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The Rock-itt : February 2012
We chose to head southeast to explore the southern coast further because we had time and the presence of Phaistos, a Minoan place of the same era (Bronze Age) as Knossos. Heading east along the north coast road we turned south after Rethymnon and retraced our steps to the village of Spili; hereafter we headed south east to Agia Gallini, a well know haven for the rich yachts that ply the Aegean. At Phaistos we were overawed by the preserved street plan, so much better in our view than the renovated palace that is Knossos. This citadel commanded a plain so luxurious in greenery even at this late time of year that it clearly was the pre-eminent development of its time. Olive groves filled the scene and as we added further to our journey eastwards it was clear that this was the market garden capital of Crete. Chania dining options Before we turned north to Agios Nikolaos, we stopped briefly at Ierapetra where another Venetian fort protected its harbour. The ancient port of Agios Nikolaos also serves the modern day tourist; ocean liners dock here from Santorini and Athens' port of Piraeus can also be reached. Our hotel here was the Coral Hotel right abreast the ocean. With its own pool and beach across the road it was perfect for our purposes but was very different from what we had been used to. All the hotels were excellent but this one seemed to cater for Europeans who were reliant on Tour buses and package holidays. With the buffet style catering, the food was first class but we had become used to sampling the local cafes and tavernas. The atmosphere was incredibly friendly and we met many people who had come here year after year for 25 years. The well preserved city of Phaistos The following day was always going to be a day of sightseeing once we find the beach was of shingle; we travelled north to Elounda where ferries took tours to the isle of Spinalonga, a Venetian island Fortress of impeccable style. We chose to drive 5kms further north to the village of Plaka where locals take visitors from a jetty on a 15-minute voyage around the island where photos can be taken in peace. We had intended not to stay there for 90 minutes but were so impressed that we stayed for over 2 hours taking 1000 photos before returning for a beachside taverna lunch of local fish and salad. The island of Spinalonga near Plaka On the way back to Agios Nikolaos (AG Nik), we visited the ancient Dorian hill settlement called Lato, a fantastic fortified site with massive stone constriction and views to the Aegean; AG Nik was its port in ancient times and you could see why. It would have been impossible to attack. The approach to Lato Our final day was focused on making the airport in time with a short stop at Malia, another Minoan Palace destroyed by the same earthquake that terminated Knossos in the mid Bronze Age. Unknown to us at the time, Malia happens to be the location of one of the Mediterranean's best nightlife strips. Next time! Knowing that there are usually problems with EasyJet we arrived to check in over two hours before flying. As it turned out we were the second last to check in which had its repercussions later. As we queued with our Priority Boarding passes, we discovered that everyone had paid the extra dollars to get on the plane earlier. When boarding we were told that we would be bounced as the plane was oversubscribed and had too much luggage. Luckily I had my Aussie passport with me which I flashed and told them I had to make a flight to Sydney that night from Heathrow. We boarded the flight to London knowing that some poor souls had to take the 400 Euros that was being offered to stay another night. The island of Spinalonga near Plaka Warning to all EasyJet travellers; make sure you are checked in 3 hours before departure to avoid this happening to you. We made it to London that night. I will return to Chania again I am sure; I may even take the boat from Santorini to Agios Nikolaos, but this island is one of the best I have been to in Europe and I highly recommend it and the travel agent that helped me. The lighthouse at Chania as the sun sets on the Aegean Sea