Saturday, August 4, 2007

Oia and away...

Santorini is so beautiful it's difficult for me to imagine how people can bear to live there year round. Every time I looked up I felt like I got hit in the head with a beauty stick and consequently walked around in a daze most of the time. Besides the gargantuan striped cliffs, the black volcano sulking in the caldera, and the ubiquitous white houses with blue, green, and aqua shutters, there's the ocean in seven different shades of blue-green with an occasional bit of purple thrown in just to confuse the tourists. In the evening a haze on the horizon blended the sunset colors into watercolor washes over a third of the sky.

K, who lived in California for 10 years, was a little nervous hanging out on the edge of a crater and the towns certainly do look as if they're poised to slide right into the caldera at the first sign of a tremble. I bought two photos of the volcano smoking, one from 1926, the other from 1935. Imagine waking up and looking out your front door to see this:

We met some lovely people in Oia and two of the nicest were Assia, who works at one of our favorite jewelry stores, and her son Toni, who works at our hands down favorite restaurant in Santorini. We met Assia while shopping for gifts. The store, Lithos, like most of the jewelry stores in Santorini, has lots of lava bead jewelry, but they also have other really wonderful jewelry by Greek artists - we thought it was the best jewelry store we'd seen since 21st Century, our favorite store on Hydra. Assia was charming and helpful and, when we'd finished buying way too much, we asked her where to go for a good, not so expensive, dinner. (This was on our first night in Oia, after the sunset I wrote about last time. As we walked the main pedestrian street getting oriented and looking for dinner, we were struck by how expensive and upscale the restaurants were -- not the usual tavernas we'd come to expect and love.) She recommended Thomas Grill, where her son Toni works.

Thomas Grill turned out to be a family-style restaurant that was busy, but not so busy we couldn't find a table. A friendly looking young man approached and we asked if he were Toni. No, but he called Toni out to seat us. K said, "Your mother sent us" which caused the staff and half the customers to laugh out loud and Toni to blush bright red. He recovered, seated us, and we had a truly fantastic meal followed by a very nice conversation with Toni. Turns out that he and his mother are Bulgarian and they only live on Santorini during the tourist season. We had a wonderful time and went back there for dinner the next night as well. At that point we might as well have been family. The host took us to "our table" and, after another great meal, Toni came out not just with complimentary ouzo, but also with two bright yellow Thomas Grill t-shirts for us. Pictures were taken, followed by handshakes all around. (That's Toni on the left and Thomas in the center. I'm afraid I don't know the name of the woman.)

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in at Lithos to tell Assia how much we liked the restaurant. She was helping a customer but when she looked up and saw the Thomas Grill t-shirt I was holding up she started laughing and came to give us hugs. The customer was pressed into service as a photographer and we went on our way, promising to send copies of the pictures.

Our three days on Santorini started with the worst hotel experience of the entire trip, but we ended up feeling that we had come to a magical place. Much too soon we were on our way back to Athens and then a hellish 10 hour flight on Olympic Airlines that started by being four hours late getting off the ground and deteriorated from there. A hint if you're planning on traveling anytime soon: don't watch the two hour pilot of Lost the day before you have to get on an airplane or you're likely to end up clutching your partner's arm yelling "Oh, shit!" when you hit turbulence. In my defense I'll say that it was pretty serious turbulence and the older couple next to us were busy crossing themselves repeatedly while I was expostulating.


Helen | Pepperina Press said...

Ohh... I couldn't get to Santorini because the ferries were stranded there in heavy seas, so I went to other islands. I can see I'll *have* to go back and try again one day.

It sounds like a dream.

TrueMirage said...

You must. It's got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.