Photo © Phil Butler
The typical first time traveller to the island of Crete is more likely than not focused on pristine beaches and aquamarine surf. However, a world inside the sparking shoreline of this natural paradise promises greater rewards.
Filoxenia. The meaning of the term is exclusively meant for Cretans, their love of visitors almost legendary. A universal friendliness the people of Crete show to all, this is one unique feature of the place. Combined with an almost unimaginable geographic diversity, there’s a surprise around every corner here. A recent trip to the far west of the island, in Chania region, provides the meat for a tasty Greece recollection here. Let’s begin with the best surprise, the village life.
Seeing Metochi Villas for the first time gave me the impression of having been transported in time. As I later discovered, the 400 years of agrarian tradition here has never faded. Not unlike my home of South Carolina, all Crete is inextricably tied to agriculture, and the hard work ethic that goes along. A few hundred yards from the bristling Cretan Sea, villagers live much as they have for centuries here. Our welcoming committee consisted of two Corgis, their tails wagging furiously, if you can see that in your mind’s eye.
Owners Dionysis and Georgia Karalaki waited to greet us inside our villa stay’s walled garden. Seeing the effects of their hard labor of transformation, Villa Laina’s tailored landscaping and pool were a surprise. To say this part of Crete is akin to pristine wilderness is accurate, so visualize crisp decorative additions integrated into a wholly natural surround. Great smiles from our hosts, hugs and handshakes later, and our group’s home away from home unfolded with a real welcome of raki, homemade olive oil, fresh oranges from the grove, lemons, rice, pasta, coffee and other staples to keep house with. As you can see in the image below, the wilderness never was so flawlessly intertwined with abject luxury.
Photo © Jay Thomas
Venturing inside with Dionysis and Georgia exposed beam stone construction dominated what is otherwise a full functioning and modern villa replete with HDTV, WiFi, a washing machine, a dishwasher, and terrycloth towels on crispy white linen sheets on the beds. What I’m trying to convey here is the duality of such place, of Crete herself. Every morning for three weeks the locals either brought us a smile, a basket of oranges, or fresh eggs for breakfast. The local butcher, supermarket owner, even the road workers we met during our adventures in the White Mountains and beyond exemplified the sunny attitude one reads about where paradise is discussed. I mentioned the village dogs, even they made lighter our young son’s time at play on the country road outside our abode. Metochi Villas was, is, a real certified home-away-from-home. Four inviting bedrooms, two fully furnished bathrooms, a modern family kitchen with fireplace, living room, and a massive terrace overlooking the sea, we wanted for nothing during our time here.
Photo © Jay Thomas
Seldom have I ever visited even a five star hotel and come away with so positive a stay. As a writer, I often refer to convenience and locale, so many city central hotels and apartments focused on what’s nearby, to entice visitors ever attribute needs to be revisited. For the charming villas of Crete, like Metochi, location along with mornings so quiet the local rooster heralds morning, for families or groups intent on being away from the crowd, these places are a dream. Given pristine paradise as a backdrop, the mountains of Crete are no more than 20 minutes from the adjoining and nearest beaches. For visitors to the island who intend to take it all in, places like the rural parts of the Chania region make the most sense.
The old town Chania has its wonders, but from Metochi we could be there in 15 minutes. From our farmhouse turned classic stone villa we could reach Falasarna Beach in 20, the seaside in 2, the White Mountains in 3, and at home with the locals all day every day. Whether you choose to stay at Metochi Villas or not, seeing as closely as possible how the locals on Crete live is a huge plus. In another post I’ll explain more about making the best of your Cretan holiday, but for now I hope you enjoyed a preview of a great bit of Crete hospitality.