June 13, 2019: Santorini

Thursday. GT2 Day Five. Kamari, Santorini, Greece.

Our morning started quite early, crazy early. Our plan was to be out of the door at three to catch our cab to the airport. We were giving ourselves plenty of time because so many things can go wrong on a transit day and we are do tight for time with all of our connections over the next few days.

Dominica and I were up and ready by three. The girls weren’t even awake. So Dominica had to wake them up and get them moving. The cab came at three fifteen while I was taking out the trash for the last time. And we were off to the airport! Today is going to be a very, very long day.

The ride to the Athens airport was familiar. I remember this stretch of businesses from our trip to this airport to fly to Romania three years ago.

We got to the airport in plenty of time and we had a lot of time to relax. We had to totally rebalance our bags for this flight as the flight allowances are totally different for each airline. Three flights, three totally different bag configurations to get the same luggage to work. Such a bad system.

The girls could not eat this morning as it would affect their flight. We had time to kill so I got myself a cheese pie from a local place and just had that. Pretty small and light.

Our actual flight was at five thirty. We were bused out to the plane and were seated about mid-plane, right over the wing. Originally it was me, Madeline, and Emily on one side, and Dominica sitting across the way. But someone with a foot injury needed that aisle seat and asked her to trade for her window seat, but Dominica can’t sit anywhere but an aisle and I can sit anywhere, so I got smushed against the window with strangers while the three girls sat together on the other side. This was good, though, as I was able to take pictures out of the window while we flew.

The flight from Athens to Santorini is just under thirty minutes. It’s nothing. Just up and down. Possibly the shortest flight that I have ever done. So easy.

We were on the ground and the sun was coming up. We grabbed a taxi from the airport as the local bus would take all day and not be all that cheap anyway. From the airport the local bus would be nearly eight dollars to Fira, then another eight dollars to Kamari where we are headed. And it would be hot and crowded and take hours. Or the taxi was twenty five dollars and we were there in about ten minutes, dropped off right at our AirBnB rather than needing to walk ten minutes once getting off of the bus. So that was a good deal for us, even though it cost more. Our cab driver popped into one of our videos, too.

Our host was waiting for us at the house. She took our bags and is holding them for the day. So we are free to do things on the island for the day and will check into the house this afternoon. It was about six in the morning when we landed on Santorini, and we can check into the AirBnB at one. So almost seven hours that we can kill.

We started by walking around Kamari by the beach looking for breakfast. Dominica was quite hungry and needed food right away now that we were off of the plane. We found an English place (the girls are struggling with Greek food so something different would be good) that did full English breakfasts, called Liverbird (for real), but they did not open until nine to serve food, and it was just after eight, so that was not going to work for us.

We continued to the beach and walked out on the beach itself for ten or fifteen minutes. Did some early pictures, then walked down the beach street, which was basically a boardwalk style affair. Loads and loads of restaurants, hotels, and shops on the water in Kamari. Only none of them are open at this time. None. We walked for a few blocks before we found one place with some people in it and asked if they were serving yet and they were! So that is how we chose our spot, but what a spot it was. We ended up really loving it.

Madeline ordered the Italian breakfast, which is just continental. Emily got the Italian but with fried eggs added because “she doesn’t eat just bread for breakfast.” Dominica ordered the Greek breakfast which looked truly fantastic. It was our Mediterranean style breakfast with cucumbers, tomatoes, salty cheese, some toast, fruit salad, olives, and the most amazing Greek yoghurt with honey ever. I just had Greek coffee because I had already eaten this morning and did not need more food (or more expense.) The place was really nice and the service was great. We really liked the place. And right on the beach. And because we had breakfast there, we had access to their beach chairs for the day. That could not have worked out better.

So once breakfast was over, I set up the girls on the beach where they just wanted to chill for the morning. I dropped off my stuff and just grabbed my camera and some water that we had left over from Athens and went for a walk across the island. No one really wanted to do anything and Google maps said that four hours should be enough time to make it to the other side and back walking and I figured that this was my chance to see the island and get some exercise since the girls were likely to just sleep or maybe read. Since I cannot nap on a beach, as I need my CPAP, that was out. I would be unhappy just sitting around.

The girls thought that I was crazy, but I set out and just started walking. I went up the main street and then took the main road towards the port across the island. It was hot, very hot. Officially in the high eighties according to my watch’s weather service, but I have a feeling that it was in the nineties. Definitely super humid, but as I ascended it got slightlly cooler as the wind picked up. But it never got cool, and there was basically no shade anywhere. And nowhere to buy more water.

