Thursday, June 4, 2015

What to do in... Crete

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My first Greece blog post was all about our hotel and what we got up to in the resort, so today I thought I'd focus more on what to do in Crete! Well, in that area of Crete anyway. Like I mentioned before, we only had two and a half days there, but managed to fit in an unholy amount. May's the perfect time for exploring as well, it's around 25 degrees so it's still mild enough that you can wander around all day without turning into a puddle.

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On the afternoon of our first full day we hopped on a speedboat and travelled across to Spinalonga (which you may remember as the island we could see from our balcony at The Blue Palace), James Bond-style. It's surrounded by the most beautifully clear, bright turquoise water which I remember quite clearly wanting to throw myself in in the hope that I'd become a mermaid and live in it forever. Turns out it doesn't quite work that way. Whatever. Within four short minutes we'd arrived at the island. 

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You see what I mean about the water? And to think you thought I was weird when I said that mermaid thing. 

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Spinalonga started off as a Venetian fort, so you've got a full 360 view of the sea from the island, as well as all these tiny nooks and crannies built into the walls, which you catch glimpses of aqua water through as you walk past. It became a leper colony, complete with a school and hospital, in 1903 and remained so until 1957.

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It really is like nothing I've ever seen, you feel like you're walking around an Indiana Jones set. Architects have restored the buildings as best as they could and they really have done an amazing job, you instantly get a feel for what it would have been like to live there amongst the big stone buildings and all the little nooks and crannies. After we'd covered the whole island, which takes about an hour/hour and a half, we decided to climb higher and soak up the views. Rob decided to recreate the 'everything you see is yours, Simba' scene from The Lion King which was weirdly erotic.

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We explored some more...

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Look at those views!! Belllllla, bella.

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And with that it was time to hang up our Indiana Jones hats and jump on the speedboat back to The Blue Palace to - you guessed it - chill out at the pool. With 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler in hand by the why, which I would highly recommend.

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Agios Nikolaos Crete Greece 1

Agios Nikolaos is about a twenty minute bus ride from The Blue Palace and is well worth a visit. We only had time to squeeze in a wee afternoon there but I'd loved to have stayed longer. We started off at the famous Voulismeni lake, which myth has it is bottomless (supposedly the Germans disposed of their weapons in there during WW2 but they've never been recovered, ooh-er). It's truly beautiful and picturesque BUT is surrounded with a row of manned restaurants constantly trying to pull you in - the old, 'where are you from? Ah, my aunt's, cousin's, grandmother's cat's from there!' stuff - so we didn't hang around for too long.

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After that we walked right around the coast, stopping pretty much constantly (me) to admire the beautiful turquoise sea...

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... finding the most incredible cars along the way. If I don't own that baby by the time I'm forty then I've gone seriously wrong somewhere.

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We stopped to take a quick outfit photo by the waterfront (which to me looks more like Venice than Little Venice in Mykonos, but don't tell anyone I said that) and before we knew it we'd fallen victim to classic, 'would you like a photo of both of you?' chestnut, where some truly lovely citizen is very confused as to why you're just taking multiple photos of one of your twosome. Believe me, many people around the world think I'm on a very strange egotistical power trip. With sassy shoes on. It actually turned out to be one of my favourite photos of the two of us yet so thank YOU kind passer by.

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We walked for around 25 minutes to find Piato as I'd heard so many good things about it and oh boy it was SO worth it. I'm 99% sure The Proclaimers '500 Miles' song is about a good restaurant. Oh god, Scottish person referencing The Proclaimers, let's move along before I start sprouting ginger hair.

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I literally can't sing its praises enough, the staff were incredible (and also thought I was Greek, which earned them an instant thumbs up in my book) and so, so friendly. They asked if we'd like to eat the traditional Greek we, we said BRING IT ON, so they brought us two side plates each and a selection of food that we could just pick and choose from, including a feta, spinach, bacon and sesame seed salad the size of my head. It was such a nice, sociable way of eating rather than having your separate meals, but it did mean that there was a pretty intense battle going on for the halloumi. I've never moved so quickly in my life.

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Once we'd finished our two course meal they brought us over a huge plate of these little dough balls with honey and ice cream, which is a traditional Greek dessert and, bonus, ridiculously delicious. Oh, and some shots of Raki - you really can't escape that stuff. We were told it was all on the house because they wanted us to get the full Cretan experience. Imagine them doing that at home in a restaurant? No sirree. Then we got the bill and I almost passed out on my plate of ice cream. For two courses (including a big ass leg of pork) and drinks it came to 28 euros. 28 freaking euros ie £20.50 ie the average price of ONE main meal in the restaurants we'd found so far ie oh my god. It turned out to be the best meal we had the whole holiday as well so, seriously, get yo asses to Piato. After that we walked along the beach for a little while, admiring all the colourful blooms, before heading back to the hotel.

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Plaka Elounda Crete Greece What to do 1

Plaka, where do I start... Plaka was something else. It's only a 10 minute walk from the hotel so, with a couple of hours to spare before our flight to Mykonos, we wandered across to see what was 'appenin. There's a little park on the way which I may have got distracted by, the 8 year old in me just saw swings and lost her shit.

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When we finally arrived in Plaka it actually took my breath away it was so beautiful. Each individual shop has a different colour theme, so it's just this tiny little town that's exploding with a rainbow of colours. Blue, purple, lime... you name it. I just walked around the whole time shouting, 'LOOK AT THAT ONE - OH NO WAIT, THAT ONE'S EVEN NICER', until I realised that Rob was slowly backing away pretending he wasn't with me. Ivita, from our hotel, described Plaka as being 'frozen in time' and you really do get the feeling that it's been perfectly preserved, like nothing's changed in the last 50 years and nothing will change in the next 50 years. Are you ready to taste, I mean see, the rainbow? Here goes...

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Beautiful, isn't it? I was prepared to buy all the pots I could get my hands on, but we soon realised that the prices have been tailored to reflect the high number of tourists who visit and were far from cheap. Probably for the best because my case really couldn't handle much more as it was. After a good browse we walked through the rest of the tiny village before stopping at the sea front.

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I'm so glad I've got this photo to show you - see those pebbles in the bottom half of the photo? They're about half a meter under the water, that's how clear it is. Madness isn't it? Bloody beautiful madness.

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Rob got in the water with the finesse of James Bond. I, on the other hand...

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... struggled. A) The pebbles make it slippy as hell and B) it was FREEZING. It quickly became apparent that May's warm in the air but not in the sea. I have to say though, once you were in and swimming about it was really enjoyable and refreshing. You can swim quite far out and still see all the fish below because it's so clear, which is thrilling and terrifying in equal measures (Jaws has ruined me). I stayed quite close to the shore and floated like a content beached whale before going back to the beach to dry out.

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And then it was time to head back for check out, sadly. We walked past the most picturesque little cafe right on the seafront, which I instantly added to my long list of places I need to go back and re-visit with a coke in hand.

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We nipped back to say goodbye to our beautiful room and infinity pool baby and then headed out to say goodbye to things that weren't inanimate objects. It really was a wonderful, whirlwind three days and Crete's somewhere I'd love to head back to, but for a little longer next time as there's so much history to explore (and beaches to lie on). My Cretan adventure might be over, but I've still got two Mykonos posts coming your way next week!

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Thank you again to all the wonderful people at The Blue Palace Hotel, as well as Aegean Airlines, Discover Greece and Kivotos for such a wonderful trip. For more on Greece, check out!

Crete: Where to Stay | Mykonos: Where to Stay