One of the things my husband and I loved when we went to Santorini was how lovely the island is in terms of the scenery – the sea looks amazing, there’s beautiful flowers like bougainvillea everywhere, and there’s plenty of white-washed architecture everywhere. However, I’ve noticed that most people assume that Santorini is just blue and white buildings with a beautiful sea – and that’s it. To be fair, if you Google the island, that’s all you’ll find – that iconic blue-and-white spot which is actually the island’s capital city overlooking a rich blue sea.
Unfortunately, this is just a tiny side of the island – literally. A lot of tourists and honeymooners come to Santorini for the blue and white scene, as well as the famous sunset part in Oia, which is a popular (but very expensive!) part of the island. While the area does look as beautiful as it does in the the pictures, it’s easy to be fooled by the images. My husband and I signed up for the sunset tour on one of the days that we were on the island, and could not believe how busy it gets – there’s literally about a thousand people all packed against the walls to see the sunset. It’s a lovely vibe, but very crowded, so not exactly romantic! Similarly the blue and white part of the city is a very popular place for people to pose, but the pictures are worth it, if you don’t mind queuing for the spot.
I thought I’d show the other side of Santorini, which is grassy, hilly and mountainous, and surrounded by beautiful flowers and blue water. Below are pictures I took from our holiday – if you notice, there’s not a single blue-and-white picture presents!
This is what most of the island looks like – fields and mountains
The Red Sand Beach
The cliffs and the hilly mountains
The cafes and bars along the beach, filled with plants
Beautiful flowers everywhere we went
A lot of hotels were empty, with open hammocks and chairs to sit and relax in
This is the fields which makes up most of the islands
The Volcano Island, with sulphuric water and ships docked
One of the things I look out for whenever I go somewhere new are bookstores and libraries. I’ve been lucky enough so far to find some beautiful examples, such as this lovely bookstore in Istanbul which I found while strolling around in the New City, and which was beautifully put together.
I was pretty delightly, then, to find this colourful, quirky bookstore in Greece one on of the Islands, in the area called Oia which is famous for its beautiful sunsets and landscapes, (and which is a very popular tourist spot for honeymooners) – it was hidden away along the main street with stairs leading down into the bookshop inside. What I loved about this bookstore what the the outside was just as pretty as its interior – there were plenty of paintings and decor around the building so there was something to catch your eye wherever you look.
I loved the random pieces scattered around – bookshelves, plants, typewriters and handwitten signs to give the personal touch and make it feel homely. I always love finding places like this, and it was great to see the effort put into decorating this bookshop.
The interior of the bookshop was a little dark (excuse the grainy pictures!) but it felt a little like a personal dreamland – hundreds of books in various languages crammed together on bookshelves, with some hanging from the ceiling, piled up on the cabinets and generally giving plenty of invitation for passerbys to come and immerse themselves in the world of books.
We left this place with a big smile on our face (myself more than anyone else) because it was such a beautiful corner of a beautiful city, and I loved the fact that it seemed untouched by commercial values, instead asking customers to give what they can and to make the most of seeing the books. It’s made me keep an eye out for more of these places around the city, and of course, I’ll be posting more of these when I find them!
I know, I know, I’ve disappeared a little from blogging, but I’m still around, fear not! I’ve been immersing myself in classic films and long books to enjoy a little time to myself and it’s nice not to have a little nagging pressure of worrying about cooking, tidying, working or tip-tapping away on my keyboard (until the weekend’s over and it’s back to work!)
Today’s weekly photo challenge is ‘transition’ – be it the general phasing of one thing to another, or a general progression as you learn more to go higher. It made me think of two things, firstly, the beautiful blues and greens of the clear waters in Greece when my husband and I visited in the summer, secondly, about my own journey with writing and the idea of ‘going with the flow’.
