We talked about the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” while we were away (and promptly watched it upon our return), so it seems this blog post should pay homage. I actually saw two couples taking wedding photos while we were there, so I guess it really is appropriate.
Before I go any further, I just have to say that Santorini is GORGEOUS! Like jaw-dropping, breathtaking gorgeous. I took a high-speed ferry in the morning from Mykonos to Santorini, because I wanted to spend as much time on this island as possible. Both of my parents claim it’s the most beautiful place they’ve ever visited, so I had high expectations.
The port in Mykonos was a wee bit crazy. Our ferry didn’t arrive until 5 minutes before our scheduled departure time. Somehow, they unloaded hundreds of passengers (and about a dozen cars) and reloaded hundreds more in a matter of maybe 15 minutes. Pretty impressive. The ferry ride was 2.5 hours, and we were going fast! This isn’t a leisurely stand outside taking photos ferry ride. This is a take-your-motion-sickness-medicine-and-sit-inside-hoping-you-don’t-turn-green ferry ride. Actually, I found the boat to be quite comfortable. I read a lot of things that led me to expect otherwise, so I guess you could say I was pleasantly surprised.
A driver was waiting for me when we arrived in Santorini. (Same situation as Mykonos…barely any taxis!) We rode on a crazy windy road up the side of the cliff with lots of switchbacks. I can’t believe the big buses that drive up and down! Then, we drove about 30-40 minutes to the other side of the island. When we planned this trip to Santorini, we were advised to stay somewhere with a pool, because there are only one or two beaches on the island. I was also advised to stay in Oia (pronouned ee-ah), because it’s the side of the island with the most beautiful sunsets. And of course, I added one more stipulation…I wanted to stay somewhere where we could watch said sunset from our terrace. Well, when you wait until less than two weeks before departure to book a hotel, there aren’t many options left. Luckily we found a great place!
I was riding to Oia from the port in a bus with a few others. Three of us were staying at the same hotel; others were staying at nearby properties. The driver asked the couple in front of me where they were from. Guess what they said?! SWITZERLAND! He then asked what city, and guess what they said?! LAUSANNE! Here I am…on a Greek island…in a mini bus with maybe 10 people…and someone else is from the next city! The world is so small. I thought for sure they had to be expats working for Nestle, but it turns out they’re actually Swiss (and they don’t work for Nestle).
We stayed at a lovely hotel called Esperas. Someone from the hotel was there to meet us when we arrived. His job? To carry luggage down the many, many, MANY stairs. Thank goodness! Similar to the hotel on Mykonos, we were staying in a fabulous room that was almost like a small house…private terrace (with a blue gate!), two bedrooms & two bathrooms, an open living space, and another little relaxation nook up above one of the bedrooms. It was a lot of space for the two of us, but would be perfect with a few other friends along!
My Barnacle was flying in on an evening flight, so I decided to spend the afternoon exploring Oia. Exploring Oia basically included taking A LOT of pictures, shopping, and eating a snack. (Baked feta with honey & sesame seeds – can you say yum?!)
I made my way back to the hotel before sunset. The sunset in Oia is famous, because the sun disappears into the sea. I had a comfortable seat on the terrace at the hotel while hoards of people gathered at various points above the hotels to catch a glimpse.
The sunset was amazing. Not a cloud in the sky – just a ball of fire setting into the sea.
My Barnacle arrived just after sunset (bummer), but we had dinner reservations at a fabulous little spot in town called Roka. A colleague in the UK recommended it, and the hotel confirmed it had been hugely popular this summer. We couldn’t make a decision about what we wanted, so we ordered 5 or 6 different things on the menu to try. Shockingly, our bill was roughly the price of one main course in Switzerland. Made me love Greece even more!
After dinner, we walked back through the maze of stone pathways and oh-so-many stairs to our hotel. Even in the dark, things are beautiful.
The hotel gave us a breakfast menu to fill out upon arrival. Along with what food we wanted to eat, we filled out what time we wanted breakfast served as well as whether we wanted to eat on our private terrace or near the pool. (Rough life, I know.) It only seemed appropriate that we would eat on our little terrace. It was so great to literally roll out of bed and eat outside in my pajamas.
We spent most of the day lounging at the pool and on our terrace. Reading, reading, reading. In the afternoon, we headed into town, so that my Barnacle could look in some of the shops and take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
Like the first day, we made our way back to the hotel to watch the sunset from the best table by the pool. My Barnacle loves bubbles, and we were both hungry for a snack, so we got a variety of Greek goodies and spent the next 45 minutes ooh-ing and aah-ing as the sun set. We also snagged a couple of great photos of us with the sunset courtesy of the really friendly wait staff at the hotel.
We lingered on the terrace until it was dark. Laughing, reminiscing about the past eight months, and talking about the future. It was so fun!
We made a late dinner reservation, so we wouldn’t be rushed. The hotel recommended a place down on the water called Sunset Ammoudi taverna. This was a small fishing port, so all of the restaurants had fresh seafood that was caught earlier in the day. The hotel told us there was a shortcut to get to the pedestrian walkway that descends the side of the cliff to the restaurant. They said it would take us 10 minutes. During the day, donkeys carry people up and down, but they stop working at night. We followed the directions down all of the stairs in the hotel to “the blue door.”
There were a few more steps beyond the blue door, but then we were instructed to make a sharp left. At this point, we were starting a trek on a REALLY narrow path with lots of loose rocks, overgrown shrubbery, lizards scaling the walls, and other bugs crawling all over the ground. This path wasn’t lit, so iPhone flashlights were necessary. We determined that this qualified as a hike – not really appropriate for our dresses. Of course, I was wearing my Haviana sandals, which I continue to wear every time I actually need hiking shoes, so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised.
Partway through, I even stepped into a mud pit…with both feet. Gross! We couldn’t believe no one warned us about what we would find on this shortcut, but this continues to be pretty normal in Europe…no warnings. It probably took us 10 minutes just to find our way to the pedestrian path. Then, we still had A LOT of “stairs” to descend…and a lot of donkey poop to avoid. By the time we made it to the water, we were sweating and already freaking out about how we would get back up. I made my way into the sea to wash off my muddy feet and sandals (which clearly appalled those dining at waterfront tables). Once seated, I calmed down and really enjoyed our meal. (I mean, Oprah has been to this restaurant, so it had to be good.)
The waiter literally brought us up to the case of fish from that day’s catch. The fisherman explains the different types of fish and then weighs your fish to tell you the price. We had a scorpion fish. I’d never heard of that, but it proved to be delicious!
Somehow we managed to hike back up the hill and through the scary shortcut significantly faster than when we were coming down. I can’t wait for the day when I’m actually dressed appropriately for a legitimate hike. My poor Havianas aren’t going to withstand many more surprise hikes!
I’m not sure if these pictures even do justice to the beauty of Santorini. I highly recommend it, if you ever have the opportunity to visit. It was the first time since the south of France back in May where I really turned off and completely relaxed. And it was delightful. Such a wonderful last hoorah with my Barnacle!