Saturday, 13 October 2012


I don't have many words for Santorini - mostly because I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it.

I honestly thought that I would fall head over heels in love and it would be THE most amazing place i've ever been - which is partly why we left it until last to visit, however, the reality is quite the opposite - as far as "experience" goes, it's probably the bottom of my Greece list.

Yes, Santorini is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places you will ever go to, the views are out of this world and the blue & white villages hanging on to the top of the cliffs are magical.

However, Santorini is just one big island totally geared to the tourist and their money.  Accommodation is expensive, food is expensive and quite low quality (and restaurant touts abound, hassling you to eat their "very delicious" food), the beaches pale in comparison to anything we saw on Mykonos and Naxos and there's not a great deal to do other than perch yourself on your hotel terrace.

So, I can say i'm very glad that i've been, although i'm still not sure if I would go back.  If I did, I would do things slightly differently.  

- Most importantly I would splash my cash and stay at a luxury resort (like here,  here,  or here) that had it's own swimming pool and was more geared to you not really needing to leave (the hotel we stayed, whilst it had probably the best view on the island of sunset, was quite shabby inside, had the most hideously tiny bathroom i've EVER seen, was twice the price of our gorgeous hotels in Mykonos and Naxos, and didn't have a pool, hence we just felt like we wanted to sleep and then get the hell out of there).  

- I would most certainly stay in Oia village again - not as tacky as Fira and not as quiet as Imerovigli, and also some half-decent restaurants - Thalami and Skala were the best we found.

- Do a winery tour (we fell in love with Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko).

We did spend a day on a boat cruise, which took us to the Volcano (which I didn't realise we were actually going to hike up!), took us to swim in the mineral hot springs (albeit very briefly), and then over to Thirassia (the part of Santorini that was essentially "cut off").  Again this was a very touristy trip - herded on and off different boats, tour guides forced upon you wanting tips, taken to buffet style tourist trap restaurant...  but in saying that i'm glad we did it, it was nice to see the Islands from a different perspective - I might just go with a different company next time...

I'm probably not painting a very attractive picture, so what I will say is that i'm glad that i've been, I do think it's worth seeing, but I just wouldn't put it at the centre of my wish list and I wouldn't spend too much time there - we were there for 3 full days which was enough.


Oia Views 
Oia Castle and the path down to Ammoudi

Views of the Caldera
Little restaurants like this everywhere
One of the best restaurants we found
Looking back up the village of Oia
Why walk when a teeny tiny donkey can carry you up 400 steps - poor donkeys :(
Donkeys coming up from a hard days work - poor donkeys :(
Oia - looking back toward the windmill where we stayed
Looking down Oia village from the Castle
Ammoudi - for 95 euro lobster pasta anyone?
Pretty much anywhere on the island for this
From the highest point - Oia is the white in the very distance
Red Beach - didn't swim here, too much of a hike to get down to it...
Boat cruise
Leaving Ammoudi Bay with Oia on the cliffs
Our boats at the Volcano
We made it to the top - Thirassia in the background
The path - like a moonscape - with Fira in the background
The view from our balcony at sunset - all these people had to scramble for a good spot
we had our own private viewing terrace (can you see the bride?? there were a lot of asians having photos in wedding get-up, not really sure what that was all about)


Friday, 12 October 2012

Greece Part II : {I left my heart on...} NAXOS!

Naxos, oh Naxos... where do I begin?

Again, this was a bit of a gamble, coz let's face it, how many of your had actually heard of Naxos?  I certainly hadn't, until I read this post, and it was because of this post that we decided on Naxos and indeed to stay at Faros.

I must say, however, that when we first arrived on Naxos we were a bit worried that we had made a mistake.  After being collected by Papa at the port and driven the 20 or so km's down to Faros, we kinda felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.  We decided to go for a bit of a walk (as we didn't have a car/quad/scooter) and didn't really find much except a teeny tiny little tin shed of a market (that was closed for siesta!), however, we did find a couple of lovely little swimming coves that we knew we would have to come back to.  This did make us realise, however, that we definitely needed a car - Naxos is a BIG island and also wandering aimlessly in the Greek heat was not much fun.

It was this first night that our mindset started to change. We went down for dinner at the Taverna and were immediately enthralled by how delicious mama's cooking was - this was obviously good old fashioned greek home cooking - we were blown away and couldn't stop looking over the menu to see what we would order the following day (and the day after that, and the day after that - yep, we ate all but 2 meals here, it was THAT good!)

We woke the following day to the offer a lift into town with papa so we could hire a car - Nikolaus (top son who runs the hotel and pool bar)  offered to have one brought in for us, but it wouldn't have been until the following day - so we of course jumped at the chance and off we trundled into town, having to force our way through a little village on the way (horn beeping and standoffs on single-lane streets) that was teaming with people and cars for some sort of celebration (which we still never really figured out what it was).

So we finally had the keys to our little yellow toy car (as most cars are in Greece - like toys, not yellow) and our trusty map (that turned out to be not so trusty - we got lost numerous times) and set off to explore the island. Now, when I say Naxos is a big island, we were gone for 7 hours that day. This is partly due to making stops along the way and also for lunch at a lovely little cove/village called Apollonas, but also because the roads are a bit scary, narrow and windy - oh, and Naxos is quite mountainous, so we also had to deal with ridiculously steep inclines and declines!

