In case you missed the first two posts:
Day 4: Tuesday, September 20
After a quick flight from Athens, we arrived in Crete at about 8:30am. We were quickly met by our driver and taken to Old Town Chania, which is where we would be staying for the next four days. In Chania we stayed at Serenissima Boutique Hotel was the most picturesque and perfect seven-room hotel. The hotel staff was unbelievable and since it’s such a small hotel, they soon learned your names and were the most helpful of any of the staff we encountered over our two week vacation.
When we arrived to the hotel, we were starving. The hotel was very accommodating and before we knew it, I was eating my bowl of yogurt with granola and Big Guy was eating his new favorite breakfast: scrambled eggs with fresh tomato and feta. Petros had arranged for a lady from Diktynna Travel to come and meet us at our hotel so we could start planning our few days in Chania. Natalia arrived at about 10am and while she was full of resources, it was also rather overwhelming. I think it was a mixture of being tired and hungry but Big Guy was not in the best of moods.
Thankfully we were able to wrap up our meeting with her that included us booking a walking tour around Chania for later in the afternoon. After breakfast we got settled in our room which was quite small but I’m certain most rooms in Crete are small due to the Venetian architecture and age of the building (built in the 1600s). We freshened up and then headed out for a little exploring of our own on foot including walking around the Venetian Harbor and seeing the lighthouse.
After lots of exploring, we stopped for lunch at Kouzina E.P.E. for an authentic laid back Greek lunch. The place was packed when we arrived but we were able to grab a table for two outside. My favorite bite was the fried feta with honey. Delicious.
After a long lunch we headed back to our hotel to meet our walking tour guide. She led us on a two hour walking tour throughout Chania and it definitely made us more comfortable navigating the town alone. At the end of the tour we stopped by a family owned knife shop and ended up purchasing a pizza cutter they were making at that moment. It was so cool to watch the entire process and talk to the family. The daughter who manages a lot of the shop is getting married this year and she’s actually coming to the USA for her honeymoon. There will be over 700 guests at her wedding!!!!
Once our knife was wrapped up, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. The staff at the hotel were very helpful in making our dinner reservations and we had reservations at Tamam which was very close to our hotel in the deep Old Chania. This was probably my favorite dinner in Crete. The food was absolutely incredible and I have never had more tender lamb in my life. The lamb was cooked with a tomato sauce that included olives and it was to die for. We also started with Cretan dipping cheese and fennel fritters and it remains some of our favorite bites from the trip.
With full bellies we headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.
Day 5: Wednesday, September 21
We worked with the hotel the day before to set up to have a rental car for the day. The car would arrive at 9:30am so we got up and had breakfast at the hotel before heading out for a day of exploring.
Renting a car in Chania was SO different than renting a car in America. If we totaled the car, it would only cost us 200 euros. And we were told bumps and scratches were no big deal. After a day of driving – we understood why. Thankfully our car had GPS but it was in Greek…so that proved interesting. I definitely had to pay attention during this trip. We drove to Kissamos first with many pit stops along the way.
There were olives and grapes growing everywhere!
The hotel had helped us arrange a tour at the Biolea Olive Oil Factory at 1:30pm so we made sure to give ourselves plenty of time to make it there without getting lost. The daughter, Miss Chloe, gave us a semi-private tour (two other couples were with us) and I learned SO much. It is amazing how much work goes into making olive oil. Some tips: make sure to always, always, always purchase Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “Pure” olive oil means nothing – it actually just means it’s purified and you’re not getting 100% olive oil. Also, make sure to purchase olive oil that is in a glass bottle, preferably green or dark in color.
After the tour we watched a quick video and got to taste the olive oil. We purchased a couple of bottles to bring home and I plan on getting in touch with the distributer here in the U.S. so I can buy some more. They have a lemon olive oil that is amazing!
All of our exploring built up an appetite and we finally made it to Gramvousa back in Kissamou. Finding this restaurant proved challenging with the one way streets that aren’t labeled but it was totally worth it. The menu was huge but we finally narrowed it down and our favorite dishes were the garlic dip, fried meatballs and the homemade grilled bread.
The food in Crete was the best food of the trip and I credit it that to the freshness and simplicity. The quality of the ingredients was beyond anything I have ever tasted.
After lunch we explored a little more and then started to make our way back to Chania. We had so much fun with our Fiat and this day of exploring is still one of the highlights of our time in Greece. I wish I could tell you everything we saw and did.
Dinner on the second night was at The Well of the Turk, a cozy taverna located in the old harbor. We dined al fresco where I ordered the Turkish Pizza for dinner. The restaurant has so much history and I didn’t want to dinner to ever end.
Side note: Since we ate dinner much later than normal, we never really found ourselves wanting to go out afterwards. We typically just headed back to the hotel so that we would be well rested for the day ahead.
Day 6: Thursday, September 22
This day we kept breakfast super light because we knew we would spend the day eating during our Tastes of Crete cooking class.
Side note: The cost of the cooking class was included in our package we purchased through Hellenic Holidays.
We were met by Natalia at our hotel at 9:35am and she had another couple with her that would be in the class, too. We started the tour at the market in the center of town and learned a little about the culture as well as tasted some olives and cheese from one of the venders.
We were then escorted from the market to an 18th century farmhouse that is surrounded by organic gardens. As soon as we arrived we were introduced to Stella, a grandmother in Crete who would be teaching the class. We immediately fell in love with Stella and by the end of the class she wanted Big Guy to come home with her.
The class was incredibly fun and after a morning of cooking, we all sat down to enjoy lunch together. We prepared Kalitsounia pies, stuffed vegetables, stew lamb with wine, tzatziki dip and dakos. And yes, I received a little cookbook so I plan on hosting a Taste of Crete dinner sometime in the near future.
Unfortunately the lunch had to end and we had to say goodbye to our friends. Once we arrived back in Chania, Big Guy and I stopped for a glass of wine and a beer along the harbor at Salis. While we enjoyed our drinks, we chatted about what we wanted to do on our last day in Crete. The day was wide open and after debating whether to rent another car for the day we ended up deciding to book a private daily cruise on the Sea Star.
After drinks, we walked some more and then headed back to our hotel to freshen up for the evening. We didn’t want a heavy dinner after eating a heavy lunch so we chatted with the front desk at the hotel and unfortunately her suggestion fell through due to a private event that night. We ended up heading back to Salis and shared the most amazing meat and cheese board with wine. It was a slow and simple dinner that I never wanted to end. The ocean breeze, the liveliness of the town – it was intoxicating.
Day 7: Friday, September 23
Unfortunately we awoke to hearing there were choppy seas but we were still able to go on our daily cruise. It was just us plus the captain and mate and I was just happy to be on the water. We sailed from the Old Town Harbor to Theodorou Island where we able to snorkel (including the wreck of the German aircraft Junker 52 from the WWII), lay out and just enjoy a day of relaxing in the sun. It was perfection!
We were served a light lunch and enjoyed some wine and beer on the boat. The best part was teaching the captain the meaning of “booze cruise.” We returned back to the dock at around 5pm and it was time to shower and get ready for our last dinner in Crete.
We went back and forth on where to make reservations but we ended up at Portes, which means “doors.” This dinner wasn’t my favorite but I totally have myself to blame – I think I was overwhelmed and just ordered wrong. Big Guy had the lamb and it was so delicious.
Back to the hotel we went to pack for our early transfer to Santorini (eeeek!!!!!)
Crete, I had no idea that I could fall in love with a town I knew so little about. You were full of history and your food was simply the best. I hope I’m able to visit you again in my lifetime because there is so much more of you I’d like to explore.