Monday, November 3, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Santorini

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles in September 2008, I've been apprehensive about leaving town. I was convinced that the moment I stepped away was the moment I would be called for a big audition or a job opportunity. Even taking trips home to the Bay Area (a whopping one hour away via plane) made me anxious. 

But just a few weeks ago, a virtually guilt free opportunity for me to indulge in a vacation finally presented itself. I, along with three other gal pals, took a five day four night trip to Santorini, Greece. 

I'll be honest. I was only vaguely aware of Santorini's status as one of the top summer vacation spots in the world. But I knew that the group going was a group of wonderful ladies, so it didn't matter where we were headed. And boy, was I in for a sweet treat. While we technically had five days, the first and last days were strictly reserved for travel (it took us three flights to get to and from the island) thus allowing for only three full days of Santorini fun:

Day 1:
Our charming villa in Kamari was right on the beach, and I was able to enjoy my breakfast oceanside while lounging on a comfy beach chair. I've never experienced such unobstructed views or clear sounds of the ocean before; I was astonished by how long I sat out there, just staring at the water: 

Breakfast by the ocean
The rest of the afternoon was spent roaming around the narrow shopping streets of Thera, the main town on the island. We stuck to the pedestrian paths next to the Santorini Clock Tower, which eventually led us to a vantage point that revealed a stunning view of the city:






As the afternoon slowly dipped into the early evening, we made our way to the next town over, Oia (pronounced "EE-YAH"). The town had very similar mix of retail shops as that of Thera, and most of the stores sold either kitschy souvenirs, local products, or jewelry. I was happy to stumble upon Atlantis Books, and browsed through their small but thorough selection:

Atlantis Books

But we weren't in Oia to shop. In fact, we were in Oia for one reason and one reason only: To watch the sunset. Heeding the advice from several locals (including our host family from our villa in Kamari), we sat down for dinner at a restaurant that boasted, "the most amazing view of the sunset":


A little wine with the sunset, please

Day 2:
The next day, we went on a Santorini Sea Excursion boat tour to see more of the island. Clad in all white linen outfits, we cruised around on the Mediterranean Sea in a pirate ship styled boat:







The tour stopped at four destinations: the island of Nea Kameni (a volcano), Palia Kameni (a hot spring), Thirassia (a beach town), and Oia. We ended the day at a cozy open air bar with a pitcher of fresh sangria and watched the sunset: 




Day 3:
We began our last full day in Santorini by taking a long run/walk to Ancient Thera. It was literally an uphill battle since approximately half of the way there (about a mile and a half) was a steep incline. It was tough, but the view was worth it:


Our next activity was no less extreme. I didn't believe it at first, but four-wheeling (quad bike) is a common form of transportation for Santorini tourists. There are rental businesses everywhere, and the cost is pretty decent. For 32 euros you can rent a large two person quad bike for the day. The four of us grabbed two sturdy quads and set off to explore. We made it to the Red Sand Beach, the Black Sand Beach, Akrotiri (ancient town), and eventually Thera: 

Biker babes



Black Sand Beach

Akrotiri

Up until that point we had thought that Oia was the only place on the island with clear views of the sunset. But we discovered during dinner that they were no less beautiful in Thera. There was also the added bonus that the area was deserted (probably since everyone else was in Oia):


Miscellaneous discoveries: 
The food on the island was delicious, and I have very fond memories of hearty fava beans, fresh cucumber and tomato salads, and warm nutty brown breads. But perhaps the tastiest thing I ate during the trip was a fig sorbet. As someone who is lactose intolerant, I avoid ice cream at all costs. So imagine how ecstatic I was when the one dangerous and often avoided dessert option suddenly became available to me again, and this time in the flavor of one of my favorite fruits?

Round one, in a cup

Round two, in a cone
Also notable (but not quite as exciting) was the number of stray dogs we saw on the island. Not only were they stray and well-behaved, but they were also incredibly cute:


It took a little over an hour for me to summarize the main moments from this trip, but the memories that we made together in those short five days will certainly last me a lifetime. Thank you to the three beautiful women who made the trip unforgettable, and even more gratitude to the beautiful island of Santorini for hosting my first vacation in six years.


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