One of the last villages we went through was called FILOTI and we instantly fell in love with it - high up on the side of a mountain, lovely big trees lining the streets, people sitting out on cafe terraces - we were sold and knew we would be back for lunch before we left!  When we did, we had an amazing wood fired pizza (the wood fired oven was literally in the middle of the restaurant, and the pizza was made on dough that was left for all to observe proving next to the oven). We also ordered our obligatory daily greek salad and some more Naxos Potatoes that were also a favourite!  We also had a tendency to order way too much food, so ended up taking half the pizza home with us!  

Whilst we were eating we spotted a little shop across the street that had a sign claiming they sold Baklava and a variety of yummy sounding greek sweets. We were a tad dubious though as there was a group of big, boisterous, Greek men sitting out the front all drinking rather large beers. But we plucked up the courage to walk in, and it was like walking into a wonderland.  Dimitris (cousin of the Faros family incidentally) had a countertop full of freshly made baklava and creme pies, a freezer full of homemade icecreams, another counter full of locally made chocolates - we were in heaven and pretty much ordered one of everything!  Filoti turned out to be one of our favourite places of the whole trip! 

The other thing we absolutely loved about Filoti, was a few minutes drive out of town on a narrow, windy road with no guard rail, was Aria Spring.  Nothing fancy, just cold fresh spring water trickling out of the mountain. The spot was secluded, quiet and peaceful and had glorious views through the valley to the ocean. We spent a long time here just contemplating life - it was a very grounding experience for me. One regret I do have is not climbing up to Cave of Zeus, which is on the path that leads up from Aria Spring. We were told it was a 45 minute walk up, which we didn't think we would have time for (and it was HOT, so not very enticing at that point) - it's definitely on the list for next time!

The rest of our time on Naxos pretty much consisted of lying on different beaches (Naxos has some of the best beaches in Greece!) and eating more of mama's food - we were SO.INCREDIBLY.RELAXED. on Naxos, we honestly could have cancelled the rest of our life plans and just stayed in Naxos forever.  It was complete and utter bliss and we really didn't want to leave.

It's funny how the things you are most unsure of can turn out to be the best things that could ever have happened...

Just another day at the beach - I have a LOT of these types of photo's :)

The view from our balcony at Faros

We woke to the tinkling of the goats bells every morning - I loved it!

The view from our favourite table in the taverna

We called him Ginger Cat - our constant dining companion

Apollonas - at the very nothern tip of Naxos

Sunset drinks on the beach

What dreams are made of...

Driving along the long stretches of white, sandy beaches

Looking back at Naxos town from Gate of the Temple of Apollo

Gate of the Temple of Apollo

Our beloved Filoti

From our table in Filoti

Wood Fired Filoti pizza

The ugliest cat we saw in the whole of Greece - he'd "been around"

Aria Spring - near Filoti

Drinking from the Aria Spring - delicious

The Aria Spring in the shade of the trees - so peaceful here...

Mountain Goats - literally (see his horn through the fence also - crazy goat)

Donkey/Ass/Horse hybrid


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Greece Part 1 : MYKONOS!

Greece, glorious Greece! 

I had a feeling that I would love Greece, in my head it was already my dream destination from all of my travels.  And after having spent 2 weeks soaking up it's beauty, it now holds the firm top spot on my list.

Stepping off the ferry in Mykonos, I instantly felt that we were far, far away from the stresses of London.  The Greek Islands are like walking into a different time - where everyone is relaxed and happy and life moves at a slower pace, no MacDonalds or Starbucks to be found here folks - just blue skies and sunshine - oh, and AMAZING food!!!

We were a little hesitant to add Mykonos to our itinerary, a little worried that it would be a bit of a "crazy party" place - although we found it to be the opposite (which may have also had something to do with visiting close the end of the season).  Yes, there were mostly tourists roaming the island, but not in a mass commercialism way like on Santorini (more on that later).

Mykonos is a very easy island to get around - hire yourself a quad bike and you're set to explore the little villages and beaches dotted around the island.  My favourite was Agrari Beach, it just had a nice feel about it, had the standard sunlounger, bar and restaurant set-up (which I became VERY fond of - why don't we have this in Australia???) and a lovely little sandy swimming cove.

In saying that, I was also just as happy to lounge around the pool at our fabulous hotel (Poseidon) which had a gorgeous pool area to chill out with some groovy tunes and an Alfa or two (our favourite Greek Beer). [I highly recommend this hotel if you ever visit Mykonos, fabulous location, fabulous pool, fabulous food, and fabulous rooms (but definitely book a suite over a standard room if you can)]!

Oh, and Ben's mum also introduced us to a movie called Shirley Valentine which was filmed mostly on Mykonos, so of course we did a bit of location scouting - things have changed a bit since 1989, but this is a lovely little part of Mykonos (even if the staff at the restaurant are not the friendliest we encountered).

And the food, wow, we didn't have a bad meal - everything we ate was cooked fresh, the Greek Salads are out of this world and Ben had no trouble finding an abundance of vegetarian plates on every menu (even though he would have been happy to eat Chip Gyros for breakfast, lunch and dinner!).

I can't wait to go back!