2 Weeks in Crete with a Baby: Week 2

In the previous post, I discussed a little bit about Crete, and spending 2 weeks in Crete with a baby, focusing on our first 9 days on the island.

Day 1: Travel Vancouver to Heraklion

Day 2-7: Agios Nikolaos

Day 7-9: Rethymnon

Day 9-11: Loutro
Day 11-15: Kissamos
Day 15: Travel, Overnight in Zurich
Day 16: Travel Zurich to Vancouver
Here are the last 8 days:

Day 9-11: Sifis Hotel, Loutro

To get to Loutro, we traveled south across the island to Chora Sfakion, through some decent mountain passes. There were fallen rocks, goats, and amazing views. From behind we could look out and see Chania and the Mediterranean. Once through the pass, it opened up to a mountainside of switchbacks and the Libyan Sea. This was another great drive on our trip, and although this portion of our trip ended up being a bit of a let down, the drive was great.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Loutro

So this is where the trip got… interesting? Loutro is a tiny fishing village on the Libyan Sea. It is only accessible by trekking or boat. It is absolutely picturesque, with architecture much like the Small Cyclades or what you imagine when you think of Greece. However, I would not recommend making this an overnight stay, unless you are trekking the southern coast, there is not much to do here, and it is not authentic Crete anymore. This is a tourist trap. There are hotels and restaurants and little souvenir shops and that’s it.

As I understand, the beaches east and west of Loutro are spectacular. They require a level of hiking that I wasn’t willing to do with a baby; in 35C weather, with no cloud cover, or shade along the way. You can take a scheduled boat over to these beaches from Loutro, but they only do one round trip per day, and again… baby.

This would be a good time to note, that if you are traveling with people that need things, formula for example (or anything from a pharmacy) make sure you bring extra.

The hotel was lovely, with a balcony overlooking the harbour and all the restaurants. However it was loud, as all those restaurants are right outside 2 weeks in crete with a babyyour window. This was the one time on the trip, where we did not get a baby cot (playpen). But I had planned each hotel reservation to have a double bed and a single bed, on the chance this happened. If that was the case, I would co-sleep in the double with Callahan and Tyler would get the single.

While in Loutro, we decided we didn’t want to go to sleep at the same time as Callahan. We wanted to sit out on our balcony and have some wine. To get around not having a crib and not wanting to go to bed early, we opted to put the single mattress on the floor. We put the blankets and pillows around it so he wouldn’t land on the tile. This was okay until around midnight, when I wake up to Callahan sleep crawling over to my side of the bed. This was hella creepy. I brought him into the bed with me, and Tyler hit the floor mattress.

About an hour or two later (you know, when Callahan has finally fallen into a deep sleep) Tyler jumps up and starts whipping the blankets around like a maniac. Immediately irritated and confused, I whisper-demand an explanation. “Something big crawled on me”. DEAR GOD. We never found it (yay?) and Tyler quickly put the mattress back on the frame, going back to sleep after thoroughly shaking out those blankets.

The next day, we intended to hang out on the beach and take it easy. That was until we realized that Callahan was drinking his formula way faster than we had projected. Suddenly, we’re sitting on a beach (me denying/procrastinating because he’s finally fallen asleep on me at the beach and I just want to savor this moment!) and we realize we have to2 weeks in crete with a baby leave.

I send Tyler on the hunt for formula, none of the little convenience stores have any, the hotel owner calls the next town over to get some sent on the last ferry.. no go. Its a holiday weekend, and everything is closed. We have 1 hour to pack our stuff and get down to the ferry (a fishing boat) to get back to our car, to drive an hour and a half to the big city, Chania, to find a 24hr pharmacy. I felt like such an ass. What kind of mother doesn’t bring enough formula?! The kind that stopped breastfeeding 2 days ago and has no concept of how much her boobs were actually producing for her kid. OOPS.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Morning in Chania Old Town

Anyways, we made it to Chania, and got a hotel there for the night. Paradise Apartments, I am certain there is somewhere better to stay, but it adds to our story. This place was looked like something out of Krustyville; if Krustyville was producing shitty 70’s pornos. It was something else, but, they had a baby cot, and a bed, and that’s all we needed. It also provided us the opportunity to spend a morning in Chania, which allowed us to free up a day later on for other things.

