The competition wall. Photo credit: The Drum

It’s May and we are boarding our free Delta (return) flight to Athens. When we reach Athens we’re going to take another flight to the Greek island of Santorini. Even as we sit in our seats and the plane takes off, we’re still not sure if we really believe we’re here.

How about it, Delta? Take me to Athens!

Last July I posted those words on Instagram along with the hashtag #pilottalksweepstake and a series of pictures spelling out the ancient Greek city.  I never win competitions, though that may be because I never really enter them. Since moving to New York I have definitely got the travel bug and with Danielle also enjoying travel, the bug has probably only grown the longer I’ve been here. Perhaps it’s that but when I first saw this competition last summer it caught my attention. I was helping a friend move apartments and gazing out the window of the U-Haul when I saw the promotion. For once, I asked myself: why not enter?

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How about it @delta ? Take me to #athens ! #pilottalksweepstakes

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Santorini: The Instagrammable Island

If you have ever seen pictures of Greek islands on Instagram or in travel guides you have probably seen Santorini. Instagram especially has really helped launch the islands huge tourist industry. White stone buildings, blue church roofs, famous sunsets- it’s very picturesque, especially the town of Oia where we were staying.

We had several activities planned for our time in Santorini, the first of which was a wine tour. The wine tour ended up being a private tour with a Californian expat, Phenix, who certainly knew her wine. Having lived on the island for about 20 years she was able to give great insight into the Santorini too. My wine palate isn’t great and Danielle prefers red wine, but despite this and wine production on the island being almost exclusively white (there is only one red grape on the island, produced in limited quantity), it was a worthwhile tour. We both enjoyed seeing the vineyards, the history and some of the white wines (although it wouldn’t last as I soon reverted to beer and Danielle to red wine at dinner!).

Ticking Off the Top Things to Do in Santorini

Researching Santorini, top of all the lists of Things to Do in Santorini was the Fira to Oia walk. Fira’s the capital and about 10km from Oia in the middle of the island.

I read in peak summer you had to start the walk very early to avoid the heat. Luckily, in May the weather is a lot milder, or at least it’s meant to be. The night before we planned to do the walk we were hit with horrendous weather. Phenix warned us that Santorini can get very strong winds and sure enough we experienced it that night. Throughout the night torrential rain and winds battered the shutters of our apartment and those around us.

The weather was still unfavorable when we woke in the morning, making a retreat to a cosy café for brunch we waited it out. With a break in the weather we caught the bus to Fira. Upon reaching the town, the weather had dried up and without consciously planning to we found ourselves on the path to Oia. With the sun starting to break through it seemed meant to be.

The walk was beautiful, taking us along the coast past little villages of white houses stacked jenga style along the cliffs. I was very happy it was May and not August. Taking it at a leisurely pace we took a break at another café. Perched on the top floor the cafe provided 360 views of the segment of the walk complete, the ocean and the rest to come. Fueled up with coffee, fresh smoothie and a beer, we continued. Now, I have to admit, towards the end of the wander, the walk did become more of a hike and there were a couple of unexpected up hills (Smiling as I write this, Danielle screams with a smirk: “the hardest walk of my life!”). In all honesty our legs were a little like jello at the end of the walk.

After the walk

Reaching the hotel, we took some respite and then chose the option of a taxi to take us down to Amoudi Bay for dinner. The bay was a recommendation by the amazing staff, Stavros and Panos, at our hotel. Incidentally, Stavros we discovered has a friend who owns a takeout shop, we know well, right by our apartment in NYC. By that evening the weather had turned again so we chose the one restaurant out of three with covered seating and heat lamps. Rewarding ourselves from the walk we had a delicious selection of seafood including octopus and the ever present on the Greek menu’s: seabream.

Wrapping Up Island Life

The following day was our last full day on the island and we had planned a boat tour. However, for the second successive day due to winds the boat was cancelled. With no plans, Stavros recommended we hire a car and explore other parts of the island beyond Oia and Fira. We had plans to hire a car in Athens to reach Nafplion, that would be the first time I had driven abroad. I as not expecting to drive in Santorini yet it turned into a brilliant way to explore more of the island.

We made several stops based on areas the hotel and car hire company had recommended. The first stop was an archeological site followed by a couple of places marked as ‘local villages’. Although that was no lie there was really nothing remarkable to see. The next destination awaited us, a place called Megalohori.

Usually when I see tour buses I go in the opposite direction very quickly but here they drew us in. If the tour buses stop here there is probably more to see, at least we hoped. We were right as and stumbled upon a beautiful little village. Although clearly a tourist destination of sorts it was far from heaving with tourists in comparison to the busy Fira and Oia. Maybe that’s different if you travel after May, but we had a wonderful time wondering around. Sitting outside for lunch we enjoyed possibly the best Tzatziki all trip and a traditional Greek pasta bake with rooster.

I much prefer spontaneity vs planning, but Santorini balanced it well as some of the plans came unstuck. Some of my favourite times on the island were wandering around and getting lost in the streets of Oia.

Getting lost would be a theme in Athens also, but next stop was Nafplion.