Travel & Fun

Not the Crete I had Expected

After much indecision due to an ailment, we decided to ditch our well planned out trip to Thailand, in favour of a European getaway, just 3.5 hours away by plane, Crete.

Flying into Heraklion was a beautiful sight! The sun was shining, you fly in so close to the sea you can almost smell it! As you land, stepping off the stuffy plane and out onto the tarmac, the distant feeling of warmth reaches you. 

We have come to Crete in October as in google we trust being the farthest South of the Islands we had hoped for the last feeling of summer warmth. Unfortunately an unexpected Storm had other plans, plummeting the day just days before temperature of 25C down to a cooling 18C, not that that is Crete’s fault of course, mother nature has always got a sense of humour.

We had initially opted for a 5* resort in Elounda, but as we went to pay, realising this included no drinks, was not in walking distance of anywhere and didn’t included flights £4,000 seemed excessive even for me, and I would consider myself to have an addiction to whimsical spending! And so we opted for a beautiful one bedroom villa, with pool and see view, just 20 minutes from the Capital, Heraklion. [Manificus Villas] we booked through AirBnB, but you could book direct with Maria.

Our first morning was very much a wash out with the storm howling directly into our sea facing view. We took the time to acquaint ourselves with our villa, watch a film, eat the snacks (we luckily purchased the day we arrived from a Lidl!) we have already, in just 24 hours determined a car is going to be pivotal to our successful exploration of Crete.

We decided to brave it in the afternoon when the rain gave up and head in to the Capital. Parking was great at just over 1 Euro per hour, in a secure car park [City Centre Parking] they parked the car for you! We took a stroll around Heraklion, and I am sure the unsavoury weather did not help paint this city in its usual beauty. However I was, being honest disappointed, the main archaeological sites were closed for work, but looked to have been closed a while, the darkened side roads felt most unwelcoming, and it did not feel, the Heraklion’s we made eye contact with anyway – really wanted us there.

We did find joy in the outstanding architecture and welcoming arms of The Church of Agois Titos, located in the old town of Heraklion. Albeit neither of us are religious there is something quite breath-taking to see the histories of a place embellished on once simple trees and stone.

I think what shocked us, and as I said this is one simple (and perhaps ignorant view point) of the City, but all along the ocean front – where the views were breath-taking was abandoned building after abandoned building, each one more graffitied than the next , so sad to see what I imagine once was the centre piece of the Jewel that is Crete, feel fortified by time, and banished to the history books of a once beautiful and vibrant sea front.

After getting blown around by the storm which had decided to stay a little longer we went to find something to drink! We always say; go with your gut! We walked past several Taverna’s and Cafés, which had a simple, clean vibe, until we stumbled across a little Gem in the old town, with comfortable, welcoming seating, and for us most importantly, was full of Greek’s! When the town itself, likely due to the weather felt a little quiet. Utopia Café was a delight! A welcoming smile, a warm place to sit (still outdoors! We are British after all 18C is practically a heatwave!) We spend 16 Euros on a milk chocolate fondue (Adam’s First ever Fondue) and it did not disappoint!

Utopia’s Milk Chocolate Fondue, enjoyed outside, on fabulously comfortable sofa’s where you could watch the world go by!

The chocolate was out of this world, with banana, melon, different nuts, coconut shavings, wafers, waffles – oh and the Beer & Caipirinha were wonderful too! We hadn’t realised just how generous the Greek portions would be, and this along with some traditional sweet biscuits severed always at Utopia, did us in! We couldn’t possibly eat anymore . . . for now!

After some more exploring and shopping (some fabulous swim cover ups/dresses & scarf’s to give to family) we thought we could do with one more drink before we left. So we headed to the Morosini Fountain, which in terms of atmosphere on a Saturday, businesses and hubbub felt like the central place to be. Again we went with our gut! And ended up at Olive Trees [a traditional Greek Tavern] where yet more beer, and more Caipirinha was sampled! It felt rude to not indulge in some savoury food to counteract our sugar induced comas. Opting for a Greek twist on Bruschetta (More solid muffin based bread, tomato & Feta] and some absolutely fabulous Tzatziki.

That really was it! We couldn’t eat any more, and so headed back to our car. After almost driving the wrong car home (warning the car park is a concierge service, nice guys and looking after the car, but bought us out the wrong Fiat, and we almost didn’t notice!) and we headed home to enjoy a drink on our balcony, listening to the storm tire itself out and looking at the outstanding view across the bay to Heraklion , lit up in darkness, in array of colour.

There certainly were several elements of which were nice to enjoy, and I know we did not do them all! We are as minimum heading back to Heraklion on our second to last night to enjoy dinner at a very popular restaurant in the City, and we will ensure we leave ample time to further explore the mash of architecture, sites and snacks. 

I think the problem is Instagram – creates an unrealistic depiction of reality. Even my picture (the boats in the harbour) with a little filter, and a little adjustment can look so truly romantic, but this doesn’t depict the busy roaring road behind us, or the smell or garbage – however that is  Heraklion’s fault, that is the fault of social media, we take on moment of reality, edit it , post it, and then our minds do the rest building an image of what this City will look like, and that is not fair to Heraklion. It’s a major working city, with a university, people’s livelihoods, and their whole world. It has not be created to be aesthetically pleasing to the likes of you and me, its been created to function, to provide, to survive. And I think that’s the mindset adjustment I must have for my expectations moving forward. Crete is not for tourists, Crete is for its people, and we are only but passers-by, the blink of an eye to a true Heraklion.

Venetian Port in Heraklion

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