June 14, 2019: Oia and Iraklio

Friday. GT2 Day Six. Kamari, Santorini, Greece.

Six o’clock rolled around earlier than normal today 😉 Emily was up before me, all made up, dressed up, and ready to model on the beach. I got up at the last possible second, threw on whatever clothes I had ready, brushed my teeth and walked out the door.

It was nice and “cool” this morning with the sun just barely up. There were a few people on the beach, but very few. We walked down south on the beach a bit farther than we had been yesterday and spent a good hour and a half doing a photo shoot on the beach, on the “boardwalk”, in the restaurants and so forth. It went really well and we got a chance to walk around a lot of Kamari. We got to play with the local dogs, too.

We went back and picked up Dominica and Madeline around eight thirty. It took them a while to get out the door, so it was after nine when we went back to our restaurant at the Nostos Hotel which we liked so much yesterday. All three girls got the same things that they did yesterday, and today I got the Greek breakfast as well. So good. This restaurant is definitely our top thing to miss when we leave here. And our great apartment.

After breakfast it was time to return to the apartment, pack up, clean up, and upload the last stuff before we had to go.

I forgot to mention that yesterday, the SD card for our Panasonic Lumix FZ300 that has been taking most of the amazing pictures from this trip failed on us. Luckily it was a physical, rather than an electronic, fail and we were able to work around it. The write lock mechanism broke on it and failed in the “write protected” mode so we can’t take pictures on it any more. The first thing that we did was go to the mini market in town and buy three 32GB cheap SD cards so that at the very least we would have a way to keep taking photographs no matter what, because we can’t easily buy SD cards here that can write fast enough to keep up with the video record rate on that camera (it records at 100MB/s, and the good SD card that we have can write at 80MB/s, and these cheap ones are 20MB/s.) But later at night, we figured out that we could try “bonding” the write lock into the “unlocked” position using nail polish and a pin. So I did that and we will see in the morning what the status of it is. But we are hopeful as that seems like a brilliant solution. Online people were recommending using Scotch tape to do something similar but that adds a lot of “sticky” risk that could damage the inside of the expensive camera and laptop, especially given the heat that it would need to be operating in and how often it is added and removed (a few times every day.) So we really wanted to avoid that. Not to mention the issue of not having any tape.

Because of that, all of the pictures from Fira last night were shot with my Samsung Galaxy S9 phone, and not with the Panasonic Lumix FZ300. This morning we tested out the SD card fix and it appears to have worked. So we are back to using it this morning for the photoshoot and for Oia this afternoon.

We had to be out of the apartment at eleven this morning. So our morning was very busy between the beach photo shoot, breakfast, and packing up. We hauled our luggage to the bus station and rode the bus back to Fira. Then we hiked a couple of blocks and found J&K Bag Drop and paid ot have our luggage stored for the day. What a brilliant idea, we are very glad that Dominica found this or we would be having a terrible day.

We simply dropped off our bags and walked back to the bus station again and got the connecting bus to Oia. So the trip from Kamari to Oia was nearly two hours between the waiting for buses, and the time on the buses themselves. A very long, and very hot trip. The Kamari to Fira bus has space to stand and lots of air conditioning, so pretty nice. The bus from Fira to Oia is a more “luxury” bus so is terrible. You have less space and there is essentially no air so in the brutal heat it was unbearable. It was all that Dominica could do to handle the ride. Absolutely awful.

Once in Oia, we got dropped off and had to figure out how to find the big areas by the cliffs. There were no directions or anything. Very odd. It wasn’t too hard, though, but not at all obvious. We got to the cliffs and, as we had guessed, it was absolutely mobbed with people. We are really here just for Emily to do an “Instagram photo shoot” that is considered a requirement of being in this part of the world these days. So we went up and down the main strip and took a load of pictures. We were likely there less than an hour before Emily declared that she was done and it was time to go. None of us complained, I would have been happy to have skipped Oia entirely as I had predicted based on Fira yesterday that it was going to be awful and a terrible time, and no one wanted more than a couple of minutes there. So we went back to the bus stop as quickly as we could having done nothing in Oia but take some pictures quickly. It is truly an awful place. Gorgeous buildings, but at this point all fake like a terrible day in Disney World. Not as bad as Venice, but the next worst place I’ve encountered in Europe after all of these years. Other than truly spectatular views (which are totally spoiled by the tourists), it has zero redeeming qualities. The absolute worst kind of place to go, sadly. It is so sad because you can tell what a wonderous place it must have been once upon a time.

Getting back to the bus stop was easy. But we got there and there was a massive line for the bus, and the line makes you wait outside in the sun light! The buses were supposed to run every twenty minutes, but they were not. We were out there for over forty minutes before the bus arrived. Our bus this morning said that the outside temps were 36C, basically 98F, which is definitely record temps here. When the bus finally came, it couldn’t hold the people in line, so we were left waiting for another bus! While we were waiting, lots and lots of other people had the same “get out of Oia” thoughts that we did and the line stretched all the way across the square. My estimation is that it would have taken four buses (so an hour and a half of buses coming and going, if none were delayed as they always seem to be) to just bus out the people already in line and they must be adding another bus worth of new people to the line every fifteen minutes. Clearly their island transportation infrastructure is past the breaking point and this is only the shoulder season. I can’t even imagine the hell that Santorini must be in the high season when the temps are higher and the crowds twice as big!

