Week Two: Greece – Heraklion to Fira
Watching the blue blob on the map creep slowly but surely toward Fira on a short hop from Heraklion and I felt the excitement building. It was the first time I had returned since our honeymoon 4 years ago – it was a magical stay which I knew would never be the matched, but all the same, I couldn’t wait to see those more of those sunsets that give you goosebumps.
Our sail aboard the “high speed 5” was about as smooth as they could come, for which I was most grateful, I don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to motion-sickness and was I was reeeally hoping it wouldn’t creep up on me dampening my excitement. It didn’t. I needn’t of worried. It was fine.
Perhaps it was the anti-motion-sickness tablets I had woken up especially early to take (2 hours before travel), perhaps the sea was particularly calm that day, or perhaps it was the super-efficient stabilisers they have (or a combination of all the above).
One things for sure, arriving at Fira by boat is the perfect introduction to your stay on this volcanic island; as you turn the corner beneath Santorini ‘s Akrotiri and sail into the centre of what is a flooded (dormant but still active) volcano, referred to as ‘the caldera‘.
Approaching the port of Fira, the rim of the volcano (Santorini) towers above you, the cliffs visably change colour as the different layers of volcanic matter are displayed. On top sits Fira (Thira) and in the distance Oia (Ia), with their famed white wash buildings and blue domed churches sitting bright and pretty in the sun.
I’m fairly sure someone wise once said ‘its about the journey not the destination’ but y’know I think arriving in Santorini may just be the exception – this Island is about both.
By the time the ferry has docked, the journey had me so full of excitement I swear I could of run up the 680 steps with my backpack and all, yelling out ‘I’m back, I’m back‘ all the way to the top.
Sadly (though it was probably for the best) we docked at the new port (known as ‘Athinios’), not at the old port (known as ‘Skala’). Skala is only accessible by ascending the 680 steps – by foot or by donkey. Oh and they do have a cable car – with a very loooong queue.
We didn’t need any of these methods; new port has a road up and we were collected by our (*free) hotel shuttle bus, so I was unable to run up (shame).
We allowed ourselves a really nice amount of time in Santorini – it’s 11 nights here in total. Some may consider this too long – afterall there’s tours offering ‘all of Santorini in a day’ – you could easily be in and out within 48 hours.
For us though, the island has the perfect mix ‘chill’ with a tiny bit of crazy when you want or need it, we’ve allowed time to see the things we missed last time, to repeat one or 2 things that we loved, do a little relaxing and of course plan our onward movements.
We’re staying in Villa Manos this time around – located one bus stop outside of Fira, so we’re close enough to, yet far enough away from ‘the crazy’. Arriving here, we were welcomed so warmly by Poppy: “Victoria – I feel like I know you already” – I took this as I’m sure it was intended; hoping that in the emails we’d exchanged about our reservation, I had not come across as too demanding!?
I assumed not because we were given a meal and some (very nice) sherry – also free of charge (yes…backpackers do love & get rather excited about freebies) and afterwards we were shown to our rather spacious and very clean en-suite room.
That’s the basics just about covered, so here’s some of the highlights from week 3:
Sunsets Dinners & Donkeys in Fira
The excitement of our return ran away with me on day 1. As the evening approached – the temptation of a sunest dinner became too much and our budget was almost forgotten. By ‘almost’ I mean that we ate at a restaurant with a good sunset view (for this kind of restaurant by the caldera, you will always pay a premium) but we ordered the cheapest meals and wine that we could find on their menu.
The sunset goosebumps were back and I was high as a kite and maybe a little tipsy (did you know wine is served by the kilo here?) It was the perfect way to end to our first day back on our favourite Isle (so far).
After our meal we took a stroll around the familiar streets of Fira, the town that bustles from morning through to night. We stumbled across those donkeys (the one I mentioned before) on their way up from Fira Old Port. We were sad to have completely missed them last time we visited. So albeit unexpectedly I had already crossed one ‘must do’ thing off of my list.
I’d read that you must keep out of their way when their on the move – and its soo true! The stairway is not that narrow but the in the jostle… when one stroppy donkey decides he dosn’t want to stay in line and instead go 2-by-2 you’re totally screwed… you’re getting trampled! Thank goodness we found a shop gangway to reverse ourselves into.
We had a little titter to ourselves after they passed; watching the poor shop owner was left to sweep up the droppings from out front and couldn’t help but wonder how many times a day he has to do this clean up ritual??
Super-moon in Santorini
The last few days in Crete, we kept on saying ‘it must be full moon soon’ and ‘… wonder if it will be full when we are in Santorini’. Haha – well it turns out, it was and not only was it a full moon, it was a super moon!
I took the opportunity to spend an evening playing with my camera (I’m still learning to use it). It turns out I must have learnt somthing in Photography Class because I think I got a few gooduns (thanks as always, go to James Neale Photography).
Beer tasting in Mesa Gonia
We hired a quad-bike (ATV) for wheels at a bargain price of 15 euros a day and used it to get to some of the ‘further a field’ things we had wanted to do. *MVnote nowhere in Santorini is that far away. To give you an idea; the centre of Fira to either end of the island on a quad (most of which will go slower than a car) in can be done in around 20-30 minutes. One of the things I love about Santorini is how accessible everything is – you can go anywhere on the island and back again in one day, easily.
One of the first places we hit-up was Santorini Brewing Company in ‘Mesa Gonia’ for tasting of their famous ‘Donkey Beer’. The visit was primarily of interest to ‘MostlyHubby’ but being a supportive wifey I went along. We tasted all 3 of their brews ‘Yellow Donkey’, ‘Red Donkey’ and ‘Crazy Donkey’ – discussing subtle differences as we went along – by ‘they’ I mean hubby & Donkey beer sales rep discussed; I mostly just nodded and added the odd ‘Mmm’ and ‘Ahuh’ in what seemed like the right places.
Open-air Cinema in Kamari
Now then… this traditional Greek past-time has been on my bucket-list for quite a while. I love movies; I love to go to the movies, I love to rent movies. When we’re home, we get movies on our cable subscription and we subscribe to Netflix to get movies online. So this was something I just couldn’t wait to try. Not to mention the fact that I had not seen a film in almost a month and I normally see several a week. So by this time, I was starting to get withdrawals & Kamari Open-Air Cinema couldn’t have come soon enough.
We went on Wednesday (like back home for an Orange-Wednesday – c’ept it was heaps better). As the sun was going down we departed on our wheels, my hair still damp from a shower – it soon dried in the wind, the warm breeze against my skin, the sunset not visable from the east of the island but the warm hues spread upwards into the sky – oh how I love summer in Santorini.
The whole movie experience was wonderful; sipping on my cocktail and crunching on my salty pop corn, I sat under the stars, the bougainvillaea draped so pretty over the walls, the air scented with jasmine. I wont forget this evening – it was simple but for me it was perfect; just as perfect as I had hoped.
Back again next week with another update…
Read week four: Fira to Athens
Read week two: Rethymno to Heraklion
Read week one: Stavros to Rethymno