We woke at 9:00. The shower in our bathroom was like the ones in Asian hotels: a flexible “telephone” shower (like virtually all in Europe) but no special place to stand—no tub, no curtains, just a waterproof floor (marble, which is pretty much universal in Greece) with a drain in it, and a slightly raised threshold to keep the water in the bathroom, which of course also contained the toilet and sink. As Dorothea remarked in her notebook, it was a bit challenging to keep these appliances dry, but we managed the necessary agility and care.

The balcony was already too hot for sitting, even though the palm tree kept off the worst of the sun, but our room was air-conditioned. As the sun got higher the intensity decreased a bit, and we were able to open the door that led to the balcony and let the now tamer sunlight stream in.

When we were ready for breakfast, the shaded tables next to the harbor, where we had eaten dinner the night before, were comfortable. Vana waited on us again. It was a simple breakfast, but everything was good: wonderful just-squeezed orange juice, fresh and substantial bread, butter, honey and jam. We sat there until 11:15 just looking at the harbor and the passing scene, which for the most part passed slowly and uneventfully. A couple of tourists came bustling past, searching earnestly for something or other, and this caused Dorothea to reflect on how good our present comfortable inactivity was for “erasing that sense of having to DO something.”
Local wine filling station
Of course, we didn’t intend to spend all day in that state of suspended animation, pleasant as it was. Eventually we bestirred ourselves and walked back along the marble walkway toward the eastern end. We checked out the stores along the way, and went into a small market, where we saw dried figs, dates and herbs for sale, as well as lots of local honey. Toward the back of the store you could buy bottled rakí (cheap!) and wine. Or, if you wanted local wine, you could draw either red or white from a little wooden cask into a kilo or half-kilo measure—from which you’d then have to transfer it into whatever container you’d brought with you. (The store probably had bottles to buy if you didn’t bring one, but since we weren’t planning a picnic we didn’t ask.) The casks were labeled in English only—local customers obviously needed no explanation.
Flags: Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Greece
When we reached the end of the walkway, we continued toward the ferry landing to take a close look at the monument that commemorates the evacuation, in 1941, of the British, Australian, New Zealand and Greek troops who had lost the battle to defend Crete against the Germans. On the plateau above the town, an Australian unit held off the advancing Germans for five days while the Royal Navy, which could operate only at night because no air defense against the Luftwaffe was available, picked up several thousand men from this beach and conveyed them to Alexandria. 5,000 couldn’t get away and were taken prisoner here after the Australian defenders above were overrun. The monument tells this story in English and Greek, and the four nations’ flags fly overhead. (The Greek one is a little bigger than the others, but after all, this is their country, and many Cretans went on resisting throughout the war in spite of the usual harsh reprisals.)

The British, however, were aware that they had lost the Battle of Crete more through blunders at the top than weakness in the ranks, and—coming as it did in a long string of military failures—the loss hit their morale hard. Gallows humor was common in Egypt, where the army was taken to lick its wounds. One sample I read about was the rumor that a special medal would be issued to all who had gotten off the island, bearing the Latin words for “out of Crete”: EX CRETA.

On the way to the monument we had passed the Delfíni (‘Dolphin’) taverna, of which we’d read good things, and made a stop there to drink more fresh-squeezed orange juice. We now decided to eat lunch there. We didn't waste time rationalizing that we had done anything to earn the meal, but we weren't hungry yet, so we went back to the Xenía and sat on the shaded terrace for a while—I to check my iPad quickly for news and email, then to read Trollope; Dorothea to continue reading Conrad on her iPod Touch.
The Delfíni taverna (painted white)
At 2:00, we went back to the Delfíni, where we ordered the house’s “Delfíni salad,” a wonderful concoction of various greens, dried figs, walnuts, graviéra cheese, and balsamic dressing. (Graviéra, native to Crete, is Greece’s second best-selling cheese, after feta. It’s drier and firmer than feta, more like Spanish manchego in texture, and a little like it in taste also.) We ate garlic bread with the salad. After that I had a bowl of fish soup (that’s a direct translation of its plain name, psarósoupa), which was delicious. A long way from Boston-style chowder, it belonged to a big family of seafood soups made with tomatoes—bouillabaisse, cioppino, and so on. I have nothing against Boston chowder, except that nowadays there’s a tendency—probably exacerbated by the frequent chowder contests among Boston restaurants—to make it ever richer and thicker, to the point where it barely resembles the humble dish I grew up with. The Delfíni’s fish soup would never come first in one of those contests, but I enjoyed it more than I’d enjoy many of the winners.

