Agia Lake, sometimes known as Agias or Ayia Lake, is a man-made lake built by the local water authority in the late 1920’s to produce hydro-electric power for the growing city of Chania. It was formerly a bog or wet land fed by underground springs and the river Xekolomenos. It is now better known for birdwatching or if you are a young child it’s a place with an amazing outdoor play area next to the café.
This is the main restaurant from the boardwalk (play area to the far right)
The lake is about 9km south of Chania and is well signposted, just follow the pale blue signs for Lake café (with a picture of a white bird on it), this will take you to the main restaurant, which has limited parking but just before the restaurant is a larger car park and the smaller café which is open all summer. (The café is renowned for its lemon cake).
Lake Agia is home to lots of Coot, Moorehen and Little Grebes and there are usually some heron species present. Water Rail are present all year round and Little Crake are a possibility here too. Ferrugunous duck probably breed here. In the summer Olivaceous warblers are common both in the tree and in the giant reeds. Alpine Swifts join large numbers of Common Swifts feeding and drinking over the water. (Thanks to http://www.naturalbornbirder.com for this info)
Whatever time of year you go there’s lots to see, the lake is nestled in the Fasas valley with olive groves and vineyards growing up along the hillside and there are spectacular views of the White Mountains.
There is a wooden walkway around most of the lake (about 3km) so you can get to see it from different angles and there are a few places for you to sit down along the way.
Even if you’re not a keen bird watcher you can spend a very pleasant few hours here.
But don’t try to break into the abandoned ice cream stall in the winter unless you’re Houdini
Other websites you might like to visit to find out more are:
We knew there’d be things we needed to get used to living in Europe, the pace of life and the mañana attitude would be just the start. (Yes, I know that’s Spanish but come on keep up with the stereotyping!!)
We’ve bought a villa on the north-west coast of the beautiful island of Crete, but we haven’t really had an opportunity to live there for more than a few weeks before we rented it out for the summer. (Yes I know I won’t get any sympathy!) In the time that we had there we spent all of our days cleaning, scrubbing, painting and cutting back hedges, rose bushes, shrubs and trees, weeding and moving gravel (to list but a few of the labours of love to get the house to look how we wanted it) and of course we had to shop for furniture and all the bits n bobs you need when you set up house.
The house was advertised as being sold ‘with some furniture’ – that was our first mistake, we didn’t clarify before they’d accepted our offer what constituted ‘some furniture’. When we arrived at our new house at just after midnight one dark Tuesday night we found that the previous owners had indeed left ‘some furniture’.
Two green plastic garden chairs and a wobbly outdoor glass topped table in the lounge / kitchen.
Two garden chairs on the balcony
and a sofa bed. Not quite what we expected!!
I suppose it could have been worse, they’d taken all the curtain rails and shelves and anything which had been screwed into the walls but at least they left the bathroom fittings and a toilet roll (phew).
Our estate agent was an angel and lent us a kettle, mugs, plates, glasses and some cutlery, and she’d also left some bread, coffee, water, etc in the fridge for when we arrived. She was also able to give us some suggestions of shops to visit to buy everything we needed to make the house habitable.
One of the things she stressed was the shop opening times (my first insight into why there could be an issue with the Greek economy).
All shops are closed for half a day on 3 days each week (Mon, Wed and Sat) and obviously nowhere opens on a Sunday but, I hear you say, that leaves Tues and Thurs when they are open all day ……. only it’s not really all day, as they close for lunch between 1 and 3pm, then of course after lunch, they need a 2-hour siesta to recover, so the shops don’t open until 5 or 6 pm for maybe up to a couple of hours, or maybe not. I do remember back to when I was a child in the ‘70’s when our local shops closed for a half day on Wed and the Post Office closed at midday on Saturdays, but since 1994 we’ve become used to Sunday trading followed quickly by 24hr trading in supermarkets. So, this was the first cultural difference we had to get our heads around. Thankfully we are close to a couple of large supermarkets which do open all day.
Our first visit to the local hardware shop was interesting, we both managed to do a very good mime to explain we wanted to paint – with an imaginary roller and an imaginary paint brush only to find that Vasili spoke very good English. Why did he leave us to finish our mime before he said anything!!??
