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About Me

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  1. We were a bit restricted in when we could go on a late summer holiday this year, with Tim's study commitments in Poznan falling in mid-September. When I was trying to find places which might still have good weather in late September and early October, I kept coming back to one destination: Greece. We'd had a really good trip to Athens back in autumn 2018, as well as a very warm trip to Cyprus in autumn 2019, so it felt like this part of the world might be a good choice at this time of year. I was still trying to get value out of the final dregs of my pandemic EasyJet vouchers and in the end I managed to successfully utilise them on two flights to Crete. Crete caught my attention because it is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean; the fifth largest, in fact, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus and Corsica. That was good, because it felt like we could spend a reasonable amount of time there, perhaps doing some sort of road trip. Going to a sunny destination just to sit on the beach isn't our sort of holiday! For some reason a lot of flights to Greece seem to take off in the late afternoon and early evening, arriving in Greece in the middle of the night. So we ended up with flights to Chania, Crete's second city, taking off from Gatwick at 17.05 on Friday afternoon. Getting to Gatwick for that sort of time is slightly stressful, as you never quite know what the traffic on the M25 is going to be like. In the end it took us slightly longer than I'd anticipated and by the time we'd made it to the airport parked, parked and caught the bus to the airport, we only had about 90 minutes to go before our flight. That was plenty of time to get through bag drop and security, neither of which seemed particularly busy, but possibly not enough time to get any food before the flight. We were flying from the north terminal at Gatwick and it was absolutely rammed, with no free seats anywhere and queues outside all the restaurants. There was only 15 minutes until our gate was supposed to be announced so we didn't think we had time to queue anywhere... until the departures board announced our flight was delayed and there would be gate information at 17.38. And so began the mystery delay! Over the course of the next few hours we had multiple reasons why the flight wasn't on time. The EasyJet app sent me a push notification to apologise and say it was due to an air traffic control restriction delaying the incoming aircraft. Once we ultimately got to the gate, airport staff made a not very audible announcement explaining that we were waiting for a new crew, who still had to go through security checks at the airport. Once we were eventually on the plane, about two hours later than scheduled, the pilot said that we'd been delayed because they'd been waiting for water to be delivered to the plane. All in all a bit baffling! Never mind, the delay had at least enabled us to get some dinner at Wetherspoons. And I'd used the time while we were waiting to message the car rental company and the hotel we were staying at to let them know that we were going to be late. I was crossing my fingers and really hoping they were going to wait up for us, because with the two hour time difference in Greece we were already due to be arriving quite late. The scheduled arrival time was 23.00 and now it looked more like being 01.00 on Saturday morning! The flight time to Crete is around four hours and I think it would have been a spectacular flight if it hadn't been pitch black. The pilot explained at one point that we were flying over Zadar in Croatia, then down the Adriatic coast towards Albania and across to Greece. We also had some unexpected in-flight entertainment when, half an hour into the flight, someone from the row in front of us went to have a smoke in the one of the plane's toilets. An alarm went off, there was a great commotion with flight attendants running backwards and forwards and the man in question got a stern telling off, having to give his passport details to the crew. He was then a model passenger for the next two hours or so.... at which point a flight attendant had to come and confiscate the bottle of duty-free spirits he'd been working his way through! I was slightly worried at this point that we were about to turn into one of those stories you see on the news about flights being diverted to random places because of unruly passengers! Luckily that didn't happen and we landed safely in Chania, some time around 1am. Passport control was pretty brief, with staff stamping our passports but not asking questions about our itinerary. While we were waiting for the baggage I realised I had a missed call from a Greek number on my phone. I rang it back and it turned out to be the hotel, saying that they couldn't wait for us any longer but were going to send self check-in instructions to me via Whatsapp. Phew! I had chosen the accommodation because 24 check-in was supposed to be possible, but it was still a relief to know we were definitely going to be able to get into the accommodation. Now we just had to wait and see whether car rental people would still be waiting for us. The good news is that they were! As soon as we stepped out into arrivals, I caught sight of a man holding a sign with Tim's name on. He directed us to a small Fiat Panda and proceeded to drive us a few minutes up the road to the office of the car rental company. Or, rather, the car park of the car rental company. We then sat down at a table outside while he filled out a rental contract by hand, using the light of his phone. After a negative experience with car hire in Mallorca last year, I'd done a lot of research before booking anything in Crete and chosen a company who sounded like they were going to be pretty relaxed. That turned out to be the case. The man said he didn't need to hold any excess on Tim's credit card, advised us on how to avoid getting caught by the local speed cameras and told us that we weren't allowed to drive the car off road, but that if we did to be careful and drive slowly because it's a low car! He also gave us directions for getting onto the main road which was really helpful, and we were soon on our way towards the seaside town of Kalyves where we are staying. Initially the plan was to stay in Chania itself, but when I was trying to find accommodation I struggled to locate anything that looked like it had decent parking. Kalyves is only about 15 miles down the road from Chania so we didn't have a long journey, and luckily we found the accommodation without any difficulty. Self check-in was easy, with our keys just left in the door for us. The apartment itself looked basic, but comfortable. It was 3am Greek time by this point, so we went straight to bed! When we woke up on Saturday morning, we discovered we had a large balcony with an incredible view of the sea. Breakfast at the hotel had seemed a bit expensive (£20 each) so I hadn't booked it. We walked into the village of Kalyves for some pastries, which we ate on the balcony with a coffee. It was a nice relaxed start to the day. By the time we'd finished breakfast it was already boiling hot. I covered myself in sun cream and then we got in the car to drive towards Chania. Parking in Chania was a bit of a challenge but we eventually found a parking garage and made our way down towards the harbour. I didn't know anything about Chania before I started planning this trip, but it's a really beautiful place. The city had a period of Venetian rule followed by a period of Ottoman rule, which has left it with an interesting mix of architecture. We walked around the old harbour, which was built by the Venetians in the 14th century. One of the most striking buildings in the harbour is this former Ottoman mosque, built in 1645. It's hard to convey in photos but the harbour is huge and takes quite a long time to walk around. We were heading out towards Chania lighthouse, which was built in 1864 on the site of an original Venetian lighthouse. The lighthouse sticks out quite far into the sea. As we walked out towards it, we had some fantastic views back towards the town... ...including some great views back towards the mosque. Crete looks really mountainous away from the coast! At last, we got to the lighthouse! On the walk back there were some more great views of the town and we spotted what looks like the minaret of another mosque in the distance. We found a really nice restaurant in the harbour to have lunch. I had pastitsio, which is a Greek variation on the theme of lasagne (made with macaroni rather than sheets of pasta). I can't remember the name of Tim's dish, but they tasted a bit like ćevapi in a tomato sauce. Really good! We ordered a coffee at the end of the meal and were given complimentary little pink cakes and shots of a very sweet wine. I was suspicious that we might end up actually getting charged for them, but we didn't! Then it was time to negotiate the chaotic Chania traffic and drive back to Kalvyes. After yesterday's rather tiring day of travel, we had a relaxing evening. I spent some time reading on a sun lounger on the terrace, before going for a drink at the pool bar. Tomorrow we're hoping to see a bit more of Crete, but today has been a really nice introduction
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