Santorini: a postcard or reality?
We’ve all seen the pictures and posters and instagram shots: white buildings, skies, seas and roofs of bright blue. Touches of red and pink from doors and Bougainvillea. Santorini.
I’ve wanted to visit since my high school best friend Kelly went there during a summer abroad in college. Now, I may have been more enthralled at the time with tales of a sexy night life, but no matter. When Singer Girl said she wanted to go to Athens, I knew this detour would be on the agenda.
Visually this place does not disappoint.
This was the only time on our European Adventure that we stayed in a hotel. There simply were no VRBOs/AirbnBs that met my criteria: namely, a view and I had to feel like I was living in one of those postcards, walking distance to nightlife (even if this married 50-year-old with her 18-year-old daughter in tow didn’t harbor the same ambitions as her 20-year-old single, non role model self).
We stayed at the Aigialos hotel (http://www.aigialos.gr/). Again: transportation was arranged, and again we were grateful. Santorini was even harder for to navigate than anywhere we had been before. Wacky little streets that led to nowhere and everywhere at the same time, none of which went in straight lines, are charming when strolling in a sundress with a white wine afterglow — but suck when travel tired, dragging suitcases in a boot.
The staff was charming and gracious. They made sure we were settled, then had us pre-order our breakfast, which we chose to eat pool side (I was eager to try the traditional Greek yogurt with honey: yum!). Our room was a charming suite: one long room with a bedroom for HWSNBN and myself, 2 bathrooms, and two couches for Singer Girl to pick from. White washed, blue accents, heavy dark wood touches. Love! Great combo of old charm and new comforts. I highly recommend this place!
We woke up to a VERY windy day, which, when you are on the side of a massive hill overlooking the sea, is impressive. But it couldn’t compete with the view!
We had a few hours to explore before a winery tour in the afternoon, so off we went!
My only disappointment with Santorini was the crowds and the obvious catering to tourists (yes, I knew we were part of that crowd). I also know that there are other islands to try, but we will do that on a later trip. I love a city built for wandering — like Venice, Paris, Dubrovnik, Rome. Places where you can’t always see what’s coming up, so you are often delightfully startled by the unexpected. Throw in amazing architecture, wandering dogs, and brilliant color and I am all in!
We found an amazing gallery, where artist Eduart Gjopalaj’s turned natural woods into “paintings,” baskets, shapes and fantasies (he had carved wood that looked like volcanic rock hanging from the ceiling. Brilliant!). He was so friendly and helpful. He told us he stumbled into the field, that he had been working construction and slowly started realizing that he could create beautiful things from the wood. I would not be opposed to finding something from him under my Christmas tree (HWSNBN? Are you listening?).
You can see more about Eduart at this link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g658914-d8116501-Reviews-Eduart_Gjopalaj-Kamari_Santorini_Cyclades_South_Aegean.html
After an amazing lunch, we went home to get ready for wine! I had insisted we have a solid meal in our bellies, as my experience with wine tastings is that food is not optional if you want to make it through. However: this wine tasting tour was unlike anything I had ever been on before.
Our wine tour was with Iliana of Santorini Wine Trails (www.santoriniwinetrails.gr). She picked us up and we headed out with a honeymooning young couple who, originally from Chicago, had relocated to Arkansas. A dry county in Arkansas, unbeknownst to them. They were especially excited about the tour!
There were many reasons I wanted to do a wine tour. Yes, I love wine. But HWSNBN and I know little about wines outside the US, so we like to be educated. And I wanted Singer Girl to learn about wine from us, not from some crappy cheap bottle of fortified fruity crap snuck into a dorm room. Plus: wine. In Greece. ‘Nuff said (but you know me: I gotta say more).
Our first stop was an actual vineyard. Santorini does it differently than most places in the world, Since the ground is arid and volcanic, and irrigation so expensive the vines aren’t staked up like I am used to seeing. Instead, they have this intricate method called “kouloura” (learn more about it here: http://www.newwinesofgreece.com/the_santorini_akoulouraa/en_the_santorini_akoulouraa.html). The vines are shaped into baskets, year after year, and vines can grow that way for a hundred years or more. We tried to take pictures, but they weren’t great:
The field looks like this:
Someone attempting to sneak a grape might look like this:
Then we were off to our first of three wineries, Gaia (http://www.gaiawines.gr/visits-santorini-eng/) . The first winery was my favorite in terms of setting. I mean, hard to not love a winery set basically on the beach.
I am used to bread, and maybe a little cheese, when wine tasting. This put that to shame. We were served a phenomenal platter of olives, cheese, meat, bread and more. In fact, all three wineries fed us so much I almost wish we had skipped lunch!
Next up was a much more modern place, Estate Argyros (http://estateargyros.com/home.html). The winery was lovely — it has been around for more than 100 years but they have recently renovated the tasting rooms. It’s stunning – all steel and glass and polished concrete — but not my personal taste. I prefer something that feels old. But the wine (and food!) were great!
Iliana piled us all into her van, and we headed back north towards Ios. We would be at this winery close to sunset, which is always my favorite time of day. Here, at Domaine Sigalas (https://www.sigalaswinetasting.com/), we were given course after course of food, glorious food! We sat under a grape arbor, in the glowing late afternoon sun, laughing with the vintner, Iliana and our newlywed friends. Delicious wine, knowledgable hosts, fun companions. What more could a girl want?
Iliana dropped us back off and we climbed the whitewashed hills to our hotel room. Singer Girl and HWSNBN decided to catch up on emails and stuff, and I went outside to grab a few photos as the day’s last light left us.
When I got back, it was time for a little reality check: while HWSNBN snored, Singer Girl and I spent the a few hours setting up her college schedule. It was a stark reminder that we needed to cherish these moments together, because every day she was closer to leaving us. We went to bed exhausted, determined to make the next day — and all the rest — count even more.