Monday, June 9, 2014

Big Trip Diary: Santorini

Because I had a kidney transplant, Ben and I had to postpone our honeymoon.  Instead of jet-setting immediately after our wedding, we ended up going to Greece for ten days in May.
I'm sharing a few pictures and our daily observations in this last installment of my Big Trip Diary.  Come back next week for our vacation video!

Being in Greece for a such a long time you expect there to be at least one day of less than spectacular weather. The day we left Naxos, it was overcast with a few rain drops in the air, which made us thankful that we were able to see the Naxos beaches in all their sunshine glory the day before.
At about noon we were driven to Chora to catch our ferry to our final destination, Santorini. We boarded the Blue Star speed ferry and 12:50. This was by far the nicest ferry Ben and I had been on ever. It was like riding a boat that looked like the inside if an airplane, Starbucks, and mall food court all at once.  Then as we we found our seats and the boat started moving, motion sickness hit Ben like a ton of bricks.  We didn't talk for the entire two hour ride to Santorini.
Upon arriving in Santorini, our driver, Yannis, picked us up at the small "in the middle of nowhere" port, along with a bunch of other hotel vans, buses and sightseeing tours. Then we started the winding drive up to the top of Santorini's cliffs. As we ascended higher we began to grasp the awesomeness of the majestic view of the dramatic cliffside and the sparkling sea stretching forever into one direction. 

The view from our hotel room on arrival day
We arrived at our hotel, in the quiet village of imerovigli. Astra suites. Things that we adore about Astra Suites:
  • The service is better than anything you would receive in America...ever...I think.
  • Every morning they bring breakfast to your room and you have the option of sitting outside on a private balcony to eat or not. Its located right on the caldera, so the view is break-taking.
  • The rooms are more than just rooms. They're spacious studio apartments with a kitchenette.
  • The robes and the towels are plush and smell like flowers.
  • The food at the hotel restaurant.
  • The little gifts: wine, glasses to drink out of, chocolates, and fresh fruit.
The first night, we didn't do much but sleep, recover from our ferry crankiness and try out the hotel restaurant.
But even though it was cloudly, the sunset still lit up the sky that first evening with its radiant pinks and reds.
The next day...
Waking up in Santorini is waking up in paradise. The first thing I see shining through our windows is the glow of the sun rising on the other side of the mountain. It casts little bits of light across the caldera.

The view of Scaros in the morning
We are served breakfast in our room: a basket of delicious croissants, smoked ham, cereal for Ben and a frittata for me. We ate, and read the daily newsletter that accompanied the breakfast. The newsletter told of us different things we could do on the island and the weather forecast. As the sun continued to rise we started to think about our day. At about noon the sun was completely on top of our caldera and balcony, so we thought it would be a nice time to go out and sit.
Once we showered, we walked out onto the balcony and took in the amazing views of the Aegean Sea. We figured that we'd kill some time before our planned sunset sail and go to Fira, the capital, for about an hour before leaving. Big mistake. The sun was shining direction onto the caldera, which meant that we were baking as we started our walk to Fira, up and down cement steps on cobblestones. We decided to quit early while we could and head back to the hotel to prepare for our sailing tour. 

Our catamaran, Triton, coming up to shore.
The sailing tour was wonderful. The positives: good conversations with other guests; the views from the boat; the funny and knowledgeable crew; the delicious DELICIOUS food.
As one point Ben jumped from the boat to swim to the "hot springs" which were not actually hot. He ended up dotted with sulphur. He also enjoyed quite a helping of grilled calamari. After dinner and a good chunk of wine we started the sail back to port while watching the sunset. 

The "hot springs"
When we arrived back to Astra, we were once again exhausted from a day of exploring and fell right to sleep.

A Santorini sunset

The Next Day...
We woke up to quite a surprise, weather wise this morning. The forecast predicted a very SUNNY day so we were prepared to head out early for our walk up to Scaros. We didnt want a repeat of the previous days attempt to walk to Fira. We figured we'd beat the sun to the top of the mountain, and the cool off in the pool after the descent. The temperature was fine when we awoke, but the entire island seemed to be covered in thick fog. Too the point where not seeing the mountain was a bit scary. 

Our vacation cat, Zorro, hanging out on our balcony in the fog.
Our breakfast delivery guy assured us that it would clear up as the day went on. We had planned to leave for our hike at 11 am. We didn't end up going until around noon. The fog was still a bit heavy but clearing up. By the time we reached the mountain, sunshine was peeking in and out of the clouds frequently. 

After climbing Scaros, we decided to rest for a few hours, watch a bit of CNN, the first time we'd used our TV on vacation.  Then we finally decided to make our walk to Fira, about 20 minutes from our hotel in the village of Imerovigli.  I stopped for a couple pictures along the caldera...

While in Fira we completed our souvenir shopping and Ben tried his first ever gyro...authentic Greek fast food.

The Final Day...
Our last day in Santorini we spent exploring some of the beaches on the south, including a red sand beach...

And a black sand beach.  There's a special place in our hearts for black sand beaches since we first encountered one in our other paradise, Maui.

We ended our vacation in Oia having dinner with probably the BEST VIEW in the history of views (you'll see more in our video). Until then, enjoy this picture of me in the pretty dress I bought just for the occasion.