Crete 2.0

After our trip to the church, we got back on the minibus and headed off to our next destination: the ancient city of Lato, now an archaeological site. The ruins were like a growns up giant playground – it wasn’t like some of these other ancient cities, such as Pompeii, where most things are roped off and it’s very much a “look but don’t touch” atmosphere, instead you had free roam to run down the streets, in and out of houses, up the steps of the outdoor theatre and the temple…it’s really quite an amazing experience. It was abandoned around 200BC and whilst a lot of it does look like rubble, you can make out foundations and with a good imagination, picture what the town would have looked like. It felt quite surreal standing on streets that were used over thousands of years ago.

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What’s more, Crete has a very mountainous terrain and Lato is built at the top of one of these many mountains, meaning that the views were breathtaking…especially after you’ve clambered over the ruins to the top!

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This was after we drove to the entrance of Lato

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and this is the beautiful panoramic view after climbing to the very top!

Just to the left of the shot, you can look down to the sea and see the town of Agio Nikolaos, which we also ventured to…but not quite yet! For our next stop was Kritsa, the beautiful small town Cretan town. When you think of a Greek island, you conjure up images of cobbled streets, elderly couples hiding from the sun in the shade and inviting kafenions, and what you thinking of is Kritsa! We wandered up and down the streets and just soaked in the simplistic beauty of it all. Even the shopkeepers are some of the nicest and politest people you could wish to meet and we came away with bags full of olive oil, nougat, baklava and jars of honey. We also got to sample (lots!) of Raki in many different flavours, a popular spirit in Crete that is often cheaper than bottled water!

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Finally, our last destination was the city of Agio Nikolaos. Back in the day, it was the port town for Lato but now it is considered more of a tourist destination. Despite this, it still has a lovely charm about it and doesn’t yet feel destroyed by hordes of tourists and tourist shops.

streets of Agio Nikolaos

It was here, by the Lake Voulismeni that we settled for lunch and I finally got to indulge in a Greek favourite, pork Gyros. I felt that with the pita bread the additional chips were unnecessary but in my trip to Crete I became addicted to tzatziki, the white dip on the side, and could have had bowls of it!

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The rest of the day, like the rest of the holiday, was spent lazing on the beach and I can’t wait to go back! (Or go away anywhere now that summer really feels like it’s coming to an end…)

P.S. these photos are an accumulation from both my camera and my sister’s so credit must be given to her too!

The Idyllic Greek Island Life

So I haven’t posted anything on here for a while and that is because I had the pleasure of joining my family on a holiday to Crete. We’ve spent the past few summers over on the mainland, in northern Greece (Halkidiki to be precise) and so wanted a slight change. And oh wow did we get what we wanted – Crete was beautiful: the weather, the beaches, its incredible ability to have tourist attractions that don’t feel ruined  by tourists (yet…) and one thing that really helped was the gorgeous resort we stayed at, Daios Cove. The hotel is essentially built into the cove and has its own private beach. The architecture is such that the hotel doesn’t look at all garish and looks as if part of the cove itself, made in a similar rock to the cove. The crystal blue waters of the sea along with the hotel’s infinity pool that overlooks the cove makes you feel like you’re in heaven on earth, not to mention the delicious food served at buffets as well as the two restaurants…I could not recommend this place enough! Let me give you just a glimpse of what it felt like to stay there…

Firstly, just look at that view!

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Mornings spent swimming in the pool…

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Followed by the pool bar and Greek or iced coffees…

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Fresh fruit for lunch on the beach…

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And an afternoon lazing around on the sand, dipping in and out of crystal clear waters and reading an incredible book set in the very place you’re soaking up the sun (The Island, by Victoria Hislop – huge fan of her books and this one made for an emotional read, set in Crete about the old leper colony island, Spinalonga – will have to be back soon to visit it!).

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Then, once you’ve had enough sun for the day you can retire to your hotel room, have a shower and relax in those cosy hotel dressing gowns with a cup of tea and that view…quickly followed by pre-dinner cocktails and wine! I told you it was like heaven!

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But of course, we had come to Crete and we wanted to see what the island had to offer outside of the resort. So off we set for a day of Cretan adventures! First off, we visited the church of Panagia Kera, just near the town of Kritsa. The church originates from the Byzantine period and this particular church is considered the most important in the area. From the outside, the church isn’t especially overwhelming and apart from a very subtle cross at the top, it could be easy to not realise the significance of the building. However, once you step inside it is a very different story. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed but I have never seen such a heavily decorated interior, where every inch of the inside was ordained with Byzantine frescos, each telling a different story. This was a huge contrast to the white walls lit up by the sun outside and there was definitely a more sober and somber mood once inside the church. This was the perfect moment for some reflection and gratitude. Once we stepped outside the church, we noticed a small shop and cafe and it was browsing little off the road places like these that we really felt we were in Crete.

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Well I have inundated this post with lots of pictures so I’ll post again soon with the rest of the day’s adventures which includes the archaeological site of Lato, the beautiful traditional Cretan town of Kritsa and the city of Agios Nikolaos and obviously lots more pictures!