Recently I was lucky enough to visit Greece’s largest island, Crete, and immediately felt like I was on the film set for ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. Cretans are one of the friendliest and happiest bunch of people I’ve met, then again, who’d be sad living on a beautiful island such as Crete? From the welcoming at the hotel and the serving of food, to being shown around the island; everyone was so happy to take time out and talk to you.
SENTIDO Vasia Resort & Spa
The SENTIDO Vasia Resort & Spa is the hotel I stayed at for the majority of the trip. It’s a family run business; the brother runs the hotel and the sister runs the spa. I had dinner with them one night in the à la carte restaurant, which was stunning. I was made to feel like royalty: my glass was never empty, my chair would be pulled out by a member of staff if I wanted to go anywhere and food kept on coming throughout the night. I was full by course five! Vasia’s (the sister) daughter also joined us for dinner and you could gather a real sense of family value throughout the evening. The encouragement to try their raki, the passion when serving the food; it was all fantastic. And the fresh, locally sourced fish was delicious!
The jeep safari was an all day excursion. I laughed from start to finish and learnt so much about Crete as an island, not just a holiday destination. I learnt about growing your own herbs and olives and how to make goat’s milk cheddar cheese. This was the highlight of the day for me as I was high up in the mountains feeding goats, eating cheese and drinking raki. How Greek! The jeep drivers were so friendly; it felt like I had known them for years, talking about their families and what it’s like growing up in Crete. Throughout the day, we were taken up to the Lasithi district of eastern Crete. We met the locals and were told about the Cretans who are poor and taken in by the families up there to be fed and looked after. There were several stops in these authentic villages; I had time to explore and it was easy to get carried away with spending. We would stop off at the edge of the mountains and take in the view over the district; it was out of this world. Lunch was kept in theme with the rest of trip; we were taken to a local tavern where we could see our food being barbecued and fresh olive oil used.
Here’s my view from the mountains:
Over a glass of raki
Raki is the local spirit in Crete, so as you’d expect, it’s served everywhere you go. The men are who I sympathised with, as it was seen as disrespectful if they didn’t take the drink. Even on the jeep safari, at every stop we were greeted with a shot of raki, usually a homemade brew of it…Yamas! (‘Cheers!’ in Greek.) It was also a social occasion when a hotel, for example, brought out a tray of raki. Some inspiring stories were shared over a glass of raki, particularly with hotel managers and owners. I learnt that some of the hotels on the island have retained the same customers for the past 25 years, wanting to stay in the same room at the same time of year, twice a year. How lovely is that?
If you’ve been made to feel part of a larger family on holiday, drop me a comment in the box below. Or even if you just love Crete, I’d love to hear your stories.