Suitcase and World: Oia. Settling In.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Oia. Settling In.

Looking out at the caldera from the patio of our apartment.

Three more hours to go before we meet back up with Yannis to get back into our apartment. Seem like it's an eternity of a wait already but time is flying by as we were mentally settling in to being in Santorini.  It was still early in the morning but commercial establishments were opening up as fast as day tourists from the cruise ships, docked just off shore, were arriving.  So, from the church square and the gate where we had to come back to meet up with Yannis, we headed east/inland/away from the rock promontory we had been to earlier in the morning.

A small *snack* before heading off on our walk.  I won't tell you everything that was in the sandwich but baby squid, leftover from last night's dinner  was one of the ingredients. :-)

Before heading out, we decided to find a place to grab some breakfast.  On our walk back from the promontory, a small eatery caught my eye. Nothing fancy.  There was a small bakery counter up front and in the back, a balcony with a view of the caldera.  There were few tables and chairs.  This looked like a nice place so we decided to have our breakfast here.

It looks delicious but it's sugar bomb!  Nice crunchy bits on top.
There was no need for us to look at the menu.  We had seen something in the bakery window that caught our attention - a bit of something covered in kataifi, aka shredded phyllo pastry dough, and topped with pistachios.  I could see the honey seeping out from beneath.  We ordered one to share and two cups of tea.  Oh wow!  That thing was super sweet!  Cloyingly sweet for our tastes.  Thankfully, we had the tea to clear our palates of the sugar between bites.  When we arrived at the bakery, we were the only ones there.  In just a few short minutes, the tables around us filled up.  From the badges affixed to their shirts, they were the cruise ship tourists.  We had been invaded!  It was time for us to leave.  We got the bill.  I had my heart attack when I saw the number.  15 Euros!  15 Euros, about $20 for two cups of tea and a bit of pastry.  What??  I couldn't believe it.  I expected Oia to be pricey but not this pricey.  As we forked over the money, I was thinking how glad I am that we are staying in an apartment with its own kitchen. We'll be dining in from now on.

After that shock, we strolled along the main *street* but in the opposite direction from the promontory.

Dozens of charming white washed stone buildings clinging to the hillside.  The bright blue dome of St. George's church in the distance.

Blue and white.  The color scheme here.  Very Oia.

Even though we've only been here for barely three hours, it's obvious that Oia is a really picturesque location.  So no surprise to see lots of people having their photos taken at various locations.  What was a bit strange was that we saw several young women, dressed in bridal gowns, with veils and shoes to match, having their photos taken.  Even more surprising was that they were all Chinese.  Why Chinese?  And as well dressed as the brides were, the grooms seemed less so.  Hmmm....little strange.

We skipped over all the shops.  Neither one of us is really interested in doing any shopping. Occasionally, I might pop into a store if something catches my eye but I didn't see anything here to draw me in. Besides, if what we paid for breakfast was any indication, this would NOT be the place to buy a souvenir from Santorini.

Santorini is a small island.  From Oia, you can see over to the next town, Immerovigli.  That's those cluster of buildings atop the hill
in the middle of the photo.  The capital city of Fira is the next hillside over from Immerovigli.

Not everything with a cross on top is a church.  This building though is actually a small family chapel.

The charming cobblestone streets of Oia end well before the village itself ends.  We decided to walk beyond the cobblestone.  The first place we came across was the Church of St. George.  It was Sunday morning.  We should have checked to see if the church was open but we didn't.  I don't know why - perhaps we were too tired to think straight??

The blue domed building is St. George's church, the white building is another chapel.

The back of St. George's Church. 

The *other* side of Oia lacks some charm but it seems to be no less touristy.  I suspect though that it's far cheaper to stay here than in the heart of the tourist zone that we're in.   Perhaps quieter too.  I do have to say though  that the views of the caldera and the cliff side homes are not as spectacular from this location as from where we are staying.  You come for the view so worth it to pay more for the luxury.

The not so touristy section of town.

Along our walk, we kept an eye out for small markets where we could pick up some food supplies for our apartment.  Of course, any place that had a fruit stand was immediately on Bro's radar.  We covered a good part of Oia in our two hour walk.  Now it was time to head back to meet up with Yannis.

By the time we arrived back at the gate, Yannis was already there waiting for us. We flashed smiles at him and I think that for a moment, he was surprised we were in such a good mood.  I was prepared to cross the gate and walk down the steep steps but Yannis told us this was not entrance to our apartment.  It was then that he pointed out our place to us.  I couldn't believe that we had the cute little red house that I had been admiring all morning.  Aegeas Traditional Houses only offers three apartments and I had booked the Superior Apartment for Bro and I.  Apparently, the Superior Apartment sits aside from the other two.  We get our own private terrace, they have to share theirs.  Oh...happy, happy, joy, joy!!  All the misery from this morning immediately went away!

