones the owner and she arrives with her black dog. We are taken to our rooms which are in a block up a hill. The rooms have two beds, a fridge and a bathroom. Paper must not be flushed down the toilet. It must be put in the bin by the side of it. All of the rooms have air-conditioning. We choose our rooms and settle in but not for long. We are thirsty and we make our way down to the centre of the village where we find a bar overlooking the sea. We order eight beers and after drinking them order another four more. It is 2 o'clock in the morning. We make our way back to our lodgings. Breakfast will be served at 9 am overlooking the beach. There is free wifi here!
Hugh Jane and Mary go for an early morning swim. Just after 9 am six of us saunter down to breakfast. We have freshly squeezed orange juice, bread, filter coffee, a large bowl of Greek yogurt, a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. We eat the delicious yoghurt with honey. We return to our rooms. Bill and Mary change rooms as they were awoken by barking dogs. Some of us go for a wander around the town, down to the jetty and along the coast to the diving centre. On the way back Bill buys a pair of shoes and much to Mary's surprise and delight throws his old pair away. We meet Garry who is having a stroll. We return to the tavern. Jane is on the beach but clambers up to the bar. Amanda, the Swansons and Whitelocks have a swim. Graham sips his beer. We all gather and have some lunch followed by a siesta or more swimming for some. At about 6:30pm we sit around the large balcony of Garry and Amanda and enjoy a couple of Gs and T with the setting sun. Amanda lived in Crete for six years but her ability to speak Greek has almost disappeared. We were hoping she would be our translator but we are all disappointed. We walk down to the place where we had beer last night and are greeted enthusiastically. We have some shared starters followed by a mixed fish platter. It is washed down with red wine from half litre carafes. After the meal we are given sliced peaches and grapes which we wash down with the donated raki. We retire to our rooms.
It's sunny again. This morning we all have breakfast together and we have a plan. At 10am we gather to walk down to the taxi office which is at one end of the checkout counter in a supermarket. We book a taxi to be driven by Pandelis the next day. We walk to the ferry ticket offices but as it appears to sell only return tickets to Loutro we walk on and get a small taxi boat to get there. It drops a couple off at Sweetwater Beach and then drops us off at Loutro. The plan is we will all walk to Sweetwater Beach. It would take an hour. We walk to the eastern end of the village and start to climb up amongst the goats. This not going to be much fun for Mrs L so we opt out and retrace our steps through the village. We stop at two cafes and catch the 12:45 big ferry back to Chora Sfakion. Some cars and lorries disembark. We walk back to the first night cafe and are greeted by the friendly waiter who will give us two free small beers. We accept and order two Sfakion speciality cheese pies. They turn out to be pancakes filled with a tasteless cheese. Flavour is added by pouring honey over them. We return to our rooms for a short rest and then go down to the beach for a swim - Graham's first. The water is not too cold and clear blue. We return to our room and wait for the walkers to arrive. The walkers return exhausted. They had lunch on the beach and decided to walk home but the path was up and down and in places turned into scree. Some of them walked all the way back and some thumbed a lift with a Loutro hotel owner. It is an hour's walk from Sweetwater Beach. At 5pm Graham walked down to the supermarket and bought gin, tonics and a lemon. We gathered at 6:30pm and consumed it all. We ate at the Three Brothers and retired, some of us more exhausted than others.
