“A bijou (and great value) house rental for 2-4, in the heart of Chania's pedestrianised Splanzia quarter”
As its name suggests, this is not a stately home, but a bijou 15th-century townhouse spread over 3 storeys, with one good-sized room on each and a roof terrace at the top.
You enter from a pedestrian lane into a large kitchen-diner, with tall beamed ceilings and butter coloured walls, whose exposed stone borders and salvaged marble handbasin hint at the Venetian masonry beneath. At one end is a smallish table with 4 of those petite wood-and-wicker chairs you used to see in tavernas across Greece, before the tsunami of cheap plastic hit. Framed 1950s posters for Fix beer and Noynoy milk complete the nostalgic feel... tempered, perhaps, by the shiny new guest bicycles and functional recycling bins at the other end of the room.
One flight up is the sitting room, similar in size and feel, with two tall windows over the pedestrian lane and two side windows to keep it bright and airy. The big sofa faces an 'entertainment table' with satellite TV, DVD player, sound box (CD, radio but no ipod dock) and - unexpectedly - a printer for those with their own laptop (WiFi is free). Two blue sit-on cubes metamorphose into the most stylish and comfy foldaway beds we have ever tried (we didn't actually sleep on them, but Tassos raved so highly we felt obliged to perform a test siesta) - well done, BoConcept!
The top floor houses the main bedroom, whose twin beds come with zippable Cocomat mattresses - the undisputed king of Greek sleep comfort, and devotedly ecological too. There are down duvets for winter, light bedspreads for summer (all whiter than snow); Starck ghost chairs and a mini chandelier for a touch of tasteful bling. The adjacent bathroom is small but clean and functional, with a glass shower quadrant and not much elbow room.
The open-plan kitchen is sensibly laid out and fairly well equipped: electric oven, 4 rings, sink, fridge-freezer, plenty of surface space and most of the bits and bobs you could need (juicer, grater, sharp knives etc) - but no microwave or dishwasher. There's a kettle, a briki for cooking up Greek espresso, and a filter machine too. Come in spring or summer, and Tassos and Mucki might have left some fresh fruit from their gardens on Chania's suburbs.
If you've got the energy, you can carry your breakfast or dinner up 3 flights of stairs to the roof terrace, where a wooden table with 4 chairs and 2 oversize lanterns awaits. Beyond the potted pink geraniums and oleander, you look over the jumbled old-meets-new roofscape of Chania to a strip of blue sea. There's also a utility room with a small sink and additional crockery to make life a bit easier.
If energy is in short supply, wander out to Splanzia square for coffee and backgammon under the vast plane tree, or fresh bougatsa (custard pies) and spiced biscuits from the bakery. Continue a few paces up Daskalogiannis St. to Kouzina EPE ("Kitchen Inc."), where owner-chef Despina Polaki serves a predominantly local crowd her delicious, no-frills Cretan tapas. Favourites include pies stuffed with lapatho (sorrel), marinated anchovies, and chochli boubouristi (sautéed escargots with onions, tomatoes and courgettes) for the adventurous.
If you tire of that, or if it's closed (which it does quite early on some evenings), Tassos' top tips include Karnagio by the Great Arsenal for family friendly Cretan fare (fresh orange juice for the kids, good wines for the parents, delicious stuffed aubergines and fried cheese); and The Well of the Turk for more exotic Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine (watermelon salad, couscous with nuts and dried fruit, chicken tagine).
Children of all ages are welcome, using one or both of the 2 foldaway beds in the living room. Given the steep stairs, it's not ideal for toddlers - but having said that, the neighbourhood is very safe and partly pedestrianised. The lane right outside the house is car-free, which is a godsend. We think it would be best for a couple with one or two children in the 4-12 year range, or with a baby.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
The normal set up is to use the sitting room for 1-2 children on foldaway beds, while the parents sleep upstairs in the main bedroom. However if you want to stay up later than the kids, you may want to reverse that - the foldaway beds are surprisingly comfy.
Children will love Captain Nick's boat cruises from Chania harbour - besides swimming and snorkelling, he entertains them by catching starfish and squirting octopuses. Adventurous families can also book tailored excursions into the White Mts for hiking and mountain biking. If you want to cycle around town, or to the city beaches (1km), you will need to hire additional bikes for the kids (there's a bike hire shop on Daskalogiannis St.). There's a water park at Limnoupolis, about 8km away.
The stairs are steep and there are no stair gates. The windows in the first-floor living room are quite low (about half a metre). The roof terrace does have a perimeter wall, however (about 1m high)