Return to Crete, Road Trip to Elounda
Return to Crete, Chania Region
Upon my return to Crete arriving at the port of Kissamos in Western Crete’s Chania region, from there I had driven up from Kissamos on the E65 national road (European numbering system) past Chania and on towards Rethymnon, but due to tiredness I stopped over in a nice quiet hotel inland from but near to Georgioupolis.
After staying the night in a lovely old-fashioned hotel just inland from Georgioupolis my return to Crete had begun as I set off after breakfast to get to Platanes for lunchtime.
Now it was a lovely fresh morning and I was heading off to Platanes just east of Rethymnon, here I had spent time before going back to UK so had many friends and acquaintances to meet up with again.
Driving just for old times sake, firstly through Georgioupolis, oh what a nice place it is, even if a bit pricey. This seaside town is so nice and small but has that international flavor of people sitting watching and walking besides the many cafes and bars intermixed with the hotels and restaurants. It is somewhere I will come back to another day, maybe stay a while next time.
I joined the E65 national road again just outside town heading east towards Rethymnon some 21 kilometers away. The highway is sort of alone here as there is not much else along the way before Rethymnon. Just a typical coast road with beaches sand and sea. Eventually the road slopes uphill towards the peak overlooking Rethymnon city.
Return to Crete, Rethymnon Region
On my return to Crete now in the Rethymnon region I had driven past the large industrial estate before heading off over the hill to the highway entrance and exits which immediately splits the national road to Rethymnon or Heraklion, lucky I remembered it is the Heraklion direction I wanted as the other road takes you into Rethymnon city center and that’s a no-no, in my own british car, not yet anyway.
The west exit into Rethymnon which is the one to take if you want to go down into the town seeing the sites and harbor. Go down past the Fortezza castle on towards the old town which is Venetian and is a great place for a walk about.
You could stop at one of the coffee bars overlooking the harbor or even in the old town itself so much to see here in Rethymnon.
So heading off down the highway hoping I would not miss the Platanes exit. As it was I didn’t miss the turning so arrived in Platanes in the late morning and drove along those all too familiar streets, felt much like getting home after a holiday. Strange to think of it that way.
There was the familiar JJ’s bar and Kalari restaurant opposite and then the Le Strada and Golden Beach hotels so I then decided to stop at one of my favorite places Christina Apartments, to see if my old friend John was there, or maybe they knew his whereabouts.
Getting a great welcome back at the bar and then English Christine came out and hugs all around.
After a beer and lots of chatting, I asked Christine about accommodation, the best was Belle Elen apartments she told me, it was 21 euros a day plus air conditioning.
So, with thinking better strike now or get sidetracked and having to sleep in the car. I had been warned before leaving, everyone had said how well booked the hotels are right up to September. I went ahead and confirmed my interest in Belle Elen.
Wonderful Christine, she phoned the lady at Belle Elen and I was asked to be there in 10 minute that’s a Greek 10 minutes so? How long?.
I drove on past the two blocks and reminded myself of other sites locally before eventually driving into Belle Elen car park. Well 10 minutes later the owner came, she was a Swiss lady married to a Greek with a couple of teenage kids. Very nice and she said I could have the room for two weeks only.
The room was dark and dingy, to say the least, but it was on the first floor with a patio all enclosed with a low wall where I could hang out the washing, which was useful. The Belle Elen was nearly opposite Christina Apartments so very convenient and being on the seafront road and next to the Palladium hotel with its Chicago bar, where I had been previously, taking in a couple of beers with friends.
The Palladion hotel usually had lots of English guests, which could be an advantage in being here at Belle Elen, being so close.
The room had not been cleaned so the owner and her daughter started cleaning before I could even unpack. I sat on the balcony waiting with a drink in my hand, feeling glad to have a base even if for a short while.
Once the room had been cleaned I unpacked the car and got everything put away, what a relief, I do hate living out of a suitcase and it’s even worse when I can’t leave the car anywhere because it is full of all my possessions.
