Crete: An Aegean Odyssey FRIDAY 6 SEPTEMBER â€“ THURSDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 2019 13 NIGHT/14 DAY SMALL GROUP TOUR OF CRETE
CRETE This small personal tour of Crete is an insight into the island, which lies at the heart of the Mediterranean diet and the cradle of civilisation thanks to the ingenuity of the Minoans. This tiny island (it can fit into Tasmania more than eight times) has contributed more to Western Civilisation than any other place its size. It’s a mythological island - think Minotaur and Labyrinth, Daedalus and Icarus, the lost city of Atlantis and the birthplace of Zeus. Crete gave Europe its name. It’s also home to the oldest living, fruit-bearing olive tree believed to be 4000 years old. Located between the Aegean and Libyan Sea, it’s an island of contradictions. A huge mountain range crosses from east to west and the western region is snow-capped all year round – hence its name the Lefka Ori (The White Mountains). It boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece (some only accessible by boat), vast fertile plains, deep gorges, and to this day, many areas of the south coast remain wild and untameable. It has a history dating back 9000 years and has been the envy of the Mycenaeans, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Venetian, Ottomans, Egyptians, Turks, Germans and now tourists. So much so, some have invaded more than once!
Nonetheless, Cretans have remained true to their Minoan roots and are resourceful, proud, hospitable and fiercely independent. They consider themselves Cretan first and then Greek; the island only officially became a part of Greece in 1913. They are passionate, fiercely loyal and unafraid to show their emotions – like Zorba, a happy Cretan is not ashamed to stop his car in the middle of the road, turn up the music and dance. For Cretans, the secret to a long and healthy life is very simple – eat anything and everything that the rich soil produces. The basis of their Mediterranean diet is fruit, vegetables, greens, fresh produce, legumes, cheese and bread. Wild herbs such as oregano, thyme and sage are used in abundance, their sweets and desserts use local honey, and all meals are eaten alongside excellent local wine. The scent of wild herbs baking on the Cretan hillside in summer is intoxicating. But by far the best ingredient of the famous Cretan diet is the locally produced olive oil. Thick, aromatic, and luscious green, it’s good enough to eat on its own with crusty bread, and it’s what gives local Cretan dishes their exquisite flavours. Eating is also an essential part of Cretan custom and hospitality. The biggest problem is deciding where to go and what to eat. Tavernas offer a grand selection of Cretan delicacies, ouzeries offer mezzes (nibbles) and raki (the local brew, commonly known as firewater), fish tavernas offer whatever is fresh from the waters surrounding Crete, and don’t forget the good old gyros pitas; tasty lamb or pork souvlakia, lettuce, tomato, chips and tzatziki in a wrap. Delicious!
"Marvellous things happen to one in Greece –
marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth’ – “The Colossus of Maroussi” by Henry Miller
THE TOUR The small tour (maximum of 8 people) officially starts when we all meet at Heraklion airport on Friday September 6th (at a time to be confirmed). For those travelling from Athens I suggest booking an Aegean Airlines flight (50 minutes), and together we will transfer to Agios Nikolaos (pronounced Ayious Nikolaos), 40 minutes to the east. I suggest that you arrive in Athens a few days early to see the Acropolis and wander the fascinating alleyways of Plaka and Monasterakia. I can advise the best place to stay in the heart of Athens at a very reasonable price! For those coming from other parts of Europe; see if you can fly directly to Heraklion, Crete to avoid the Athens stopover.
