Thursday, 27 October 2011

Home from Holibobs: Santorini

After Istanbul and Athens with Mr G, my mum and my aunt, we flew on to Santorini to meet up with my dad, my uncle and my cousin Jo.
Santorini was featured in my book of Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die and I spent a long while convincing the rest of the party that we should visit it. As soon as I mentioned the words “Greek island” to my parents they immediately thought of Malia, Kavos and Faliraki and all the other hideous places I visited in my teens and early twenties. Showing them the hotel prices however, convinced them that I wasn’t dragging them to a Greek alternative to Magaluf, and actually to a beautiful, cultural, and sophisticated place.
It didn’t disappoint.
Landing in Santorini was like walking in to a travel advert, that had been so heavily photoshopped it didn’t seem real. The blues were so blue. The whites were so white. The buildings looked exactly like the photographs. The sunsets were so beautiful and the food was delicious. The local wine left something to be desired, but you can’t have everything, can you?
The top of the cliff stairs

where we saw many a wedding!
a boat that lost its way

wedding musicians, as viewed form my sunlounger

the view from my bedroom balcony...
...and the view from my bed!

We stayed at the Mirabo villas in Firastefani and oh my, it’s not often you arrive at a hotel that looks EXACTLY like the pictures you’ve seen on the website.
The accommodation consists of three self-catering villas, that can be let individually or as a group, so it worked perfectly for us as an extended family group and we took all three. The catering facilities were basic, but to be honest, I don’t cook at home so I certainly never intended to cook on holiday, so this didn’t bother me. But if you intend to cook up some feasts in your apartment then they’re probably not for you.
The location was breathtaking, situated at the top of a cliff staircase with uninterrupted views of the caldera, seconds from the cafes and restaurants at the top of the cliff and maybe a 15 minute walk from the main bustly, winding, picturesque streets that the island is famous for, but far enough to maintain the peace and quiet. If I’m honest, the stairs were hard, and in the heat of the day they really took it out of me, so I can understand why some of the older holidaymakers staying at villas further down the cliff grumbled about them. If you got to the bottom, or top, and realised you’d forgotten something, you would seriously consider how much you needed it before making your way back! But in my opinion, because the stairs took you all the way to the bottom,  winding through various hotels and villas, as you trooped up the pathway the camaraderie with the other residents was fantastic, cheering others on as they walked past your terrace, or stopping for a chat to catch your breath. For me, it added to the overall atmosphere of the location, and also removed a lot of the guilt about all the baklava I consumed!

probably on the way down as i'm smiling and not sweaty!

having a rest halfway up (matched my outfit to the surroundings!)
The staff couldn’t have done more for us, and went out of their way to assist us both prior to our arrival, arranging transfers, finding the advance party somewhere to snooze while they prepared the rooms (having flown through the night and landed at 6am!), recommending restaurants and best of all, sourcing us a deal whereby we could use the pool and sunloungers at a nearby hotel and have a buffet breakfast at another.
We did have a small jacuzzi/plunge pool on our terrace which was great for a dip to cool off but for lengths, and some hardcore sunbathing we needed a bit more space. This we found at the Dana Villas at the bottom of the cliff stairway, and it was the perfect solution. We used their beds and pool so long as we bought all our drinks and food from them and then we would retreat to our terrace for bubbly and chilling whilst watching the sunset.
Oh the sunsets. They were amazing. People will tell you that the sunset in Oia is one of the best in the world. We didn’t feel the need to take the 15-minute bus or taxi ride there, and battle the tourist crowds for a spot on the wall to see it, as the one we saw from the comfort of our own villa was spectacular. So spectacular, that the best ones of the week were even met with a round of applause that echoed around the caldera.

some sunsets!
I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Our daily ritual consisted of breakfast at the Cliffside Suites or a brunch at our favourite cafĂ© Mylos (both less than a ten second walk!) we’d spend the day either exploring or chilling on our loungers/in the Jacuzzi/hot tub/pool/poolside bar before heading back to the villas for prosecco and sunset chats and cheering, and coaching fellow holidaymakers up the cliff path, and then we’d walk the winding cliff road to the main town of Fira where even more restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and hotels can be found. I’m not normally hot on walking, but this walk was beautiful and offered stunning views of the main town all lit up and twinkly as you came around the cliff. Definately worth it, so long as you were in flat, non-spli shoes (mother bear take note)! We ate together most nights, every so often taking ourselves off in our little pairs (or trio where my aunt, uncle and cousin were concerned) for more romantic nights, later meeting up at Mylos for nightcaps! Which must get a special mention for its innovative glasswear. I attempted to work my way through the cocktail list, just to see what it would be served in next. They quickly started to recognise us as regulars (seeing as we sometimes went in three times a day, I suppose they had no choice) and so the little extras we got with our drinks made the drink prices worth it. I now can’t contemplate a bellini without a little plate of frozen strawberries!

some Mylos glasswear!!
I can’t remember many of the restaurant names, but most restaurants offered the same menu, but the prices would differ depending on the views, as you can imagine, the closer to the caldera view, the higher the premium on the food. It’s not a cheap place to eat and drink, in fact far from it. But it is possible to eat for reasonable prices, so long as you choose your location well and stick to local dishes and drinks.

After a while I found myself a bit de-sensitised to the inflated prices. Drinking in London regularly I didn’t baulk at €15 for a cocktail, but it was only towards the end of the week I snapped to attention at the €8 for a fresh orange juice and €3.50 for a tea.
On holiday, money becomes a bit like Monopoly money to me. I work hard, I save up, I have a wallet full of foreign cash, and I still have the mentality I did as a child which goes like this
“how much is in my purse? Right… what can I spend it on? I can’t go home with holiday money. I must spend it?”
So I pay little attention to things like prices, until the money starts to run out towards the end, or when I’ve drawn my daily limit at the cash machine and can’t draw more for 24 hours.
It was at that stage that I thought that it was actually a very pricey destination, but on the flip side, I didn’t see a single pair of union jack shorts (sorry for the clichĂ©!) I didn’t encounter a single food outlet offering a “full English all day” and I certainly saw no bars offering free shots before midnight. So in my mind it was worth paying that extra few quid, ok the extra tenner, for everything to have a more refined holiday!
The shopping is quite clearly aimed at the daily cruise ship arrivals, stocking every high-end label you can imagine, so I didn’t go near the shops. Mainly because every time one of the females went near a window, they were hastily retrieved by one of the guys. They were like human sheepdogs, herding us away from glittering jewellery shops and in to restaurants! I think the only purchases made were by Joanna, well, by Joanna’s dad, in a cute shoe shop. But, to be honest, she did need that pair of slingbacks.
All in all I thought it was a magical destination, the villas were amazing, the locals were incredibly friendly and the local food was delicious, if not to everyone’s taste, but there was something for everyone from freshly made sushi to authentic Italian pizzas if traditional Greek tavernas aren’t for you!
As soon as I’ve saved enough money and done some cardio training, I’m going straight back!
Team photo, but Jo and I are missing our Bros!

No comments:

Post a Comment