Day 11-15: Olive Tree Apartments, Kaliviani, Kissamos

This place was awesome. The apartment was clean, we had a kitchen again (2 burners), we had a BBQ we could use, a pool, and it was quiet. We were out in the countryside, literally in a field of olive trees with a pen of goats and chickens right next door, and we had a view of the sea. Callahan loved the extra space to run around, and we loved that the bedroom was upstairs, meaning once he was in bed, we weren’t disturbing him by staying up. We would 100% come back to this area of the island, it was by far the best part of our trip.

We spent the first day driving around after check-in, exploring the little towns and ended up stumbling upon Falassarna Beach. It was ridiculously beautiful. A literal paradise. Up to that point, I had never been anywhere as beautiful. We decided to get our stuff and come back that afternoon after lunch and naps; it was only 15 minutes from our hotel. The sand was soft, although hot as hell, and the water was refreshing and clean. The view of the beach from above, the view of the water from the beach, and the view of the land from the water were all equally amazing.

 

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Falassarna Beach

The next day we headed to Elafonisi Beach on the south side of the island. We did the coastal drive and it was something else. The water and views were gorgeous, but the little derelict villages on the sides of mountains were insane. Many parts of the road were only wide enough for one vehicle; but thanks to Callahan’s early morning wake up calls, we didn’t encounter very many vehicles. Elafonisi is famous for its pink sand, and it also happens to be one of the few national parks.

We arrived nice and early, and were pleased to see the beach not very 2 weeks in crete with a babycrowded. The water was cool, but again, super shallow, and there was a tinge of pink to the sand. The view was awesome, but what was most spectacular were the amateur Russian models doing iPhone photoshoots on the beach… that was truly, something to behold.

Our drive back was interrupted by a herd of goats on the road, with a couple of them ramming heads, even though we didn’t stick around, we know who won; it was the guy with the ball sack nearly the size of his own torso. Not exaggerating. We were highly impressed. The drive itself took about an hour and half each way, and I would definitely recommend doing it for the drive alone.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Almost there!! Balos Bay

The third day, we headed to Balos Bay. It’s about 30 minutes on a dirt road, followed by a 30 minute hike down to the bay. Again we headed out nice and early, we hit the dirt road and the first toll booth for the park within 5 minutes of our hotel. The drive wasn’t bad, I head read horror stories about the condition of the road, and that you needed 4×4. You only need to drive like a reasonable human and you’ll be fine, low and slow.

I used our baby carrier to wear Callahan as we made the descent to the bay, and man-alive, that view was stunning. This beach wins, hands down. The water was a bit on the chilly side, but not bad, and it was SO clear and blue! Also, the sand was pink! Way pinker than Elafonisi. We started our hike back out when we noticed the clouds rolling in and the cruise ship coming in with a boatload of tourists. We made it back up as a flood of tourists arrived, and made it back to our hotel before the rain started.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Our first glimpse of Balos Bay.

It was around 1pm by the time we got back to the hotel, so we had most of the day still. We looked up the address for some wineries and hit the road. We stopped first at Pnevmatikakis Winery for what was the most bush league tour we’ve ever been on, followed by a self-serve wine tasting. It was hilarious, and they had a decent view and a few decent wines.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Anoskeli

Onto the next place a little further away, but totally worth it, Anoskeli Winery and Olive Mill. Here we were the only ones in the tasting room, which was modern and cozy. The host/owner was wonderful and the adoration her and Callahan had for each other was adorable. This has to be one of the best wine tastings we’ve ever been on. Paired with local cheeses, produce, and meats; we were able to sample 2 white, a rose, and a red, along with their olive oil. It was delicious. We brought home a couple reds and a white, as well as some olive oil that we are as protective of, as Gollum was of the ring. This place was up in the hills, it was quiet, with almost nothing around it but trees, olive groves, and rows of grapes. This was by far the best all around day on our trip.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Walking around Kissamos

The last day we spent the morning walking around Kissamos; it’s a fairly small town, with an adorable little city centre. There isn’t a whole lot to do, and the water was fairly choppy that day, so we weren’t getting in the sea. We headed back to our place after lunch, stopping to get some more chicken, and BBQ’d (using Olive Tree branches/bark as tinder). We took turns swimming in the pool with Callahan, it was a perfectly relaxed day for the end of the trip.

For dinner we walked to Mama’s Dinner, a restaurant in Kaliviani and about a 5 minute walk away. We had noticed the play area they had outside, and since it was called Mama’s we thought it was family friendly (everywhere is family friendly in Crete); but this was fancy food, fancy wine, fancy servers…. and it was delicious. With some expert level coaxing by Tyler, we were able to get Callahan to sleep before our appetizer arrived. He slept soundly in the stroller while we enjoyed our meals, including dessert, and Tyler downed a bottle of red to himself, “He’s asleep and dammit if I’m not going to enjoy myself”. This was probably the best modern take on Greek food we have ever had.

