Road Trip: Louisville, KY, to Crested Butte, CO

Day 1

I had some readings lined up in support of my new book, so the feller and I took to the road, driving our first four hours from Louisville to St. Louis, where we met some friends at Planter’s House for some circus-themed cocktails and olives.

Day 2

St. Louis has been on my list of places to go for a while now because of the World Chess Hall of Fame. We played a game on the patio before heading in to check out the museum and gift shop, where we got a regulation board, weighted pieces, and the custom tote bag for under $40—the board rolls up and slides into the bottom, so it’s easy to bike with. There’s a chess-themed diner right across the road from the museum, should you want some coffee or food.

My first reading was in Kansas City at KCAI Crossroads Gallery. We got on the road by 11 a.m. for the ~3 ½ hour drive so we’d have time to explore.

Upon arrival, we stopped in the legendary Arthur Bryant’s BBQ. Perry had a combo plate with burnt ends and pulled pork, and I got onion rings and unsweetened tea (the large comes in a souvenir cup). If you go here, expect a line—happily, the line moves quickly.

We decided to check out Boulevard Brewery next, a veritable beer compound. We opted to visit the beer hall rather than to do a tour of the brewery. I got the seasonal beer flight, Leaf Peepin, inspired by shades of brown, this being fall. Perry tried two IPAs.

The beer hall has a little photo trailer, too, so of course we got our pictures made.

We planned to meet a friend for a snack and drinks at Mission Taco at 5, so checked out Double Shift Brewing Co. across the street since we arrived a little early. Pet dogs are in for a treat at this brewery, too—there are house-made dog biscuits for sale in a 25-cent machine. We split a Tessellation Mosaic IPA, the brewery’s most popular beer—we get why it’s so popular.

Mission Taco’s menu is great. I got a Chofu taco (made with soy chorizo) and the special, a vegan taco made with Impossible Burger chunks and Daiya cheese—and a Paloma. Perry asked the server to pick two of her favorites for him, and she picked two different meat tacos, both of which he liked.

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After the reading, we drove 45 minutes to Lawrence, KS, and stayed with a friend and host of Sunday’s reading at the Taproom.

Day 3

We started the day with brunch at the Levee Café. The special was pupusas, a Salvadoran dish I first tasted at a Santa Monica farmer’s market in the early 2000s—a food memory that stays with me because the flavors were that good. The spicy cabbage slaw was particularly tasty (both times). Perry got a BELT (a BLT with egg) and a cup of tomato bisque. We loved this place and the local fresh flowers on the tables, too.

After, we drove to Massachusetts St., parked, and wandered in and out of shops, including Wonder Fair, an arts and craft store, and Anomaly, a novelty store.

Our host recommended the Bourgeois Pig, so we went there for mimosas. I got a pomegranate mimosa ($6), and Perry got a grapefruit mimosa ($6). The bar is charming and compact. Sunday papers were scattered all around for perusal.

The Antique Mall was open by the time we finished our drinks, and I found a donkey planter, which I purchased, and many other stand-out objects, which I did not purchase.

Our host recommended Free State Brewing Co., so we stopped in for a beer while I finalized my pieces for the reading that evening. This place has great upstairs seating with great views of the space and lively street.

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Massachusetts St. is a sweet place to stroll. We checked out the book selection in the Dusty Bookshelf before meeting up with my fellow readers at Merchants—a restaurant in an old bank—before the reading. This place has won best happy hour several times, and we now know why. I like a Sunday happy hour! We ordered fries ($4) and Bee Stings (Manchego cheese with honey and black salt, $6) off the snack menu, and the cocktail special, a Gin Rickey ($5). Bonus: the bathroom is in the old safe.

The reading took place in the basement of the Taproom. There’s a bar downstairs, and the red lighting and low ceilings make for good ambiance.

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We decided to get on the road after the reading to knock some time off of our drive to Buena Vista, CO. We drove for about 3 ½ hours and stayed the night at a surprisingly nice Days Inn for $50 in Hays, KS, 6 ½ hours away from Buena Vista.

Day 4

Perry wanted a full day in Buena Vista and managed to coax me out of bed at 5 a.m. Vacation Kristi is much better at early mornings than Home Kristi, so it wasn’t that hard for him.

On the drive, we saw the golden aspens—mustard yellow will now forever be known as aspen yellow in my world. If you can be in Colorado during aspen season, be in Colorado during aspen season.

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We stopped in Fairplay, CO, for a South Park photo op and to split a flight of beers at South Park Brewing. We already planned to eat in Buena Vista; otherwise, we would have eaten at the brewery. The small menu included tofu tacos and burritos alongside meat options.

We arrived in Buena (pronounced biew—as in “view”—nuh) Vista in time for lunch at the Lariat. I had a veggie burger and fries ($10), and Perry has chicken tenders and fries ($11). The Lariat is not only a restaurant and bar, but also a music venue (though there was no music this night).

It was a perfect cool day for a trip to the Cottonwood Hot Springs. We got a day pass ($20) and changed into swimsuits in the changing rooms. We packed our own towels, but there are also towels available to rent for a small charge if you forget yours (under $5).

