Santorini: A Fantasy Fulfilled

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Glamour shot of a donkey in Ammoudi Bay.

With life in Italy behind us, William and I are coming to you live from Santorini – one of Greece’s most popular islands. Its whitewashed cliff towns and brilliant blue domes are recognizable even to those who have never set foot here. This trip has my heart especially aflutter, dear Reader, and not simply because of the photo ops. Let’s flashback to my days at Locke Middle School in Massachusetts where my love of Greek culture truly began…. (Don’t worry, it’s just for a few minutes)!

Our sixth grade social studies teacher was Greek (Mrs. Chareas anyone?) and it was in her class that I became entranced by the history, the literature, and the mythology of ancient Greece. I was particularly taken by the gods and goddesses – their petty celestial squabbles often creating earthly woes for us mere mortals.  The idea seemed so much more plausible than one omniscient – and let’s be real, emotionally inconsistent – Christian god. I was obsessed. I devoured the classics, took dozens of “Which Greek god or goddess are you?” personality quizzes (Athena, obvi), and religiously tuned in to the so-bad-its-funny Hercules series starring Kevin Sorbo.

But that’s not even the worst of it! I went so far as to research islands for my honeymoon (yes, this was still in sixth grade). Sure, the title for World’s Most Kickass Husband was still up for grabs, but Santorini would be the place for us. We’d eat baklava and enjoy Oía’s famed sunset from a sailboat. We’d do some cliff-diving, I’d wear a white bikini, and my hair would be magically long and thick and mermaid-esque. Hey, it’s my fantasy, okay?

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Back To (Present) Reality
Upon our arrival in Oía (pronounced eee-yah), Billy and I receive a warm greeting from our host Pericles. His name alone reassures me that all of my Greek dreams are about to come true. In many ways, Santorini is what I expected: the domes, the white towns, the sparkling Aegean. However, it’s also more desolate than I anticipated. Much of the terrain is harsh and dry with half-constructed buildings littering the landscape, a reminder of the country’s ongoing economic crisis.

Today, Billy and I board the bus to Imerovigli and plan to hike the seven miles back to Ammoudi Bay in Oía. The disorganized mass at the local bus station is strangely comforting. People are shoving, the scruffy drivers shout bus routes… if I close my eyes, I’m back in Italy.

Santorini is part of a small group of islands formed during the massive Minoan eruption thousands of years ago. The blow created a depression in the earth which filled with water (a.k.a: a caldera). Billy and I trudge along the rim of the caldera, cursing the heat and enjoying the vista in equal measure. We pause in the shade of an abandoned, hilltop church to munch our apples and take a few photos. Hours later, the slippery crumble of volcanic gravel gives way to Oía’s polished stone walkways. Disheveled and sweaty, we pass the usual fashion houses and high-end sunglass stores as we make our way down the 400 steps to Ammoudi Bay.

On every stairwell and in front of every dome is a beautiful young woman. Each is posing provocatively in the summer’s latest looks in hopes of snagging her next break-the-internet Instagram pic. Meanwhile, my shadow reveals a Medusa-inspired ‘do thanks to the heavy winds on our hike. Ugh. I’m sweaty, I’m hungry, and now I’m mildly concerned about being ugly. Since a selfie is out of the question, I photograph a nearby donkey instead. (It was the right choice). Finally, we reach the Bay and order lunch: I’ll have the Greek salad and some pita with tzatziki, please. Maybe a little more tzatziki. Yeah, more. If you could just bring a tub of tzatziki that’d be great. Kay thanks!

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The Sunset Of A Lifetime
One of the most highly anticipated activities of the week (ahm, my life!) is our sunset sailing adventure on a semi-private yacht. We launch from Vilchada in the South along with several other couples and one family of five. The plan is to sail through the caldera, returning to Oía just in time for its world-renown sunset. Billy and I stake out a spot in the front of the boat where we bask in the sun and chat with the Irish couple next to us.

Tunes play, crew members come by to refill our drinks, and occasionally we drop anchor to swim at Santorini’s most notable beaches. The island’s geography is unique thanks to the volcanic activity, resulting in beaches with red, white, and black sand. Dark volcanic outcroppings and looming white limestone make me wonder if we’re not sailing past Mars or the Moon.

After a quick dip in the hot springs and a delicious dinner made on board by our crew, the sun begins to set. We face the horizon as operatic swells emanate from the yacht’s sound system; it’s a nice touch and also a not-so-subtle reminder that sunset is happening NOW, people! The sky explodes into warm shades of pink and yellow, lending an ethereal hue to all it touches, even to William. Somewhere inside of me, a twelve-year-old girl lets out a contented sigh.

The last sliver of sun drops out of sight and there is a round of applause. …Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars….  Ed Sheeran plays overhead.

“I like this song, ” I muse aloud.

“It’s our wedding song!” Billy reminds me.

“Ahh, that’s right! Did you ask them to play it?”

He gives me a loving smile. And then he  admits: No. He didn’t.

“Billy! You really should have taken credit for that! What’s wrong with boys…” I say, rolling my eyes. The Irish woman next to me shakes her head and laughs.

But that’s marriage – and life – dear Reader. Moments of pure romance and perfection are few and fleeting… but it doesn’t make them any less sweet!

With Phase 1 of our European blowout complete, it’s time to pack up! We’re off to Switzerland for some fresh alpine air and much-needed exercise. Seriously guys, there are limits to how much I can let out my string bikini… Baklava, why you so tasty?!

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