Elafonisi, Home of the Pink Beach

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After a full day yesterday, we were a few paces slower today and took our time getting our show on the road.  While we were on the too-early end of breakfast yesterday, we nearly missed it entirely today.  But we dashed downstairs just in the nick of time and hit the road to Elafonisi by noon.

Elafonisi (also spelled Elafonissi in some places) is the kind of beach you might imagine in a fairy tale but never would expect to see in real life.  There are endless stretches of beaches consisting of pink sand, caused by coral deposits that have washed ashore through time.  But, as was the case with Balos, there’s always a challenging journey before getting to paradise.  This time, we had to take some treacherous turns through mountain roads again to reach the southwest corner of the island.  There was a point when we were stuck behind a slow bus, so we tried to pass it.  The risk factor was pretty high given how narrow the roads were, but apparently egos were involved too.  Every time we got over to try to pass the bus, the bus would speed up!  It ended up getting quite dangerous trying to pass this guy numerous times, so we finally gave up.  Bizarrely, he would go back to driving slowly as soon as we ended up behind him.  So our drive took way longer than it should’ve, but we still made the trip in 2-2.5 hours.

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Stuck behind the slow bus that all of a sudden became a NASCAR driver every time we tried to pass it

As one of the most legendary beaches on the island, Elafonisi was definitely not secluded.  However, there is so much beach that the farther you wander, the fewer people you saw.  The main area was covered with stretches of umbrellas, but the people manning the beach really had a system going on and kept the beach well-maintained and pristine.  Not only was the beach a national protected land, but there were even signs that threatened both a monetary fine, as well as an eternity of guilt (true story), for taking any amount of the pink sand.  Sadly, I’m sure greedy tourists still thought they were the exception as the beach has gotten far less pink with every passing year.  The main area barely had any traces of pink, although it was more prevalent in the more remote areas.

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Lovely, shallow waters great for wading and swimming
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We set up shop under one of these palm-fringed umbrellas which was a perfect arrangement in the gentle Mediterranean breeze
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Watching some attempts at kite surfing
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Narrow sand bar separating two shallow swimming areas.  The water was seriously this clear.

We rented a pair of lounge chairs under a palm fringed umbrella for 8 euros for unlimited use, and used that as our home base as we swam and walked around.  The beach was terrific for swimming, as the water stayed shallow for long stretches before finally taking a gradual dip.  It was yet another perfect day for weather, as it was a mild 80-something degrees with a consistent, gentle breeze.

We stayed for a few hours then hit the road as the weather started cooling. Along our drive out earlier, we noticed a number of farm stands selling homemade wares so we made a point of stopping at one to sample and support local goods. The guy was super enthusiastic and let us sample his various olive oils, infused raki, and jams which were all delicious, so we bought a wide variety to bring back as gifts and pretty much bought out half of his stand so he threw in a few random oranges as a bonus.

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Walking just 10 minutes past the crowds, we stumbled across a much more secluded cove.  Not only were there fewer people around, but the sand was strikingly more pink, and the water far more vibrant.
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Close up of the pink sand
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Now, THIS is what a honeymoon should be!
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One of the many cute little farm stands we encountered (and supported) on our drive home

For our last dinner on the island, we were torn on a number of delicious looking spots, but eventually decided on a place along the Venetian harbor called Salis.  We were initially wary about going anywhere on the waterfront as they tend to cater more to tourists and are less authentic (and overpriced), but this place ended up serving our favorite dinner during our stay in Chania.  One of the most memorable dishes we experienced during our trip was their homemade pappardella tonight, with a rustic pesto made of local oregano, marjoram, thyme, wild fennel, walnut, and shaved anthotiro cheese (a mild white cheese).  It didn’t taste anything like an Italian pesto and was mindblowingly good.  Doug exercised self control and didn’t eat too much of the pasta to save room for our entrees; unfortunately, I couldn’t stop eating it so I was pretty full by the time our entrees arrived.  However, Doug loved my dish so much that he ended up finishing it!  So we finished even, on the scale of pigliness.  While the entrees were delicious, it was really the app and the dessert that set the bar high.  We had what Doug deemed the best dessert on our trip – a caramelized white chocolate over a pistachio brittle crust with mango puree.  YUM!

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Sunset at Chania’s harborfront
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Handmade pasta with Cretan pesto.  SOOOO GOOD!
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Doug’s tri-tip beef, served with a black pepper and goat cheese sauce, and baby potatoes
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My (and eventually Doug’s) seared sesame-crusted tuna with wild rice, mango, and zucchini
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The “Namelaka” was anything but traditional, but was so creative and delicious
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Local vendor selling sea sponges.  Doug tried to ask him how the sponges are made, but he didn’t speak a lick of English.  We bought a few for our mothers.

To cap off the night, we stopped at the bar Synagogi next door to our hotel, which as the name alludes, was set in an old Synagogue ruin. It was such a unique setting, as we sat in open air ruins juxtaposed against a modern mixology lounge, and was a wonderful way to wrap up our last night in Chania.

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We really couldn’t get a great shot to show everyone back at home, but the setting in Sinagogi was truly unique.  Drinking a jasmine-lavender cocktail among ancient ruins, what’s better than that?

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