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We moved among the three pools and got an eyeful of golden aspen from each.

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There’s complimentary water to keep you hydrated, too.

After soaking for a while, we headed to Eddyline Brewery Taproom for a Crank Yanker IPA (winner of the 2014 World Beer Championship) and a few hands of Rummy.

When we travel, we tend toward one-drink stops and small plates so we can try out several places.

We decided to try out Wesley & Rose, the restaurant and bar in the Surf Hotel, before heading to our campsite. We ordered W&R Bread (with honey & black salt butter, herb & pink salt butter, roasted garlic & smoked salt, and olive oil, $8), which came with two types of bread, and cocktails: the Quiver ($12) for Perry—the bar’s play on an Old Fashioned—and the Chateau Standard ($10) for me, a Four Roses bourbon drink. The place has a great view of the water, too (thus the name).

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We bought firewood (3 bundles for $15) and headed to set up camp at Turtle Rock Campground, a free site.

From the campsite, we could see the galactic core of the Milky Way—that made it well worth camping in 40-degree weather that dipped to 30-degree weather by morning.

In the morning we could see the Fourteeners that had been obscured by fog the day before.

Day 5

Before getting on the road to drive 30 minutes to Salida, we stopped into the Buena Vista Roastery for coffee. There’s a great breakfast special here, too: breakfast burrito and coffee for $6. I left two of my books in the little library outside the coffee shop.

We got Perry’s mountain bike chain tightened at Absolute Bikes, then headed for Crested Butte (an hour and 45 minutes away), where Perry hoped to bike the 401.

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(Spoiler alert: an early October snow the night before covered the trail, so trail conditions were not in his favor.) The drive up to the trail was stunning—mountains and lakes and a drive through Gothic, home of Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

There’s a cute shop at the top of the Monarch Pass where we picked up Fourteener playing cards and a BLT for Perry.

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Perry regularly mountain bikes in CO, and it was fun to get to see the places he’s always telling me about—both in nature and in town. I had lunch at Sherpa Café, where I had Veggie Thupka ($12), a Tibetan spicy noodle soup with vegetables, and Samosas ($6), which may have been the best samosas I’ve ever had—light, perfectly browned shell and well-seasoned, savory filling, sometimes not accomplished with potatoes.

Then we got a beer at Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pub, which has a great beer selection—I had a rotating Ginger Sour.

We drove 30-minutes back to Gunnison and set up camp at a cool site at Hartman Rocks (free, too). The Hartman Rocks Recreation Area has mountain biking trails and places to climb and hike. Our site looked especially pretty with a dusting of snow in the morning.

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Perry has an old water bottle from Double Shot Cyclery (a coffee shop and bike shop) so I wanted to see the place. We got espressos and a “Hartman Rocks is for Lovers” tee-shirt. You can get water bottles already filled with cold water here, which is how Perry came to have one.

We carted our new chess mat (er, board) to High Alpine Brewing Co. and played a game of chess while we shared a flight of beer: Curecanti Chile Beer, Green Gate IPA, Slash Turn Hazy IPA, Old Crank Barleywine, and Sol’s Espresso Stout.

We got dinner from the indoor food truck at the Dive. Perry had the special: steak tacos.

Then we headed to the campsite for a fire. A light rain turned into sleet so we got into our tent and listened as the sleet quieted to snow.

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Day 6

We ate breakfast at the Back Country Cafe, “Gunnison’s original breakfast bar.” The ski-themed restaurant has an appropriately named Powder Room—I like a good pun—and some strangely gendered morning cocktails (the “Man-mosa,” a 16 oz. mimosa that Perry and I ended up splitting).

We watched the blustery snow through the window as we at our breakfast: oatmeal and fresh fruit ($5.90) for me and a Southwest Skillet ($11.95) for Perry, then made the decision to drive back to Salida by way of the Monarch Pass—a questionable decision given the unexpected snow.

Thankfully, very, very slowly, we made our way up and down the mountain.

By the time we arrived in Salida, we felt we’d earned a drink, so went into Vino Salida for a wine tasting ($5). We opted for the run of reds and ended up buying a bottle of Cuvee Rouge; the $5 wine tasting cost was put toward the purchase.

There’s also a merlot named the Tenderfoot Stomp for which the community stomps grapes each September.

In an effort to help Perry practice chess, we took the board into Elevation Beer Co. and shared a flight while we played a game. This place has some excellent artisan stools and great beers. The Lil’ Mo porter was my favorite.

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We headed over to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for a 3-hour soak next. Like at Cottonwood Hot Springs, the day pass is $20 (and you can rent towels if you forget your own). The changing rooms are nice, and there’s even a hairdryer in the women’s changing room. Lockers are available to rent, but I just left my stuff on a changing bench because it wasn’t crowded. You can walk out of the bathhouse through a door that leads you directly into one of the big pools, but we spent most of our time in the shallow pools by the creek, where the water from the hot springs mixes with some of the cooler water from the creek, creating an endurable temperature.