We will be staying for seven nights in the port of Agios Nikolaos in Eastern Crete with rooms overlooking the tiny “bottomless” Lake Voulismeni. While here we will: • Take a local fishing boat to the island of Spinalonga for a guided tour of the last leper colony of Europe followed by a sublime seafood lunch in the tiny village of Plaka • Visit the ancient mountain village of Kritsa, where age-old traditions such as pottery, leatherwear, lacemaking and weaving are still carried on today. We will visit Rodanthe’s museum and eat a Cretan meal under the shade of ancient plane trees • Visit a 13 century Medievalera Byzantine church, popular for its preserved frescoes depicting biblical events
• Visit a traditional olive farm where we will participate in preparing a delicious Cretan dish, and make Cretan goats’ cheese with a shepherd from the mountains • Minoan Feast cooked in Minoan pots; with potter, anthropologist and archaeologist Jerolyn Morrison. Jerolyn discovered the origins of Minoan food and slow cooking through her excavations at various archaeological sites around the island. This is a truly a unique experience! • Join local Cretan, Andreas Souris, on a Culture and Cuisine tour, visiting the ancient Minoan Town of Gournia, the traditional village of Kavousi where we will have lunch, and then head through an olive grove to swim in the pristine waters of Mirabello Gulf • Enjoy plenty of free time to swim, explore, eat, shop, and just laze around as you enjoy delicious languid Cretan life • Visit the weekly gypsy and farmers’ markets
On the eighth day, we will take a bus trip west across the island to the Old Port of Chania (pronunced Hun-yia), via Heraklion for a guided tour of the Minoan Palace of Knossos and its museum. We will enjoy a delicious Cretan lunch in the heart of the capital before continuing our journey. In Chania we will stay in a 14th century Venetian hotel which overlooks the Old Port. It is breathtaking in every sense of the word! For the next seven days and six nights we explore beautiful Chania and her surrounds. Excursions include:
• A walking tour of the Old Port and the markets, culminating in a Cretan mezze lunch in the Venetian sector of the city • A wine adventure tour into the mountains to visit two of Crete’s famous wineries for a wine tasting and lunch • A visit to the world’s oldest olive tree • A sunset walking tour of the old tanneries • A walk through the Olive Path in the mountains visiting a modern organic olive farm • A trip into the mountains for a cooking lesson in an old disused olive press with Crete’s most famous cook, Kiria Koula, who will show us the secrets to cooking a traditional Cretan meal. We will then feast in this extraordinary setting – this is certain to be one of the many highlights of the tour! • Plenty of free time to shop, explore, visit some of the extraordinary museums found in the old port, and watch the sun go down with a fabulous cocktail in hand! Not to mention the Al Hammam baths for a Turkish spa (leave your modesty at the door!)
TOUR INCLUDES • Transfer from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos, Eastern Crete • 7 nights twin/double share accommodation in Agios Nikolaos, Eastern Crete, with breakfast • 6 nights twin/double share accommodation in Chania, Western Crete, with breakfast • Welcome dinner to savour delicious Cretan delicacies, with local wine • Transport to the fishing village of Plaka, return local fishing boat trip to the island of Spinalonga, admission and guided tour of Spinalonga • Sumptuous seafood lunch in the fishing village of Plaka, with local wine • Cretan mezze dinner overlooking the lake at sunset, with local wine • Transport to the ancient Cretan mountain village of Kritsa • Museum tours depicting early life in Kritsa • Lunch and shopping in Kritsa • Transport, admission, tour, and cooking class at The Cretan Olive Farm, with light lunch • Minoan feast with local wine – unique Minoan food cooked in traditional Minoan pots – a once in a lifetime experience! • Tour of BioAroma – Bioaroma’s 100% natural herbal cosmetics are based on research and archaeological finds
• Visit the gypsy and farmers’ markets in Agios Nikolaos • Farewell dinner in Agios Nikolaos • Transport, admission, and guided tour of Knossos and museum • Delicious lunch in Heraklion, with local wine • Transfer to Chania, Western Crete • Guided walking tour of Chania including the covered market, and the Venetian, Jewish and Turkish quarters followed by a Cretan mezze lunch in the Venetian quarter, with local wine • Walk the Olive Path through the mountains to an organic olive oil farm • Cretan cooking lessons and dinner in an old olive mill in a mountain village • Wine adventure tour and lunch with a certified sommelier or local grape grower • Visit the Monastery of St George and its 19th century olive mill with 13 arches • Visit the oldest olive tree in the world • Walking tour, dinner and local wine as we watch the sun set in the old tannery area of Chania • Farewell dinner in a Turkish Hamam, with local wine • 14 breakfasts • 5 dinners with local wine (including a Minoan Tastes Feast) • 9 lunches with local wine (you won’t need dinner!)
Please note: some tours on the itinerary may be swapped around in case of inclement weather, or to avoid clashing with large tour groups. Tour exclusions: • International and domestic travel to and from Crete • Travel Insurance (a must) • Local bus fares and taxis during free time • Meals and alcohol other than those listed above • Tips for meals, guides, bus drivers etc. (Please note: since Greece’s austerity measures came into place; waiters, drivers, and guides depend on tips to live. Waitstaff are paid a maximum of $4.50 per hour – hence the importance of tipping)
TOUR INFORMATION Length of tour:
Deposit and payment plan:
14 days and 13 nights
€700 non-refundable deposit to be paid by 15 March 2019 (essential to secure your booking)
Destination: Crete, Greece Tour starts: Friday 3 September 2019 Heraklion, Crete, Greece Tour ends: Thursday 19 September 2019 Chania, Crete, Greece You can fly from Chania Airport, Western Crete to Athens, Greece via Aegean Airlines. Please ensure all ongoing travel arrangements are booked from the afternoon of Thursday 19 September 2019, to allow for delays, transfers, check in, customs etc in Athens. Cost to be paid in Euros: €4700 per person for twin/double share Single Supplement: €1250
€2000 required by 25 April 2019 €2000 required by 19 June 2019 An additional €1250 for single supplement required by 19 June 2019 Luggage: One medium-sized suitcase and a small carry bag (i.e. backpack) Allowance on internal flights with Aegean Airlines: Checked-in luggage allowance is 23kg – they do weigh luggage and they will charge you if you are over! Carry on luggage allowance is 8kg – and again, they do weigh your carry on luggage! If you anticipate your luggage will be over, purchase extra online when you book your ticket – SO much cheaper than purchasing it at the airport!
