Week Four: Greece – Fira to Athens
As this week passed, so too did a couple of milestones. It is the longest amount of time that we’ve have ever been away from home and at the same time, it is the longest time that ‘mostly hubby’ and I have ever spent 24/7 in each other’s company. Thankfully, neither of these milestones have bothered us adversely; we’re not homesick and we’re still talking. So the journey continues. Hurrah!
East-coast exploring: on our last visit to Santorini, we unintentionally neglected the east side of the island; only dropping by the ‘Sea Side‘ lounge for some sea front massages. This time around, we felt duty bound to pay it more attention, to give it a chance.
Our journey took us inland and upward to Pyrgos, where we must of climbed several hundred steps (least that’s how it felt) following arrows painted onto the cobbles. Our reward for our climb, was to see the venetian castle ruins at the top and a panoramic view across the entire island.
As always, we made some new friends along our way…
After our exertions, we definitely needed to cool off and soon found a looong straight road that runs the length of the airport landing strip – here we managed to get enough speed to catch a welcomed breeze, followed up by a refreshing dip in the pool, a beer for him and a strawberry daiquiri for me & we were soon right as rain.
Sure you can see both of these things at pretty much any village on the island, but Oia is famous for them – almost to the point of being victim of it’s own beauty (this is just my opinion).
This place is literally the stuff that postcards are made of and that’s precisely why 95% of the people* who come to Santorini also come to Oia (* not a statistic, but my guesstimate).
Ask anyone who visit’s Santorini and I’m sure they will mention seeing the sunset in Oia.
Onwards of about 5pm this compact little town starts to fill up, everyone wants to get ‘the best spot’ to see the sunset, jostling in the streets for a front row view, arriving early to bag a table at the restaurant or bar with ‘the best view’.
So we made sure to visit Oia during the day and depart well before the crowds arrived. In my opinion, the sunsets of Imerovigli, Firostefani, or even the rock of Skaros are equally as stunning.
Our only penalty for visiting during the day – was the sweltering heat. Oia sits perched on the top of and spilling down over the cliff face, with winding footpaths the only way to get around the centre and getting anywhere invariable involves stairs, which in turn invariably involves getting even hotter than you already are. The buildings are packed tightly, meaning that there’s little or no breeze between the buildings, despite the elevated position.
All of the above made for less than ideal sightseeing conditions, but none the less, armed with our hats, sun cream, plenty of water and of course my camera, we wandered for as long as we could, determined to see Oia without the crowds – ducking into shops with air-conditioning to cool off when it got too much.
We simply couldn’t leave Santorini without a visit to Vanilia. It’s a restaurant in Firostefani that we ate at on the first (and last) night of our honeymoon. We knew it would be a bit of a splurge, so we had been saving a little from our daily budget since we arrived to manage it. This meant that some nights we went without – eating little more than super-noodles, but to eat here again, just the once, was totally worth it.
We pre-booked a table, to be sure not to miss out on a good view (of the sunset of course) and we booked it intentionally early so we could enjoy the taste sensation first, undistracted as the sunset boat trips headed out to sea and dropped anchors where their view would be unobstructed.
The sun begins to sink, slowly at first; the colours change in the sky, the sea calms and we polished off our first bottle of wine before starting a second. Once it’s low, the sun soon drops, as if someone has pressed the fast-forward button, but even then, after sundown, the display continues; the colours become deeper and more intense, rich hues of red in the sky against the silhouettes of neighbouring villages and the islands in the distance.
One favourite silhouette of mine is – Skaros Rock. We climbed this on our last visit – it was a little hard going, but totally worth it for the view; both out into the caldera and back toward the island as it bathes in the reflection of light and colours from the sea and sky.
Only once it was dark we got around to ordering desert, by which time we were definitely ready for it! We knew we wouldn’t be disappointed to return here and it really was everything we had hoped for and we promised ourselves we would return again… someday, who knows when that someday will be, but we will be back.
So with our tummies full and our cheeks glowing from the day’s sun (and maybe a little to do with the wine we’d sunk) we wandered along the path that runs across the cliff from Firostefani to Fira town (managing not to fall down). As we turned the corner where Firostefani village becomes Fira town, we noticed how pretty Fira looked all lit up at night… a vantage point we had not seen before. Of course… I couldn’t resist the urge to have a play with my camera & the shutter speeds – I am totally spoilt with opportunities to experiment and learn here!
Now I know this photo could be better, but all in all, I’m pretty please with how it turned out… despite being slightly under the influence.
Important notice: I encourage you to enjoy your alcohol… responsibly… especially when in charge of an expensive camera and are ‘perched’ on a cliff edge. (Note to Dad – don’t panic – there was actually a wall along the path… which was steadying both myself and the camera).
So it was with a heavy hearts we bid farewell to Santorini, our very special island, only made easier by the excitement of our onward movements to Athens – a city that has been on my bucket-list for such a loooooooong time. We flew out of Santorini later than scheduled, thanks in part to the man with a ticket to Paris, who somehow made it onto our Athens flight.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be my shortest flight ever – barely 25 minutes long. The air hostesses barely managed to run up and down the aisle almost throwing out a bag of peanuts and a drink before telling us to ‘buckle up’ for our descent.
Owing to our late touch down in Athens we opted for a taxi to our hotel – which practically turned into a guided tour of the sights – thankfully the ride was a 35 euro “fixed fare” (a scheme in operation for all taxis from Athens airport to the city centre). It was looking so alive and so pretty lit up at night and then we saw the Acropolis – the Parthenon perched on top, all lit up just as you expect, just like the photos, except it wasn’t a photo, this time it was real, I was actually here and such a happy girl!
Our arrival filled me right up to the brim with excitement for the days to follow; that familiar feeling I get arriving somewhere new and a story to about unfold, it’s a feeling I treasure when I travel. If only I could work out how to ‘can’ it…
Back again next week with another update…
Read week 3: Heraklion to Fira
Read week 2: Rethymno to Heraklion
Read week 1: Stavros to Rethymno