There’s a restaurant, bar, lodging, and a small market on site.

After the long soak, we went to admire the Chalk Cliffs then went back into Buena Vista to check out the Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar.

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This bar is cool, and the bathroom even has etchings preserved from its jailhouse days. I loved my beer, too—Scratch, a turmeric sour.

We ended our time in BV with dinner at Los Girasoles, where, lucky for us, it was 2-for-1 margaritas. Perry loved his Steak al Chipotle ($13.75), which came with flour or corn tortillas.

We drove 40 minutes to stay the night in the Fairplay Valiton Hotel, a historic haunted hotel and saloon in Fairplay, CO.

We booked through Airbnb and got an amazing room with a king-size bed for $50 (a last-minute deal, it seems, as our room typically goes for $79, according to the website). What a deal!

The hotel also has a saloon with nice pool tables, a jukebox, and cheap drinks.

Perry woke up at 4 a.m. to noise on the second floor that we’re gonna say was the resident ghost, Julia, for whom the saloon is named.

Day 7

I wanted to see the Tara Donovan “Fieldwork” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, which opened at noon.

First, breakfast, though: we went to the Brown Burro Café by our hotel and had delicious and filling food. For me, hash browns ($3.50) smothered in vegetarian green chile sauce ($2.75); for Perry, a breakfast burrito ($9.45) smothered in regular green chile sauce ($2.25). These hash browns were maybe the best hash browns I’ve ever had. Somehow they managed to stay crisp even under all the chile sauce. I fell in love with the burro on the coffee mug, so ended up buying the cup I was drinking out of, and it’s become my go-to mug at home. Between Santorini and Fairplay, donkeys are the theme of 2018.

We drove two hours from Fairplay to Denver, and parked near the MCA. Tickets are $8 for adults, but teachers, students, and military get in for $5, so we just paid $13.

I first saw Tara Donovan’s eerily organic work at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in the early 2000s. It’s the kind of work that doesn’t leave your mind once it lodges there, so it was exciting to see her new work and one of my favorite older pieces, “Haze,” made of plastic straws, a piece that makes a wall look like its got hives, minus the redness.

We hung out with some dear friends before my reading at the Death Horse Series at Bar Max.

We ended the night with a new and old friends at Three Lions, a pub with fried artichoke on the menu and a lively soccer crowd, because Taco Tequila Whiskey was too packed. Oh, well—next time!

Day 8 was our long driving day: 1,111 miles between Denver and Louisville—we left Denver at 9:30 a.m. and got to our house in Louisville around 3 a.m. Obviously, driving in stages is preferable, but we were happy to be back home after a week on the road. What’s your favorite road trip route in the States?

A Weekend in Louisville: Fall Edition

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We moved to Louisville three days after we eloped in late July 2016. Since we both had two weeks after moving before our jobs started, the hashtag #phoneymoon was employed more than once as we familiarized ourselves with our new home.

Our short-term rental was in the Highlands, and our bungalow (that we bungalove) is in Germantown/Schnitzelburg, but biking around town helped us orient ourselves quickly, understanding how the many neighborhoods of Louisville interconnect.

LouLift now has a fare-free route from Downtown to Churchill Downs, in addition to their established fare-free route from Downtown to Nulu, making it easy to traverse a lot of ground without a car.

We love our new city and have learned a lot in the two years we’ve been here. As Airbnb Superhosts, we regularly play tour guide to our guests and wanted to share some of what we’ve learned with you, too.

Since it’s fall, we thought we’d highlight some of the outdoor gems and suggestions for a weekend in Louisville.

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Friday

11:30 a.m. Start with lunch in one of the shipping containers at Royals Hot Chicken (736 E. Market) in Nulu. Despite the meat-forward name, there is also stellar Southern Fried Tofu ($9, with one side—I recommend the pinto beans & kale with benne). Perry’s go-to is the 2-piece Jumbo Chicken Tenders (hot) with spicy potato wedges and Green Goddess dipping sauce ($7.5). I prefer the Feast BBQ sauce myself. If you’re into day-drinking, the bourbon slushies are beloved, and there’s an 8 oz. option, so you don’t have to commit to a 16 oz.

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1 p.m. Continue with the shipping container theme, and go on a distillery tour at Copper & Kings (1121 E. Washington St.).  Copper & Kings does sonic-aging, so you get to experience some of the barrels’ playlist on your tour. Though bourbon is king is Lousville, this brandy (and absinthe) distillery easily holds its own. You can get samples in the machine in the gift shop if you don’t feel like committing to a tour.

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2:30 p.m. Go play some games of ping pong at Garage Bar (700 E. Market) on its cool tables made out of repurposed car parts. You purchase balls from a quarter machine inside. The pizza at Garage Bar is delicious, too–we recommend adding fried kale or arugula to your pie.

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5 p.m. Take a free guided docent tour of the latest contemporary art exhibit at 21c (700 W. Main). Arrive a little early and go to the charmingly wallpapered bar for a cocktail or beer to accompany you on the tour.

