Late afternoon I took a walk along the coast road, eastwards out of town. Apart from the wonderful views, it’s quite a steep uphill road on the way out so feels like good exercise too! As I’ve said before, the path for walkers is excellent and there are often good stone benches to stop at and sit down and take in the view.
I’d popped in at the start of my walk but didn’t want to carry things. The guy in the shop was busy talking to a group of tourists. Later when I returned the shop was empty. Had I been in an hour before, the guy asked. He was so sorry. He’d thought I was Russian (there are a lot of them about) and would understand the talk he was giving but now he could see I was English.
I asked his advice about a few things, chose some gifts and told him about my blog, asking if it was OK to take photos. We talked some more. He said the weather was like Manchester. Have you been to Manchester, I asked, slightly surprised. No, he said, but friends had gone to the university there. So did my son, I told him, and it rains all the time. We laughed. He said he wanted to give me a gift and made some suggestions. I chose a jar of tapenade. More kindness. Istron is full of it. I didn’t stop today. My suitcase is already full! Back at the flat, my Russian neighbours were arriving back from a day out. They’d been to the south, they told me, Ierapetra. It had been sunny there all day. They’d spent the day on the beach. I’d obviously gone to the wrong place, I told them! They don’t speak much English (and I don’t speak a word of Russian!) but they’re always so friendly when I see them.
It’s customary for The Single Gourmet Traveller to go to her favourite restaurant of the holiday on her last night. Well, doesn’t everyone? Now, I know this is going to upset George from Panorama and I don’t wish to offend the friendly people at Zygos either but I’m afraid there’s absolutely no contest here for my gourmet affections: forging clearly ahead, the clear winner is Meraki, the lovely taverna below the apartments.
I love their food. There’s a wonderful simplicity to it, a fantastic freshness as it’s cooked to order and laid before you, just as it’s ready. I love that it’s the least touristy place. Yes there are tourists – in fact a group of five English women tonight at a table a little way from me – but always locals too. It doesn’t feel as if it’s catering to the tourists; it feels like they just cook their Cretan food as they’ve always done. They don’t adorn it with lots of extras. You just get exactly what you order. I’d seen the young guy earlier and said I’d be in; it was my last night. When was I leaving, he asked me now. And did I want my usual glass of red wine. He brought a menu. I wanted to have some of my favourite meze, I told him. I ordered four. It was too much; more than I could eat. I knew it would be but you’ve got to have a reasonable choice when it comes to meze. I had two clear favourites. The first is Traditional Fried Cheese with Honey and Sesame.
These are just the best fried courgettes: a wonderfully light batter and the most gorgeous, thick and garlicky tzatziki, which makes a perfect accompaniment. I wasn’t so clear about my next two. I was trying to achieve a balance. The simple grilled peppers would make a good clean-tasting contrast to the other two.
They were so good. Really, this is a kind of street food – so popular at home in London right now. The guys cook up your order behind the counter in full view, it goes straight on to plate and is in front of you within seconds. Food doesn’t come fresher than this (to misquote Mr Gregg Wallace).
The guy serving me was so friendly and attentive, bending down and putting his hand gently on my back whenever we talked and smiling lots in a gentle way. There was nothing in this to be offended by. I’m clearly old enough to be his mother and maybe he thought that if it was his mother holidaying alone, he’d hope someone was as friendly to her. There was no sense of being patronised either; it all just comes across as very natural. The people in Meraki are just really nice people and that’s another big reason for liking it so much.
I didn’t want to leave. I felt so comfortable there. But I got my bill, said goodbye, and thanked them for their hospitality and friendship during my holiday. This kind of experience makes such a big difference. It does when you’re with someone but all the more so when alone.
So the holiday draws to an end. Tomorrow morning it’s a drive back to Heraklion and flight to Gatwick. It’s been a great week. It hasn’t panned out quite as I’d expected but it’s been full of lovely surprises and lovely people.