Crete: Welcome to Crete
As the wheels of our Norwegian Airline plane touched down on the Greek island of Crete I was so excited to finally be on Greek soil. I was travelling with fellow blogger Nayna of Simply Sensational Food and we were looking forward to getting to know this little island gem.
The Greek islands hold a mystique of their own going back to ancient Greek mythology and Crete is no exception. It is believed that Crete was the birthplace of Zeus according to Greek mythology.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest Mediterranean island. Chania is a city in the northwest comprising of an Old Town, Venetian harbor and vibrant New Town. There are many places to stay from international hotels to small local B&Bs.
We stayed about a 10 minute drive from the airport or 20 minute drive from Chania in the Loutraki Bay area. Our villa was set on the side of a hill facing the bay. Olea Villas is a collection of two three bedroom villas, sympathetically constructed with local stones however the epitome of modern architecture.
If you want to see inside Olea Villa and know more look out for a blog post coming soon!
Chania has an indoor market which is open everyday however Saturday brings the locals into town to sell their home grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, cheeses, honey and so much more.
Walking around this market I felt like a child in a sweet shop. I wanted to buy so much however only being on the island for a week and with so much sightseeing to do coupled with the fact that we had limited luggage space I was only able to buy a few things!
We drove out into the countryside via windy roads to the village of Vatolakkos to visit Manousakis Winery. A two generation family run winery who are making a wide selection of premium wines and we were able to try about twelve of them!
As well as really smooth and delicious wines we had a lovely platter of food. I bought some of the olive oil and sea salt that they sell on the premises and then donate a portion of the profits to charity – more about this in a future post!
We visited the Botanical Park and Gardens high up in the mountains. Re-built after a fire in 2003 devastated the area and re-opened in 2010. It now has the richest collection of plant life in Europe as well as a restaurant serving food based on Cretan recipes and nutrition. We had a cooking lesson and made two Cretan heritage recipes – Harupopitaki a carob wrap filled with a spinach, leek, onion sautéed mixture and Maratho Pita or Fennel Pie.
I used to think that to make olive oil you just picked the olives and crushed them and the olive oil ran out into containers and there you had it. That is however far from the truth.
Our visit to Biolea Astrikas Estate – an organic olive oil producer who have set themselves apart by producing stone-milled, cold pressed superior quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the smaller Cretan Koroneiki olives.
The surrounding views of the mountains and the sea are outstanding as is the flavour of the Extra Virgin Olive oil they produce.
One of my favourite experiences was spending the day with Valia and her team at Hand Picked Greece. Here on a small holding we spent the day cooking Cretan recipes using a wood fired clay oven and food and herbs harvested from the rich surroundings.
We made all of the items on our menu and sat down communal style to enjoy the food, each other’s company
and some local music.
I will be reproducing some of the recipes and telling you more about our wonderful day. Here are just a couple of photos to whet your appetite!
A private chef at our villa, evening hot tub sessions, picking oranges and lemons by the side of the road and nearly getting lost several times are all part of our great week in Crete.
I will be writing more detailed posts about most of the places and experiences mentioned here. This is just a taster to whet you appetites for the island of Crete and what you can do, see, eat and drink there! Please leave a comment on this post if you have been to Crete and what you loved about it or if you would like to go there one day.