6:30 p.m. Leave Kentucky. By that, I mean: take a stroll across the Big Four Bridge that joins Louisville and Jeffersonville, IN. The lore is that it’s a mile wide (in fact, Mile Wide Brewery celebrates this lore with its name). There are bike rentals available near the entry ramp if you’d prefer to ride. My mom and I rented a 2-seater trike on one of her visits.

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7:30 p.m. Play some giant Jenga in the beer garden at Parlour (131 W. Chestnut) and have a pizza, too.

10 p.m. Go have a cocktail in one of the secret rooms in the speakeasy-style bar Hell or High Water (112 W. Washington). You’ll need to make a reservation for this. Once you arrive at the address, look for the round light–this is the entrance (it’s unmarked otherwise). All the bartenders and servers dress in ‘20s attire; if you want to play along, rent flapper-wear or a suit at Nitty Gritty Vintage & Costumes (996 Barrett Ave).

Saturday

8 a.m. Grab a coffee and sit among the terrariums at Safai (1707 Bardstown Rd.).

9 a.m. Go to the Parklands at Floyds Fork and rent a bike for a morning ride. The paved greenway takes you over bridges and streams and through fields and tree-canopied stretches. The mile markers make it easy to track your ride, too. Have a picnic at the farm table at the silo and climb up the silo for a good view, too.

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12 p.m. Don’t eat too much at that picnic though so you’ll be hungry for brunch at Chik’n Mi (2319 Old Brownsboro Rd.). Perry loves the Cure ($15), a biscuit and gravy bowl that includes bacon, sausage, and the best breakfast potatoes in town. I toggle between the Scrambled Tofu and Cauliflower ($14) and the Spicy Garlic Vegetarian Ramen ($14). If you do the “make it spicy” option ($1), ask for the spicy paste on the side, as a little goes a very long way (and a dab too much risks ruining your meal).

2 p.m. Wander through some of the cool antique shops—we recommend Crazy Daisy (1430 Mellwood Ave.) and Joe Ley (615 E. Market). It’s possible there will also be a Flea Off Market going on.

5 p.m. Go play some cards or board games at the aforementioned Mile Wide Brewery (636 Barrett Ave.), Falls City Brewing Co. (901 E. Liberty), or the music-themed Gravely Brewery (514 Baxter); all have nice outdoor seating and a good game selection. Local favorite Mayan Café has a food truck set up at Gravely, too. If you go to Gravely, you’ll also get the chance to join in with the rest of us who have photographed the brewery’s great neon sign.

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7:30 p.m. Get an outdoor table at the colorfully-lit honky tonk bar and restaurant Silver Dollar (1761 Frankfurt Ave.). It’s in an old fire station and features a range of food, from a beer-can hen to a vegan sloppy joe to chicken livers to vegan “meatloaf.” The Hearts on Fire is our favorite cocktail—a spicy whisky drink. Bonus: you’ll get to hear some sweet music—a Dolly Parton or Patsy Cline album, perhaps.

10 p.m. Check out a show at Zanzabar (2100 S. Preston), Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Rd.), Odeon (1335 Story Ave.), or Mercury Ballroom (611 S. 4th St.). Zanzabar has great pinball machines, and Odeon has a mean shag carpet that will make you feel transported to the living room your grandparents never had.

If you’re at Mercury Ballroom, then you can also stop in for a mini-umbrella-clad drink at the Limbo (411 W. Chestnut), a nearby tiki bar.

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If you’re not quite ready to call it a night, have a nightcap and an Underberg digestif at beloved Germantown dive Nachbar (969 Charles St.). This place has the best jukebox in town, and you may even get the chance to pet a neighborhood cat who likes to wander in and hang out at the bar. You can often catch a free show here, including old-time music jam sessions with the Kentucky Round-ups.

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Sunday

10 a.m. Get brunch at Lydia House (1101 Lydia St.), a bar and restaurant in the old Germantown haunt Flabby’s, whose signage you’ll still see decorating the bar. You may see me there, eating vegan kimchi tacos ($10), alongside Perry, eating the Classic (sausage patties or bacon, two eggs, and potatoes, $10)—Perry likes to sub bacon for eggs so he can have both house-made sausage and bacon.

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12 p.m. Take advantage of the Free Owsley Sundays at the Speed Art Museum. There’s a parking garage right beside the museum. Grab a to-go coffee and dessert (perhaps a house-made pop-tart) at Wiltshire Café in the museum before getting on the road or going a little further down the road to Churchill Downs (704 Central Ave.) for a visit to the tracks and/or to the Kentucky Derby Museum. If you do the museum, tack on the behind the scenes walking tour ($15 extra)—it’s well worth it, and you’ll likely get to interact with some jockeys, horses, and trainers. The last behind the scenes walking tour starts at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.

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ATV(iews): Our Last Day in Santorini

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For our last full day in Santorini, we rented an ATV to ride around so we could easily hit any of the places we hadn’t made it to yet and places that are harder to access by bus, like the beach and cave at Mesa Pigadia.

