We arrived at our AirBnB in Athens late in the evening and our host was out of town. Her elderly Greek parents showed us to our room. They didn't speak any English at all, so we muddled about with sign language to get information on the essentials: wi-fi passcode, where to do laundry, where to buy groceries.
The father was really nice. He was worried about our bikes parked out on the street, so he pantomimed to me to park them outside his window so he could keep and eye (and ear) out on them during the night. Took a while for me to understand all of that. I thought he wanted me to take him on a midnight ride around the neighbourhood! :)
In the morning, Neda makes a new friend. We eventually pass the sniff test and are allowed into the house with minimal bark alerts
Even though our pace is slow, we've been hitting the road almost every single day ever since arriving back in Europe. We are starting to get a bit tired of touring and touristing. Brochures of the Acropolis and all the pretty neighbourhoods of Athens lie unread on the coffee table in our little apartment. We just want to relax and do nothing for awhile.
Well, I want to do nothing. Neda is back to her cross-stitching like a machine!
For the next couple of mornings, we'd get up and stare at the Acropolis brochure and then look at each other: "Maybe we'll go tomorrow..."
So tired and lazy. The scorching Athens afternoons do nothing to lift our lethargy. The mercury hits 39C one day. We escape into the air-conditioning of our apartments mid-morning when the heat becomes unbearable, only venturing outside again in the late evening.
Our AirBnB host is back from her vacation and we chatted with her for a while. She gave us some tips on places to go in the city and then sensing our ambivalence she joked that we needed a vacation. A vacation from our vacation! We were no strangers to that! We've been doing some research about the Greek islands, but couldn't decide between Santorini or Crete. Or maybe both? Our host nodded her head vigorously. "Definitely Santorini. No doubt about it!"
She was very familiar with the resort island and gave us a whole bunch of tips of things to see and do there. I think we've decided on our vacation spot.
The next day, we are riding to the docks to board the ferry that will take us to Santorini! Very exciting!
We had also received another helpful tip: the food on the islands are more expensive than the mainland (is that even possible?!?). So we stock up on groceries while we were in Athens. My topcase no longer has any room for spanakopita or any other filo pastries... :(
Our bikes are going on vacation too!
It cost a little bit more to have the bikes shipped to the Greek islands with us, but in our experience, we would probably end up saving money on taxis to and from the ferries as well as getting around on the island. Plus, this *is* still a motorcycle trip! Even if we are on a vacation from our vacation.
It's an eight hour ride to Santorini from Athens. We opt for the cheap seats and not a cabin, so we're fully stocked up on TV shows, movies and books on the Kindles to help pass the time.
After what seemed like an eternity out at sea, we finally catch a glimpse of land
White towns creep and cling to the tops of the cliffs like lichen. It's quite a sight after seeing nothing but blue sea for the past eight hours. At the bottom is the main port in Thira (which is the ancient and official Greek name for Santorini), where all the ferries dock at. And the town above is the capital, Fira - which itself is a derivation of the word Thira. It's on the western coast of the island and we've got to ride to the south to get to our hotel. It's not as far as it sounds, less than 10 kms.
It's a First-In-Last-Out (FILO, for the computer nerds. What a coincidence!) scenario and all the bikes have to wait for the cars to leave first :(
Which means being stuck behind a parade of 4 (and 18-wheelers) up the switchbacks leading to the main road at the top of the island
Still, it gives us plenty of opportunity to peer over the edge and appreciate the beauty of Santorini!
A little glimpse of what we saw on the way up. So glad we have our bikes with us!
I didn't think it could get any hotter than Athens, but it feels like it's topping 40C here. Unlike the mainland, at least there's a mild breeze here on the island that cools you down a little. Just a little though. 40C!
There may be no room in my topcase for filo, but there is in our stomachs!
FILO also stands for First-In-line, Last-Out-of-the-restaurant...
We have designated this our official filo place now. It's just a few kms from our hotel. Neda likes the spinach and cheese spanakopita. I'm more a fan of the sausages wrapped in the flaky filo dough. Or the mushroom and cheese pastries. It's not a real vacation unless you gain weight. True story.
We arrive at our hotel not knowing exactly what we're going to get. Being on a tight budget, we couldn't afford the swanky designer white rock igloos hanging off the cliffs of the island. Our place is just outside the town of Perissa, on the south-east corner of Santorini. While all the resorts in town are right on the beach, we're about a km away from shore. It's not really close to anything and the location is only convenient if you have your own vehicle. Which we do!!! We're splurging a bit, paying about €40/night which is double our budget for accommodations, but hey, this is our vacation!
