We left Milan with our bellies full of cheese and wine, headed to the island of Crete in Greece. Greece has been on our list of places to visit for ages, so we were glad to have the opportunity to spend a little while here.
A friend inspired me with the cooking classes she likes to take when travelling to new places. I think it’s a terrific way to meet a local or two and to learn something new. Food is so integral to culture so it’s a great point for getting into a new way of life. As a result, I booked us a cooking class at Vamos village where they held an afternoon class in an old olive oil mill.The teacher was Koula, a native Cretan cook with years of cooking experience both commercially and domestically. She talked about the properties of the herbs which grow with abundance on the island and how they incorporated these plants into their Mediterranean diets. The olive oil and the raki flowed freely before we got started…
We made spinakopita, a cretan pasta soup (vegetarian version for me!), salads and tomato fritters. I was surprised that we fried the spinakopita, and even more surprised when we fried them in olive oil – I was expecting a neutral vegetable oil or nut oil – but it turns out that the Cretans use olive oil for everything. The reason: it’s freaking delicious!
For dessert, Koula had already prepared a lemon cake (made with olive oil!) which we ate with some super strong coffee. Everyone left the table with full, groaning stomachs and Koula continuing to offer us more food!
Vamos was a short drive from Chania, one of the main ports on Crete. We spent the day after our cooking class hanging out in Chania and absorbing the sunshine. Chania has a pretty port and a sweet old town, although it’s very tourist-driven. We mostly ate Greek or Cretan salads – it turns out I don’t mind them so much when the cucumber is so fresh and crispy and the fetta is so creamy and amazing!
From Chania, we headed southwards to Plakias, a beach town where we spent a few days doing short walks, swimming and drinking the local Alpha beer. From Plakia, we visited the palm beach at Preveli and did the hike down the Imbros Gorge.
This was our relaxing time, and we made the most of it – lounging, eating and drinking – with as much time in the sun as possible.
From Plakia, we headed north-east to the other main port, Heraklion. We drove via Elafonisi beach in the west – famous for the beautiful, long beach and their pink-tinged sands.