And just like that it’s autumn.
We’ve been home from Crete for a week now and I’ll start by saying a little bit about the travel itself. We booked the holiday at the start of the year, before we’d even heard of Covid-19. Nobody could have foreseen the impact it has had on travel, so we were both a little apprehensive, but we need not have worried.
Travel during Covid-19
We flew from Leeds Bradford, a small and relatively quiet airport at the best of times. On the day we flew out, there was only one flight per hour. There were no queues, everyone wore a mask and everything was very efficient, including the usual security procedures. The flight was full, and again, everyone wore a mask and only very few passengers got up or moved. The transfer from Heraklion airport to our hotel was via minibus with alternate rows of seating in use. We’d checked into the hotel online prior to arriving, so all we needed to do when we got there was have our temperature checked.
(On 7th September, our last full day there, the Government announced that as of 4am 9th September, those returning to England from several Greek islands, including Crete, must quarantine for 14 days. We were due to land 12 hours before that deadline, at 4pm on 8th. Thankfully there were no delays so we didn’t need to quarantine).
Minos Beach Art Hotel
We stayed at Minos Beach Art Hotel which is a fifteen minute walk away from the centre of Agios Nikolaos. We stayed half board in a sea view bungalow which was absolutely gorgeous. It had a small patio with a view to die for. The hotel website describes the rooms as minimalist boho-chic and that’s exactly what they are.
The grounds are gorgeous too.
I’ve never seen such vibrant pink bougainvillea.
This is Bacchus, the main restaurant. We had breakfast and dinner there most evenings.
Meals there were a combination of A La Carte and buffet. Buffets were served from behind a screen. All restaurant staff wore masks and/or visors.
We had lunch most days at Terpsis restaurant which has stunning views across the sea.
We loved that we got olive oil and tomato sorbets with the bread. The sorbets melted quickly to make the perfect dips.
Both Bacchus and Terpsis serve authentic Greek and more specifically Cretan food; every dish was exceptional.
The hotel sits on a private stretch of the water’s edge. We made the most of this with swimming. snorkelling and moon-gazing.
The pool at Minos Beach Art Hotel is surrounded by sunbeds, each with a canopy. It was always quiet and serene. One of the restaurant staff told us that they were at 75% occupancy. Even with another 30% as many guests again, (give or take), 100% occupancy wouldn’t have felt full or crowded; it’s very spacious.
The main town of Agios Nikolaos is a fifteen minute walk from the Minos Beach Hotel. It’s a pretty place with shops, cafes and restaurants. We went a few times and bought postcards and souvenirs.
Spinalonga is a small arid island which lies at the mouth of the natural port of Elounda. It has a rather interesting history. Due to its strategic location, it was fortified and served a variety of roles and purposes over the centuries. It is perhaps best known though as the last leper colony in Europe. Lepers from Crete and the rest of Greece were kept in isolation there until 1957.
In the 16th century the Venetians built a fortress on the ruins of an ancient acropolis. They kept control of the island even after the rest of Crete fell to the Ottomans in 1669. Today thousands of tourists, ourselves included, visit Spinalonga by boat.
It is beautiful despite it being so barren but it felt very poignant. I cannot imagine how the ostracised lepers must have felt, knowing they would end their days there.
Cretan Olive Farm
Both Ian and I love cooking and cook most things from scratch. We particularly enjoy Mediterranean food and use a lot of olive oil. When we saw that the Cretan Olive Oil Farm is just a half-hour walk from the Minos Beach hotel, we decided to go. We did a self-guided tour, but there are options for a guided tour with tasting as well as cookery and pottery lessons.
There is a well-stocked shop, with every imaginable olive oil product and locally grown or produced honey and Raki. The honey is the nicest I have ever tasted so we bought some and also bought Raki, olives, olive oil and olive paste (tapenade).
We hired a car for a day and went in search of somewhere pretty to have lunch and to swim. We happened across Mochlos. It ticked every box and n fact, we loved it so much, we stayed for dinner in a super restaurant. It’s a very unspoiled little fishing village, with a small rocky beach, two shops and several restaurants and cafes.
But it was this bougainvillea-clad shop that stood out. It is as lovely inside as it is out too and sells clothes, jewellery and artisan crafts.
If my suitcase could have accommodated it, I would have bought a huge raffia lampshade to go over an outdoor pendant bulb on my pergola. Alas, it was way too big to get home, but I have certainly taken a lot of inspo for my home from our holiday. If we go to Crete again, we’d definitely pay Mochlos another visit.
It was a wonderful holiday. I missed my children hugely, but Ian and I really enjoyed the time alone. Agios Nikolaos is a lovely town and Minos Beach Art Hotel is beyond beautiful. We’re considering going back for our honeymoon next year.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as enjoyed writing it. We both feel very grateful to have managed to travel during Covid-19 and to have had such a wonderful time knowing that it was safe to do so. We both feel we are a little bit more prepared for the autumn and winter months ahead. And please click here to see what I wore during the holiday.