I won’t bore you with a philosophical rant (and it probably wouldn’t make sense!) but I’m loving the idea of writing and seeing where I go with it, as well as travelling to new places and seeing where we end up. I’m sure this will always remain an ongoing thing with me, and something to always explore, but it’s also something to interpret and re-interpret – progression, transition and the journey it takes us on.
One of my biggest issues with my attempts with art is that I never feel that it’s as good as other people’s masterpieces, or that it’s not quite right, so it needs to be a little better. When I was younger I was convinced that I’d be better as I drew more and learned more about art – used different techniques and mediums and just find my niche. Sadly enough, over the years, even though my enthusiasm still sparks into life when I’m in the arts and craft section and when I read about different styles of drawing, it fizzles out a little when I pick up a pencil (or drawing tablet!) to draw something myself.
I saw this a few days ago and loved the riot of colour in all this – even though it’s framed and placed against other frames, they don’t act as boundaries, there’s patterns within patterns, and beautiful details which overlap and pulls the eye.
I’d love to paint something like this, and it’s when I see beautiful things like this that I feel inspired, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I’m not sure I’m skilled enough to paint with oil paints just yet, but I’d love to try mixing colours and media to see what beautiful colours and patterns I get. So here’s a little colour to brighten up the weekend.
I love boats and I love travelling on water, although it’s not something I get to do much. When my husband and I went to Greece a couple of months ago, we took a cruise around some of the nearby islands and were awed by the beautiful blue of the waters, the cool breeze and the feel of the sea waves under our feet.
These days, we’ll have to settle for the ferry across the River Thames for some water under our feet, but here’s to hoping for another exotic boat ride soon!
I’ve mentioned before how much I love fairy-tales/myths re-tellings, there’s something fascinating about seeing a new angle on a classic story we already know, and I love to discover new books with a different view.
This is a chart created by the cleverbots at EpidReads, who compiled a list of books and grouped them by similarities.
You can find the full chart list here by epicreads – it’s not a complete list of what’s out there of course, but it’s a decent place to start!
Have you read any of these? I’ve added a few of these to my book list already!
I won’t bombard you with too many photographs in this post; the last two days in Santorini were quiet for us and we spent the last couple of days relaxing and wandering around. Because we’d already visited most of the sites on the island, we weren’t in a hurry to visit everything the way we had been before, and we picked and chose the places we wanted to go. It would have been amazing to go on another cruise to further out islands, or do a day trip to Athens, but this would have taken hours by boat, and we wanted to be able to take our time. We’ve decided to take a separate trip to Athens on another date, so more planning in the future!
We spent a lazy morning at the local beach after breakfast, sitting in the sun, looking at the sea and the quirky things around town (we wanted to try a hammock but it looked unsteady so we didn’t!)
We went to a really interesting local restaurant called Gecko for lunch – we’d been here for dinner a few times and loved the impeccable service and cheap food. This was a newly-opened restaurant, and the chef was willing to tweak anything we wanted to menu – with some amazing egg sandwiches, clubs and veggie burgers, as well as their signature piece called Tornado Potato (a twisty piece of potato skewed all along a stick , very nice and crispy!)
After wandering around for a while and looking at the signs, we took a bus from Perissa to walk around Fira one last time and see what we could buy.
We also spent rest of the day souvenir shopping – there were some local shops with a lot of beautiful hand-crafted goods, such as these different glass and clay beads which I thought were beautiful. We also got the standard fridge magnets, bookmarks and touristy stuff as well, and had a look at some t-shirts (which we didn’t end up getting because they were surprisingly expensive!)
After one last peek over the edge of the cliffs towards the beautiful sea, we headed back to the hotel to get our things ready for the flight the next morning.
The drive to the airport was strangely surreal, after seeing all the blue seas, sandy beaches and beautiful buildings, we drove for a while through green fields, hilly mountains and past mis-matched buildings and shops.
