Wednesday, August 31, 2016

72 Hours in Santorini: Day 2

On our first full day in Santorini, we woke up nice and early to explore Oia without the hoards of tourists. We thought it would be a nice way to have a bit more of an intimate experience with the town. There were a handful of other people with the same intentions as well as a few couples getting wedding photography done but in general, the town was lovely in its sleepy state and we definitely savored the time.
Exploring the town was also a nice way to kill time since our hotel didn't start serving breakfast until 8:30 anyway.

There were so many random little alleyways and we wandered down a bunch to see if we could catch some new views and in one alleyway, we stumbled upon the little dome and tower I sketched in my journal which was really cool.
Pretty awesome being able to take these photos, uninhibited by strangers' heads and sweaty crowds.
When our stomachs started rumbling and the church bells rang 8:30, we hustled back to our hotel where we called in for breakfast. The loveliest woman brought a tray overflowing with food and set the table. As she laid down the bread basket, ham, cheese, and eggs, she said, "Something salty." As she laid down the croissants, pound cake, and fruit, she said, "Something sweet." And as she presented the Greek yogurt, she said, "Delicious and healthy Greek yogurt. Great without honey but better with honey." She also set down two glasses of orange juice and pots of hot water, milk, and sugar for us to make tea. This breakfast was one of the highlights of the whole trip for me.

It was just really beautifully prepared, simple food which was enjoyably gobbled up by the sea.
The Greek yogurt was so flippin' fantastic, I don't think I can buy Chobani yogurt again. I just need to go back. My sister said that I should just move to Greece because of how much they love their honey there; I am such a honey lover that she says I'm a threat to bees.
After breakfast, we made our way back into town towards the bus station so we could head into Fira. We didn't have anything planned out and we thought maybe we would go to the beach so we went in our swimsuits and brought towels and bottles of water along. However, we ended up not going to the beach (since we decided we wanted to do more research and pick a really good beach to visit) and wandered around Fira instead.
Bus tickets from Oia to Fira are €1.80 and it's nice if you have exact change. The buses are coach buses driven by expert drivers (the roads are v. narrow and winding). Just climb on board and eventually, someone will come by to collect your money.
Fira was definitely a busier town with more eateries and shopping compared to Oia. There were tons of gyro places and shops selling the cutest embroidered dresses and linen tunics. We walked around a bit and then decided to descend into the Old Port via the cobbled steps. This decision might have been the biggest mistake of our lives [so dramatic].
KARAVOLADES STAIRS
The descent involved walking past several dozen donkeys, which honestly broke my heart. Some of them were fortunate to be standing in shade, but several were just roasting in the hot sun. The donkeys are there to haul humans up and down the steep steps and, according to the herders, it's just a 10 minute trip compared to the 45+ minutes it took us to walk. However, we didn't want to support this industry; it seemed cruel. Plus, we were both scared. The other downside of the donkeys being there was that there was poop all over the place. Some of it was fresh and easily avoided but a lot of it was old and dried up and turned into dust that blew all around with every breeze. It was easily one of the most unsanitary, disgusting moments of the trip. However, we love getting steps into our iPhone health apps, so it was somewhat satisfying.
Though the steps were a bit slippery and treacherous (even with shoes with great traction), the views on the way down were really beautiful and it was an experience.
FIRA OLD PORT
Once we got down into the Old Port, we settled into some benches and enjoyed the smell of fresh sea air (which was a truly welcome scent after breathing in donkey poo dust for ages). The port is really cute and there are a few eateries and a spot of shopping, which is nice.
The water looked quite crisp and welcoming, but it seemed that no swimming was allowed in this area, probably because you'd likely get run over by a boat or something, seeing as it's a port after all. However, we did sit on the edge of a dock and let ourselves get splashed by the cool sea water. Nature's air conditioning to the rescue after a long, sweaty walk down 580+ steps! By the way, 580 doesn't sound like much but each step is two or three strides long so it's more like 1500 steps!
You didn't think we'd walk back up those donkey steps, did you? We smartly made the move to take the cable car back up to Fira. We felt a little sorry for our car companions, who probably smelled the sweat and donkey poo on our bodies, but they were polite enough to not show any discomfort. The cable car is €5 each way, which isn't a bad deal considering it takes all of two minutes to go up or down and you get some lovely views along the way.
After our exercise-filled morning, we decided we needed to get a delicious lunch. We ended up at Zafora, which boasted delicious souvlaki at an affordable price. I rewarded myself with an ice cold Greek beer, which totally hit the spot. Doesn't beer always taste best after you've worked up a sweat in the summer?
Both of us plumped for the pork gyro platter and we were not disappointed. The tzatziki was so good, it made me want to weep, the pita was crisp and butter on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the gyro meat was easily one of the best I've ever enjoyed. It was a superbly satisfying lunch.
HIKING TRAIL FROM FIRA TO OIA
After lunch, we decided to continue our exercising with a small hike. There is a trail that runs from Fira all the way to Oia but I read that it takes 4 hours and can be grueling, especially in the hot sun. I wasn't quite interested in that so instead, we hiked to Imerovigli so we could check out that adorable town and grab the bus from their back to Oia. If you're keen on gorgeous views whilst getting a little bit of exercise, I highly recommend this short hike. It's easy and beautiful.
Along the way, we encountered many fig trees and olive trees on our journey and though we were tempted to pick some, the only accessible figs were on trees that were in residents' yards so we held back.
The hike took maybe 30 minutes (I can't really remember because we were dawdling and having fun) and then we grabbed the bus back.
Once we arrived in Oia, we quickly walked back to our hotel so we could rinse the donkey poo dust residue off of our bodies. Then we jumped into the pool for a bit of relief from the heat. Later on, we even hand washed our clothes from that day before we put it back into our luggage so we wouldn't contaminate anything and make ourselves sick.
SKALA RESTAURANT
That night, we went to dinner a bit early so we could catch the sunset. We ended up at Skala (which was just on top of Floga, where we'd eaten dinner the night before). M got the moussaka, which was so good and something I want to try and make myself. It's essentially a lasagne made with potato, ground meat, and other vegetables finished off in the broiler. It's delicious.
I went for the fish of the day, which I got to pick from a plate. It was broiled beautifully and tasted amazing.
And, because I'd heard so much about it, we also got some white eggplant dip - a dish that can only be found in Santorini thanks to its native white eggplants - which was so good we dug in and made loads of yummy noises before I remembered to take a photo.
And we also got some dolmades because I decided I wanted rice with my fish and this seemed like the perfect solution. These were amazing, especially with fresh lemon juice squeezed all over the top.
SANTORINI POST OFFICE (SECRET SUNSET VIEWING SPOT)
Everyone goes to the spot just before Ammoudi Bay to watch the sunset so it gets super crowded and disgusting. We tried to look for an alternative spot and found just the place! We climbed the steps to west-facing side of the post office and found ourselves a perfectly secluded, crowd-free spot from which to enjoy the sunset. Unfortunately for us, a few others spotted us and came to steal some of our space, which was annoying. However, I think the best tip would be to get there a little early and duck down so no one will see you. Then, when the sun is scheduled to set, pop up to grab your photos.
The sunset really is spectacular in Oia.
But even if you miss the sunset or you're not keen on heading to that part of the island, it's fine because the rest of the sky glows in the loveliest pastel colors.
With our full day of calorie-burning, we were pretty tired so after the sunset watching, we walked back to our hotel to relax on our little balcony and to wind down for the night. It was probably one of the nicest bedtime views I've ever had.
xoxo.

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