I have wanted to go to Greece since I saw Lena fall off a dock in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I have wanted to go to Greece since I watched Toula struggle with her crazy Greek family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I have wanted to go to Greece since I heard Donna singing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” in Mamma Mia. I have ridiculous reasons for wanting to go to Greece. They are built off of silly (but awesome!) movies and romanticized backdrops. However, I was also conscious that Greece had a lot to offer: awe-inspiring ruins, fresh Mediterranean dishes, kind people and the bluest water one could ever dream of.
I searched for the cheapest flights that would land me somewhere in Greece. RyanAir decided to cooperate and suddenly my movie-fueled dreams had me ending up in Crete, an island in the southern part of the country. After the flights were settled, I began to look into excursions and activities. I had read about warm temperatures, cruises to Santorini, day trips to the island of Spinalonga…all sounded fantastic. However, as I searched, I found that everything was shut down until May and that the temperature was dancing around 65 degrees. ¡Qué horror! My whole spring break was about to go down the tubes. I silently prayed that the weather would change and that the tour companies would answer my emails. This did not happen. About two days before I considered cutting my losses and canceling, but my friend Isabel talked me out of it. Thank goodness for voices of reason.
Crete in the off season was exactly what I needed after a month of travel. True, there weren’t any people and it was not 85 degrees, but it was quiet, calm and generally perfect. We stayed in Agios Nikolaos, a beach town that grows quiet from October to April. The locals were all excited to see the first sign of tourists. People we asked for directions smiled and took interest in us. The waiters gave us free Raki (a hard liquor) and sat down with us to help plan out our trip. The owner of the hotel we stayed in put us up in a beautiful seaside room.
We spent our days sleeping in, taking excursions to nearby towns and relaxing at the beach. Three out of the four nights we dined at the same restaurant, Piato, because we loved it so much. The owners enjoyed our company and by the end we were great friends. Although it was a very nice restaurant the food was decently priced and everything came with free Raki and dessert. We would always order big salads and a series of appetizers to share. I was pleasantly surprised at how many options I had as a semi-vegetarian. Rolled eggplant with cheese in tomato sauce, stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki, fried squash and dakos quickly became my staple foods.
The beaches were small but absolutely spectacular. As we were the only ones there they were all ours. Despite the supposed chilly weather, the sun made everything feel warm and pleasant. We were able to sunbathe and read our books all afternoon without feeling chilly. By the last day, it was hot enough that I was able to go swimming. Although some of the locals raised their eyebrows, it was hard to resist water like that.Water that is somehow completely transparent yet, astonishingly, cerulean and turquoise at the same time.Not to mention this water is nothing in comparison to the Atlantic waters of the northeast. That water hits your bones with a chill. This water is cold only for a moment before it becomes refreshing.
The four days spent in Crete were not enough. Greece is far too vast and has too many islands to only spend four days at the beach. I need to come back. I need to fall off a dock in Santorini and be saved by my Kostos. I need to go to a dinner with a crazy Greek family. I need to sing “Dancing Queen” while prancing around a villa.