Monday, May 23, 2016

Oia (Santorini), Greece...Paradise

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I have dreamed of going to Santorini! I wanted to see the white buildings with blue roofs on cliffsides overlooking a beautiful turqouise ocean badly, so even though it was tight, we had to squeeze it in when we were on this side of the world! We traveled nearly all day on the 24th to get there flying from Cagliari to Rome and then to Athens and then finally to Santorini. We nearly didn't make it! The weather on the island the few days we were there was exceptionally windy and as our plane first started to make it's descent to land, the pilot aborted and we circled back around the island hoping for the wind to die down before trying again. Luckily the second time he was able to make it work!
Since this has been on my bucket list I was determined to experience the island to the fullest and spent quite a bit of time picking where we would stay. I trust Trip Advisor when planning trips and pretty much use it exclusively so we ended up going with the #1 hotel in Oia, Filotera Suites. This place is the stuff dreams are made of! The rooms are cave rooms built into the side of the mountain and decorated beautifully. We had a private terrace and hot tub with views that didn't seem real. When we were checking in (with one of the nicest hotel receptionists ever) we found out that we got to pick our breakfast from a delicious menu and then pick what time we wanted it delivered to our terrace. Food is my love language ;-), so this was amazing! It had been a long day but it was definitely worth it as we stood looking out at the view from our terrace.
We bundled up a bit (the wind was seriously crazy) and then headed out to walk around Oia. We arrived right at sunset time but decided the view from our room was good enough that we didn't want to bother with the crowds up at the look out point and headed to dinner instead. Right near our hotel was Petros so we stopped there and it was so good! We selected mostly appetizers to try and the baked feta with pepper and tzatziki were both exceptional. We strolled the walkway looking at shops and just enjoying the atmosphere of the island before heading to our hot tub to warm up.
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(this was taken in the morning, but shows the reception office for our hotel on the left)
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walking down to our room
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(view out the window on the door)
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our terrace and hot tub
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views from our terrace, straight ahead, to the left and to the right
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back up to explor Oia
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for Addie ;-)
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The next morning we had our breakfast on the terrace and it was AMAZING. The food was SO good!!! I miss the feta so much and blogging this is making me so hungry haha! And then there was the view of course :-).
We walked some more before people were up and about and then decided to try and rent a scooter or ATV to explore the entire island. This proved to be more difficult than expected because neither of us brought our licenses, only our passports. To rent the scooter we would have needed an international license (and I was actually pretty relieved we couldn't do the scooter option!) but we really wanted to do the ATV! We headed back to our hotel room to use the wifi and when I searched my email I was able to find a copy of my license I once emailed to Mike for something, phew! We headed back to the Vazeos office and before long we were off on an ATV heading down the mountain towards the southern end of Santorini.
Riding on the ATV was SO fun! It was pretty darn cold for us but it was worth it to tough it out. We were able to get to most the places we wanted to see...the black sand beach, Kamari, some ancient ruins (the main part was closed for the day) and then kind of saw the Red Beach. We were so cold and we hadn't researched it enough before hand to know where we needed to walk to find it but we did find a stand that offered super expensive hot chocolate that warmed us up for a little bit. We stopped for lunch while in Kamari and it was just ok and later hurried home when it started sprinkling.
Thank goodness for the hot tub to warm up in since we had bad luck with the weather (our only bad weather the entire 3 weeks though!). The day after we flew out it was supposed to be perfect again, but we decided the chilly weather was better than the HUGE crowds that swarm the little island in the summer (mostly from cruise ships). I would love to go back again with our kids and try to come a teeny bit later so it is a little warmer but still not too crowded yet.
That evening we headed back to Petros for dinner where this time I had moussaka (so good!) and Mike had a steak of some sort I believe. Then we did some shopping for my birthday. Of all the places we visited, I loved the shopping here most. I wanted to get a necklace of the evil eye...not the ones that look like the actual eye but a prettier version and we found one that I love and wear daily. There were so many cute boutiques in Oia as well and at one I found a few things that I really loved. The best part of my birthday was just being in Santorini with Mike...it was a pretty nice way to turn 35!
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you can see the black sand beach below (and Mike on the rock haha)
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The next day, the 26th, was my actual birthday and unfortunately it was also the day we had to leave the island. We had another amazing breakfast and while Mike was getting organized I went on a little walk by myself around Oia with my camera. I didn't go very far but still saw so much to take pictures of. I really, really need to go back and spend more time here!
When we arrived at the teeny airport later that morning we found it in utter chaos. The flight before ours had been cancelled due to the wind and the lines were insane. Luckily ours was only delayed but as we waited in the crazy line we were worried it may get cancelled as well. We had an overnight in Athens still so it wouldn't mess up any connections but would have been frustrating to be in Santorini for extra time but stuck at the airport. We were able to get checked in though and then hung out in the sunshine on the outdoor patio of the airport upstairs until it was time to go. We definitely felt fortunate when our plane took off since some people from the earlier flight were still stuck there!
It was back to Athens for another night before heading to London. We stayed at the same Hilton and headed back to the same restaurant, In Town, for dinner. We had hoped to try and find the house my mom lived in as a little girl using directions my grandfather gave us, but it just didn't work out. Between arriving later than expected and then seeing police officers holding their riot shields all around (which we did not see on our previous stop in Athens), we decided to stick close to the hotel. The reception desk noticed it was my birthday when we checked in and when we returned from dinner they had left a little cake in our room which was so sweet!
It was especially sad to say goodbye to Greece because it meant the trip was really almost over!
(woke up with this cute video waiting for me)

before heading out on my walk, I took a couple of our room from below...ours is the door directly under the patio
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Santorini food recap...
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that delicious sesame seed baked feta appetizer and more moussaka!
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it was fascinating to watch how this accident was handled from our balcony
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Ok, hilarious story :-)...
We had noticed in every hotel bathroom we had there was a string hanging near the bathtub and sometimes the shower too. Mike and I could not figure out what they were supposed to be and thought they were maybe to hang clothes to dry but there wasn't anywhere to hook the other end so that didn't make sense anyway. We actually tied two of the strings together (one from the tub and one from the shower) in our hotel in Venice to hang our swim suits to dry haha!). So when we were staying with Christina and Enrico we noticed they had one too and we asked about it. Christina told us it rang a bell in the main room of their house to signal someone if something happened and you needed help. We all had a good laugh thinking about what the cleaning ladies in Venice must have thought :). We had meant to try it out at their house but forgot. When we got to our hotel in Athens we noticed it again so Mike went in the room and I pulled it from the bathroom a few times because it wasn't doing anything. We thought it must be broken until seconds later the phone in our room rang. Mike answered it to hear a frantic front desk employee asking in an urgent manner, "Mr. Freeman! You pulled the emergency cord in the bathroom! Are you ok?!" HAHAHAHA! We are such little kids! We died laughing and I texted Christina right away to tell her and blame it on her haha!
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