Spring Break, Part 2: Santorini, Greece

Santorini.  Swoon.

Chances are, if you’ve ever envisioned a picturesque Greek island getaway, you were probably picturing Santorini.  Ya know–those unbelievably beautiful, screen-saver-worthy photos filled with white buildings and blue domes, a too-blue-to-be-real sea meeting gorgeous sunny skies?  Yep, it’s real.  It’s Santorini.  And it’s every bit as beautiful in person as it is in those photos.

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As you may or may not have read in my Spring Break, Part 1 post, B, Benjamin and I spent a night in Athens before taking the ferry through the Aegean Sea to Santorini.  We arrived at the port mid-afternoon Sunday, April 10 after much anticipation.  I’m not sure what I had envisioned the island looking like, as I knew Santorini was part of a volcano caldera remnant, but it wasn’t what I expected at all.  The whole side of the island was comprised of cliffs with those picturesque light-colored buildings settled on top, like icing on a cake.  I was actually quite surprised by how big the island was; the many websites I had scoured gave me the impression that it was relatively small.

Anyway, once off the boat, we found a bus headed toward Fira, the capital city which overlooks the port area and the actual volcanic island, Nea Kameni.  The bus was cheap and easy, and took us right into the town centre.  The drive was a bit nerve-racking, as the road up the side of the cliffs is relatively narrow and full of terrifying drop-offs, loose gravel and rock, and lots of switch-backs, and the bus is a huge charter-style bus playing chicken with the other buses, cars, bikers, and hikers on the road.  We all made it to Fira in one piece, and my hero husband figured out where our apartment was from there.  Luckily, it was a pretty quick walk, and mostly downhill.

Oh yea.  The hills.  Oh man, the hills.  I suppose this is a good time to remind you that we accidentally  left our Ergo baby carrier in my {non-working} car…  Had we been thinking in Athens, we would’ve found a store and bought a dang carrier there, but our minds were apparently in vacation mode.  Anyway, we realized upon arriving at the bus stop that it was going to be a rough few days with the stroller…

Back to the apartments.  This was another accommodation booked by the travel agency; we were much more impressed this time though {good thing since we were staying four nights!}.  We stayed at the Anessis Apartments in a cute little beachy-feeling kind of a room.  At first, we were a little skeptical; the apartments were located in kind of a strange place, off one of the main roads on a sketchier-looking drag kind of in the middle of nowhere (yet still pretty close to Fira’s city centre, if that makes sense).  Our minds were put at ease though as soon as we arrived.  The apartment had a single bed and kitchen area with a table in the entry room, then a larger bed  with a table and closet space in the next room, followed by the bathroom, which was equipped with a glorious shower!  A pack-and-play was provided for Benjamin (as I’ve mentioned in other posts, it is rare that we stay somewhere that is unable to provide one). The only thing that was a bit tricky was not having a tub, as it was really difficult to bathe Benjamin, but we made do.  The staff members at the apartments were absolutely fantastic!  They made us feel incredibly welcome, answered all of our many questions (even helped us try to locate a baby carrier!), and provided a yummy breakfast each morning.

We unloaded what we didn’t need, then headed back out to do a bit of exploring for the rest of the afternoon/evening.  Despite the inherent difficulties with having a stroller in an area filled with hills, stairs, and cobblestone, I absolutely fell in love with Fira.  The city was bustling with people, shops, restaurants, and excitement, even on a Sunday night.  After wandering a bit, we ended up having dinner at Ellinikon, a restaurant in the town square.  It was pretty good, we both had pasta (yes, I know, our first night on a Greek island and we eat pasta, haha…but we were starving and wanted to be sure we went home with full tummies!) and were impressed for the most part.  The staff was especially nice!