The airport itself is tiny – we’re used to the buzz of London airports and this one was pretty small, with a small cafe to wait in, a tiny duty free corner and a long queue to get to the place. The surroundings of the airport is quite sparse, but there are a few ruins around the area (including a fake building which is on the edge of the runway below, which is bigger than it looks and gives a taste of what is waiting in Santorini!)
It was really relaxing holiday for us, and lots to see – we got back to London pretty quickly (back to drizzly weather!) with a beautiful view of the countries below from the airplane window, and plenty of good memories. : )
After the eventful Day 4, we decided to relax for a few days – it was the weekend and it was also time to make the most of time off work and catch up on sleep! We decided to stay in the local area for the weekend and explore local sights (as well as relax and make the most of the sunbeds!) and saw a lot of things we wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t looked around. As with the last few days, the day was a beautiful sunny one, and the breeze from the sea meant that we didn’t feel too scorched from the sun.
We decided to spend some time in the local beach for lunch, before we wandered around the town – I love the fact that there a lot of relics and artwork around the town, admittedly a lot of it for the purpose of tourism, but all adding a flavour to the town which was lovely.
Hubby and I were excited to find and Indian and Thai place, as we wanted to find out if they served halal food. The restaurant we found was called Visanto, on the beach strip along the seafront, and served a variety of dishes to satisfy our Asian tastebuds. Unfortunately, none of these dishes had halal meat, so we had to stick to vegetarian dishes (and chips!)
After lunch we took the opportunity to look at the local sights, which was around the main are of the the beach, and also some roads leading off from there. The St Irini Church was our first stop, the church being named after the Saint Irene (which is what the island Santorini’s name also refers to) – a beautiful big building of white and blue which was tucked away toward the mountains.
We then wandered around the local shops and then decided to stop for gelato at a local ice-cream parlour, which ad some beautifully shaped seating chairs and benches, and some seriously yummy-sounding flavours of ice cream (although we just opted for traditional vanilla with chocolate!)
We then decided to around in the the area towards the green, foresty areas, which had some private houses and closed-hotels dotted around, and lots of winding paths leading us around the area. We also managed to speak to some locals – one businessman, for example, told us he was originally from Athens, and when enquiring where we were from, told us there were a lot of Pakistanis who had settled in Athens when he was growing up, which was really interesting to hear!
It was a really nice relaxing weekend, where we met and spoke to a lot of locals, caught up on sleep (in the hotels and the sunbeds!) and ate at a few restaurants. It also felt a little slower-paced, where we took the opportunity to meander around the town and explore, and also have a lazy weekend!
Santorini Day 4: Caldera, The Hot Springs, Volcano Island, Thirasia & Oia
Day 4 of our visit to Santorini involved a lot of sight-seeing, so this is a slightly longer post than the other ones, so bear with me! My husband and I had been searching around for boat tours or cruises which would take us to different islands. You can get ferries to other islands but they can come at obscure times, and some islands are pretty far away so will take hours to get to. While in Fira, Perissa and Pyrgos (another part of the island we drove few a couple of times), we had been looking around at different travel agencies and tour companies, and comparing prices. We found a pretty big difference between prices, the tour we ended up going with was a full day tour for €35 per person, this same package cost as much as €65-75 from other agencies, so we got a pretty good deal.
(We also looked into private boat hire, because we wanted to see the more private, romantic options. The prices were astounding, with some of them being as much as €1500 for about 6 hours for a private boat! Needless to say, we didn’t go for any of those options).
So, 8.30 in the morning, we had breakfast and made our way down to the local bus stop, where a coach was booked to pick us up, along with a few other passengers who had booked the same tour along the way. We had a quick walk around a small town called Pyrgos, there’s a famous monastary there but we didn’t get to spend much time there, but it was a lovely town with white buildings and a lot of shops.
We arrived at the docks where the boats were waiting, the one we boarded was called King Thiras and was pretty big (not quite a ship but a decent-sized boat) which held around 30-40 people. There were toilets and a lounge in the cabins below, with a bar area on top for cold drinks and snacks, as well as plenty of benches to sit and sunbathe on.
