It is our first evening in Chania, Crete. We have unpacked our cases. Stocked up on food, etc. from the local supermarket just down the road. Struggled back up the five flights of stairs to our top floor apartment with its stunning views over the old town, harbour, and the Mediterranean. Had a couple of hours rest and a celebratory drink or two on our wonderful balcony. And now we are off to explore the harbour area and find somewhere for dinner.
The weather is gloriously warm and sunny. The weather forecast we looked at back in the UK before we left was not promising. Crete has been enjoying consistent sunshine for the last umpteen weeks with temperatures in the 30s, but it is supposed to change for the worst this week. But this evening it is warm and sunny and, even though it is ‘out of season’ supposedly, the old town is full of people out for the evening. Chania old town is only five minutes walk away from our apartment and when we turn the corner into the harbour area … well, it is just stunning. Chania old town immediately becomes our new favourite place! It is alive with people, cafes, restaurants, shops, street entertainers, conversation, laughter, life! The place is simply beautiful … glowing in the early evening sun.
We walk most of the way around the harbour simply reconnoitring what is here. We don’t go all the way round, or venture into the various lanes that make up the rest of the old town – we have two weeks ahead of us to thoroughly explore. Primarily we are looking for somewhere to eat dinner. We are spoilt for choice. There are so many different venues and menus on offer. There are lots and lots of restaurants, all with tables and chairs spilling out on to the pavements around the harbour, several offering live music in the Greek style. We are not sure exactly what we feel like eating. There are lots of fish restaurants but that’s o.k. because we both like fish.
Having had a good look at what’s on offer we work our way back around the harbour looking more closely at the various menus. We are engaged in conversation outside one restaurant by a rather pleasant ‘meeter and greeter’ person. Obviously it is his job (along with a couple of others) to persuade passers-by like us (who are looking for somewhere to eat dinner) to visit this restaurant. Julia and I (as former salespeople ourselves) are suckers for other good salespeople … and this guy is good … interesting, humorous, tells a good story.
‘Let me tell you about my grandfather’ he begins, ‘my grandfather used to say that you have to have this harbour in your heart!’ ‘And now is the best time of the day, and here we have the best view of the harbour, and here is the best seat in the restaurant!’ he continues. ‘But we only want an aperitif’ we reply, ‘we haven’t decided what we want to eat yet!’ ‘Well, welcome to Chania’ our meeter and greeter responds with a warm smile. ‘This is such a romantic place, and you are obviously a lovely couple, so do sit here just for a moment … and have a free drink on the house!’ He shakes hands with us, and introduces himself. ‘My name is George’ he says, ‘and my father’s name was George, and my grandfather was also called George!’
Before we know it we are sitting in George’s restaurant enjoying a free glass of chilled white wine … and of course we do end up staying there for dinner … and very nice it is! Whilst we are eating we watch the world go by: the tourists looking for somewhere to have dinner, the locals out for an early evening stroll, the buskers and musicians looking for somewhere to set up. We also watch George and his fellow ‘meeters and greeters’ at work. Two elegantly dressed ladies of a certain age walk by. ‘Let me tell you about my grandfather’ says George, and soon the ladies in question are sitting at the table next to ours, a table which has now miraculously also become the ‘best seat in the restaurant!’
We get into conversation with the two elegantly dressed ladies who introduce themselves to us as Thelma and Louise. Like their more famous namesakes they are here for an adventure. They have left partner/husband at home and escaped to Chania for a week’s fun they tell us. Apparently Louise’s husband doesn’t like flying and Thelma’s partner is ‘boring’. They flew by Ryanair so it will certainly be an adventure! They come from the West Midlands – an area we know well – so we have a nice conversation. George has obviously taken a shine to Thelma and frequently comes over to their table to share more of his grandfather’s wisdom with her?
Thelma and Louise finish their meal before we do, pay their bill, reject George’s offer of a free bottle of Raki, and start to wander off into the crowd. Thelma and George, however, seem somewhat reluctant to let the evening end this way and continue chatting together. Louise leaves them to it and comes and sits at our table. ‘Good luck with that!’ she says, nodding in Thelma’s direction,’She’s a real man eater!’ Thoughts of Joyce Grenfell suddenly come to mind: ‘George! Don’t do that!’
Postscript: The following evening we are once again out for dinner in Chania Old Town, this time at a Fish Restaurant we set our sights on earlier in the day, further round the harbour. When the waiter comes to take our order I cheekily ask him if his name is ‘George’ (since everybody here seems to be called ‘George’). ‘No!’ he replies, ‘My name is Nikolai. You want my brother?’ ‘George!’ he shouts, and another waiter comes over to our table … wondering why these two strange British tourists are falling about laughing?