Sunday fun day! Lisa and I awaken refreshed and ready to explore our new home for the next week. We head downstairs for a simple but delicious breakfast of COFFEE! eggs, toast, Greek yogurt, fig jam (homemade and unbelievably good!) various fruits and muesli with various additions.
After working with the hotel staff we figured out what we wanted to do for travel arrangements. We settled on trying a scooter for the day to see what it was like.
Lisa and I pulled the map out and loosely planned a place to see. The Monastery of Thira at the highest place on the Island of course. We could see it from Kamari as the mountain rises up behind our hotel. The trick was negotiating the route, other reckless drivers, and street signs you can't read, in trying to get there. I figured my wife had my back and there was a US Embassy in Athens so how bad could it get?
Santorini is basically a horseshoe shape with Oia at one end and Akrotiri at the other. IN the horseshoe is the caldera from the ancient volcanic explosion and several volcanic island remnants. On the outside edge of the horseshoe is flatter farm land, the airport, numerous villages and the township our hotel is in, Kamari. Home to the black sand beach. ( more on that misnomer in future posts)
So off to the Monastery we went. We looked at the map, consulted our hotel staff and made the best of it. Rule 1 of driving on Santorini: What rules? Rule 2 of driving on Santorini: see rule 1. Rule 3 of driving a scooter on Santorini: see rule 1. Rule 4 of driving on Santorini: scooters do not exist as a legitimate mode of transportation to an other vehicle. All these rules we learned in roughly 5 minutes. Lisa and I are quick studies when it comes to SURVIVAL. Every so often she will say, “car behind” to alert me that some yo yo will probably pass us despite me going the speed-limit on a treacherously windy road. Why, you ask, am I not aware of this driver from my rear view mirror? The key words were ‘treacherously windy roads’.
The Monastery was amazing as well as the view from that high vantage point. We discovered a foot path trail to Ancient Thira museum that takes 50 minutes (1 way) and we will attempt this out and back another time. By this time we had been on the scooter a good hour and walked about the Monastery for 20-30 minutes. It was now near 11-noon and the sun was no joke. We bought the most expensive fruit on earth (10 Euro for a small batch of grapes and cherries) and headed back down the ‘treacherously windy’ (and steep) road back to the towns. Our first need was sun block. We were cooking and didn't want to ruin a vacation being sore and red. At the first town we stopped and got 50 block and a shawl for Lisa's shoulders as she was galavanting around Greece in a sun dress.
Now that we were covered and protected we headed for the next stop. We decided to head to Oia and see what was what along the way. Only in hind site do we now realize what we drove to get there. It was at this point I went down a one way hill and was alerted by a bus that I was in fact….up shits creek if I continued. We hastily pulled a u-turn losing Lisa's phone in the process. To our good fortune the phone survived the fall and oncoming cars unscathed. The route that took us from Kamari to the Monastery was one of several routes up that side of Santorini. We descended down a slightly different route and drove through the capital, Fira. In Fira we took a turn down where a sign pointed to ‘Old Port’. This was our first true experience with hairpin turns like you see in the Tour de France. I have new respect to the cyclists and motto bike drivers. Holy hell!! Also. Remember the rules 1-4 of Santorini. Yes, cars and trucks WILL pass you on such a nasty road.
Old Port was old and not many things there. It is the start point for Caldera boat tours which we plan on doing Thursday. But aside from what you can do there…it is rather un-exciting. The ride down and up were vastly more exciting. By the way…the hairpin road IS the only way up and down that cliff side to and from Old Port. Back up the road and a brief look at the map we made for Oia.
Our trip to Oia was a lot of me saying ‘it's that way, but I don't know where the hell I’m going’ . It was always answered with ‘I don't care! I love this being lost, it's amazing what we are seeing and experiencing!’ And with that…I just kept on rolling, a smile on my face.
Wrong turn to heaven: We made it to Oia but we didn't know it. We kept following cars and looking for where the ‘postcard area’ was, but couldn't find it. We followed cars down a hill but we knew it was away from the town center and ridge views. We turned around a few times up and down, up and down, thinking surely we missed a turn toward those said views. Finally, with Lisa's urging she said ‘follow all these cars down, they have to be going somewhere.’
We went down and down a twisty turny road only to see cars parked along a guardrail, the lane reduced to one and buses trying to drive up at us. What!? We negotiated the busses per the 4 rules of driving and drove….into the water. Well, not literally, but from my view the 15 degree decline road ended at a cement dock and water. Lisa got off the bike, helmet and all, and walked down to see what was gong on. ( a captain always needs a good lieutenant willing to go into harms way) I’m watching her get to the dock and turn to look to our left and I see her face become amazed. She whirls to me and motions to come to her as she quickly scouts a place for the scooter and is nearly stomping the ground for me to park quickly!! What the?!
When I get off and turn to her view I see that my Lisa has discovered Amoudi Bay Santorini. Literally a road to no where ends at a hidden bay with 5-6 restaurants etched into the cliff side. Little boats anchored just off the edge of these restaurants and the water as clear as glass. Behind the restaurants are the famous stairs up to Oia with donkeys lining them to assist in the climb for those that can't, or don't want to. To say breath taking doesn't do it justice. We ate fresh fried calamari at Sunset at Amoudi Bay restaurant. Very nice staff and food. We noticed a trail going around the cliff edge by the water and asked where it went. It went to cliff jump rock. We went and viewed it and decided that this too is a must do before leaving Santorini. Jump the rock.
Oia is the most often pictured place in Santorini with the well kept white homes and blue domes of churches through out. The central walkway is made of marble. All the high end stores are here as well as trendy hotels and villas. We took many pictures here and they all look so crazily clear it looks like we impressed ourselves in postcards. As beautiful as it is, it's not actually truly Santorini….its a glammed up image of what tourists want to see. We walked its length, viewed the sights and then headed for the open road.
At our scooter we met a group of American guys on a college holiday it appeared. We spoke about the trip and how nice it was to even exchange a few words with a fellow American. Lisa admonished them to wear more sunblock like a good mother and we parted. At this point I overheard them Speak of which way they wanted to leave Oia. They opted for the long circuitous route along the island…( Lisa and I came in this way) so Lisa and I worked out which was the other way to return and opted for the new road. It was a wonderful cliff side ride with lots to see, cars to avoid, and pictures to take. We even spied a taverna on the cliff side that beckons us back before our trip is through.
We rode through Fira again but didn't stop. We should spend a half day there to see what it has to offer at some point.
On our way back to Kamari my friend Steve from Ireland called us and let us know he would be in Kamari. Steve is a long time friend for years ago playing the game Eve. We both no longer play but our friendship has continued. We struggled to find him, his fiancé Shelley and his party at the Santorini Bbq before they moved on. Now I've never met Steve and his only Facebook picture is old and awful. ( sorry Stevo) Finally we rolled up on the place just as the party was moving on. I heard his voice and immediately knew the giant in front of me was Steve. I was giving him a big hug as he was realizing the dwarf in front of him was me. Introductions all around and Lisa and I were invited to share a drink on the beach with them and do some catching up with Monday dedicated to the day with them. Great fun and never a loss for things to gab about we enjoyed the evening with Steve and Shelley immensely.
As they headed back to their villa we made Monday arrangements and Lisa and I went off to savor some amazing Calamari and salads before heading home ourselves.
Exhausted from a full day exploring and visiting we headed back to the hotel ready for a great night sleep and new adventures tomorrow.
Pictures to come