For the majority of our respective 20s my sister and I have been ships in the night, stopping only for brief catch ups between our lives in Melbourne, Canberra, Vienna, Samoa, Kalgoorlie, London and Rwanda. As babies we grew up in Northcote when it was better known for its Greek population than for hipsters, having our cheeks regularly pinched by the Yia Yia at the corner store and snacking from a young age on dolmades, tzatziki and olives. So it makes a lot of sense that our first face to face meeting in almost two years should take place in Greece.
Sarah flew in from Kigali, Rwanda, via Istanbul (missing the attempted military coup by a few short hours) and we met her at Heraklion airport on Crete. We spent our first night speaking a million miles a minute in between stuffing ourselves with olives, laughing and attempting to call our parents to let them know Sarah wasn’t stuck in Turkey.
The next day we piled into our tiny hire car and drove to Plakias, on the south side of the island. We stopped briefly in Rethymno and then I sent us in the wrong direction but we eventually made it to Kassiani Studios, a delightful, family run hotel surrounded by olive groves.
After checking out the local beaches it was wine time by the pool.
I feel like this is suddenly one of those blogs that doesn’t show faces?!
That evening we drove uphill to Taverna Mariou for spectacular views and delicious food.
We opted for a meal of shared appetisers but two dishes actually came out as mains.
The trick I’ve learnt with Greek food is that if you’re unsure of the restaurant’s quality, just order appetisers. They’re always great! This doesn’t apply at Taverna Mariou because the food is excellent, but this is generally a good rule to follow.
Preveli Beach was our first foray into Crete’s ‘hype beaches’. The big deal with Preveli is that it has palm trees (not common) as well a a channel running into the ocean. Frankly, the real thing looks nothing like the photos, the channel is stagnant and smelly and because of the hype, this beach gets very busy, very fast.
The walk down there is nice though:
There are a number of ‘hype beaches’ in Crete (Balos, Elafonissi I’m looking at you) that draw massive crowds and often just end up being packed and disappointing. I found it far more satisfying to find our own swimming spots. I should add a disclaimer here that as Australians, we are far too spoilt when it comes to quiet, beautiful beaches.
That night we had a perfect balcony dinner.
The following day on our drive to Chania we pulled off the highway to grab coffees, happened to look down and saw this:
‘Yeah, we’re going to have to drive down there and jump off that pier’ went our collective inner monologues (I think). So we did.
And it was worth it. The water was gloriously deep and calm.
See what I mean about discovering your own beaches?! So. Good.
Not Balos Beach
That afternoon we stupidly attempted to get to Balos ‘major hype’ beach. It’s a 7km drive on a rocky road followed by a 2km hike.
The views from the road are actually awesome, plenty of blue water and plenty of goats
But when you get to the end of the road, chaos ensues. Despite paying entry to the area (it’s a national park) there are no attendants directing cars and we ended up in one mother of a traffic jam. Cars just kept piling into the parking lot with nowhere to go or park until we were gridlocked and so just sat there eating dolmades and spilling feta juice everywhere.
We decided to call it a day and left without even catching a glimpse of Balos. However, on our way out of the national park area Sarah spotted this tiny slice of heaven just before the gate:
We had this little, Not Balos beach to ourselves for a full hour before another car rolled up. It was glorious.
It was so still and clear.
We celebrated our beach win with ice creams on the way home.
That evening we checked into Niriis Hotel which is actually 3km west of Chania in the Agii Apostoli area. It has two sandy coves nearby which are great for swimming and hanging out.
For dinner we went into Chania where a hunger induced decision led to a lacklustre dinner. At least the place looked cute.
I’m probably still not over my sister randomly ordering a ‘mixed grill for 3’.
The next day Andrew started his scuba diving course leaving Sarah and I to discover more beaches and eat more delicious things…