Sunday, May 18, 2014

Greece Part III: Santorini is a perfect place

 Saturday 12 April
Today is our 6 month wedding anniversary. Woot woot. We are off to Santorini (or Thira if ya Greek ;)) today. We took a fast ferry…which, I gotta tell you…was really quite fast :P They loaded that sucker quick and we were off like a bullet through the water.

Sayonara Mykonos!!

The sweeping volcanic cliffs of Santorini were beautiful from the water. The towns of Santorini are scattered like snowflakes along the top of the rock face.

We were picked up by a van at the ferry port. As we were walking towards the parking lot…we heard “PRESTON!!”. It was so disorienting to be in a strange place and hear someone call Preston’s name. We looked over to see a girl wildly waving her arms. It took me a minute to place her (when we were so OUT of place)…but it was Nicole and Stu that we had met in Turkey!! How funny to run into them again. We briefly caught up on our respective travels since we’d last seen each other. They were leaving Santorini on the ferry we came in on.

We found our van and wound our way up the twisting road to the top of the cliffs. We drove through the town of Fira to drop off another passenger in our van. Fira is the main town of Santorini. It was bustling and busy. We continued on our way to Oia (pronounced e-ah), the town where we were staying at the far end of the island.

Our hotel

The woman at our hotel Anna was VERY welcoming and friendly. She immediately served us coffee and sat down with us and a map of the town to show us all the best places to go.

More cats :D

The adorable studio room had great views of the Mediterranean and backside of the island. We dropped off our bags and set out to explore the town.

Our first views of the caldera were unreal. For anyone that doesn’t know…a caldera is formed when the land collapses following a volcanic eruption. Santorini sits atop what remains and looks down on the immense bowl that was left behind.

Real life!!

The look here in Oia is quintessential Greece: white buildings with blue roofs, gleaming sun, sparkling sea. The town spills down the cliff. I couldn’t believe our luck!! We walked along the marble walkway into the pedestrian-only town. We wove through beautiful boutique shops and restaurants. It was bright and HOT.

Anna had recommended that we descend the 250 steps to the sea for lunch along the water.

It was a long way down, but it was the perfect day to do it…so we found our way down the steps. 

The restaurant is down there

Even from high up you can STILL see the bottom!! Ah-mazing!!

Near the end, our way was blocked by a pack (herd? murder? congress?) of donkeys!! Eek!! It’s traditional in Santorini to ride a donkey back up the cliffside. These donkeys were just hanging out by themselves. It was a little scary making our way through them…I remembered to pat them on their rumps as we went so as not to surprise them and get a kick…a little gem of knowledge from my days of horseback riding as a teenager.

We made it through without incident and sat at a restaurant right on the dock. Once again…can I wax poetic about this water?! I want to get in it!! But, I guess not as much as I want to stay warm :P It is sooooooooooooo clear and soooooooooooo beautiful.

It was actually really warm in the sun. We ordered a LITER (500ml just didn’t seem like enough) of the house wine, bread, baked cheese, and grilled calamari. The squid came completely whole. I’ve never even seen squid eaten like that, but it was unbelievably fresh and yummy. It was seasoned with just a bit of lemon juice. Perfect. We got a bit tipsy on the wine and enjoyed our time talking in the sun before conquering those 250 steps back UP the hill.

OF COURSE this time...the donkeys had their attendants, who did NOTHING to move the donkeys, but chastised us for touching them as we went through. Nice. :P

Uh huh. YOU don't touch them!! Good luck!!
The views were incredible, the food was delicious, and it was a bit tough going after all that wine…but boy, was it worth it!!

Sleepy from the wine, we hung out in the room and watched “Mama Mia”. So good and Greek!! Haha.

We tried to revive ourselves with tea, but were still late for Oia’s famous sunset. We managed to see some of it from our balcony.

We had a simple pizza for dinner on a rooftop with awesome views and returned home for bed.

Walking to dinner

Walking from dinner

Goodnight Santorini

Sunday 13 April
We slept in a bit this morning and enjoyed coffee and store bought croissants for breakfast.

We took Anna’s advice (again) and walked up the lane to rent an ATV to explore the island. They wouldn’t rent us a moped without an International Driver’s License.

Side note: curse that thing!! When I went to England back in 2009…I got an International Driver’s License, which consisted of going to AAA, having my picture taken, and paying 20 bucks. No one EVER looked at it. Not once. It was like taking 20 dollars and tearing it into pieces. So, I opted out of that for this trip…in which EVERY dollar counts. Wellllll, nearly everywhere we’ve been wants an International Driver’s License!! Go figure. We got away without it in a few places, but would’ve been fined if we’d been stopped. Grr.

SO…we went with the ATV, which can go on any road on the island. We set out towards Fira…took a few wrong turns and were on our way to the opposite end of the island and the “Red Beach”. The ATV was actually a lot more comfortable than the moped, but it was sort of cloudy and it was FREEZING.

They grow grapes on the ground for wine!!

We stopped at an empty restaurant on the other side of the caldera and had a delicious lunch of: bread, tomato balls (special to Santorini, where meat used to be sparse), chicken (me) and pork (Pres) souvlaki (kabobs). It was so good. The views were great, but I was COLD.

That's Oia that you can see

Tomato Balls

We hopped back on the ATV and drove through a cute little town to the Red Beach. We had a short hike over volcanic rock and looked down at the burnt and volcanic beach. It really was red!! Go figure :P We decided to skip actually walking down on the beach and instead headed back to the main road towards the “Black Beach”.

The Black Beach was found easily enough and it was WARM!! I laid down on the sand for as long as Preston let me (about 15 mins) with my eye closed soaking in the rays of the sun as the black sand was heated all around me. It was awesome.

We headed back to the hotel and warmed ourselves by sitting in the sun and drinking tea, but it was still chilly.

Driving back

We took the ATV along the road the winds above the town and had an early dinner in order to catch the sunset. I had delicious mousaka-hearty, warm, and perfect.

From dinner, we headed to the ‘sunset spot’ at the very end of the island and the town. It overlooks the 250 steps that we climbed.

It was crowded and the sunset was somewhat of a bummer. The horizon was a bit cloudy, so the sunset was a dud. I was able to snap some pics and we headed home.

My boys :P hehe

I picked up some dessert from the local bakery, we returned the ATV, and walked back our lane under the full moon.

Tomorrow-we head to Athens!! So excited :D

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