Friday, November 13, 2009

The trip: Part 7 (Santorini)

Day seven
On the seventh day, we went to Santorini.

Santorini is a small volcanic island in the Cyclades, just north of Crete. The main island is crescent-shaped, with the center of the volcano on a smaller island in the center of the crescent. The cities are perched on the cliffs looking down into the caldera. It is breathtaking.

We stayed at a fantastic hotel called Astra Apartments. All the rooms have views of the caldera. Ours was right next to the pool.

Before we fully explored the island, we had a bit of business to take care of. Our original plan was to return to Athens for two days after Santorini, but after three days in Athens, we felt like we had seen all we needed to see. So we made the impromptu decision to add Paris to the itinerary.

We were staying in the village of Imerovigli, which is a 25-minute walk from the much busier capital of Fira via a twisting, turning, uphill, downhill footpath. We walked over, amazed at the landscape and architecture and unrelenting Greek sunshine. For lunch we shared an enormous sandwich and gargantuan bowl of yogurt and fruit at Mylos Cafe. We also had the most amazing gelato of my life at Il Gelato d’oro.

Fira was full of tourists and the stupid stuff tourists like. The number of jewelry stores was incredible. You can tell what kind of people vacation in Santorini. (The kind who go to beautiful island resorts to shop for giant diamonds.)

We were looking for a travel agency that could help us find a flight to Paris, or at least somewhere in western Europe. So we walked into one and asked the woman if she had a flight to Paris from Santorini.

And she said, “Why? Is only two hours by boat.”

“Paris, France?”

“Oh, Paris. Not Poros.” **eyeroll**

She found us one flight from Athens to Paris. So then we asked if she had flights to several other cities. She didn’t. And she was getting annoyed with us. She said, “I cannot search all the flights.” And she looked away from us when she was exasperated, as though we might just get up and leave her alone if she stopped looking at us. (We would see this technique used again the next day by a different Greek clerk.) And eventually we did give up on her.

We went back to our hotel and borrowed a laptop to book our own trip. We had picked up a Paris travel book in the Athens airport and found a recommendation for Ermitage Hotel in Montmartre. It was described as family-owned and charming and decorated with antiques. So we jumped on Expedia and booked a flight to Paris and two nights at the Ermitage. We felt quite satisfied with ourselves. To be continued ...

We finished the evening with a glass of wine (or two) on our patio, watching the sunset over the volcano.


kc said...

"On the seventh day, we went to Santorini."


Aegean Air was a very nice airline, too, even though they make you check all baggage that weighs over 8 kilos — that's only 17.5 pounds, the weight of a small dog! — thereby ruining our plan to avoid all baggage claim areas and the associated delays. I like how they assumed everyone would want coffee after the meal and passed out little candies. The Greek flight attendants contrasted pleasantly with the more surly service people we encountered elsewhere.

You can get terrible service in the U.S., of course, but by and large we take for granted that when you go into a place of business you will be met with courtesy and gratitude. Rank hostility from shop workers, even if you are being a pretty awful customer, just isn't tolerated here. We don't appreciate that that's not the norm in many parts of the world.

That said, we by and large had decent service, and it was truly remarkable when you think that they were providing that service in a foreign language. I can't imagine that leg of the trip if we couldn't rely on English being spoken virtually everywhere.

We really could have done more in Athens. We hadn't seen everything by far. Not even a fraction. But it's funny how your appetite (at least mine) for "new, different, more!" kind of goes into overdrive when you're on vacation. I don't think I could ever be one of those people who just go to one vacation spot and park themselves in one hotel for a week or two. My wanderlust would feel completely thwarted.

Erin said...

Yes! Thanks for mentioning the Greek airline. It was a little different from the American experience. And you don't have to take off your shoes!

You're right, we could've done more in Athens. But we had established a break-neck pace for ourselves. Going back there didn't feel exciting enough. Amazing that we managed to stay in Santorini for four days.