We’re just back from a last minute break away from it all. We needed to do it as a family, as the kids school holidays were a challenge and finding respite for my mother during the holidays proved impossible. In the end, we took the boys out of school and scoured holiday websites for where we could go the next week.
We’d almost got to the end of a booking for Majorca, when two of the four available seats on the plane from Aberdeen were snapped up before our eyes, so it was onto a new search, and we eventually landed on Crete, after we’d read the reviews for the Anastasia Hotel, near Stakis, in the North of the Island. We had to fly from Glasgow, but that was no biggie, since it’s only two or three hours or so in the car to get there. For us, it was still a lot of money for a week, but a single week was all we could go for. We’d not flown for 12 years, so it was a bit daunting.
The last time we took middler on a plane, all those years ago, he screamed from the moment the engine started until the plane landed. Needless to say, we didn’t attempt it again, and were a bit nervous about it. Booking a last-minute holiday didn’t help, as we felt a bit vulnerable going out, wondering if it’d be a disaster from start to finish.
On the plane, he did well, although he nearly crushed my hand at the take off, but we got there just fine. Choosing Stalis in Crete, wasn’t a bad choice, actually it was a very good choice for us, given we were taking along a boy with special needs. On the last day, he realised he had an audience around the pool and went into major meltdown mode a couple of times, to the point where we left the pool to give everyone else peace, but other than that, he actually did really well.
There was only one running off episode where he swore blind for about five minutes, although one of the hotel staff gave him a telling off and that seemed to work. It gave him a bit of a shock that people other than his parents and school can actually say something about it. Littlest met some friends around day three, so his holiday improved no end from then on. Eldest wasn’t with us this time as he’s just started college, but we’re hoping he can come next year.
It wouldn’t be fair not to mention the hotel we went to, and what we did, as we couldn’t have chosen better for what was a budget half board hotel, that showed three stars.
Hotel Anastasia, Stakis, Crete, and the Stakis Area
As a three star hotel, we did worry a little before we got there, but the reviews were actually really good on Trip Advisor. The hotel was small enough at around 300 people, not to feel ram packed in, but big enough not to feel empty and boring. There are three pools, none of them very large, but big enough for the people around the pool. I’d read about the sunbed mafia, but we didn’t find that a problem to be honest. Any day we wanted a bed or two, we managed to find them.
Up to about day 3, people seemed to be sharing beds, removing towels when they went out etc and it worked well. Around day 4, a new batch arrived, and the sunbeds were monopolised for a couple of days, but they seemed to back off too, when they realised bed hogging was pointless. A couple of groups were taking beds for toddlers, which was a bit selfish, but hey ho, they felt entitled I guess as they were on holiday too. I’d have no problem removing towels from beds where people don’t show, but never needed to.
The reviews for it on Trip Advisor were mostly glowing, which is rare for a three star, and we knew what we were going to. With some negatives around the food and accommodation, we didn’t expect too much for when we got there, but it was fine.
The hotel lobby is plain and quite small, but it’s perfectly functional, and although my heart sunk on the bus from the airport, at the entrances of some of the places people got dropped off at, I felt better when I saw the pleasant sign when our hotel was called.
At reception, we were told to leave our cases, and taken down to a meal, even though it was after 1am their time. It’s a really good first impression and a nice touch to have food waiting for you on arrival if you get there out of food hours. The hotel is half board, and evening meal finishes at 9pm, so we really didn’t expect anything, even though we’d read on reviews that others had been given a meal on late arrival.
Plates of salad, some bread, and a small meal with meat, veg and rice were put down to us. I think it was some Greek dish, but I forgot to ask what it actually was.
Although the hotel is half board, the drinks are not included for your evening meal, but bar staff attend your table during your meal to take your drinks orders. For breakfast, there are juices, tea and coffee, but not for the evening meal, which seems standard across the island. A small cola was around 2 Euros, and a large cola was 3 Euro, with a large Mythos 3.50 Euros. It’s sensible to budget for your drinks as part of your spending money before you go. We knew this from reviews, but others seemed taken by surprise.
Breakfast was very good, I have to say. Remember this is a three star hotel. Anyone upset at the food here, must be expecting à la carte dining, or are much more fussy than my crowd. We found something to eat every day. My favourite in the mornings was the yoghurt and peaches, but with lots of fresh fruit, traditional hot British breakfast, cereals, breads, cheeses and much more, it’s impossible to find nothing to eat. I’m going back to the yoghurt though. At home, I tend to dislike plain Greek yoghurt as it tastes bitter to me, but it wasn’t the case over there. I wish I could have taken a couple of freezers full of the stuff back with me…. Honestly, I really did. It was a lovely breakfast with coffee how I like it on tap. You won’t find any spoon standing black stuff, but lots of hot coffee for anyone who wants it.