Cancellation Policy: A cancellation charge is applicable on the following basis: â‚Ź700 non-refundable deposit is essential to secure your booking If a booking is cancelled more than 61 days before departure: 30% of the total tour cost is forfeited If a booking is cancelled 60 â€“ 46 days before departure: 50% of the total tour cost is forfeited If a booking is cancelled 45 or fewer days before departure: 100% of the total tour cost is forfeited All cancellations must be in writing. Itinerary: We will make every effort to adhere to the itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances, we reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary and accommodation to ensure that you have the best Cretan experience. Currency in Greece: The â‚Ź (Euro) is the currency for Greece. Take euros with you or get some at the airport on arrival. ATM machines are everywhere and there is no daily limit for tourists. Many places accept credit card (not AMEX or Diners), however due to the financial crisis, cash is preferred.
Food and water: All food is organically grown and produced on the island, and tastier than anything you’ve ever had before! The local wine (known as xima, pronounced hima) is always from the Taverna owner’s own grapes and contains no preservatives or additives. Hence it soon becomes the red wine vinegar sitting in bottles on your table! Raki is the local firewater and always served after a meal in shot glasses. Do try it when offered. It grows on you! Water is fresh from the mountain streams so it is very safe to drink. Tipping: Tip between 5% and 10% and you should leave the tip on the table, give it to the waiter directly, or tell the waiter you don't want change. Activity Level: Walking and swimming, and swimming and walking are highly recommended on this trip! Weather: Around 26°C during the day and could drop to a low of 19°C at night, with possible occasional showers and winds. What to take: Hat, reusable water bottle, good walking shoes, flip flops, swimmers, beach towel/sarong, sunscreen, a light jacket/pashmina for evening, light rain jacket, cool dresses, shorts, t-shirts for the day, and smart casual wear for evenings. Mosquito repellent is suggested at night. Electric repellents, coils, creams and lotions are readily available on the island. Casual and comfortable is de rigueur! Voltage: You will need a power adapter for all your electrical equipment.
TESTIMONIALS "Both my wife and I declare that our trip to Santorini and Crete was one of THE most memorable trips we have enjoyed over the years. The level of enjoyment comes from the excellent organising by Francesca Muir. The skill Francesca has in knowing the local places and people and the language was amazing. We received the best tables in restaurants and the best attention – all because Francesca spoke the language and opened doors that would be difficult for any ordinary tourist. She is a natural and with her personality and knowledge she is THE BEST person to show you her beloved Greece." – Tom S. "I am writing to thank you for the wonderful Greek holiday we had that you so expertly organised. From the moment we touched down at Santorini airport to the time we left Crete, it was perfect. We loved Crete for the food and wine and places of interest that you showed us. A particular favourite of mine was Spinalonga, the old leper island near Elounda, so laden with history and sadness but a must for visitors. I also was in awe of Knossos, the old Minoan ruins, also another must see. The cost of the holiday was very reasonable thanks to you getting the best bargains available. I highly recommend you to anyone thinking of going to Greece as your knowledge is spot on and I look forward to doing it again with you." – John T. "If you want to travel with a small group to Crete, have fun, eat great food, enjoy a relaxed itinerary and sometimes do the unexpected, Francesca Muir’s tour MUST be your choice." – Diana C.
ABOUT FRANCESCA I first went to live on the island of Crete in the late 1980s where I stayed for a number of years. There I honed my skills as a radio presenter on a local Cretan radio, taught dance and choreographed local musical productions, taught English, worked in a boutique, and worked as a travel photographer. I loved it. I loved the Cretan people and their wonderful Cretan hospitality; the life-changing Cretan diet; the pure Mediterranean air peppered with wild thyme and oregano; swimming in azure seas and bathing in that Greek light which has mesmerised so many, for so long. I had found my spiritual home. Today I take small groups to Crete. I am not a tour guide, I am a tour concierge, making all arrangements through bona fide tour operators to ensure the trip is flawless. I take people off the beaten tracks to the Crete I know and love, thanks to my years there. We meet and eat with friends, learn about the island's extraordinary history, get an insight into the anthropology of the Mediterranean diet which is based on the Cretan diet; learn to cook traditional Cretan meals using local organic produce, and visit ancient olive mills and modern wineries nestled high in the mountains. And there's plenty of time to swim, walk, shop, relax, and simply BREATHE. I am really looking forward to showing you this special place in the Aegean. If you have ANY questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I am very happy to suggest tours to the mainland and other Greek islands before or after our trip to Crete. Francesca x francescamuir.com For a booking form, please contact email@example.com
Basic greek words and phrases Good morning
My name is
I want to go to
Thello na paw
At the taverna Water
Stuffed vegetables Ye-mis-ta Chips (the best!)
