Koutouloufari (Hersonnisos - Crete)

Late Summer 2010.

It's been many years since I went to Greece. Crete was my favourite island. Youʼre aware of the usual hype - the most Southerly and largest of the Greek Islands. It certainly has everything to please most people. Much in the way of historical sites, my most visited being ʻKnossos' - you may have read the stories based around the legend of the Minotaur. (see Mary Renault). This had been built up to give the visitor a more visual appreciation of the place.

Leave the resorts behind and there is some beautiful country; and the most relaxing beaches to be found away from the crowds.

But enough. My return was based on the nostalgia of my youth, to Hersonnisos. This resort was so diverse in it's visitors from all over. A very cosmopolitan centre. The choice of nightlife was simple but full of variety.

However I decided that maybe a quieter base would be more appropriate (reflecting my age!) and so I chose a hillside village - Koutouloufari - overlooking the resort. And my choice of hotel was the ʻCreta Blue Suitesʼ http://www.cretablue.com / of which, more later.

I really didn't know which airline to use for the journey to Heraklion. My benchmark would be Singapore Airlines, and lately KLM. Thomas Cook flights seemed the most convenient, flying from Cardiff. Never again! From practically non-existent online customer care, poor on-board luggage allowance, and no ʻfluids' even in 100ml size, - including toothpaste. Things I've taken for granted on the other airlines since I only travel with a shoulder bag.

However, compliments to the cabin crew on my journey, they made my journey such a pleasant experience out of what would otherwise have been a miserable flight.

Flight departure from Cardiff on time, landing on time. Straight out of the airport (which for some reason reminded me of the film ʻCasablanca', - and into my booked taxi for the journey to Koutouloufari.

(to the left, at the back ʻCreta Blue Suites)

Koutouloufari initially struck me as being a little maze of side streets on a slope. There seemed no logic, and all the buildings were stereotypical of Crete. Very attractive, light colours, and a certain untidy appearance. The streets consisted primarily of restaurants, and gift shops. In abundance as far as the restaurants were concerned, with little overt signs of differentiation between offerings. Many superbly designed/decorated - but I got no sense of distinct identity. I had travelled alone, and I felt that this was no place to be alone - mostly couples or groups.

Plenty of supermarkets to choose from, and I eventually settled for ʻRainbow' supermarket. It was nice to indulge in full marmalades and fresh bread rolls. And for me, a plentiful supply of decent teabags! However walking along the line of villages I did come across a ʻChinese' restaurant. Go through the other villages and I did come across the inevitable Irish Bar!

All the villages are linked together, Koutouloufari to Piskopiano, to the village of Hersonnisis.

It made for pleasant daytime walking, before heading down the hill into the actual resort of Hersonnisos.

Obviously many years had passed, and at first it was hard to find my bearings.

Much bigger then my memory had led me to expect, and despite a ʻnew' road on the hillside - very busy traffic.

Soon I found my bearings.

It was good to see the old traditional bar on the main road. You need places like this to remind you of where you are, otherwise there just is no sense of identity with the country you're in. Sadly this was the only such bar that I was to come across.

Many shops to suit all, with the colours associated with Crete.

Being daytime, it was very quiet walking along the road that runs parallel with the beach. Not a beach that I would personally recommend; thereʼs far nicer in Crete. Walking past each bar/club, one after the other it struck me how many were just empty concrete shells in the daytime. The inevitable Irish bars still exuding there unique character. Indeed it was only one of the Irish bars that I used one evening, otherwise it was a hasty walk through. Reaching the inevitable conclusion that I was old, and it was best to leave the past where it belonged - in the past. Nice waterfront

restaurants, but again - what distinguished them ?

And not one winebar ! surely there must be a market ??

As mentioned it can be a ʻchallengingʼ climb, so after the first few eager attempts I resorted to the use of a taxi from the resort, this worked out at 7 euros per journey.

The hotel, I soon discovered, had everything I needed in superb eating. After first encountering the charm and friendliness of the Manager George, who when able to indulge in conversation - actually had opinions which I found quite refreshing - a pleasant change from the many Managers Iʼve encountered who seemed unable to have minds of there own. Donʼt get me wrong, not opinions of an argumentative nature, but reasoned discussions. But the shining star of Creta Blue Suites was his mother Helena. By her own admission she is not a qualified chef - simply takes great pleasure in cooking. And I will openly admit that whenever I holiday I seldom eat at the same establishment at which I am staying. But this place was a huge exception, such stunning meals, cooked in full view. I came away weighing more than I had arrived. From suckling pig, to beef marinated in honey and thyme, and balsamic vinegar. Astonishing quality.

I have mentioned that I found Koutouloufari to be a place mainly for couples or groups. However at the hotel I found it easy to strike up conversations in the evening/night with people round the bar/ dining area. People of differing cultures and backgrounds - all contributing to that ʻlearning experienceʼ that can be found when encountering the differences that exist when meeting people from round the world.

It is an excellent place for using as a base for travelling around sightseeing. After a days journeying it is wonderful to come back to such a ʻwarmʼ comfortable, relaxing place. I will return one day - as long as George and his familyare still there - and ʻa must' - Helena still doing her wonderful cooking !!