Santorini

Greece has been towards the top of my must-see-countries list for awhile now. My love for Greek food is undying (is there anything better than a salad of cucumber, tomato, feta, and olives? IS there?) and the historical sites + sunny beaches + pretty white houses with blue roofs and red flowers combination has been ingrained in my head as a paradise that I must one day reach.

The food of the gods.
The food of the gods.

A few months ago, Richie mentioned that his buddy from PwC, Dave, was going to do a tour through the US and Europe after he wrapped up his US secondment (he’s an Aussie and is returning to Melbourne this summer) and that he might meet up with him in a to-be-determined location. When that location was determined to be Greece, I invited myself along. Sorry, Dave. Luckily, he’s an easy-going person who didn’t seem to mind the third wheel (or at least was polite enough to pretend not to mind to my face!)

With all of the trouble around Lexie’s leg, it was uncertain until the very last moment that I’d be able to go. Although we’d already discussed her situation with the guy who takes care of the dogs while we’re on vacation, and he was more than happy to watch her like a hawk (he loooooves Lexie), the vet couldn’t guarantee that the stitches would come out Friday. And our plane flight was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. I was devastated and almost certain that Richie would be going on the trip without me. Luckily, on Friday the stars aligned, Lexie’s stitches were removed, and the veterinarian told me in no uncertain terms to get on the plane and stop worrying about her. Whew.

Richie and I boarded our plane Saturday afternoon to Athens. There were no direct flights to Santorini from Budapest, and the way that the flights worked out, we had an overnight stay in Athens and a morning flight to Santorini. Thinking we could at least squeeze in a few sights, I had booked a hotel very close to the Acropolis. Unfortunately, by the time we got to our hotel, it was 9:30 pm and we hadn’t yet eaten dinner. We ended up eating a quick meal at a nearby restaurant and calling it a night. Our hotel’s owner was shocked that we came all the way to Athens and didn’t even get a look at the Acropolis. Me too, buddy, me too.

The next day, after an uneventful flight, we met up with Dave and headed straight to here.

Kamari Beach
Kamari Beach

Our hotel was on Kamari, a black sand beach (basically lava rocks and gravel). For the first two days, we merely rotated between this beach, our hotel pool, and various restaurants along the waterside.

This was my view nearly all week. Not terrible, hmm?
This was my view nearly all week. Not terrible, hmm?

The water was a little chilly at first but felt wonderful once you were completely submerged.

On Tuesday, we had a beach day in the morning and early afternoon, but later in the afternoon we went wine tasting. In the (very meager) trip planning process, I’d come across a company that did various wine tours on the island. The tour included a driver that would pick us up at our hotel and return us there at the end, as well as driving us to all of the wineries. Built-in DD? Yes please.

Santorini vineyards
Santorini vineyards

Our tour guide, Vaios (“Just like the Sony computer, plus s!”) is actually the owner of the company and does all the tours himself. He used to be a sommelier for a high-end restaurant, but when the economy started collapsing, most of the restaurants in Greece eliminated the position altogether. He thought of doing wine tastings, but realized that he would need to coordinate transportation to avoid the drinking-and-driving factor, so he created his own company to do everything. He took us to three wineries – one “experimental”, one traditional, and one modern – and he explained how Santorini’s grapes are trained into basket shapes, rather than the upright vines we’ve seen in other locations. This is because of the soil and the climate – it’s really dry, so keeping all of the grapes close to the ground helps retain the moisture without having to use irrigation.

My favorite vineyard to taste was our first one (called Estate Argyros, it was considered the “experimental” one) and we returned home with four bottles 🙂 But the prettiest location, by far, was the last winery we visited, called Domaine Sigalas. It was approaching sunset, and the outdoor tasting area was covered in vines and gorgeous flowers.

Love.
Love.
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Please ignore my beach day hair. 🙂

On Wednesday, the gentlemen decided that they wanted to rent ATVs so that we could explore the island without the use of taxis or buses. This was a little bit scary to me… but I was determined to be the positive and optimistic kind of third-wheel wife and gamely hopped on.

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Don’t I look fab on this thing? 🙂
The men and their favorite toys.
The men and their favorite toys.

The woman who provided the quads mentioned that helmets were not necessary in the beachy areas, but that we should probably pop it on when we were in Fira, the main city on the island. I lasted 20 seconds without my helmet. Richie and Dave realized after we turned out of our hotel that we should have turned the other direction, and I took advantage of the break to immediately put it on. Even 15 kph was too fast for me without one 🙂 Richie joined me a little bit later, but Dave went the whole trip without his. Fearless, that guy. Especially considering we quickly discovered his ATV had no brake lights and no hand brake.

We took the quads to Oia, the town on all of the postcards. White buildings, blue roofs, blue sea, and pops of color from the flowers.

The town is full of restaurants and shopping, so we spent the afternoon exploring. At one end, there’s some ruins that aren’t explained at all in person, and online they’re just described as “castle ruins”. Whatever they are, it was a great spot for a photo.

Everywhere we turned, there was a great photo opportunity, actually.

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The next day was a full day of exploring on the ATVs. We started at Perissa, which looked nearly identical to our beach area at Kamari, so we didn’t stay long. Next we went to the aptly named Red Beach:

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Then over to the lighthouse (Faros):

IMG_3956Richie and Dave enjoyed climbing over all the rocks to the very edge. I stayed back and documented.

 

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We met a donkey (dubbed “Doug the Donkey” by Dave):

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When I reached out to pet him, Doug tried to eat my hand. He probably thought I was offering food instead of rubs.

 

And we stopped at many viewpoints along the way to take in the beautiful sea and the landscape.

Hey buddy. Keep posing and please don't sting me.
Hey buddy. Keep posing and please don’t sting me.

In the evening, we headed back to Oia to have a meal in the sunset.

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IMG_3993On our last day, we split up – the guys wanted to go exploring further on the ATVs, but the massive wind gusts that we’d experienced Thursday afternoon and evening continued on Friday, which made riding less than pleasant in my opinion. So the guys went off to explore Fira, as well as the Santorini Brewing Company, while I curled up with a book and a mojito by the pool. Not a bad way to end the trip, in my opinion!

For those thinking of a trip to Santorini, it is definitely worth it! The restaurants were wonderful – none of us had a meal we didn’t enjoy – and the sights were beautiful. I’d definitely recommend our hotel, the Rose Bay Hotel. The inside of the rooms is rather bare, but it’s clean and comfortable, and the service is wonderful. The pool is gorgeous, and it’s a 1-minute walk to the beach and to the main strip of restaurants in Kamari. It’s a very quiet area, especially in May and June – we were surrounded by elderly tour groups from the UK, which we were told is common in this time of year – and while they sure knew how to have a good time, they weren’t partying until 4 am or anything 😉 Nichteri was my favorite restaurant in Kamari (a Vaios recommendation which was wonderful!)

For those of you not on Facebook, you can see a few more photos from the trip here (no account required).

 

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