I later did find John (my mate from my previous visit) and did a tour of all the usual bars and restaurants saying hi to everyone we had known previously. Felt nice to be back and have a base for a while. It will be just two weeks to find a more permanent accommodation. John’s wife was due to arrive on Tuesday for a visit so then he would be busy entertaining her, so I would be on my own a lot more, giving me plenty of time to flat hunt.
The Belle Elen room ended up being a bit depressing as the windows had external shutters which were good. They meant I could let air in without letting in the bigger creepy bugs, but it was so dark with the shutters closed and even open it was not particularly bright so dingy was a good word.
When I was in this room, I sat on the balcony a lot, but it was so hot even in the early evening, just sweating buckets and the shower itself was cold most of the time. Although the shower did get hot in the afternoon who wants to shower at 3 for the evening, get all hot again before the sun sets.
So mostly cold showers, they do say they are good for you, but! They reminded me of school when we were forced to take cold showers as a sort of punishment, yep a long time ago.
Exploring the local area on foot for a few days to get back into the exercise thing was what I had decided to do. After a couple of days, I went up towards the hills (Adele) only a mile or so. I started off on the back road that has the tunnels under the E75 national road highway, then up a dirt track, but I kept hitting dead ends so back down again and onto the next one, quite a few times.
I was now on the far side of the highway and remembered that a garage was not far up the road, so headed for that. The building was a typical Greek garage with a dog chained up near the office and I walked across the courtyard and up the bank towards a hotel that I remembered was up the dirt track from there.
John and I had spent some time sunbathing here at the Golden Sun Hotel before I went back to the UK, it has a great bar around a very large pool, and the barman’s name was George I remembered.
Well, when I finally got there, sweating like a roasting pig. I needed that anticipated bottle of water, but plans don’t always work out. The pool bar was shut so had to go to the indoor one where an iced water was great while sitting for a while catching my breath and watching the happy holidaymakers in and around the pool.
Assuming that they spoke English as they were usually UK subjects here at the cheaper holiday hotel out of the town. I remember that we had met some nice Scottish ladies on a previous visit to this hotel.
After recouping myself decided to check out the small hotel apartments near this hotel as it may be cheap for future use, it was nicely isolated to be quiet and having the car so unlike the holidaymakers having my own transport to get down and back up the steep hill to this area.
No luck with finding anybody at the apartments to show me around, so headed back down to the main road and eventually along the seafront back to Belle Elen and my temporary home.
I did these walks for a few days and found myself aching less and less, which was the idea, to get myself, fitter, again.
I found that because of trying to get a shower in the evenings (cold) I was always ready to do something different by 6 or so, it’s a long day laying or sitting in the sun, so I was ready too often too early for going out for dinner, so taking a book to the Chicago Bar for a pint and quiet read for an hour became a regular occurrence.
The Chicago bar has its own library of paperbacks for the guests so I would exchange when I needed to. As a rule in the early evening when people started to hit the streets for the evening, I would wander back to my room for a shower and change.
Then off out for the evening became my routine most days during my stay at room Belle Elen.
During my second week, I decided to go on a trip to Elounda which is a famous town north of Agios Nikolaos on the east coast of Crete about two or three hours drive from Platanes.
I had heard so much about Elounda and a friend from England was going to be there on holiday with her family, so thought it would be a pleasant change of scenery. So that was the decided plan, move out of Belle Elen and drive off to Elounda.
Then sort out accommodation upon my return to Platanes. Sometimes it’s nice to be a free agent so to speak.
But it proved to be a big job to get all the different prices together of the different hotels and apartments to be able to find the right place for my return. The building was nearly September and people had already informed me of how busy the resort hotels are during that month so looking into it now was the best plan, I never did really want to sleep in the car.
I spent two days knocking on hotel doors getting prices and availability, it was truly amazing. Some people are so greedy when faced with a long let they still insist on the same price per day, luckily there will always be exceptions, but I was very disappointed in the attitude of the greedy people.
Eventually, having produced myself a brief list of accommodation, I had some decisions to make and plan for.
