MR COSTAS grappled briefly with the goat, milked it, then offered me a go. I had wanted authentic Crete but this was more than I had bargained for.
The Greek island is known for its olive oil, honey and cheeses. And you can’t get fresher than what Mr Costas cooks up.
Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque town in the eastern part of the island Crete[/caption]
I was visiting the Cretan Olive Oil Farm at Agios Nikolaos, a town on the island’s eastern coast, watching cheese being made over an outside fire.
It is hard work in 30C heat — but Mr Costas, decked out in traditional kit, was unbothered.
I then got to sample the fare — washed down with the ferocious local spirit raki. And all before noon. I knew I was going to get on with the Greeks.
The farm gives tourists a glimpse of traditional life — with free entry, guided tours starting from three euros and cooking lessons available. Milking the goats is optional.
It was a few minutes’ walk from my Wyndham Grand Mirabello Bay hotel, which reopened under new ownership in April.
The beachside complex was built in 1961 and 60 of its 311 rooms have now been given a modern makeover. The rest will be done by April next year.
It comprises the tower-like main building and the Village — apartments set within stone natural houses.
My two-floor apartment was spacious, with a second bedroom upstairs, a coast-view balcony and easy access to a quiet pool.
There is a communal pool with bar in the Village and a larger pool, with a swim-up bar, beside the main building.
With two private beach areas and a marina in the grounds, you are never short of places to soak up the sun.
Or treat yourself at the spa, where my blissful, 45-minute full-body massage cost 65 euros. There are five fabulous restaurants and bars on site.
I ate delicious traditional dishes at Elia, including stuffed vine leaves and courgette flowers filled with cheese, served with tzatiki.
I also tried dakos, a salad synonymous with Crete — baked wholegrain bread with tomatoes, olive oil, oregano and feta cheese.
Greek hospitality means huge portions — and these were just the starters. Mains included grilled seabass with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon.
Or there is the super seafood at Kafenion — such as grilled squid with fava-bean puree, and king prawns topped with fresh tomato sauce.
And try a strawberry daiquiri cocktail at the Yacht Club bar, where the sun casts a gorgeous golden glow in the evening.
Agios Nikolaos, set around Lake Voulismeni and buzzing with boats, bars and restaurants, is Crete’s answer to St Tropez in the South of France.
It is stunning at sunset as the sky fades from brilliant blue to dusky purple.
And you couldn’t get a more picturesque restaurant than Pelagos. We sat in its open courtyard, under trees and fairy lights — and the food was just as impressive.
Pelagos serves more refined Cretan cuisine. I ate battered squid, courgette fritters, a tangy parsley salad, cuttlefish and a variety of desserts — including the richest chocolate mousse I have ever tasted, cake with cream and honey, and kataifi laced with syrup.
The old village of Kritsa is the perfect place to explore[/caption]
The mountain- side village of Kritsa is a half-hour drive away and well worth exploring.
The Women’s Cooperative Bakery opened in 2009 to give work to local women. Now 12 women make pastries by hand in its small kitchen.
Calories do not count on holiday, right? I tried almost everything on offer, including xerotigana — thin layers of dough fried and soaked in syrup, topped with nuts; almond biscuits covered in icing sugar; and pastries filled with cheese.
The narrow stone streets are a riot of colourful doorways, flowers and trailing plants.
The harbour at Agios Nikolaos is picturesque and boasts a variety of restaurants and bars[/caption]
Shops sell billowing linen tablecloths — and be sure to pick up some of the award-winning olive oil made from groves around Kritsa. It is sold around the world.
The domed 13th-century church of Panagia Kera is half a mile from Kritsa.
You can still see the original paintings on the walls and ceilings, including striking images of the Last Supper and St George slaying the dragon.
For more Cretan history, book a tour of Spinalonga island. In 1903, Cretans voted to quarantine lepers there — and there they stayed until they was moved to Athens for treatment in 1957.
GETTING THERE: Easyjet, British Airways and jet2.com all fly to Crete from the UK. Return flights in September are from £118pp.
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the Wyndham Grand Mirabello Bay start from £185 per night, based on two sharing. Breakfast included.
Book TODAY for stays until September 30 and Sun readers will be upgraded to half-board for FREE.
Just quote The Sun and Gabriele Dirvanauskas at check-in. Book at wyndhamhotels.com or call +30 2841 028400.
Spinalonga’s story was made famous by Victoria Hislop’s 2005 bestselling novel The Island.
You can explore the island’s ruins on your own or hire a guide. Wandering around the remnants of stone buildings is a haunting experience.
Spinalonga is a 25-minute boat-ride from the town of Elounda — or ten minutes by boat from Plaka, where you can also admire the island from afar.
Despite its dark history, the island looked beautiful at dusk — especially from a table at Plaka’s Taverna Giorgos.
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The family-run place has been serving amazing seafood for more than 50 years and even has its own boats to deliver the freshest fish two times a day.
Here, I discovered a fondness for anchovies and tucked into squid — tentacles and all — while waiters expertly served cuts from huge tuna.
The meal was finished off with a slice of syrupy orange cake, made to an old family recipe. With its rich history and even richer food, Crete had me hooked like one of those fish.
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