Tuesday, August 30, 2016

72 Hours in Santorini: Day 1

Our flight to Thira started off with a small snafu: since it was the busy holiday season and so many planes were making their way to Santorini's tiny airport, we were delayed by 2 hours. But, since everyone was headed off on holiday, no one was particularly sour about it. And in fact, while we were parked on the jetway, we were allowed to walk around the plane and check out the cockpit, which was pretty cool.

I do want to warn anyone who hasn't been or whose only exposure to the Greek Islands is through Pinterest that it isn't all glamorous. We did see a ton of unfinished construction, which we assumed was due to the economic troubles the country is experiencing at the moment. Also, the charming picturesque towns you see in movies are isolated to small zones. The rest of the island is just unsettled dusty desert, which you'll notice as you're flying in; this actually shocked my sister who said she was kind of disappointed when we first arrived in Thira. We encountered quite a bit of donkey poop in Oia and Fira; the donkeys are used to haul humans up and down the steeper paths. This made me really sad as the donkeys just stand in the hot sun and they don't seem to be treated all that humanely. Plus, there are a few restaurants that are affected by the smell of the poop so keep that in mind as you're walking around trying to decide where to eat. Lastly, because these are small islands with old plumbing, you cannot flush anything down the toilet; you must put your toilet tissue in a "hygiene sac" and then toss it into the rubbish bin. So yeah, the Greek isles look super romantic on Pinterest and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but there are several not-so-charming aspects that I wanted to warn you about because hey, this is good information to have. Nonetheless, all three islands that we visited were definitely some of the most charming places I've ever been so please don't let my PSA deter you from going.
The morning started bright and early for us at 4:30, which made me feel a little nauseated but wasn't actually that bad since it was 23:30 back home.

We rolled our bags along the dark streets of London for the short two minute walk to Victoria Station. We hopped onto the Gatwick Express; like I mentioned yesterday, it was just a 30 minute journey.
The airport was already busy and bustling. We figured we should grab some breakfast. We went for the full English and a fruit cup at The Red Lion.
Both of us napped on the flight to Santorini and despite the delays and all the fuss, we still managed to land around 15:00, which still gave us plenty of time to explore. We grabbed a cab (which was €40 to Oia) and were dropped off right in front of our hotel within 20 minutes time, thanks to the fact that our cabbie was an insane driver.

By the way, I kept hearing everyone saying "oy-a" for Oia but it's actually pronounced "ee-a" so if you care at all or have any respect for Greece, you'll pronounce it correctly!
STROGILI HOUSES
After a spot of paperwork, we were shown to our room (#6) where our luggage was waiting for us. We had an awesome little spot that had an amazing view of the water and a little lofted bed. It was beautiful and one of the most charming hotels I've ever stayed in. The room had a mini kitchenette so if you're staying for a longer duration, you could save a little money by cooking instead of dining out, which I thought was a nice touch.

We paid about $200 per night, which in the high season seemed like a pretty good deal.
The views were superb and I still can't get over how gorgeous Oia is. Photos really don't do it justice.
After settling in, we went for a walk around town, just to get a feel for the area.
I couldn't turn my camera off because there was something adorable to snap every two steps.
Since we were crossing a destination off of our travel bucket lists, we celebrated our arrival with gelato. I got honey & yogurt, which was so freaking amazing, and M got salted caramel, which was also a hit.

I was obsessed with all of the beautiful bougainvillea.
There were a lot of wandering cats and dogs that looked like strays, though many of them had collars. It made me so happy to see them as we were walking around but so sad to realize that the homeless ones had to survive off scraps and the kindness of tourists.
After sweating our butts off roaming around the crowded town, we decided to relax by the pool before dinner.
After pool time, we showered and headed out for dinner. We met this little cutie on the way. She actually said hi to us every day and followed us around quite a bit. I wish I could've taken her home with me.
SKALA
For dinner, we decided to eat at Skala, which boasts a lovely view of the sea and pretty delicious food.
For a starter, we got the Skala salad, which was a pile of greens topped with delicious slices of prosciutto, goat cheese balls, cashews, pork belly, and a drizzle of balsamic. The cheese was otherworldly.
For a second starter, we got the special starter of the day, which was calamari. The calamari was cooked to perfection and the breading was light and airy and crisp.
For my main, I got the seafood risotto, which was perfumed with lots of saffron. It was really delicious and the seafood was quite fresh and prepared delicately. My mouth is watering thinking about this dish.
M got the sea bass which came with a groat salad. We both declared afterwards that we loved groat. The fish was insanely fresh and delicious but seriously, that groat salad stole the show. We later found out that groat is a mixture of grains.
For dessert, we shared the baklava, which was soaked in sweet honey and covered in various nuts. It was really delicious, especially when eaten with a bite of cold ice cream.
After dinner, we were given little digestifs which came steaming with baking soda or something. This restaurant seemed to love serving dishes steaming with smoke for whatever reason.
After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, enjoying the sites of Oia at night and then settled into our beds for the first really good night's sleep in a few days.
And here's my map of our Greek isle spots (visited spots are in red and didn't-get-to-visit spots are in blue):

xoxo.

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