We were excited to be going back to Crete. We had been there 15 years earlier and had great memories of our time there with our three daughters. It was a place that had been untouched by the tourist industry and we had great expectations of an off the beaten track experience.
But were we in for a surprise!
Picking up our rental car from Heraklion Airport, we headed west to Chania to find a place to stay and enjoy the second part of our holiday. Well we were shocked to find resort after resort, tourist shops after tourist shops – the place had changed! What was a quiet, untouched area had changed to accommodate the thousands of tourists that now visit Crete.
Had we made a mistake coming here?
Driving through the tourist towns now reminded us of Surfers Paradise – typical tourist goods on sale at every shop. Burger joints replacing the Greek Taverna, elaborate big looking resort accommodation on every second corner and coaches driving up and down the main road.
We looked at each other and thought, “we’ve got to get away from this!” Driving for another hour, it was already 7pm and we were starving – but no way was I eating an American style hamburger in Greece! And we had no idea where we were going to stay that night!
Finally we came through a little village called Tavronitis. I spotted a very traditional looking Taverna and so we parked the car and decided to eat first before we work out what we are going to do. Caneva Taverna served up authentic scrumptious Greek food, the staff were friendly and the price was very reasonable. In fact, they were so helpful that when I asked for accommodation suggestions, they rang up a place for us and thank goodness we were sleeping on beds that night and not in the back of our car!
Early next morning we had the best breakfast at the hotel and then we were off to find a quiet and remote part of the island to stay at. We decided we’d go on the old National highway as this was the best way to come across non-touristy places. We stumbled across a winery and there we were given a tour around the distillery, tasted some of their local wines and was given some great information about a nearby village to stay at.
Drapanias, is a small village, relatively untouched by tourism and after chatting with the older lady in the Taverna and encouraging her to find us something as I didn’t want to sleep in the back of the car I politely told her, a lovely man named Nikos came to meet us and take us down to his studios.
We couldn’t believe our eyes – waterfront, swimming pool, brand new studios! But then we were like, ‘how much is it going to cost us?’ Sending up prayers for a good price, I said to Nikos, “Nikos, what is the price for this one bedroom studio with a self contained kitchen?” He looked at me and said, “the price is good – 35euro per night!” Wow, we couldn’t believe it! We certainly hit the jackpot with this one. Not only that, they are a wonderful couple who treated us like family and we became good friends with them.
Off the beaten track is the way we like to take our holidays! Well, more me than Greg but he loves it secretly! You don’t know where you’re going, where you’re sleeping that night or what jewel of a beach or village you will come across and there’s nothing better than that ‘wow’ rush of excitement you get at the unexpectedly.
When we travelled around Europe in 2000, with three little girls in tow, we did it off the beaten track style. When we arrived in Bari, Italy early one morning after a overnight trip on the ferry, we hopped on a train, any train we found that headed up the east coast and just stayed on it until we decided to hop off it.
We arrived at Bologna station, hours and hours later, hopped off, rang for accommodation, nothing available so hopped back onto the train and headed for a place called Padova. We headed to the Accommodation counter and asked for a room for 5. They were astonished we were travelling around without pre-booked accommodation.
You see, it was the year of Jubilee and the pope was in town and everything was taken! But I can be quite persuasive and after clearly pointing out to them we have three little girls that needed to go to bed..in a bed and not on the streets, we were given a room with two double beds. As we walked to the hotel, there were questionable people hanging about and right at the moment we reached the entrance to reception, a scanty dressed woman was walking out.
I laugh now, but I turned to Greg and said, “Oh no, they have sent us to a brothel!” I am happy to say, it wasn’t a brothel and was filled with the friendliest of people and having breakfast with two of the nicest nuns we’d ever met made our day!
Back to our Cretan holiday….Kissamos, the region we were in, turned out to be a fabulous place to hang out for 2 weeks. We swam in the most amazing places, met beautiful people and ate the tastiest of foods.
We participated in a few cooking workshops, walked around old city Chania and the local produce markets, drove to unforgettable places on the scariest of roads and at times wondered if we had gone too far off the beaten track! So much fun!
To our surprise, Crete won our hearts once more! We were reminded that sometimes you’ve just got to keep going, keep looking and in due time, you find what you are looking for! We found authenticity, culture and the start of many beautiful friendships.
So, we hope you can join us next September for our very first Active Food Adventure to Crete and maybe you too will experience the beauty we found on this amazing island!
Our Crete information day is on tomorrow (Sunday 12 November) at 2pm. If you are keen, send me a DM and I will send you more details!