From the moment the boat was safely boarded and pushed on, the breeze was beautiful. The weather was pretty perfect for us, scorching sun, bright blue skies and no clouds at all, but the heat was practically non-existent because of how cool the breeze was and the fresh air from the sea.
You can see our view from the pictures below – the boat moved quite quickly for the expanse of water that it crossed, and we quickly saw islands that we were approaching becoming bigger and bigger, while at the same time, Santorini became smaller and we could see tiny white buildings perched on huge cliffs (and also the zig-zag of those 587 steps we had gone up and down a couple of days before!)
Our journey through the various islands
View from our seat
The three islands which surrounded the boat
Our first stop were the Hot Springs, which were next to the Volcano island, which took us about half-hour to reach. The Volcano Island is literally an active volcano (although the last eruption took place in 1950 AD), and actually consists of 2 islands, the bigger called Nea Kameni and the smaller Palea Kameni. This also means there are two areas with the hot springs; one in Nea Kameni island and one in Palea Kameni island – the former means you have to swim from cold water to the hot water, the latter means you can go straight into the hot water (which is where we ended up).
At this point, those who wanted to swim in the hot springs for a little while could jump in the water (which was not very deep), and enjoy the water for a while. I decided not to jump because I didn’t bring anything to change into, and I didn’t really want to join twenty other people in the water, plus while I love swimming, I didn’t want to pull out the burkini and swim, so we stayed on board with a few other people while some of the passengers splashed around.
Don’t wear your best bikini if you’re going to swim. We were advised that the water taints clothes a little orange due to the sulphur in the water, so to expect it to be a little stained.
The water is apparently not that hot, so don’t expect sauna/spa conditions!
You still need to swim safely in this area, there are a lot of rocks around and even a boat or two, although they maintain their distance. While we were at the hot springs, a private boat party parked nearby to enjoy it as well!
Eventually the boat was ready to move onto the main part of the volcano island, which is Nea Kameni. This involved a lot of hiking (which we didn’t realise, and were wearing the wrong footwear for!) around the volcano to to main parts at the top where you could see the volcanic craters.
The walk took about 30-40 minutes and was actually pretty tiring because the heat was stronger and the road was really rocky. There was a clear path around most of the island, but it was still pretty rough and slopey in a lot of areas, and you need to be willing to walk!
Wear sturdy footwear! It really makes a difference when walking around.
Take water bottles with you if you can, they can really help if it’s too hot.
There are seats with umbrellas for shades dotted around along the way – take a break if you need one!
Enjoy the view! The islands which can be see from here look pretty amazing from far away.
We walked around the majority of the island but didn’t spend as long as some of the group did at the top, we rested for a while and made our way back to the boat one we’d seen enough.
We all loaded back on the boat for a quick break, before making our way to our next destination – an island called Thirasia. This is a smaller island, which is also a little more cosy and small-towny, with a fishermen feel to it, because of its ports, sea-food restaurants and greenery.
There were quite a few restaurants along the beach and pier from the spot that we landed at, and it was also time to stop for lunch. Most of the restaurants serve mostly sea-food, and the menus are pretty much similar in most of them. We stopped at a restaurant (the name of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten) and had a meal of battered fresh-fish, and grilled sword-fish, with chips and vegetable rice, which tasted beautiful.
Our view from our table
Fresh fish waiting to be grilled
The restaurant we were in was beneath a big windmill, which we went upto and took photos from until the restauranteurs asked us to come down because it was a little dangerous with a moving windmill.
We had about 3 hours to spend on this island before our next stop, so we took our time to stroll around and explore. A lot of the passengers from our and other boats took the opportunity to climb up (or ride donkeys up!) the zig-zag stairs to the top, where where was a small monastary and tiny village that could be explored. We were feeling a little tired from the Volcano island so decided to save our energy and relax a little (and we were glad we did, because the next island had more stairs and we didn’t have a choice about not going up!)
