A Snug Little Harbor




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Chania, Crete was our fourth and final port of call on our Mediterranean cruise in 2011. As is always the case with cruises, there were a variety of excursions available, but we opted to explore on our own. We do this in about half of our ports of call and always come away with a satisfying experience.

In this case, a complimentary bus took us from the cruise ship terminal to the old town of Chania. It is Crete’s second largest city. Along with its Greek influence, there are elements of Venetian and Turkish heritage in Chania, most notably in its cozy little harbor.

A moderate sized bay is partly enclosed by a long breakwater which is covered by stone wall and a walkway. At the end of the breakwater is the famous Venetian styled Chania Lighthouse.

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The iconic Chania Lighthouse

The bus drops you off at a few streets away from the harbor and you first make your way through a lively area filled with shops selling local wares and souvenirs.

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Bustling shops in Chania

Heading towards the waterfront, we passed an old church. And then we arrived at the bay. A broad walkway edges the semi-circular bay, with colorful shops and restaurants everywhere.

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Shops and restaurants line the bay.

We walked along the path to our left taking us to the one end of the bay. Across the narrow gap of water stood the lighthouse. Behind us were the remnants of an ancient Venetian fort and a large red brick building, the Nautical Museum.

The bay is accessed by a narrow gap between the western end of the bay and the lighthouse.
The bay is accessed by a narrow gap between the western end of the bay and the lighthouse. The red brick building is the Nautical Museum.

We didn’t visit the museum but walked around the corner and back and then circled the the bay to the harbor and marina. We passed many restaurants and later had lunch at one. A great variety of food is offered and we were amused to see a sign advertising one restaurant’s fare as “cheap and chic”.

Along the way we passed an ancient mosque, a remnant of the Byzantine era. The Mosque of the Janissaries is, in fact, the oldest remaining building on Crete from the Turkish era. It dates from 1645 and stopped being use as a mosque in 1923. Its minaret was destroyed in World War II.

The Mosque of the Janissaries
The Mosque of the Janissaries

We also passed an attractive horse and buggy for hire before we came to the end of the harbor. There we found another maritime museum of sorts, the Chania Sailing Club where they had some artifacts on display and were recreating an ancient ship. I have a pamphlet from this place but it is back in Canada. (I’m in Australia right now) I’ll add additional info if needed when I return in September.

Hania Sailing Club. The building dates from 1607, built during the Venetian era, and was restored in the early 2000s.
Chania Sailing Club. The building dates from 1607, built during the Venetian era, and was restored in the early 2000s. It used to be an arsenal.
Recreation of an ancient sailing ship at the Hania Sailing Club.
Recreation of an ancient sailing ship at the Chania Sailing Club.

We then headed out along the breakwater to the lighthouse, about half a kilometre.

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It’s a half kilometre, a five minute walk, to get to the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. The marina is on the left.

About two-thirds of the way to the lighthouse is an elevated rampart that gives an excellent view of the bay as well as the light house with the Nautical Museum in the background.

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A view of the bay from the rampart two-third of the way along the breakwater to the lighthouse.
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The lighthouse is about 135 yards away with the museum in the background across the water.

Eventually we made our way to the bus stop and the trip back to the cruise ship. We enjoyed our visit to the old town of Chania, a snug little harbor steeped in history and picture perfect. Be sure to check out the additional photos in the gallery linked below. Or scroll on down if you are on the main page.




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Photo Gallery: Chania, Crete




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to Chania, Crete.

Looking down the street toward the bay and harbor of Chania.
Looking down the street toward the bay and harbor of Chania.
Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Greek Orthodox Cathedral
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A statue of some famous Cretan.  The most famous person to hail from Chania is probably world-renowned folk singer Nana Mouskouri.
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The marina on the left with the lighthouse in the distance.
You can rent this horse and buggy for a ride around the scenic old town of Chania.
You can rent this horse and buggy for a ride around the scenic old town of Chania.
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Many restaurants line the walk around the bay.
Did I mention you can get food here that is both cheap and chic?
Did I mention you can get food here that is both cheap and chic?
Inside the Chania Sailing Club
Inside the Chania Sailing Club. A number of artifacts are on display here, including the refracting cover of an old lighthouse lamp.
Janis through the lighthouse lens.
Janis through the lighthouse lens.
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The other side of the Venetian fort at the west end of the bay.
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The lighthouse seen from the west side of the bay.
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The marina and harbor seen from the breakwater
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Looking back at the harbor from the lighthouse.
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The lighthouse at Chania.



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The Aquarium at Atlantis




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In 2002 Forbes Magazine had an article on the most expensive hotel suites in the world. Top of the list at $25,000 a night was the Bridge Suite at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. Ever since, I’ve always wanted to see the Atlantis Resort.

