A hotel employee met us at the drop-off point and brought us down to our room at Aris Caves in Oia. There were a zillion steps after leaving the main walking path. Our legs would certainly get a nice workout over the next 6 days.
It was a nice place with a loft, a separate bedroom, a living room and small kitchen. I reserved a larger room months before when there was still a possibility that my son and his wife would go, and I was glad it worked out that the space didn't get wasted. A friend from Athens agreed to join us for 3 nights! He would arrive the next afternoon, so my daughter and I got unpacked and then went out for dinner.
We had reservations at Nectar & Ambrosia, one of the restaurants owned by Tony M. We had stayed at his hotel (1864 Sea Captain's House) on our first trip to Greece in 2005 and we have kept in touch ever since. He has been very successful with his hotels, spa and two restaurants. I haven't eaten at the other one (Ambrosia) but it always gets glowing reviews, and was featured on a travel channel show with Giada de Laurentiis. Our dinner at Nectar & Ambrosia was delicious! We started with one of the dishes from the Giada show - - the feta cheese in filo dough with fig sauce.
Our friend arrived the next afternoon. We were so excited to see him again! He would be met at the port by his aunt who lives on the island, and would see us later that day. Kenzie and I were on our fourth trip to Santorini, so we knew our way around just fine, but we were thrilled to have our friend with us since he was very familiar with the island.
The first night we watched the sunset at Lioyerma
and then had dinner at Roka. We would have never found that place if our friend hadn't been there. It was in the back alleys of Oia and we had no idea that little section was even there.
It was so great having our friend there! What a treat having a friend/tour guide/interpreter/bodyguard along with us. We became lazy since we had him there. He took care of everything!
The next day, we had breakfast in Oia and then took a bus to Fira. Another friend picked us up from the bus stop and took us to Vlychada beach.
This boat was following us. Kenzie and I saw it in Elounda, Crete, and then in Oia a couple of days later. Then it appeared again while we were at Vlychada. Wish we could have hitched a ride with them instead of the Hellenic Seaways ferry!
After a couple of hours at the beach, we all went to Boutari for wine tasting.
Loved the wine and had some shipped home since we were already over the luggage weight limits! We learned some interesting things about how grapes are grown in Santorini. I wish I had taken a photo of the vines because they looked nothing like American vineyards.
And speaking of things grown in Santorini, here is a photo of white eggplant. We were told Santorini is the only place in the world where it will grow.
After wine tasting, we went to another winery (Santo Wines) to see the view. I've read a lot about weddings held there so it was nice to finally be able to see the place.
We then went to Fira and did some shopping at our favorite jewelry shop on the island, Gold In White. Kenzie and I have shopped here on all 4 trips to the island, and the owner recognizes us each time and reminds us of what we said and bought in the previous years. Excellent memory. After spending way too much money, we walked around Fira a while and then stopped at Classico for a drink. From the top floor, we had a perfect view of the volcano and sunset. Beautiful.
That night, we decided to try Santorini Mou for dinner. It routinely gets excellent reviews on travel forums, so we wanted to check it out. We decided to walk since it was supposedly close to Oia, but it ended up being a looooong way on a very dark street. The walk home at 2:00 am was even scarier, but thankfully, we were traveling with a big, intimidating former Presidential guard, so we were in good hands.
The owner, Mihalis, and two men were playing music when we entered the patio restaurant.
There were thousands of faded photos of past visitors hanging from the walls and overhead rafters. Between sets, Mihalis made the rounds posing with customers and planting kisses on all the ladies' cheeks. We would soon learn that photos evidencing your visit were mandatory. Jennifer Aniston complied on her 1986 visit:
Mihalis could be David Crosby's long-lost brother.
The wait staff stopped serving for a few minutes to lead some sort of line dance.
The crowd cheered as if they were witnessing something wonderful and authentic, but the Greek with us informed us that was anything but authentic.
The walk back to our hotel didn't seem to take as long, probably because we were tipsy and don't remember most of it.