Day 15: Heraklion to Zurich, overnight in Zurich at The Hilton Zurich

We checked out of our hotel and started the drive back to Heraklion. Our flight was at 8:10 pm so we planned to stop for the afternoon somewhere along the way and hang out. We decided to stop at Bali, and set up shop on the beach. This place was freaking adorable. It reminded me of the Amalfi Coast. Walking on the sand was like walking on the surface of the sun; which posed some problems for Callahan. After the third or fourth time trying to chase another little boy (who was not impressed) and stopping to cry in the hot sand and be rescued, he figured out his own toys in the shade were good enough.

The water here was super calm, almost no waves, and had a sandy bottom. The restaurant on the this beach, and our choice for lunch, was not very good. Probably the worst food we had on the trip (that includes airplane food), clearly they get by just on their location. We donated Callahan’s beach toys to another child, and left our towels (which we had bought the last time we were in Crete) hanging on a pathway for the next visitor that’s missing a towel.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
Bali Beach

After a few hours here, we made the rest of the journey to Heraklion. We had about an hour to spare before needing to be at the airport, so we made our way to this souvenir shop we had visited the last time we were there. The owner, Gogo, was this hilarious Greek woman, who told us we had to come back once we had a baby. Our first trip in, we were looking for a baby gift for our friends, and she thought I was pregnant, which I had to explain was just a food baby from all the bread.

So here we are, we said we’d be back! As we walked in she looked at us, and you could see the recognition and confusion. We told her about our last trip, and then she remembered everything and fell into a nonstop flurry of English/Greek words about love and destiny. She loved Callahan, and he loved her. While we were in there, this giant black dog walked in, lay down at Gogo’s feet, and rolled onto his back. This was not her dog. We’re pretty sure he was just there for the air conditioning. It was a great little visit, and I’m still not certain I know what she said, as she is a tornado of words, expressive arm movements, and excitement.

It felt really neat to be able to get around Heraklion and know where we were going; something we have only experienced abroad once before, while in Amsterdam. I felt like I had earned a badge from the travel scouts or something.

2 weeks in crete with a baby
this was it.

We got to Heraklion airport, and despite abandoning the towels and a bunch of stuff at the hotel, our bags were overweight by 9kgs. They asked if we wanted to fix it, and both of us replied instantly “NO!” Those things were expertly pack by moi, I knew there was no way we could make it lighter, and it had allowed us only two carry-ons. We had packed one carry-on as an overnight bag for the three of us, and one was the diaper bag.

We sent our checked bags directly to Vancouver so we didn’t have to deal with them anymore. I stand by the overweight bags as a good decision (mostly bottles of wine and olive oil haha) rather than having more bags. We only had 2 rolling bags (checked), 2 regular school sized backpacks (carry-on) and the stroller (gate check). One person could push the stroller, and the other could pull the luggage.

Heraklion airport is a shit show, it has no A/C, the speaker system for announcements wasn’t audible, and there were like 4 million people there. While dealing with some ticketing issues and our overweight bags, Callahan decided now would be a good time to start yelling out syllables, attempting to talk to us and everyone around him, especially any young, 2 weeks in crete with a babyhot chicks. I’m sure Tyler was so embarrassed by this. He was reckless in his abandonment of social norms, it looked like we had a Tasmanian devil strapped into our stroller.

Thankfully he wasn’t crying, he was just nuts. It was like someone gave him a dose of ephedrine, happy, yelling, and laughing like a Batman villain. Most of our flight was spent trying to keep him contained. The other passengers thought this was hilarious, which amped him up more; until he started to crash and decided he needed to scream at the top of his lungs until he finally fell asleep. Other than the fuckwit in front of us, who kept looking back at me with disdain (he received only my most top-notch “you wanna take this to the aisle? because I’ll fucking go you” death stare each time he looked back), no one else seemed to mind. And honestly is was only 5 minutes, so suck a hot one you crotchety old cock.

We arrived in Zurich at 11:30 pm, hopped on the shuttle to the airport, and tried to go to sleep. We had a crib and thankfully, we didn’t have to be up early, so we were able to give Callahan a proper bath.