The bus back to Fira wasn’t quite as hot. Dominica had to sit in the very front row to keep from getting sick. The girls ended up in the next to last row and I took the very last one, sitting with strangers, so that I could watch over the girls. It wasn’t so awful back there, I felt a little better this time.

We are very, very glad that Emily decided to call it a day when we did because we had budgeted a certain amount of time to get back to the port with our luggage so that we could catch our Ferry and here were the details: the ferry to the port leaves Fira at 2:30, 4:00, and 5:30. Our ferry is at 5:30, so the latter of those times would cause us to miss the ferry if it was at all on time, so that is out. That leaves the options of the 2:30 or the 4:00 buses with one giving us an hour and a half to kill at the port, and the other leaving up three hours to kill there! So the two thirty was really out, and would come so soon that we might as well have skipped Oia as there would not have been time to walk around. Our obvious choice had to be the 4:00 bus to the port, which means we would have to leave Oia in time to get back by four. That means that with buses coming back every twenty minutes, we should have a lot of options as it only takes thirty minutes to get back by the bus.

So while in Oia, we were under the impression that we had at least an extra hour to kill, if not more, before needing to take the bus back, because otherwise we would be stuck killing the same time, but in Fira by the bus stop. But since Emily was ready to head back (we had said that we’d just look around the bus stop area and find something to do like coffee or gelato near there) early, we got into the insane bus line that ended up blowing an hour right there and if we hadn’t decided to come back super early, we would have missed the bus to the port because the Oia to Fira buses were so screwed up!

We got back to Fira, went straight to the luggage drop, picked up all of our stuff, and went right back to the bus stop to wait on the 4:00 bus. While waiting we met Jennifer Lopez (yes, her real name) and Liz who were next to us while waiting and were planning to take the same bus as us to the port. They heard us talking and Jennifer had asked if we knew which bus it was and we got talking and asked where people were from and it turns out that both of them are from Richfield Springs, which is just sixteen miles from where Dominica and Francesca grew up. Jen is 38, so just two years behind Dominica in school. They knew some mutual friends and likely marched together in band. Our handyman, Jim, in Dallas is from Richfield Springs as well. So we hung out with them on the entire bus ride to the port. What a small world. They are going to be in Richfield Springs while we are in NY in July, too. Jennifer currently lives in Madrid and has for ten years and is a choreographer there. Liz lives outside of Boston, but is a tour guide for women going to Crete.

Once at the port we had an hour and a half to kill. So we found a little cafe, it was good but, of course, over priced. We had sandwiches and fruit smoothies and waited until it was time for the ferry. Of course, the ferries were all late and we ended up spending probably forty minutes standing inside a crazy hot building with no cooling or air movement waiting for our ferry to arrive. So we boarded well after six, instead of at five thirty like we were supposed to.

Once we were on our ferry, the Golden Star, everything was very comfortable. The trip took about four hours. Dominica, as always, had to sit by the railing and not move for the entire trip. Emily, Madeline, and I spent most of the trip in the air conditioning just inside of the door. Not much to do, but thankfully T-Mobile worked for the majority of the journey so I was almost always with Internet access while we cruised. That made the time pass. And I did a lot of pictures and videos.

It was very dark once we arrived. We disembarked from the ferry and I immediately knew exactly where we were. I recognized the restaurants, hotels, roads, etc. I was able to walk us directly to the hotel without missing a beat, even though no one else from the ferry was going that way. It is one of the places in Europe that I remember most vividly, which is weird as it is such a random location – the Iraklio water front. I went for a midnight walk, alone, to exactly our hotel and all of the places around it even all the back streets, back in 2016 on the one night that we were staying here in town! So weird.

We got checked in to the Pasiphae and got into our rooms, 26 and 27. The girls have their own room here, and it turned out to be like twice the size of ours. But given how much the AC struggled to cool it down, I am glad that our room was very small.

We were only in the rooms for a few minutes when the girls decided that they were hungry and needed to find food tonight. There were not many options in this area, other than one seafood place that I knew about and knew that would not work for Madeline. So I did some research and found a couple of options on the map and we all set out to walk there.

We found one late night bakery, Elite Special Bakery, near the hotel. Emily wasn’t totally sure about a fancy dessert place like that, although she did want something sweet, so we hit the mini market open next door first and got water and some staple supplies (we will have a car by tomorrow so we can carry things with us now.) Then we walked around a little looking for a place that would serve actual meals but managed to find nothing. So we returned to the bakery, and were very glad that we did.

The bakery had an amazing selection and the girl running the shop was so nice. We got sweets, and savory cheese turnovers and sesame puffs and all kinds of things. I got a gelato, too, Twix flavour that was just amazing. Everything that the girls tried they loved, and now Emily is addicted to Greek bakeries. Madeline has been rolling her eyes all week about the number of times that I mention Greek bakeries, but now they understand why. This place was just great, and we ended up with so much food for less than eight Euros! It was our dinner for tonight, and breakfast for tomorrow!

We returned to the hotel. No uploading of stuff tonight. The Internet is really weak and there is nowhere to set up my laptop safely. So I uploaded to Flickr just the pictures from my phone so that people would know that we are safely on Crete and figured that I would get to the serious uploading from the house on Crete tomorrow evening when we get there.