We reserved a four-wheeler with Rent Me…Love Me before leaving the States (€30) and arranged a hotel drop-off for 10 a.m. (and a 9 p.m. return, also at the hotel). All we needed was one international driver’s license and our cash (for an in-person payment). The process for securing an international driver’s license is pretty straightforward: go into AAA with your driver’s license and $20, fill out some paperwork, and get an international license printed onsite (with a photo taken onsite or a passport photo you bring in with you). It took under 30 minutes, and the license is good for six months. There’s a steep fine for driving without an international license (a fine recently established, from what I understand, because of crowded main roads, untrained ATV drivers, and wrecks).

A note on driving the ATV: if you plan to rent one, practice before you go. You will have to be on the main road at some point, and Santorini drivers mean business. You need to be prepared to move with traffic and handle a lot of curvy roads.

Lucky for us, our small duffel fit perfectly over the handlebars, and the ATV also had a locked storage bin where the helmets were stowed.

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The four-wheeler gave us the opportunity to pull off the road anytime we felt inclined.

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Since we’d seen the caldera side of the island on our hike and on our sunset cruise, we decided to go up the coast on the non-caldera side. We went to the northern tip of Santorini, then curved back down to Amoudi Bay to see what access was like if you came in from the road rather than down the 250+ steps in Oia.

It’s quite accessible, though it does require some tight parallel parking on an incline if you drive a car (stick-shift seems to be the norm here). Parking a four-wheeler is much easier.

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Thinking we were going to the Volkan Brewery, we ended up at Volkan on the Rocks, a bright café/cliffside cinema with an excellent caldera view that we passed earlier in the week on our hike from Fira to Oia. (There are several outdoor cinemas throughout Santorini that play both new and classic films, including Mamma Mia.) You can rent cabanas for the evening here, too.

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We each had a Volkan beer (white and grey this time, respectively) and smoked mackerel tostadas—the menu has a lot of shareable small plates.

We noticed several cruise ships laying anchor in the caldera and ran into a large group on a cruise excursion at Santo Winery. Even so, there was ample seating, including a table in the shade on the rail (we lucked out again!). In the evening, it’s best to make a reservation.

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We decided to forgo the tasting in favor of a glass of wine each. I tried a sparkling white (yum), and Perry tried Mavrotragano, a dry red, which he was very happy with (our server told him it was her favorite after he ordered it).

The winery has a great onsite shop, too, which had not only bottles of wine and Santo Wines paraphernalia, but also island souvenirs priced about the same as side shops in Perissa and Fira (which is to say, less expensive than in Oia).

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We drove down to the Red Beach next and purchased some deliciously ripe figs and plums for our short walk from the parking area to the beach.

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It does require some maneuvering to get to the beach itself, so it’s important to not overburden yourself with things to carry and to wear the right shoes for managing a rocky terrain.

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We stopped into Theofanis, a family tavern, for a beer and another small plate of food. Here’s the view from our table.

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We decided on eggplant rolls for snacking and felt very good about our decision.

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Next stop was the Akrotiri Lighthouse with its magnificent view and intense sea breeze.

We passed a small farm and farm-to-table restaurant on our way. It was pretty neat to see the lighthouse up-close after having seen it from the water from afar on the sunset cruise. Even from that distance, you could see all the people crowded on it for sunset. (When we went, it was still several hours from sunset, so we didn’t encounter a crowd.)

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Back on the ATV, we spotted an intriguing dirt turn-off and decided to follow it and ended up at Mesa Pigadia, a fairly quiet beach with a nearby cave. We parked our four-wheeler beside the tavern, which offered its bathroom to beach guests for a €0.50 fee. Very nice patio here, too.

We had pretty much circled the island by the time we got back to the Black Beach of Perissa. We parked our ATV and got in the clear, cool (but not cold) water until it was nearly time to return our four-wheeler.

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After showering and packing for our early flight, we went out for a late dinner on the candlelit beach deck at Meet Me @ Coralli on Perivolos Beach (beside Perissa). They’ve really got the idea of ambiance down here. We had an exceptional final dinner, which included a complimentary onion soup and dessert. We started out with tomato balls, then moved on to grilled vegetables (for me) and tuna (for Perry). This was his favorite fish dish of the trip. I love eating beachside, and we highly recommend this place.

We strolled back to Meltemi Village, already a little sad to be leaving in the morning on our early flight back to Athens (then on to Newark). Look at how great those Osprey wheels are on an uneven surface.

If you’d like more details about any aspect of our trip, comment below or message us!

 

Day 7: Knot for Sail

Since we had a 3 p.m. hotel pick-up for a sunset cruise, we decided on a leisurely morning and early afternoon in Perissa, the non-caldera side.

Meltemi Village’s complimentary breakfast had tomatoes two ways: as slices to pair with tzatziki (or to put in a salad) and as tomato balls, a Santorini specialty. Tomato balls are delicious! Savory and surprisingly light for a fried food.

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Perissa’s beachfront is lively morning and night, and there are plenty of lounge chair rentals and space to lay your towel or drop your stuff while you’re in the water. The road that runs along the coast is a makeshift boardwalk in the evenings and nights when it gets closed off to cars.