After the long day on the ferry, we were all glad to make it to a comfy bed and get a good night’s sleep.  The following morning we started with breakfast at the apartments.  As I said, the staff cooked us up a great breakfast each morning; Benjamin was surprisingly especially keen on the Greek yogurt mixed with honey.  Our goal for the morning was to find a baby carrier, as we knew our days in Santorini were going to be tough without one (especially since we had booked a tour for hiking the volcano).  The apartment staff helped us brainstorm some potential places to check out, and we were on our way.  To make a long story short, none of the stores in the main city centre sold or rented carriers, and the one store that does normally carry them (which took us on a nice little stroll along the cliffs overlooking the port) didn’t have any in, as there had been a boat strike and the shipment hadn’t come in yet.  We were super bummed to say the least, but hoped that maybe the store would get them in that day or early the next day {spoiler alert, they didn’t 😦 }, so again, we made do.  I got some great photos of the volcanic island from our walk, and Benjamin got to see his first donkey of the trip.  He’s really funny, because he can’t say the names of animals, but he knows how to make most animal sounds, so we spent a good portion of our Santorini vacation listening to him squeal with “neighs” and giggles.

We stopped for some coffee in town, then ended up in the square for some delicious gyros from Bagiatiko.  They were super inexpensive and amazingly delicious–B and I each had a gyro and Benjamin chowed down on a pork souvlaki and fries.  While we ate, we sat in the square and people-watched, a favorite activity for all of us.  Benjamin loves waving to people (and animals), and makes admirers wherever he goes!

After a nice long walk that put Benjamin to sleep, we relaxed and refreshed ourselves at the apartments.  Our goal was to get back to the bus stop by 4:30 to catch the bus to Oia, a town about 20-30 minutes away.  Oia is actually the city that is most pictured in those gorgeous white-building and blue-dome photos, and is located at one of the tips of the crescent-shaped island that is Santorini.  The bus ride was not for the faint of heart–the drivers fly along windy roads, teetering on the edges of cliffs.  B was definitely not a fan.  But again, we made it in one piece and set off to explore.  Oia is a maze of pathways meandering through hills of restaurants, shops, churches, and other buildings.  Just wandering through the town is mesmerizing, there is so much to look at and experience.  At practically every turn there is a gorgeous view of the ocean and the lingering smell of delicious food.

I’ve had people ask what kinds of kids’ activities there were for Benjamin on the island, and to be really honest, we didn’t run into many–not that we went out of our way to look for them either.  He is usually pretty content relaxing in his stroller (or in the carrier when we have it), people-watching.  On this trip, we let him get out and wander around on his own quite a bit as well, which helped to wear him out too!  He loved seeing all the {stray} dogs and cats, and again, made all sorts of admirers–we seriously have people come up to us all the time to tell us how beautiful he is–sometimes in languages that we can’t always quite understand!  We do bring books and small toys in his diaper bag/stroller for when he does need a little distraction, but usually that is just at mealtimes if the food isn’t out yet.

We were hoping to watch the sunset in Oia, as I’ve heard that is a “must-do” there, but we were also starving by that time….  Lucky for us, we found a rooftop restaurant {Kyprida} with a sunset view that had plenty of room for us and wasn’t outrageously priced [much of Oia seemed pricier than Fira; while the whole island is definitely touristy, Oia seems to be the most touristy, and the prices reflect that].  I had the delicious traditional Greek dish moussaka, which is kind of like an eggplant lasagna/casserole.  The sunset was, indeed, beautiful, but to be honest, I preferred the view in Fira!

After dinner and a stroll through the lovely night scene in Oia, we hopped back on the final bus back to Fira and called it a night.  Though I adored Oia, I am glad we didn’t book a hotel there, as Fira is much more central and has more to offer in my opinion.  Oia is definitely a must-see though, if you are on Santorini!

So, I just realized that I have written a lot….and I still have a lot to write….so I just wanted to say sorry {or maybe sorry not sorry I have so much to say about this incredible place?}  Oh well, I shall continue….stick with me, there’s lots more to see!