Dorothea, for her part, enjoyed a bouréki (a phyllo-enclosed pastry—like the burek we ate in the former Yugoslavia, it’s an Ottoman legacy). This one was filled with a mixture of stamnagáthi, potato, and mizíthra (a fresh cheese similar to mozzarella). We drank some local white wine, and finished the meal with pieces of cake soaked in honey—accompanied, of course, by the usual rakí.
The Delfíni and the waterfront
Everything about the Delfíni was excellent, primarily the food, of course, but also the service and the view over the beach and harbor from the end opposite to the Xenía. (This picture was taken outside the restaurant. We sat on the porch you can see at the lower right.)

We took our time over lunch, and it was 4:00 before we headed back to the hotel. On the way we stopped at the bakery we had visited the day before, where we bought one dípla—a pastry made by forming a few layers of thin dough into a loose roll and deep-frying it, then dabbling honey or syrup on top and dusting it with cinnamon. We also bought two fig cookies. At a shop farther on, we purchased a slice of a very dense chocolate roll containing almonds and iced with Nutella. (I beg readers to remember that we were on vacation. Yeah, I know, vacation from being retired. So sue me.)
Sunset, looking west
At the Xenía, I took my iPad to the hotel terrace while Dorothea, resting in our room, returned to The Secret Agent. Later I read for a while on the balcony, then lay down for a nap, and I was still in deep snooze at 7:00pm when Dorothea decided to take a walk. Enterprisingly, she went up the road that climbed the hill away from the harbor to the west, and discovered the existence of a second beach we hadn’t been aware of. (If we’d been looking for beaches in the guidebooks and on the maps, we would have known it was there, of course, but neither of us has taken a great deal of interest in beaches for a few years now.)

It was a long way down to the water, but she elected to stay high above it and watch the sun set. As the bathers below gathered their belongings to leave, she got some spectacular pictures of the sunset lighting the sky beyond the headlands to the west.
The Xenía’s terrace
By the time Dorothea got back, at 7:30, I was awake, and reading on the balcony. We went down for dinner a half-hour later. The evening had turned windy and a bit cool, and instead of heading for a waterside table we sat up on the terrace, which provided more shelter from the breeze. We shared a “Xenía salad” (the house counterpart to the Delfíni salad, I guess), made with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and both mizíthra and graviéra cheeses. After that I had pork cooked in a tomato sauce with okra, and Dorothea had chicken souvláki (i.e., shish kabob, if you’ve never been to a Greek restaurant) and French fries. We had the same Boutári wine as the night before, and finished with dessert and rakí as usual.

Vana again waited on us, but we also had a chance to talk with Yánni, the young waiter. When Dorothea complimented him on his English, he said that (like our Cretan taxi driver in Athens) he had attended a private school for four years. Now he goes to the local national school, where there are no books. A teacher comes to the school for a certain term of weeks or months and teaches only one subject (math, literature, or music for example), then moves on to another school, while his or her place is taken by a teacher who specializes in a different subject. Yánni didn’t say why he had changed schools, but the prevailing economic conditions in Greece make it easy enough to think of reasons (though of course we can only guess).

Eventually, we finished our dinner and retired in good order. We had a bus to catch the next morning, but not until 11:00.