I arrived in Crete in the middle of the night on a tiny plane from the island of Kos. I was on a double mission: island hopping in the Aegean Sea, alternating between Turkey and Greece and finding outstanding accommodation. My tip to go visit the Mourtzanakis Residence when it was time for Crete, came from a very discerning Lebanese friend and I decided to follow the suggestion.Despite the late hour and my booking on rather short notice, the owner, Marcos, came to collect me in person. Nice touch. I appreciated the gesture even more, when we left the bright lights of Iraklion behind and turned north, following a rather hair rising road towards the beach resort of Aghia Pelaia and after that it got even more rural. If you are after relaxation, seclusion and tranquility you have certainly come to the right place.
Esmeralda, Marco´s French wife and known as ´Smero´ as well as the resident cat and dog greeted the late visitor cheerfully. Not surprisingly, Smero is responsible for the kitchen but, as I soon learned, she left French cuisine behind, took private classes with local Crete housewives and has since become an expert, using local products and whipping up the most delicious meals.
The residence consists of four villas for families and single/double rooms in the main building. Emphasis of the whole enterprise lies on the conservation of the environment and the use of Crete products as far as possible.
The buildings are constructed from local stone, spice for the food comes from a sweet smelling herb garden, Smero´s pride and joy and even the cosmetics in the bathrooms contain local olive oil. Not to mention the fabulous Crete wines and cheeses.If all this might make you think that you have arrived at a rather simple and rural hotel, you are mistaken, because every luxury and amenity you would expect in a 5 star hotel has been provided by this lovely family run residence. TV, WiFi, etc. in every room and villa and rain shower in the ample bathrooms. Family run also means that Marcos and Smero give everything a personal touch and will go out of their way to accommodate even the most outlandish wishes of their guests.
Talking about the guests, although they pay, they are treated like friends and as I found out soon enough, many come back regularly. They also hail from many countries, I met nationals from Russia, Belgium, France, and Italy and we soon felt totally en famille.
This atmosphere is furthered by the salon and fireplace in the main building where guests gather to have their coffee or drinks and animated conversations about every topic under the sun. Breakfast and main meals are served in the communal dining room but, if you don´t feel like company, Smero will provide room service.
Apart from looking after your physical well being, Marcos also offers guided tours, on foot or horseback to the surrounding areas, will give lectures on history, flora and fauna and take you to one or two of the local cooperatives where wine and olive oil are made.
If you fancy Yoga or Shiatsu, no problem, classes and courses are on offer. The ample library for use by the guests will supply you with a plethora of interesting books in several languages.
The Mourtzanakis Residence is located in the countryside, not on the beach. If you want a beach day however, no problem either. They will take you to nearby Aghia Pelaia where you can enjoy white sands and balmy blue water.
I felt so relaxed and comfortable, that I could have stayed much longer than just two nights. But, Samos, Naxos, Mykonos and many more islands were waiting and I parted with the firm resolve to return.
For further information, consult their website: www.ecoturismgreece.com
All photographs by Mourtzanakis Residence. Featured image courtesy of vizuan.