DAY 9 - FRIDAY 22ND AUGUST
Up at 7am but I hadnt set the alarm clock forward an hour so it was really 8am. I am gutted, as I was awake at 5.30am, which would have been 6.30am, and I could have watched us sail into Santorini - if you understand what I mean!. I pull back the curtains to see Santorini glinting in the sunshine I am particularly excited today as this is one Greek island I have always wanted to visit and I am pleased to say it doesnt disappoint. The white washed houses hug the hill in the town of Fira perched above the harbour of Skala. Our guide book advises that the only way to reach Fira is by cable car, donkey ride or climbing the 800 odd, broad steps to the top.
With an air of excitement we breakfast at the Waterfall Café on the rear deck to take in the wonderful view. We then go to the tender assembly point and get straight on the next tender. Once on shore we head straight out to join the queue for the cable car. This was the one thing I had been dreading all holiday I hate heights and I hate cable cars, but we had already decided that there was no way we were going to ride those poor donkeys up and down the steps, so cable car was the next best thing as we had already decided we would walk down. Well my fears were unfounded as it stays quite close to the slope it doesnt seem too bad and it is over very quickly and the view looking down to the harbour and out at the ship is stunning. The cost is 4 each way per person.
At the top we are in the town of Fira little narrow, cobbled streets with shops selling china, cotton clothes and souvenirs. Lots of lovely looking restaurants and bars too, but for now we are in search of the bus station, which we get to at 10.15am it is just a short stroll from the cable car.
We arrive at 10.15am and clamber on the next bus to Oia which cost 1.40 single. Luckily we get a seat, as it is standing room only by the time we leave for the hot, windy journey to Oia on the northern tip of the island. There are some windy roads, and steep drops in places but at 11 am we enter the village which is absolutely gorgeous with the tiny streets, houses, restaurants and bars dripping off the side of the hills and the azure sea twinkling in the sunlight below. There are so many photo opportunities as everywhere looks so wonderful in the sunlight and there are geraniums, petunias and bougainvillea at every turn contrasting beautifully with the white and blue buildings.
We find a wonderful bar Kaetpo with stunning views near the windmill end of the village and Kev and I enjoy a cold Mythos beer, Georgia Fanta and India cold chocolate.
We then move onto Restaurant Skala, which also overlooks the sea and enjoy a delicious lunch. India has parmesan, rocket, mixed greens, sun dried tomatoes, sesame seeds, with a walnut, honey, balsamic dressing, Kev and I share a mousakka and tomato and mozzarella salad, while Georgia has Chicken a la Skala chicken in a creamy sauce. This is accompanied by a bottle of local Santorini white wine, which is just perfect. The meal was wonderful and I dont think I have ever had lunch in such a stunning location and felt so totally at one with the world.
We take a slow stroll back to the bus stop and just miss a bus but in hindsight we would have had to stand. Luckily it is only a short time until the next one and us girls get seats. We say a fond farewell to Oia where we all agree it is only a matter of time before we return. Back in Fira at 3ish - we buy some soap and a bottle of the Santorini wine to try and take it on board. We sit at the Cosmopolitan bar with views across the water to the Summit I have ouzo with water, Kev another Mythos beer, Georgia a soft drink and India a cappuccino freddo. India goes shopping for magic eye earrings and a necklace to go with a bracelet she bought when we were last in Turkey.
Now it is time to make the journey down the steps back to the tenders in Skala we had read that it can be quite precarious due to the large number of donkeys going up and down with tourists clinging on for dear life and also due to the large amount of deposits made by said donkeys that it is necessary to avoid. Well part of the way down we feel we need for a breather so stop at the Lithos Restaurant for one last Mythos beer and Fantas for the girls. The music is playing and it is so tempting to just sit and keep ordering beers while enjoying the sunshine but we know the rest of the journey down the steps would be even more risky then, so we press on. At some turns we are forced to hug the walls as teams of donkeys come towards us seemingly oblivious to the fact we are there. We find it most disturbing the way they are hit by the owners to encourage them up the steps and to see them slipping on the steps in the incredible heat proves too much for India who gets very emotional about it. Later we decide we will set up a Liberate the Donkeys of Santorini group however searches on the internet reveal we are not alone in our disquiet of their apparent hard life. Eventually the end is in site and we grab a cool towel and iced water while waiting for the tender to take us back to the ship. I secrete the wine in my handbag and put all other bags through the scanner and we make it through security.
Back in the cabin we relax in the sunshine on the balcony enjoying the views of Santorini and watching the tenders bringing back weary visitors. Kev gets ready and then retreats to the rear deck for a beer and a listen to the guitar player and when we are all ready we join him in time to watch the island of Santorini slipping into the distance. The picture below highlights the steps (on the right hand side) which the donkeys and intrepid walkers take to reach the top or bottom.
I decide to have a Virgin Celebrity Dream cocktail as the ouzo I had earlier has kicked in. Unfortunately (perhaps because of said ouzo) I then proceed to spill the whole glass all over the table. Thankfully a lovely waiter brings me some napkins and a replacement drink, which is much appreciated.
Tonight we have managed to secure a booking for the Waterfall Bistro for dinner at 8.30pm. Kev and I have baby back ribs, corn muffin and corn salsa to start, Georgia clam chowder and India chilled tomato soup. India and Georgia then choose New York Strip steak, gratin potatoes and onion rings and Kev and I have salmon on couscous. It is all very tasty and we enjoy eating in a different restaurant, although the menu isnt extensive it is a good choice for a change. Kev has a raspberry pudding, Georgia chocolate mousse, and India and myself tiramisu. The additional cost for eating here is only $2 cover charge per person. We enjoy a bottle of Robert Mondavi Merlot with the meal and finish with coffee. Tonight we have finished our meal at 10pm a full hour before any of the meals in the Cosmopolitan restaurant which means we can listen to Katie playing in Michaels club tonights theme was Ole Blue Eyes and it was great fun however I think I overdid it today and find myself falling asleep so we all return to the cabin at 11.15pm
Click on the film strip to see some video of our time in Santorini
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