We spent some time by our hotel pool, too. There were even complimentary floats, and, at the hotel bar, we were able to charge a couple of Mythos beers to the room—a nice convenience.

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Our hotel pick-up was right on time, and we made our way to the catamaran in an air-conditioned van. We handed over our shoes for storage (everyone’s barefoot on the boat), then boarded Happy Day for our ~4 hour excursion.

I’m glad I packed my cardigan because the sea breeze can get a bit crisp while the boat’s moving and after swimming especially.

The sunset cruise included three swimming stops, towels, snorkeling gear, noodles for floating, water, beer, wine, and dinner, cooked on the boat (lightly fried sole, shrimp, salad, breads and spreads, pasta with marinara, and chicken).

The large catamaran had two changing rooms and a bathroom. The crew also had a lot of interesting information about and insights into Santorini and its history.

Here we are, happy on board Happy Day.

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We sailed around and swam at the red beach, white beach, and volcanic hot springs. You can only reach the white beach (pictured on right) by boat.

Our wedding bands are silver, so we had to take those off at the volcanic hot springs. We were also warned that white swimsuits would get stained.

Here’s Perry, giving new meaning to “hot” springs.

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Perry swam and dove so much that the captain told him to watch Dolphin Man, a documentary about freediver Jacques Mayol.

We didn’t get tired of looking at the volcanic rock formations, and we were happy to see the Akrotiri Lighthouse, too.

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The sunset was among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

After the catamaran ride, we asked to be dropped off in Fira rather than back at our hotel, and, happily, that wasn’t a problem. We stopped into Enigma Café for a cocktail and caldera view. This was the best cocktail of the trip, and the view of the moonlit water and lit-up cliffside buildings was stunning.

Fira was very busy at night, but the energy was good in the bustling streets. We moseyed along until deciding to stop into Franco’s, another cute café with a great patio and view and chairs reminiscent of Adirondacks.

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Here, we encountered and fell hard for Volkan Beer (along with its charming descriptions). My favorite was Volkan Grey, “inspired by the thick grey September fogs that sweep Santorini. A crisp refreshing wheat lager with hints of honey and bergamot.”

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We headed back to Perissa to stop in at Tranquilo, a beach bar with hammocks and lofts with cushions we’d passed earlier in the week. Though we didn’t eat here, we did notice the signs that stated it’s vegan-friendly. Very good drink prices, too. I had an inexpensive carafe of rosé wine, and Perry had a couple of beers (under €10). Eat and drink here if you’re looking for good prices. (In general, eating and drinking is significantly cheaper in Perissa than in Oia or Fira.)

We got in bed a little later than planned, but such is island life, I suppose. Stay tuned for the final day, in which we eat the three best figs in Greece and ride an ATV around the island, on- and off-road.

Day 6: Take a Hike

We had an easy time picking up the trail for the Fira-Oia coastal hike in Santorini and started walking at 9 a.m., advised to get going before the heat of the day. There’s a lot of signage between the central bus stop and the cliffside restaurants, shops, and rentals. The hike is 9.8km (or 6 miles) and 2-5 hours. To hit the 2-hour mark, you’d really have to hustle. If you’re like us and feel compelled to stop and look out at that stunning caldera view every twenty feet, then it’ll take you longer. We walked into Oia at noon, three hours after starting in Fira.

fira hike

If you have good mobility, the walk should not be difficult for you, but there are a few steep inclines and also a stretch near Oia where the loose gravel and descent caused me to slip a little and another small stretch where the dirt and rocky terrain slowed us down some.

The first part of the hike takes you through the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli, and there are many places to stop for water, wine, and snacks (or a meal if you’re feeling really hungry).

We purchased a Lazy Ass beer (Santorini Brewing Co.) and a small bottle of a dry red with a twist-top from Santo Winery to open at an opportune time along the hike. Shops and restaurants become rarer on the last part of the hike, so make sure to restock in Imerovigli.

I also bought a few €1 bracelets with charms to protect against “evil eye” (mati) from a vendor set up along a wall.

fire hike 6

The caldera views are unreal. We took more pictures on this leg of the trip than anywhere else.

caldera 2

Happily, on the day of our hike, the water wasn’t pocked with cruise ships, though, on our last full day, three or four cruise ships were anchored.

caldera

We arrived in Oia and stopped into a bakery/pastry shop for more water and a take-away lunch for under €5: stuffed ciabatta (for me) and a ham sandwich (for Perry). Then we winded through town, paid €0.50 for a W.C., and walked down the 260 steps to Amoudi (or Ammoudi) Bay to swim.

amoudi bay 2

To get to/from the bay, donkeys are another transport option, and a lot of people arriving in the bay by water-taxi took a donkey up, holding their luggage in their laps or over the heads.

Unlike the beer, this is no lazy ass.

donkey

The donkeys are very committed to their walking path, so don’t expect them to go around you—move to the side they’re not on.

You walk through one of the fish tavern’s patios to get to the swimming area and have to make your way over some rocks—we saw a few people turn around because someone in the party had on the wrong shoes.

