Platanes, Crete: A Beginners Guide 2

Kalimera Platanes

Apollon Apartments Saturday 24.6.17

Bad news: Didn’t arrive at Apollon until 2am. Good news: we just about made last orders at the poolside bar.

And that slightly surreal moment when you’ve started the day at a car park hotel near Gatwick and end it at the other end of Europe in sweltering early hours balm. Superb.

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The one we’d been gagging for since Gatwick

We spent the morning and afternoon trying to get heads around actually being in the place you’ve imagined and fantasised since booking this holiday in the depths of a British winter. How many times have we daydreamed about lying on a sunbed by a pool in the blazing heat of a Mediterranean summer while dealing with work, family, the ever growing To Do list and the bits of house and car that always seem to be dropping off or going wrong?

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We’re not sunbed jockeys but hey – it’s our first day

We’re not massive pool bunnies on holiday but after the travel rigours of yesterday, today’s itinerary is about doing as little as possible. We’re relegated to the side of the pool nobody else wants because it’s (northern European tourists – gulp now) – in the shade. I once spent 18 months interviewing people dying of skin cancer (a research project – don’t ask) so being in the shade ain’t no problem to me but the various Brits, Danes and Dutch that seem to be the staple guest here at Apollon seem as usual to be wanting to absorb enough radiation to power a small town.

I can’t even read for about an hour. I’m just trying to get my head around the fact we’re here. We’re actually bloody well HERE. It’s not in my head or Mrs K’s head. It’s not that idle fantasy vision when things at home or at work are at their very hardest or busiest and you think – hey – in a couple of weeks/days time I’m going to be sat by a swimming pool with a cold Frappe having absolutely sod all to think about other than when are we going to get lunch and can I really be arsed to top up the Factor 30. Yeah. Holidays. That’s the beautiful thing. Actually planning when to put your Kindle down and have a cool down in the water. I plan my swims chapter by chapter. So-ooo bloody taxing.

Didn’t get much to eat last night or yesterday apart from a very acceptable burger at Gatwick and a Pret roll on the plane, so lunch was on the agenda as well as a stroll around the locality.  So we’re doing the recce of Platanes, which is a kind of suburb of Rethymnon. I’d sort of got the idea it was going to be fairly sterile, inorganic tourist place set up for the likes of us with places to eat, sleep, shit, eat again, drink and get skin cancer, not necessarily in that order.

But our Apollon balcony (oh to have warm nights and a balcony at home – would write loads and never get bogged down watching hours of TV) faces out onto the back yards of numerous local families and a footie match being played out amongst the village kids. Better finish this soon as we discovered a Lidl just down the road which sells a reasonable knock off of Metaxa 3 Star.  Which is very unfortunate for my liver and is leading me toward needing bed as it’s nearing 1am. It is of course still incredibly warm. None of your “better put a jumper on it’s getting a bit chilly” nonsense so beloved of the great British barbeque. The air con is as per usual an added optional extra but somehow we never actually needed it for our whole stay.

So today’s basics. Lunch was at River Taverna on the beach at Platanes. Nice ambient jazz. Very nice pizza and chicken baguettes. Nothing too fancy foodwise but hey – we’re looking out to a turquoise ocean and having lunch with a cold beer after a gruelling 1 mile walk (stop sniggering people – it’s seriously hot out here and we ain’t acclimatised to long walks yet) so definitely ticking that box that says “thinking about nurse colleagues having ward handover round about now and sniggering heinously.”

And dinner tonight? Pagona’s Place, run by a lovely woman who genuinely seems to think customers having a good time is better than making huge profits. And we had meatballs, Tzatziki, Cretan sausage and a sort of fried Haloumi which has probably consigned me to an extra cardiology appointment but which was well worth the health deficit. Definitely one to visit again* as it’s a stone’s throw from Apollon. A nightcap back at the hotel and the gradual realisation and acceptance that this isn’t just a wet dream. It’s real. We’re here.

