#watsonsgogreek {santorini + more athens}

I hope you haven’t missed my three other posts recapping our dream vacation to Greece!
The Planning
Athens
Crete

Day 8:  Saturday, September 24

We had to be up bright and early on Saturday for a 6am pick-up so that we could be transferred to the Heraklion Port, which was about a two hour drive.  Once again, this was something arranged by Petros and I cannot stress how helpful having a travel agent was for moving from island to island.

The ferry that we took was so nice!  I’ve been on cruises before but I imagined the ferry would be something like what we take to go to the aquarium at the beach.  You had assigned seats, there was WiFi and I was even able to order a latte.  After a quick ferry ride over, we were finally going to arrive in Santorini.

Thank the good Lord for having a travel agent.  When we arrived in Santorini at the ferry docks it was mayhem.  Had it not been for knowing there was a driver with our name held up, I would have turned right back around.  So many people.  But after grabbing our luggage and departing the boat we quickly found our driver and our van and we were off to our hotel, Astra Suites, situated in Imerovigli.  I had a picture in my mind of what Santorini would be but it was absolutely breathtaking and I couldn’t have been more excited to be there.

Our hotel room at Astra Suites was by far the nicest room our entire stay in Greece.  It was HUGE.  We had a massive outside area, complete with our own pool (this was an upgrade that we added on to the original package), living room, bedroom and bathroom.

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Side note:  I can’t help but mention this (though it may be TMI), you can’t flush anything down the toilet in Santorini.  So yes, toilet paper goes in the trash.  Oh, and the hair dryer at this hotel was AMAZING.  I know, that seems weird but after what I worked with in Crete…life changing.

Once we got checked in and situated, it was time to start exploring.  Santorini it very walkable – it’s a strenuous walk as you go up and down the rocky pathway but you are separate from cars.  We finally stopped for lunch at a little charming cafe, Galini.    The views were spectacular.  I finally felt like I was in Greece.

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To start we ordered a round of drinks – Bellini for me and a local beer for Big Guy.  I kept lunch pretty simple with a Santorini salad and my better half ordered the Club Sandwich.

After lunch we continued exploring!  Every where I looked I was blown away by the beauty.

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 We finally headed back to the hotel and took a dip in our pool – how could we not?!?!

On our first night in Santorini we opted for something a little different for dinner.  Petros had recommended a new sushi restaurant not too far away and we couldn’t resist.  After eating like a Greek for a week, our taste buds were so excited to try Ginger.  And we were not disappointed.  The food was amazing and the cocktails were super refreshing – a nice break from all the Greek white wine I had been enjoying.

Day 9:  Sunday, September 25

At Astra Suites, you place your breakfast order before you go to bed and it’s delivered to your room each and every morning.  The food wasn’t as good as our breakfast in Crete but the views more than made up for it.  It was so relaxing to enjoy coffee and yogurt and fruit on our balcony before getting started with the day.

After breakfast, we changed into our “athleisure” wear and went for a long walk to the mountainous area of Skaros Rock.  Walking is a serious workout in Santorini!

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Before we knew it, it was time to head back to our room to get ready for our Sunset Cruise with Santorini Sailing.

Side note:  This activity was included in our package that we purchased through Hellenic Holidays. And while I thought it would be “touristy” and even “cheeky” it was a highlight of our time in Santorini.

We were picked up at 2:30pm from our hotel and taken to the marina in Oia.  We sailed past the red and white beaches, we swam in the sulphur springs and we explored private bays.  We stopped at one of the private bays and the Captain and his mate prepared us the most amazing barbecue dinner.  We were seriously blown away by the food.

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After dinner, the Captain popped some bubbles and we sailed into the Aegean to see the most stunning sunset.

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Seriously a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We returned to our hotel from the sunset sail at about 8:30pm.  We grabbed a drink from the hotel bar and called it a night.

Day 10:  Monday, September 26

Another balcony breakfast and morning walk around Santorini to start our day on the most positive of notes.

Our hotel helped us arrange to take part in a Santorini Wine Tour.  We were picked up at 10:15am from our hotel where we joined others on a tour of three wineries around the island.