The Golden Beach hotel was the best hotel prices I found, 27 euros a day for a long let but this included half-board which I did not really want, but still good for the price that’s 20 euros a day plus the half-board being about 7 euros. But multiply it out by the month and it’s too expensive 20 euros a day is 600 euros a month .
An apartment is available for 300 euros a month but that’s plus electric and water and a month’s deposit so if I want to get away again in October or November that becomes a problem of probably losing my deposit.
Amazingly when I went to visit the Seafront Apartments & Hotel beside being so nice and pleasant to me and surprised I was looking for long stay room. But after a phone call to the boss John (owner) he offered me the probability of a room.
If I would come and see him just before I go to Elounda. Sounded good to me, the Seafront was on the beach with a small but adequate pool and an outside bar with interior restaurant for inclusive meals.
Well I did go back a few days later and saw Maria the receptionist she made a note of the date of my possible return and had a word with John Koulakis on the phone, he agreed to same price 300 per month plus air conditioning.
With the weather changing I think I could do without the air-conditioning, so that’s all looking good enough for me to relax about finding somewhere and enjoy the remainder of the 2 weeks in Platanes.
Settling back into a routine of reading and visiting a lot of beaches, bars, and restaurants. Some with lots of Karaoke, as my mate John would be impressing his wife with his singing although initially she seemed not amused.
My inbred shyness is not helping find friends specifically women or couples, as in the back of my mind are some of the rebukes I have had since first arriving in Crete. John is very good at it, but not me. Well we will see what this summer brings.
The two weeks at the Belle Elen came around very quickly and after packing up on Saturday very ready to head off early Sunday morning, even before the owners were up and about.
The building was a real pain packing the car with all my possessions again, but it was saving a good a lot of money, by not knowing how long I would be away it could have cost two lots of rent.
Setting off for Elounda after a light breakfast was sort of exciting, as I had never been to the northeast of Crete so something very new.
The E75 national road road had many exits and entry points around Platanes so it was no problem to drive onto the road just before it started to rise upwards on the incline before the higher ground and hilly terrain most of the way to Heraklion.
After some 20 kilometers was my favorite scenic seaside village of Panormo it was just off the E75 national road but could not be seen from the road so just follow the signs.
This village was elevated above it’s seaside harbor and very much a village and not a town. The building was approximately 20 kms from Rethymnon, and had everything I looked for in a day trip or weekend away, so I had been there many times.
The taverns and bars sit on the hillside overlooking the bay with lovely harbor, there is nothing like a leisurely lunch with a walk around the village and harbor, stopping for a coffee, wonderful.
Take a note that there is also another bay to the west which is great for sun and sea with a taverna down on the beach, just below the Grecotel Club Marine Palace & Suites.
The road I was traveling was the north highway (90) also called the E75 national road and although very old in places, it was the equivalent of two lanes most of the way, although one must drive on the edge of the road so that speeding vehicles can easily overtake. It’s just a case of keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror all the time.
The idea over here is although its only one lane there is always room for two if you hug the right-hand white line (edge of the road).
About 8 kms from Panormo was the resort of Bali set off the E75 national road, again hugging a peninsula into the sea. Bali has 3 or 4 beaches and some good 3 star hotels so well worth a short break sometime. The Aparthotel Sofia and the Blue Bay are very popular.
Return to Crete, Heraklion Region
Here on my return to Crete I continued on the E75 national road towards Heraklion region, the road goes up slowly on an incline until finally turning sharp right on the peninsula before the highway heads down the valley towards the Heraklion exit to the city.
The highway expands on the slope down as it seems like additional lane is added so it becomes like a proper motorway/autobahn before passing the petrogas oil tanks which tower above the road on either side of the highway whereas on the left far down below is a port which handles the petrogas ships.
The exit to Heraklion City is at the bottom of the valley before the highway rises again upwards heading east along the north coast.
The Heraklion airport exit is at the top of the incline before the highway goes off towards the east and Agios Nikolaos where I was heading.
Continuing on the E75 national road for approx 60 kms which takes an hour before taking the Agios Nikolaos exit which is well signposted.
