Our sweet little friend Marina (Lovefoodish) has left Incredible Crete for her home in Switzerland now. After about three weeks of adventures on Creta and Santorini, the world’s most authentic foodie blogger waved bye to the world within a world that is Greece’s biggest island. We were so happy for the time to spend with her, and sad to see her leave. So, here’s our farewell, for now, to the princess of positivity.
Week one. Agios Nikolaos, and hitting the high spots like Spinalounga Island. The dynamic food nut and her pal Sole bounced in between Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos in Lassithi Prefecture a few times before heading to destination south Lassithi. We took Maria to revisit one of the sMall gods of Crete, Anna Karfaki, at her Taverna Mitato in Amoudara. Our friend from Switzerland had met Anna on a previous visit, and when we are hungry, we always go there.
The travelers were impressed with Agios Nikolaos and Elounda, and the Instagram below is on the way to the famous island in the Gulf of Elounda, a place we hope will soon be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage treasure.
We had the pleasure of having dinner with Marina, Sole, our friends Minas and Kallia, courtesy another pal, Marcos Mourtzanakis and his amazing colleagues Elli and Giorgos, who run Mourtzanakis Residence in Achlada. Marina and Sole made the drive all the way from Agios Nikolaos, but were not disappointed, since the company and the sunset were flawless. Achlada, for those unfamiliar, is an almost abandoned village that sits overlooking the majestic bays outside Heraklion. This is a truly amazing vantage point for understanding just how magnificent this part of Crete is.
After the brief stay in Agios Nikolaos, Marina and her traveling companion Sole head to stay a day or two with our friend Ioanna Madala at the wonderful Koutsounari Traditional Cottages overlooking Ierapetra. These amazing cottages are the perfect place to recoup from travel to the island, and to use as a basecamp for Lassithi exploration. Located at the side village of Koutsounari 6 km east of Ierapetra, the cottages are a kind of time machine that leads guests back to simpler days.
I was happy to see Marina sharing her adventures off Chryssi Island, a treasure not so many travelers ever get to experience. And, of course, Lovefoodish would not be who she is if there were not lots of culinary magic to be sampled. The Instagram below tells only a tiny part of the story of the legendary “Food Baby” and our friend’s love for taste. Featured in this share is Crumb Healthy Living, and my favorite breakfast idea, eggs over easy with farm fresh goodness.
Onward, and westward, Marina and Sole headed to Chania to experience a sample of Chania Prefecture magic. First stop Balos Lagoon, had the pair driving the precarious road to the world famous beach, so they could get their exercise walking down the cliffs to suntan heaven. As you can see, Greece’s most famous beach is all it’s cracked up to be, a scene right out of a Hollywood romance flick.
Next stop the remote wonder Elafonisi Beach, which Marina tells me was a purely unique surprise given the amazing drive there, and all. I agree with her, because this part of Crete island is truly amazing. We were there in 2014 in the off-season, and I can never forget the panoramas, or the wonderful nature of the Cretans who live in this region. I was only sorry Marina and Sole did not have time to see Falasarna, which is in my mind the prettiest and most dramatic of all the Crete beach experiences. But, Crete is just so big, and so full of experiences, that taking it all in is impossible in a week or in a lifetime.
From Chania, our intrepid Crete explorers hit Rethymno for only one night before heading back to the island’s capital and the Heraklion Gastronomy Days 2021 festival on the marina. The girls were in rest and relax mode while in the Venetian seaside town, so Insta shares and everything but sunning and taking it easy were out. Sole had to fly out ahead of Marina since work in Switzerland called, but we did catch up with her at the food festival. I was particularly impressed with the Notos Brewery guys, and I think Marina, Sole, and my wife Mihaela were too.
We were sad to bid our new friend Sole farewell, but she had a spectacular time. Marina was keen to take one of the fast ferries over to Santorini for a day or two, just as a sort of “bucket list” experience. I was a bit embarrassed and disappointed when a famous hotel there that owes me like a million favors would not even host our friend for one night. But hey, that’s the world COVID has created. And Karma being what it is, Marina got a stunning place for next to nothing on her own. The view from her little cliff cave was stunning, and her shares from Oia reveal the majestic island the way you’d expect.
What surprised me most about Santorini was hearing from the well-traveled foodie how cliche and tacky the world’s most famous romance island is. I’ve heard this before from friends who’ve travelled a lot, but it’s not what you’d expect given all the marketing speak about the experience. Marina said the food was disappointing, and that the crowds really detract from the experience. Key on that sustainability experts and hotel developers.
Moving on, back in Heraklion got into local Heraklion Prefecture people, places, food, and wines with us and on her own. This share from famous Peskesi, just makes me feel like I am starving. I’ll book a table right after I post this, trust me. Peskesi, for those who do not know, is arguably Heraklion’s finest dining experience. Tripadvisor says #11, but I’m one of Greece top restaurant guides on TA, and it’s closer to #11 in all of Greece. Be that as it may, I know Marina enjoyed the evening, cause she said so.
Galavanting around Heraklion, our little pal also shared from Think Tank, which is an all day food and wine bar in the pedestrian center of our lovely city. She also joined us at our friend Ioannis Stilianou’s organic winery near Kounavi, outside the city, for a tasting and a tour of one of the best small wineries in Europe. My wife Mihaela swears that Ioannis’ Theon Dora, is the finest white wine in Europe, and she’s been everywhere. Maring seemed to favor the red, and I am fond of the rose myself. Anyhow, as you can see from Marina’s little video, the wine tasting comes with a spectacular view of Lassithi Plateau in the distance, and Heraklion Prefecture’s wondrous olive orchards in the foreground.
Marina’s last couple of days were full of Crete outdoors, with wine and food experiences intertwined. Another amazing winmaker friend, Nikos Gavalas invited us for a visit in between his busy schedule for post-harvest winemaking. His wonderful daughter Anna Maria shared history and info with Marina about the family winery in business since 1906. For me, Gavalas Orimos is the ideal wine for wild game or any red meat, and the Vidiano bio should be served with every portion of salmon ever prepared from now on. Yes, Gavalas wines are that good, and Marina agreed on the reds. I was only sorry she and Sole never had time to visit Alexandra Manousakis winery while they were in Chania Prefecture. Maybe next time.
We spent our last day with Marina at Gavalas’ winery, and trapsing about the countryside in central Heraklion Prefecture. A highlight being the Monastery of St. George Epanosifis, near Metaxochori. The share from me below is of Marina and Mig (Mihaela) in the central court of the monastery. This holy place holds a special appeal for us for many reasons. One being, that our amazing friend Rebecca Shevaki took us there first, some years back. But this is another story. Marina, me, and Mig wound up in Kokkini Hani downing Calamari and eggplant salad and looking out over Dia Island.
I cannot leave off without saying a word or two about this amazing girl. Mihaela and I met Marina when she was blogging from Zanzibar a few years back. We connected via Facebook and the other social networks, and at length she came to Crete at our invitation to experience firsthand what filoxenia and Crete hospitality is all about. This was before the pandemic, when tourism in Greece was booming. This most recent visit was a vacation experience for Marina and her sidekick Sole, a departure from life in Switzerland and from work. The thing is, Marina is the most positive person we’ve met in decades. Or, someone with an outlook that not only helps her get by, but helps those around her come to grips with true reality. We are only here once. We love you and miss you already. Come back to stay for good.
And for those who’ve yet to meet her, I can only hope that your demographic shines half as bright. This is the most real person you’ll ever meet. (Target idiot Oia hoteliers)