Sunday, May 19, 2013

Santorini and Mykonos, Greece

We finally made it to Greece! We had been trying to figure out how we wanted to tackle this vacation and after a lot of research we decided to take a cruise with Celebrity Cruises. The cruise started and ended in Rome, and headed to Santorini, Mykonos, Istanbul for two days, Kusadasi for Ephesus, Athens, and Naples (where we got off a day early). For 10 days we ate to our hearts content, relaxed on our balcony, and enjoyed our last major trip of our two year European tour.

The day after we embarked the ship we had a sea day, which also happened to be my birthday. We rented a private alcove on the top deck and spent the day reading and sunning ourselves. After a bunch of visitors and a lot of traveling it was nice to sit and do nothing as we crossed through the straights of Messina in our quiet and exclusive area of the boat.

The day started out chilly, but warmed up quickly!

Our private alcove

The next day we arrived at the islands of Santorini. Santorini consists of three islands with Thira being the largest and most inhabited island. The islands are basically what's left after an enormous volcanic explosion. They form a circular shape that is remnant of a volcanic caldera (a caldron-like volcano).

After taking a tender to the island we hopped a bus that took us to the beautiful town of Oia (pronouned eee-ah) located at the northern tip of the island, where we spent some time wandering the tight paths and alleyways. The town is known for its dwellings built into the rocks, including their iconic blue domed churches and luxurious private suites. These elegant white and blue buildings look out onto a beautiful view of the caldera and sparkling Aegean Sea.

We also spent some time in the main town of Fira. At a nearby restaurant we ordered some Greek specialties consisting of fried tomato balls (tomatokeftedes), mashed fava beans, tzatziki sauce, and pita bread. Delicious!

Fira is located on top of a cliff and there are three options to get back down to the boat: cable car, donkey ride, or walk. The cable car line was at least 45 minutes long and we felt bad using the donkeys who didn't look well taken care of. So we hoofed it and tried not to slip on the steep footpath covered in donkey poop (although one of us did end up slipping).


Donkeys trotting up the footpath

Fira from our balcony. The footpath we walked down zigzags on the left.

The next day we went to the island of Mykonos. Mykonos is known as a non-stop party island with beaches catering to young crowds looking to drink and bare all at their nude beach bars. In the summertime it is packed with party-goers, celebrities, fashionistas, and cruise chip crowds looking to either enjoy the outdoor party scene or the charming towns and water-view restaurants.

Approaching Mykonos from the ship

We started walking around the main town of Chora and noticed just how lost you can become in this town. The streets of Chora were purposefully made into a web of mazes in order to trap pirates that would come to invade the town. Once the pirates started getting lost in the twisted network of roads, the  natives would sneak up and attack them. We definitely got lost a bunch of times, and since every building was very similar looking we weren't sure if we were somewhere new or had just made a large circle. We took a side alleyway that led us up a bunch of staircases where we ended up at a large windmill. Windmills are an iconic feature of Mykonos, but have not been used since the middle of the 20th century. The views from the top were worth our trek up some long staircases and quite a few turns down below.

We knew we wanted to spend time at a beach, but wanted a more relaxing atmosphere. We took a taxi to Kalafatis Beach located on the other side of the island. The beach was empty, chaise lounges were untouched, and there was an outdoor restaurant on the water. The weather was cool and somewhat cloudy, but as long as it wasn't raining we were happy.

Eggplant appetizer
Pita Bread
Stuffed tomatoes and peppers

Going to the beautiful islands of Santorini and Mykonos was a great start to our vacation. The islands have their own qualities and individual characteristics making each one a unique vacation destination. Up next... Istanbul!

1 comment:

  1. A cruise is a wonderful vacation where you get to see places that you've never been to before, relax, have fun, and of course, eat, eat, and eat....!! It certainly sounds like everything you and Jon did on this cruise! First, I have to say, I love the idea of getting a private alcove so you can be by yourselves. Since there are so many people on a cruise, it's so nice to know that you have a special place (other than your cabin) where you can have privacy and relax. When I first saw the pics of you and Jon in the rocking chairs, I thought these chairs were actually huge and that's why you looked so small. But then I thought, can there really be huge chairs like this on the deck of a ship?!! I don't think so! But anyway, it looked really cool!! Santorini is absolutely beautiful! I love the colorful buildings and blue-domed churches overlooking the water in Oia! Just gorgeous!! Too bad there was a long line for the cable car in Fira, but it sounds like you and Jon had fun walking down on the donkey path! (maybe I should say it was very interesting!) I enjoyed seeing the beautiful pics of Mykonos! As you know, we didn't get a chance to go there since the weather was bad, so I'm really happy that you guys had a chance to go there! The white buildings, white cobblestoned walkways, and windmills are striking! They look like picture-postcards!! Absolutely beautiful!! Can't wait to read more about your cruise in another blog!!