We got to Santorini after a very, very early flight from Rome (I think we got up at 3.30am) and after one very fast (Rome) and one very winding (Thira) taxi journey, I felt like I was going to throw up. We got there fairly early and had the one negative AirBNB experience of the trip where our host suggested I could go and have a sleep on the (as-yet-unmade) bed - ummm, no thanks. She was generally pretty odd and made some weird decisions, like telling us it was fine for us to use the hot tub (which wasn't listed in the booking) whilst advertising the adjoining villa as a private, enclosed villa, leading to a slightly awkward encounter with our neighbours. Thankfully they were totally sound and we went out drinking with them later, and bonded over our mutual annoyance about how Kate handled everything, but really, is that up to your guests to sort out? Considering it was by far the most expensive place we stayed, it was kind of annoying.
However. The hot tub. It was great. The whole apartment was lovely and we slept amazingly well. The best thing about Santorini was that there wasn't toooo much to do. That sounds boring, I grant you, but given the full-on ultra-tourist nature of everywhere we'd been before, it came as a welcome relief.
It was also the only place where we had our own transport - a little ATV quad-bike thing that coughed and sputtered its way up Thira's steepest hills at 14km per hour (it sometimes got up to 50kmph going downhill, wooohooooo!). We did a lot of exploring around the island, usually followed by a pre-dinner dip in the hot tub then dinner in our little village, Pyrgos. It was so perfectly relaxing and the slower pace of life made me want to read Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which thanks to the internet and my Kindle, I could. (By the way, we watched the film when we got home, and the book is a million times better than the film, so it's very much worth a read even if you've already seen the film. James only watched it with me because he has a weird undying love for Nicholas Cage. It's no English Patient, put it that way).
Pyrgos has several of the classic blue-topped churches with the triangular bell towers, and we were lucky enough to see a wedding in one of them while we were there (twas the season, apparently). The sunsets were pretty spectacular.
I loved how our cave house was all made of moulded concrete, even the patio. It seemed like a really easy and economical way to build, whilst also reminding you of a warm version of Pingu's igloo.
On our second evening, after discovering massive sugary doughnuts the size of dinner plates and snorkelling (the time I got the worst sunburn of the whole trip and James lost his phone to the sea - check your pockets boys!!), we went to Oia (pronounced Ia) to see the famous sunset. It went a bit like this:
Oia is right at the tip of the island so it's meant to be the best place to watch from. In reality, it means the romantic sunset will be somewhat marred by massive crowds and people who actually clap when the sun sets. As if it didn't happen literally. every. single. day.
Behold, the tail end of a giant crowd, and more selfie sticks than you can shake a... well, you know... (have I ever mentioned how much I hate selfie sticks?)
After sunset in Oia, everywhere there is a path, there is a crowd.
It is very pretty though.
We also went on a day trip to a volcano, a thermal spring (which I didn't swim in because my sunburn was still very raw), and another island where we finally had kofte. This is James and his Norwegian friend, Tomas, swimming to where they could see mud...
...so they could smear it on themselves. You can take the boys out of Scandinavia, but you can't take the viking warlord with mud paint out of the boys.
This is the old port of Thira. You see that zigzaggy path? Donkeys go up and down it every day, and it used to be the only way down to the port. Now there is also a cable car (on the left), which I'm sure the donkeys are glad of.
Easily the best thing we did, and sadly we have no photographs of it, was scuba diving. I was pretty apprehensive about breathing under water, and especially when they put the weights on me (standard practice - should have maybe read more about it all before we went.) We went with Aegean Divers, who picked us up when our annoying ATV broke down, fed us cookies before our second dive and recommended a great Greek bakery afterwards. We took their Discover Scuba course, which was a pretty solid 9am-4pm with two dives included for 100 euros each. From prices I've seen since, I think that is extremely reasonable.
Considering all the risks involved, I would never have expected to feel so safe or so calm 12 metres underwater but the guides were completely amazing. You really felt like they were looking after you, perhaps thanks to them not taking huge groups at a time - there were points where Makis literally held my hand or reminded me to breathe, and it was such a comfort in such an unfamiliar world. But what a world.... my favourite part was when we looked up and you couldn't see the sky anymore, just lighter water, and there was a ceiling of fish above us in a shoal. James loved it when the fish swam right into his goggles and nibbled the fingers he held out for them. It really was an amazing experience. A seasoned diver recommended we go to the Red Sea in Egypt if we want to do some more diving, because it's widely acknowledged to be the best in the world... watch this space.
Then again, we might want to go back to Santorini soon... with views like this, can you blame us?