dear santorini, greece

Dear Santorini,

Oh, where do I start with you? You were as breathtaking as all the photos I’ve seen of you before I got there, but you were also not anything like I expected. Sure, you’re beautiful, but was there anything more to it? I felt like I got more of a cultural experience out of Athens than I did with you, just because you were filled with tourists and workers on the island who so strongly targeted tourists. The entire time, I felt exactly as that: a target, a target to buy this, drink that. A little annoying at times, but overall it’s part of the experience of being on Santorini.

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Getting to Santorini

Julia and I boarded our ferry a 6:30am and even though we were groggy and still half-asleep, we immediately got super excited when we saw the inside of the ferry. It was boujee, y’all. We found a glass table with comfy armchairs near a window and made ourselves at home since it was going to be an eight-hour ferry ride.

Julia started out with a nap while I did some reading, and then we decided to color in her book. I started listening to Lean In by the infamous Sheryl Sandberg while I was coloring. Then we ate some leftovers for lunch. Julia got some blogging in after that while I took my nap, and before we knew it, we got to Santorini at 3pm.

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Right when we got off the ferry? Utter chaos. I didn’t get a chance to look anything up on Google Maps beforehand because I didn’t have access to internet on the ferry and the when I did have WiFi the night before, I didn’t know where exactly the port in Santorini was, so I couldn’t route anything. Up until that point, I had been successfully navigating Julia and I everywhere. Thus, I went into full panic-mode. I hate not having a plan, and there I was with Julia, suitcase in hand and already profusely sweating because we did not know what to do.

There were so many different signs advertising bus tours, taxis, and more ferries. Everyone who just got off the ferry with us was also milling about, trying to avoid getting run over by cars and motorcycles alike. The taxi drivers were aggressive: they ran around asking the tourists where they were going and shouted out absurdly high prices just to get there. I was tempted for a second, but then they said 20 euros and there was just no way I was going to succumb to the ease, convenience, and expensive price of a taxi. Eventually, Julia and I decided to hop on a shuttle bus that the driver claimed would drop us off at Firostefani, where we were staying for the next couple of days.

The bus system in Santorini is probably one of the most absurd things I’ve experienced so far. All the buses operate on shuttle/charter buses, and everything is non-digitized. We literally got on the bus, and then someone came around to each person on the bus and collected the fare by hand. Mind you, it was only about 2-3 euros, but they ripped off a ticket once a customer paid them by cash/coins. When they stopped in Firostefani, the money collector shouted, “Firostefani” to let the passengers know, and that’s how we knew to get off the bus. It made me truly appreciate Seattle’s wonderful data and information bus system.

After the bus rolled away, Julia and I didn’t know where else to go so we stopped in a car rental shop and asked for directions. The employee was extremely nice and pointed us directly to our villa. Turned out, we were only a 2-minute walk away.

Eventually, we found our way to Firostefani where we were staying. We checked in with our host, Maria at Villa Fotini and she was just the cutest – she acted as not only our villa host, but also half tour guide. She gave us plenty of recommendations about what to do, eat, and how to get from point A to point B.

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And our room was so cute! Everything was super clean; I have to say that the balcony and the shower were my favorite parts. I’ve never showered in a curtain/doorless shower before though, haha. One reservation I do have about this villa is that the doors locked oddly, in that they didn’t feel 100% secure. Santorini as a whole felt pretty safe since it was all tourists though, and most hotels seemed pretty low on security.

After we settled down, Julia and I headed out to explore the area! We grabbed souvlaki gyros at a small restaurant near our villa, Why Not? They were delicious and super cheap – only 2.70 euros! I would say that’s a little cheaper than the standard gyro price, but it was so good and didn’t feel unhealthy whatsoever even though there were fries inside.

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We couldn’t have chosen a better spot to live. Firostefani is located in the center of the island in Fira, where it’s still busy and fun, but away from the most crowded touristy part of Santorini in Oia. We spent some time taking a lot of photos of the white cliffside – it was so hot but so worth it.

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The 75 degree weather felt like 90 degrees because of the sun reflecting off all the white. We found numerous adorable alleys and corners, with bright blue doors adorned with fresh flowers. After that, we stayed in to rest until sunset, and walked right outside and watched the sun go down. Y’all, Santorini sunsets can’t be beat.

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Julia and I were in the mood for dessert after the sunset, so we headed back to Why Not? And got banana and chocolate crepes to share. Something about Greek food, I’m telling ya.

Day One

The next day, we left the house at 9am and upon Maria’s recommendation, we walked two minutes from our villa to go eat at Galini Café. Right when we walked into the restaurant, we saw that it had quite the view. Clearly, part of the experience was the food and the view of the ocean. It was quite breezy up there so we opted to sit undercover, and Julia even asked for a blanket (which was easily supplied, they were sitting in a basket near our table). We ended up but ordering the Eggs Florentine, which consisted of poached eggs, spinach, hollandaise sauce, and warm toast. We both scarfed it down in about 10 minutes because it was so good, and quite filling. The staff at the restaurant were so pleasant as well.

