With a quick stop over in Istanbul, Jacques and I hopped on board Celestyal Crystal for a six day cruise through the Greek Islands. It was my first time on a cruise and while I didn’t love everything about the experience, I am glad we chose to spend our honeymoon like this. It was a great opportunity to sample the islands, so to speak, to discover which we would like to visit again sometime for a longer stretch of time.
It had always been a dream of mine to visit Greece. I grew up reading a lot of Greek mythology so it was a place that has always been near and dear to my heart. I always joke with Jacques that the reason I started dating him was because his Greek ancestry meant we’d get to go there to visit extended family. Of course, while we enjoyed the gorgeous views and were impressed by ancient ruins, my favorite part was all of the incredible food!
We ate mostly traditional taverna style food, which is more of the home cooking style, so it meant a lot of the same dishes, prepared in slightly different ways. On the islands, this was the easiest way to eat vegan. Most menus are traditionally heavy on the vegetables, and in many cases where the dishes do contain yogurt or cheese, you can often request for it to not be added.
Our first island stop was Santorini, known for its picturesque views, its coastline is the most photographed place in all of Greece and often considered the most beautiful place in the world. I don’t disagree.
After a tour of the island, with a visit to the adorable village of Oia, we arrived in the capital city of Fira, perched upon the cliffside. We perused the menus of a few restaurants, with our attentions caught most by the tomato fritters and the fava puree with caramelized onions offered by Archipelagos.
We were not disappointed. We started with bread and olives; a pillowy soft bread served with delicate olives, large salty capers, and flavorful sundried tomatoes. The tomato fritters were one of the best things we ate our entire trip. Flavored with dill, parsley and capers, fried to light, fluffy perfection, with just the slightest hint of creaminess in the middle created by undercooked flour. My goal is to figure out how to recreate these at home, though I know it will be difficult as the famed Santorini baby tomatoes are what really make them unique. The fava bean puree was delightful and the salad was the perfect companion, crisp lettuce and spinach, smoky mushrooms, sweet bell peppers and a tangy lemon caper dressing.
Fira Santorini – 84700 Cyclades Greece
+30 22860 24509, 23673
Our next island stop was Crete, where we enjoyed the most amazing culinary experience, and possibly one of the best meals of our life. We started out on an adventure from the Port of Agios Nikolaos to the town of Neapoli in pursuit of olive oil tasting at Vassilakis Estate.
At Vassilakis Estate, we sampled and bought some of their award winning olive oil and left with a great tip on a place to grab lunch back in Agios Nikolaos, called Portes. We arrived at Portes, a tiny, vibrantly painted taverna, slightly off the beaten path of the super touristy port area and were greeted by the smiling, friendly owner and chef extraordinaire, Manolis.
Manolis escorted us to a table (we were the only ones in the restaurant at the time), and per our request, promptly served us an ouzo and a glass of white wine straight from the barrel. We told him we heard he makes wonderful food and informed him of our dietary restrictions. “No problem at all!” he said, then headed to the kitchen without ever showing us a menu or taking our order. Shortly after, he emerged with a few plates of food – boiled greens (Horta), stuffed eggplant (Imam Bayilidi) and rice with lentils (Moujendra). We dug in, wide eyed and thrilled as each bite tasted even better than the last.
Manolis emerged again with several more dishes, potatoes and zucchini (Briami), artichoke with peas in lemon dill sauce (Agkinares me Araka), black eyed peas with fennel (Mavromatika me Maratho). Again, each dish was better than the last and we were in awe of how amazing everything tasted.
We don’t know how we managed it, but we definitely joined the clean plate club.
I told Manolis that if I had more time in Crete, I would spend at least a day in his kitchen to learn from him the wonders of making delicious Greek cuisine.
Neapolis, Gerania Lasithi, Νεάπολη 724 00, Greece
+30 2841 033653
After Crete, we cruised over to Symi (there may have been a stop or two in between, but truthfully, I’ve lost track of our days!). We didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend in Symi, just enough to enjoy an evening stroll around the port and take in a meal around sunset. We settled on a cute, family owned spot called To Spitiko because of its sweet hostess who walked us through the appealing menu. We ordered a variety of dishes, and welcomed the beginning of our obsession with Giant Beans (Gigantes).
Our last island stop before heading to the mainland was Mykonos. We got to Mykonos just before sunset so after walking around for a little bit, we scoped out a prime spot along the famed Little Venice for a drink and a beautiful view.
Once the sun was down, we ventured into the small winding streets of Mykonos Town, getting lost at every turn as one is apt to do when wandering there. Tired of getting turned around at every corner and hungry to the point of tummies rumbling and early onset crankiness, we decided to settle for dinner at the next veg friendly place we came upon. Opa Tavern was the winner because it was packed and lively, and had food we could eat. The food was acceptable, but certainly not in the top list of favorite meals.
Mýkonos, Kikladhes, Greece
+30 2289 026969
Our bellies full, we returned to the ship and settled into our beds for the last night of the cruise, beaming with anticipation for our week ahead in Athens.