After a magnificent start with the weather here, a forecast of heavy rain for the next three days inevitably affects my decision about what to do. Yesterday I wanted to visit the places that are clearly better enjoyed in sunny weather. Although rain was at first forecast for today – Friday – I woke to a sunny morning and the promise of a good day when I checked my iPhone’s local weather. So, instead of heading off for more sightseeing, I decided the best plan was to stay put. After all, this is a holiday, and I want some rest. But also the local beaches here are famous for their beauty and cleanliness so wouldn’t it be crazy not to enjoy them? Especially since Voulisma Beach, also known as Golden Beach, is barely 5 minutes walk away.
The village of Istron straddles the main highway but although busy, it’s not a highway in the sense we Brits or Americans might imagine. There don’t seem to be motorways as such and main roads are … well, perhaps what we’d call A roads in UK. El Greco apartments are located in a small, steep road just off the main road.
It is quite noisy, it has to be said, but Manolis did offer to move me to another apartment after the first night (not because I complained but when I arrived he remembered I was keen to have a good view of the sea and an apartment with a nicer view would be free the next day). However, I happily settled into the lower apartment and when I looked at the other on the second day; the view from the balcony was wonderful and the sea more clearly visible, but it was also a smaller, darker apartment and I’d grown – in just one day – used to the lighter, more spacious one I had.
Another thing I like about being at this level – not actually ‘ground’ for you go up some steps, but in one way ground because of the steep rise of the road – is that I’m open to what’s going on and seeing people passing. Apart from chats with Manolis and others working here when I sit outside, my kind Russian neighbours brought round a huge chunk of watermelon as a gift a couple of nights ago; a man passing with a huge dog joked with me about the dog taking him for a walk. Everyone is so friendly and will stop and talk. When I was in Mohlos yesterday, arriving at the cafe where I had morning coffee, an elderly woman, dressed in widow’s weeds, i.e. entirely in black, her white hair tied back and through her smile a sight of many missing teeth, welcomed me so warmly I thought she owned the cafe. But no, she was just passing. She took my hands and asked where I was from (seemed impressed by ‘London’) and told me a little about her husband. This is one of the things I love so about Greece: the Greek are great talkers, and also great philosophers. They talk about life.
Cretan honey is famous for its health-giving properties: this is raw, unadulterated, unprocessed honey. And it’s very delicious. I then decided to explore the village more and walking further than I’d done before, I found a bakery.
I sat outside with a coffee for a while and bought some bread for lunch. It was interesting to see that inside, while there were cakes, baklava and some fresh bread, mostly there were packets of dried breads, of the kind used in my Cretan salad yesterday lunchtime.
Then I headed to the beach. Voulisma Beach is known as Golden Beach because of its golden sand and clear turquoise water. It’s quite small but is said to be one of the best beaches in Crete. At 10 am it was already busy. I had to pay €2.50 for a sunbed, but it was worth it. I swam. I sunbathed. I headed up steep steps after an hour for a coffee at the cantina and sat enjoying the view.
I swam some more – beautiful water! – sunbathed some more and then decided to head back to the apartment. I like a bit of beach but you’d never catch me spending all day on one! I bought some feta cheese on the way back and made myself a kind of Greek salad for lunch with the vegetables I’d bought in the market on Wednesday.
I didn’t have salt – the feta would be salty enough and I didn’t want to buy a kilo pack for just one or two lunches – and no lemon or vinegar. But I smothered it in fruity, local extra virgin olive oil and it was delicious. Later, I wandered down to Silver Beach in the other direction, sometimes known as Church Beach.
I love the sense of being in real Greece-Crete here. It’s not touristy. Yes tourists are catered for, but local life continues: people grow their own vegetables, tend olive trees, shop in the local supermarkets. Yesterday two local men sat for hours outside a cafe playing a board game. Here life goes on – slowly; there’s not really a tourist season but just different things happening at different times of the year. Manolis said people come to his apartments all through the year, although of course summer is busier.
Back on my sunny balcony I finished a book, drank some tea and contemplated on which of the two tavernas offering live music and dancing I should go to tonight.