After breakfast, at which we have a ham and cheese omelette, we walk down to the taxi office at 10am. Pandelis is there to greet us. We walk to the village square and board the grey Mercedes van. Our first stop is at Fragokastello where there is a Venetian built castle. It was built around 1371. There is a myth that some Cretans attacked the castle and they were massacred. After a bottle of Ouzo (around May 17th) you can see their ghosts riding on horses along the beach. The countryside is rugged with plenty of olive trees, sheep and goats. The meat is flavoured with the wild oregano they eat. We stop to admire some eagles (though, on reflection they were more probably Griffon Vultures) flying high. We drive through the seaside village of Plakias, then through the greenhouses of Tympaki. We stop at the archaeological site of Festos (more...) where there are the remains of a large palace built sometime since 3000BC. It is very hot. We return to the van and driven to the seaside resort of Matala which was much favoured by hippies who lived, in the 60s, in the caves overlooking the beach. Some of us swim and some sit in the shade of a cafe and consume some beer. At 4pm we get back into the van and Pandelis drives us to Spili where we get out to sample the spring water. We stop at a gorge and admire the view. We arrive back at the taxi shop at 7pm and pay for the day - 360€ for 9 hours. We all agreed it was a good day and well worth doing. We have some G and Ts on the largest balcony and then wander down to Nickos at Mary's suggestion. Jane and Garry share a large fish platter while the rest of us have more meagre fare. They do not give us free raki at the end of the meal so we return to Bill and Mary's room to sample the Johnny Walker Double Black Label.
After breakfast we return to our rooms and prepare to go swimming. We walk down to the beach and select an umbrella and two sun loungers. We put on our beach shoes and walk into the sea. It has pockets of warm and colder water but is clear blue. We swim around and return to our loungers. At around noon we return to our room. The others prefer to stay on the beach and swim. We shower and change and walk back to the restaurant. Graham has a beer and Jane has a Radler (a foreign version of a lager shandy). We order an aubergine salad which is very tasty. Hugh joins us for a beer before going off to buy some food in a shop. Amanda goes shopping. We return to our room to read and sleep. We all gather for G and Ts. We wander down to select a place to eat. It is called Lefka Ori (white mountain). The fish casserole is made from bacalao according to the waiter, which is like cod. It is very good. We end the meal with a lot of raki. Garry asks if he can buy one of the raki decanters and is told to steal them! We retire replete. What a lazy day some of us have had!
For breakfast today we have fresh tomatoes and two fried eggs accompanied by the usual yoghurt and honey and fresh orange juice and coffee. Bill buys seven bus tickets to Imbros. Mrs L will stay at home. We leave at 10:20 and wait to board the bus which looks like a coach. After 20 minutes of zigzagging up a mountain we arrive at Imbros. We enter the gorge and pay €2.50 at a kiosk and begin the 8 km walk down the gorge. It is a gradual descent on a rocky path with steep cliffs on either side. Half way down is a hut and toilets but no sign of refreshments. We are photographed under a rock arch by a member of a European coach party who are speaking English amongst themselves. They come from France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Graham stumbles and picks himself up, not having broken anything apart from his pride. We leave the gorge and stop in a Tavern. Garry and Graham drink beer and the rest have a bite to eat. The bus won’t leave for another two hours so Bill and Mary decide to thumb a lift back. The rest of us opt for a ‘taxi’ ride. Garry and Hugh sit in the pickup part while the ladies sit inside. Graham sits by the large burly bearded Cretan driver who sings local songs. He drops us at the bus station and takes €15 off us. Bill and Mary arrive ten minutes later having got a lift from a couple of Slovakian tourists. After Gs and T we walk to our restaurant. A merry meal is had followed by raki. Some of us partake of Bill’s whisky. Graham has walked 5.3 miles today.
We have an omelette at breakfast and return to our rooms to read. At about noon we walk down to the beach. We find an umbrella and two sun loungers. We put on our sand shoes and carefully walk into the sea. We swim around for a bit and struggle to get out of the sea. The sand shoes are full of grit. How it gets in is a mystery. Graham returns to his room to continue reading. Jane returns later. After a while we wander down to the restaurant where Graham has a beer and Jane has a Radler and a Greek salad. Garry joins us and we watch the others on the beach below. We return to our rooms. During the G and T session Hugh and Jane are hailed from below. David, the author of the book of walks and friend of their next door neighbour,Sheila, has come to talk to them. The ladies take Mrs L into the village to buy her a birthday present. The men walk down to the restaurant and the ladies return. During the meal, Molly joins us. She is a friend of David and is staying at another hotel in the village. We leave and return to our room. Today Graham has walked 0.64 miles.