In January 2015, my wife and I, her sister and her brother and his wife took a Caribbean cruise that stopped at Nassau in the Bahamas. One of the excursions available was to the Atlantis Resort. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity.

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The Atlantis Resort Hotel

The  Bridge Suite is in the bridge between the two Royal Towers. But the hotel complex shown above is just one of five hotel complexes and they also have the Harborside Resort which is a collection of villas and a marina if you want to stay there on your boat.

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The Harborside Resort is the colourful collection of villas you see across the inlet.

Besides accommodations, Atlantis has a 141 acre waterpark, beaches, pools, aquariums and  21 restaurants. There is also a street of shops you can check out. You can swim with the sting rays, snorkel, scuba dive, and get up close and personal with dolphins. It really is a destination resort with something for everyone.

Our tour barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. A bus took us from the cruise ship to Paradise Island where Atlantis is located. We met up with our guide who first took us through the casino. No picture taking was allowed inside the casino.

The Casino at Atlantis
The Casino at Atlantis

And then we got to the main part of our tour which is the aquarium. It’s a world class affair with many different species of fish. There is a clear tunnel you can walk through and watch the fish swim overhead and alongside. And there are many different aquaria, each with its own theme.

Many colourful tropical fish were on display.
Many colourful tropical fish were on display.
Including this odd bunch that liked to hang out in the corner by themselves.
Including this odd bunch that liked to hang out in the corner by themselves.

I’ll include more pictures in a separate photo gallery because I want to focus on the best part of the aquarium visit which was quite different and which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Many of the aquaria opened up at the surface to the outdoors and you could, in fact, walk around outside and look down on the fish.

Juvenile sawfish and stingrays swim around in this outdoor area.
Juvenile sawfish and stingrays swim around in this outdoor area.

When we finished our inside tour, our guide told us we could spend the rest of our time exploring on our own. She recommended checking out the feeding of the sharks and rays outside in about a half hour. So we went out and waited. Remarkably few people joined us. Their loss as what we saw was amazing. A young lady named Bianca, one of the curators at the aquarium, came out with a trolley filled with pails of fish. She fed some in one location and then walked across a shallow section of the immense pool field with sharks and rays following her around like puppies.

She climbed out of the pool and walked over to another area where she hand fed stingrays and zebra sharks. It was an incredible sight as these denizens of the deep snapped fish from her hand. She sometimes patted their heads and you could see she had a great affection for these beasts. And they seemed to like her as well.

My wife asked Bianca if she named her charges. Indeed she did using names from Greek and roman mythology. But she only named the rays and sharks. Too many other fish to name them all. Amazingly, she could identify which sharks and rays were which though they all looked much alike to me.

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Bianca and one of her charges.

In the video below, Bianca explains the names of her fishy friends. But watch that zebra shark just snap up that last fish as she tries to identify him. Chomp! So cool!

We still had an hour or so after the feeding session so we explored some more of the Royal Towers complex. Outside the casino was an immense abstract sculpture, one of five that each cost over a million dollars.

Janis and her sister Betty in front of a million dollar statue.
Janis and her sister Betty in front of a million dollar statue.

We headed for the lobby and came across the Throne of Atlantis. Naturally we had to try it out. It was big enough for two!

Janis and I sitting on the Throne of Atlantis.
Janis and I sitting on the Throne of Atlantis.

The lobby area had an immense atrium with intricate carvings and fluted columns. Quite amazing.

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The immense lobby of the Royal Towers.

We inquired about the Bridge Suite and yes, it was open to tours. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time before we had to return to the cruise ship. Another time for sure.

The Bridge Suite
The Bridge Suite

Our tour guide had told us that it was informally know as the Michael Jackson Suite as he was the first person to have stayed there. It rents for $25,000 a night with a four night minimum.

I recently checked online and it is no longer the most expensive hotel suite in the world. In fact, it slipped to number three in 2003 and it is not even on this year’s top 15 list. A lot of fancy hotels have been built since 2002!

But I also checked to see how much a stay at Atlantis would set back the average person. The budget complex, still pretty fancy, is the Beach Tower. There is currently a special on if you order before July 20th. Forty percent off. I did a tentative booking for a week in early October and it costs a much more affordable $129.14  a night.  I think a week at Atlantis just might be in our future!




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Photo Gallery: Atlantis Resort




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Here are some additional photos of the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

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Visitors with boats and yachts are welcome at Atlantis.
The lobby.
Detail shell work in the cupola at the lobby of the Royal Towers.
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Another million dollar sculpture at Atlantis. Looks like Medusa to me!
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Through the plexiglass tunnel.
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Silver dollar fish at the aquarium at Atlantis.
A grouper
A grouper
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Jellyfish
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Stingrays

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Bianca walks through a shallow part of the pool, followed by her good buddies.