You don't even want to know how much it costs to stay at the edge of the island with a sea view!
It's not a bad place. Neda has a balcony that she can do her cross-stitching. It's got AC and I can work on the blog in the dark (which I like to do)
And the best part! It's got a pool!!!! Great way to escape the heat! I'm going to stay in here forever! Or at least till nightfall...
I'm being serious. I am not leaving this pool.
The next morning, Neda drags me out of the pool and we go exploring the island
Santorini is shaped like a fetus. The whole island is about 25 kms tip to tip, but today, we're only going from the south-east corner to the south-west. Baby steps. We're on vacation, you know!
It's high season and the roads are packed with tourists who have rented ATVs to get around the island. There are only two types of ATV tourists: one is the tentative driver who probably has never ridden an ATV or motorcycle before. They clog up the road doing 35 km/h, forcing all traffic behind them to pass them dangerously and into oncoming traffic. Then there are the maniacs, who probably also have never ridden an ATV before as well. They swerve all over the road, unable to keep to their lanes. Fast on the straightaway then hard on the brakes in the corners. Like track newbies on liter bikes.
I hate being anywhere during high season. High prices and so many tourists...
This is our first destination: the Red Beach
The Red Beach is one of Santorini's most well-known tourist spots and the most popular beach because it's covered in red pebbles and surrounded by beautiful red striated cliffs behind it. There's a lot of red here.
White church, Greek flag at the parking lot of Red Beach
We're here early enough in the morning that the crowds haven't built up yet. Neda lays a towel and we settle in for the day
So, funny story about laying towels down on Red Beach. Right behind us was a cordoned off area sectioned off with yellow tape like a crime scene. We thought that that whole area was out of bounds, as did everyone else around us. So all the towels were laid down in front of it. As the morning wore on, the tide crept up the shore, eventually soaking everyone's beach blanket. At the height of high tide, the waters lapped right up to the yellow tape of the cordoned-off area.
And then the light bulb went off. The yellow tape was a tide marker to tell people where to put their towels to escape high tide, not to keep people away!!! So here's a pro-tip: Place your blanket behind the yellow-taped-off-area at Red Beach and don't get your blanket soaked! :)
Snorkeling is a popular activity in the clear waters off the Red Beach
Neda is on a mission
Before we left Athens, our AirBnB host asked us to pick her up some red rocks from the Red Beach. The colouring is so unique that she collects them in clear glass jars that she leaves around the house as decorations.
Little did she know who she was asking to collect these rocks. Neda immediately exclaimed, "I've already specially modified my tank bag to store rocks, sea shells, leaves and small puppies from all over the world. Mission accepted!!!"
Wedding photoshoot on the rocks of the Red Beach
We replicate the wedding photoshoot, but in the water... hehe
Having grown up on the Adriatic coast, Neda prefers the beach over a swimming pool.
"I'm not leaving this beach!", she yells out to me. "I'm serious!"
The colour of the red rocks are such a striking contrast to the azure waters. So pretty here.
As the afternoon approaches, the temperatures rise and the late-riser crowd starts arriving to Red Beach. Everyone's blankets are all behind the yellow line now and it's getting pretty packed in the reduced area of the shoreline. Sorry Neda, I think that's our cue to leave.
Riding around the villages in Santorini
As we ride along the coast, we see the fancy accommodations that are set on the top of the cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea
These little apartments are not anywhere near the main resorts on the island, they were just off the main road between towns. I checked the pricing... €200/night.
On the way back from Red Beach to our hotel, we pass through a town called Emporio. It's an old trading settlement from the medieval times and it generally gets by-passed by the majority of tourists who flock to the more Instagram-friendly towns of Fira and Oia in the north.
Perfect for us! We must explore!
Everywhere we go, white buildings and blue domes dominate the landscape in the countryside and in town
It seems like the blue perfectly matches the cloudless sky and the sea surrounding the island.
I did some research and traditionally, houses in the Cyclades (island chain that include Santorini) were painted white to reflect the sun and keep the interiors cool. In 1974, a law was passed that all buildings *had* to be painted white. The domes on the churches were already painted blue, so that was allowed to remain. The new scheme neatly correlated to not only the sea and sky, but also the colours of the Greek flag.
The blue on white motif continues
Wandering the narrow streets of the old town in Emporio
Some of the architecture almost feels like the buildings in Tatooine from Star Wars!
We ended up getting a bit lost in the labyrinthe of the medieval town. *shrug* We're in no big rush to be anywhere.
A great morning at the beach and an afternoon exploring the old town of Emporio! Great vacation from our vacation so far!