The buffet evening meal changed every evening. With a full salad bar each day, I had a lot of salad meals.
There were always options for kids, either nuggets, fish fingers, burgers etc etc, similar to canteen style kids food, but with chips, rice, pasta dishes, and with a Greek choice every day, there was always something and always fruit to choose from too. The dishes were filled quickly, and not left empty towards 9pm, which is what I’d half expected.
Whether you arrive for supper at 6.30pm, or 9pm, the help yourself selection was always large. Evening meal also had three desserts to choose from, with a mousse, or cream, soup, bread, cheese and more. I took my images in the dark, so they’re not good, but you get the idea.
The kids had chicken nuggets at lunchtimes from the bar, which were around 3.50 Euro I think, and really good. Better than the nuggets they had for the evening meal one night. I think those benefited from being made to order rather than being in a large batch. The only day I had lunch, I opted for the Carbonara but without the ham and bacon. I half expected to get the same Carbonara with just the meat taken out, but it had been cooked from fresh.
For the amount of food on offer, and the amount eaten for the price paid, there is nothing to complain about.
It’s easy enough to go for the locally cooked dishes, and the pasta ones were fabulous. Sunday night is barbeque night, and with plenty buns and bread, the kids made sausage butties and burgers, going back a few times over the 2.5 hour serving time to get something else. It was common for our youngest to eat at 6.30 with his new pals and then come and join us around 8.30pm for chips and sauce, and maybe a bowl of dessert. The staff were fine with how often the kids ate during the buffet service times.
They make this hotel, I have to say. I’ve never been anywhere with such courteous staff. Always a smile for you, and nothing is ever too much trouble. If you’ve an issue, you just need to go to the desk, and they’ll do all they can to help you out.
The cleaners do a fantastic job, and the owner seems to pitch in with his staff. When he arrives, he goes around picking up anything he sees someone drop, tidies up glasses, and keeps his eye on the whole place, always smiling as he does. Staff never seem harassed, and seem to enjoy working as hard as they do. And they work hard. The staff here could give lots of far more expensive hotels some great tips in customer service.
I saw a couple of reviews where holiday makers were disgruntled because the owner didn’t single them out for special treatment, but seemed to do so for others. Personally I don’t understand this. We didn’t get to know him, but we didn’t go on holiday to get to know the owner, and there was no need to. He was often walking around, and hard to miss, mostly smiling, and keeping on top of his hotel. His staff did such a good job, there nothing to approach him about. If someone wanted to get to know him, all they had to do was make the effort to talk to him. There are three hundred people there at a time and it’s impossible to get to know everyone personally.
Towards the end of the holiday, I mentioned that I’d found the beds hard, as the traditional Greek way, is concrete base, with slat and a mattress on top. I had a stinking bout of the cold half way through our week, and stayed in bed longer than normal. I put pillows under my hips and shoulders as I found it hard, but they said they’d have bolstered up the mattress to help with that if I’d gone earlier. It wasn’t an issue, but was nice to know they’d have done something about it if I’d only asked.
In the back of my head, I’d pictured the accommodation I had at a three star a few decades ago in Corfu, which was atrocious. I didn’t expect much, so I wasn’t disappointed. The room we were allocated was a basic family room, for four people, all sleeping in one room. There are smaller rooms for two or three. Our room was fairly big, a cream colour, patio doors to a small terrace, a bath with overhead shower, air conditioning and a fridge. Apologies for the messy room. We were on holiday 🙂
Our room was steps away from reception, great for the kids with the terrace to the side of the complex, and we had a partial sea view, which wasn’t terribly scenic with some wire in the way, but didn’t bother us. The side sea view was definitely better than some of the views towards the garden areas. We quite liked our position, as the sun arrived there fairly early and very few people were walking up and down outside our wee terrace.
The air conditioning was brilliant.
It worked a treat. And it was free. As was the fridge.
We were 10 Euro for the safe for a week, which was pretty good. Rooms are cleaned daily, with towels changed every second day. We’d tried to upgrade to the superior rooms, but couldn’t get one.
Our room was fine for a week, but if we go here again, I’d get the upgrade if possible. The beds are more like we’re used to at home, and the TV’s there are much more modern in the newer blocks, with separate rooms for adults and kids to sleep in.
It’s Greece, and the hotel does a great job for a three star hotel. Actually, they put more work in than some four and five-star hotels I’ve stayed in. Yes, there are places which do it better, but you’ll pay a fortune for it. I missed the Greek night as I had a stinking cold, but the boys and my hub all seemed to enjoy it. I suspect I’d have compared it with my Greek night from 30 years ago in a small village where there was lots of plate smashing and a dozen dancers and more.
