In 2017, Siggy and I went to Santorini, a Greek island I had been dreaming about visiting for years. While I remain unimpressed by the average holidaymaker who ends up there (yes I know I’m a hypocrite) I was blown away by the scenery and that’s why it comes in at No. 1 in this series of day-tripping reminiscences.
I felt I had to make myself presentable for the photo-fest that is Oia, so it was time to crack out my threadbare ‘1862 Deep Blue’ Primark tee shirt, that’s been on all sorts of day trips around Greece with me over the years.
Our pick up was ten minutes late which is bang on time by Greek standards. It takes around 40 minutes to get to Oia from Perissa where we were living it up – with lots of crazy driving from tourists and locals. It’s especially fun when a coach gets stuck behind a quad bike.
Oia is the Greek town on the hillside that is in all the brochures and indeed is still my backdrop at work on Trello. I managed to recreate the shot from a viewpoint on the ruin of the Byzantium castle. The castle ruin is perhaps the least photographed building in Oia as it is the best vantage point to take photos of everything else.
The views across the caldera are some of the best I have ever been lucky enough to see. Like Kefalonia, which I went to years ago, Santorini has always been on my wish list based just on the views I saw today. The annoying tourists and high cost of food and drink, are unfortunately the price you pay for being somewhere that looks this stunning.
There were lots of boutique shops selling high end jewellery, watches etc. (Moncler, Givenchy, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Etro, Versace, Emilio Pucci, Jimmy Choo, Thom Browne, Kenzo…) which would appeal to the people on the tours from the cruise ships that swarmed over the area like proverbial flies around smelly stuff. We saw a Japanese bride and groom in full dress posing in front of the views and lots of different nationalities wandering around the smoothly paved area lined with shop after shop selling every type of souvenir you can think of and much more you wouldn’t want to.
For part of our lunch we had tiramisu, caramel cake and two vanilla milkshakes at a patisserie with brilliant views of the island. Unfortunately we didn’t get the name of the patisserie. Then a little later for the other part we shared a cheese and ham salad baguette which was like brioche from Z’s burger and pizza bar. A bit backwards, but all very tasty.
As you would expect, they weren’t giving it away, for instance the cakes and milkshakes came to just under 30 Euro, which I think was more than we paid for dinner last night. My tip if you’re on a budget is to bring a packed lunch (perhaps bread, cakes and fruit smuggled from the breakfast buffet) or visit one of the supermarkets on the outskirts of Oia.
We wandered back towards our pick up point and met a friendly couple from Indonesia who we helped take a photo of them posing in front of the landscape and who returned the favour. We then had a pit stop for drinks and toilet at Mes Amis a cafe bistro on the edge of Oia staffed by very friendly people.
Then we waited about 25 minutes longer than we wanted for our bus to arrive. When it did, the driver apologised and the source of its lateness was revealed to have been the other passengers on board. We had the bus to ourselves on the way out.
The bus took us back a different way via Vlyhada to drop off the other passengers going on a boat trip. There were lots and lots of boats, an industrial tomato museum and very little else by the looks of it. Little did we know then, but this wasn’t the last time we were going to find ourselves in this neck of the woods.
A few days later, after we’d learned a bit more about the local buses, we had a couple of hours on the excellent beach at Perissa before catching the local bus to Fira (the capital aka Thira). The bus was 2.40 Euro per person one way from Perissa and we took the last seats available. Siggy sat beside a local looking woman and initially I was standing until I spotted that there might be room for a small one on the middle seat on the back row.
This might have been the case, however my ass has been growing in a more or less linear relationship with the number of cakes I’m consuming at breakfast, so I sandwiched myself between the sweaty thighs of two strangers and we shared a rather asexual nay uncomfortable half hour or so in each other’s company.
It was a relief to get off. We found that the main bus station is little more than organised chaos in a car park. We had brought a free fold-out map of Fira with us but we just followed our noses and found the main tourist area. As it turned out we maybe should have paid more attention to the layout of the streets.
The main tourist bit of Fira was very similar to Oia with different views – in this case of the port with three cruise liners at anchor off shore. Again the views are amazing and the cruise ship tourists are awful.
We walked down the zig-zagging path that you can ride a donkey down to the port. The paths are covered with donkey shit and stink. I saw a couple of donkeys in bad way – covered in sweat and shivering despite the ridiculous heat. It was sad to see.
We had lunch at Captain Nikolias cafe restaurant right by the water and watched the shuttle boats ferrying people to and from the huge behemoth cruisers. I had a pork gyros platter and Siggy had a ham cheese toastie. Very basic stuff at monopolistic prices.
While we were there an American woman off one of the liners was chatting to a crew member at a nearby table. She was proud of the white Greek style dress she had bought with matching sandals. When she was looking at the menu she said to the guy ‘why is it all in Russian?’. Good lord.
Then we queued for the cable car – not as long as expected given the size of the queue before lunch. It costs 6 Euro per person one way and is a far better option than walking back up the stinky path or being a burden to the donkeys.
We mooched around looking for photo opportunities and went in and out of various souvenir shops and cafes. Eventually we ground to halt at a place heavily advertising the Donkey beers of Santorini Brewing Company where Siggy had Mythos and I had a Yellow Donkey – the mildest of their brews.
We went to Da Costa for dinner. The waiter advised me against ordering the seafood salad I was going to have, so I had beef rocket and avocado instead. Siggy went for spaghetti carbonara. The restaurant is right on the cliff edge overlooking the volcano island (Nea Kameni) and Thirassia in the background. A nice cool breeze was blowing sea mist up the cliffs. A few tables were reserved at the front probably to sit and watch the sunset later.
The avocado in the salad was cut up into tiny bits. Lots of sesame seeds and honey and soya based dressing gave the salad an oriental flavour which overpowered the rocket. We had a splendid banoffee pie for dessert.
I overheard an Australian customer asking ‘please may I have…’ which was such a welcome break from the whiney nasal Americans saying ‘I’ll get the…’. I bitched a lot about Americans in my posts about Santorini, but really, if you’d been there you’d like be doing like literally the same thang.
We stopped for a cheeky couple of Volkan beers at a bar further along the cliff edge pathway – I had a Santorini Blonde again and I suggested Siggy try the Santorini Grey which is a fruity tasting, cloudy and sediment heavy white beer. Both are excellent.
Then we took a shit load of sunset photos with lots of other photographers all lined up on the path along the cliff edge. Once the sun had gone, it was like when a football match finishes in a pub – everyone up and left as quickly as possible. Fira is a better place to view the sunsets than Oia according to most locals we asked.
We knew that if we were spritely there was a bus we could catch back to Perissa on the hour, so we boogied on back dodging various sluggards and donkeys. And got a teensy weensy lickle bit lost.
After various bad choices of locals to ask ‘do you know where the bus station is?’ We finally found one who gave us directions back whence we had come and we confirmed we were on the right track by asking a girl handing out flyers for a nightclub.
The bus station was now organised chaos in a car park in the dark, complete with a ticket booth that doesn’t actually sell tickets and crowds of confused holidaymakers. I was provided with a solid piece of misinformation by the ticket collector who would ultimately be on the bus home with us to the effect that the bus to Perissa had gone. Strange that five minutes later we should be sat on the bus to Perissa giving him our money (and the evil eye). Something got lost in translation perhaps.
Anyway, that’s number one in my Greek day-trip series. Hopefully, I’ll have something new to write about in terms of holiday destinations in 2021. In the mean time, stay safe folks!