“I’ve booked a holiday! We leave in…3 days!”
Let me introduce my family, the Vitale’s. We are late, last minute and LOVE Crete. Having been to Crete 4 times previously, I was more than excited when my mum sent this text informing me that we were to land on this beautiful Greek island again very soon for a week of Vitale fun! With 3 years worth of Uni life still littered around my room in boxes, bags, and scarily unstable piles, as well as a half unpacked suitcase from my last holiday, (with my Uni girls to Italy, a mere 2 weeks previously. I know, what a hard life eh? :P), I frantically searched for clean bikinis, shorts, and flip flops amidst the mountain of mess, otherwise known as my bedroom.
At the hideously early time of 3am, we left for Gatwick, half asleep and with far too much luggage for just 7 days. No Ryanair nightmare for us as we travelled in style… with Easyjet. Honestly, it was like wearing a pair of Manolo Blahniks over a pair of £2 Primark slip ons. Clearly I know this feeling well…
After a 3 and a half hour flight from London Gatwick to the Cretan capital of Heraklion, the aeroplane door opened and a wave of heat hit me into holiday mode. It also hit me into sweat mode as I still had on my leggings and jumper from our horrific middle of the night airport run. D’oh.
As our taxi driver took us to our accommodation in Hersonissos, just a 30minute drive away from the airport, I remembered how ‘the faster the better’ seems to be the taxi norm here. Note: if you’re a nervous passenger and would be easily alarmed at someone driving with one hand, whilst smoking and shouting down his or her mobile phone when precariously close to a cliff or the sea, then
I’d suggest you hire your own car.
However, I also remembered how beautiful Crete is and why I love it so much. Crete is a mountainous island, the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. It caters for all, from party hard Malia where clubs and bars heave with cocktail
drinking youths – myself and the girls circa summer ’07 – to the busy modern cities, old towns and quaint little traditional Greek
villages. Hersonisos is a town in the North of Crete and our home for the week is family run apartments, the ‘Palatia Village.’ On arrival we met George and his wife Maria who took over managing the site after Maria’s parents first started it back in 1988. The independent little houses are just perfect for a family holiday, with the beach situated 1000m away and supermarkets, bars, restaurants and shops just 500m down the hill. The view from the apartments is stunning, and there is a bar and restaurant on site, where George and Maria are more than happy to serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails until 2am, or however long you can still stand!
Having just an hour’s sleep from the previous night and being in temperatures of nearly 30°C, (average temperatures during the Cretan summer reach the high 20s-low 30°C, with maxima touching the upper 30s-mid 40°C) we decided it would be a great idea to explore our surroundings and head to Spar supermarket down the hill to get a few essentials. After doing laps round the fruit section, not actually picking up a single peach, and with no one being able to put a sentence together for being so weary, exhausted and hot, we got a taxi back up the hill and decided to leave exploring to another day. Hilarious.
Every night at the Palatia Village restaurant, a different Greek dish would be on the specials menu and tonight was soutzoukakia, Greek speciality meatballs served with homemade chips and a Greek salad, which could not have been any fresher. Feta cheese, olives, tomotoes, cucumber and onion. Nom.Nom.Nom. A complimentary shot of Raki, a strong Cretan spirit, similar to the Italian grappa, is standard at the end of every meal so politely drink it all in one, smile through the extreme taste and head for the nearest glass of water…or perhaps bed.
Don’t be alarmed if you wake up to a cat outside your apartment. In fact, don’t be alarmed if you wake up to cats, kittens and half a dozen mosquito bites. You’re in Crete, and Crete means lots of cats and mosquitoes with a distinct taste for English blood. So don’t forget to pack the Jungle Formula, Eurax cream and your will-power, because you WILL want to bring these cute little kittens home.
Frying in the sun was top of my schedule for the week, along with making my poor brother watch me do handstands every time I got in the pool. Yes, I am 21, I enjoy culture, food AND handstands in the pool ok?
Every evening for the rest of the week we walked into the new part of Hersonnisos town to look round shops ladened with holiday souvenirs, clothes, shoes, cosmetics and jewellery. After my dad and brother couldn’t stand to look at yet another fake designer t-shirt and we’d looked at the same postcards 80 times, we’d proceed down to the sea front where each restaurant and bar would do its upmost to encourage your custom with ‘Niki’s’ winning us over
more than once. Niki’s restaurant would definitely not be first choice for recovering alchoholics due to the first round of drinks being on the house, then endless free shots of Raki being brought to your table by Alexander and Aristotelis, two of the craziest, most fun Greeks you will ever meet. The food is amazing value for money, and the portions are huge. My dad had a mixed seafood platter which looked like half the creatures of the Cretan sea had washed up on his plate! Other restuarants I would recommend include Il Camino and Lascala. Both yummy. The cosmopolitan, lively strip of the new Hersonissos town might not be to everyone’s tastes. For a family holiday, it’s great for restaurant choice but after midnight it may be time to head back to your apartments uphill where mum and dad can listen to cricket sounds over club tunes. Near Hersonissos there are three small villages, Piskopiano and Koutouloufari and Old Hersonissos, which overlook the busy resort of the new side and offer more peaceful and quiet options.
In true Vitale style, our money goes on food over air conditioning, but when in Crete over the peak summer period it’s definitely worth finding out if your accommodation offers air con facilities, as not everyone will survive the week on a hand fan and cold showers. Furthermore, being English in the 21st Century, you take for granted simple things like drinking tap water and putting toilet tissue down the loo. Well, many of the Greek islands haven’t quite mastered some of these things so make sure you’re always stocked up with bottled water, and as for the toilet situation…please don’t forget to put your loo roll in the bathroom bins provided or you may be in for a smelly surprise when your toilet regurgitates last night’s souvlaki, along with its unwanted paper. Ewww.
We weren’t completely lazy for the whole week and twice took the sightseeing tour on ‘Thomas,’ the happy tour train. We had to take it twice because the first trip ended with us being stuck in the middle of Old Hersonissos due to an overfilled train. Fancy being asked
to get off the train and explore for 10 mins, only to return to there being no seats because other people had got on at this stop?! Only the Vitales. We attract these sorts of situations. Nevertheless, little tour trains in Crete are a must! You can also take boat trips, have a day out at the water park and even do a bungee jump at Star Beach.
The highlight of my week, and an experience that you mustn’t miss out on when in Greece was the Greek night at our apartments on the Sunday night. A huge BBQ, professional Greek and Cretan dancers, and everyone dancing around the pool with linked arms to Zorba the Greek. A fabulous night, and one that every apartment and most restaurants offer.
Just like a scene straight from ‘My Fat Greek Wedding,’ our holiday was full of both traditional Greek and Cretan delicacies, combined with new modern aspects of the island, and… an unforgettable train journey. Thoroughly enjoyable, we will definitely return to Crete, and just as the Palatia Village says in its write up; “…the first time…you are guest, the second…you are family!”