Tag Archives: Greece

I’m On A Boat

Mr. Wonderful had one last surprise before we headed back to reality (aka London). After a few days of exploring Santorini by more traditional modes, he manned up and chartered a speed boat for the day! He reasoned, this was the only way to truly delve into some of the island’s best kept secrets. Hey, I’m not going to argue with that.

Our captain, Panos, would be waiting for us at the old port in Fira at 1100 hours. But first we had to get there. The old port lies 800 feet straight down the sheer cliff face of the Caldera, and is used mostly by the ginormous cruise ships shuttling boatloads of tourists on and off the island. My inconvenient fear of heights meant that the two-minute cable car ride down was out of the question. So we opted for the 600 steps on foot. Which would have been merely unpleasant – were it not for the herds of mules that traverse the path everyday. Now I had to totter down the hazardous route in my flimsy sandals, the cobblestones slick with donkey mess! It was awful – not to mention stinky!

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600 steps

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Miraculously, we made it to the bottom uninjured. I practically threw myself onto the boat – let’s get outta here!

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We sped off toward Nea Kammeni and motored into the secluded sulphur spring inside the volcano. The warm waters have a distinctly sulphur smell, and are a murky orange color, tingeing the volcanic rocks at the water’s edge. The minerals are little metallic flecks shimmering near the surface which have curative, spa-like powers. We dove in and, clinging to a life buoy, paddled into the opening of the volcano. It was like swimming on Mars!

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sulp swim

After climbing back aboard and rinsing the mineral water from our swimsuits, Panos steered us around Pallea Kammeni, where the sea was a crystal clear blue.

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Thirassia is one of Santorini’s satellite islands. This little village has a population of only around 100 year-round inhabitants. Village elders have steadily refused foreign tourism, turning down lucrative offers to build hotels and resorts on the island. The result is a humble little seaside town that survives off of fishing. We anchored in a quiet cove just in front of Thirassia and got down to business – poppin’ bottles!

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Love these anchor beer glasses! Where can I get a set?

Love these anchor beer glasses! Where can I get a set?

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We talked, and laughed, and toasted the advancing conclusion of our Greek escapade – until the captain called us into the cuddy for a traditional meze lunch. What he served us was a comprehensive tasting menu of all the Greek staples – tomato keftedes, white aubergine, saganaki – seven dishes in total.

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After a wonderful lunch – and plenty of champagne – the real silliness began.

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As we rested on the bow, Panos whizzed us around underneath the sky-high cliffs of Santorini’s perimeter. It was so spectacular, gazing up at all the places we’d visited over the week. As we swerved around the jagged rock outcroppings, we passed Amoudi Bay where we’d dined the night before.

cliffs chapel cliffs2 5 amoudi in daylight

I could not think of a better way to say farewell to Santorini than a day on the water touring its most remote borders. As we sped back into the old port, I tried to capture the memory of the sparkling sea, the dizzyingly tall cliffs, and the sense of perpetuity that reassured me if I ever come back, I’ll find it untouched by time.

Sunset in Oia

It’s rumored that Oia has the best sunsets on the island. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, we decided to head over before dinner.

Along the way, we paid our friends at Grace Santorini a visit atop the vertigo-inducing village Imerovigli. Keeping cool with a saffron mango margarita by the pool, I was able to take in the jaw-dropping views of the Caldera.

Grace pool

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We arrived in Oia just in time to witness the mad rush of tourists (some of them literally stampeding) down to the tip of the island where throngs assemble every evening to await the sunset. We shied away from the crowds, opting instead to take advantage of the suddenly deserted streets. We wandered around watching the fading glow of twilight bounce off the town.

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With dusk upon us, we wound down the coastal road to Amoudi Bay for dinner at Sunset. We heard about it in our trusty copy of Where Chefs Eat, but this place is no secret. Reviewed in the New York Times and featured on Travel Channel,  it’s one of Santorini’s most famed dining spots. Nestled at the base of the cliffs with the gleaming white villas of Oia above, Sunset sits on the edge of a twinkling bay. As we walked to our table, little fishing boats were returning to the cove and coming ashore with their catch. We sat right on the water and shared the Sunset trademark dish – lobster pasta.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if this dish was a favorite of the Greek gods themselves. The restaurant insists the recipe is “top secret.” But word is already out amongst the feline foodies – this discerning lad definitely wanted in on the action.

Rest Amoudi 8 Rest Amoudi3 Rest Amoudi 9A shame we were too full to taste this complimentary sweet yogurt brought to our table – it looked lovely. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming about this meal for some time to come…

Zannos Melathron, Pyrgos

The best part of our hotel was its fantastic location in Pyrgos – a quaint, sleepy Santorinian village that has managed to lay low despite the overwhelming crush of tourism besieging most of the island. When we arrived in the town square, this dashing young lad was waiting to carry our luggage up the steep ascent our room.

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Zannos Melathron is a Relais & Chateaux property at the tippy top of the village. Settled into the slope of the hillside next to the brilliant blue-domed Agia Theodosia, the hotel has a bird’s-eye view of the island’s northern tip. From the restaurant terrace, you can see the cliffs of Fira, and then Oia further in the distance.

The mansion is the former mid-19th century home of a powerful Greek shipping family. The main public rooms of the interior still evoke a nostalgia for the charmed life this glamorous home once contained.

front

Agia Theodosia

Agia Theodosia

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The suites are cavernous – in the truest sense of the word! While some might find this cosy, I actually felt a little bit claustrophobic. Everything was clean and thoughtfully arranged – and I loved this little nook.

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Outside on the terrace was shaded seating for two, a couple of stripey sun loungers, and a jacuzzi.

