As I look back on photos of our visit to Crete, I realize that they reflect my favorite things about this very special island that we called home for five years. Hands down, my favorite memory of the island is the people. Coming in second – a tie between the sea and the food.
After our leisurely trip across northern Spain, we took a fast train to Marseilles, France where we could pick up a cheap Ryan Air flight direct to Crete (avoiding the inevitable long layover in Athens via other major airlines). As we de-boarded in Hania on Sept 2, unpacked and took a big relaxing breath, it didn’t take long to settle right back into the island pace that we’d grown so accustomed to. In fact, there was an overwhelming sense of “coming home.” We remarked more than once about how it seemed that we’d been on a long vacation back to the States and now we were just returning home.
When we moved from the island back to Colorado a little over a year ago, we had left in a state of urgency – a family emergency pulled us home and distracted us from many “proper” goodbyes to Crete. Now we were returning for some much needed closure. We had no agenda, no itinerary, and no expectations except to see friends, eat good food and swim in the still warm waters of the Med. My best days involved all three – at the same time.
Each morning we would wake up in our little Cretan stone house, wander down the narrow back street to the local taverna where Nikos served up our usual morning fare- two espresso macchiatos with extra foam. I’d forgotten how the Greeks always serve up coffee in style – accompanied by a tall glass of water and a cookie on the side (all for two euros), and this no frills taverna tucked back into a serene little village was no different. Most of our daily planning was done over our coffees at the small table in the corner under the shade of the big plane tree. It was very hot for most of the two weeks we were in Crete so our mornings usually started off with a swim in the sea at nearby Marathi Beach. After that, we mostly set off to visit with friends or just walk around Hania remarking at how good everything looked considering the “crisis”.
Only twice did we venture away from the Hania area. Once was to visit with our friend Babis at his extraordinary B&B Villa Kerasia, in the hills above Heraklion. Some things never change (in a good way) and the villa is no exception. Babis warmly welcomed us back and we spent long hours over good wine and food reminiscing and laughing about earlier days together. And there are still kittens everywhere! (villa-kerasia.gr)
The other day trip we took was to our favorite seaside village on the south coast, Paleohora, where we surprised our friend and local artist Manto and her husband to their great delight. It was wonderful to see that her business (studio, rooms for rent and an amazing breakfast café) was doing so well. (mantostudios.gr)
Because we had intentionally planned big holes in our schedule, we had ample room for the spontaneous which, from experience, tend to result in the most fun and memorable times. Our days were full of soul satisfying sustenance. Rather than sampling a little of everything, we chose to feast on a few simple pleasures in the friends, the food and the sea. On the 12th day of our return to Crete, I woke up and suddenly realized, I’m ready to go home – to Colorado – and sink my roots in there. And as I took one last look down at Crete from our departing flight, my heart was full; not of sadness for leaving but of gratitude for the time we had there. God had granted the closure I needed and now it was not only OK to move on, it was necessary. Someday, we would return as visitors reliving precious memories. But for now, I could smile down at my special island with peace and know all is well.