Suitcase and World: Hello, Kamari.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hello, Kamari.

The seaside promenade in Kamari.

Yannis.  Landlord, propety manager, porter, cleaning lady....he's a one man show!
When I planned our stay in Santorini, it was difficult to decide whether to spend it all in Oia or to spend it all in seaside town so we could enjoy the beach and explore the rest of the island.  In the end, I decided to split our four days - two in Oia and two in Kamari, which is a small seaside town located right on the shores of the Aegean.  Thanks to our having to reschedule our departure from Santorini to Kuşadası, Turkey, we now have an extra day in Santorini meaning we have three days in Kamari.

For the days that we're in Kamari, I had booked a rental car. Yesterday, I called the rental agency to confirm the drop off location and time - 9:30am at the bus station in Oia.  Based on that time, Yannis wanted to meet us at 9am to go through the check out process.

We were ready to go by the time Yannis showed up at our door.  He was not a minute late!

Bro did one last check before closing the door behind us.  We followed Yannis back up the path to the gate across from the church.  There, he dropped our luggage and told us to follow him down the steep stone steps to his apartment which also doubles as his office. As I watched all the tourists walking by, I had concerns about leaving our luggage out in the open, alongside the main thoroughfare but Yannis assured us it would okay.  No one will take our luggage.  We trusted him.  Otherwise, we would have to lug our stuff down the steep steps.  It took us no more than 10 minutes or so to check out.  True to what Yannis told us, our luggage was still there!  At the gate, I tried to slip Yannis a tip to thank him for all his assistance but he infitially refused until I told him it was for his son.  He then accepted it and we exchanged our goodbyes.

Bro and I pulled our luggage to the bus station.  Of course, we had no idea where to meet up with whomever was coming from the car rental agency.  We just stand and hope that our luggage is a clue that we're the ones looking for a car.

A man did approach us.  Julee?  Yes, I replied.  That's all it took.  We followed him to a smaller lot and there was our teeny weeny Smart Car Fortwo aka convertible waiting for us.  So darn cute!  Bro's doing the driving so I let him handle the paperwork.

The car truck doubling as an office desk.  Filling in the paperwork.

I wasn't sure that our luggage would fit.  Stupidly, I didn't even think about the luggage when I booked the car.  The website did say that the car would hold two small bags which I think are suitcases qualify as.  I asked the guy if they would fit and he said not a problem.  He showed us the best way to  fit our suitcases in to the trunk and wouldn't you know, they fit....with a wee bit of room to spare.

I was back in the navigational seat.  I fired up Ms. Google Maps and got the directions for our next hotel, Acropole Sunrise, a small guesthouse located just a short distance from downtown Kamari.

Our drive took us on the same road as the one we were on yesterday going to Fira.  Looking on the map, there aren't all that many main roads on Santorini so I have a feeling will be on this road several times in the days to come!

The roads aren't busy - the occasional car or ATV.  The latter are another popular way for tourists to explore the island.  It was easy driving for Bro though there were times when I wondered if the car had enough horse power to get up some of the steeper climbs but so far so good.

Happy to be on the road again!

Though we had a quarter tank of gas, Bro decided we should fill up so we stopped at the first gas station we came across. The car rental agency guy had told us there were plenty of stations on the island but we'd rather play it safe.  Beside, I figure the tank in this wee little car couldn't be all that big.

With a full tank, we continued on. Just a few kilometers past the gas station, we turned off the main road and started to ascend up a hill.  At the top of the steepest section was our guesthouse.  We pulled our car into the small lot.  There were a few other cars there but not enough to make me think the guesthouse was full.  We went to find the entrance to reception to get us checked in.   When we walked into the living room/dining room/kitchen/office/reception, we greeted by a very friendly man.  There was a young woman, an older woman, a young girl and a toddler. The living room area had a play crib for the baby; children's toys were here and there.  There was a high chair near the kitchen.  It looked like they lived here.  We were staying in a family owned and run guesthouse so I wasn't surprise to see what I saw.  It's nice to feel like a guest of a family!

