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)