After an hour or so, we left the shop loaded down with huge tubs of paint, a couple of rollers (large and small), paint brushes, a set of screwdrivers, sand paper, step ladder, garden implements, etc, etc,. The most difficult conversation was trying to explain that I wanted Polyfilla. After a while (and a lot more miming) Vasili understood what I wanted and managed to find an alternative, which worked really well thank goodness, as we had so many holes to fill the place looked like it had been used as a practice ground for the local shooting club!! (From what we see the shooting club practices extensively in the middle of the countryside and prefers to focus on road signs written in English!)
The next cultural difference was the realisation that each village has a range of shops for example, hardware stores but each one specialises in slightly different type of stock, the one nearest to us has a bathroom showroom but also lots of electrical gadgets, the one in the next village is more of a paint specialist but you can only buy white paint, any other colours have to be mixed on site in a machine which looks like it’s made of bits of and old tractor and a kitchen cupboard. After a few weeks we found a really big hardware store about 20 mins drive away in Kissamos which sells everything, we were like a couple of kids in a chocolate factory the day we found that shop!! We filled our arms with all sorts of goodies and staggered to the counter (managed to spend getting on for €500 that day).
Not only does every village along the coast have their own hardware store, but also their own mini market, bakers, butcher, hairdresser, etc, etc. It seems people tend to shop as close to home as they can, that way keeping their own village economy buoyant. Something I haven’t considered living in a city.
We reflected on our first two weeks of shopping trips, and calculated that we hadn’t managed to leave any of the shops without spending over €100, needless to say we didn’t keep to our overall budget.
Although it had been frustrating having to find specialist shops for each item instead of just finding everything you want in one place, like B&Q or Ikea. For example, if you want a telephone extension cable you have to drive all the way into Chania to the local telephone company shop rather than buy them from a local hardware store.
On the other hand one of the nicest things we found was that if furniture shops didn’t have exactly what we wanted they would make it for us (at no extra cost). OK so we could only buy beds in the bed shop and sofas in a different shop but as they were family run businesses they bent over backwards to help.
We fell in love with a sofa but I wanted one with a large footstool to go with it, so after explaining and drawing a picture they said yes, father could make us one in his workshop above the shop. We also liked a set of shelves on display but didn’t like the wood so they made us one from oak, similarly the TV unit we liked was a foot too long for the room and yes, father made us one from scratch to my specifications. All the time the daughter / assistant kept on saying to us if we had it made from plywood rather than oak it would be much cheaper. That’s the first time I’ve ever been to a shop where they tried to sell me something cheaper!
In the bedroom shop I wanted two single beds which could be pushed together to make a large double but all the bed frames were ones where the mattress sits inside, which would make for a very large gap in the middle of the ‘double bed’. So again, once I’d explained what we wanted they said, “No, problem, we make it how you want.” When the beds arrived they explained they would be at least an hour doing the delivery, when I questioned why it would take so long it seems that the norm is for the delivery men to also act as carpenters and put the beds and bedside cabinets together on site, checking all the way along that we were happy with the finished product.
So not all cultural differences are negative. I’m sure we’ll find many more differences as time goes by but that’s part of the joy of living somewhere new.
Having spent three weeks in Perth back in November last year getting to meet my new grandson, I found myself back there again in February thankfully having missed the hottest of the summer sun.
This time on my trip to Perth I got out and about a bit more as the baby was a bit older and his mum much more used to packing all the paraphernalia needed for even the shortest outing. So we went for trips out to various beaches, vineyard, brewery, marinas, galleries, museums and even to a garden centre.
Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world the nearest city being Adelaide which is 1,324 miles away and Sydney which is a mere 2,447 miles east (that’s about the same as the distance between London and Moscow).
You don’t find many travel books on Perth, so I naturally went on to TripAdvisor and found that the place voted number 1 to visit is King’s Park & Botanical Gardens, the second most exciting thing to do in Perth is to visit the War Memorial in King’s Park ….. hmm exciting stuff. The Swan River comes in at number 3, (slightly more exciting!) You can’t blame TripAdvisor as it’s the people who write about the “interesting things to do” should be ‘blamed’ but having said that there really aren’t that many things to visit in Perth (hence a war memorial being high on the list of things to do).
