The other day I was thinking about how much I miss working on my blog, and I realized the last post I started working on was this Santorini post. However, our trip was literally almost a year ago. Shame on me. But you know how it is...life gets in the way and yadda, yadda, yadda.
So, here's quite a lengthy post...
With it's stunning panoramic views and postcard worthy landscape, Santorini is one of the most popular destinations of the Cyclade Islands in the Aegean Sea. There's no doubt it is one of the most stunningly beautiful places I've ever been. I mean...look at that view!
Now I must admit, I'm quite the pain in the ass when it comes to accommodations. I've spoiled myself on past vacations and for our wedding and honeymoon. My expectations are high...keeping it 100...and I have NO issues with dropping dollars on a nice place to lay my head. So, it was a real challenge finding a villa that suited my "needs" so late in the game (we procrastinated on booking everything). But, I finally found a little gem of a hotel called Dreams Luxury Suites, and couldn't have been more pleased with our choice. The hotel is located in the middle of the island, caldera-side, so we could easily take the walking path down to Fira, the capital, and up to Oia (the more popular, tourist area of the island). The staff were very attentive and accommodating: ensuring we had reservations for dinner each night at the best restaurants, helping us schedule and arrange transportation, giving us recommendations on wineries, where to visit, where not to even bother wasting our time, etc. They were super helpful during our entire stay.
We arrived early in the morning around 7am and our room wasn't available. So we trekked down the main path that snaked along the cliff's edge to Fira, had breakfast, got fish pedicures, and headed back to the resort. Once in our villa, which was absolutely lovely, I changed into my swimsuit, grabbed the complimentary bottle of champagne and jumped in our private pool. While I powered through the first bottle of champagne, and then a second, Dennis went inside to nap. Left by myself, I eventually passed out in the lounge chair, drunk, and woke up two hours later as red as a tomato. Of course I had to wear my new one-piece suit with cut outs...so my tan lines were ridiculous. Once I sobered up a bit, we got ready and headed to dinner at a restaurant recommended by the resort and we stopped at a little shop to buy aloe gel. The shop attendant had no hesitation in letting me know that I'm a complete idiot after I asked if they carried aloe gel and he got a glimpse of my skin. Thanks, asshole.
Thinking back to that night, I remember how windy it was. It was SO windy almost the entire length of our stay. And I'm not using this as an excuse for my lack of judgement on SPF, but if it hadn't been so windy (ok, and maybe if I hadn't drank that second bottle of champagne), I might have felt my skin melting off and gotten in the shade. Just saying...
We only stayed at the villa during the first day. We like to get out and explore. So we rented an ATV (common method of transportation for tourists around the island...and also quite dangerous when you stop and think about it...a bunch of fools on ATVs) and headed to the southern part of the island to a town called Akrotiri. There we stopped to check out the lighthouse and the archaeological site. We grabbed food at a family-owned and operated restaurant called The Cave of Nikolas. As delicious as the food was, my impression was tarnished when Dennis stepped inside to ask where the restroom was located. He was immediately given attitude by someone on the staff and told "the door that says restroom". Yeah, ok asshole #2, thanks for that. Plus, we were there for almost three hours. I get it, it's a different mind-set and food and meals tend to be drawn out and enjoyed, but I had a vineyard calling my name. It was time to go.
Speaking of vineyards, we visited two, although there are quite a few across the island. The first we visited, Venetsanos Winery, was smaller, less touristy, had a more narrow (but still incredible) selection of wines, and an amazing tomato paste. I'm not kidding. I bought four jars of it. The other vineyard, Santo Wines, was more "commercial", and by that I mean the cruise ship patrons would all go there. It was definitely wasn't as rustic as Venetsanos, but they had over 20 wines, if I remember correctly, and just so happened to have my favorite white wine out of all that I tasted.
We took a semi-private three hour cruise around the caldera, along with a dip in the sulphur springs. We stopped along the coastline to snorkel and enjoy the COLD Aegean Sea, then headed to the caldera where we and every other catamaran and tourist boat stopped at the sulphur springs to wade in smelly, warm water. My swimsuit is still stained from the rusty sulphur. Another lesson learned: dark swimsuits are necessary for such activities.
Our last night we finally visited Oia (and I rented a little convertible that didn't have enough horsepower to save our lives...literally...I almost killed us at one point trying to pass a slower car on the road). Parking was a bitch, but it was Oia and it was close to sunset. Everyone flocks to Oia for the sunset and get this...people clap once the last sliver of the sun has crept below the horizon. They applaud it...like they've never seen one before. Call me jaded, maybe it's because I lived on the beach here in Cali for a year and half and had the pleasure of seeing the sun set over the Pacific any night I wanted. I think mother nature is incredible and love watching sunsets...they're beautiful and each is different...but to clap...really?
Overall, we enjoyed our stay in Santorini. I wouldn't recommend staying more than a week though because there really isn't much to see and do. But like I said earlier, we're an adventurous couple who doesn't really like spending day after day on the beach or in the pool. We like to get out and explore, experience the culture, see the locals. I still can't get over how blatantly rude some people were to us. For a place that pretty much solely thrives off tourism (and with a terrible economy at the moment), some establishments really need a few lessons in hospitality. Not to say that we didn't encounter nice people...we totally did! But I guess the ratio of good to bad threw me off for such a high tourist-traffic area. I'm just as blunt as anyone you'll ever meet, but I do have tact...so maybe I'm just not cut out to be Greek...although I do love the food :)
You can see even more pics on Instagram searching #TheGonzosTakeGreece
Here are a few additional links to the hotel, restaurants, wineries, and establishments we enjoyed
Dreams Luxury Suites trip advisor
Santo Wines trip advisor
Venetsanos Winery trip advisor
Ammoudi Fish Tavern in Oia
Cave of Nikolas in Akrotiri
Avocado restaurant in Imerovigli
Aegeon Restaurant in Imerovigli