Sunny little stories

About us and to spitáki ston ílio

06-09-2024: The countdown

As the first days of September have passed, I have started counting down to our journey to Crete, which is now approximately six weeks away from us. It’s a first for me, spending almost a whole summer away from the island. We spent a good three weeks on the island, at the beginning of summer but work kept us very busy and to be honest, I welcomed the idea of a summer in the Netherlands.  Now however, with Autumn on our doorstep, It’s time for mountain walks, afternoon swims in the sea and… maintenance work. 

We truly have been overwhelmed by your love for the house. The first year is always a bit nerve-racking. Have we thought everything through, does everything in the house make sense? It feels a bit like a ‘holding Simba over the rock moment’. Will it please our guests and will it live up to their expectations? But your answer has been a resounding YES, for which we are ever so grateful. I have received so many lovely messages, rave reviews and pictures of your children with the star of the garden; Connie. Who would’ve ever thought that a small, eleven year old Pinésian cat, would become a rock star. I’m pretty sure Connie herself didn’t but she seems to welcome all of the attention. 

I usually spend November or December in Crete to do all of the maintenance work for Villa Meraki, to which now, the maintenance work of To Spitáki ston ílio, has been added. I have endless lists of things that we plan to execute, in order of priority, and because the time that we have between guests to accomplish them is often short, and time is a very abstract concept on the island 🙂 I take on the biggest ones when I’m in Crete myself. These days are quite sacred to me. I love spending time on the island when it’s quiet. In my last blog I wrote about Autumn and Winter allowing us to slow down and go inward and being in Crete for the first full month of Autumn enables me to do just that. That said, we have lots of exciting things coming up for both houses, so my time spent there, will definitely not be idle. Curious to find out what? I will cover the first item on the agenda in my next blog so stay tuned. And as bookings for next year having started trickling in, be sure to secure your sunniest of holidays at To spitáki ston ílio!

Autumn is...

serenity, an old soul’s passage to deep dreams


26-07-2023: a winter's dream

I know, I know. I feel as if I know what you’re thinking; ‘we just started looking forward to our summer holidays and then she goes on writing about winter’. Which is a very good point, but as you are all booking so far in advance, I thought it might be the perfect time to tell you something about winters in Crete. Because they are pure magic. And also because we’re offering you some amazing discounts; the longer you stay, the more discount you receive! So, enjoy a little bit of light winter reading, or what I like to call; ‘a Cretan winter’s dream’ and we shall look forward to seeing you there this winter!

"Spring and Summer appeal to our awakening whereas Autumn and Winter allow us to slow down and go inward "

Anne Lever

It’s always difficult to convey a feeling in words. I could tell you about the fact that, above all else, I long for the smell of Crete in winter, and that I love the sound of the olive factory, which is constantly trying to catch up with queues of people waiting for their olives to be turned into liquid gold. The smell of burnt olive branches that lingers on the wind. It is a magic that demands to be witnessed. The setting sun that turns the mountains surrounding ‘to spitáki’ golden. The smell of wild sage on the wind. The kindness and hospitality of the islanders. Spring and summer appeal to our awakening whereas autumn and winter allow us to slow down and go inward. I guess the island does just that, in its own way. It lies resting in the Aegean, as always, but now, it let’s men both men and women tend to the olive trees. It allows the Greek to slow down after the high season, and drink coffee and eat good food with friends for days on end. It is grateful for the occasional shower, and in return it shows off its brightest colours. We spend most days enjoying the kindness of the warm winter sun, that reminds us of the inevitable spring awakening. And on those rainy days, we sit by the fire, with a glass of wine and a good book or we play board games. I could tell you that there is so much sightseeing to be done and hiking trails to be explored, and that there is endless adventure awaiting you, bustling cities, history and ancient sites to marvel at. Wisdom, the beginning of democracy, the list goes on and on. But above all, whether you’re coming to Crete as a couple, a family or by yourself, Crete is the place to live life to its fullest. Whether that means sitting in the garden with a book or wandering on the beach to clear your mind, Crete offers you all of the comfort and quiet that you need for a relaxing holiday. 

Have I convinced you of spending some well deserved down-time in Crete in winter? Go to the contact page to find out all there is to know about our winter discounts. And, of course, feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions!