Unloading our car.

Our room.  Simple, comfy, and very bright!

I had already been in email contact with the folks here so they were expecting us.  The man handed us our key.  Our room was just a few doors down from the main area - just on the other side of one of the entry doors.

We got settled in to our room.  The man indicated that the large patio, adjacent to the French doors, was solely for our use.  The view was magnificent.  The guesthouse is situated high up on hill overlooking Kamari.  From our patio, we could see the town below and the blue waters of the Aegean Sea and the outline of the island of Anafi beyond.

View from our patio.

We took a few minutes to settle in and then decided to head out.  I had noted a couple of sightseeing destinations near Kamari, the most famous of which were the Minoan Bronze Age ruins at Akrotiri.  Driving to Akrotiri would get us exploring the island by car.

Our Santorini "Lamborghini" :-)

With Ms. Google Maps directing, we set out for Akrotiri.  Nothing is a far distance from anything else on this small island.  And I've come to the quick conclusion that there's no way you can get lost.  There aren't all that many roads and the towns are so small that even if you are lost, a few turns will get you back on track.

Our drive took us towards the far western side of the island.  It's very hilly and arid here.  We made a couple of stops.  Bro pulled over when he saw a sign touting the location as being perfect for a sunset view.  Indeed, it was a nice view.  We had a better angle of Nea Kameni, the volcano and Fira.

Nea Kameni on the left, the white washed buildings of Fira perched high up on the hill on the right.

Arriving into Akrotiri was a bit of challenge. There were no clear signs identifying the entrance.  I had read that nearby Akrotiri is a red sand beach and we did see signs for that.  Bro kept on the road until it dead ended at the parking lot for the beach.  The place was really crowded with people.  Initially, we were going to park but there were no available slots and I wasn't too keen on waiting.  Besides, the lot was quite a walking distance from where we thought the entrance to Akrotiri was and in the blistering heat, (yes, it was a hot day in Santorini), I was not relishing a long walk.  So, I made Bro turn around.  On our way, we happened upon a parking lot.  It was relatively empty and we quickly realized why.  Because it was a paid parking lot.  No one in Greece pays for parking and I wouldn't have either but I was somehow really impatient.  I made Bro cough up the 3 Euros, against his will, and park the car.  I was in no mood to keep driving around.  Of course, later Bro pointed out all the places we could have parked for free.  Okay, I deserved it!

We eventually found the entrance to Akrotiri and spent about an hour or so touring the site.  I did a separate posting on Akrotiri so click here if you want to read about it.

After Akrotiri, we got back in the car and drove down towards the water rather than turning to go towards the parking lot for the Red Beach.

There, we found a good sized parking lot and a restaurant.  There were a few parked cars but there were no people in sight.  We walked up to the small beach.  Okay, it's a European version of a beach.....pebbles, not sand.  Disappointing as I was hoping for that fine sand beach we get in Hawaii,  Mexico or the Caribbean.  Even Bermuda has amazing sand beaches.  Bro tested out the temperature of the water.  Cold!  Hmmm....having second thoughts about swimming.

As we were gazing out at the sea, two women passed us.  They were walking towards us, coming from the direction of the red beach.  Bro stopped them and asked them where they had just come from.  They told us there was a very nice fish taverna where they had just eaten.  Very good food, very reasonably priced.  One of the women insisted on taking Bro to see the taverna.  So, he went along with her.  Apparently, she showed him everything from the menu to the fresh fish on display.  While they were gone, I chatted with the other woman. Turned out they were two sisters from France.  The one with my brother lives in Paris and regularly travels to Santorini.  On this visit, she brought her sister along.  They were here for twelve days.  From their deep tans, you could tell they love the sun! 

A cute roadside shrine.
As nice as it was to know about the food, the more useful information they passed along to us was that at the taverna, you could catch a boat to the Red Beach.  Along the way, the boat stops at the Red Beach and the Black Beach.  They had been at the White Beach.  I asked if the beaches were crowded and the answer that I got back was that they are popular; the full parking lot was another indication there would be a lot of sunbathers out!

