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Royal Endeavors – Leisure and Pleasure: The Richness of Crete

“If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!”

― Shel Silverstein

My dear audience,

Welcome to the much awaited Royal Endeavors glorious episode, dedicated to one of Greece’s most delightful island – the bright and sunny Crete!

In the ever boiling pot of political frustration Romania is currently drowning into, I hope this highly energetic adventure will somehow smooth the frown lines that have been shading our third eye chakras lately.

I assume you all by now you are aware of energetic sovereignty the pandemic and the deeply disturbing political background is requested at individual level and you have been doing your purging, release and (re)grounding work. 

But first, let’s get ourselves aligned to a refreshing new energy because that is what our souls have been craving, not world wide crises and conflicts to distract us from the real grounding and awakening work! 

My vacation in Crete was a fabulous experience and this is not just because it has been the first trip out of the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Greece has always been a favorite destination for me ever since I have first visited it 20 years ago. 

Even though autumn is demanding her throne as we speak, I can’t miss the opportunity of sharing this blog post with you, spiced up with enchanting tales about my joyous adventures on tropical paradise beaches and bringing into the attention of conscious shoppers the ultimate Greek shopping guide. 

I feel it will serve you properly when choosing the next year’s summer destination. Since it is my second time in Crete, I hope by reading my blog post you will clearly understand why this lovely island feels so attractive. 

Nothing compares to discovering local traditional crafts, artful artisans and stylish boutiques, savoring new flavors and relishing the enrichment the mediterranean lifestyle can bring. The streets in Rethymno, our residence city for a full week, were filled by tourist curiosity, Cretan inspiration and Godly creativity.

To clarify, the energy of an island is superior to that of a land, a fact which caused a slight delay in virtually displaying my mezmerising journey to the birthplace of Zeus, the king of Gods. You can expect an energetic comedown as soon as you return home, if you are not actually living on an(other) island, that is.

Let’s start with Rethymno first, the capital of Rethymno regional unit, a city which has a population of more than 30,000 inhabitants, originally built during the Minoan civilization (ancient Rhithymna and Arsinoe).

Our area of interest was the aristocratic old town (palia poli), which was almost entirely built by the Republic of Venice and is one of the best-preserved old towns in Crete, with its elegant buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, the small Venetian harbour and charming narrow streets, which is now seasoned with picturesque tavernas and stylish boutiques.

The old town was some 20 minutes walk down the seafront from our hotel, Atrium Ambiance Hotel, which the locals have spoken highly of. The trip was booked via Cocktail Holidays, which had also provided the additional trip options to Balos Lagoon, Preveli Beach and Elafonisi Beach, all exotic places I recommend you to visit.

I am just that type of person that books an all inclusive resort and doesn’t leave the property, if you know what I mean. Such an approach demands a certain type of mindset I do not particularly fancy.

☀️ Balos Lagoon

Balos Lagoon was first on my list – a world famous lagoon and beach famous for being one of the most ravishing places in Greece, an earthly paradise of unparalleled beauty distinguished by its white sand with discreet hues of pink and vivid turquoise water.

This place is where I have come to the realization that: 

🔸 God lives where abundance is;

🔸 Food impacts mood (more than you’d think).

Although the aesthetically appealing beach can easily turn into the most loved IG moment, seeing the deserted, rocky scenery for the first time was nearly terrifying.

This place is certainly not compatible with human life or any acknowledgeable life form, as a matter of fact. It felt like I had landed on the Moon for 3 hours to have my skin tanned just for the sake of it. I love turquoise crystal clear waters but I love nature’s greenery even more. Distressed sceneries are just not my cup of tea. I guess it was all bit disturbing, that is. Being alone on this trip didn’t help.

For this particular trip, I had to take a cruise on a large ship with hundreds of people from different parts of the world. I think all travel agents around Rethymno offer the same option of getting there – first by bus to get to the large ship and then a cruise to Balos Lagoon. 

The ship had a restaurant service which served just a few dishes, which did not look that appealing to me but I still ate for necessity. I am not crazy about eating because I have to. 

Having been surrounded by so many people with different energies, waking up at 6 in the morning and eating poorly had definitely impacted my mood that day. I felt a strong urge to just sit alone with my (positive) thoughts and avoid contact. I felt it would have require a great alteration to my mood just to speak. I am well aware of my self preservation tendencies and I just don’t think I should do anything about it, except of giving my mind and body exactly what it requires from me. 