GREEK BLUE And LIGHT Two things will haunt you after your visit to Crete. “That Greek blue”, which is unlike any other colour, and the light! Nothing prepares you for them. The purity of the light and the clarity of the colours is an assault on the senses and “that Greek blue” seems to have a life of its own. It’s a warm blue devoid of green and it appears almost alive as it dances and furls its way around Greek flags; reflects and refracts off caïques (fishing boats) into the turquoise Aegean, and accentuates doors, windows, and shutters on white washed buildings. Author Henry Miller best described Greek light in his classic, The Colossus of Maroussi, when he wrote: “Everything here speaks now, as it did centuries ago, of illumination… here light penetrates directly to the soul, opens the door and windows of the heart, makes one naked, exposed, isolated in a metaphysical bliss which makes everything clear without being known.”
SUGGESTED READING The Cretan Runner by George Pschoundakis Zorba The Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis Crete a Notebook by Richard Clark The Island by Victoria Hislop Kritsotopoula by Yvonne Payne (available on Amazon) Abducting a General by Patrick Leigh Fermor Ill Met by Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss and Patrick Leigh Fermor The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault The King Must Die by Mary Renault The Palace of Knossos by Nikos Kazantzakis
All photography Â© Francesca Muir
TERMS AND CONDITIONS Francesca Muir is not a tour operator. She acts as “On Trip Concierge” only and assists the tour travellers for the duration of the tour, with any selling and travel-related services, accepting reservations and booking for services, and managing the relationships between the traveller and registered Tour Operator where applicable. She is not responsible for changes of flight times, fare changes, damage, loss of baggage, dishonour of airline, hotel or other reservations, delays, losses, injuries, inconveniences, cessation of operations, airline or tour bankruptcies, accidents, or for the acts of defaults of any person or entity engaged in conveying participants or in carrying out other arrangements of the tour. She therefore, shall not be responsible for breach of contract, failure to comply with any state or federal laws, or any intentional or negligent actions or omissions on the part of the Tour Operator and their suppliers, which result in any loss, damage, delay, inconvenience or injury to travellers or travellers’ companions or group members, or loss of income due to any mishaps. Without limiting the foregoing, if due to weather, flight schedules or other uncontrollable factors traveller is required to spend additional nights, She will not be responsible for traveller's hotel, transfers, meal costs or other expenses, not included on our supplied itinerary. Traveller's baggage and personal property are completely at the traveller's own risk. She shall not be responsible for, and travellers hereby release Francesca Muir from, any claims, injuries, damages or other losses from any cause whatsoever, including but not limited to those in connection with terrorist activities, social or labor unrest, mechanical or construction failures or difficulties, diseases, local laws, climate conditions, abnormal conditions or developments, or any other action, omissions, or conditions. Travellers further assumes complete and full responsibility for, and hereby releases Francesca Muir from any duty of checking and verifying any and all passport, visa, vaccination, or other requirements of each destination, and all safety and security conditions of such destinations, during the length of the proposed travel. By embarking upon his/her travel, the traveller voluntarily assumes all risks involved in such travel—whether expected or unexpected, the traveller is hereby warned of these above mentioned risks as well as possible travel industry bankruptcies/ medical/ climatic disruptions, and the possibility that traveller/ travellers may be unable to travel as per the scheduled itinerary, due to any personal emergency which might arise. The traveller is hereby advised to obtain appropriate travel insurance coverage against these risks. Francesca Muir suggests Boomers Travel: Seniors travel insurance with no age limits – for Baby Boomers and young at heart! http://boomerstravelinsurance.com.au She suggests that you book your travel insurance as soon as you book your flights to ensure you are covered in the event of a cancellation (don’t worry; you only pay insurance for the days you are on tour). Please note your passport MUST be valid for more than six months from expiry date, and contain at least three blank pages.
For a booking form, please contact f rancesca@f rancescamuir.com
Small personal culinary and cultural tour to the island of Crete.