COME AND HAVE AN AFFAIR WITH ME ON THE ISLAND OF CRETE, GREECE!
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Crete changes people and they return again and again and again!
“The most amazing holiday ever”.
Mary-Anne Lines. September 2019
“Our tour of Crete was a very well organised and a very enjoyable insight into Cretan history, culture and food and we would highly recommend the tour to anyone who asks.
“We joined Francesca Muir on her tour of Crete – An Aegean Odyssey in September 2019 and from the moment we arrived we had such a fantastic time that it was very hard to leave this beautiful island.
“From Agios Nikolaos to Chania, each day provided a new adventure in discovering this amazing place. Fran provided a well thought-out tour and everything ran smoothly. Each of the meals provided gave us a new taste of Cretan food, from breakfasts overlooking the beach in Agios, to lunches in monasteries and wineries, and dinners in some stunning locations. Highlights included a cooking class in the mountains and a Minoan feast prepared by Jerolyn Morrison, an anthropologist, archaeologist and potter with an expertise in Minoan cooking and food. We also swam in the beautiful crystal waters of the Aegean Sea, visited museums, olive farms, quaint little villages and much more.
“All our local tour guides were fantastic as they shared their great knowledge and passion for their specialities. We were guided through Gournia, Spinalonga and Knossos, monasteries, wineries, and a walking tour of Chania and Kritsa.
“We would travel with Fran again in a heartbeat. She is extremely passionate about Crete and it certainly showed on our tour. Our hotels in Agios and Chania were great locations, the food amazing and the small group tour suited us with the pace very relaxed and not rushed, which allowed us to enjoy the pleasures of Crete as we discovered them.
“Prior to the tour we had visited Athens and Santorini. Fran also provided wonderful information on where to stay, where to eat and what to see in these locations, which was invaluable to the overall enjoyment of our whole trip.”
Deirdre and David Lee. 2019
“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 organisation 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 Sweeney. 2008
“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 Tilbrook. 2008
“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 Curtis. 2018
“Travelling with Francesca to Crete was a life-changing experience – her knowledge, passion and insight into Cretan life made our trip one our family will never forget.”
Celia Harper. 2015
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Make 2024 your most memorable yet – come and join me on a Greek Easter tour of Crete, for a heady two weeks of deliciousness as we head off the beaten tracks and into the heart of the island.
My affair with the island began more than 30 years ago and I’ve been in love with her ever since, for she changed me forever and has become my spiritual home. She leaves an indelible print on people, and I have yet to meet anyone who is not equally besotted with her and all she has to offer and who promise to return– and they do, time and time again.
To this end, I take small personal tours to the island where we dip in and out of her culture and explore her culinary depths. We visit traditional villages where the locals live as they have for centuries, and almost travel the length of the island where you can see firsthand the snow-tipped mountains, deep gorges, fertile valleys and sublime beaches snuggling up to azure seas.
I believe the best way to get to know a place is by immersing yourself in the local culture, meeting the locals who will regale you with stories about their history and lives, and getting off the well-worn tourist tracks. Though we will, of course, visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the island of Spinalonga, which was the site of the last leper colony in Europe.
I am not a tour guide. I am a tour coordinator. I ensure that your trip is seamless and stress-free, and I employ professional, fully accredited guides along the way. I take only small groups on my tours to Crete, to give you a very personal insight into the island that lies at the heart of the Mediterranean diet and the cradle of civilization thanks to the ingenuity of the Minoan Civilization.
A TINY ISLAND WITH A BIG HISTORY AND EVEN BIGGER HEART
This tiny island (it can fit into the island of Tasmania more than eight times) has contributed more to Western Civilization 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 in the western region it’s 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 been the envy of the Mycenaean’s, 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 part of Greece in 1913. They are hospitable, 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 diet, and the basis of the 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 with excellent local wine. The scent of the wild herbs baking on the Cretan hillsides 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 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!
I can promise you every day will be delicious, and every day will be different!
GREEK EASTER TOUR TO CRETE 2024
MONDAY 29 APRIL TO SUNDAY MAY 12, 2024
13 nights and 14 days culinary and cultural tour to the island of Crete during Greek Easter festivities.
For the first week we will be staying for seven nights in the port of Agios Nikolaos in Eastern Crete with rooms overlooking the “bottomless” lake – Lake Voulismeni.
As this is Holy Week, we will also be immersed in preparations for Easter Saturday.