Return to Crete, Lasithi Region
Upon my return to Crete I was now in the Lasithi region where I take the Elounda road off north to the left of Agios Nikolaos which does run along the coast through Katsikia and then Ellinika before reaching my final destination Elounda.
I did not mention, Elounda is well-known for its pretty views and nightlife and most of all for the British, as the place where they filmed ‘The Ferryman’ origin of the expression ‘who pays the ferryman’.
Also, we heard in England that they filmed Lotus Eaters there as well, for those of us old enough to remember that wonderful TV series.
I arrived on the outskirts of Elounda passing a couple of hotels and then down into the town, it was a spectacular view from above the town and as one drove down the steep curvy road there was a couple of very magnificent sounding 5* hotels on the right side of the town so knowing from previous experience, no point in looking, they are much too expensive.
Once through the main town of very small streets and on an incline down to the sea, I came to the harbor area, with very nice taverns on the left and a parking area on the right along with a taxi rank. Many people about, walking up and down as usual probably looking for somewhere to ea lunch or late breakfast.
I decided to keep going and followed the coast road which ran right along the coast for about seven kilometers with wonderful views of the coast and Spinalonga island which was just offshore, that too looked spectacular with some sort of ruins built up the side of half of the island. It seems that I was just outside Plaka a good place to get a boat trip to Spinalonga island.
There were taverns and little beach areas along that road and on the left side of the road various hotels and complexes, nothing enormous just nice I thought. I stopped at a couple and had closer look, to me they looked not open or very few guests and where it said three or more stars I assumed too expensive.
I continued along coast road past a new looking Blue Complex 5* hotel by the look of it, with own beach and all the amenities, then the road started to go up into the hills, so I pulled off and checked my maps, yes nothing else along this road so that was it, Elounda really was worth coming to see.
Finding a place for the night was next priority so I drove back along the coast and back through the town looking for hotels. Initially in the town there were a few along the seafront road but parking looked a big problem so I continued out of town and back up the hill road towards Agios Nikolaos.
Stopping at a small hotel nearby to the hotel Carol and her family were staying in. This hotel looked fine for a night there was parking at the front and room for me to just get the car into the parking area.
Down some steps beside the hotel and past a few rooms, this hotel was built on the hill and therefore went down to most of the rooms, there was a nice swimming pool perched on the side of the hill with views looking down the valley, so this looked very good for one night anyway.
A lady was working at a small reception serving drinks to the few guests that were using the pool. Her English was good enough, she did not have a room ‘all fully booked’ but there was a room next door.
It seems next door was over the railings by the pool and it was a separate building but was basically the same complex. The building was 35 euros for a studio with kitchen and shower bathroom.
Looking fine would have to do and it was so hot I thought at least I would be lugging the cases down the stairs and not up, and she informed me that there was parking on the road below the pool, so I could go out that way tomorrow.
The building was very overpriced I thought but a bed was needed badly.
I paid for the room and got the key, unloaded the car making lots of trips back and forth. Then sorted out the basics wash gear and essentials and then went and had a drink at the bar.
I asked about my friend Carol at her hotel and with help from the pool lady seemed to find the room, but no one was home, would try again later.
I went and had relaxed in the room, with the windows open there was a slight draught it was one of those hot afternoons, so it was so good to just lay on the bed for an hour.
Eventually finding my friend Carol and her family, and they invited me out to dinner with them in the evening. We met at the car park in Elounda and had a lovely meal at a favorite taverna.
We chatted, and I got to meet the whole family who was very friendly and such nice people. The building was decided to go out on the town later in the evening but as I was tired from my journey and driving back to the hotel I declined the invite and headed back.
Did not get much sleep that night as there was no air conditioning in the room and it was one of those sweltering nights. In the morning I awoke early and packed up the few things be removed ready to go hotel hunting, as I needed air-conditioning and something cheaper.
A Greek lady spotted me loading the car and with assistance from another lady they tried to persuade me to stay another night but not at a reduced rate, so after letting the family know I was off to another hotel I hit the road.
I then searched for Elounda life.