It was mid afternoon and we were both pretty apathetic about going to a crowded beach.  Plus, I had a feeling that none of the beaches were going to be sand beaches, more of the pebbles at the beach here.  I voted we leave and if we want to, come back another day.  After all, we'll be here for two more days.

We decided to head back to Kamari and explore the village.  We made a couple more stops on the way back.  We were cruising along when all of a sudden, Bro pulled over.  I asked him why. He had seen a roadside shrine.  I had told him to do so if he saw an interesting looking one.  He's a very considerate guy - remembered my request long after I had completely forgotten about it.

I grabbed my cellphone and walked briskly up to the shrine, paying attention to the cars whizzing by me on the main road.  It was a charming little shrine - looked like a miniature Greek church.

 I took one photo and then peeked inside.  It was very clean inside.  I had the feeling that someone tends to this little shrine on a regular basis.  Inside, there was a small painting of a saint (?), two photos of a man and a candle.  

In general, Bro is not all that observant of a guy.  Exceptions are when it comes to anything that has to do with plants and gardening or anything that has to do with fruits.  Although I spotted the market on our drive towards Akrotiri, I didn't think Bro had but true to form, he had indeed seen it.  There was no doubt that he wanted to stop and check it out. Coming from the reverse direction, I had to pay attention to spot it.  The crates of fruits and veggies out front was the sign!  We parked in a lot across the street.

Inside, was a warehouse type space.  It was fruits and veggies galore!  There was such a bounty of produce and everything looked so fresh that we figured this must be the place that local restaurants come to to stock up.

Bro making his way through the market. No fruit is safe from his gaze :-)

There was so much good looking produce!  Too bad we weren't staying in an apartment and doing our own cooking as I would have enjoyed trying out some of the veggies that are local specialties. I miss those Greek tomatoes too!

The white eggplants that Santorini is known for.

Eggplants and peppers. Staples of Greek cuisine.

Another vegetable popular in Greece - round zucchinis. I think they taste the same as the long variety.

Not my idea of black sand.

Bro bought some fruit to replenish his ever quickly depleting stash.  At the checkout, we found out the market is open 7 days a week but only on Tuesdays and Saturdays, do they put the produce out for people to walk around and select what they want.  The rest of the days, the produce is kept in cold storage and you have to tell them what you want and they bring it out for you.  This is definitely more of a wholesale market that basically allows the general public in two days of the week.  We were just lucky that today is Tuesday!

From here, we went back to the guesthouse long enough to drop off Bro's fruits and for us to get our swimsuits on and grab a couple of towels.  We were heading to the beach which is a black sand beach.  By now, it was late afternoon and for us non-sunbathers, it was the perfect time of day to get in a swim.

From our hotel to downtown Kamari is less than a five minute drive.  We could have easily walked but since we have a car, why not just drive and save some time.

We found a lot to park our car in.  It was located alongside the promenade that runs alongside the sea.  Perfect spot.

I was excited to finally be able to dig my toes in to some black sand.  So, you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that black *sand* was actually black *pebbles*.  Nonetheless, we decided to check out the beach.  Thankfully, both of us had kept our shoes on.  We trudged our way towards the water.  Any hopes that the pebbles would turn to real sand were dashed - it was rocks all the way in to the water.  And the water was cold, too cold for me to swim and I wasn't the only one.  You could count the number of people in the water on one hand.

Kamari Beach.  One of the few black sand beaches on Santorini Island.

Bro was determined to feel the sea so he stripped down and headed in to the water, keeping his sports sandals on to make walking easier.

I have to give him props for actually getting more than just ankle deep though it did take him a few minutes to work up to dropping himself down into the chilly water.

While Bro was enjoying a chilly swim, I people watched.   There was a strange sight to behold just in front of me.  A very deeply tanned local man, scraggly long hair and all, was laid out a few feet in front of me.  He was reading.  If this was the US, I would have taken him for a homeless person but I don't think there are any homeless people in least I've not seen any that I would label as being such. 

