Having resigned myself to not getting an overseas holiday this year, it was getting towards the end of August when I realised that I didn't think I'd get through the winter without doing so. So I did something I've never done before, I booked a last-minute package holiday!! Two motivations for booking a package, firstly it was a lot easier at very short notice than booking all the individual parts of it separately and secondly it has better security in these times of Covid in case things were cancelled or I couldn't go for some reason.
I chose Crete because my yoga teacher comes here regularly and talks highly of it as a holiday destination, others have also told me what a great country Greece is. I've never been before and I figured it has most of the things I look for from a holiday: archaeological sites, churches, great landscape for hiking in, great weather. I haven't seen any art yet but I'm open to the possibility of there being great art here too and the food isn't bad either (although apparently the Greeks don't eat much hummus - what!! Stereotype / misconception blown). My hotel is in the party town of Malia but it's in a quiet part in the old town and away from the main drag and centrally located for the main things I want to do during my week here.
It was a bit more stress than normal coming abroad in Covid; extra forms to fill out, more expensive travel insurance, £66 spent on Covid tests for re-entry to the U.K. Also the plane felt risky - being with people maskless when eating and drinking right next to me for a 4h flight, I have not been in such close proximity to so many people since before the pandemic. But I had anticipated this risk and decided I wanted to come aboard so badly it was a risk I was willing to take.
I arrived on Saturday afternoon and spent the first evening going to supermarkets trying to figure out what I could eat - many packets only have the ingredients written in Greek, in the Greek alphabet, so what they contain is a total mystery. It's easier in a with Roman numerals as at least I can use Google translate if I can't read it but not with Greek! Hummus is hard to get hold of, soya milk costs €2.50 and there are no tinned chickpeas - rapid recalibration of meal plans required lol. That first evening I also took a walk around the local area and found that you can't really walk along the shore but you don't have to go far to get out of the busy touristy bit and into rural farmland (pomegranates, bananas, olive trees).
My first full day I visited the one attraction that is within walking distance of Malia, which was the Palace of Malia, the ruins of a 4000-year-old Minoan palace. I arrived early and was the only person in the site for at least half an hour, you wouldn't get that in Pompeii!! It was really interesting; the site itself didn't have a lot of information displayed but I had found a really great website with detailed information so I use that as my guide (recommend minoancrete dot com). So thankful that I still have a free roaming in the EU with O2! I don't think I could function on holiday without data anymore so it's going to add to the cost of the holiday in the future if I have to pay to roam… I definitely appreciated the ruins more having visited similar places in Malta and Italy previously, I'm a little familiar now with the names of the rooms and the sort of functions they have so that makes it easier to figure out what's what when looking at piles of stones; even though the ruins are from slightly different times and obviously built by different peoples in different countries there is some commonality between them. It was hard to work out how much was "restored" vs how it had been found as some of the walls etc were definitely reconstructed.
I ate my lunch overlooking Potamos beach, which many say is the nicest beach in this part of Crete (the beaches closest to Malia strip are very small and very crowded). I stumbled upon it quite by accident as it just happened to be off the road but I was walking down anyway. It did look like a very nice beach although still small and quite crowded compared to Carbis bay!). I did think I'd like to swim in the sea on this trip but I can't see myself sitting on the hot sand in the heat with hundreds of other people; I couldn't swim in the sea for fear of my valuables being stolen. I might go down to the sea very early one morning to take a dip, that would be the only way I could do it I think. I swam in the hotel pool a couple of times, which was nice. The hotel pool has a view of mountains, it's pretty small but the hotel is not busy so I've had it to myself both times.
On Sunday afternoon, after a couple of dead starts, I managed to find a footpath that runs between Malia and the village of Mohos, The other side of the mountain range. This is an ancient stone walkway that was built a very long time ago to connect the two settlements. I walked for an hour up the path to reach the highest point with spectacular views all around - along the coast to Malia in the East, Chernissos / Hersonissos to the West and inland to Mohos the village destination of the footpath. Walking here, I had a momentary I had a momentary thought "i'm not sure I should be walking here alone, without having told anybody where I'm going what time I will be back" - the path was rocky and sometimes steep and unstable underfoot, with evidence of recent landslides; it was very hot and I didn't see another soul the whole time I was walking, only Mountain goats. I thought if I broke my leg or fell and hurt myself I will be literally screwed as nobody would know where I was or come to rescue me! Thankfully that didn't happen! I was also reassured to have full signal on the phone network the whole way... It was 100% worth it when I reached the top and could see over to the other side of the mountains. It really gave me a feel for Crete as this mountainous island with flat bits around the edges, a lot of rocks and a few sandy beaches. It reminds me a lot of Malta really, both the climate and the landscape, a bit more earth / sand / vegetation here whereas Malta is mostly only rocks. I saw trees that looked like the carob trees on Malta but a bit bigger. Rather than hiking on to Mohos (unsure I would be unable to take public transport back), I turned around and came back down the way I came.
After my active day, I lay on a sun lounger by the hotel pool for an hour and read my book, which was a lovely end to the day. I'm really happy with this hotel, it's in a great location with awesome mountain views, so small and friendly and well equipped yet quiet at night - just what I want and need.