We had breakfast the next morning at Floga
and then walked around and took some pictures.
It was soooo hot in Greece. We were constantly on the search for icy drinks to cool down. We walked into one drink shop in Oia that had a powerful air conditioning blast aimed at the open doorway. Kenzie positioned herself there for about 5 minutes.
We decided to rent a car for a day. There were some places on the island we wanted to see that buses didn't go to, so we found a place in Oia and asked for an automatic (the only kind of car I can drive). They located one in Fira and had it brought over for us.
I had never driven in Greece before, so I was a little nervous about it. The streets weren't bad -- it was just that two cars cannot easily fit side by side in some spots -- and God forbid you have a large truck or a bus coming at you. I had numerous terrifying moments when I had to share a very narrow place in the road with an oncoming tour bus, with stone walls on both sides of the road so no room for error! Thank God for our friend's calming personality. We got through it all with only a banged up side mirror.
I wanted to check out the Baxedes area. It's across the way from Oia at sea level and I was curious what the view would be like from there. We parked the car on the side of the road and walked down a hill to find Columbo beach. After reading so many complaints on travel forums about how there are NO good beaches on Santorini (I disagree because I LOVE Red Beach, and Vlychada was very nice), I was pleasantly surprised at this one. We walked along the water for a while and came upon a little crack in the mountain. We could see a dog lying inside and he looked scared and hungry.
Our friend got close and poured water from his bottle to see if the dog would get up and drink, and he did. He came out of the cave and kept drinking. We searched around the beach and found a container that would hold water, and then we all gave up our water bottles for the sweet little pup. We gave him lots of attention and he followed us around. We wanted to bring him home with us!
It was so hard to leave him. As we walked up the steps to the road, he stayed in the same position and kept staring at us. I had to console myself into thinking that he actually belonged to someone on the island and that he was just at the beach taking a break before returning to his loving family.
After that experience which firmly convinced me (as if I didn't already know) that I was in the presence of two wonderful, caring people (animal lovers are just the best!!), we headed out for Amoudi. We had fried white eggplant and some other appetizers and enjoyed the beautiful sunset view.
For our last dinner together, we were invited to Marmita. We were walking down a steep part in the road and Kenzie's shoes slipped and she fell. Ouch. When we made it to the restaurant, the owner took us in the back room and helped her, but he didn't have any bandages, so he used this nice satin ribbon.
Quite a fashion statement!
Dinner was delicious and the portions were huge!
This was an outdoor restaurant and some neighborhood dogs paid visits to our table. I loved this one!
The next morning we decided to visit another town while we still had the rental car. Kenzie and I had never been to Perissa, so we decided to go there and look around.
Our friend was leaving us that day. It was so sad to see him go. We just love him!! But we knew we would get to see him one last night in Athens after we returned from Italy, so at least we had that to look forward to.
We rushed back to Oia, turned in the rental car, then started getting Kenzie ready for her photoshoot. Vangelis would meet us at our hotel and would start with a few photos there. We don't have Vangelis's professional photos yet, but these are some that I took that day:
After saying goodbye to Vangelis, we did a little shopping in Oia, packed our bags, then made our way to the bus station around 11:00 pm. I had wanted to eat moussaka at Naoussa before we left the island and I was worried we would be too late. The bus line was long and it took forever on a very packed bus to get there. I was thinking it was pointless to even find Naoussa at that late hour (12:30 a.m.), but we tried anyway, and they were open!! Where we live, if you try to go to a restaurant anywhere near closing time, you are given the stink eye. We were so surprised that the people at Naoussa were SO welcoming!
I know moussaka is probably a dish that the Greeks think of as our version of meatloaf but I LOVE it. I tried it at various other places (including 3 places in Houston), but Naoussa was my favorite, so I was thrilled to be able to have it there again! It was delicious and made my day! We left around 2:00 a.m. and the staff all came out and said goodbye. I love that place!!
We left for the airport at 5:30 the next morning. We would have several hours in Athens and then on to the Amalfi Coast of Italy.