Perry was very excited by the salinity of the Aegean Sea—he gleefully floated for one of the first times in his life (he tends to sink). The water was cool and refreshing.

amoudi bay 5

After swimming, we went to Ammoudi Fish Tavern and ended up with an amazing seat on the side of the patio, which jutted out into the water. Good luck on our part. We ordered fava-yellow split pea dip, a Santorini specialty, along with some bread, beers, and sparkling water.

The walk back up was a bit intimidating, especially after a long day of hiking and swimming, but we made it and wandered through shops until we were ready to sit down again for some wine and raki, an anise-flavored apéritif that turns milky when you add an ice cube. For generic items, like linen towels, shop in Fira, where most items in stores are significantly less expensive than in Oia.

When you walk into a café, you typically seat yourself, so don’t lose out on a good table because you’re waiting to be seated—the next people in will walk up to (and sit down at) your dream table, now only previously available.

Our 7 p.m. dinner reservation arrived—this is the reservation I made a month in advance of our trip, reading online that it has one of the best sunset views.

Most sunset dinners are by reservation only, as these seats are in high demand. (The bartender at the pool bar at our hotel recommended Santo Winery for a sunset dinner, too.) At first, we were a little disappointed—people outside the restaurant were gathering at the stairs and rail, and we considered just having a quick drink and going to look for a less obstructed view. Lucky for us though, unprompted, a server came and told us he had a better table, moving us to a table along the rail, a table that made every part of the meal better.

We ordered a vegetable tart, pasta with seared fish, and a bottle of wine, and waited for the sun to start its show.

From the clapping and hollering as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, you would have thought the sun was a pasty removed during the sky’s striptease.

After, we caught the bus from Oia to Fira (€1.80) then got straight onto the bus from Fira to Perissa (€2.40), where we ended the night with tropical cocktails at Dorian’s Pub, a seemingly beloved establishment. By this hour in the day, I realized I should have reapplied sunscreen to my shoulders and back over the course of the day—but, happily, linen towels hold moisture well, so I was able to turn my new swim towel into a cooling shawl.

A great first full day in Santorini.

Day 5/6: Hello, Santorini

As in Athens, we’d scheduled a private airport transfer from the Santorini airport to our hotel before leaving the States. Apparently, August is the apex of peak season, but it was our only option (#teacherlife), so we braced ourselves and took the suggestion of those who had gone before us: make reservations for things before leaving. So, along with the airport transfer, at least a month before leaving, we also reserved an ATV, made a reservation for a patio seat at a restaurant in Oia for a sunset dinner, and booked a sunset cruise. The ATV was the only pain in the process. We reserved an ATV with three different companies only to have them email us to cancel the reservation due to lack of supply. Happily, fourth time’s the charm, and we reserved an ATV and arranged a hotel drop-off with Rent Me, Love Me… (More on that later.)

Still sipping on the Mythos beer (“the Corona of the island”) our driver gave us for the ride from the airport, we pulled up to Meltemi Village, lit-up so its bright white stucco glowed, and looked at each other big-eyed and pleased with where we’d landed.

Here is a daytime photo.

meltemi

Check-in was a breeze, and the person at the desk not only answered our question about taking the morning bus from Perissa to Thira (Fira), she also gave us a bus schedule and let us now exactly where to catch the bus (on the bench in front of Bob’s Bar, across from Dorian’s Pub) and exactly how much we’d need when the money-collector made his or her rounds (€2.40 each). (When speaking, “Thira” is used to refer to the ancient island, and “Fira” is used to refer to the capital.)

Our suite was pretty magical. The bed was in the loft, and the private “Jacuzzi” (a soaking tub with bubbles, but no heat) was on the patio, along with two lounge chairs, a small table with chairs, and a drying rack. The room also had AC, but some nights were cool enough to leave the windows open instead. The temperature ranged from high 80s (Fahrenheit) to low 60s in the evenings (the temperature was a bit warmer in Athens, sometimes in the 90s). Like in Athens, the room’s lights and AC only worked with room key activation; but, unlike in Athens, the refrigerator stayed on regardless. There were also two plush robes and two sets of slippers in one of the closets.

Here’s a daytime photo of our private deck.

meltemi 2

After freshening up, we took the 5-minute walk to the Black Beach and the boardwalk to find some water and sunscreen for tomorrow’s hike from Fira to Oia (pronounced E-yuh) and to eat dinner. The water is not potable in Santorini, so be sure to stock up on bottled water for your room and excursions.

Perissa’s boardwalk is lively!

perissa at night

We let our hunger guide us and ended up at a table on a beach-deck at Apollon Restaurant. Our Armenian server, who, unlike a lot of the service industry people we met, stayed in Santorini year-round, explained that the dining area was makeshift: a cabana business had dibs on the deck during the day, so the restaurant just set up tables on the deck from dinner until midnight. Luckily, we got seated at 10 p.m., so had no need to rush. We ordered a Greek salad, bread, mussels saganaki (with olive oil, white wine, cherry tomatoes, and crushed feta), salmon (with a lemon and lime marinade), sparkling water, and a bottle of wine, knowing we could cart it off with us after the meal for a walk at the water’s edge.