Day 16: Zurich to Vancouver

2 weeks in crete with a baby
The village next to our hotel, Kloten, Switzerland

We had a fantastic continental breakfast, then took Callahan for a walk around the area; we were 5 minutes from the airport, yet our hotel backed onto some fields and a little village. This was exactly what you imagine Zurich to look like, one side of the hotel was a bustling city and airport, the other side was quintessential Switzerland. It was really nice to be able to get out and get some fresh air before the flight. Callahan was able to get a quick nap before we left for the airport, and then we were off.

Our flight home was a much different experience than on the way to Crete. It was a daytime flight, so there was no stressing about others trying to sleep. He did scream as usual before finally falling asleep, but then he slept for 4 hours straight. This sleep was a pain, in the fact that the second I tried to sit, he started to squirm. Prior to falling asleep he put on a show of laugh-screaming at everyone, playing peek-a-boo, and trying to make a break for it every chance he got.

I would say the best part of the flight home, was when our seatmates sat down next to us. The lady had a book about baby names, and a baby magazine. She watched us from the corner of her eye in absolute amazement as Callahan put on a clinic in non-stop movement. We did share some of our tricks with her, as she watched what worked and didn’t work. But you could see the fear in her eyes. Good luck lady!

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2 weeks in Crete with a Baby: Week 1

We spent 17 days in Crete this spring. If you are thinking of taking a trip to Greece, we highly recommend the island of Crete. This was our second trip to Greece, the first trip we spent 4 days in Crete and the rest island hopping the small cyclades with G Adventures. Unlike the more famous islands in Greece, Crete has a lot of Venetian and African influence making it much more interesting to look at and walk through. The drives are stunning, with mountain passes that allow you to see right back towards the sea, and it has an absolute crapload of things you can do.

Although many guidebooks will say that it can take forever to drive anywhere on the island, the new National Highway really speeds things up. I do suspect that many of those guides are probably comparing to driving around small ass countries, for all you Canadian folk reading this, Crete is 8,350 square kms vs Vancouver Island’s 31,285 square kms. So, its all relative. That being said, you will likely get stopped by some goats meandering across the road if you decide to head outside of the more major cities.

From May to September there is a charter flight with Edelweiss Airlines (a partner of SWISS Airlines) from Vancouver to Zurich, with multiple connections for further travel. We left May 25 and returned June 10. Our flight to Zurich was maybe half full, the flight to Heraklion was rammed, and our flights home were full.

This time of year was perfect, as the weather was around 30-35C (although our first 3 days were stormy and cold, we were told it was a rare occurrence). It also happens to be just the beginning of tourist season, so its not too busy, and because its early summer, the plant life is still green and flowering, rather than dried out and brown.

Here’s what our trip looked like this time around:

Day 1: Travel Vancouver to Heraklion

Day 2-7: Agios Nikolaos

Day 7-9: Rethymnon

Day 9-11: Loutro
Day 11-15: Kissamos
Day 15: Travel, Overnight in Zurich
Day 16: Travel Zurich to Vancouver
Here are the first 9 days. (I am not paid to endorse any of these companies)

Day 1 : Vancouver – Zurich – Heraklion

Our flight left at 4:30 pm, arriving in Zurich at 11:25 am. We had a 4 hour layover in Zurich, and arrived in Heraklion at 8:10 pm.

You can read about this travel day here.

We had arranged for a car rental for the entirety of the trip from Auto Rentals Crete . They were the best price, included the most “extras” at no cost (including the baby seat), greeted us at the airport, and were very helpful and polite. I would definitely use them again.

After watching a few families hauling around a car seat or two (as well as

He LOVED this car seat!

their luggage) I’m so glad we opted to use the car seat provided. Yes, you don’t know the history of the car seat, and maybe it will be dirty, but I think it worked out in the end. I will put a caveat on this though, had we been somewhere more… wilder? I likely would have brought my own. Who knows.

We arranged for one night in Heraklion at Sofia Hotel which was close to the airport and easy to get to. Decent food in the restaurant, and a nice pool (that we didn’t use). The bedrooms were basic, but all we were doing was sleeping, so it didn’t matter. We had some dinner by the pool, which Callahan ruined by gagging on a piece of cucumber until he projectile vomited everywhere. Our sleep was decent considering the travel day, with Callahan sleeping until 3am, having a 1 hour playdate with us, and then going back to sleep. In the morning, Tyler brought me some breakfast which I enjoyed on the patio until Callahan had a shitsplosion that ruined a few toys, and smeared all over the floor.

Day 2-4: Daios Cove Luxury Resort and Villas, Agios Nikolaos.