It was a really long walk. I did eight miles when all was said and done. It was all uphill the one way, and all downhill the other. Much of it, away from the coast, was a really streep climb, too. It was slow going and the climb involved a lot of roads that had blind corners. Thankfully traffic was pretty light. I felt pretty good, though, even in the heat. It would have been good to have had a bit more water with me, though. I should have drank at least another litre during the climb. But I portioned out what I had and knew that I would have plenty once I returned. It was not that long of a walk, overall.

My walk gave me some spectacular views, I could see all of the east side of the island while hiking up. And once I got to the top of the ridge I could see Fira, Oia, and out to the islands in the caldera. Our plan is to get into the house, then set out for Oia tonight to see the sunset from there. So this is a chance for me to see where we are going, but really experience a different part of the island.

One thing that I was surprised by is how full the island is. When you look at pictures, people always portray it as being pretty empty except for the famous villages. This is not at all the case. It is packed. There is plenty of room for new development, but there is solid population everywhere that there can be (there are several mountains and rough terrain that would be pretty hard to populate.) There is a good size population on the island, I am amazed that it can support as many people as are there considering that there is almost no local produce and no good local water sources.

It was a neat walk and I am very glad that I did it. But boy was I tired when I returned. I had not anticipated how much climbing there would be. But, all the more exercise for me. I was feeling good the whole time (other than the way back with my feet, downhill is always so hard on your feet.)

I got back to Kamari early enough to go looking for the girls. Internet access is poor on the island, so reaching Dominica was hard. I could not be sure where they were. I went around town trying to find them, but had to stop at a mini market to get water before I could get to the beach where I had left them. I checked the time and there was not enough time for them to make it from the beach to the apartment before the appointment time, so I figured that they had to be past me on the way back and so just returned.

I ended up getting to the apartment right on time, but the girls were not there. But Matt (I think that that was his name, he only spoke Greek) was waiting for me. We got the luggage together (I couldn’t believe that I was able to still carry it after my hike which I had not taken a break from for even a minute yet) and got the apartment turned over and I got all of the information before I got a text from Dominica that they were on their way. So I went outside and found them coming down the street. So they were able to go right into the house as soon as they arrived. It turns out that they had been sleeping all of this time on the beach and had never explored town, gotten lunch, found a pharmacy or anything (and were late for the apartment appointment after waiting seven hours for it.) I had located the pharmacies in town, but did not think it good to carry anything extra on my long hike.

I had been waiting all day to be able to take a nap. Since I only got about one hour of sleep last night I was ridiculously tired. Everyone had a lot more sleep than I did, most of them got two or three hours last night, then several hours on the beach. They were all hungry and dying for lunch by the time that we got into the house, but I needed sleep, not food. So the girls immediately set out in search of food, we couldn’t even do a two minute video walkthrough of the house they were so starved (I have no idea why they didn’t eat anything in the many hours that they had free time prior to this) so they left and I took a shower (desperately needed) and went to bed.

I had a hard time getting to sleep, the middle of the afternoon in bright sun in a new place is not the easiest place to fall asleep, and it took a while to get the temperature of the room low enough that I could sleep. By the time that I was nodding off, the girls were back and Dominica woke me up throwing lugguge on the bed and doing laundry. So I took at least two hours to fall asleep.

I had told the girls that we had to be out the door at five thirty to make our plans of getting to Oia to see the sunset. But when I woke up, I found everyone else asleep with no alarms set. So I had to wake everyone up and get them moving. It was about six when I woke up and took forty five minutes to get them out of the door. So by the time that we got down to the bus stop in Kamari, we were looking for the 7:15 bus, which never arrived.

We ended up on a bus around 7:40, which was super late. It took twenty minutes to get up to Fira, the capital. On the way, I talked to Emily about skipping Oia tonight and just doing Fira because we are almost guaranteed to miss the sunset in Oia if we try to go there tonight and will be on the bus for it instead of in the town, and Fira and Oia compete for the most famous sunset, so there is little reason to skip the one in Fira just to go to Oia. Originally we had planned on doing Oia tonight and Fira as our trip tomorrow because we have to be there for our ferry. But we decided to do Fira tonight and Oia tomorrow instead. (Good thing that we did, we decided later, we would never have made it to Oia once we discovered how the buses work.)

I met some people from Michigan riding the bus who are staying in Fira for a week who warned us that Oia is terribly boring and to not try to spend the day there. They had spent three hours and it was too much time as there is simply nothing to do.

