Not that I’m comparing myself to the Great Creator, but s/he created the world in 6 days before taking a break, where as on holiday in Santorini, Greece last week, I only made it to three before needing a holiday from our holidays.
When I told a friend our destination she gave me a rather dry look, adding, “You know, you can’t wear heels.” The map of the nearest big city had a “No Heels” logo on its legend. What wasn’t explained, and what I didn’t ask, is why. I had no idea that everything, absolutely everywhere in Santorini involves a steep slope. We didn’t stop going up and down. To give you an idea of just how extreme things can be; from the breakfast deck to our room, there were 80 stairs. The same 80 for the pool and at least double that to leave the hotel. After two days of steps and long (yet glorious) hikes, I needed a day off! So, Mr French and I set ourselves up with faux-jitos to spend the morning by the infinity pool, above the sapphire tinted Aegean Sea, while I wrote this post;
Our first day we were eager to hike the 2.5 hours from our hotel in the village of Imerovigli to Oia (pronouced Ee-a). It was a long, glorious walk, the sea to our right and our left, blue domed chapels spotting the way. There were rustic, open air cafés where locals gathered to chat and escape the heat of the day, there were remote hotels and a satisfying series of photo ops. Drying wild flowers perfumed the air.
We arrived at pristine, sparkling white Oia ready for some hydration, some shade and a bite of lunch. The first fairly decent looking place we came to was Thalami, which claimed to serve local specialties. I was skeptical; with its prime tourist location, wind-kissed terasse and seductive shade, it seemed too perfect to be true, but I needed a break from the relentless sun and was too hungry to start looking for something “better”. What a stroke of luck that was! Everything was seasoned with local herbs making for exciting flavors in all the dishes we tried; tomato fritters (was that a bit of tarragon they put in the batter?), fava bean puree, Santorini salad with caper leaves and grilled octopus.
We were soon back on the street, exploring Oia, a charming town with lots of hotels, plenty of souvenir shops, a school, an active church and more scenery than you can shake a donkey stick at. They also have the most magical bookshop I have ever wandered across. Atlantis Books was founded by a group of young people who used to work at Shakespeare & Company here in Paris, so they are definitely kindred spirits! Volunteers come from across the globe to work in this little piece of heaven, surrounded by books, amazing friends, and the shining sea (you’ll hear more about this shop soon…)
A tote bag full of booklets later, we left Atlantis and returned to Oia. That donkey stick that was shaking at the scenery? It was for all the donkeys that were lined up to take people down the cliff to Ammoudi harbour. Mr French has a moral objection to using these beasts of burden for tourist traffic, so we walked down. 45 minutes, with even more stunning views under the afternoon sun. Mr French had heard there was a beach down here and after 18 hours on an island, the man was itching to swim. A brief hike on what was no longer a trail and we’d arrived. It was more a small outcropping of rocks than a beach, but the water was perfect and it was the ideal place for a well deserved, refreshing swim, well off the beaten path.
This is a working fisherman’s bay, with a small collection of restaurants that grill the catch of the day, inviting clients to select their own fish before cooking them to perfect. Mr French was getting hungry, so he asked for a table at the first fish place we came across. We later found out that this fish place, Dimitiris is one of the most famous in all of Santorini, but in the moment, we didn’t realize how lucky we were that they had had a cancellation and that we were enjoying a table with a sunset view.
When our waitress invited us into the kitchen to select our catch, I asked Mr French to select a fish for the two of us. The man does not like being told what to do and rarely follows directions, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started to smell the aroma of grilled lobster wafting our way. Caviar… Foie gras…. not my thing, but a good lobster makes me go weak at the knees and this one must have been touched by the Greek gods, because it was divine.
Walking by our table a woman exclaimed, “Someone’s not shy…” A few minutes later another walked past exclaiming, “OMG!!!” And finally a third, “Wow! You’re SO lucky!”
“Lady,” I thought, “you’ve got no idea…”
Dimitris – Ammoudi, tel. 22860 71606