Monday, July 30, 2007

Let Me Share My Perfect Day With You!

We are home, back to a welcoming family and a very comfortable bed and are pleasantly surprised that Canberra has turned on the sunshine even if it's not exactly what one could call "hot" right now! We arrived home on Thursday evening and unfortunately I have been suffering from complete lack of sleep, an extreme case of jet lag and a nasty little bug. However today I returned to work and am finally starting to actually feel human again.

Tuesday 17 July
Mykonos, although touristy, still has considerable charm. The town is full of little cobbled alleyways and people everywhere studying maps and looking totally lost as every little alleyway looks remarkably alike. We had great views from our delightful little hotel - all blue and white - perched on a hill about ten minutes from town. It had one of those 'infinity' swimming pools where the water looks like it's flowing over the edge into the ocean far below.

This was the day we took a boat to the island of Delos and toured the 'ruined' village. In fact the whole island is an ancient site totally uninhabited apart from a few guards. The museum there has held excavations since 1873.

We spent another wonderful afternoon swimming at Paradiso Beach and from about 7pm the partying started. The DJ, dressed in nothing but a g-string, led heaps of very gorgeous briefly clad young people of both sexes in dancing to loud and exciting music while we drank cocktails (or 'coctails' as they spelt them there -' two for one' after 5pm) and 'enjoyed' the scenery.

Later in the evening we dined in a lovely restaurant and had a great conversation with a Melbourne couple sitting at a table next to us resulting in a rather late night. Incidentally we never did find out what time the shops closed - most were still open well after midnight which was time for we old folk to head for bed!

18 - 19 July
Our boat trip to Santorini on another Australian built catamaran took only three hours this time. Our hotel in Karterados, just out of the town of Fira, had less character than in Mykonos but we were comfortable. In Santorini, because of Greek plumbing, one is not allowed to put paper down the toilet, instead bins are provided. The trick is remembering! This called for some interesting signage in places and one loo in a public bar read "No paper or rugs or any other useless material to be put down toilet"! The mind boggles!

Fira town was a 15 minute walk from our hotel and from here we took a bus to Kamari Beach where we enjoyed great swims in gentle waves. Although the beaches in Santorini were not as sandy as in Mykonos (in fact they were positively rocky in parts) the gentle waves and refreshing water were heaven. We found a great bar in Fira serving beautiful cocktails as we watched a magnificent sunset over the water. We also enjoyed fabulous traditional Greek food.

Santorini's official name is Thira but the locals refer to it as Santorini after Saint Irini. When we arrived at the port our initial impression was of a very barren volcanic island but as the bus drove us up the narrow steep winding road (reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast road) towards Fira we were met with stunning views of the bright blue water and the changing landscape as civilisation approached. Santorini is nestled among volcanic rocks and the houses and shops are not all white, like Mykonos, rather there are a lot of shades of pinks and sandstones as well as the predominant white and blue. It is positively gorgeous.

Friday 20 July
Today we took a full-day excursion on a fishing vessel from Fira to see the active volcano, the thermal pools, Thirassia and Oia. This was a great day. First we visited the volcano which last erupted in 1950. We walked and walked through lava and rocks and enjoyed stunning views of the blue water below. There was lots of molten rock, lava, black, red, grey and large stones. It was quite magnificent.

Our next stop was the thermal pools. Here we were able to jump off the side of the boat into clear deep water and swim about 30metres to the brown muddy warm thermal pool. As we swam to the far end of the mineral pool it seemed a shame to miss so many great photo opportunities. Up on the hills were a couple of old-fashioned wooden loos, a surprising sight, way out there. It would have been great to have taken photos of the heaps of people (me included) covering themselves in the dark brown mud which is full of minerals and very therapeutic for the skin - it also has a strong smell! We swam back to the boat in the clear water to be taken to our next destination - Thirassia - more walking here (or a donkey ride) for those who chose to visit the village. We opted for the walk and enjoyed the uphill challenge. The town was virtually deserted - nothing was open - no shops, no restaurants, no people - quite deserted except for lazy cats and the occasional sound of Greek music wafting through open windows. It was a good walk with lovely views and we next headed back down to the beach for a fabulous swim.

Our last stop was Oia (pronounced "ee-a") where we were recommended the ideal spot for watching the sunset. Oia is a very scenic and tranquil village with some houses built into the near-vertical cliff face. The views are stunning with blue-domed Byzantine churches, views of the volcano lagoon and crater with white-washed houses. We enjoyed a cocktail at a restaurant overlooking the water and as the sun became lower over the water we walked to the castle to watch the most magnificent sunset ever. My camera has been working overtime trying to capture the perfect sunset. The castle walls were an ideal sunset-watching spot but several hundred others obviously thought so too. A tour load of boisterous fellow Aussies were enjoying lavish helpings of Greek salads and cold meats and copious amounts of alcohol while waiting for the big moment! Everybody burst into spontaneous applause as the sun eventually disappeared in a red glow. We then hurried to catch the bus to return us to Karterados after an exhausting but fabulous day. We were too tired to walk back up the hill to town and instead we thoroughly enjoyed a Greek version of wood-fired pizza and local wine in the nearby pizzeria.

