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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Holidays in Crete, part I: the arrival

We flew from Madrid to Athens where we transferred into an Athens-Chania flight. The second flight was pretty short, about 40 minutes, and the view from the flight is impressive. The Aegean Sea and its deep blue color, the rough profile of the islands and at last, Crete. Crete is a mountainous island and throughout its coast the hills' slopes go down and sink directly into the sea. Sandy beaches are rare, maybe only Georgioupolis is worth mentioning, and are usually very small. Crete's rough beauty is striking: if you can trade beaches for timeless views, Crete's the good destination for you.

Chania's Airport it's, not by surprise, at 149 mt above sea level: when the flight approaches the island, you can see the sea and the cliffs on the East of the peninsula drawing nearer and nearer until the sea suddenly disappears from the window leaving its place to the landing strip. It really gave me the impression of landing on the top of a hill.

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The airport is very small: it's the smallest one I've ever flew to! Everything's... "at hand". As soon as we collected our baggages, we went out to the "arrivals" section (I later realized that there's no separation between arrivals and departures at Chania's Airport) looking for the car rental company a friend of mine suggested us. They were there, just in front of us: a very small office (just a desk, a telephone and a man), waiting for us. Warm atmosphere and a warm welcome: maybe it's marketing, maybe sincere devotion for a friend's friend. No matter what, it was just good.

We put our things on the little Panda we rented and left towards the hotel: the Iberostar Creta Marine. My friend Heinz warned me about one thing before leaving: the GPS! Well, Crete's not that difficult to tour, after all. It has just one motorway connecting Chania, Rethymno and Iraklio.

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Shouldn't be that hard, thought I. And indeed, it was not! Leaving the Airport, Rethymno is pretty well indicated, even if sometimes some basic Greek language skills would help you interpreting the road signs. Since we arrived at late afternoon, the road was already dark when we headed Rethymno. The Chania-Rethymno highway is a common four-lanes road (two lanes per direction), whose lanes, adorned with flowery hedgerows, are constantly winding to follow the hills' profiles. The night was windy and fresh and the ride was pleasant: we opened the car sliding roof and covered those 90 kilometers admiring the view and smoking a couple of cigarettes.

Rethymno passed at our left, silently, without almost being noticed: it seemed yet another small city whose harbor was clearly visible from the road. Since Rethymno, the small motorway kept on winding with its ups and downs, until we arrived at the hotel, just a couple of kilometers before the village of Panormos.

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We were tired but happy: our Crete's first bite really had a good taste and the hotel was somehow fascinating. It clearly is a typical touristic family hotel whose location is privileged. The rooms, moreover, are almost all deployed on a myriad of small buildings. They're not individual bungalows but the feeling is very similar. It's a perfect choice for families and couples to spend a relaxing stay at a convenient distance from the two main cities of the island.

We instantly fell asleep listening to the sea waves crashing into the shore.

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