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And how about these views from the pool?

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After settling in and unpacking at the hotel, we made our way down into the village to the best lunch joint on the map – Selene. It serves mouth-watering local dishes with the warm welcoming service characteristic of the region. I have to admit, it was so good we went back again (though I won’t say how many times).

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House baked bread with tomato tapioca

House baked bread with tomato tapioca

Squids with tomato crust

Squids with tomato crust

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Octopus carpaccio with white eggplant salad

Octopus carpaccio with white eggplant salad

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Chicken leg (gyros style) in pitta bread with grilled Santorini zucchini and yogurt-spearmint sauce

Chicken leg (gyros style) in pitta bread with grilled Santorini zucchini and yogurt-spearmint sauce

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And of course, what Greek meal would be complete without an oozy warm slice of baklava? baklava

On that sweet note, I’ll save the rest for tomorrow – when the real adventures begin!

Santorini “The Old Way”: The Hilltop Village of Pyrgos

After catching a high speed ferry to Santorini and disembarking at the old port, I wanted to start exploring right away. Pyrgos is a hilltop village in the center of Santorini with stunning panoramic views of the island. It’s also one of the least developed villages on the island, preserving its traditional charm. From the main square at the base of the hill, steep footpaths lead upwards through the densely clustered stone houses and neo-classical ruins. These labyrinthine streets are only navigable on foot or by donkey. With no traffic, you can really experience the medieval authenticity of the place – despite its gradually emerging status as a tourism village. Pyrgos path3 flora and sarah path us walking pyrg 2 domes dome flag view Grab your sunnies and hike to the top of the hill, strewn with the ruins of an ancient Venetian castle (Kasteli). The sunsets from up here are sensational. path2 funny face leaning wall church inside church inside church two Just beyond the front steps from this lovely church is the terrace of Franco’s Bar –  softly playing a mix of sultry wartime jazz and classical music. It is the perfect place to sip a gin fizz in the warm breeze and watch the sky change colors. francos patio francos church francos drink Sunset3 domeflag dusk sunset2 sunsetview sunset Pyrgos is a little spot of unspoiled ground where you can experience Santorini “the old way.” And with gobs of historic charm, and heavenly views like these, I hope it never changes.

 

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Foreign Engagement

My first day of being engaged, I rediscovered my joie de vivre. Everything suddenly seemed incredibly novel. In that first hazy stage of wakefulness, which any other day I’d simply snooze through, I insisted we scramble up to the roof with our duvet and pillows to watch the sunrise.

Waiting for sunrise is agonizing; it always seems to be on the very verge of happening but keeps holding out. I whiled away the countdown snuggled up in blankets staring at the new sparkle on my ring finger.

Finally, the sun came up. We basked in it for all of ten minutes before ordering up room service. No better way to start our first day as a betrothed couple than champagne breakfast overlooking the Aegean!

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After our breakfast of creamy strained yogurt, grilled vegetable omelettes and the most sinfully delicious gooey Greek doughnuts, we were ready to head to the beach for our morning swim. I donned my new macramé suit, swiped a couple of towels, and trotted down the sandy trail to Agios Stefanos.

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swimback beach

After we were all cool and salty from our dip, we lunched on a festive Greek feast.

Traditionally inspired freshly fragrant selection of Greek dips with pita bread

Traditionally inspired freshly fragrant selection of Greek dips with pita bread

Airy fish roe puree, squashed eggplant salad, tzatziki, and velvety fava

Airy fish roe puree, squashed eggplant salad, tzatziki, and velvety fava

Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, sweet green peppers, red onion, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, caper berries and barley bread

Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, sweet green peppers, red onion, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, caper berries and barley bread

Green salad with octopus carpaccio, capers, marinated artichoke hearts,  and red wine lemon thyme vinaigrette

Green salad with octopus carpaccio, capers, marinated artichoke hearts, and red wine lemon thyme vinaigrette

Grilled calamari served with freshly diced tomato, capers, and basil salad

Grilled calamari served with freshly diced tomato, capers, and basil salad

We passed the afternoon hours playing Bananagrams and sipping Bloody Marys.

bloodys roofAnd we relished our last Mykonos sunset, before heading off for dinner. It was a whirlwind of a trip, but an unforgettable adventure – one we will recall often over years to come.

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Greece, Love & Happiness

There are some places in this world that just stick with you long after you leave. I knew by my first full day, Mykonos would be one of those special spots I will remember vividly forever.

I could hardly sit still through breakfast, I was so excited to scurry down to the beach like a little crab. Agios Stefanos is a sandy local beach with crystal clear shallow water, perfect for wading and snorkeling.

M1 M2 M18 M7 M8 M9A morning swim in the sea is like a cup of coffee – a wonderful way to start the day! We paddled around and then lazed on our towels in the warm sand until lunchtime. When our tummies started to rumble, we didn’t have to go far – we just breezed into the beachside grill and ordered up a plate of barbecued sardines, and one mean salad – pomegranate, pinenuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and big squidgy chunks of Greek cheese. M20 M4M10 M13 M12 M11 M14 M15

At the end of the day, with our swimsuits hung out to dry, we scrubbed up, dressed in our dinner clothes and headed up to our private rooftop to watch the sun set. As the sun dipped down behind the end of the island, champagne was popped – and so was a big question!

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cheesy grin box

How can a little box hold so much happiness?

Over dinner, we laughed and gasped and sighed, and celebrated our engagement.  Our candlelit table for two overlooking the sunset was the most amazing place to dine on three courses served to us right there on our private rooftop.

watching watching2 Sunset

I think it was the happiest sunset I ever saw.