Monday, 22 July 2013

Holiday Review - Mandarin Grove, Fodele, Crete

There are eight apartments in this small complex set in the heart of the village of Fodele and it is my understanding that all are of a similar specification, varying between one and two bedrooms.   We stayed in Daisy as a family of three and found the accommodation very suitable for our needs.  The ground floor is open-plan kitchen / diner / living room (with an additional shower-room), patio-windows to the front and a small seating area to the back which is not overlooked by the neighbours, except when the nearby church is in use.  Up the spiral stairs there are the two bedrooms, both with a balcony, and another shower room.  It would be well to point out that the stairs make the place unsuitable for the frail and disabled.  At the very top is also a roof terrace but with very awkward access through a small hatch.

All Daisy’s rooms have air-conditioning and the place in general are well, but not luxuriously, appointed.  Included are cooker, microwave and kitchen utensils, dishwasher and a washing machine out the back.  There is also satellite television but most channels are in Arabic.  Sheets and towels are replaced weekly.
In the communal area are a small but very pleasant swimming pool and a rather good Jacuzzi.  We found the place very safe for children, with a well-shaded playground close to the gates of the complex.  Guests will be met by the friendly caretakers Angie and Paul, who between them will be very happy brief you on the facilities and answer any questions concerning the complex or other matters Cretan. 

Owing to the fact that Mandarin Grove is the heart of the village, a word has to be said as the place and neighbours.  As the website informs visitors, this is a real working village so if one were seeking blissful silence at night, think again.  Animals kept by the neighbours will swiftly shatter the idyll. 

Fodele itself is a very pleasant place set in the valley of the same name.  A working village it is but one that does cater for tourists so there are plenty of places to eat and to buy your locally-made produce and souvenirs.    Out of the numerous tavernas, the pick must be Cafe Domenico run by Smoothie George.  It is his wife Eva who does the actual cooking and the house specials (to be ordered the day before) are to die for.   Her moussaka is the very best!  Try the sheep’s milk ice cream afterwards, if you have space that is. .  Cafe Domenico also does full English breakfasts but if your appetite in the morning isn’t so large then pop in to the nearby bakery for fresh bread and pastries, both sweet and savoury. 

As for the souvenirs, many are indeed local and do not have the phrase “made in China” stamped underneath.  There is a small pottery in the village which is happy to give children a go at throwing their own pot; the local ladies hand-crochet many of the soft-goods and wonderful, locally-produced, olive oil and honey is available.   The Fodele honey is superb but as always, shop around.  Some retailers charge up to €5.50 for a 250g tin while just down the street the same goods will be available for €3.50, or even just €12.00 a kilo, offering even better value.

For the wider area, 3 km to the north, Fodele beach is pretty good but a bit rocky to each end.   We had extended family staying in the Fodele Beach Resort so were able to use the loungers there for free (as guests of guests) but if one does not have that connection then they cost €3.00 each per day.  Better to go along to the other beach-front places and hire a lounger for the price of a drink.

A kilometre’s walk out of Fodele brings one to the thousand-year-old church of Agia Panagia.  Although many defaced, the icons within are beautiful indeed.  The church is opposite to the El Greco museum.  Since the museum does not hold any of the artist’s works (it is suggested he was born here) then frankly I didn't bother to go in.

Being a geologist, one thing I did spot in Fodele that isn't mentioned elsewhere is the remains of a pretty impressive fossilised coral reef, to be found opposite the church in the centre of the village.  The various corals are obvious to all, even to inexpert eyes with no special equipment and it is a great site to show children a wonderful fossil bed.  I would ask though that visitors don’t start hacking out the corals though; it seems that much of the reef has already been destroyed by the demands of village life.

My favourite walk though is the four kilometres up the Monastery of Agios Panteleimon, up a quiet and well-shaded mountain road.  The mountains are spectacular and there is plenty of wildlife; lizards are a common sight and over our stay we saw both eagles and ravens patrolling above the valley.  Do remember to take plenty of water with you though and a sun hat is always a good idea!  If bird-spotting is your thing though, head to the hills in the south of the island for a chance to see griffon vultures; dramatic animals with wing spans of almost three metres.

All in all, we had a wonderful stay in Fodele.  Being less than half an hour from Heraklion and Knossos and fairly central in the island, it makes a great base from which to explore using a hire car.   One can also head west along the magnificent E75 coast road to Rethimnon and Chania.  With friendly people, sunshine, spectacular countryside, good beaches, ancient cultural sites and fresh, tasty local food and drink on offer, I have no hesitation in recommending Crete for your next holiday.

Photo credits Maria. Veart-Shevchenko.  AKA Mrs V..