Elafonisi beach, Cinderella and finding tomatoes

Elafonisi beach, Cinderella and finding tomatoes

Have you been to Elafonisi? It’s been on our list of things to see for quite a while. Last year when I worked at the little hotel in Panormos, the guests left early in the morning and returned with tales of turquoise waters and pink sand.

Cinderella…

As I washed up the dirty crockery from breakfast and ironed pillow cases, I dreamed of one day seeing it for myself. I felt like a Greek Cinderella…minus the wicked step sisters…and the invitation to a royal ball…and the mishap with the glass slippers…Ok, I was absolutely nothing like Cinderella.

Ironing pillowcases whilst dreaming of the beach…

Setting off for an adventure…

Early on Saturday morning, we set off for Elafonisi. The white mountains stood in the distance; only a little snow remained. On the highest peaks, the abstract patterns reminded me of a toddler that had been let loose with chalk.

In the late May sunshine, we passed eerily quiet tourist resorts, where swish five star hotels sat sparkling but empty. We drove down country lanes lined with vibrant red poppies, purple thistles and yellow broom. A tractor pulled out in front of us, and as we slowly crept behind, we marvelled at the patchwork quilt of olive groves in the valley below. An assortment of different shaped bits of land, criss crossed in a random pattern like creases and folds in an unmade bed.

Glimpsing paradise…

Our destination glistened up ahead. The sea hung like a shimmering blue jewel in the distance, framed by the surrounding mountains either side. We carried on forward, Mr SN navigated the car down winding hair pin bends and the mountains stepped aside to reveal a vista filled with sea and sky.

As we neared the shore, the sun tickled the surface of the sea, which faded from a rich blue to sparkling clear. In-between, a vibrant turquoise clung to the rocks, like the mixture of diamonds and peacock feathers. We gasped in amazement. Never had we seen such a stunning sea scape. We greedily absorbed the serene colours before the road led us in land a little, through a landscape filled with mountains and plastic poly tunnels. 

Finding tomatoes…

“Stop.” I shouted dramatically to Mr Sidestepping Normal. “There are tomatoes in the road.”

Mr SN executed a perfect emergency stop that would make any driving instructor swell with pride.

My concern wasn’t for the safety of the rogue tomatoes, but of wonderment that tomatoes had been placed in our path. You see I’d forgotten to buy tomatoes earlier when we stopped at the little shop on route. I’d shuffled out the shop, arms laden with bread, cheese, pineapple juice, bananas and chocolate, but the tomatoes to accompany our lunch had slipped my mind.

“This is perfect.” I said to Mr SN.

“We can’t eat these.” He said in disgust. “They’re in the road.”

I ignored him and picked them up anyhow. “Someone else will take them if we don’t.” I warned.

He raised his eyebrows with skepticism. 

It was evident that the tomatoes had been grown in the poly tunnel a few metres away and had somehow fallen from a crate whilst being loaded on to a truck. There was nothing wrong with them and the plump red spheres lay like balls on a snooker table. I’m not much of a snooker player myself, but I do know that the object of the game is to pot the black…or the white…or something like that. Either way, I’m sure that had Cinderella been faced with the same situation, she would have taken the tomatoes too.

Elafonisi…

Our afternoon at Elafonisi was filled with a picnic lunch complete with juicy tomatoes, a walk along the shallow shoreline and ear ache induced by the relentless wind. Dora-dog enjoyed cooling off in the water and trotted along contentedly in-between shaking and covering us with a fine spray of water.

After trying our best to endure the chilly wind, we gave in and huddled into cardigans and jumpers. Looking decidedly uncool for the beach, I compared ourselves to a group of young Greeks nearby who seemed unaware of the chilly weather. Scantily dressed, they played music and batted a ball with little wooden bats whilst their Yorkshire terrier yapped excitedly.

Who wears a cardigan on the beach?…

I’ve always wanted to look cool like them. They appear to make no effort, yet look naturally beautiful with their sun kissed skin and long glossy hair. In contrast my hair goes frizzy at the sight of water, my skin can’t take too much sunbathing, and at the hint of a breeze, I’m rummaging for a cardigan. You can spot me at the beach, I’m the one wearing a long sleeved cotton shirt in the shade, reading ‘Cider with Rosie.’

Setting up camp…

Sorry, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, so once our ears were aching sufficiently enough to warrant heading back to the car, we set up our little camping stove, boiled ourselves a cup of tea and discussed world politics. That’s a complete lie, we actually sipped our tea whilst I filmed Mr SN singing, because he still believes that he has a voice of an angel, and I needed evidence.