Travellers’ tip: if you have to stop over on your way to Crete, why not spend a couple of days in Athens or Thessaloniki. I personally only visit Athens in winter as I find it too humid and warm in the summer. Wandering around Athens or Thessaloniki in winter however is just perfect!

02-06-2023: a lifelong love affair

I want to tell you something about my lifelong love affair with this little village in the mountains of Crete, called Pinés. To anyone driving past, it might seem like just another quiet and abandoned Cretan mountain village. But I’ll let you in on a well-kept secret; the best villages seem that way. You see, Pinés doesn’t have a road that runs through it, it only has a road that runs around and past it, into the mountains towards Heraklion. Which is why, for many people, Pinés was never a destination but merely an insignificant village you drive past to get to the next. And because of that, the valley of Pinés lies undisturbed, under its cloak of insignificance and invisibility. But little do these people know, there is an energy here, a flow of life, that is rare to find. It takes a while to tap into this flow. It goes without saying that the magic of the valley is only revealed to those who look for it with it intention, those who are present, and in the moment. I think you probably know what I’m talking about as otherwise you wouldn’t have landed on this page. As descendants of the Greek gods and children of Greek myth, The Cretans are always happy to add to this magic. Someone once told me that the people in Pinés used to live until a 110 years old because they were sheltered from the salt sea breeze by the mountains that hold the village in a warm embrace. And whether it’s true or not, I’m always charmed by these ‘folk tales’. 

After a couple of days in Pinés, when you’ve settled in, you’ll find that those houses you thought abandoned, are actually filled with life and people. I’m not going to pretend that there’s a lot of people by Western-European standards. I always joke that there are probably more sheep in Pinés than people, and I don’t think that’s far from the truth. But still, there’s more than you would imagine. A rainbow coloured bunch of Cretans, foreigners, artists, musicians, gardeners, wise women, you name it. All deeply connected to the village, or as the Greek call it; ‘to chorió’, and the valley that we all hold so dearly. A valley that offers abundance every year. Olives, figs and lemons grow endlessly on the trees and the water well at the centre of the village is home to a growing glint of… goldfish. Every village needs its mystery, and these orange friends keep our waters clean. Small villages tend to have fragile ecosystems and infrastructure and from when I was eleven years old, I have seen the impact that one single individual can have on a village and its community. Whether it is our neighbour across the road tending to his vegetable garden and putting fresh produce on our doorstep or our local musician installing solar lights around the water well, because of whom we can now enjoy a night-time stroll through the village, not only guided by the stars but also by the sun. It is an exceptional feeling to live in a place where people care so much. Someone, whom I feel needs a special mention, is Giorgos, who, together with his husband, brought the local taverna back to life. After it became known that the taverna was going to close last year, Giorgos, born and bred Pinésian, couldn’t bear seeing the village go without a Kafenión and decided to throw his life around and start his Mezerestaurant ‘Mamma Mio’. And again, the energy of Pinés lifted. From ‘to spitaki ston ílio’ you can see the fairly lights of Mammio Mio twinkle through the olive trees and you can find yourself there, enjoying fine food and drinks within a 10 minute stroll from the house. Marvelling at the views from Mamma Mio over the valley and the mountains, I don’t think words will be necessary anymore. You will be invited into the magic and wonder of the village willingly.

23-05-2023: the mezzanine

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After a full year of ‘To spitáki ston ílio’ whirlwind madness, I can finally sit down and get to writing again, one of my favourite pastimes. Getting the house ready for the photoshoot was our main priority last year and we managed, but only just. And although everything was ready for the photoshoot, I hadn’t finished decorating the mezzanine, which is why it looked pretty bare. It took me a while to create a look for the mezzanine. We try to buy furniture second-hand as much as we can, which, in Crete, can take a bit longer than in countries where the supply of second-hand furniture is bigger. Nevertheless, we succeeded! Because the mezzanine will be mainly used by children, I wanted to create a dreamy and cosy space that almost feels like a cosy attic, with the slanted roof. I love working with different colours and this house has really given me the courage to use a rainbow of shades and fabrics. We found these gorgeous wooden framed beds and I painted the nightstands that came with it in a lovely colour I like to call ‘lavender milkshake’. There are dark green, linen mosquito nets, and very cutesy and colourful bedding. In addition to that, we’ve closed off the railing on the mezzanine with beautiful rattan mats for safety and a little bit of privacy. A wooden dresser and a makeshift shepherd’s cane clothing rack complete this cosy bedroom!