Saturday 21 July - The Perfect Day!
I thought nothing could top yesterday but today had to be the one that did and it didn't even involve shopping!

We took your advice, Lulu, and decided to walk to Oia from Karterados - a total of 13km. The problem was finding a walking trail. We kept being directed to the bus stop. Walking to Oia? No way! However through perseverance we found a track which headed in the general direction.

It was a stunning day and the views the entire way were mind-boggling. In fact there are just not enough adjectives to describe the beauty of this place. At times we actually walked on red volcanic rock (I think we lost the main path at this stage) and it was quite slippery and required some caution. It took us a few hours to finally reach Oia as we kept 'stopping to stare' at the awe-inspiring cliff faces and blue water with tiny boats in the distance and little villages perched on hilltops far away. We stopped for a spot of lunch and asked again for directions - again we were shown where to catch the bus. No, we wished to walk. "No, very far, too far to walk". At that stage we were well over half way. Eventually we were vaguely directed to a path. Obviously walkers are not a common sight as when we walked the last few km, now beside the road, we became aware of people staring out of bus windows and from the back of motorcycles. We saw only one other couple on foot on our entire journey and they were sitting contemplating their guide book at the time, having come from the opposite direction.

When we finally reached Oia we felt fantastic. That walk was absolutely stunning the entire way. Thank you for the suggestion Lulu - I agree with your analysis! And yes, we consumed copious amounts of water.

After a walk through Oia we caught a couple of buses to Parissa Beach for a much-deserved heavenly swim. There we were still swimming at 7.30pm at night, absolute bliss under the slowly setting sun. We threw our clothes over our swimmers, caught a bus back to Fira and walked to the top of the hill just in time to watch our final Santorini sunset - perfect!

We walked back to the hotel, showered, changed and walked slowly back up to town to find an absolutely gorgeous restaurant overlooking the water. The service, atmosphere, food and a bottle of Santorini wine were absolutely fantastic. We decided to splash out for our last night here and I could not fault this restaurant - sheer good luck in finding it. Somehow it was the icing on the cake on what had turned out to be an absolutely perfect day!

Homeward Bound!
Santorini will be etched in my memory forever. It is somewhere to which I would like to return one day and perhaps stay in an apartment perched on the hill with constant stunning views at a cost of thousands per week - soooo romantic!! Every day here has been beautiful, sunny days with a very slight breeze but the time has gone so quickly. It certainly felt like paradise - the views and sunsets breathtakingly beautiful.

Sunday 22nd we set sail back to Athens after a wonderful ten days in the Greek Islands. It was a four hour trip on the fast ferry, twice the pace of the ferry from Athens to Mykonos and far more comfortable. We spent a night in Athens, then on to Rome for a night and home via Hong Kong - one final day for shopping but by then we were starting to feel tired and irritable and were longing for the comfort of our own bed. Sleeping in aeroplanes is no fun and in my case impossible.

Our return luggage weight was impressive compared to our last trip two years ago when we were refused 80kg and had to leave some behind - this time only 47kg of checked luggage between us - no problems through customs although there were a few heart-stopping moments declaring certain wooden items!

And so now we are home. Yesterday I attempted to run the block in the afternoon knowing I would never make Mt Taylor in the morning (especially after crawling out of bed at 1.30pm) - an abysmally slow 6km and I felt dreadful. Until last night I slept and unpacked and slept the entire weekend. Last night the family came over for an Italian meal then I slept only one hour the entire night (not related to my cooking I hope). My time clock is definitely way out - here's to a good night tonight - to sleep, perchance to dream - of sunsets, stunning views and paradise!


  1. Welcome back Strewth and wonderful to have you home safe and sound. I am sure you will get over post-holiday syndrome (jet lag, bugs, and blues if you have them) before too long.

    This last post of yours is a fabulous one and would make a good candidate in any travel writing competition. You made Santorini sound like a dream, which I suppose it is. I loved your vignette about not using paper or "rugs" in that loo. The mind does boggle? What did they think - someone might try and flush their plush 18th century Turkish carpet down the thing.

    Anyway, good to have you back and look forward to catching up with you at some point.

  2. So glad to hear you did the walk. It's not exactly well signposted but worth the effort. We didn't see any other walkers either!

    I'd love to go back to Santorini too and would probably stay in Oia if I had the choice.

  3. The perfect day and no shopping! I'm going to quote you on that one Strewth.

    Santorini sounds brilliant. Post your best sunset when you get around to it. Not sure about the 1000s per week though.

    Yes, we missed both you and CJ at Mt Taylor. Spodiechoff wanted to compare wobbly bits ;)

    By the way, were any of those gorgeous, briefly clad people of the young heiress type?