When you’re planning a family vacation you are faced with particular challenges. Planning for a couple or friends vacation is like a breeze. You can go anywhere, do anything and you don’t have to worry so much about entertaining anyone, but with kids… it’s different. Kids shouldn’t rule the decisions (and they generally don’t) but if you don’t consider them, they’ll rule your entire vacation.
Because we were planning for three we had a few must-haves on our list. #1: A kids club. No kids club = we’re not going. If you have one kid you know exactly what I’m talking about. One kid means that you’re likely to be called on a lot to be the entertainment if there aren’t other kids around so we weren’t budging on this one, we needed some quiet vacation time too. #2: meals. Maybe not all meals but some because after a busy year with lots of changes, this was a great opportunity to kick back and we were looking forward to as little planning as possible this time around. Finally #3: Water. Lots and lots of swimming possibilities so we couldn’t get bored with a little side of snorkeling.
Lucky for us we found exactly what we needed and we were fortunate it also so happened to be in Crete, somewhere neither of us have ever been before.
So why will we be going back? Here’s why…
- The people:
You could not find a nicer bunch of people if you tried! A little Kaliméra to say good morning and efcharistó to say thank you will charm just about every Greek person you’ll encounter. The language is pretty hard for us foreigners so the efforts go a long way and they’re very open and kind. It didn’t matter if we were at the hotel or out in town everyone was helpful and they were always willing to give extra service without being asked, which we just weren’t used to.
It is dry here! So dry. It’s a wonder anything survives but somehow it does and there is something so beautiful about the deep red ochres against the greeny-grey olive trees and succulents. I’m convinced just about every house had their own cluster of olive trees and I was certainly jealous. I found the change of colour scheme to be incredibly attractive and so very inspiring. All this set against the beautiful blue ocean. Come on! …and the sunsets? You know how they say sunsets in the prairies are beautiful? Okay I hear you. They are. But my goodness were these ever beautiful. I didn’t go out of my way to take any photos (just this one quick one at dinner – so it doesn’t really count) because for us it became a nightly event as a family so we all just watched in awe as it would set over the ocean every night. Don’t just take my word for it. Go see for yourself and grab a glass of something while you’re at it.
Their villages are small and often unassuming, in fact I was kinda worried at first, but they ended up really surprising me as they were so packed with charm and character once you stepped in. We expected to encounter more tourists and sure you’ll find some, but mostly you just felt the rhythm of Greek life and a very peaceful atmosphere. It seemed to me that about every restaurant was in some little alleyway or tucked in a corner full of colours and the aromas… YUM! You’ll also find fishing is alive and well and watching the men and women who look like they are part of the landscape was incredible. You felt immediately taken. Also if you want to do a little shopping – I assure you your Euro’s are going much further than in France.
Don’t be fooled, the water can be rough! So rough in fact that for the first few days we actually couldn’t go in with the red flags flying. The weather, however, didn’t keep us from going out on the breakwaters and in the path of the ocean spray which would drench you at first hit. Many shrieks of joy ensued. Once the ocean calmed we were happy to float about on mattresses and try and see what was swimming below the surface of the water. The average water temperature was 28C, you can’t go wrong! As a warning though, many beaches are quite rocky and you may see a sea anemone here and there so sport some fashionable water shoes if you want to be comfortable or at very least, safe. Also – don’t skip the sunscreen and the hats. The UV is incredibly high, it’ll fool you if you aren’t one step ahead.
Getting around Greece was easy. We tested the local bus system to go to a town an hour away and it was simple, cheap and it was lightly air conditioned so we were all pretty relaxed by the time we arrived in Rhythmno. Taxi’s also have a lot of fixed rates so there are no surprises and are easy to find. Say you want to go a little further, well you can hop on a boat and easily find yourself in Santorini and that doesn’t sound too bad to me either. It is, after all, on my bucket list.
Let’s be honest this was us getting our toes wet, next time we hope we’ll rent a car and really get out an explore! We’ve been advised it’s a great idea to get a 4×4 in order to go inland where some of the best sights are not to mention all the places we already wanted to check out along the shores. The gorge of Samaria is probably number 1 on my list. It’s a 16km hike down towards the Libyan sea ending with what are known as the Iron Gates and another beautiful beach. While we might have wanted to do it this time around, we knew it wouldn’t be possible with an 8 year old. Another thing on our list of to-do’s is WINE! Greece is putting itself back on the wine map after having carried a bad reputation for many years. They’re very inexpensive and what we tried was so vastly different from what we’re used to which was a nice change. When we go back we’ll definitely be hitting up a vineyard or two and we’re sure to do a little Greek mythology refresher beforehand because there’s lots to take in.