Travel Tuesday: Santorini

I once spent a few weeks backpacking in the Greek Islands.

It was utterly blissful.

Or I remember it as blissful anyway.

My foggy, wistful brain likes to leave out the bits where we tried to sleep on the deck of an overnight ferry full of partiers and hounded by sub-zero sea breezes.

The part where all of the Athenian garbage men were on strike and the stench of two-story high trash piles permeated every cafe, museum and hostel in the sprawling city.

The part where I first dabbled in sunbathing and ended up with a terrible sunburn on that tender strip of skin where you leg meets your body (and your swimsuit and underwear constantly rub). AGONY. [I now subscribe to the SPF50+ Club near my ladybits. Fact.]

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But oh my, all the expletives and poncy adjectives in the world don’t do justice to the beauty of those islands.

The famously domed roofs above Santorini are even prettier than in the holiday brochures.

Look, here’s proof: I took these photos on a point-and-shoot before I even owned Photoshop. No airbrushing required here, just perfect, perfect views for 360-degrees.

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The famous seaside town of Oia on Santorini is built right into the cliff; houses are stacked on top of each other like Lego and streets are more like winding stairwells and alleyways than roads. It’s a labyrinth of whitewashed walls, blue roofs and waterfalls of vibrant flowers.

My friend Mandy and I spent a few nights in a small hotel (and by hotel I mean a little old lady who rents out the room across the alley for cash without speaking a word of English).

High on the cliff face, we had a rooftop terrace where we would drink local beer and watch the glorious sunset. Every night has a glorious sunset in Santorini. It’s in the contract.

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Our little roof was just above a small church, and one evening we watched a traditional wedding dance on the terrace below. It was romance like out of a film, with accordions and twirling and laughter.

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I make our pad sound posh.

We were rich enough to visit (and don’t I know how lucky that made me), but we were poor enough we stayed on the outskirts of the famous central area, and on the fringes of normal life. Most our neighbours were gruff folk just trying to hang up the laundry and get on with their lives.

And every afternoon like clockwork local men would parade their donkeys past our door, traipsing them home from a day of schlepping tourists down the steep winding alleys to the sea below.

The clipclop out our door signalled the end of siesta (obligatory for almost everyone in the midsummer heat) and the breeze that ushered in soft wonder of evening.

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Of course their rhythmic clomping also reminded us how bloody lucky we were to be travelling around on this sunkissed island, lazing about during midday naps. And how hard the donkeys and people here work to keep a fairytale alive for wide-eyed visitors.

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And so, a little donkey on a brightly cobbled path sits jauntily above my sofa in our small, gray, flat; reminding me of small pleasures, luxurious siestas and normal lives unimagined half a world away.

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