Friday, November 2, 2018


It was meant to be our ten year 'second honeymoon' trip, 
but then life happened.
 I got pregnant with Whitman and was nine months along and HUGE when our anniversary came around last September. 

So we had a baby, waited until he was one year old, and coordinated a visit from Paul's mom to come to the Netherlands to visit us.  She graciously agreed to watch our kids for five days while we escaped for our first "just us" trip in ages.  It worked out and I am so, so grateful.

Greece had been on my personal travel bucket list for quite a while. You know how you have that place in your mind that you somehow just know you are going to love?
That was Santorini for me.

I was attracted to the cliffside cities of white cave buildings, blue domes, and sunset views, 
and this island met all my aesthetic expectations.  So pretty!
We stayed in a hotel in Oia (pronounced WEE-ah, which I got wrong 90% of the time) right in the cliffs above Amoudi Bay.  

Santorini is probably one of the most unique places I've ever been.  Everything is on a cliff.  It is literally the caldera of an ancient volcano.  The buildings set on the cliffsides are the quintessential white you'd expect, and the blue contrast of the doors and trim are lovely.  Add vibrant bursts of pink bougainvillea and the whole place was one photo opportunity after another.  I kept saying, "Is this even real?" so I guess my expectations were met as far as how beautiful it is!
saw this bougainvillea cascade against the cloudless sky and was completely in awe.
I loved our little cave suite, adorned simply, yet with antiques and books.  It also had a French press and fresh grounds to make your coffee...not the usual pod coffee maker or electric tea pot with instant coffee.  I'm not that fancy and had never made coffee with a French obviously I found a Youtube video and figured it out really quick.  It was one of my favorite moments on the trip.  The coffee tasted divine and I learned something new!

Our place was technically a "honeymoon suite" and while lovely, it was not exactly private.  Each night when we watched the sunset over the Aegean Sea, there were a few New Zealanders also kind of "with" us...on their little patio just over our shoulders.  It was cozy...but the view was worth it!

It wasn't all bougainvillea and sunshine, though!  If there is any downside to Santorini it would be that it is very touristy (a cruise port.) When the ships would dock and cruisers disembark the narrow streets would become almost impossible to walk through.  I know, I know...I'm a tourist, too.  But, ugh.

Also, don't pack any heels if you head to this island, as it is a very rocky, sandy, dusty, steep place to walk.  TONS of steps, and let's not forget the donkey dung.  

The food is pretty tasty in Greece!  (Spain is still my favorite foodie destination, so far.) 

What to eat?  Moussaka (a layered dish sort of like lasagna, but with potatoes at the bottom and no pasta) Santorini salad (basically a Greek salad but better) hummus and freshly baked pita bread, souvlaki (meat skewers) and any fish that are local to the Aegean.  

What to drink?  Mythos beer (local and SO GOOD!) and mastika (a Greek liqueur that tastes like pine but is nice to sip after dinner) 
Paul sippin' some mastika after dinner our first night. 

Here are some photos from where we stayed, as well as our first day in Santorini...

our cave suite.
I loved the view from our little patio.  Any place you stay on this side of Oia and you get a view that is amazing.
they had these cute little rope + bead hangers for "do not disturb" 
looking down at the steep steps descending to Amoudi Bay.
our first meal there!  Ate way too much seafood down by the bay.
looking up at Oia. 
donkeys heading up the steps of Amoudi Bay.
me and a donkey.  
Looking up at Oia
I drank more Mythos than wine on this trip.  Such a good beer!
Found a little spot that had the best casual Greek eats.  This fresh pita bread has ruined all other pita for me, forever.
Santorini good! 
swimmers and sunbathers gather here - with a cliff to jump off on the left!

Over the four days we were there we had plenty of opportunities to walk through the narrow streets of Oia, lined with shops and restaurants.  One shop I'd highly recommend visiting if you are on Santorini is Atlantis Books.  Small and cave-like, it is a book shop after a book lover's heart.  So cool and quirky and a wall full of gorgeous first editions that can be yours if you have at least a couple thousand Euros to spend on it.  We didn't, but I did buy the souvenir map for five Euros.
I didn't inquire about cat rentals (Paul is allergic) but thought this was fun.

so many quotes on the cave walls of Atlantis Books.
We took one day and made it a hiking day.  If you want to get exercise and a million gorgeous views of the cliffside cities of Fira and Oia, then make the roughly six mile hike from one to the other.  It is a well-marked route, heavily traveled in the city areas but fairly desolate once you get outside the cities.  You hike along the cliff with the sea in view most of the time, passing churches and many, many, many bridal couples getting their photos professionally taken amidst the gorgeous backdrops of cliffs and sea.  Santorini is clearly a popular spot for weddings, so prepare your heart to see many white gowns during your stay. 

hiking along the caldera.

this gives a bit of perspective of the "volcano" 
crazy winds, sun has set, but we're still hiking!

our hike from Fira to Oia ended in the dark, so we got to see the city lights!  
If you want a beach vacation, I wouldn't recommend Santorini.  It does have various beaches (red, white and black sand) but if you are staying on the "sunset side" of Santorini it may be quite a journey to get to one.  We took a 2 hour bus ride to get to the black sand beach in Perissa on day two of our trip.  (It would definitely be quicker to take a cab or rent a car!) The water was warm, but the beach was more rocky than sandy.  We swam a bit, relaxed a bit, and then wandered a bit to find a lunch spot.  It was a really nice time, but in hindsight I would have rented a car and left earlier in the day!
looking out from the boardwalk at the black sand beach area.
we got chairs right next to that cliff, so we were a bit protected from the gusty winds!

nerdy beach selfie!
it had a fun beach boardwalk with your typical array of shops and restaurants - a fun vibe!
While I love seeing historical places and doing tours sometimes, to be honest what I prefer to do on vacation is not have an agenda and simply relax.   Neither of us like an over-scheduled trip.  We both like naps, reading for hours, and getting pizza to eat in our room at least once every vacay.  We have also been known to seek out a local movie theater and do a movie date.  Even in an exotic spot.  I'm sure some find that disturbing but I am totally okay with it.  (Although I kinda wish we would have done a dinner/movie date at Volkan Cinema, where they were only showing My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mamma Mia!)

Alas, no movies this time, but plenty of book reading and napping and coffee drinking.
freshly Frenchly pressed.
hot shower, fuzzy white robe, and fresh coffee.  this is all I need on vacation, really.
good morning!
a big breakfast is also a must.
These were hung over our bed.  To inspire romance?  Is this a Greek thing?  I didn't ask...
lunch on our last day.  me drinking beer again.  it was cloudy but clearly very bright out!  cheers!
I had to snap one last bougainvillea shot.
recommend this restaurant, Apsithia, in Oia for a romantic dinner with excellent authentic food and great service
indulged in all traditional greek dishes!
the morning we left was hazy and even windier than before.  little did we know that hurricane winds were going to hit soon after!  
even on a cloudy day Santorini is pretty
typical blue dome and cascading flowers. 

Finally, the most lovely part of Santorini may be the famous sunset view you can see from one side of the island. We wanted to avoid the crowds and chose a hotel with a view so we could enjoy from our patio, while soaking in a warm hot tub.  The first night was the clearest, and we were treated to a sunset sky full of all the colors of the rainbow...
can you see the people gathered up on the wall to watch the sunset?
me on my perch watching the sunset.

It was one of those moments during a trip that unexpectedly take your breath away.  I'll treasure that first night sunset always.   

+ + + + + + + 
So, Santorini is finally checked off my list!

Have you been? I would love to hear about your Santorini experience! 

What place is at the top of your dream travel list?