santorini greece film by charlottesville photographer amy nicole photographyOh, Santorini.

What a beautiful and unique place you are. You were everything I imagined and everything I didn’t.

We caught an early flight from Athens and had an hour RyanAir flight to the island of Santorini. We landed on a concrete strip where one plane landed at a time, maybe a couple of times a day. We entered baggage claim after a walk across the airstrip to find a small room with one turnstile. We walked into another room, which served as the entrance to the airport, and that was it. The Santorini airport was truly no bigger than your local Trader Joe’s. Ok, maybe a little bigger, but it gives you an idea!

Our driver was waiting to take us to our hotel in Fira, and we drove the windy back roads through a village that looked nothing like I imagined. There were random roadside stops, a random gas station or two and everything was more of a creamy yellow than white and blue as we imagined. He dropped us off at the top of a hill, and we truly had no idea where our hotel was. We walked down the hill to find the quaint Galatia Villas and dropped off our stuff since our room wasn’t quite ready. The owner of the hotel spoke to us in the thickest Greek accent you could imagine, showing us around a hand-drawn map of the town of Fira. Come to find, it actually was quite accurate.

We walked through the hills and narrow paths of Fira to find the main street he had pointed us toward, but still….no blue and white. It felt like island life, but not the photos you’d always seen. We stopped by a 24-hour bakery, got a traditional greek pastry and great lattes for breakfast and then began to explore.

Then we happened upon the Caldera side…and it all made sense.

We came through a narrow alley and it opened up to what looked like a steep drop, but really, it opened up to the ocean with a volcano right in the middle. To the left and right, the white homes with blue tops covered the hillside.

Since we were there in April, it wasn’t quite high season, so it was about 70 degrees and absolutely quiet. The town was still waking up, but the bright whites shown so beautifully.

On our first full day, we hiked the 9.6 km from Fira to Oia (pronounced E-ya) to watch the infamous Oia sunset, and it truly was something out of a movie. The colors are indescribable, and the calmness of the ocean as the boats sailed toward the sunset was incredibly peaceful.

On our second day, we headed to Red Beach, which you’ll see below. The beach’s sand was simply crushed little pebbles from the red rocks surrounding the inlet.

Then…the story gets good. Or stressful. Or hilarious. Or all of the above.

I’ll make a very long story short: Our original airline went on strike, so our flight out after 3 days was now cancelled. After hours of being hung up on and talking with our travel insurance, we booked new flights through a different airline. We’d go to Athens a day early, sacrificing our last day in Santorini so that we could be near the airport and still get a flight to Rome, just on a different airline. After about 5 hours of anger and tears, we had a new plan. We got up the next day, rode the donkeys along the coast (more terrifying than you’d think!) and came back to pack….where we now found that all flights in the country of Greece were cancelled due to a country-wide strike….so now we’d miss a day in Santorni and be stuck at the airport hotel for a day before heading to Rome.

Well….we made to Rome eventually and missed a day in Santorini…but our memories from Santorini will never fade. The warm sunshine will always follow us, and that donkey ride will be a story our kids will be sick of hearing one day!

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If you missed it, I blogged Part I: Athens last week, and you can see more behind the scenes photos of our trip in the online gallery!

 

Have you been keeping up with #TheCherryTrek? Missed a post? See all parts of our trip here:

Athens // Rome // Cinque Terre // Lauterbrunnen  // Paris

 

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