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.
We spent the morning and afternoon trying to get our heads around actually being in the place we’d imagined and fantasised about since booking this holiday in the depths of a British winter.
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. Nobody wants these sunbeds because they’re 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 our fellow paleskins seem to be needing 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 work are at their very hardest or busiest. This is real. We’re sat by a pool with a cold Frappe having absolutely sod all to think about other than what to have for lunch and ‘is it time to top up the Factor 30 yet?’
We didn’t get much to eat yesterday so lunch was definitely on the agenda as well as a stroll around the locality. Apollon is billed as being in Platanes but is actually situated in the village of Tsesmes, about 20 minutes walk up the hill from the resort. Platanes is a kind of suburb of Rethymnon, but Surbiton it is not. We’d got the idea from our online research that it was going to be a fairly sterile place set up solely for the likes of us. That’s true to some extent but don’t be put off – it’s a perfectly decent spot for a reasonably priced Cretan holiday, and as you’ll read elsewhere in these posts, a great base for getting around a fairly large chunk of Crete with or without a hire car. We don’t do driving on holiday so there’s going to be quite a bit of bus action in these posts. You’ve been warned.
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
Where we are is billed as ‘Platanes’ by the tour companies but is actually in the village of Tsesmes. A bit like 80’s Estate Agents referring to Battersea as South Chelsea, the holiday companies like to make things simple for us tourists and to be fair we’re only separated from the beach resort by a fairly busy main road, a 20 minute brisk walk, a 5 minute bus ride or – for the truly lazy – a €5-ish taxi fare.
Tsesmes 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.
So it’s now 22.45 and we’re at Apollon poolside bar. There seem to be only two tavernas in Tsesmes – Pagonas Place (see Part 1) and Taverna Stratos. Having sampled both thus far we’re giving top marks to both. Stratos is larger and a little less popular than Pagonas so if you’re hungry and/or thirsty it’s much more likely to have a free table. It’s menu and ambience is a little more touristy/basic than the homely Cretan charms of Pagonas, but the food is very good and it’s right on our doorstep. In brief, if you’re staying up here away from Platanes you have two inexpensive but very palatable eating options which don’t involve a steep trek up from the main strip. , basic but very well cooked food served up with a smile and more than a little chat.
Our little apartment faces out onto the backyards of numerous local families. Some of the Trip Advisor reviews moaned bitterly about the very local location of Apollon, but we love it. The kids play football in the square and get moaned at by Mums calling them in for tea. An enormous couple wearing very little try unsuccessfully to stop their dogs from barking and seem to barbecue every night. If we lived out here we’d do the same, only with more clothes. And right underneath us is the very audible but never actually seen Mr Shoutopolis. He entertained us for a fortnight and we’ll come back to him elsewhere.
We awoke this morning to a thunderous rendition of the Pulp Fiction theme tune sung by a Greek Orthodox priest. Well that’s what it sounded like. Wow does that church have an impressive PA system.
Bloody loud Cicadas
And talking of thunderous renditions, we can’t talk about Crete without mention of the Cretan cicada. They’re certainly the noisiest insects we’ve ever heard and are in full voice pretty much all day long. Once one starts they’re all at it, sometimes so deafening we can only talk to each other via hand signals or shouting. And then our insect friends just shut up again as suddenly as they started. And then just as a sense of peace is restored, the cheerleader pipes up again and off they all go. They’re frustratingly well camouflaged so you can’t even see the source of cacophony, but I did manage to photograph one perched in full view on a fence.
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. Mind you, compared with daytime TV it’s not the worst noise in the world, and a male insect rubbing it’s body parts together in the hope of some lady cicada action isn’t any worse than 30 seconds of Piers Morgan.
And of course we got used to it over the fortnight. More or less.
Sunday 25.6 Platanes Beach
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.
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.
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.