Two weeks in Crete on a last-minute deal: from Chania and Rethymon to Iraklio, Chersonisos and Siteia, we packed it all in those 14 days!

Day 11 : 23 July 2003 : Bali beach, Rethymno

Bali beach, far away from Indonesia

On our travels yesterday, we had passed a placed called Bali on the way to Rethymno. It looked idyllic - beautiful water, a nice looking bay - but we were only passing through; it also looked pretty on the way back in the evening, a glittering jewel against the blackness of the sea. So, this morning when we got up we decided to head westerly once more and make a stop there and then to continue on to Rethymno. Well, we'd hardly given it a chance yesterday really.

Bali beach, Crete.
Bali beach, Crete, not Indonesia.

The beach was actually a bit of an excuse for a beach - there was very little in the way of sand and with the tide in there was hardly anywhere dry to put your towels and other knick-knacks. No bother - we weren't planning to stay long.

Now, throughout the holiday Manda had tried snorkelling using a cheap mask/snorkel set bought at one of the shops in Chersonisos, and this was followed up by another cheap set of fins. It's true that you get what you pay for, and as such every snorkelling session invariably involved Manda's mask being flooded on regular occasions (or one of the retainer clips pinging off unexpectedly), and sore feet thanks to the poorly made fins. However, now we were both sorted - I had brought my mask, snorkel and fins with me, and bought a second good quality set as a spare for Manda to use, while yesterday we'd added a pair of Mares fins to the kit. Both sorted then! Only problem was that the water had turned really choppy in the last couple of days. Where we'd normally expect to get very clear water, all we got today was a sandy murk. All a bit disappointing given that for the first time we were both well prepared and raring to watch the fish swimming among the rocks. Ah well.

As we got out of the water and stashed away our snorkelling gear, the man looking after the sun loungers wandered in our direction, then paused nearby, trying to look busy with something but very evidently waiting for us to put so much as a towel down on one of the loungers for him to pounce on us. No luck, sorry mate - we're off for some food!

Manda at the restaurant, Bali Beach.

We didn't stray very far - just to a restaurant overlooking the bay where I indulged myself in a dish of ... cheeseburger and chips. OK, I'd been trying local cuisine but for some reason today I had this burning desire for a good old cheeseburger and damn if they didn't satisfy that craving with the nicest burger I've eaten in a long time. None of your flat, insipid McDonalds rubbish. I munched away on this flame-grilled beauty to the sounds of the local fruit seller who was driving past at the time, singing (and making other strange noises) over the PA system mounted on the top of his van. I'd noticed that most of the fruit sellers employ this tactic, but most didn't seem quite as mental as this fruitcake.

Back to Rethymno then - better give the old girl a second chance. I was pleased to note as we arrived this time that there was not the same dodgy smell that had accompanied our brief stay yesterday. We parked right by the port and, much like in Chania, walked around the corner where we saw the Venetian lighthouse and harbour. And no end of restaurants.

One of the truly memorable events of the holiday - running the gauntlet of restaurants lining the harbour. For the first half of the L-shape it was mildly amusing as each restaurant owner got up from his seat and tried to encourage us in for a meal with a slightly different tactic from the last. The fact that they'd seen us already turn down others was not going to stop them. It was funny and, at the same, very irritating. As we rounded the corner and did the second part of the L shape, I was getting terser and more forceful with my answers and almost breathed a sigh of relief when we emerged from the other side. Actually, I think I just laughed. Nervously, probably.

Rethymno wasn't grabbing us in quite the same way that Chania had yesterday, but it was still nice. We mostly wandered from shop to shop, trying to find something new. We found one - I think they were selling stupid looking dogs or something:

Dog taking a nap on a shop counter.

I didn't have a bag big enough for that, nor for this statue that was on sale in another shop. The sign underneath read "Free hernia belt with every statue."

It wasn't just the statues that were oversized in Rethymno - so were the ice creams, or at least the massive strawberry, vanilla, and banana one that we sat down to eat in one of the harbour-side restaurants was. It made a change from the usual coke/lager stop.

As we had noticed before in Iraklio, at some unspecified time of day in the afternoon a lot of shops just seemed to close down. Mostly these were shops that were somewhat off the beaten track, not the usual tourist type shops, but it did narrow our options for browsing.

We walked around a small circuit of these shops a couple of times before heading back to the car and back off towards 'home'. On the way we decided to stop at a place called Arkadia - we'd seen this church on a few postcards and I recalled seeing signposts to the place on the way in, so why not - let's get there before sundown. The route to the church took us up some really twisty roads with some great lookouts (had we bothered to stop for photos or whatever) until about 14km later we arrived at the destination.

If only we'd known before that it was almost completely covered in scaffolding.

This wasn't a long stop - in fact I probably spent more time using the toilets on site than I did looking at the church itself. Ah well, at least I knew the journey back down to the highway would be a scenic one.

We finished the day with a drive down the road to Chersonisos for a local bite. Sitting on the balcony directly overlooking the sea, I noticed that those still, crystal clear waters I'd swam in on the previous Monday were, as in Bali, anything but still. We ate to the sounds of crashing waves and the sights of Chersonisos' nightlife .

Cherhonisos at night.

Back at Eleanora Apartments it was karaoke night. What this meant in theory is that people might stay at the complex, get drunk, join in and have a laugh; what it meant in practice is that the karaoke machine played away to itself (noisily) while whatever residents happened to be around just took part in the getting drunk bit, or at the very least having a nightcap. I wasn't up for singing Abba, that's for sure.