The ferry arrived in Santorini in the wee hours of morning and we reached our villa before sunrise. Alex, the hotel staff hadn’t woken up yet and instead of ringing him we wrapped our sleeping bags snug and sat at the cliff side veranda. The sound of the waves coupled with the dawn breeze lulling us to sleep. My brother took it upon himself to blast the summer dance music hit “Stereo Love” off the face off the cliff on repeat. Scenes of the musical duo strolling through the white walled alleyways (the music video was shot in Santorini) clung to my mind, fueling anticipation of our few relaxing days of island life ahead.
It was the off-season and Alex, our host, informed us that there was only one other family staying in the compound and they would be leaving tomorrow. We would have the whole place to ourselves so we could room hop if we wished. We blew our budget on the honeymoon suite. Having roughed it out on our previous weeks, we decided that this leg we were going to treat ourselves, a luxurious ocean facing cliff side cave room was to be our minimum requirement.
A computer programmer from mainland Greece, a lifestyle changing decision brought Alex to Santorini. He knew the family that owned the Porto Fira Suites, and they welcomed him to run the establishment. He was an avid cook and had plans to expand the enterprise, adding a small restaurant to the suites. In later days he previewed his culinary skills hosting cozy dinner parties for us, and a few of his friends.
I had visited Santorini once before during the summer months and as if it were possible, I loved it more in the autumn, having the whole island to ourselves. We took the opportunity to rent a car to explore the island, traveling the length of the island – north to south.
Typically, the villages stretched out on the west side of the island, perched atop the steep ascend, facing the setting sun. Lines of stairs linking the towns up top, to the coastline several hundred meters below. Often donkeys are seen lugging goods up the ascend, but at Fira you can skip the walk and take the Cable Car (€5 one way) down to the port below. The port, in turn, has ferries that provide access to the two islands at center the caldera.
The two source islands are the volcanoes Palea Kameni, and its smaller sibling Nea Kameni famous for its healing hot springs. Agios Nikolaos, a small cove within Nea Kameni has become a prominent health source.
On the southern tip of Santorini is the red beach and the Faros Lighthouse in Akrotiri. Though the lighthouse is closed to the public, the area immediately around it is accessible and makes for another picturesque sun set vantage point. Nearby, facing the south is the red beach, arguably the most famous beach in Santorini, strewn with red and black volcanic rocks.
There is an off the beaten track trekking path leading out of Imerovigli towards Skaros Rock. Once a fortified settlement with a castle at its peak, today only Panagia Theoskepasti Church remains on the far side of the rock. There are 300stairs leading out of the town and 200 more up the rock, then a path leading around it and to the church. If you are catching the sun set there, do remember it gets dark, so plan for the trip back.
Oia (pronounced La) at the very northern tip of Thira is perhaps the most famous of all the villages in Santorini. A stunning village situated atop an impressive red cliff it is the number one recommended spot for catching the sunset in Santorini. Its quaint port town below is also an opportunistic place to take photos off fishing boats loaded fresh wares, returning to pier.
Images of Oia – Click to enlarge
Dinner with Alex
On the way back we bought tomatoes from the supermarket. Alex was cooking soup for dinner. We tried our best but apparently our tomatoes weren’t up to his standard and it showed on his face. Already impressed by last night’s dinner which was a beer infused chicken stew, we were eagerly anticipating tonight’s session.
Canadian Alex who was here on a work and travel exchange (gardening the villa’s vege patch), a local female friend, my brother and I tucked into the fare of hearty tomato vegetable soup, bread, cheese and wine. Tonight was special, as between conversations about working in Greece to particle physics (Greek Alex mastered in particle physics), our host whipped out his guitar and punctuated our thought processes with music.
Amidst the laughter and our frequent apologies for the inadequate tomatoes, I took a moment of pause to observe the faces around the table. Different people from different worlds, food made with much love, music from the heart, it all made for good company. And I thought to myself, life couldn’t get any better than this.
~ Click on images to enlarge ~