One night was a quiz, another was karaoke, and a group of dancers put on a pretty good show for only three of them. There was something every night, and I was sad to miss the magic show and the quick change shows. I’m told they are spectacular, but they weren’t on the rota for the week we were there. The owner does a kids disco every night, and during the day, there’s a kids club for up to age 12. It’s pretty much a family hotel, and does it very well, in the Greek way. If you want pubs and clubs, they’re actually not far away in Stalis and Malia.
If I could change anything about Crete, it would be to lose the crickets….. Pointless gripe, oh yes, and a more comfortable bed, but that’s a personal thing and I know what to do the next time. The allure of the Anastasia is definitely the staff. And how child friendly the place is. My youngest made a few friends, and they would sit talking until the wee small hours. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where I’d allow that. Door staff are watching all the time, the outdoor bar is open until 2am, or the last arrivals have been sat down and fed/watered, so there are always people keeping an eye and they don’t chase the teens away, who’re sitting beside the pool bar or pool table, just chatting away. It’s well-lit throughout all alleys and walkways, all night long.
Getting Out and About in Stakis / Malia
We went for several long walks in our week-long holiday.
From the hotel, it’s just a few seconds to the underpass which goes right under the road outside the hotel. The road can be a bit noisy, but after a couple of hours, we stopped noticing it at all. The crickets of Greece were more of an annoyance than the road. Anyway, turn left at the other side of the underpass to go to Stalis, and right to go to Malia. Fairly simple really. If you go to Stalis, turn left out of the underpass and cut through the Hotel Kyknos, which takes you down to the road going to the two towns. It’s a really busy road, with lots of quad bikes flying around and no real pavements as such in either Stalis or Malia, so be careful with little ones when you walk down the road. There are loads of shops with plenty of fake goods, including Rolex watches and handbags, if you like that sort of thing.
At the bottom of the Kyknos, there’s a path to the beach, although it’s fairly rocky there.
We didn’t really do a beach holiday, but if the beach is your thing, walk further into Stalis, and most of the pubs have beaches you can rent a sunbed and parasol from. A little further and you get the public beach, which is quite narrow and didn’t appeal to us much, as so many pale people were getting sunburned on it.
There are a couple of waterparks, fairly close, one of which would definitely be too big for middler, so we didn’t consider it, but we did try a day at the Star Beach, which had four slides, and a fairly large pool area which is free entry.
Star Beach is busy, and it’s full of older teenagers, who I believe go there to party, with a foam party in the afternoon. We never saw it, but there were loads of things to do there, if you have a deep wallet. Sadly, we paid for access to the chutes, but middler wouldn’t even go on them, so we considered that a bust and walked back. The bus had cost 7.2 Euros to get there, which I actually found expensive, even though everyone kept telling us that buses in Crete are cheap. It was a couple of stops for four of us and over 7 Euros one way. I don’t think that’s cheap, but hey ho.
We’d started walking to the bus stop to get back, but middler wanted to see the rocks on the beach, so we just kept walking. It was around 7Kms to get back to the hotel by the coast road, although it didn’t feel as long as that to me. My hub, who has a dodgy knee, wished we’d gone back for the bus…….
We didn’t really do anything else, and we bought very little because we didn’t go out much. Mostly just walks and around the hotel. I didn’t like Malia much. Too many teenagers scooting around, so we didn’t go back there after the first walk along. Most of our money went on drinks. We kept plenty bottles of water and juice in the room, so often tended just to go back there for five minutes when we were thirsty, and just bought the occasional drink from the pool bar.
There’s a happy train not far from the hotel, that takes you a tour, and plenty of excursions if you’re into that. When we go back, and we will go back to Crete, we’ll hire a car for a couple of days and have a scoot around like that. The hub likes to find his own way around on holiday normally, so not hiring a car was unusual for us, but we really just wanted to go and chill for a week, and that’s what we did. Yes, some days were challenging with middler, but it was fantastic, and we all needed that break. The hotel made it easier for us with middler, which was great. I doubt they even know the atmosphere there made it easy for us to control him.
Apologies to anyone he upset, but that’s life… Disability can’t and shouldn’t be hidden away. Just because somebody who was lucky enough in life not to be disabled, finds the struggles of someone else annoying or confusing, isn’t a good enough reason to exclude them from experiencing life. Most people were lovely and understanding, and he had a ball, despite struggling on the last day.
We came home, after a night flight, a nearly three-hour drive and got home around 5.30am. Had to pick my mother up from the respite house by lunchtime, and eldest was home for two nights that night, so we had to sort him out too. Washing took another day to even begin, and now, with my mum back into a routine, I will have time to breathe and begin to catch up again. Real life has hit hard and fast.
When’s the next holiday? It’s definitely time to sell the motorhome and move on to more traditional fun in the sun.
So there you have it. That’s what we’ve been up to. Sorry I’ve been neglecting the blog recently, but it’s back to the daily routine now and lots in the planning stages for later this year. I’ll be blogging until I’m 100 I think….