Our week in Santorini

Our week in Santorini
(I’ll be adding more to this – and posting up some photos – so come back soon!)

Santorini, Greece

Day One Tuesday 14th Sept
After a diabolically bad kip, I was up at the unhealthy hour of 5:45am, frantically checking that I hadn’t forgotten to pack anything vital.

Fifteen minutes later we were walking through the eerily deserted streets of Brixton. It seems that 6am is too early for attitude, so everyone went about their business in a quiet and polite manner. Most strange.

We took the over-priced Gatwick Express from Victoria and had no hassles getting on our holiday-maker-tastic Thompson flight to Santorini.

Going back to Greece was a bit of a strange experience.

I used to regularly visit the islands in my twenties with a posse of beer-quaffing, skirt chasin’ mates. Ios (known as the ‘party island’) was our location of choice, and what little I can remember of those visits was endless ouzo-imbibing nights spent dancing to awful music, desperate chat up lines and raging all-day hangovers.

The last time I was in Ios I was literally stoned off the island after spending the night with a Swedish girl. When I went to leave in the morning, a stone-faced landlady stood in my path and demanded that I pay rent for my few hours of passion in her hotel.

Seeing as the bed was already paid for his seemed an unreasonable request, so I politely told her to shove her demands right up her retsina.

And then things got a little hairy. Eerie shouting voices were heard from above and then rocks – followed by sizeable boulders – starting reigning down on me, presumably lobbed by members of her family.

I legged it. Fast. Happily, this happened on my last day on the island, so I wouldn’t have to fear any more spontaneous avalanches once I was off the island.

But that was then and this is now, and I’m rather hoping that Santorini will find the ‘all grown up’ version of me more to their liking.
Santorini, Greece

We arrived on the island mid-afternoon and the heat hit as with our first steps off the plane.

An unusually calm cab driver took us to our hotel, although we were concerned when a woman jumped into the front seat, uninvited.

We thought she might be a mini-carjacker, but it turned out it’s customary in Greece for cabs to take on additional fares en route.

And what a top idea that is: the cab is used more efficiently and that fares are shared between passengers. Ken – sort it out!

Unlike the shabby, one room dumps of my lustful youth, our apartment turned out to be truly fabulous.

Santorini, Greece

Carved into the volcanic stone of the Caldera crater, there’s only one word for the view provided from our balcony – it’s chuffin’ spectacular!

We’re perched on high on the rim of a volcano that blew itself to pieces in 1600BC.

With the centre of the island gone, Santorini took the form of a broken outline of a circle surrounding a deep circular lagoon where the volcano stood. It is beautiful!

Unfortunately, in amongst all this beauty, I’d developed a stinking cold, so our first night in town was a little quiet. We had a traditional Greek meal (they have proper veggie options – yippee!) overlooking the harbour, and chomped through a super-fresh Greek salad as donkeys strolled by.

Authentic stuff!

Santorini, Greece

Day Two Wednesday 15th Sept
As the Merton Parkas sang back in the short lived Mod revival of 1978, ‘You Need Wheels’. They certainly had a point.

Although Santorini isn’t particularly large, the hills are high and the beaches are scattered all over the place. With public transport on the rare side, a scooter is essential.

One problem though: unlike the carefree days of my youth, drunk tourists are no longer allowed to jump astride powerful bikes and smash their limbs in reckless drunken accidents or drive off cliffs – the authorities now demand the production of a valid driving licence. The cheek of it!

Sadly, I am currently licence-less, but after some formidable hussling and haggling by Fran we were the proud owners of an 80cc scooter, although it perhaps wasn’t of the highest quality.

The indicators didn’t work, the headlamp was broken, the brake light was a mere memory and there was no sign of life on the dashboard, with the speedo, fuel and warning lights all in non-functioning mode.

But who cares – the thing could move some and we were ready to hit the road.

We were shortly on the road in a Welsh/Italian/Greek convoy consisting of our scooter, a lurid green SUV and a quad bike.

The last time I’d ridden a motorbike was about 15 years ago. And now I was trying to keep up with my speeding chums on an unfamiliar bike, on dodgy bending roads with Em riding on the back.

And on the wrong side of the road.

Visibly ageing as I drove, I somehow managed to keep the scooter from flying off the sharp curves and steep climbs, and it was with major relief that we purred into the gorgeous beach resort of Perivolos.

Santorini, Greece

And what a beach it was! With black volcanic sands and warm seas, I enjoyed my first swim in the sea since (he mumbles shamefully) a less than savoury dip in the icy, suspiciously brown waters of Ogmore On Sea in Wales. I awoke next day to find a strange brown rash on my face.

Happily, no such horrors were to befall me from today’s swim – the water is so clean that small fish swim around your feet and there’s no strange brown floating objects to be seen!

In the evening we took the spectacular footpath along the rim of the volcano into the main town of Fira.

The town clings precariously to the steep slopes, and at night looks truly magical, with thousands of restaurant and taverna lights sparkling into the distance.

Powerfully illuminated large cruise ships light up the dark seas in the near distance, while the harbour below glistens with the pilot lights of small fishing boats.

It is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen – imagine looking over a Glastonbury-by-the-Sea at night and you might get some idea….

Day Three Thurs 16th Sept
Another scorchio day!
We breakfasted on the balcony, enjoying the strange mix of foodstuffs that apparently pass for a traditional Greek breakfast: bread, slices of cheese, cherry jam that tastes just like strawberry, the ubiquitous Liptons tea with weird milk stuff and a large slice of sweet cake.

Suitably packed full of calories, we hit the road on our mo’fo’, rubber-burnin’ bat out of hell steed (all 80cc’s of it) and headed south.

Santorini, Greece

Too far south, in fact. An orienteering blunder led to us following dusty, twisting dirt tracks all the way to the very tip of the island at Cape Akrotiri.

It’s a dramatic place, looking almost Moon like, with large, grey, open tracts of pumice and basalt stone providing spooky, colourless vistas.

But it was worth the ride, with a short scramble up the 135 metre summit rewarding us with stunning views across the whole island.

After a closer look at the map, we worked out the correct route t
o our intended destination, the Red Beach – a small, black sand beach, perched precariously under an overhanging red rock cliff face.

Only accessible by foot, the beach offers crystal clear waters, sun loungers for hire and a small traditional cafe playing a mix of Arabic and Greek songs.

We swam, loafed and lolled for several hours before wolfing down a feta salad roll and heading off down the highway home.

In the evening, we took our usual stroll along the picturesque walk along the crater’s edge into Fira.

As Fira has grown, the boundaries between the northern villages of Imerovigli (where we’re staying) and Firostefani have become blurred, with cafes, restaurants and tavernas forming a near-continuous two mile long stretch.

The restaurants in Fira are perched up high over the harbour, so that diners can enjoy a spectacular view as they chomp away at their Greek salads.

Walking back at night, the stars are incredibly bright and after a few beers, the inevitable, “is there life out there/what’s life all about/we’re so insignificant etc etc” philosophical tosh came out.

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