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After breakfast, we decided to go to Fira to explore the markets and hit up some of the restaurants we had bookmarked. The flea market in Fira felt a lot like the ones in Athens, but perhaps with much more to eat and drink. I was so tempted to purchase the miniature sculptures of Santorini, but I decided not to, considering how full my suitcase already was.

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We stopped by Chillbox yogurt, which was a Greek frozen yogurt place. We loaded up on fruit and chocolate sauce, it was delicious!

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After that, we headed back to our room to change into swimsuits and jumped on the bus to go to Kamari beach in the southeast part of the island. Once we got there, we saw that it a) was a black beach, and b) had tiki umbrellas and lounge chairs for people to relax on – for free! It was a pretty sweet deal; Julia and I picked a spot and immediately started sunbathing. We dozed and eventually went into the water. We stayed for about 4 hours at the beach, and headed back to Fira.

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We were on the lookout for some more Greek yogurt (it’s an ADDICTION now, y’all. Greek yogurt from the States will never be like the yogurt from Greece though, I don’t know how I’ll cope). We wandered in the streets of Fira again, and stumbled upon a line of donkeys!! We finally saw them!

Then we walked in to Café Zafora around dinner time, and promptly sat down to each order our own Greek Yogurt with fruit. They served it in a high glass bowl, and oh my it was heavenly, probably the best Greek Yogurt yet – and with a view.

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We made it back to our villa just in time to see the sun go down again, and once again, it was absolutely stunning. We went back to Why Not? really quick to grab some more gyros for a late-night snack, because as much as we wanted Greek Yogurt to suffice as dinner, it doesn’t.

Day 2

Since we loved Galini Café so much the day before, we went back. This time around, it was a lot less windy and much warmer, so it was a more pleasant experience for sure. I ordered the Eggs Royale that day, which consists of salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and warm bread. Julia got the Eggs Avocado. Mine was 10 euro, the priciest of the breakfast eggs, but so delicious.

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After breakfast, we headed back to Fira and went down the cable cars to head down to Old Port. Once we got to Old Port, we picked up our tickets to for a volcano and hot springs tour package we bought. We boarded the Poseidon boat and headed out to the volcano!

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Lathered in sun screen, Julia and I jumped off the boat and swam in the hot springs. There was a ton of sulfur in the water, so people wearing white swimsuits were out of luck. Definitely quite the experience swimming in hot springs! Then the boat took us to the active volcano. Julia and I had no idea it was a 90-minute hike up to the volcano – we were only wearing flip flops! Alas, Julia and I did it (it wasn’t a rigorous hike at all), sweating and scalding under the sun.

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Funnily enough on the boat, we met a couple who also hailed from Seattle! I had initiated conversation when I saw the woman wearing Moss Adams sunglasses (a public accounting firm) and asked if she worked there. Turned out, it was the boyfriend who worked there and the girlfriend was starting in the operating room in Seattle. So cool, and what a small world!

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After we got back to Fira, we stopped by V Lounge Café and Cocktail Bar, to stop by for no, not drinks, but more Greek Yogurt. This bar also had a spectacular view, and Julia and I shared a bowl of Greek Yogurt with fruit together. We met some people from Tennessee and Atlanta. It’s always fun to meet other people from the United States. We headed back home to Why Not? for yet MORE gyros. At that point, we were regulars and the waitress recognized us, it was hilarious.

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At around 5pm, we headed out to Oia. Santorini’s famous sunset-viewing spot is in Oia, and we had yet to explore that part of the island. To be honest though, it fell pretty flat. There were way too many tourists and the cliffside wasn’t as great as the one outside our villa.

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We walked down the cliffside through many many steps, and stumbled upon more donkeys! We walked all the way down to Ammoudi Bay, where we searched for the cliff-jumping spot. We eventually found it, but the cliff was really low- not even really a cliff. I decided to stay out of the water, but Julia jumped in. She swam for a bit before we climbed back up the cliff and watched the sun go down.

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This view was unique – the boats were coming into the bay. While we waited, Julia and I saw a literal cat fight go down. We watched the two cats yell at each other and chase each other up and down the cliff side – absolutely insane. Undomesticated cats are wild!

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After watching the sunset, we had yet to eat dinner, so we stopped at a café/restaurant called Vitrin. I ordered a salad and shared a fruit salad with Julia, and it was probably the most mediocre food we’d had so far in Greece, unfortunately. Then we caught the bus back to Firostefani at 10:30pm.

We made it back and got ready for bed. That’s it for Santorini!

Santorini’s one of those places that you visit once and feel pretty satisfied with however many days you spend there – enough to suffice for a couple of decades, I think. I don’t feel the desire to return to Santorini again anytime soon. I’ve seen the things that I wanted to see, and other than that, it’s not like the culture and the people of the island are one-of-a-kind.

xx,

Jen

 

 

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