Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trip to Greece, Part I: Crete

Read Part II: Santorini
Read Part III: Athens
View all images in my gallery

After being back in the real world for a week or so, it seems like it's high time to start reminiscing about our wedding and honeymoon :) They were really amazing and better than I could have hoped for. We had such a great time! So, I wanted to share some of the (mostly food) photos from our trip (and hopefully some pics from our wedding once we get them back from the photographer!)

(Warning: extremely long-winded post ahead.)

Neither of us had been to Greece before, but we heard so many great things about it before the trip -- and it definitely lived up to every word. It was so beautiful, and the pace of life there was so much more relaxed (although compared to NYC, most places are relaxed!) Also, the food was some of the best we had ever tasted!

The first stop of our trip was the island of Crete. We decided to stay at a resort-y place because I needed some time to veg out and relax after the wedding, so we picked the Grecotel Amirandes. It was a really nice hotel, although the only places to eat there were their overpriced restaurants (they were good, but definitely much more expensive than anywhere else we ate during the vacation).

Here is the view from our hotel room:

The main lobby and bar are in the center of this photo, and one of the best restaurants in the resort, the Lago di Candia, is on the right.

OK, the picture on their website is better, but I was always eating dinner during sunset ;)

Speaking of dinner, here are some shots of one of our Lago di Candia dinners. (Disclaimer: a lot of the food photos on this trip were taken with my small point and shoot camera, in order to minimize A.'s embarrassment.)

They always served an amuse bouche, and this one was a fried olive stuffed with cheese:

We also had guinea fowl with pappardelle (in an AWESOME sauce), asparagus risotto and roasted chicken:

And for dessert, the spectacular looking and tasting sesame ice cream:

It was all very tasty, but not what we were thinking of as traditional Greek food, so we tried some more traditional Greek dishes at our next meal.

First up, the "Traditional Greek Salad", which always has feta, tomatoes and cucumbers in an olive oil dressing, and is always delicious:

And then is some pork souvlaki with grilled pita, tzatziki and french fries:

On one of our days in Crete, we decided to ditch the resort and go touring around the main tourist attractions. First, we headed to the Boutari winery, which is one of the major wine makers in Greece. They have wineries scattered all across the country, and this one in Crete is one of their newest.

The main building felt more like an art gallery than a winery. They showed us this strange introductory video about the history of Crete from the perspective of some sort alien who came down to Earth in a Phaistos disk. I wish I had a picture of the video room... it was a strange experience. We think they were trying to hypnotize us. But at least they gave us a glass of wine at the end of the video :)

We took a tour of the winery and they took us to the barrel room, which smelled delicious.

Of course, we did a wine tasting:

I think this guy hated me a little bit for taking so many pictures:

Our favorite turned out to be a dessert wine, the Moschato Spinas, which is an experimental wine only available at the winery. We took a bottle home with us (and it's already gone ;) )

We also got a snack at the winery after our wine tasting. This is a Cretan dakos, which is a rusk (barley flour bread that is twice baked) covered in tomato, olive oil and feta cheese.

We then said good bye to the winery and headed down the road to Knossos. Knossos is the ruins of an ancient Minoan city, reputed to be the home of the mythical Minotaur and its Labyrinth. It's a bit of a controversial site because the original archaeologist took a few liberties in the reconstruction, but it was interesting nevertheless.

From there, we headed into the largest Cretan city, Iraklio. We ended up having a snack when we arrived, since ancient ruins make me hungry. In Greece, they always serve you a basket of bread and charge you a small amount for it, sort of as a service charge.

Our "snack", a gyro platter:

After eating, we walked around the city for a little while. We walked by the colorful harbor:

And then we walked up the main street:

We toured around for a little while, got lost several times, and finally ended up at an ouzeria for dinner. An ouzeria is a restaurant that serves mostly mezedes, small dishes similar to tapas, along with ouzo. Like everything else, the meals in Greece are meant to be taken at a slow pace and enjoyed.

The menu was interesting -- we had to mark off what we wanted in pencil.

A. got some ouzo, of course:

He really liked it and is now an ouzo convert. I am totally not a black licorice fan, so I got some retsina, which is white wine flavored with pine resin. Sounds weird, but it was only a light flavoring and ended up being interesting and tasty.

The rest of our meal consisted of some of the most delicious meatballs we've ever had, eggplant dip, and grilled cheese and tomato in a pita.

A. had a really good time trying all of the Greek beer. There were two main types, Alfa and Mythos. A. said that they were both pretty much like Heineken, with the Alfa having a slight edge because of a pleasant bitter flavor.

Can you tell that one of A.'s favorite shows is Three Sheets?

We had a great time in Crete, but the highlight of our time there was definitely the degustation we experienced at the Xasteria restaurant at our hotel. It was a 3-hour meal and had what seemed like 100 different courses, and enough food for about 12 people. Everything was delicious!

We started off with an olive plate, bread basket and several other dips and tapenades.

Then some dakos:

And a giant block of feta cheese:

At this point, there were too many dishes to bother taking pictures of, so I threw down my camera and took up my fork. From what I remember, there was a salad (to go along with the feta), boiled vegetables, grilled vegetables stuffed with rice (eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper), and chicken in a clay pot. I'm sure I am forgetting some courses because there were just so many.

Then, dessert. I mean, come on. We just had this gigantic, stomach-bursting meal, and this is what they put in front of us:

Are you kidding me? That fruit plate is bigger than my head. The bowl has Greek yogurt, walnuts and honey. And no, that's not all! There was also a crepe, filled with cheese and covered in a honey sauce with pine nuts and grapes.

After that, they gave us some esophagus-burning raki. "For the digestion."

And THEN, some Greek coffee, which is very thick and still has the grounds in the bottom (which you aren't supposed to drink).

This little guy wanted in on the action!

We spent the last day lounging... I miss the beach :(

As you can see, we had a wonderful time in Crete! But our trip was not over yet -- stay tuned for our pics from Santorini and Athens!


VeggieGirl said...

Kim, your trip was the EPITOME of a wonderful time and experiences - your photographs truly capture the essence of Greece!! Can't wait for the next blog posts about your trip :0)

Anonymous said...

Great Photos, I am hungry now ~smiles~ Oh yes and I do need a nice cool beer.


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Rosalinda & Dieter

lowlander said...

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MavreSpiro said...

Great pics! My family is from Crete. Your pictures are making me homesick! :) Can't wait to here about the rest of your trip!

Barbit said...

Thanks for the awesome post! Can't wait to see the pics from Santorini...

Lynnylu said...

Must have been a great trip! The photos tell it all.

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Your pictures had my mouthwatering and longing for vay-cay, which is unfortunately not in the cards for a! Greece is definitely going on my list now!

Queen B-- said...


Kimmie said...

The trip is amazing! I read your second post first and then this one and I am so going - now to find the time haha.

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