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It was another lovely sunny day when we woke up this morning, despite the weather forecast threatening rain later this week. We had time for another breakfast on the balcony in Kalyves before we needed to think about checking out. We really loved the place where we were staying, but it was time to move on to our next destination: Heraklion. We couldn't check in to our apartment there until after 3pm, so we weren't in any particular rush to arrive. Heraklion is only about two hours away from Chania by car, on a fast road along Crete's northern coast. So that we didn't arrive too early, I planned for us to stop at Lake Kournas, about half an hour into our journey. Lake Kournas is notable for being the only freshwater lake on the island of Crete. The perimeter of the lake is only about 3.5km, so it's not exactly huge. It is a pretty lake, though; the colour of the water was particularly attractive. There isn't a footpath around the entire lake, but there is a trail around part of it and we followed it as far as it went. There's a sandy beach on this side of the lake and it's quite commercialised, with lots of people renting out pedaloes. We decided to give that a miss and concentrate on enjoying the views. Once we'd walked as far as we could around the lake, we stopped off at a nearby taverna for lunch. We just had a glimpse of the water from where we were sitting. I opted for pastitsio again, while Tim had a spaghetti bolognaise. We also had pudding: I chose a chocolate crepe... ...while Tim was healthier and went for yoghurt with honey and walnuts. After lunch we drove the final hour and a half towards Heraklion. Heraklion is Crete's biggest city - and the fifth biggest city in Greece, in fact - so driving into it was a bit of a challenge. It doesn't compare with driving into Athens, which is definitely one of life's more terrifying experiences, but it was a maze of tiny little streets with crazy driving. Unfortunately, the place we're staying in doesn't come with parking. I thought it did when I booked (because I filtered on "parking" on booking.com), but no sooner had I made a reservation than I received a message giving me a link to a couple of car parks I could try. Bit frustrating! We navigated our way to one of the suggested car parks anyway, which was a bit unusual because it describes itself as "robotic parking". You drive the car onto platform, taking care to position it correctly, and then ultimately the platform gets lifted up and the car is suspended in its storage location! That was only about a 10-minute walk from the place where we're staying, and the good news is that it's a really lovely apartment. We've got a big kitchen area... ...plus a sitting area with bed behind. We've also got a fantastic outdoor area with a double sun-lounger and bean bags to sit on. There even appears to be a hot tub Once we'd settled in we set out to explore a bit of Heraklion. The first impressive building that we came to was the Agios Minas Cathedral. The cathedral is named after St Minas, the patron saint of Heraklion. From there we progressed to the Morosini fountain, which stands in the city's main square. This building doesn't look too impressive, but it's St Mark's Basilica, a Catholic church that was built in Heraklion by the Venetians. The Ottomans later turned it into a mosque and today it's an art gallery. This pretty church is the cathedral of St Titus. This one was built as a mosque and only converted into a church in 1925. Eventually we caught sight of the sea at the end of the road. And once we got to the sea, we could see the Koules Fortress. This is a Venetian fortress, which was built in the 16th century. The walls of the fortress looked really beautiful against the bright blue sky. We could see as we looked in the other direction that it was getting a bit cloudier over the mountains, though. There's some rain forecast later in the week. There were some big ships in the port here, including one that looked like a cruise ship. We'd walked quite a long way out on Heraklion's pier by this point. As we turned around to walk back into the city, we had an amazing view of the sun starting to set over the mountains. It's been another fun day in Crete and we're looking forward to exploring more of this side of the island over the next few days
