The Weekly Getaway: it's love Crete to Me
When it comes to summer holidays, I can think nothing but Greece. I have to admit I have been to many places twice and thrice but I cannot help it, I love it! I don’t know what I miss more during winter time in the UK; the sun, the hot weather or the warm hearted people at homeland.
This year, a wedding of an old friend was just an excuse to plan a trip to Crete and combine both catch-up with friends and holidays. We spent most of our time in Chania from where we were escaping to explore more of the western and southern Crete.
A day stroll and a night crawl though in Chania is enough to give you a feeling of the multi-cultural character of the town and justify in every little corner its historical background. Start your day with an omelette in a secret quiet urban garden just a few steps from the old port promenade. Stroll and get lost in the pebbled streets with all the small shops selling keepsakes and summer essentials.
Don’t rush, hidden gems can be found everywhere and there are shops not to be missed!
If the temperature gets too high, diving into the old port waters is not recommended, just grab a suvlaki and drive a few miles to the east side. Allow yourself to the most breath-taking view over the most refreshing swim of your holidays. Take that breath back (and a few more) and almost rock n’ roll yourself down to the rocky path ; this is Seitan Limania beach and is a definite ‘must’.
By this time, the sun is ready to set and the best spot to see the old town taking its warmest colours is from the top of Profitis Ilias Hill. This is where the Venizelos graves lie and the view over the old town is stunning.
Nights in Crete is all about the local drink, raki. It’s pure Cretan and we loved it. It brings joy and inspiration; this is when you start composing your own ‘mantinada’ and you become a real Cretan for a day or a night.
Try not to party that hard. Crete’s natural beauty is impeccable and the beauty is all over the place. Allow time to get to the beach as the pit stops for ‘rakomelo’, ‘kaltsounia’ and ‘sfakiani pitta’ are obligatory (local traders have their own stalls somewhere on the road and welcome you with a shot of rakomelo from their own production, hick).
More authentic local delicacies though can be found out of the main town. Road-tripping around the municipalities of Chania and Rethymno treated us with unforgettable experience of the landscape and the tastes.
- Boheme - just a few steps from the waterfront, in a quiet garden, ideal for breakfast under the trees or early evening cocktails
- Oasis - for the real greek souvlaki. It opens early in the morning and stays open till stock lasts..(usually shuts before lunchtime, so be quick!)
- Koukouvaya - desserts at the sunset by the Venizelos graves. Amazing views over the town and the old port
- To Koutourouki - taste the real raki with all the local dishes, accompanied by live traditional music in a picturesque cosy alley
- Gramvoussa - on your way back from Balos, stopover at Kalyviani. Friendliest and tastiest setting ever!
- Raki Baraki - delicious local dishes in tapas form, in one of the most picturesque small streets of the old town of Rethymno
- Sinagogi - in the ruins of an old Jewish synagogue, a great cocktail bar with nice music to start your night
- Monastiri tou Karolou - set in the courtyard of an old monastery, this night bar is great for long nights. Very atmospheric setting with olive trees and white finishing bar
- Kipos tou Ali Vafi - a great garden within a historical building for cocktails and shisha if you find yourselves in Rethymno
- Raki, rakomelo, sfakiani pitta, kaltsounia, myzithra cheese. Try everything. Don’t be scared with calories and saturated fats. Cretan diet is the definition of the Mediterranean diet; long live the Crete!
- Shop - get your gifts from ‘Canea’, the shop that turned a whole old town into a brand. Great design, new age materials and graphics
- Day trips - when you decide to visit Chania, you should automatically commit to day trips. You will find yourselves a few miles away from the most beautiful beaches in the world.
- Balos and Elafonisi are approximately an hour’s driving away from Chania, but it’s totally worth it
- Sfakia - this is the southwest region of Crete with mesmerising landscapes. Mountains, gorges, white and grey dry cliffs and Caribbean waters all in one…reach the port of Sfakia town and take a boat ride to the village called ‘Loutro’. From here, you can take more boat rides to other beaches close by, such as Glyka Nera and Marmara
- Loutro - Try and allow a night’s stay in Loutro. It is a great feeling being in a non-accessible by car place. Stay overnight and try the pasta with seafood at one of the seafront restaurants
 “Mantinada is the cry of a masculine but sensitive heart: the Cretan heart” said Nikos Kazantzakis explaining the meaning of mantinada for the Cretans.