Having lived on almost an island (well a Peninsula) all my life, I have a certain appreciation for places around the globe which are either small towns or villages near water or an actual island. With that said, I can’t resist reflecting on my trip to Santorini, Greece a while back.
Santorini is hop skip away from Athens Greece and can be accessed via air or sea. I chose air, because I figured I didn’t want to get seasick and a flight in my mind meant a shorter trip to my destination. Of course at the time, I didn’t factor in getting to the airport, waiting for the flight, dealing with weather delays and of course finding a means to get to the car rental agency on Santorini. But an adventure is always exciting, even if at times it is scary.
So, with a small luggage in tow, my travel partner and I, after enduring the longest flight on the shortest distance ever, finally got to the island in the afternoon. The airport, being very small, seemed isolated. It wasn’t a welcoming site, but the fact we were able to find a taxi driver willing to get us to the town center, in time to rent a car seemed promising.
We finally arrived at an intersection 10 minutes and perhaps even only 3 miles away from the airport and quickly ran to the car rental agency to get our vehicle before they closed. The interesting part was the car rental agent was pretty pleasant and very helpful while renting the vehicle, but when we had trouble with the car half way down the street, he wasn’t willing to exchange nor help with our troubles.
Nonetheless, we finally made our way to the hotel, which was located somewhere in the middle of the island, along a dirt road leading to a sheep farm. As we drove up the road, we realized we were miles away from the water. After checking in, I scratched my head because I didn’t realize there were scattered villages around the island, nowhere near the white washed buildings neatly tucked unto the cliff side, which I often saw in photographs. The worst was that I asked the hotel receptionist about the area and she simply shrugged, which made me think I was on the wrong island altogether.
The first night, we were completely disappointed at the experience of Santorini thus far and decided we needed to take a flight right back to Athens the following day. However, over night the winds had picked up and because of it, the flights scheduled for the following day were all cancelled. When we discovered this fact, we ended up spending the entire day moping around our hotel room because we didn’t know how to deal with a faulty rental, high wind advisory making it difficult to do most anything, grounded flights and of course the whereabouts of the white washed buildings.
After patiently waiting for day 2 to arrive, we decided to drive back to the town center, return the rental car and just wait around the airport for a flight back to Athens no matter how many hours we had to wait around. As we drove on the dirt road leading to the main road, we took a wrong turn at the T-intersection. We drove until we realized it was taking way to long to get the main town center. As soon as we decided to make a U-turn at a safe intersection, we realized a bus full of student travellers heading down yet another road. We looked at one another and decided to follow the bus just in case they were headed somewhere we didn’t know about. When the bus pulled up and let out the student or perhaps young travellers, we pulled up right behind them and parked the car. All of a sudden I looked over the cliff and saw the white washed buildings. I looked over to my friend and he looked over to me and we both knew we had to stay.
All of a sudden, everything changed. We found a tourist information office and were welcomed to the Island and given lots of information for all the things to see and do on Santorini. Nothing mattered, not the faulty car, not the winds, not the fact our hotel was in the middle of nowhere, because we finally knew where we wanted to be, FIRA.
I must say we not only stayed day 2 but actually extended our trip to another 3 days so that we could see the best of Santorini. Besides exploring FIRA and spending every evening dining in the most romantic restaurants perched along the cliff side and shopping for souvenirs along the cobblestone streets, we visited two famous archeological site, Akrotiri and Cyclades and the volcanic ash beaches which Santorini is famous for. We danced the night away at a small village bar and sat on the edge of a cliff side, along the white washed buildings and watched the sunset. I could ask for anything more.
I haven’t been back and I am sure there have been many changes to the island as well to make it more tourist friendly, but I haven’t forgotten the romance of the island and I can assure you, I will be back hopefully in the next couple of years.