You know as well as I do that every art/fashion collection is inspired by a moment, a book, an era, a song, a photo or a place. Many times designers credit their childhood home or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation for that fabulous collection you are dying to wear.
If I were in their place, there isn’t a doubt where I’d take my inspiration from: Santorini, Greece.
This July, I spent my vacation there. It was a teenage dream of mine, ever since I saw the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (I know, cheesy, but don’t tell me you didn’t envy Lena Kaligaris for her grandmother’s vacation home). A couple of years ago, I did everything in my power to go, but it just didn’t work. This time around, I didn’t force anything and as it happnes, I saw my dream come true.
Where did we stay: Seaside Hotel, at Kamari Beach.
Kamari is one of two popular destinations for turists (the other one is Perissa), since it’s on the coast and you can go to the beach in minutes. Mind you – there’s no gold sand and turquoise water – Kamari isn’t called the Black Beach for nothing.
The volcanic soil has influenced the black, granulated sand with stones of all colors and shapes. The sea is dark blue, a color that somehow soothes and welcomes sailors instead of polo players.
Our hotel was charming, with an interior design faithful to the local architecture. Indoor pool, white rooms with pale blue details, airy and clean. Breakfast was served on the terrace, thought as extension of the hotel. They have an excellent cook, which is why every night the restaurant was brimming with tourists. Also, it has a second wing, on the beach for a more romantic setting.
What did we see: Oia, Imerovigli, Akrotiri, Red Beach, Therassia, Ios, Fira, Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum
As we arrived, we booked two guided trips to Nea Kameni – the active volcano of Santorini – with a stop at some thermal waters, and Ios, an island with gold sand and more commercial beaches. I could write pages upon pages describing everything we saw, but I’ll keep my mouth shut and not give away spoilers.
We visited Oia and Imerovigli towns on our own and believe me there are no words to describe that beauty. Pictures are pretty accurate but trust me you have to be there to take in the view of the Caldera, watched silently by hundreds of white houses and churches with blue doms. Oia is full of stores, taverns and tourists so I’d recommend watching the sunset in Imerovigli, its relaxed cousin, elegant and discreet.
Go around 7-7.20 pm and watch the show from beginning to end. Believe me , you’ll take picture after picture – I was shocked to see that even Greeks watched in awe the sunset, stopping from their daily chores and clapping when it finally set. God, I’d move here tomorrow!
Coming back to the volcano, we climbed to its heighest peak in the scorching heat. One piece of advice – try to be there before 12 pm – afterwards, the climb and descend become impossible. The rocks and gravel reminded me of Mordor and Frodo’s climb while the sulphurous smell clung to my nose all the way down.
Eat at Captain John’s in the port, he has fresh fish at hand , aaand climb with the help of donkeys to the old village. Here, in this deserted place, you can see some of the most surprising architecture and … most fluffy cats.
In the last days of our trip, we went to Akrotiri, archaeological sit that uncovered a burried town under volcano ash (some inevitably compare it to Atlantis) and the Red Beach. Don’t get your hopes up – neither the sand or the water is bloodish red – the name comes from the burgundy rock protecting this beach. PS – fool your eyes with sunglasses and watch this place through violet lenses. It’s going to look like in the pictures.
Alsooo, two amazing experience I have to tell you about – a visit at Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum and a scuba diving trip.
First of all, even if you’re not the type who gets excited by rocks, vintage pictures and old objects, you’ll love it here. While the main attraction of the tour is a tasting experience – 4 types of wine you’re lucky enough to enjoy – , you’ll be surprised to find out about the family’s story – how they started making the wine, sell it and make it a century old business – through moving puppets, in real size. They really make you part of the story!
Though I can’t swim (yet!), I got over my fear of going under water with the amazing instructors at Navys Diving Center in Kamari. They really understood my limits, took care of me and even made me feel a bit proud of myself in the end, when they congratulated my self-control during the dive. Try it, it’s like discovering a whole other world.
What did we eat – what didn’t we?
Cherry tomato balls (Santorini traditional food), fava, white eggplant salad, tzatziki, grilled swordfish, shrimps in garlic and tomato sauce, chicken souvlaki, grilled seabass, pyramid cake (lemon cream and chocolate), prickly pear sauce over chocolate cake, kataif and the list goes on.
What did we bring back
For us: Greek handmade green cup, face scrub with olive oil, apricot and orange, desk clock with Santorini motives and Santorini magnet in watercolors (SEE HERE IN DETAIL), ouzo, Kamaritis wine from the museum, olive oil, fava and other goodies
For our friends and family: olive oil (classic and with herbs), bio face cream, loukoumi (Greek delights), olive oil soaps and other souvenirs.