September 23 – 25, 2013
My sister’s wedding in Patras was exhausting not just for myself (because I was deathly ill), but for my family visiting from the U.S. as well. They had arrived on the 1st day the wedding festivities began. I had at least been traveling in Europe for about a week prior so my body had already adjusted to the time zone, but my family (parents, sisters, brother and his wife, and my two-year old nephew) pretty much landed and had to sprint. It was chaotic, no one had slept, and we were all a little cranky.
Traveling with family is always a bit overwhelming, especially mine. We bicker, we get a little irritated as my mom tries to run the show, my dad will try to make us happy but he’s usually quiet and unfortunately he ends up driving us around like most fathers do (when all he wants to do was rest), and we may need to take mental breaks here and there. However, at the end of the day, we’ll gather around the dinner table, or, in the morning, we’ll pile into one bed and gossip like teenagers (including my brother). We love each other and we do enjoy each others’ company. Us, siblings, like to say that bickering is our way of showing that we love and care for one another. What can you expect when you have five strong minded children with their own opinions? We all think we are right. Deep down, though, we just want what’s best for everyone.
After the wedding, we drove two hours at the crack of dawn to the Athens airport (there’s free wi-fi there btw). Once we arrived at the Heraklion Airport in Crete, my brother, sister-in-law, cousin and I took the bus to Agios Nikolaos while my parents and sisters drove. We stayed at the Iberostar Mirabello, another 5-star resort. Upon our arrival, we were upgraded – I guess because we were a large family with a lot of rooms? My reservation was originally a double sea view room but we were upgraded to a two-level, two-bedroom, villa with a private pool….can’t complain right? My parents and sisters stayed in a 3-story private family villa.
I must say, our family has come a loooooong way. It wasn’t always like this – fancy resorts. My parents have worked VERY hard to raise and support FIVE children. They have made more sacrifices than I can imagine and I am so grateful to have such loving parents. Our family has had it’s ups and downs but, again, family is family and I know that mine will always be there for me.
I will be honest, traveling with my family for the first time in years wasn’t easy, especially after the intense wedding weekend with non-stop activities – we barely had a moment to relax. Our time in Crete wasn’t as jammed packed, but time was still limited and there as much to see and do (in my mind). I did have a chance to spend some quality time with my brother on this trip and that’s when I had my “aha” moment.
My brother and I used to be very close, but once I moved out of the house after high-school (and never moved back) our relationship was never the same. I started moving to different cities and exploring the world, while my brother stayed in the area we grew up in. I always wanted “more” for him – I wanted him to travel the world with me, I wanted him to see what else was out there, I wanted him to experience living in New York like the rest of us sisters, but I discovered something when I finally had a chance to spend some 1:1 time with him. He’s not like us (sisters that is). He’s a “homebody” as he described himself. He likes his comfort zone and he’s ok with that. I spent a good 40 mins just trying to convince him to leave the resort and drive us to Plaka & Spinalonga which was just a 15 min drive up the road! I realized that for years I had wanted my life for him and thought that he wasn’t challenging himself, but the entire time he was living his life just as he wanted to. He was doing things that made him happy and those things are completely different than what makes me happy. I like to travel, I like to step outside of my comfort zone and meet strangers around the world, while my brother likes his neighborhood, his friends, his community.
We may have the same roots but we are two different people.
While in Crete, us “kids” took an afternoon trip to Plaka & Spinalonga and my parents spent some couple-time together. Once we arrived in Plaka, we took a 10 min ferry (8 euros RT) to Spinalonga (2 euros to enter) which was once a Venetian fort in the 16th century but better known as a leper colony in the early 1900s. It is a bunch of ruins now and just a tourist attraction but definitely worth the trip. We had lunch at Delphini Fish Tavern (http://4sq.com/19hnoOQ) overlooking the peninsula in Plaka. The food there was great (definitely try the moussaka) and they had fresh octopus drying out front!
For our Crete family dinner, we went to Pelagos (http://4sq.com/Hstn9k) in the city of Agios Nikolaos. It had great reviews but while the atmosphere was a 9, the food was about a 6. I thought lunch was much better and authentic. Agios Nikolaos is small and much different than Mykonos and Paros. I don’t think there is much to do there other than to have dinner by the water in the evening – it’s very scenic.
I wish we had a chance to explore more of Crete, but we were all exhausted from the wedding weekend and spent most of our time at the resort (which was ok since it gave me more time to recover). Although, I did manage to make it out to town both nights (can’t say the same for my siblings). Crete is also huge compared to the other islands, so it is impossible to explore in just two days. The terrain is much more vast with mountain ranges, beaches, vine vineyards, so I would definitely rent a car if you are visiting Crete. Oh, and I believe Zeus was born there – so that’s a site worth seeing!
Notes & Links
1. Athens International Airport: http://www.aia.gr/traveler/
2. Heraklion Airport: http://www.heraklion-airport.info/
3. Crete: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crete
5. Iberostar Mirabello: http://www.iberostar.com/en/hotels/creta/iberostar-mirabello-beach-village
6. Plaka: http://www.east-crete.com/plaka.htm
7. Spinalonga: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinalonga
8. Delphini Fish Tavern: http://4sq.com/19hnoOQ
9. Pelagos: http://4sq.com/Hstn9k