Tim had a couple of online exams to sit this morning, so while he was doing that I walked down to Kalyves for another stroll by the sea. It was an incredibly hot day again today; so much warmer than I expected for the end of September. I walked around by the harbour, from where I had a nice view back to the main church in the centre of town. The mountains beyond the town looked gorgeous in the morning sunshine. As I walked along the coast in the opposite direction, I got a glimpse of the hilltop fortress which we'd seen from Aptera yesterday too. Once the exams had been successfully passed, we jumped in the car and drove along the coast to the little town of Rethymno, which is only about 45 minutes away from where we're staying. We managed to find some free parking, right by the sea. In the other direction we caught sight of Rethymno's Venetian fortress. We walked towards it to get a better look. It was really huge, towering above us on a rock. I particularly loved the fact that there were cactuses growing all the way up the fortress rock. Eventually we made it round towards the centre of town. We stopped for some lunch at a cafe with an amazing view of the sea. After lunch we had a stroll through the picturesque streets of Rethymno. The town seemed to be a mixture of old and new. It hasn't come out very well in the picture, but this building had an Arabic inscription above the door, presumably a legacy of Ottoman rule. We found our way to what seemed to be the town's main church, complete with large bell tower. From here we followed little streets down to the sea. By the sea we found a huge Rethymno sign. It seems to be a local recycling initiative, with people encouraged to fill the letters with plastic bottles. I enjoyed walking under palm trees by the beach. As we walked we could see the town's lighthouse in the distance. The old harbour here is Venetian, although the lighthouse looks newer. The harbour itself is really pretty Once we'd finished exploring we walked back around past the fortress and towards where we'd parked the car. Rethymno was a lovely little place to visit, but with temperatures over 30 degrees again today we were glad to get back to the air-conditioning of the apartment to cool off for a while!
It was a beautiful bright sunny day when we woke up this morning. We had breakfast sitting on our balcony, enjoying the amazing view of the sea. The aim for today was to do a bit of a road trip around the western part of Crete. Our first stop was Aptera, an archaeological site not far from where we're staying. We were expecting to have to pay four euros each to get in, but for some reason it was free today. There weren't very many other people there when we arrived, which meant we had this theatre all to ourselves. To be honest, the theatre was probably the highlight of Aptera; it was a pleasant place to walk around but there weren't loads of ruins to see. We enjoyed looking at a beautiful little white church... ...and we got a view of what looked like a fortress in the distance... ...but I don't think the ruins themselves are going to win any prizes compared to some of the other historical sites we're hoping to see on this trip. What was really fantastic at Aptera were the views of the mountains. The interior of Crete really is very mountainous and this was a good location from which to admire it. After Aptera we jumped back in the car and drove west, towards a place that seemed to appear on every list of must-see sights in Crete: Falassarna beach. Falassarna has apparently been voted not just the best beach in Crete, but also one of the best beaches in Europe. It is a very sandy beach, but we weren't really that impressed! It was extremely busy and covered in paid sun loungers; not like some of the amazingly remote sandy beaches we've been to in the Hebrides! Admittedly, the weather is better in Crete and the sea was an amazing shade of blue We had a quick drink of water and then got back in the car to continue our road trip. The route took us back up into the mountains and the views of the sea from here were fantastic. We made an unscheduled stop at a viewpoint when we noticed goats by the side of the road. There were so many of them! And plenty of sheep too. The goats in particular were quite brave, just wandering across the road whenever they felt like it... ...before jumping up to safety. It was a viewpoint well worth stopping at for the views of the sea too. Both the sea and the sky were perfectly blue Our route continued to take us through the mountains. As we began to loop back around towards Chania the countryside was surprisingly green in places. We stopped for lunch with a lovely view in a taverna by the side of the road, which was deserted except for us and a local cat. We both had chicken souvlaki, which came with chips and some gorgeous pitta bread. Then we headed back to the apartment, where I enjoyed sitting in the air conditioning for a bit; it was very hot today! Once the weather had cooled down a bit, it was time to venture out for a little stroll around the village of Kalyves. There's a small beach here too and a little seaside promenade. I loved the view of the mountains behind the town... ...and also this absolutely tiny chapel right by the sea. The main church in the middle of town is much bigger! We've had a fun day today exploring some different parts of Crete. I think we've probably managed to see some bits which most other people on our flight won't have