The steps and gate to our little apartment.  Cute, isn't it?

We followed Yannis, back towards the promontory and then down a set of steps to reach the apartment.   There were homes on either side of us but only one was occupied.  The best part was the unobstructed view of the caldera.

Relaxing on our patio.

The stone buildings of Oia.  The orange and yellow building at the top left is where the gate is where we met up with Yannis. 
Seems like it's far away but it's less than a five minute walk.

Yannis had already brought our luggage down for us.  He gave us a layout of the apartment.  Bad news as the kitchenette was less functional than I had hoped.  There was no stove per se.  Just a oven/single burner combo.  Apparently, they stopped allowing people to cook - one too many fishy meals and customers were complaining.  So, that meant no pots or pans either.  There was enough kitchen ware to boil water for a cup of tea and there was a small fridge as well.  We'll make do.

Inside was a small but open space.  There was a bedroom with bed in the back and bed in the front room.

Yannis is super friendly and we chatted with him for quite some time before he decided he needed to leave.  He did have a few words of advice for us when it comes to avoiding the tourists.  Explore the streets of Oia early in the morning.  Stay in from mid morning and then head out in the mid/late afternoon.  Spend a couple of hours and then head back starting around 6pm to avoid the crush of tourists who will be out taking sunset photos. Oia is world famous for its sunsets.  The area in and around the promontory is particularly popular.

Looking out from one of the two front windows.

Business owners pay 45% in taxes which explains the high prices in Oia.  Eating in will save some money. Now he's talking my language!  We noted all his words of advice and thanked him as he walked off.

We decided to rest a bit so we sat on the patio and took in the breathtaking view. How lucky we are to be in this most scenic of villages and to be able to enjoy it from the privacy of our own patio!

The contrast of the bright blue waters against the reddish color of the cliffs is just stunning.

The next thing on the agenda was to buy some food supplies to add to what we had lugged along with us all the way from Athens. Yeah, we may sound crazy but we don't like to waste food!

The pathway that connects our apartment to the main street is a quiet place except for when we get near to the top.

Our apartment is just down the hill, to the left.

Then, we get to a spot that seems to be very popular the photographers - no matter the time of day, there's always someone there with a camera with hand. Once I stood on their ground, I could understand exactly while.  It's here that you see these twin bell towers, with the caldera as the backdrop.

Looking in the opposite direction, you see the twin domes of Anastasis Church with Oia's iconic stone buildings beyond.

We decided to go back to a couple of the small markets that we had checked out earlier.   Bro had already made a mental note of which ones he wanted to return to.  They just so happened to be located side by side. The only thing on my list was eggs and some tuna fish.  I let him pick out everything else.

Santorini cherry tomato

I had read about the tomatoes in Santorini - they have a special variety of cherry tomatoes here.  We were determined to find some.  I was on the eye out for a cherry tomato with ridges as in the photo below but all I kept seeing were perfectly round ridges.

Unfortunately, determination doesn't matter if it's not the season.  We asked several shop owner if they had any and none did.  We ended up getting tomatoes *imported* from Crete.  Looks like a lot of produce comes from Crete.

He loves to shop for food!

Back in our apartment, it was time for a short nap.  We were both tired.  The cold I had picked up in Athens had come with me to Santorini.  Normally, I don't do afternoon naps but today, all I wanted to do was lay my head down on the cool pillow.

Indeed, I am not a napper.  I was down for less than an hour.  When I got up, Bro was on the patio reading on his iPad.  I joined him.  By afternoon, the sun is behind us so we can enjoy some shade.

As we were chatting, we heard the sound of bells tinkling.  Then, we saw them.  A group of donkeys heading down a path across the way from us.

A few minutes later, another caravan of donkeys, making their way down the same path.  I told Bro these are the famous donkeys that ferry tourists up and down the steep stone walkways and steps of Oia. 

Wish I was as sure footed as these humble creatures.

Obviously, the donkeys do this everyday so they're familiar with the route they travel.  I swear I saw a few that did not have a shepherd with them.

They know the way! 

Every few minutes, another group of donkeys passed by.  With so many of them on the exact same path, Bro figured there must be a pen area somewhere down the hill.

They were definitely a sight to watch!

We hung back at the apartment for at least another hour before heading out.  We wanted to heed Yannis's advice to wait til later in the afternoon to venture out.

It's already been a long day for us but we're finally gotten in to a much more relaxed state of mind.  There's something about gazing out to water that calms the soul.  I'm happy just sitting on my patio chair but we do have a bit of sightseeing to get in before the sun sets....or before the another mob of tourists descends on this place.

More of Oia and Ammoudi Bay next!