Highlights in Eastern Crete include:
- A welcome dinner at stunning Terrassa restaurant overlooking the Bay of Elounda
- A local fishing boat trip to the Island of Spinalonga for a guided tour of the last leper colony of Europe
- A sublime seafood meal at the water’s edge in a fishing village
- A day in the historic mountain village of Kritsa where age-old traditions such as pottery, leatherwear, lacemaking and weaving are still carried on today. We will visit local heroine Rodanthe’s museum and eat a traditional Cretan lunch under the shade of ancient Plane trees
- Visiting a 13thcentury Byzantine church popular for its well-preserved frescoes
- Lunch and leisurely cruise around the Bay of Elounda on a traditional fishing boat
- Joining the locals at the weekly farmers’ and travellers’ market
- Spending a glorious evening under the stars listening to Cretan music and enjoying local mezze plates, local wine, and raki
- Plenty of free time for walks, swimming in the azure waters of Mirabello Bay, exploring, eating, shopping and just lazing around
- Joining the Easter Saturday celebrations culminating in midnight fireworks around the lake
- A traditional Easter Sunday feast of lamb on the spit along with all the trimmings
On the 8th day we take a bus trip cross the island to the Old Port of Chania (pronounced Hun-yia), western Crete. We will travel via the capital, Heraklion and stop for a guided tour of the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the Knossos Museum. We will then enjoy lunch in the heart of the capital before continuing our journey.
In Chania, we will stay on the Old Port in a unique modern hotel housed in a 13th century Venetian home which was built on the ruins of a 9th century Arabic hammam (baths).
For the next six days we will explore beautiful Chania with all her little alleyways and lanes as well as rural parts of western Crete.
Highlights in Western Crete include:
- Walking tour of the Old Port culminating in a Cretan Mezze lunch in the Venetian sector of the city.
- Guided tour of the holy sanctuary of Agia Irini – one of the oldest monasteries on Crete – including the small museum, refectory and icon painting, embroidery and sewing workshops
- Breakfast with the nuns of Agia Irini
- Wine tasting tour and lunch at the Kourkoulu Winery
- Visiting Dourakis Winery and Melissakis Olive Oil Mill to learn the secrets of Cretan olive oil and wine production customs and traditions with Sommelier, Anna Marie and her Apiarist husband, Vasilis. Lunch is at their family vineyard
- A trip into a tiny village in the White 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. (She wrote the original Cretan Diet cookbook). We will then sit and eat our feast in this extraordinary setting – this has been deemed the highlight of the tour!
- Plenty of free time to shop and explore and visit some of the fascinating museums found in the Old Port. Each evening we will sit and watch the sun go down with a fabulous cocktail in hand! And if you want a traditional Turkish spa, there’s the Al Hammam where you leave your modesty at the door!
- Transfer from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos – 1 hour
- 7 nights Single/Twin/Double Share Accommodation in Agios Nikolaos
- 6 nights Single/Twin/Double Share Accommodation in Chania, Western Crete
- Welcome dinner of traditional Cretan food with local wine
- Transport to the fishing village of Plaka; local fishing boat trip to the island of Spinalonga; admission and guided tour of the Island of Spinalonga; boat trip back.
- Seafood lunch in the fishing village of Plaka with local wine
- Traditional Cretan mezze dinner overlooking the little lake with local wine
- Transport to the mountain village of Kritsa
- Tour of museums depicting early life of Kritsa
- Lunch and shopping in Kritsa
- Visit to 13th century Medieval Byzantine church famous for its frescoes
- Visit the Farmers’ and Travellers’ market in Aghios Nikolaos
- Night of traditional Cretan music
- Greek Easter celebrations and a traditional Greek Easter Sunday feast of lamb on the spit
- Transport, admission and guided tour of Knossos, the Palace of King Minos in Heraklion
- Admission and guided tour to the Knossos Museum
- Lunch in Heraklion
- Private bus trip to Chania, western Crete
- Guided walking tour of Chania the Venetian, Jewish and Turkish quarters
- Traditional Cretan mezze lunch with local wine in the Venetian quarter
- Breakfast and tour with the nuns of the monastery of Agia Irini
- Wine tasting and lunch at the family owned Kourkoulou Winery
- The Ultimate Cretan Cultural tour – olive oil, wine tasting and bee keeping in the mountains of Western Crete
- Cretan cooking class and dinner in an old disused olive press
- Alfresco farewell dinner of delicious Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine at the Well of the Turk
- 14 breakfasts
- 5 dinners
- 8 lunches
In case of inclement weather, please note some tours on the itinerary may be swapped around. I may also swap to another day to avoid clashing with tour groups!
- International and domestic travel to and from Crete
- Travel Insurance – essential
- Local bus fares and taxis to places of choice during free time
- All meals include local wine which is preservative and additive free – so very drinkable! Other wines, spirits, and cocktails must be purchased separately
- Meals other than those listed above
- Tips for meals, guides, bus drivers etc. hour hence the importance of tipping)
For those interested in staying in Athens or travelling to other islands before or after my tour, once you have paid your deposit, I can help with accommodation and advice as to what to see and what to miss!
Tour strictly limited to 8 people. So, first in best dressed!
Tour cost: A$8200
Non-refundable deposit of A$900 to secure booking – due 2 July 2023
Two payments of A$3650 due 1 November 2023, and 1 Febnriuary, 2024
Pease note: no Single Supplement payment necessary. You are guaranteed your own room. (I don’t believe you should you have to pay extra because you’re travelling solo!)