Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Greek Week

Last October, Dave and finally got to take our long-overdue, reschueduled honeymoon. After all that happened last year, we were in desperate need of a vacation.

So after two full days of travel (including the time difference), we arrived in Santorini, Greece. Although it was nearly midnight and totally dark, I could tell the Santorini Princess was going to be beautiful come sunrise. Our hotel staff had been eagerly awaiting our arrival since late that afternoon (we had a delayed flight from Athens and got to spend several hours in the Athens airport; we made good use of the time by buying a Greek-English language guide book and learning some key conversational phrases), and took us on a tour of the property that ended with perfectly chilled champagne in our room. I cannot say enough about the staff's friendliness, professionalism, and the level of service we received. Or for that matter, the friendliness of the Greek people in general -- they are just lovely!

We awoke the next morning to the most breathtaking view. Out the front door of our "apartment" was the lower deck of the pool. And because our hotel was built on the caldera, on the other side of the pool was a cliff straight down to the ocean. One morning we ordered room service for breakfast, and ate on our porch as we looked out over the vast Mediterranean Sea and the tiny specks of the other Cyclades Islands. Another night we went up to the top deck and had cocktails and appetizers while we took in a beautiful sunset. Add to that the fact that immediately to our right was the restaurant, and two doors to the left was the spa, and we couldn't have been happier with our room.

We spent our first day relaxing by the pool while George and Igor served us delicious and creative drinks, followed by a 90-minute couples massage in the on-site spa. That night after dinner we took a stroll to a nearby village for drinks at a local pub (or whatever the Greek equivalent is).

On day two we rented an ATV to go exploring around the small island. I think we covered every inch of road (and some areas that were not necessarily accessible by road) that day. We saw an ouzerie next to one of the 250+ churches on this island alone (even our hotel had a little church -- they were seriously everywhere!), and spent an hour trying to understand the story the owner was telling in broken English. Something about a donkey whisperer. The next two days pretty much went like this... breakfast at 11 am when we finally decided to get out of bed, a couple hours at the pool, several hours of riding around exploring and taking photos and stopping at roadside cafes, ouzeries, etc., then dinner in Oia at one of the many scenic restaurants there. Friday night we went out to a local club. I had tired of my casual clothes and flip-flops, and was excited to get dressed up and wear some high heels. Even though we were on an ATV. And even though we had to walk up and down cobblestone streets that were very steep because of the location of the town on the cliff. But it was still fun. Saturday night there was a rain storm, so we ordered room service and busted out a bottle of Ouzo for some strip Phase 10. (If you'd like the rules, we videoed the whole thing so I could remember how to play for future use, and I'd be happy to share -- the rules, not our video.)

Sunday we traded in our ATV for a Crossblade (way cooler than a regular Smart car), and went to the island's wine museum for a tour and some wine tasting. That night we were driving into Oia for dinner and came across a restaurant with a firepit. Since it was chilly that night, we decided this was where we should eat. Well, it turns out that this particular restaurant was where the local business owners came after they closed up shop. So we stayed for quite a while, listening to them sing and watching them dance, and soaking in the local culture. Monday was cold and windy, so we did some shopping and enjoyed a conversation at a cafe in Oia with another couple from Southern California.

The next morning we flew to Athens. We had planned one day in the capital at the end of the trip, to try to see some of the amazing historical and mythological sites there. Our cab driver was hysterical. He went on and on about where we should go (at least I think that's what he was saying -- we only undersood about every 10th word), and gave us some maps of the city that looked like they had been used more than a few times. Then when he dropped us at our hotel, he insisted I take his bright orange Shell Oil laniard (which was rather dirty) to hold my cell phone (which didn't work in Europe) and hotel key (which was a card, not a key). He was the sweetest man. Anyway, we spent 6 hours or so walking around the city, visiting the Acropolis, several temples, the national garden, the Olympic stadium, et al. And then after a quick nap, we found a great little wine bar near our hotel and had a leisurely dinner with a couple bottles of wine and played cards for three hours.

Then it was time to come home. Ten days is a perfect amount of time to feel like you've really gotten away, but in Europe it's just not enough because you're barely starting to become accustomed to the more relaxed lifestyle.

As soon as we finish editing and captioning the hundreds of photos we took, I'll post a slideshow if I can figure it out, or at least a few more photos.

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