Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Week in Santorini, Greece (Part I)



One of the most exciting aspects of being stationed overseas is, of course, the opportunity to travel many places barely dreamed of.

Back around January, my friend and travel enabler, Stes, messaged me and said she'd seen an incredibly cheap deal on SkyScanner for Greece.

“Talk me out of this, please!” She said

“Um I wouldn't dare... Buy two!” I joked.

I really did mean it jokingly but it spiraled into a realistic conversation in which I tiptoed a less than hypothetical conversation with my husband about if he could take the baby to work for a week. 

This turned into him putting in for leave, getting it granted and me having a booked trip for a full week in Santorini.


Months of anticipation began, and it started to not even feel real. I tried not to even think about it too much, because I'm a huge pessimist and I hate getting my hopes up. 

Something was bound to go wrong, no way I'm really going!

In the meantime, we ended up going to Paris for three days, also on whim but it turned out to be a fantastic practice run for a full week away from my kids.

Finally, the day actually came. My husband drove the two of us to the airport, and off we went! 

It was my first time on a plane in about 18 months and I was very nervous. I'm an 'ok' flyer but take off and landing have me digging nails into armrest. 

Also, I'm a bigger girl and I'm always scared I'm going to somehow just not fit. Luckily everything was just fine and as usual, I was worrying for no reason.

(Can you tell I spend a lot of time worrying about things?)


When we landed, I just couldn't believe we were really there. However stepping outside at the airport, I was a bit taken aback. At first glance, it was kinda ugly, and very deserted. 

Remember, my idea of places come from TV, movies and Pinterest. In my head the whole place was white and blue and elegant. Obviously, life isn't Hollywood, and airports are rarely very picturesque.

Also important to note, we came during off season, and left about 2 weeks before the island really picked up. While that meant its famous outdoor cinema was closed while we were there, nothing felt too touristy at all. We often had places completely to ourselves, which turned out to be a fun way to experience the island.

At the airport we waited to get picked up by the car service at the hotel we were staying at, Villa Manos

Due to some miscommunications, we waited about 45 minutes but eventually a lovely man grabbed our bags and drove us to the hotel. 

Upon arrival we realized this place was so much more than a hotel. This was a family run place filled with so much joy and love. 

To say hello, we gifted Poppy, clearly the mother of the group as well as the person in charge, a large cannister of Lind't chocolates. 

For months, Stes had been in e-mail communication with her, and she had helped us plan so much of our trip. 

We wanted to thank her for her help and show our excitement to staying there. 

She immediately came around the counter and hugged us, told us she was changing our room to their best room with a fantastic view and insisted to go sit at their outdoor tables and wait while they bring us something.  That was a surprise!

About 15 minutes later, we were brought a GIANT omelet to share and two glasses of wine. We were so blown away (and very thankful we hadn't eaten yet!) 



Once we were done, we were ready to get settled in the room. After a big group picture with us and several people that work there (a tradition of theirs), a few of the men grabbed our bags and headed us up a long flight of stairs to one of their top most rooms. 

The room was similar to an average 'American' hotel room in size, with three twin beds, an armoire, a kitchenette with sink and mini fridge/freezer and dining table, a small makeup table with mirror, a gorgeous bathroom with a huge walk in shower, and a balcony. 

That view!! Although we were a bit tucked into a small town area, in the not to far distance, was the beautiful ocean.



We were about a 2 minute walk from a bus stop, so once we got settled, we decided to head to Fira for the evening. Except the bus didn't come! 

We stood at the stop for nearly 45 minutes and finally flagged down the first bus we saw, no matter where it was headed. Perissa Beach it is, then! 



It was such an adorable little town with shoreside shacks for food or drinks, black volcanic sand, and lots of shopping. 

We headed straight for the water. It was very cold but what a treat to dip our feet in. 



Then we walked up to a cute little place called The Mermaid. 

For some time, we were the only ones there. We enjoyed a few cocktails and a lovely old gentleman playing a bouzoiki (a Greek bulbous guitar) and crooning in Greek. 

While they had a wonderful menu, we wanted to move on and experience as much as we could. I recalled a dimly lit comfy looking place near where the bus let us off so we wandered in that direction.





Thus beginning our love, and multi returns, to The Magic Bus

This place was a large dark wooden bar/restaurant. No tables, no booths just comfy couches everywhere, including outside the main roofed area, which is where we chose to sit. 

We were almost immediately greeted by a man named Christos, who was friendly and vibrant, and amazing. We had a few more cocktails there as well as dinner. 

I had a savory ham crepe and Stes got Moussaka, and both were just incredible. 

We let ourselves miss the last bus home and Christos called us a cab. It was a wonderfully relaxing day.... right up until the end.

When we arrived back to Villa Manos, Stes discovered her wallet was missing as we went to pay the cab. After a thorough search of the cab, we let him leave and tore apart her bag. Was our trip going to really be derailed on our first night there?

Finally, we called The Magic Bus. He remembered us and assured her that her wallet was safe behind the bar, found just after we left. He even tried to call the cab, but we were already home before he got ahold of him.  Whew!

The next morning we had the hotel's transfer service drive us to Perissa for the wallet, then onto Fira. 

Being human, we both assumed her wallet would be empty, but at least she'd have her ID back! Much to our surprise, we showed up and Christos immediately hugged us and said “Jackie! Stes! My friends!” 




And handed her the wallet with everything intact. She tried to pay him, but he absolutely refused. We decided we would just have to come back in a few days and leave it as a tip.