The view in this place is pretty beautiful, and the water is seriously lovely in its maze of greens and blues – we even saw small tiny fish trying to eat crumbs from bread floating away from the shore!
Once we were ready to leave we set off for Oia, which is actually at the most northern part of Santorini, and a very popular destination like Fira. This is also the most popular place to view a sunset as well, because it faces the sun without anything getting in the way. The boat arrived at this last destination around 6ish, and jetted back to the port when it came from, leaving our group with a tour-guide who told us how to get up to the top.
As with a lot of other islands and parts of Santorini, Oia (pronounced Eey-ya) can be reached at the top from the 287 steps which make up the zig-zag staircase, and which again can be reached either by foot or by donkey. We decided to be a little adventurous and walk up the steps this time (plus we were still a little put off by the donkey-ride in Fira!) and we managed to make it to the top in about half-an hour, although we had to keep stopping for the donkeys which went past (and which was a little scary because they push past you!)
We finally reached the top, to a long strip of road which makes up the main street of Oia – full of restaurants, gold shops, designer clothes shops and art stores and souvenirs places. Out of all of the places we went to, Oia was definitely the most expensive, and it was also the most crowded, and at the middle of it all at it’s heart is a huge church called the Church of Panagia of Platsani situated in Oia Caldera Square, which is also a popular meeting place.
We also managed to a lot of things happening at once – a wedding shoot in a tiny church, children playing in a small playground, jewellery trying to entice customers to come in and various quirky shops and restaurants.
We stopped at a restaurant called Porto Carra (I think!) where we had a lot of cold drinks after that long climb and also a light snack, and also stopped to look at the daunting view all the way down to the bottom of the cliffs.
Around 8’o clock, we made our way down to the northern end of the street, where the best viewing platform was among the edge. There were hundreds of hotels, buildings and the ruins of an old castle around this area, which we manage to get a good viewing seat from. Lined up along all of the walls and hotels were hundreds of other people who wanted to see the sunset as well – I was pretty stunned at how many people there were.
The sunset itself lasted about half-an hour, and there was plenty of photo-taking and enjoying the scenery (bar one dog who kept barking at the crowd from his building because of all the people!), while we slowly watched the sun go down and the colours of the sky merging from blue, to gold to burnt reds.
This was one of my favourite moments of the day, because it was pretty awe-inspiring to watch something that seemed so effortless and majestic. Having said that, it wasn’t really a romantic moment (not that we minded!) with the hundreds of spectators next to us, the barking dog and the shuffling of the crowd!
At the end of the sunset, when it finally dropped down from a tiny sliver to complete dark with a little light to see ourselves in, the entire crowded applauded, which was nice to hear (not to mention seeing hundreds of flashes from cameras and mobiles going off at the same time!)
Bring a jacket or jumper, it can get chilly in the evening, especially after the sun starts going down
Oia is way more expensive than Fira – expect high prices! We wanted to try lobster while we were in the island, but didn’t because it was just too expensive. One restaurant was offering a lobster meal for €95 which was ridiculous. Don’t worry if you don’t spend a lot of food, sometimes the expensive ones taste the same as the cheaper meals!
Make sure you camera battery is fully charged – by the time we got to the sunset in Oia my camera battery died! There’s a lot to take photos of, so be prepared!
Try and arrange transport in the evening back to where you are staying – it can get pitch dark and there’s not much street lighting on the main roads.
This was the end of the tour for us, and time to also head back to the hotel – it was seriously crowded and we had to be careful not to get lost in the crowd so that we didn’t miss our coach either, but from here the coach took us directly back to the hotel and we watched the sky getting darker and darker from our windows of the coach. It was a pretty eventful and tiring day for us, and we went straight to bed for a long rest when we got back, since our feet were also pretty tired!