We stayed here on our honeymoon on a screaming deal I got on Hotels.com. This place is absolutely beautiful and way too posh for us, but we knew if we ever got back to Crete we would come here again. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a deal quite as good as last time, but that didn’t stop us. We were disappointed in this portion of the trip as we were all so jetlagged (especially Callahan) and the weather was shit, that we just didn’t get to enjoy it properly. In a way it was good that the combination of less than perfect conditions brought this place down a peg or two for us. Otherwise we’d be dreaming of coming back over and over, when there are other places in the world to explore. That being said, I think we will come back when our children are older. Daios is beautiful, its well run, and the food is delicious. If it hadn’t been for regular 3am playdates, the thunderstorms, and Callahan screaming like a banshee through every lunch and dinner, we would have had a fantastic time as we did previously.

Daios Cove, Callahan experiencing sand and sea for the first time!

Day 4-7: Kavousanos Apartments, Istron

Our view at Kavousanos

This was about 7 minutes down the road from Daios Cove, and we loved the location. The views were great, there was a pool, we had all the amenities we needed, a quick walk into town, and multiple beautiful beaches. We had 2 bedrooms which meant that unlike our first 3 nights, Callahan would have his own room!! Their taverna had the best tzatziki that we have had in two trips to Greece. We started this stay by arriving to the gate closed and no one around. I scaled a fence looking for someone, which caught the attention of a lady driving by. She stopped to see what was going on, and was able to help us out, as she had previously worked there. Calling George, and finding out both his parents (the owners) were in Heraklion at the hospital and would be back later. She was able to open the gate and let us into our apartment. Small town charm at its finest.

150+ yr old olive mill

While we were here we headed to Vassilakis Estate to do a tour of their Olive mill processing centre, learn about the history of the olive oil mill, and of course, samples! Not all olive oils are equal people!! Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. Afterwards we started driving around the little villages in the area, up sides of mountains, blind corners, and goats, lots of goats. We really enjoyed this afternoon trip. There are many other olive mills you could visit on the island, I have nothing else to compare it to, but I would recommend it. This was definitely the most relaxed we were on the trip, as we were starting to come out of the jetlag fog but weren’t yet exhausted from the trip itself.

a 5 minute drive from our apartment & about 10 other people total
In Ag. Nik. taking care of business.

We also spent a morning exploring Agios Nikolaos (or Ag Nik as the Brits call it) which was when we started to feel like our previous traveling selves. Callahan fell asleep in the stroller and we were able to just wander. Of course our early starts meant many shops and places weren’t open yet, but that’s okay, it meant the crowds were small.

The first day here we walked into Istron and found a pizza place that served Italian style pizza (YUM) and we ended up getting stuck there for 2 hours (after we had already eaten) through a torrential downpour, thankfully they served wine and beer, so we survived and eventually had to call a cab to take us back to the hotel as it didn’t appear to be letting up.

Day 7-9: Ammos Hotel, Rethymnon

This hotel was right on the beach, and our view was great. The rooms had been recently updated and comfortable. It was like a 1 bedroom apartment minus the kitchen, including giant sectional couch. There was a nice pool area, although we didn’t use it, as the beach was right there. Rethymnon reminded me of Waikiki. Long sandy beaches, water you could walk out into for ages, relaxed waves, and plenty of restaurants and hotels right across the street from the beach. We actually enjoyed ourselves here, but I think two days was enough as it was VERY touristy.

Rethymnon, this was fantastic swimming water. warm, calm, and sandy.

The room had a true one bedroom and living room, this meant that we could close the bedroom door at night on Callahan (in the baby cot in the living room), but it also meant that we had to be ready for bed when he was, or somehow figure out how to tip toe past him get into the bathroom and back without waking him. The door was frosted which meant we had to pee in the dark or risk waking him. It wasn’t the worst set up on this trip, but wasn’t the best.

Exploring Rethymnon like a boss

Rethymnon has an old fortress (to be honest, I’m pretty sure most places in Crete have one) that we didn’t explore, but we did the walk around the outside walls on the water. It was a sweltering day, so we were inclined to stay near the water and feel the breeze. There are lots of old, twisty, beautiful streets to explore here as well. It was on this portion of the trip that Callahan learned how to flirt, HARD. Any female service employee, waitress, flight attendant, store clerk, basically any female… he’d squish up his face and make a cheesy smile at them, when they left he’d start yelling, clapping, laughing, flailing, whatever it took to get them back.

 

The last 8 days of our trip will be posted later this week. Stay tuned!

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