Again, a night of decent but restless sleep. This was starting to get old. After showering up and killing as many mosquitos as we could in the bathroom, we went downstairs for another delicious Cretan breakfast of eggs and pesto on toast and a hearty bowl of fruit, yogurt and greek honey. While I scarfed down the provisions and Chris sipped his tea, Ben came by our table and shared the news that since we’d be the only guests at the hotel that night he and Gordon wanted to take us to dinner. Knowing what I did about Cretan hospitality, there was no refusing their gracious gesture. We promised to be back at the hotel before nightfall and then mapped out our day’s adventure.
It started with a visit to the Palace of Knossos, which we were able to enjoy for about thirty minutes before hordes of cruise ship tours descended on the historic ruins of one of the oldest civilizations in Europe. We weaved our way around clusters of people angling for the perfect selfie amongst the ancient columns and walls and leisurely pored over the remains of a once-great center of life and commerce. Somehow it was easy to pass two-plus hours on these expansive grounds, giggling at the sounds of amorous peacocks.
In truth though, we didn’t fully appreciate the scope of the place until later when we were in the Iraklio Archaeological Museum, which took a bit of effort to find in the city’s port district since Google Maps first sent us to a church about a mile from the right spot. That gaffe was made-up for though with our luck at finding Princess Parking right across from nearby Eleftherias Square. Peckish after traipsing around the palace grounds, we decided a light mid-afternoon luncheon was in order. We ended up at Antipodas, a restaurant across the street from La Brasserie, the area’s main gay bar & cafe (where we probably would have eaten, had their menu been more interesting).
They served us a hefty Cretan salad (think Greek salad, but with the addition of carbs), perfectly seasoned tomato fritters, a beautifully layered egg & potato omelette, the best kefaloteri cheese I’ve ever let into my mouth, and of course dessert & raki. Like I said, we were eating light. The raki they brought us was unlike any we’d yet had, flavored with both honey and rose. Chris was over the moon for it. I thought it tasted a bit too much like grandma. Also worth noting was the incredibly extensive first aid kit they had by the bathroom. This place was prepared for just about any possible medical situation save a code blue.
The Heraklion Archaeological Museum was really quite amazing and if you have the time, you should definitely spring for the palece/museum combo ticket available at either venue. It made the Getty Villa’s collection of artifacts and ancient coinage back in Los Angeles pale in comparison, both in its scope and in its thoughtful organization. We stayed right up until closing time because there was just so much to see and admire. I almost hated leaving because I knew it meant our time in Crete was nearing its end.
We drove back to Home Hotel to meet Ben and Gordon for our last dinner on the island at one of their favorite spots, Διχαλο (Dixalo) in Agriana. Inside this warm, dimly-lit taverna was a room full of laughter, food and wine that made me sad we would soon be headed onwards to France. The boys ordered us a mixed grill of lamb, chicken, and pork for the main course and we each picked out a small dish to add to the mix. The owner’s son spent much of our meal at our table, telling Ben & Gordon what his family was up to and asking us about life in L.A. This didn’t feel like restaurant dining at all; this felt like going over to a friend’s house. I understood why Ben & Gordon had decided to move here.
Ben & Gordon refused to let us chip in for the bill, which I reluctantly agreed to. It felt strange, starting out as customers of these two and ending up fast friends in a mere four nights’ time. I’d never felt so welcome so quickly in a place I’d never been before. It’s no wonder their hotel is named Home when you feel this way after staying there.
Between their hospitality, the beauty and strange familiarity of Crete, and the fact that I’d not done even 1/3 of the things I had hoped to while here, it was all too easy for me to promise that we’d return as soon as we could. That night I went to bed feeling both happy and sad, still worried (unnecessarily, in retrospect) about my own health and wistfully pondering how soon until we could find our way back here.