  • We never got back to Pagonas Place – it’s popularity means it’s packed non-stop but do try and book a table

Sunday 25.6 Platanes Beach
We awoke this morning to a thunderous rendition of the Pulp Fiction theme tune sung by a Greek Orthodox priest. Well it wasn’t actually Miserlou but that’s what is sounded like. Wow does that church have an impressive sound system. F

I’ve just poked my head out the door to survey the pool sunbed situation, and sure enough only the shadiest beds don’t have a towel placed on them. Of course, most of the towels don’t have an owner with them. They’re abandoned and alone waiting for their owners. One of the towels actually features a ‘Reserved’ motif, presumably as some sort of humourous throwback to the sunbed wars of old with the Germans. If I had my way I’d impose a worldwide ban on the reserving of sunbeds without an actual human being present to occupy said bed. “No arse. No bed.” This reserving thing with a towel just seems bloody rude. We’re not going to take part in this charade so it’s the beach for us. We’ll get down to some proper traveller stuff tomorrow.

The local tree dwelling insects are the loudest we’ve ever heard and are also in full voice this morning. I recorded them around the pool yesterday. Once one starts they’re all at it, sometimes so deafening I can only talk to Mrs K. by raising my voice like you do with really old people who aren’t actually deaf. And then our insect friends just shut up again as suddenly as they started. And frustratingly they’re more or less completely invisible even when apparently parked in a branch a few feet away.

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One little cicada who didn’t get the memo about hiding in trees

I’ve done the research – well, spent a few minutes on Google – and it appears the Cretan cicada is one of the loudest insects in the world. It’s reassuring to know we aren’t just imagining having our eardrums shredded and of course there are worse noises. I’ve seen daytime TV and heard Piers Morgan, so a male insect rubbing it’s body parts together in the hope of some lady cicada action isn’t the worst noise in the world, and of course we got used to it over the fortnight. More or less.

19:45
The sun has finally gone down behind the tree overlooking our balcony so that I can actually see the screen on the laptop. We’ve barely been outside of a mile radius of where Apollon Apartments is – that’s basically the hotel pool yesterday and Lower Platanes yesterday. Platanes is bisected by a fairly busy main road that goes from one end of the North Cretan coast to the other. Where we are is up the hill about 20 minutes brisk walk from the tourist strip behind the beach.

The top end of the village where we are consists of a couple of tavernas, a small shop or ‘kiosk’, a bakery and a butchers. As mentioned earlier, this is hardly an All Inclusive tourist mini-village. It’s a bona fide Cretan community where people live, go to church and school, where kids play football on the yard across from our balcony, and where we say Kalispera to the neighbours rather than “Oh, so you’re from Burnley”. We like this.

On the hill down toward the beach and the lower part of the village there is a Lidl. That was a fairly surreal experience yesterday. Most of the stuff we know and love from our local branch in Weymouth was in there, but some of the stuff (like the knock off Metaxa – result!) is unfortunately unique to the Cretan and probably Greece-wide stores. If anyone from Lidl is reading this, the people of Dorset LOVE LOVE LOVE your generic ‘Greek Spirit’ (aka Metaxa). Well I do.

So it’s now 22.45 and we’re at Apollon pool side bar. There seem to be only two tavernas in ‘upper’ Platanes and having sampled both thus far we’re giving top marks to both. Inexpensive, basic but very well cooked food served up with a smile and more than a little chat.

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Platanes Beach: Rethymnon is 40 minutes walk this a way

Platanes Beach isn’t the dream location from the Bounty commercial but a fairly basic sand and sunbeds strip backed by hotels. We ended up at the stretch run by the Minos Mare Hotel. Cheap sunbeds at $2.50 a shot for the day and a genuine holiday OMG moment – ice cream frappe at the hotel’s beach bar with some ridiculous concoction involving strawberries, strawberry ice cream, cream and hazelnuts with chocolate sauce. All very reasonably priced and coming with a 20% discount from the hotel’s sunbeds.

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If my cardiologist is reading this – just scroll back up a bit. Cheers

So thus far, having not moved very far from Apollon but planning an exciting (by current standards) trip into Rethymnon tomorrow, we’re liking Crete very much indeed.

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