We got to Fira just in time to see the sun setting, which truly was amazing. But Fira is hot and totally overrun with tourists. And there appears to be nothing to do. The city is a fair size, so I am sure that if you spend some time away from the touristy road along the ridge that it has all of the nice stuff of any Greek town. But the part of town with the sunset it a train wreck of tourist and super trashy touristy shops. Souvenirs and imported consumer crap that you can buy anywhere sold in one shop after another on one side of the road, and unlimited cookie cutter blah restaurants on the side of the road with the views. It blows my mind that people fly to places like Santorini, and then go shopping for products that they could get cheaper on Amazon back home.

We did some pictures, walked up the main street, saw the sunset, fought the crowds, sweated a bit. It took about thirty minutes before we were done with Fira. Nothing more to see. There is nothing, at least up on the ridge, of note. Just awful. All of the restaurants had amazing views, and none had menus that grabbed our attention or were special. Almost all of the menus bordered on the identical. There is little way to tell one restaurant from another other than the style of their chairs.

We picked one that had lower prices listed and some chicken wraps. The girls are not taking to Greek food so finding American style sandwiches is important. The prices at the one that we chose were half the price of the one next to it, so that was good. If you are not careful, you can spend a fortune for some pretty likely mediocre food in Fira. This isn’t a place where businesses compete on quality, they compete on having a flashy menu and/or open seating and nothing else. There are unlimited tourists and limited numbers of seats with sunset views. So no one is there because of the food, it’s just a place to sit and watch the sunset. So the prices are very high, and the quality is meh. All as expected. No surprises, just very sad.

Both girls opted for a chicken wrap with honey mustard. Emily ate all of hers, Madeline ate about half of hers. I tried a bite without the chicken and it was okay, but certainly nothing special. It would be deemed “marginally acceptable” in an American cafe. Dominica got the “Greek sandwich” with feta and veggies on bread with an olive tapenade. Hers was very good, but pretty basic. I got a vegetarian mousaka which was very good. I really enjoyed that. It’s the first vegetarian mousaka that I’ve seen since we got to Greece and that is something that I do like a bit.

After we ate, we just decided to walk back to the bus station and return to Kamari. Thirty minutes was way more than enough time to exhaust ourselves on seeing Fira. We were all tired, and fatigued, and not impressed at all with Fira. But we were glad that we had gotten some food into us, and that we had seen the sunset. But the experience was very two dimensional. With all of the tourists and tourist shops, it’s very little different being in Fira compared to seeing a picture from Fira. You get nothing more from being there than you get from just seeing what it looks like.

The bus ride back was uneventful. We got the last row on the bus and I stood. The guy who collected the bus fare helped us find the right stop. Once back, Emily wanted to find crepes on the beach. That was an easy walk, as all of Kamari is right on the beach. We explored the direction that we had not gone yet and found a different crepe place than we had spotten this morning. King’s Cafe had one of the coolest beach seating setups we have ever seen. All kinds of awesomely unique seating out on the beach with wooden paths leading between the tables. It was super cool.

We picked a table and the three girls ordered crepes for dessert. I think that everyone decided that it was the best crepes that they had ever had. Madeline certainly ranked them her all time favourite.

We lingered there a little while, but everyone was pretty tired still. So before midnight it was back to the apartment and directly ready for bed. I kicked off Flickr uploads before bed. So many pictures to upload.

Emily and I have plans to be up at six in the morning as she wants to do a beach photo shoot as it is our only sunrise morning in Kamari and Santorini. Dominica and Madeline plan to sleep in for a few hours more. We loved where we had breakfast this morning so much that we are planning to go back there again tomorrow. Dominica especially wants her Greek breakfast again. And, of course, we will hit Oia tomorrow.

We love our apartment here. It is the most gorgeous house. It is only a one bedroom, that Dominica and I got with air conditioning. The girls are sleeping on a pull out couch in the living room, which would be fine but there is no AC out there and it is exceptionally warm today. (Tomorrow would be even warmer, but we later learned that this is a serious heat wave and the island is breaking temperature records, so this is not normal for the area.) We have a gorgeous wrap around terrace. A really nice kitchen.

We closed up the apartment once it was late and dark and ran the AC with the bedroom door open. And the girls had a fan blowing on them. So we had a slightly colder room, and they had more air movement. Everyone managed to sleep that way.

So far, after one day here, Kamari is way nicer than Fira, and our apartment is amazing. But the island overall is incredibly touristy and even Kamari is completely dedicated to servicing tourists.

By the end of the day, my watch and phone had recorded over 25,000 steps, and 11 miles walked! No wonder I am tired, all of that in the sun, heat, and going up and down hills!