49% of the adult population of Perth are from a non-Australian origin (mostly English and Irish), so I’m guessing the majority of people who visit are either visiting family or friends or are there on business (mostly to do with the mines). So they write about what they did and saw. And to be honest everyone goes to King’s Park as it has spectacular views over the CBD (central business district) which sticks out (literally) towering over the expanse of the Swan River and the ever-expanding northern suburbs. (see the photo at the top of the page).
It seems there are records of Europeans settling in the Swan Valley from the 1600’s but it was when the British government got wind that the French were thinking of annexing western Australia for themselves that they sent out a colony in 1826 and Queen Victoria made Perth a City in 1856. The size of the colony stayed pretty small until gold fever struck in the early 1900’s.
Perth Mint was opened in 1899, as a result of the gold rush there was a need for secure storage and somewhere local to mint new coins. The guide was really good and made the most of the demonstrating how to make a gold bar.
We were lucky enough to be able to walk around Government House gardens which is only open for a couple of hours a day on weekdays (and is definitely closed when royalty come to visit!)
We booked to go on a river trip with the Little Ferry Company based in Elizabeth Quay. It does what it says on the tin, tiny little boats which hold at best 12 people ply their way up and down the Swan River, the journey we chose was from Elizabeth Quay to Claisebrook which took about 40mins.
Claisebrook as quite a posh marina community and has a very European look, with the row of tall houses surrounding the marina were all very different styles and painted pretty pastel colours. There are a number of restaurants and bars where you can have lunch then after a short stroll round you can catch the free bus back into the city (just ask the boatman to point out where the bus stop is).
On Friday evenings during the summer months there is a street food market in the centre of Perth with around 30 or 40 different stalls all vying for your attention. It’s the most difficult meal choice as there is sooo much to choose from.
It gets very busy so go there early enough to get a seat and listen to the entertainment.
A day out to the Swan Valley is a must, the scenery is lovely, very lush and green, and of course you have to pop in to one of the many vineyards or/and small breweries that are dotted all over the place.
One vineyard that we went to was Mandoon Winery were you can sample their best wines and champagnes in very smart surroundings. If you have time stay for lunch the food is excellent.
And don’t forget the beaches, that’s another story …..
Crete isn’t currently one of the top ten weekend break destinations but I think it could be one day, given better flight connections. We went to Crete at the end of January so that we could look at some houses for sale around the Chania area but also to see what Crete is like in the middle of winter, it was also an excuse to celebrate our second wedding anniversary in the lovely historical town of Chania.
I searched the internet for accommodation in the Old Town with views overlooking the beautiful Venetian Harbour and its famous lighthouse. I found the perfect location at the Elia Zampeliou Boutique Hotel the entrance is on the street behind the harbour called Zampeliou (surprise, surprise). The small entrance door opened into an impressive marble floored hall and stairs. Our ‘superior double room’, on the first floor, was very tastefully furnished and did have the most stunning views. The photo above is the view of the harbour front from our bedroom balcony. The lighthouse looked so close.
The only negative was that as it was the winter season the reception and breakfast room at the hotel we were staying at was closed so we had to check in at a sister hotel about 5 mins walk away. We had been sent an email a week or so before hand to warn of this with an apology and when we arrived at reception they did offer us alternative accommodation at the main hotel to save us the daily walk but I stuck to my guns as I wanted that view. We were also given the option of having breakfast delivered to our room each morning, had the weather been warmer it would have been wonderful to sit out on the balcony in the sunshine.
The next morning we were woken up by sounds of hammering and chiseling which seemed to be coming from the building next door. When we were leaving to walk round the corner for breakfast we had a closer look and both buildings either side of where we were staying were being totally refurbished. In fact it was basically only the shells of the buildings left. We mused that if they did as good a job as the builders had done on our hotel they would be beautifully restored and we appreciated that they can only do this type of work out of season.
Breakfast was a delightful mix of Cretan and European food. The omelettes were gorgeous, Jim couldn’t decide between the different types of bread and at least 8 different marmalades and jams. No freshly squeezed orange juice but the coffee was good and you could help yourself to some raki with your coffee if you were desperate enough! All of the staff were very friendly and apologised for their poor English, as our Greek is non existent we told them we were impressed.