Between Christos and our hotel hosts, we really got to experience the warmth and openheartedness of the people of Santorini.




Fira, was so beautiful! 

Filled to the gills with places to shop and eat and just...stare. 







I bought my very first beachy hat and lots of gifts for people back home. One stop we planned long before boarding the plane, was ChillBox – a famous Greek frozen yogurt shop that didn't disappoint at all! (If you want to try this without going to Greece, they have several franchises in the US, too!)




It was a full afternoon of walking and exploring. That evening we had plans for a wine tasting tour at the biggest winery on the Island, Santo Wines.

With a few hours, to kill we decided it was time to check out the hotel's lovely pool. 

Unfortunately, while getting ready for that, Stes realized she hadn't gotten a reply email from the winery regarding a prior conversation about our participaton. 

It turns out she had initially set it for the following Thursday by mistake, a day when we'd already be back in Germany. She had spoken to them about moving it up a week, but realized that was never finalized. 

Sadly, they couldn't get us in, so we expected to have a quiet night at the hotel, instead. Luckily it's a beautiful spot!

After our sun and swim, we got cleaned up and headed down for dinner and drinks. After eating, weren't quite ready to retire to the room for the night, as it was only about 930pm. 

We decided to rent a Hookah from the hotel bar and enjoy some shisha with our cocktails. It was such a nice breezy warm night. 

After about an hour or so we noticed two young women at a table nearby who were speaking English. We decided to introduce ourselves to them. 

We came prepared with an awesome icebreaker! We are a part of a huge FB group/organization called Girls Love Travel. It is an incredible support system for women travelers, solo or otherwise. You can get awesome info on somewhere you plan on going, tips, help from someone in the area if in trouble, you name it! 

Stes happened to have a stack of GLT stickers to hand out to women we come across. It's informative, but also a great way to start a conversation. So thats what we did!




Dipti and Esha are from India and were on one of their last nights in Greece. They came to join us at our table and we learned they were headed out on the town shortly and asked if we wanted to join. Yay, plans!

We split the cost of the hotel tranfer back into Fira. There was a place Dipti had heard of that plays Greek dance music, but they weren't open so we stopped at a Mexican style restaurant, instead. 

Although Stes and I had already eaten, we rarely turn down food. We all split a huge 4 person sampler that was filled with stuff I can't even name. It was so good! 




Drinks were “2 for1” so Stes and I thought we were getting off cheap. We took that as “half price." Boy, were we surprised when she brings 8 large cocktails to our table! 

They blasted American pop music, and we filled up the floor dancing. It was a really great time!

The hotel transfer only runs until 1am, and Dipti and Esha had to be up early for a island cruise, so they headed home. 

We made the bad decision to... not. 

Instead we went to find bar number two. Turns our the place we tried to go initially was now open. 

Dim, almost black light, insanely loud music, and alcohol. We had an irresponsible amount of Kamikaze shots, many supplied for free from the female bartender taking them with us, and stumbled to the taxi depot around 4 am.

The next day... we did nothing. 

Our rental car was dropped off around 10am, and Stes begrudgingly dealt with that and climbed right back in bed. 

I went down for food around 1230. Then climbed right back in bed. 


That evening however, we rallied to head to Greek Night at a local hotel restaurant. 








Complete with unlimited wine, a greek buffet, traditional greek dancing, fire dancing, and plate smashing! It was a ton of fun and the dancing was just amazing to watch and join in on.




After these first couple days, we were ready to spend some time getting out to explore the island and seeing the sights!  I'll be sharing the rest of our trip with you next week.




16 comments:

  1. wow, you have seen some amazing things lately!! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

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  2. Glad to hear you had such a great time. I suspect it would have been chaos if you had gone in high season.

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  3. What an adventure you had! I really want to go there one day.

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  4. We love to go to Santorini and I have always wanted to own a second home there. Found you on Bloggers Pit Stop.

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  5. You've had a really good time and that's good! I'd love to visit this place someday. Thanks for sharing this with us at Fiesta Friday party! Have a fab weekend!

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  6. It all looks so beautiful!Fira looks gorgeous! Thank you so much for linking up with Ashley and myself. I look forward to reading more posts! xx
    www.vanityandmestyle.com

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  7. Wow! That sounds like an amazing trip! I love the view!!

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  8. I loved reading this Jackie. You have such a lovely way of sharing your thoughts and adventures. It felt like you gave me a sneak peak into your travel journal. Welcome back and I'm real glad you had such a lovely time

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  9. Greece looks as beautiful as I had imagined. Your photos are beautiful! I had the same preliminary feelings about our trip to Scotland - I didn't think about it too much until we actually got there. Once there, I really felt I could enjoy myself and the culture!

    Madalyn
    www.mommaweaver.com

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  10. Amazing photos! Looks like you had a wonderful time. I've been there and I know it's sooo beautiful. Thanks for sharing your adventures

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  11. Loved reading this! Santorini is definitely on the top of my bucket list!

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  12. Looks like such an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing it with us, and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

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  13. I've always wanted to visit Santorini - now I really want to go! My friend is off to a wedding on Sunday, can't wait to hear all about it. x Jacqui
    www.mummabstylish.com

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  14. What a great trip! This is one of the places I've always wanted to visit and if I have the chance I want to have as much fun as you did. Thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story and we hope you will join us again next week.

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  15. Wow it looks like you had a fabulous trip and I would love to visit Santorini

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  16. Such a beautiful post, congratulations on being able to go and even better that you were able to enjoy it in the off season. Obviously a trip of a lifetime and I can see why it is so popular. Stunning photos.

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