Breakfast is the usual ham and cheese slice version. We return to our rooms and read. Jane goes into the village to find a roll to eat for lunch but fails to find one. She asks Hugh and goes out again. This time she has success. We leave our rooms at 1:15pm dragging our cases. We say goodbye to the staff and walk to the village square. Hugh has done some masterful negotiating. For €190 we can be taken to near the old port of Chania, leaving our luggage in the van, and then at 7pm be taken on to the airport. Yanis is our driver. This we learn from our translator who, in her impeccable Greek, asked him his name. We are driven over the mountains to Chania and dropped. We walk down a street to the old port. It is very picturesque and touristy. We walk around the port to the hotel where Amanda was a chambermaid several decades ago. The hotel has changed its name. Jane and Graham decide to eat now whilst the others will explore the area and eat at 5:30pm. We eat at the Amphora restaurant, recommended by the Rough Guide, one of many overlooking the port. Jane has mussels and Graham has a stuffed aubergine the English for which is little shoes. We are given a chocolate cake and a flask of raki. Jane abstains but Graham does not. We wander around the area and return at 5:30pm to join the others. While Jane devours a large chocolate ice cream Graham has beer. Mary gives him a couple of calamari rings and some of her baklava and ice cream. We return to the van at 7:10pm and are driven to the airport. At the airport we meet Pandelis collecting another tour group. He apologises for not being able to pick us up today. We queue at desk 11 and 12 until they open. At about 9:00 we make our way to gate 11 and find seats. At about 9:30 they start to board. People stand outside waiting for a transporter coach to take them to the plane. An announcement is made that boarding has been suspended. People return to their seats in the waiting area. Another announcement is made. We shall fly to Athens. Once on the plane it is announced that one of the flight crew has nearly exhausted their permitted working hours. We are given complementary drinks and snacks. Those in the middle of the plane were not so lucky. At Athens we disembark and drag our cases to a coach park. Slowly the coaches get filled up. Two girls who speak little English barely cope with the situation. We want to all be in the same hotel and start to board a coach but minutes later get off it and are put on another coach. It is now 2am. We are driven for an hour to the Metropolitan Hotel near Piraeus. The Lawrences go to sleep in room 112 at 3:15am.
We get up and meet up for breakfast at 9am having had very little sleep. No one knows when we shall be taken to the airport. We return to our rooms and pack. A phone call from reception tells us we shall be picked up at 11am. Why could we not have been told that last night Mr EasyJet? The coach takes us to the airport. The flight EZY9784 will depart at 13:50. We are given credit cards with €4.50 to spend on refreshments. However, these prove virtually useless because the lady in charge of the kiosk says she is not allowed to accept cash above the value of the cards. We make our way to Gate A32. Once through security, some of us buy some beer with our cards but the lady is unsure about using more than one card for a transaction. We pass through passport control and sit in the seats at Gate A32. After an hour a large gentleman tells us we must leave the area and form a queue to have our boarding passes checked again. At about 14:30 we are asked to move to Gate A31a where we walk down some steps and board a bus which takes us to the same plane we came to Athens in. We have the same seats. The cabin staff are very apologetic. We may get €400 per person compensation. We take off at 15:42 and land at 19:18 (17:18 UK time). We say goodbye to the Whitelocks and the Swansons. Hugh has arranged a meet and greet service whereby he can drive his car and the Swansons to Hampton where they will stay the night. The rest of us make our way to the Premier Inn where a Millers taxi picks us up. We learn that Millers were unable to receive a text Graham sent them last night saying the flight was cancelled. As far as they could determine the flight was on time. It was only when the lady driver got to Gatwick that they learnt the flight had been diverted to Athens. We drop Garry and Amanda in Denmead and arrive home at 8pm. A thank you postcard has arrived from Amanda.
Under EU rules we are entitled to some compensation (more...). On 12th October our bank account is £709 better off - thank you Hugh!.
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