Greece: Crete

Crete was the second Greek Island I’ve so far been fortunate to get to visit and my third time in Greece all together as I started my obsession with all things Greek in 2009 on my honeymoon to Athens. The first island I was able to tick off of my wish list was Rhodes which I visited last April and the other week I spent a whole seven days in Crete.

I mainly travel to see the ancient sights and then other famous sights by default, so I picked Crete for Knossos and then decided afterwards that I also had to see the Samaria Gorge whilst there. I’d also wanted to visit Phaestos and Gortys (Ancient Roman and Greek sites, with Knossos being earlier still and Minoan), but the holiday company I was with weren’t running trips to either of them and other companies were but on the wrong days. I guess that’s the problem with picking one side of a fairly large island, and only visiting for one week if certain trips are only on one day of the week. There wasn’t much I could do about it other than rewind time, learn to drive and then hire a car out there although the winding mountain roads are bloody scary so it might not have solved anything.

Needless to say the inability to visit these two locations did put a little dampner on my trip and, along with the Knossos and Gorge trips, I also booked a trip to Hania, which I had not been fussed about.

We stayed in a lovely small-ish all inclusive hotel just outside of Rethymno town centre, although we did not make it into Rethymno itself (which in hindisght was probably an error, oh for more than 7 days!) even when we were told that the Olympic flame was passing through on our first day there! I’ve stayed in quite a few all inclusives now and like them for certain types of holidays. Holidays for me are either city breaks (Rome, Paris, Athens) where there’s a good public transport system, English isn’t uncommon and I can wander around on my own – or at least with my husband or friends. Then there are the beach holidays, the relaxation holidays where not every day is jam packed with places to visit and things to see. My husband prefers these, but after a holiday to Domincan Republic where we spent 14 days sitting by a pool, I refused to do a whole holiday of nothing.

This is the smallest pool (freshwater), shaped perfectly for lane swimming, which is what I used it for. Would have loved one of the apartments that opened up onto it!

He “allowed” me three days of trips/excursions on this holiday, as long as the other three full days consisted of him sitting in a pool bar drinking as mauch as he wanted. We both like to be in all inclusives and not have to worry about where to find food at night, or how much money it will all cost. Although, in Greece especialy, I do like to branch out to somewhere else for at least one meal for a more authentic feel. Usually there’s at least one day of the husband sitting in the pool bar from as early as they open until I drag him out as the sun’s setting. In fact, more often than not as soon as breakfast is done, he’s by the pool drinking beer whilst I’m drinking water – oddly I seem to think that water is good for during the day when the sun’s hot!

We opted for the Greek night in the taverna (one night in the taverna free per week for AI), but the food wasn’t all that brilliant and I preferred the main restaurant.

The hotel we stayed in – the Aquila Rethymno – was different to other all inclusives that we’ve been to. Perhaps because it’s also half board, but there are no pool bars (a huge shock to my husband), but a very lovely beach bar, which was far nicer than any other beach bar we’ve been to. I put it down to a certain little bit more class than other AIs, just in that no one could sit in a pool all day long without even getting out to urinate. That being said there weren’t that many toilets outside so perhaps they should have ignored that. In the end I quite liked the slightly classier feel to the alcohol side of things. Yes, on our first evening I was a bit concerned with the guidance that even on AI, certain drinks had to be paid for in the restaurant even when they’re free in the bar. It didn’t include wine and in some respects should you be drinking spirits whilst eating your evening meal?

The sea was really rough, but there were people in it despite how the waves breaking easily kept knocking them to the ground.

The whole ambience of the hotel seemed nicer than most other places we’ve stayed in and I really loved the hotel. It’s one of the first that I’ve said I’d go back to, if I were one to re-visit a holiday destination, which given the things I wanted to see and missed perhaps I will. It wasn’t completely perfect but I’m not sure where is. For example, I found it kind of odd that the bedrooms were carpeted, but with people encouraged to not walk through the reception and hotel wet from swimming, bedroom floors aren’t likely to get wet. And the carpets made a refreshing change from the oft used floor tiles which are always cold on your feet no matter the climate.

The lack of bars during the day (the interior lobby bar doesn’t open until about 4pm) is made up with the fact that there are three outdoor swimming pools (one of which is salt water) and during the week we were there, barely had anyone in. The beach is part of the resort and not across a main road or a few blocks walk away and is private for the Aquila and whilst there is a main-ish road out the front if you’ve got a sea view room it’s barely audible – I had more problems from the noise of the birds waking me up or the bar music keeping me awake. And the noisy bar was my only real complaint and that was only because it was loud one night until 1am and I was up at 5am for the Samaria Gorge walk. Other nights it was just as noisy, but I slept through it or stayed up without caring, the night I needed to get ready for the longest walk of my life, I cared!

This is the view to the right from our balcony with the lobby beneath. Very nice place to relax but could be a bit noisy at night.

The balcony view to the left, the beach!

The food in the main restaurant was more than fine. Every dinner they had the same spaghetti option along with plain rice and then various other varied foods. I can be a bit picky with meat and there was only one evening where I didn’t want to eat anything other than vegetables (and spaghetti, which I could have eat every evening!). Breakfasts were the same every morning and the standard choices of bacon, sauages, eggs (fried, scrambled, boiled), beans, mini pancakes (with syrup) and the usual variety of croissants, cake and bread. It’s also standard because it isn’t “british” bacon or “british” suasages, but as with any AI it has to cater for all tastes and although I could have done with a proper fry up, I was happy to settle for mini chipped potatoes rather than hash browns. Lunch times were the only time I saw chips and both lunch and dinner had a nice variety of puddings – I love baklava! And apple cake! And the cherry cream cake thing they had! There’s also fresh fruit at every meal.

I created this in the main restaurant with the plain and bolognaise sauce, sweetcorn from the salad bar, meatballs and pureed garlic from the side. It was scrummy!

For once I didn’t over indulge completely on food, which might suggest that they didn’t have enough yummy choices for me, but I was actually pleased. Nothing jumped out as being authentically Greek, but AI never have to me so it wasn’t a problem. I got the real taste and flavours of Greece on the excursions I did, more of which later!

~ Persephone M

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