I only exchanged a few words because I had to. Having this observation regarding the quality of food, energy and company into my awareness was impressive. I always knew food and sleep were important, but I did not realize how much they would impact my mood.

After visiting Balos Lagoon, I had the chance to visit Imeri Gramvousa, a rocky pirate island, which solely has one inhabitant and a church. Neither of these places have network coverage, by the way. There was a man on this island who was selling sea shells and really looked like a pirate. It was funny and scary in the same time, perhaps he was the descendant of a pirate after all. I actually preferred this small island to Balos beach because, fortunately, some people went up the stairs to visit the Venetian fortress so I had more space to breathe. 

After all, I am sorry to disappoint you but there will be a lot of people on both beaches photobombing your perfect pics at any time of the day so this time I preferred to sacrifice some of my tanning time for the sake of capturing the following.

☀️ Preveli Beach

If you’d ask me which is the most stunning beach I have ever seen, I would tell you nothing compares to the enchanting secluded sanctuary Preveli paradise is. Its vibrational imprint is outstanding – I truly felt this was the right place for me.

The imposing palm grove, the cool lagoon colored in hues of blue and green, the majestic rocky heights completing the tropical scenery, dogs playing with each other because you’re allowed with pets on the beach and the funny gaggle wondering around among tourists make this beach an earthly blessing. I felt a strong sense of gratitude flooding inside of me. I am telling you – a touch of green is breathing life in everything. If you’d ask me where God lives, this must be the place indeed!

The trip to Elafonisi beach had also included a first stop in Spili, a wonderful little village that perfectly portrays the Greek spirit, with a touch of style offered by the posh coffee shops and eclectic boutiques. I am sure you will find my future shopping guide blog post quite rewarding in terms of thoughtful souvenirs to please even the most fancy audience.

I had a wonderful time in Spili, wondering around on its narrow streets, visiting The Folk Museum, having a Greek coffee in Platanos Cafe and a shopping spree in Maravel Shop, purchasing the most luxurious smelling Yasmine soap and Roses solid shampoo, along with a fine selection of local aromatic herbs and teas. What an enchanting little village Spili is! I highly recommended adding it to your must see list.

There is nothing like a grilled octopus dinner wrapping up this perfect day, possibly the best one I have spent in Crete. I am crazy about grilled octopus – every time I am in Greece, I use to have it daily in different restaurants just to compare the taste and cooking styles. This time I have discovered what really makes a difference in taste for me – extra olive oil and garlic! It tastes like dreams coming true!

☀️ Elafonisi Beach

If you are into Caribbean vibes, Elafonisi Beach in Crete is a peach. Turquoise crystal clear sea water and glowing pink sands – what else can you wish for? I certainly wished for less people visiting this beach in the same time as me.

There was so much Romanian being spoken all around that it didn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong – I feel listening to and speaking in foreign languages puts the brain to great use, which I was deprived of for basically understanding everything. I prefer Mediterranean coastal plants and wild white lilies on the beach.

Prior to our 3 hours bathing into the sun mission at Elafonisi beach, we had first visited the Wisdom of God cave, filled with massive stalactites and stalagmites and hosting the small and modest orthodox Agia Sofia church. The road to reach this tourist point was an attraction by itself, I am pretty sure I have seen some goats climbing out of the gorge. I enjoyed seeing this raw, untouched by “civilization” side of Crete.

I did not feel the divine presence in this cave but I understand why God’s Wisdom would lead to a place like this during Sultan Mehmed II attacks over Crete.

I personally do not resonate with pain, suffering, battles, conquests and all this bloody barbaric side of history that pushed men into finding comfort into caves. I understand religion from the perspective of the Risen Jesus Christ and that is what I wish to see in the world during my lifetime – a rise in the quality of living, health, standards and consciousness. That’s why I am here anyway and this is how I wish to honor the divine presence shining inside of me. I am sure it is not the most popular Christian opinion to focus on the ascension.

The view from the cave entrance deserves the stone staircase effort but you have to be careful not to slip – the surface is glossy because of the intensive tourist traffic and shoes other than flip flops would be of greater use.

