Thursday, August 28, 2008

Escaping the crowds

Day 8 in Santorini was pretty much the last day of the honeymoon: we were due off the island on a 7am flight the next morning. Faced with a crowded and crazy Fira, we decided to hike over to the next place to the south, Pyrgos.

Pyrgos is on a hill. It's five miles from Fira. It was 100°F. We were very sweaty when we arrived.

Pyrgos, though, as it turns out, is a very lovely little village with some beautiful buildings. It was super-quiet, exactly as you'd expect a little Greek village to be in the middle of a summer day. We wandered around for a little while, visited the tiny monastery, had a coffee in the village square, and then a little lunch in a tavern on the way back to Fira. All the way we were steeling ourselves for the anticipated horrific impact of the return.

It wasn't as bad as all that. We snuck back to the hotel, skulked for a while, and again escaped the town to Firostefani for dinner. Here's a photo from the way to the Kasteli in Pyrgos:


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wrong town, dufus

Day 7 in Santorini was time to move to Fira, the main town on the island. We'd planned some time in a separate town to get a feel for other areas of the island, but we were both reluctant to leave Oia. When the time came, it was the standard hostage-exchange scenario: this time with the Canaves Hotel Oia handing us over to the Cosmopolitan Suites Fira. It went without a hitch.

Fira was a bit crazy. We'd become so accustomed to the laid-back, relatively quiet, oh-so-civilized Oia that an insanely tourist filled commerce-a-palooza was a bit of a shock to the system. Fira was definitely that and more. We'd been given a tip that "Nick's Tavern" was the place to go, a hidden and authentic gem, so we had a bit of a look around for that... but after an hour or so of wandering we gave up and settled for "Nick the Greek's Bar" for a snack and a drink. After that we retired to the hotel---to regroup and to settle on a strategy to enjoy ourselves in this frazzled town.

The hotel was actually very nice indeed. Right in the center of Fira, so very handy, but very small and somehow secluded. Our room was fabulous, the pool was lovely, the view superb (astonishingly untrammeled by hordes of tourists), and the setting very picturesque. We skulked there for the rest of the day.

In the evening we went out for dinner and tried to head away from the crowds. North of Fira is the much smaller town of Firostefani, a short walk away; we ended up in an Italian restaurant having the most superb pizza for what might have been 1,000 miles or more. For those planning travels, note for your records that this was the very same restaurant described by some dimwitted online reviewer as "under the windmill at the top end of town" in Oia. Wrong frickin' town, englishchris. Thanks for wasting our time the other night.

I took this at the hotel. Nice place.

Couple in pool

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ammoudi Again

Day 6 in Santorini was our last full day in Oia, and we decided on another trip to the beach. We made it to the bay of Ammoudi by about lunchtime, and had another dip in the med before getting a snack at a cafe by the sea. The waiter was from Slovenia, spoke perfect Greek and broken English, wore aviators and a pink straw Stetson, but served a mean retsina. I took this snap of Wendy while we waited for our salted fish.

Wendy in Ammoudi

Monday, August 25, 2008

Musée d'Orsay

Day 5 in Santorini we didn't really do much. Here's a picture from 13½ years ago by way of consolation. I always liked this shot.

Musee D'Orsay

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well done, nature

Day 4 in Santorini we decided to go down to sea level and check out the med. We'd been out for dinner the night before and bumped into a couple from Sheffield ("a little town in the north of England; you probably wouldn't have heard of it"), both of whom heartily recommended the Bay of Ammoudi at the northern tip of the island. We figured we'd give it a go.

A reminder for those following along at home but not quite as well as you should: Oia is 700-1,000ft above sea level, atop cliffs looking over the sea. That means that to get down to the sea you need to find a way down those cliffs... and waddyaknow they have a whole bunch of rocky steps leading down to Ammoudi beach. Perfect for keeping most of the hoi-polloi away; also perfect, as it turned out, for those wanting an intense quadricep workout.

We swam in the med down at the bottom, which was... howdoyousay... invigorating. After splashing around for a while we got some lunch (and a bottle of lovely retsina) to fuel our climb back up to town-level again, which gave us just enough time to head back to the hotel, change, and come back out to see the sunset

Santorini is famous for sunsets, of which you can find about 90,000 pictures on Google. We were expecting quite the spectacle, then, and it was indeed rather lovely. Oddest of odd things, though: when the last glimmer of orange sun had disappeared beyond the horizon, the crowd which had gathered to watch erupted in spontaneous applause. Applauding sunsets? Congratulating nature on a job well done? Do these people clap at flowers, cheer trees and give standing ovations to majestic mountain ranges?

All very unexpected. I took this photo on the way to the great event.

The Caldera