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A Family Holiday in Crete

Cretan harbour @ Visit Greece.Cretan harbour @ Visit Greece.

My 10 year old is writing for a newspaper, though not one you’ll have ever read. It’s called Sunny Times, and she's its only contributor, as well as editor and founder. Sunny Times – its format a battered old exercise book – is a daily record of our week on Crete.

The Sunny Times splash is the scandal of Knossos, a 3,500-year-old Minoan ruin larger than a hillside village, with royal apartments, staircases, frescoes and storerooms. The half-man, half-bull Minotaur is said to have been born here, and a labyrinth built to imprison him (see also our feature on the Top Five Greek Sites for Learning About Ancient Myths). But there’s a problem with many of these magnificent buildings; they’re fake. The early-20th-century archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans built them on top of the extensive stone ruins, in order, he claimed, to both preserve what was there and imagine what wasn’t.

My daughter called this restoration a scandal. Why couldn’t Evans have left the palace alone and let us scramble over it, using our own imaginations rather than his? So 'The Scandal of Knossos' headlined Sunny Times.

There are loads of stories on Crete, not all scandalous. In the hillside village of Limnes, just outside Agios Nikolaos, we wandered up a narrow cobbled street, past lavender-blue wooden shutters on whitewashed cottages each with a single raffia and wood chair outside, occupied by a black-clad old woman, waiting. At the end of the street a few tables were parked, and a bar was serving grilled sausages and souvlaki (which my kids call chicken lollipops). On other tables, birthday parties and engagements in the village were being celebrated, gifts being handed around, ouzo being diluted with water. We sat down at an adjoining table, watched, attempted to chat and toasted the celebrants – babies who had turned two, a young couple to be married next year, grandparents welcoming back family from abroad. And a story appeared in Sunny Times – 'How to Join a Private Family Party on Crete'.

Our accommodation also featured in the paper. We stayed at the luxury resort of Daois Cove on the northeast coast. It was so hot and cloudless in the day, we swam at night in the dark sea, dividing the moonlight on the water with our strokes. 'Avoiding the Heat' and 'Do Fish Sleep?' fill page three. 

I’m all for my daughter following in my footsteps and writing for a newspaper, in particular this one. I don’t think I’d have been able to drag her around ruins otherwise. And by searching for an angle, she isn’t just looking, she’s enquiring. She’s asking questions.

Perhaps she’ll increase her stable of publications. Snowy Times for ski holidays? And, when we go to Ireland next month, Rainy Times? I hope not.

Read more about family holidays in Crete, including things to see and do with kids.

By Dea Birkett

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