Lounging in our mini camper van…

Our car is big enough to use as a mini camper van. Before we’d set off that morning, we removed the back seats and turned it into a lounging/ sleeping area. As the light began to fade, we sat in the back, drank wine straight out of the bottle (please forgive our terrible manners, we forgot the glasses) and watched the sun set over Elafonisi beach.

Our car, which we converted into a mini camper van…

The next morning…

The next morning, after a terrible night’s sleep, we vowed to invest in a thin mattress for future camping trips. Slightly sleep deprived, we blearily staggered down to the shore as the sun peeped above the mountains behind us. We had the whole beach to ourselves, not another soul was around. All was quiet and peaceful, the water was still, and a fishing boat was tethered in the shallows; it bobbed around gleefully.

It had been a magical weekend. Although our mini camper van set-up needed some tweaking, the raw beauty and free tomatoes more than made up for it.

Heading home…

All good weekends must come to an end, and as we bid Elafonisi farewell, we felt thankful to have experienced this magical place without hoards of other people. On the return journey we passed the remaining tomatoes, which had averted being picked up by any other passers by, and unintentionally acquired a fly in the car, who travelled all the way from Elafonisi back to our house, where he then found freedom once again.

Rethymno…

The weekend was rounded off by a trip into Rethymno that evening with a couple of friends. We aimlessly wondered the winding old town, whilst sipping beer straight out of the can…I know, bad manners again, but it wasn’t our fault this time, the bars and restaurants weren’t open yet.

After watching the sun set next to the forteza, we got a gyros and sat down at the marina. Swathes of people strolled up and down, young guys on mopeds with pretty girls on the back zipped up and down competitively. Couples walked dogs and little children wobbled along on balance bikes.

After dropping our friends home, we headed back as the clock struck midnight. Our fairytale weekend had come to an end.

Summary…

Fairytales always have a happy ending, and just as Cinderella found her prince, I finally got to experience Elafonisi. I wonder about the fly that hitch hiked with us all the way home. Maybe he’d longed to travel, and found his own happy ending too.

On reflection, last weekend taught me that a) Elafonisi was just as stunning as we’d hoped, b) Our mini camper van is the key to exploring Crete further, and c) I’m quite happy to shun socially unaccepted practices in order to gain tomatoes.

36 thoughts on “Elafonisi beach, Cinderella and finding tomatoes

  1. Hey guys! Nice weekend you had! I just discovered your blog couple of days ago, and I really enjoy it. You write so natural, you are funny and express such good vibes.
    I’ve been to Greece only 2 times (with my husband and child), on mainland, Halkidiki, but I fell in love. We plan our next vacations to visit the main islands and step by step to cover as much as we can from this magical country. I congratulate you for the decision that you made to move there, I bet is something extraordinary, a new and fresh beginning and I really hope that you succeed in all that you wish to accomplish.
    Greetings from Romania!

      1. Hi
        So happy to here you had a magical trip at Elafonisi. Bringing back one of the happiest memories we have from our time on Crete. We camped on the beach for our anniversary. 2 camping chairs a bbq and wine, truly magical. The water lapping at our feet, the stars in the night sky, we could almost touch them. Thank you both for sparking this memory and may you have many more adventures on Crete.
        Stewart and Natalie

  2. Sounds perfect – we drove there leaving at 4am to beat the crowds a few years ago. The waters were so perfect and clear.
    Loving the stories so much – next time your in town, pop up to Asterion and give Emi a big squeeze for us x

  3. We’ve been to Elafonisi, it was in 2018. We hope to be able to see it again later this year if we are able to travel. I must admit to being very jealous of your solitude there.

  4. likewise I’ve been to Crete many times and have yet to visit Elafonisi but will do hopefully next year. I recognised you both from the tv programme aired not so long ago in uk and I was pleased to come across your blog – thanks

  5. Hi. Yes the beach is stunning. The first time we visited there was the pink sheen across the beach that was spectacular. Next time you go travel a bit further north onto the dirt track road to get to Falasarna, the Minoan City/harbour hit by an earthquake in 365ad.

    1. Thanks for the tip, it sounds very interesting. We’ll definitely be returning at some point.

  6. In a way, you are filling the empty gap of not being able to travel to Greece yet (from France). Your outing is also ours, in a way. What did the tomatoes taste like ? We were in Crete in 2018, but didn’t get as far as Elifonsi. Is your car a Peugeot Partner ? Difficult to tell when you just see the rear.
    Best wishes, and l hope you manage to get some visitors this Summer now that Greece has opened up travel from several countries (unfortunately, not including the one we live in 😕. Perhaps that will change in the coming months…..

    1. I’m sorry you can’t plan a trip here yet, but I’m happy I can fill the void until that time.

      Yes, we have a Peugeot Partner Tepee. It’s so versatile and spacious.