Parking is difficult around the harbour as a lot of it is pedestrianised (not that it stopped the locals from driving up streets barely wide enough to get their little cars up. No wonder they drive with the wing mirrors folded in!). Anyway, there was plenty of on street parking places within a few minutes walk but I’m not sure how easy these would be to find during the high season. There are a few public car parks but they are a little further out, so take this into consideration and only bring small suitcases as you may be walking with them along windy cobbled streets and up and down steps for quite a while. I jokingly commented whenever you heard the noise of suitcase wheels echoing around in the darkness that it was the ghost of tourists who’d never found their hotel and were permanently walking the streets with their ghostly suitcases.
The area behind the fort is a maze of tiny little back streets which in the summer are teeming with little artisan shops and cafes, all decorated with pots of brightly coloured geraniums and Bougainvillea, whereas off-season the colours and the bustle is gone but it still had its charm. We’ve been to Chania a few times now and it’s always been heaving so to walk around it virtually on our own was heaven. Unbelievably there were still some touts at the restaurants on the harbour front trying to tempt us in. We found a small restaurant called Tamam only two doors down from the Hotel on Zampeliou Street, it’s the oldest family run restaurant in Chania (according to them) serving typical Cretan dishes with specials of the day. One special that I tried was a veal, pork and cheese pie. Sounds a bit dodgy but OMG it was amazing I had it with the giant bean starter (which was also divine) and a nice glass of Cretan Sauvignon Blanc.
The next morning we didn’t have to get up as early to meet the estate agent as it was a Saturday and thankfully breakfast was being served till 11am. However, at 7.30am a large generator was coaxed noisily into non-stop action just below our balcony window. We were up much earlier than anticipated that day! We also gave in (well I gave in) and asked to be moved to the sister hotel just back from the harbour. They fully appreciated how frustrated we were by the workmen and explained that the renovations are a big job and can only be completed during the winter (yes we know ☹️). So we packed our bags, rattled our way around the corner and left them in reception whilst we went out for the day.
After a hard day of viewing houses we returned and were shown to our new accommodation which was a suite on the 5th floor overlooking the Church and the rooftops towards the harbour, they’d even left us a free bottle of wine. Nice touch (shame is was red).
The suite composed of a lounge with a door through to a narrow corridor, the bathroom was on the right, straight on to the bedroom, on the left were mirror fronted wardrobes and cupboards which including a good size fridge. It was cleverly designed so the lounge could be locked off if it were only to be used as a room with en-suite.
This shower looked amazing but we couldn’t figure out how to work all the bits n bobs! The bed was so huge we had problems finding each other … not sure if that was so bad!! lol
Having tried to avoid the restaurants on the front we did actually try one which advertised itself as a wine bar and bistro, it was right at the end of the quay towards the Fort called La Bodega. The staff were brilliant, the service was excellent and the food was really good. They had a really good choice on the wine list. We watched two young lads (in their early twenties) have the wine they’d ordered carefully decanted into a massive ship’s decanter. Once it was poured they delicately swizzled the crimson nectar in their glasses, checking the colour in the candle light before consuming with delicacy and relish.
We were only there for a few days but it was very restful however, unfortunately our flight back from Heraklion airport was at 6.30am, which meant we had to leave Chania at 2.30am to be there in time (its a 2 hour drive on the National Road from Chania to Heraklion). So we paid our bill the day before. We were told by the receptionist that we couldn’t possible leave that early without a decent breakfast so she’d organised for a picnic bag for us to take with us.
Bless her, it was full of lots of nice things like cheese and ham sandwiches, and lots of little foil packages containing things like nuts, raisins, figs, sweet pastries, cheese pastries, boiled egg (and salt) and a choice of fruit.
It was such a nice thought. I will definitely give them a good review on TripAdvisor. Having said that everyone we met was so friendly and chatty. If you haven’t thought of Chania for the weekend consider it. Ryanair fly direct to Chania from Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Glasgow, East Midlands, Dublin and Manchester from as little as £16.99 one way (in March)