A Weekend in Crete
North Eastern Crete | Contributors: Mr and Mrs Auree
Fit for a King ( well, Zeus who probably trumps most kings), Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands and in fact is Cretan first then Greek. Whether you’re a dedicated sun worshipper or a culture vulture, we can guarantee you will not be disappointed. It is no surprise that the likes of Patrick Leigh Fermor fell in love with it. Crystal clear water, craggy mountain views, olive groves for miles and a glass of Raki to be had at every turn, Crete is designed for romantics, buccaneers, philosophers and indeed parents who want a few days off. Being only a weekend and a short jaunt on a big island, we’ve kept the options open for further trips and focused on one sun spot.
WHERE TO STAY
Domes of Elounda
Nestled in the hills between Elounda and Plaka, this is a haven of calm. If you have children. But if you don’t have children and you like the thought of quiet espressos and breakfast, either book somewhere else or get room service. It has absolutely everything to make a holiday with children perfect. Not least because you can ship them off to the crèche which is conveniently in sight of a sun lounger and the bar but far enough away to dodge the little ones. Each room is a large suite with either a private pool or Jacuzzi. Five different restaurants to choose from – try the Asian fusion restaurant and fresh fish at the beach (Calamari and Courgette Fritters will do wonders for your taste buds but not the Heidi Klein). They have a beautiful private beach with endless loungers where you can contemplate the possibility of swimming over to Spinalonga (or getting the boat). And you can retire to the “adults only” pool and spa for some much needed relaxation before getting a golf buggy (why walk we say) to the swimming pool. It is a huge infinity pool with highly dangerous bar (one word: Mojitos). And then you can finish the day with cocktails on the terrace before dinner (try the Summer Garden – gin, apple, cucumber..). Or you can wander into pretty Plaka which is a 15 minute walk or 2 minute taxi.
Just along from Domes of Elounda, the Blue Palace is where to stay if you are child-free. Describing itself as “Bohemian Luxury” and in a dramatic location overlooking Spinalonga. Although there isn’t that much that is bohemian about this pad. Seriously delicious food, spoiling spa treatments, a view that deserves a Bond Film scene and for those feeling active (sorry what?) there are tennis courts and watersports. You can also request a room with a private infinity pool because who likes an uninterrupted view and for the less brave, it can be heated on request #TheDREAM
WHAT TO DO
Pebbles and clear Aegean Sea, clearer than a Brita water filter. You will stumble across little secret coves at every corner and is the perfect way to cool off from the hot Cretian sunshine. Without wanting to utter the shameful words “jelly shoes”, unless you have perfected the art of walking over pebbles… then you will need some help getting in. And it’s how you wear them not that you wear them darlings. Nobody likes a pebble wobble.
Originally not actually an island but attached to Crete, it was literally carved out by the Venetians for defence. You can take a short boat ride across (a little bumpy if it’s a windy day) to explore this extraordinary place. During the Venetian rule, salt was harvested here with huge salt pans around the island. And then, perhaps what it is remembered most for today, is it was used as a Leper Colony from 1903 until 1957. During this time approximately 400 lepers lived here and there was a strong community that formed – with shops, cinemas and even a hospital. We hasten to add that you should be able to keep all your limbs safe and sound now.
Sunset Cocktails | Almyra Beach Bar
Cocktails with a glorious view. Dress up, show off your tan and watch the sun go down whilst working your way through the long cocktail list.. the barman will also make up anything you ask for. Which, just saying, can be VERY dangerous.
Olive growing is the main source of income for many Cretian families. The olives are grown all over Crete and the climate makes them some of the best you will find and taste. The Cretan Olive Oil Farm will give you an introduction to the history, the technique and (most importantly) will allow you to sample. The perfect thing to do one sunny afternoon.
WHERE TO EAT
There cannot be better locations for a restaurant than this. LITERALLY on the water’s edge, this is the best fish restaurant you will find. Ask for the daily catch – we had Sea Bream and grilled calamari washed down with some (a lot) of Cretian Rosé. We recommend lunch over dinner as you can then enjoy this spectacular view.
Giorgos – Giovanni Fish Restaurant
Lively with great atmosphere and in a pretty mega location. You can choose your fish here from today’s catch. The prawns are delicious as was the Scorpion Fish. A good wine list too. Delicious fruit and orange cake for pudding but we suggest you avoid the Raki. Unless you like headaches.
3 BOOKS TO PACK IN YOUR SUITCASE
A deeply honest account of the Cretans bravery during such a brutal time during 2nd World War. There is no avoiding the fact that you will need to concentrate (this may not be the holiday read for everyone) but despite the harrowing tales, it is a hugely thought provoking book and will make you look at Crete and the Cretans in a very different way. NB not available to download on kindle so you will need to but an ACTUAL BOOK. If you can cope with that.
2. The Island by Victoria Hislop
You will find everyone round the pool is reading this book. More of a holiday read. Very well written, the locals will all boast to you their great love (and friendship) with “Victoria” when they made the film here a few years ago. Light reading but if you can see Spinalonga while reading about it – it doesn’t get better than that. And its actually really good too.
3. Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper
We love this book. Well in particular, Mr Auree loves it. The biography of traveller Patrick Leigh Fermor – traveller and adventurer. His famous exploits in Crete during the way are unputdownable, it’s not everyday you hear about the kidnapping of a general! We all dream to be someone like him, so you can indulge in this fantasy while you indulge in this book.
Cretian Honey – the BEST. The apiaries are moved every 15-20 days to get mixture of pollen which is why it tastes so damn good
Jelly Shoes – Shameful but essential
Local bananas – taste better than any you will have ever tasted
Image credits: 1)Auree own 2)purpletravel.co.uk 3)thebookshop.ie 4)amazon.co.uk