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2nd April, 2016

Heraklion, Crete

There were a number of tours on offer after our arrival at Heraklion including a relaxed ‘Crete Panoramic’, ‘Knossos Palace and Arolithos Village’and ‘Traditional Cretan Villages’. Mrs R and I however, were invited to join around thirty guests for a ‘Magic Moment’.

With Andrea, the Food and Beverage Manager, in charge we set off in a small coach and headed for the south of the island. Within twenty minutes or so the scenery became distinctly rural, in fact any sort of semi suburbia was left behind and we were being driven through acres of vine and olive grove plantations. Narrow roads in tiny villages had to be negotiated along with farmers on tractors who seemed to come out of nowhere. We crossed a fertile plain in the middle of the island and then reached mountains on the other side. The road wound its way ever upwards as the driver negotiated the tight bends. Buzzards, or were they vultures, flew lazily overhead.

Eventually the highest pass was reached, the coach started to descend, the sea came into view and within a few minutes our destination was revealed. We had arrived at a tiny hillside village comprising traditional stone houses perched on the side of the mountain with views right down rugged slopes to the sea many hundreds of feet below. This was Thalori.

After a warm welcome accompanied by locally produced refreshment, we were given a short walking tour around this idyllic setting where, these days, only around sixty locals live. Over recent years old properties have become vacant as people passed on or moved away, so the owners of this small rustic hotel have bought them. These small homes have been sympathetically refurbished and converted into individual guest suites, all different to one another. We were even shown a tiny but original Byzantine church where a service is still held once a week.

Walking back past spring flowers growing out of old ceramic pots, we returned to the main building where the smell of lamb being slowly roasted on an open wood fire was particularly inviting. The meal of typical Cretan cuisine, brought to the tables as soon as it had been cooked, was accompanied by very pleasant red and white table wine. To finish, a goat’s cheese wrapped in a batter, deep fried and served soaked in honey. Very, very good.

There was no rush to finish and gradually everyone drifted outside to take in the views and finally return to the coach. Perhaps it was the wine for some, but I noticed a more relaxed mood as we commenced our downward spiral journey. There was even much humorous reference to Michael Caine and the final scene of that great old English classic ‘The Italian Job’, until we were back on the Plain that is, when the coach became eerily quiet.

Captain Philip Rentell

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