Tuesday was my 31st birthday.  How lucky am I?!?  I got to spend my 31st birthday 31 weeks pregnant in GREECE!  Not only that, we had booked a tour through Viator for the day.  Our tour would take us to the volcanic island for a hike up the volcano, then to another nearby island to experience the natural hot springs.  I have mixed reviews of the tour:

Pros:

  • the company provided all transportation: a guide picked us up from our hotel and        dropped us off by the cable cars that would take us down to the port, the round-trip cable car tickets were provided, and of course, the boat rides to and from the islands were included.
  • the boat was awesome!
  • the hike up the volcano gave us incredible views of the harbor and island of Santorini, and we were able to feel the hot air vents at the top….we also learned quite a bit about the volcano from our guide
  • the weather was perfect–I even got a sunburn beautiful glowing suntan 😉
  • overall, it was a relaxing outing

Cons:

  • it was relatively pricey
  • the hike was a bit more difficult than we were anticipating {being almost 8 months pregnant and toting an 18 month old without a baby carrier didn’t help matters…}  B and I traded off carrying Benjamin, and let him walk some on his own as well.  B was a champ and did the whole thing in sandals!
  • I was looking most forward to experiencing the hot springs and mud, but was not allowed to go, as I was pregnant {and let me clarify that I did indeed do some research beforehand to see if pregnant women were allowed to go in hot springs, which they are! but apparently not for this particularly company/tour–this was not indicated anywhere on the website, which was a big bummer to me}

So, would I do the tour again?  Maybe if I wasn’t super pregnant and we had our baby carrier.  It was pretty exciting to say that I hiked a volcano on my birthday 🙂

Once we got back to the Fira port, we took the cable cars back up to the city.  The cable cars are an experience all in themselves – I would highly recommend at least one trip on them if you are there.  They are a bit rickety, but I really enjoyed the views and experience!

We had another delicious Greek meal on a rooftop at Parea Tavern.  The gemista I ordered was amazing, as was my baklava dessert.  As you can tell, I thoroughly took advantage of having Greek food at my fingertips for the whole trip- SO. YUMMY.

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As usual, we took a mid-afternoon siesta (yea, yea, I know, wrong country) and relaxed at the hotel before heading back out for dinner.  In all honesty, we were still pretty full from lunch when we headed back out, but we ate at Mama’s House.  It was pretty good, but definitely not our top meal of the week–possibly because we were still full {and maybe a little because Benjamin was being a wild child!}  Even with my full belly, I made it my mission to find something chocolate to eat for dessert for my birthday.  We ended up back in the town square, where I found the most decadent birthday dessert at Crema Latte: waffle bites with chocolate syrup and dark chocolate ice cream.  It was to.die.for.  While B and I ate our ice cream, Benjamin danced to the street musicians performing in the square.  Perfect birthday.

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Wednesday was our last day in Santorini, as our flight was the following morning.  We didn’t really have any plans, so after breakfast we decided to take the bus to the beach in the nearby town of Kamari.  The town was mostly still closed down for the season, but you could tell they were prepping for the big tourist rush soon.  The beaches were black pebble beaches and were lined with amazing hotels and restaurants {most of which were not open yet}.  It was a perfect relaxing few hours–we sat on the beach soaking up the sun; B and Benjamin tossed rocks into the Aegean.  I can imagine that this area of the island gets pretty busy during the summer, and probably pretty rowdy in the evenings!

We had a late lunch at Convivium  (Italian for a change!)–amazing pizza!  Then we went back to the apartment to pack up and let Benjamin nap.  Our final stops that evening were back in town for some souvenirs and gelato.

Thursday morning was bittersweet, as I didn’t want to say goodbye to Santorini, but I was excited to head to our next destination: Bucharest, Romania.  I hope that I make it back to the Greek islands one day {perhaps a romantic anniversary getaway sometime?}, Santorini certainly found a place in my heart!   

Santorini Travel Journal

 

6 thoughts on “Spring Break, Part 2: Santorini, Greece

  1. Greece is my favorite place I’ve been to so far, and I really need to go to Santorini… This post was amazing! Did you take all the photos?

    1. Thank you! I obviously loved Santorini! And yes, I took all of the photos except maybe 2 or 3 that my hubby took 🙂

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