Nearby where I was sitting was a jet ski rental place.  I watched a young Chinese couple going for a ride. The young girl was dressed in light pink, chiffon type dress with shoes to match.  Perfect outfit for an afternoon stroll through a shopping mall.  Not for the beach.  They put a life vest on her and she clamored aboard the jet ski, clinging to the back of the guy whom I presumed was her boyfriend.  Chiffon dress + jet ski is not a good match.  Just saying.

Bro didn't last long in the water.  It really wasn't ideal swimming conditions though he said it was *refreshing*.  Very tactful description.  When he was done, we were ready for an early dinner.  We had asked the folks at the guesthouse for a recommendation and we got two places; both were located along the main promenade.

The promenade in Kamari.

Shops and restaurants flank one side of the promenade.  Covered, al fresco dining areas, on the other side.

Both places were located on opposite ends of the promenade.  We decided to walk down one end, check out the restaurant and if did not look good, go to the other place.  The promenade is only a few blocks long in each direction so it's not long walk from one far end to the other.

One of the places that was recommended was Almira.  Of course, as we walked along, waiters were out and about trolling for business.  We had one menu after another shoved into our faces.  Luckily, a simple *No, thank you* was enough to stop most of them in their tracks.  There's always a persistent one but even they give up as long as you continue to walk on.  Almira was literally the last restaurant before the promenade comes to an end.  The tables were seaside and it looked like a very nice place - tablecloths and all.  Service was good from the start.  The chairs were cushioned and when Bro stood up to read the menu, the waiter was puzzled. Bro told him his pants were wet because he still had his swim trunks on.  He didn't want to sit and ruin the cushion.  Minutes later, the waiter came back with another chair.  This one didn't have the cushion.  He didn't want Bro to have to stand.

From the menu, we ordered a seafood saganaki to share.  I expected a very homey seafood stew to be delivered to the table but what we got was a very elegant presentation of this simple dish.  There wasn't much to eat but it was delicious. I used the bread to sop up some of the tomato based sauce.

For our main dishes, I ordered the grilled squid.

Bro got the fish of the day which was sea bream. 

The meal was very simple but the ingredients were incredibly fresh so in the end, all the bites were tasty ones.  Goes to show that when you have good quality ingredients, you don't need to do much to them to make a delicious dish!  The best part was that the portions were very reasonably sized so we easily ate up everything and didn't leave feeling overly stuffed.

Outside the restaurant.

It got pretty when the lights came on.

Everyone that we had talked to and had mentioned that we were coming to Kamari told us that we would like it very much.  Much *quieter* and with a more local feel than Oia.  Even walking through this most touristy section of the village, it had none of the maddening crowd of Oia.  Sure, there were souvenir shops and pretty much every restaurant catered to tourists, I was enjoying being here.

 It was nice strolling along the promenade - we had slowed down to a very relaxed pace, appropriate for an after dinner walk.  The stores were still open for business but there was nothing of interest to me - we passed them all by. I much preferred just walking and chatting with Bro.  Near where we had parked,  we came across a foursome of musicians/dancers busking for Euros. We took a seat to watch the performance for a few minutes. 

As we walked, darkness fell. I was on the search for dessert.  Gotta have dessert.  Gelato?  Surprisingly, there weren't all that many (3?) places selling gelato.  What kind of beach town doesn't sell gelato?  Something is horribly wrong here :-)

My hunt for gelato was interrupted by the moon.  Yes, the moon.   Even with the bright lights of the village shining behind us, we had to stop and take in the moon, which was exceptionally bright tonight.  I thought it was the supermoon but apparently, that's tomorrow night.  It was an amazing sight, so much so that both Bro and I spent several minutes each trying to take photos in the dark to capture the moment.

I found a section with colorful seats to add a pop of color to the photo.

We ended the night back in our room.  I was worried about leaving Oia.  Would Bro and I enjoy the quieter side of Santorini being in Kamari. The answer is a resounding "Yes"!  Tomorrow, there's more to explore.  Can't wait!

Goodnight from Kamari!