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This cat lives at the Atlantis Resort near the aquarium.
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Bianca prepares to feed the rays and sawfish.

Here sharky, sharky sharky!
Here sharky, sharky sharky! Come and get it!



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Mmmm! An Alluring Bouquet!




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Wine talk is lost on most people. Mention of nose and palate can be Greek to the average wine drinker. Knowledge of wines takes some time and study. I confess to knowing very little about wines except a very subjective, “Mmmm that tastes good,” or “Nah!  Don’t care for that one.”

But after a visit to the Averill Creek Vineyard on Vancouver Island in June, I know a little more than I did before.

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Sitting along the side of Mt. Prevost, the winery commands an excellent view of the Cowichan Valley.

The winery is located just north of Duncan. Take Highway 1 to Cowichan Valley Highway which is also Highway 18, and head north. Turn right at N Road followed by a left at North Road which is a gravel road. There is a large sign so you should find it easily enough. It’s a windy gravel road which takes you up the mountainside to the winery. There is a gate at the entrance which is opened by entering a code on a keypad. The code is shown on a sign so it is meant to keep deer out, not people.

Averill Creek encompasses 32 acres of vines as well as three buildings adjacent to each other and staggered up the hillside. This allows the wines to flow from one stage to the next entirely by gravity without pumps.

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The Barrel Room – the wine arrives here by gravity – no pumping.

When we arrived, our charming hostess Stephanie laid out four glasses for us and we sampled our first, a nice blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir called Charme de L’ile. As she poured samples, Stephanie talked about the winery and the wines.

Averill Creek, she told us, was a true estate winery. All grapes used are grown on the property. None are imported. They are hand-picked and they often employ local aboriginals as pickers.

As we sampled some more wines, she interrupted her talk when she noticed a hummingbird had flown in through the doorway. It was disoriented and sitting behind a wine barrel by the window. If I had known what she was going to do, I would have had my camera ready. She approached the fallen bird and rather than just shooing it out the door, she knelt down and gently picked it up in her hands, walked outside and let it go. Bird whisperer!

Now Stephanie brought out four more glasses, larger, wider glasses. Snifters specially designed to drink Pinot Noir.

Stephanie pours some wine for us to savour.
Stephanie pours some pinot noir into the special pinot noir glasses.

She first had us sniff the wine in the large glass. On the website, the aroma is describe thus: “Our Pinot Noir opens with an alluring bouquet of dark berries & violets, leather & butterscotch.” It smelled good. Good nose, as they say.

Next she poured some into the regular wine glass and had us take a whiff. Nothing. The scent was barely perceptible.

Now she had us taste the pinot in the pinot glass. It had a pleasant flavour, rich and fruity. Then she had us taste it in the regular glass. It tasted bitter. Not pleasant. And so we were schooled in the art of drinking pinot noir. It needs to be served in a snifter so the aroma can reach the nose. And it needs to be drunk from this glass.

She explained that the nature of the glass was such that the wine flowed to the back and center of the tongue, enhancing the flavour. If you drink it from a regular glass, the wine flow to the sides of the tongue, a different taste center. And the bouquet is not allowed to enhance the flavour. Both a nose and palate are needed to appreciate the full flavour. I have never been a fan of red wine. Maybe I should drink it in a different glass!

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We were so impressed by Stephanie’s knowledge of wines and the wines we sampled that we bought some to take home.

We bought some wine, including some to drink right away on their beautiful patio garden. A nice cheese platter added to the experience.

The patio garden
The patio garden

Our table offered an excellent view of the valley below.

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Looking out on the Cowichan Valley from the winery’s patio garden.

The patio had many planters in full bloom a well as bowers of flowers. They attracted a good number of butterflies, adding to the charm of the place.

A beautiful rose in the patio garden.
A beautiful rose in the patio garden.
And a colorful butterfly.
And a colourful butterfly.

We enjoyed our little repast in the sunshine and then the friends we were visiting took us to the ferry for our trip home, glad we had made the stop at Averill Creek. I’ll end this post with some additional photographs of our visit.

Janis and Sheila share a toast.
Janis and Sheila share a toast.
The winery from the parking lot.
The winery from the parking lot.
Racks of wine ready for sale.
Racks of wine ready for sale.
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This kit includes the wines needed and a recipe for sangria.
We saunter up to the bar for some serious wine tasting.
We saunter up to the bar for some serious wine tasting.
The three buildings of the winery seen from the patio.
The three buildings of the winery seen from the patio.
We thought this arch led to some more vineyards. Actually it's a path to some washrooms.
We thought this arch led to some more vineyards. Actually it’s a path to some washrooms.
Another view of the patio
Another view of the patio
Looking out over the parking lot and the valley from the patio garden
Looking out over the parking lot and the valley from the patio garden

 




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