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Due to the lack of water and irrigation in Santorini, the grapes are very distinctive in flavor.  The grapes grow very close to the ground and look nothing like the vineyards you see in Crete (or Sonoma, for that matter).  Our tour had about 12 individuals and we were led by a sommelier who was rather humorous.  It was amazing to hear about the process and really taste the difference in the wines.

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Post-wine tour we enjoyed some more wine and appetizers with “new friends.”  But we didn’t eat too much because we didn’t want to ruin our dinner.

We had reservations at Metaxy Mas, a favorite of our travel agent, Petros.  This was by far the most authentic meal of the trip and we felt like locals.  The restaurant was packed and so many people knew one another.  I’m telling you – eat where the locals eat, you won’t be disappointed!  We were starving by the time we ate dinner (10pm) and the food was incredible.  I am so glad we took Petros’ advice and made time for this taverna.

Day 11:  Tuesday, September 27

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Our last full day in Santorini started with the usual breakfast and a long, long walk.  There was definitely still items I wanted to check off of our to-do list but honestly, we felt guilty not enjoying our amazing balcony with a private pool.

So I’m going to be honest – we spent the rest of the day doing nothing.  We ordered lunch from the hotel, made mimosas, I finished a book and we just enjoyed being in Santorini.

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And guess what, I don’t at all feel guilty.

For our last dinner in Santorini, we had made reservation at Red Bicycle which is located in Oia.  The restaurant is super romantic and we were say outside where it was chilly from the breeze.  They provided blankets so you could get cozy and we enjoyed “an inspiring twist on traditional Mediterranean cuisine.”

redbicycle Day 12:  Wednesday, September 28

Most of our time in Greece went at a slow speed but I swear, time flew as soon as we got to Santorini.  We needed about two more full days in Santorini to do everything we wanted so I told Big Guy that is where I want to spend my 40th birthday.  (Wishful thinking.)

On our last morning in Santorini, we slept in a little bit and had planned to have a late breakfast since we would be picked up at 12:30pm to go to the airport for our flight back to Athens.

Before breakfast we walked towards Oia (it’s a 2 1/2 hour walk there – and something we’ll do when we return) and just took in our last few hours in Santorini.  It really is a dream.

Our flight to Athens was short and sweet and while I was sad to say “bye” to Santorini I was more than excited to have two more nights in Athens.  Vacation wasn’t over yet.

We arrived to the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the hotel.  It is beautiful!

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After getting settled in our room, we headed to the pool bar for a cocktail and to discuss our plans for our final time in Greece.

We ultimately decided to have dinner at the hotel (after already being in Athens at the beginning of our trip, there was nothing I “had” to do) and that was a good decision.

The restaurant at the hotel is magnificent with spectacular views.

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I can honestly say that our dinner at the GB Roof Garden is the best dinner I’ve ever eaten at a hotel.  We shared a salad and calamari and for dinner I went with the homemade pasta special that had veal and the creamiest cheese I’ve ever tasted.  It melted in my mouth.  I never order pasta when we eat out and this was truly a treat.  We ended with dessert from one of the world’s top pastry chefs before heading to the cigar lounge.

Big Guy enjoyed a cigar and I enjoyed some pink bubbles and I honestly just wanted time to stop.

Day 13:  Thursday, September 29

After a large dinner the night before, we decided to walk around Athens before grabbing breakfast at the hotel.  But I can’t lie, this day was all about relaxing before we had to head back to reality.

After breakfast we went on another walk and then we headed straight to the pool where we remained for the rest of the day.  I had to practically drag Big Guy away so that he could get ready for dinner.

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The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and the people watching was fun, too.

The surprise dinner of the trip (meaning, we didn’t have reservations until the day before) was my first Michelin-star restaurant experience at Spondi.  As most of you know, I’m obsessed with food and having the opportunity to dine at such a fine dining establishment was quite the treat.  We obviously decided to enjoy the seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings and it was everything I wanted and more.  Our meal lasted well through the night (I don’t think we left the restaurant until after midnight) but since I don’t know when my next Michelin experience will be, I savored every minute, every sip and every bite.

Unfortunately Friday came far too soon and we were on our way back to the airport for our long journey back to North Carolina.

Words cannot express how lucky I am to have gone on this two-week vacation.  It truly was a dream come true and I am so grateful to have a husband that not only works hard so we can explore the world but that also loves traveling and eating his way through new places by my side.

YAMAS!

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