Colleen and I had to take a separate flight from the others because of a scheduling error. We left Thessaloniki around 6:30 pm and arrived in Athens at 8 after a half hour long flight. We waited around, chatting and catching up until the others, Steph, Sarom, Katina, Kelsey, and Steph's BF Justin (who is visiting from the US). They all arrived at 12:30. We waited for them with a sign that said: "Mah Biddies" outside the exit area for an hour and they didn't show. Colleen and I were worried but we figured that maybeeee they exited in a different area. We fell asleep on some black leather couches outside a coffee shop and had an uneasy sleep until 5 am. We woke up at 5 am dazed and confused and woozy on Benedryll to make the uncomfortable sleep easier. We found everyone else upstairs sleeping on some chairs and we woke them up and headed to our gate for another half hour flight.
We were picked up from the Santorini gate as the sun was rising over the sea, true natural beauty. Stelios from our hotel, Stelio's Place, picked us up in a big van and took us along the winding road to the other side of the island where our hotel was located. Since check-in wasn't until 11 am we lounged and slept, somewhat peacefully, in the lounge chairs by the pool. We checked in at 11, threw on bathing suits, and headed to the black sand beach which was less than a 60 second walk from our hotel. The black sand was beautiful, but extra-hot and wasn't smooth like sand, but more like small stones that hurt to walk on. We headed straight for some umbrellaed lounge chairs and ordered strawberry daiquiris and margaritas. They were damn expensive, 7 euro each, but it was made with a basket of real strawberries and it was a real treat. She brought out free vodka and strawberry juice shots for us as well. It was nice to have a little "warm-up" to our jam backed trip. After laying there for an hour we took a 3 minute walk to an ATV rental place and paid 6 euros each to rent ATVs for the entire day.
I think I was the only one who had ever ATV'd before, so everyone else was super duper excited whereas I was excited, but not nearly at their level. Sarom and I drove together and it was great to explore the island with the wind blowing through our hair. We drove to a little outcropping and took some photos and then we headed to the red sand beach.
The red sand beach was quite the hike to get to. A group of elderly Americans stopped us on our hike and said: "You shouldn't be doing this, you're wearing flip flops and skirts." But we did it. Oh yes we did. Again, the sand was more like pebbles but it was gorgeous and we hung around there for a little bit, snapping pictures and looking at pretty rocks and stones.
Once we got bored of the red sand beach, we took our ATV's over to "The lighthouse" which is on the absolute tip of the crescent moon shaped island. We hiked down the rocks and sat by the sea, pensively and passively thinking and enjoying the natural beauty. We watched the sun set over the water and we were all taken aback by it's beauty.
We headed back to our hotel after dinner and showered and crashed at 9:30 at night, we were all far too exhausted to resist sleep any longer.
The next day we woke up around 9 and headed off to an "all day tour of the island." We took a boat with about 60-70 other people and we traveled to the island's volcano and summitted it! The tour guide was an incredible man who spoke greek, dutch, english, german, italian, french, and spanish! He's an artist as well as a tour guide as well. He was born in Amsterdam and both of his parents are italian so he grew up speaking dutch and italian and he picked up all the other languages "by luck" he says. The volcano wasn't that pretty, but the view from the top was. It's cool because it's an active volcano and scientists predict that there's a 90% chance it'll erupt over the next 20 years. Yikes!
After the volcano hike, we drove to the natural hot springs and a lot of people dove in and enjoyed them. Me, Katina, and Steph stayed back on the boat because we weren't in the mood to get muddy for only a 20 minute stop & swim. So after that, we drove to a mini-island and rode donkey's to the top of the island. Finally, I got to ride a donkey! It was a bump-bump-bumpy ride and I wasn't expecting to be thrashed around so much. I felt like kind of a jerk because the donkey was obviously struggling to get up the steep, steep mountain (as were all of the other donkey's too! I'm not making a comment on my weight, just on the difficulty of climbing a mountain with a person on your back!). We all felt guilty for putting the donkey's through so much stress and strain but it was an experience. And you can't go to Greece and NOT ride a donkey, you know?
We ate lunch at the top of the mountain. We ate on the outdoor deck that overlooked the sea, and again, we were stunned by the beauty of the world. The waiter asked me what I studied in college and I said art and he told me I should paint him. How "Sisterhood of the Travling Pants" finding a Greek guy to paint (Santorini is even where the "Greece" part of the movie was filmed!) Anyways, it was a joke. Lunch was decent but horribly overpriced. That's what happens when you're the only restaurant on top of a tiny Greek island mountain that only houses around 70 people, you can charge whatever the hell you want. Tourists WILL eat your food.
Once we were done with lunch, we heaved ourselves down the mountain and it was quite the trek down. We were very grateful for those donkey's getting us up there. We took the boat to the island of Oia which just may be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever, ever seen. When you think of Greece, this is the island you picture. Blue and white houses sprinkle the cliff sides and the streets were all classy, small, clean, and pretty. Oia was the manifestation of beauty itself.
1. I went to pet a cat near the edge of the castle and was joined by a Japanese guy with a bag full of cat treats and a little feather-cat-toy. I said to him: "wow you must really love cats." He said: "No, I actually don't like them at all. I'm here as part of the team filming a documentary on cats." SAY WHAT?! In Japan, there's this one photographer that takes pictures of cats and they are apparently really successful in Japan so he's here photographing cats. They just came from Istanbul and are heading off to Italy in a week doing nothing but photographing cats. Cool but really strange.
2. A man fell off the edge of the castle and fell 80 feet. I didn't see the fall but I saw the aftermath. I saw his friends and a handful of other concerned individuals rush down the steps to his aid. I watched him get carried up the steps and I saw his blood stains on the path to the bus area. Luckily he was alright, just concussed and bloody and with a broken nose. It's a miracle he didn't die or wasn't more seriously injured. It was a real and true miracle.
After all that drama we watched the sun peacefully slip under the sea. I know these photos don't do it an ounce of justice, but here they are nonetheless.