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.
Something about getting a pain du chocolat and drinking espresso in a Paris cafe. You just feel more chic — even with le powdered sugar all over your shirt.
That’s how we kicked off Friday in Paris. It was so sunny and beautiful — we were warned of a late afternoon shower, but the morning was glorious. Hopped the metro (BTW the metro pass is a brilliant way to save time and euros) and headed south. It was a totally different area for us — not touristy at all (and hilly). On our way we bumped into what is so far my favorite church: St Etienne du Mont (http://www.saintetiennedumont.fr/). This church is dedicated to St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. It was so beautiful, and maybe becasue it wasn’t on my “list” it was a delight. I am a sucker for a curved marble staircase — it just seems so hard to make!
Just a block further and we reached our first official stop: The Pantheon (http://www.paris-pantheon.fr/). Like so many things in Paris, it was begin by a king as a church (in this case King Louis XV vowed to build a shrine to St Genevieve if he survived an illness — he did!), but after the revolution kingly stuff was a no-no, and churches weren’t awfully welcome, either. Napoleon saved this one and many more by making them government buildings. He’s kind of a big deal here (more on that in the next post).
Stepping outside the Pantheon we were wowed by a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. Headed in that direction but first a stop at the Jardin de Luxembourg (http://www.senat.fr/visite/jardin/index.html). So nice to see things blooming — trees, flowers, people’s attitudes — especially knowing that home is about to get hit with snow. From there it was off looking for a shop that sounded cool. We hadn’t shopped at al yet, and Gab and Jo sounded like a great place to get un-touristy-souvenirs. Alas, it was closed, so we meandered down the street for a little wine and lunch. Found a table street side called Le Pre Aux Clercs (http://www.restaurant-preauxclercs.com/) Shared two apps and a salad, and had bread on all of them. Only the French would throw a slice of toast on a salad, and still look thin! Our next-door-table mates had a charming baby. Children are the great ice breaker while travelling: an elderly French woman stopped to chat with the American parents, exclaiming the child’s cuteness, then, of course, giving advice. In any language, a mom can tell when another mom says she is doing it wrong (in this case the piece of bread the baby had was too big. Sigh).
After lunch I tried the shop again, but it was still closed. So we headed to our goal location: the Musee D’Orsay. This museum, housed in a gorgeous old train museum, takes over where the Louvre leaves off, and is packed with Renoir, Degas, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh and more. Gorgeous, of course. Our downloaded Rick Steve’s app helped us meaningfully meander!
Then we rushed home to clean up before our 5pm Wine Tasting class at O Chateau (http://o-chateau.com/). A great thing to do if you visit Paris — I mean, we know a lot about wine, but French wines? Nothing. There were more than 20 of us in a cool room, letting Olivier preach. Tried 6 wines and left sufficiently schooled. Biggest things we learned: the French name wines after regions, not grapes (or Chablis, not Chardonnay) and if you want fruitier more full bodied wines, get them from places where there is lots if sunshine.
After dinner we hit the Louvre (tip: it’s open ate Weds and Fri so no lines). We were able to get up close and personal very easily with the Mona Lisa, and enjoyed seeing a lot more, Might go back on our last day (with the awesome Musee Pass we can go back for free anytime). The sunset as we left was gorgeous!
Wandered off, and found Willli’s bar (http://www.williswinebar.com/willis-wine-bar-paris.html). Gotta love a bar named after a dog — a mutt no less. Had a great conversation with our British bar tender and an Australian patron about the friendliness of bars in different countries (we have still yet
to experience the dreaded French pissy attitude).
Should’ve gone to bed, but it’s vaca, so dinner at 10 makes sense, A friend recommended L’Escargot on a great street near our place, Rue Montorgueil (http://escargotmontorgueil.com/). Yes, I tried snails. They were fine. Not a big deal.
80s Hair Metal
Making people laugh
Hearing babies laugh
People with differing opinions listening to each other, respecting those differences and learning from them
The way my son now wants to go to theater with me
The way he loves his girlfriend
The way my daughter loves her boyfriend
Scolding my husband and my BFF for being too silly together (the time they almost knocked the tree over, though…)
Getting Christmas cards
First flowers blooming in spring
My new car
The full moon
When my nail polish stays on
People’s reactions when I hand them puppies at a puppy party
Books and the people who read them (shout out to my book club!)
Food and the people who eat it (shout out to my Gourmet Club)
Volunteering and the people who make it happen (shout out to my Senior Party staff!)
Dogs and the people who save them (shout out to Secondhand Hounds)
My husband’s commitment to French lessons with me, even though he hates it
Taking off my bra at the end of the day
Wine with my girlfriends
That I forgot I’d already said cheese, which kinda shows my true feelings
The smell of asphalt after a rain
Historical dramas on BBC
Seeing a formerly traumatized dog become what it was meant to be, and finding the perfect forever home
The sound of a champagne cork
Crossing stuff off my list
Making a new list
The way my daughter teaches me things
The way my dad still says I love you, even though he isn’t sure who I am #fuckAlzheimers
That my mom still wants to help me every day in every way
That I am still in contact with friends made when I was a toddler (thank you Facebook)
That people who I used to fear/be intimidated by/look up to/have massive crushes on in high school have become my friends (social media plus time: the great equalizers)
Discovering new links on Ancestry.com
Not caring if people think I am weird
Being recognized for my accomplishments
Hair dye (shout out to Chelsea at Spalon Montage)
My Vegas group (shout out to the Unicorn Poop Squad)
Mom and Pop stores
People who don’t untag themselves from photos
That my son asks me for advice — even when the subject matter makes my butt cheeks clench
40 degrees in February
Watching the parents of Olympic athletes realize it was all worth it
Sunsets over the water with a glass of Chardonnay
A clean house
All the laundry done
Cooking for my family
Having them all there to eat it
Having a long, hot roll … at craps
Free champagne in Vegas!
Someone else planning everything, rather than asking me what I want to do
Big fat scary pitbulls that are really lapdogs who want to give kisses and receive pets
My dog’s patience as a foster-trainer
The “unfollow this post” button on Facebook
Having random people in cities I am visiting decide I am the bomb and follow me on instagram
Being a fly on the wall during fun school activities
The pile of shoes near the door when there are kids in the house
Watching Singer Girl do her thing
The look on a family’s face when they take home a newly adopted, once-my-foster dog
That my kids both bring soup to their significant others when theya re sick
My kids righteaous indigantion over the mistreatment of others
Doing new things
That my husband remembered that one of my dreams has been to dance on the Champs Elysees on my birthday — so is taking me there for my 50th
Sailor Boy wanting to be the party host (gets it from his mama, ya know)
Everyone’s excitement about my annual Halloween party
My friends’ disappointment when I can’t host Dec 23rd
Dressing up for any and all holidays and events, whether it means black tie or bunny ears
Knowing that my kids have amazing lives in front of them
Knowing that I have an amazing life in front of me
And did I mention cheese?
Enjoy all that you love this Valentine’s Day!