Crete - still idyllic amid Euro crisis
Argus football writer Michael Pearlman enjoys a trip to Crete to recover from a long season.
When I was at school, I was Greece.
Whatever the scenario, I was the one getting into trouble with the teachers while my equally culpable friends got away scot free.
I was thrown out of the classroom so often I was as permanent a fixture of the corridors of my school as lockers and as such, I can relate to the plight of the Greek tourist industry.
The Euro Zone financial crisis has, it appears to me, pushed several countries to the limit of financial meltdown, yet it is Greece which has been made the poster country.
The week before my partner and I flew to Crete we were constantly being given doomsday scenarios of being stuck there as the economy collapsed and sadly, that’s a view that is being perpetuated in the media.
However, as a traveller who has enjoyed stays in countries which only 20 or 30 years ago were ravaged by genocide and conflict, the threat of being stuck on a Greek island in glorious sunshine with travel insurance didn’t exactly have me waking in a cold sweat.
Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, football reporters are a hard-working bunch and a sunshine break after a long season was just the ticket and the stunning Aldemar Royal Mare resort in Crete provided a perfect setting.
A five star resort aimed at no-one in particular – with visitors from all over Europe and ranging in age from couples, families with kids to seniors while we were there – it took my partner and I all of five minutes to settle in and relax.
The resort operates on a full, half board and bed and breakfast basis and with five different restaurants, what feels like about 12 million swimming pools, shops and instant access to the beach, it isn’t difficult to become so relaxed you’re virtually comatose!
There are several sporting options to stir you, several tennis courts and a golf academy with a local professional top of the agenda, but it’s the award-winning spa that most met with the approval of my girlfriend.
In the interests of hard-hitting investigative journalism we both enjoyed a variety of treatments including an ‘Aqua Royale’, ‘Aero Jet bath’, body wraps and massages. I can’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but, like the rest of the resort, the facility was stunning.
Greece isn’t a thousand miles away from Wales when it comes to a love of food and much like at home, you’ll be treated to dishes with an emphasis on fresh seafood and lamb.
The resort boasts five different restaurants with all tastes catered for. Those of you who like me see gluttony as a holiday pastime will enjoy the buffet at Symposio with an authentic taverna, a gourmet restaurant, beach restaurant and sushi bar (complete with Japanese chef) also on offer.
Arguably the best aspect of the Royal Mare is the staff.
With such a large resort – Aldemar have two other hotels either side of Royal Mare – there are a huge number of staff and it’s obvious many of them have worked for years in a job they genuinely enjoy.
The service with a smile is so impressive you could be in America and here you aren’t even expected to pay an extra 20 per cent for the privilege. Any minor quibble is taken care of instantly and that is probably the key reason why people go back time and time again.
That and the fact Crete in its own right is a stunning island. The beach and coastline is beautiful and in a nation steeped with history, the Palace of Knossos and former leper colony Spinalonga are well worth a visit.
This is the kind of holiday where you can do as little or as much as you like and with practically guaranteed sunshine, there really is very little to do other than relax and enjoy a great holiday.
Don’t believe the hype. For a sunshine break Greece is still as good as it gets and if you make a trip to Aldemar Royal Mare, you won’t leave disappointed.