I ended the day with a grilled lamb chops dish that arrived with more than 30 minutes of delay, even though the staff was beyond fast and attentive. I feel it is because, at the bottom of my heart, I didn’t really mean to eat them.

They didn’t serve any grilled octopus though. I am not a big fan of lamb, especially not for Easter anyway, but there weren’t many attractive dishes in the menu so I just asked for this. I might have mixed up the pictures each dish was accompanied by in the menu because I would rarely eat lamb. It’s just a thing of mine – lambs look too sweet and moreover, they remind me of baby Jesus.

Fine Dining

Now back to the old town, there are three warm recommendations I need to make, because the service and food were exquisite and the places deserve a praise. 

Wandering down the narrow streets nearby the aristocratic Venetian port have plenty of advantages, such as discovering picturesque restaurants to eat. I’d consider the tables fully booked as a statement of high quality, although Cretan food and services are always on point, no matter where you decide to dine. That’s just the truth. Besides that, I also consider the esthetics as one of the main attributes that contribute to the choices I make. 

♥️ To Pigadi

Xanthoudidou 31, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

Such a charming little place in the heart of Rethymno, serving excellent creative Cretan and international cuisine in a romantic atmosphere!

I am really glad I had the opportunity to enjoy their creative take on octopus. 

The raw materials they use come from local producers combined with aromatics and vegetables from their own garden. Within a few years since its opening in 2003, the restaurant earned its place amongst the top 10 best restaurants of Crete by the international tourist guide Rough Guide and has participated in three contests of Traditional Cretan Cuisine in past years, winning twice the golden and once the silver medal.

I highly recommend it!

♥️ Knossos Tavern

Dedalou, Knosos 714 09, Greece

Knossos Tavern was an enchanting experience – you can imagine, since it is the oldest family run greek taverna in the city. 

It was an instant attraction. I’ve spotted the restaurant during a walk with my parents and  noticed the vibe was different. It only had a few tables and it felt like home. 

The family owned businesses had always attracted me. It is a noble act to be in service of others for generations and a lifetime mission to carry along and move forward proudly the reputation each generation has worked hard to accomplish.

Nevertheless, this place had definitely impressed me with its charming decorations and attention to details. At the end of the meal, I was offered a little olive oil bottle with a heart label on and I was over the moon!

The restaurant has been run by Maria Stavroulaki’s family for more than 50 years. It was originally a coffee shop where Maria’s grandmother used to serve the local people of the harbor. Foreign visitors and sailors also used to meet here, arranged their business matters and discussed their problems.

Maria’s parents took over the business and turned it into a restaurant. As Rethymno grew bigger and attracted more visitors, the Knossos restaurant welcomed more and more customers, many of whom have become close friends.

Apart from the fresh fish, they give them a little piece of their heart. That is what I have felt and what I loved about it.

♥️ Centre for Byzantine Art

Ethnikis Antistaseos, Rethymnon, Crete

Nevertheless, I need to brag a bit about my detective skills. I confess I never plan my trips before, so I allow myself to be aware, open and mesmerized by the places I discover in real time, while I leave my intuition lead the way.

This is how I found a hidden gem – a fantastic roof top terrace in the Centre for Byzantine Art, where they played vintage rock music under the candle light. Not many people would climb a lot a stairs to visit a centre for byzantine art when the streets are so animated and busy.

It is never cluttered, the atmosphere is intimate and I assume not many people know about it, as there are no flashy signs to indicate such a lovely and relaxing place exists.

These being said, Crete is one of the most magical islands I have ever seen. It would be a pity not to visit the birthplace of Zeus, King of Gods, and metaphorically enjoy the taste immortality even for a bit. I hope you will find plenty of reasons to indulge into the luxury of experiencing the mythical kingdom Crete really is.

“There us a kind of flame in Crete – let us call it “soul” – something more powerful than either life or death. There is pride, obstinacy, valor, and together with these something else inexpressible and imponderable, something which makes you rejoice that you are a human being, and at the same time tremble. (Report to Greco)”

― N. Kazantzakis

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One thought on “Royal Endeavors – Leisure and Pleasure: The Richness of Crete

  1. Pingback: Royal Endeavors – Crete – The Ultimate Shopping Guide | Petra Paitici

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