      The tomatoes were delicious; juicy and sweet. I have to admit they were a little warm from the sun, but I can’t really complain!

  7. My husband\’s family is from Crete. We had planned on visiting Greece this Fall, Athens, Crete and Chios I have family in Athens. My maternal grandfather and father grew up in Chios.M aybe next year..

  8. Have never been to Elafonisi but I feel I have, due to your photos and description, thank you so much. The photo of Mrs SN ironing, is so powerful, you can feel the heat both from the iron, and the sun, stunning.
    I’d have taken the tomatoes too, no problem, they look delicious! Having slept in the back of many a vehicle, I’d suggest as thick a mattress as you can get into it!
    Take care and keep enjoying life, and sharing your stories!

    1. The photo of me ironing evokes such strong memories of working last summer. I used to try and get there early before I made the breakfasts, and it was quite meditative to iron the bedding whilst thinking and sipping my coffee😀

  9. Thanks for sharing your trip which is a place we haven’t been yet, sounds lovely. A camper van is the ideal vehicle for exploring Crete. We always had a caravan when in England ,You have inspired us to invest in one here and do some more exploring. We live nr Agios Nikolaos, in the village of Kalo Horio and by the sea. You sound like you have been coping with the lockdown pretty well and I think Greece has done a fantastic job in keeping it under control as much as possible. Greece has had some very good reports. Looking forward to your next post. Take care and stay safe.

    1. We love caravans /campervans etc. you can’t beat waking up and boiling a cup of tea on the stove. All the best with your future adventures. Thanks for reading.

    1. From Panormos it’s about two hours fifteen minutes. Lots of people have reported going down and staying the night, so that you can wake up and get there early the next morning before the tourists get there. If the size of the car park is anything to go by, then it must get very crowded.

    1. Our car is a Peugeot Partner Tepee. It’s the one in the photos. It’s very spacious and the seats lift out easily.

  10. Thank you for this – we visited Elafonissi maybe 15 yrs ago on our scooter in mid-summer – it was a bit busy – but what I remember was how beautiful it was and how hot the sand was when we got out of the lagoon – one of those mments when you realise you have to run to your shoes only 50m away and hopefully without screaming out loud!!!

    1. Oh yes…we definitely know what you mean…trying to look composed whilst your feet are burning! We have sea shoes, but I can guarantee that nine times out of ten, I forget to take them with me!

  11. Sounds like a wonderful and relaxing weekend – definitely add a mattress!!! It certainly improves the look of the day when you have rested well. I would have definitely stopped and picked up the tomatoes ! Thanks for sharing the pictures as well. Looking forward to your next adventure

  12. Loved Elafonisi when we visited although it was on an organised excursion so very busy. You were very lucky to have experienced it tourist-free. As for the toms, I remember how big and juicy they were in Crete. Something we still mention here when trying to recreate a salad. They needed to be rescued, too good to waste. Best wishes to you both, Simon and Janet.

    1. I’m so glad there are other people that would have stopped for the tomatoes too! I remember when we used to try and recreate a Greek salad in the UK, it never tasted the same. The tomatoes weren’t sweet and the feta wasn’t creamy. You can’t beat the Cretan food.

  13. I discovered your blog at the beginning of the week and have now read all of your posts. I think you write really well and evocatively; we should have been going to Crete next week (for our 12th visit – normally the south-west coast) so your blog has been wonderful for me. I am really impressed by how you are trying to live your lives and wish you well.

    1. Hello! Thanks for reading our blog, after visiting the South West last weekend, we discovered how much quieter it is down that way. It was stunningly beautiful too.

      I hope you can return soon.

  14. Hello you two, if only we were 40 years younger. We have talked a lot together, about how nice it would be to live on one of the Greek islands we have visited. We started our Greek Islands love in 1980 on Creta, Chania was my favorit. Since then we have been every year to one of the Islands. We were booked on a flight to Paros for this week, but we will have to wait for better times. Your idea of living on Creta is great, its a very nice island, with many faces, with the north side so different from the south. We are spending “Lockdown” in our chalet in the Swiss mountains, this was our other love, it was hard work , but rewarding. We wish you all the best with your new life.

    1. Hello! I’m sorry your trip to Paros had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed you’ll make it there soon.

      Enjoy the rest of your lockdown in Switzerland, it’s sounds very idyllic 😃

  15. I live in Norfolk snd I’m always finding potatoes, onions , carrots and parsnips in the road that have fallen off tractor’s trailers , it’s great there’s almost a meal there sometimes and along with clearing up the leftovers in the fields after harvest we do ok for free food , even free straw for the chickens nests after the wheat harvest too!!

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