Perry was very pleased that we got to dress the salad ourselves with a cruet of oil and vinegar.

The server gifted us with a limoncello (for me) and ouzo (for Perry) and let us know it was “the night of shooting stars” and to keep our eyes up during our walk. Perry, the one who can see a coyote in the trees off the interstate while driving, unsurprisingly saw two shooting stars on our walk; I saw none.

We stargazed some more on the lounge chairs on our private deck, then packed for our hike, opting to take my daypack from the Osprey Meridian. After calling it a night, we climbed into the cool sheets of our bed—a true full bed, unlike the pushed-together twins in Athens.

We woke early and left before the complimentary breakfast (8-10 a.m.), wanting to catch the 7:50 a.m. bus to Perissa. We didn’t have to walk far, as the bus stop is under one minute from Meltemi Village.

We saw some horses beside the bus stop.

perissa horses

And found Florida.

florida in perissa

This was the 2nd bus of the day: the first came at 6:30 a.m. Had we missed this bus, we would have had to wait until after 9 a.m. for the next one or call a taxi (~€25). We were getting scared we somehow missed the bus (even though we showed up at the stop around 7:35 a.m.), but it turned out it was just running behind, arriving about 15 minutes late.

So, off to Fira we went, arriving in the square, picking up some espresso and pistachio and honey bars, buying a linen towel (€8) near Hotel Atlantis, and easily finding the start of the 6-mile Fira-Oia trail for our caldera hike. More on that soon!

Day 5: Bye, Bye, Athens

I’ve been anxious to get to the island part of our trip, as it was the highlight and the part for which I had most planned.

Our plane for Santorini didn’t leave until 7:40 p.m., so our airport transfer wasn’t scheduled until 5:15 p.m. We checked out and stowed our bags in the luggage locker on the lower level of the hotel (€2 per locker). All of our bags fit easily into one locker.

luggage locker

By this time in the trip, the morning routine had been set: grab an espresso (€0.80) on the walk to the Sygrou-Fix metro stop or the Fix tram stop. That 5-day metro pass (€9) was the most sensible purchase of the trip. Today, we hopped on the tram and headed toward the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic games, which it hosted in 1896. The entrance fee is €5 and includes a free audio tour for those interested.

All that marble really is quite something, and the view, if you climb to the top row of the stadium, is amazing, too.

The walk through the tunnel to the small museum and gift shop is nice and cool (temperature-wise and experience-wise).

We ended our time in Athens with lunch at Liosporos Bistro, a café in Iroon Square near the sweet and savory pie store we went to on the food tour. This area has the best street art, including a depiction of this woman-made river of nourishment.

breast milk street art

I ordered hummus at the bistro, though by this time in the trip I’d learned that hummus is not a Greek food—I guess part of me knew that, seeing that it’s most common at Middle Eastern restaurants, but it didn’t fully hit me until I realized it wasn’t on hardly any menu. Perry got a coconut curry chicken dish here that was a favorite of his. We also got a chance to appreciate this wonderful staircase leading to the W.C.

bistro stairs

A note on the W.C.: you do not dispose of tissue in the toilet here; instead, dispose of paper waste in the garbage can beside the toilet. I first encountered this system in China, but still had to retrain myself at times. Here’s a fact that’s a little more fun: Modernist writer Gertrude Stein used to call fellow Modernist William Carlos Williams (W.C. Williams) “Water Closet” Williams.

Across from Liosporos is a bar called Beer Time that specializes in beers from Greek microbreweries. We didn’t go here, but we did visit Hops Beer and Burgers by the Sygrou-Fix station earlier in the week to try some microbrews—we ended up with the Kirki Beer and the Chios House Ale, both of which were good.

After our late lunch, we made our way back to the hotel for one last rooftop drink before our pick-up. We made an Old Fashioned with the airplane bottles of bourbon and the single-serving Bittermilk Old Fashioned mixer we’d brought from home, bringing a little Kentucky toast to Athens. (We brought some extras, too, to give away as gifts if the situation presented itself. You can pack airplane bottles in your toiletry bag.)

We still miss that hard-to-beat rooftop view!

Our airport transfer arrived right on schedule, and we arrived to the airport and checked in without any trouble.

There are some areas to charge your phone or devices in the airport, but not many, so Perry ended up buying a portable charger, which he’d been wanting all week. It worked out well for us during the Santorini leg of the trip.

The airport bookstore also sales a “Vintage minis” collection that includes Swimming, an excerpt from Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, and Love, excerpts from Jeanette Winterson’s novels and memoir. Buy 2, get 1 free. These made for very portable reading throughout the week and after I got home–they’re roughly the size of an adult human hand (or at least the size of my hand).

img_0285

The flight to Santorini was swift—under 45 minutes. Perry was thrilled that we could deplane at the back of the airplane. And, so, at 8:30 p.m., we stepped foot for the first time on Santorini, which we began to affectionately refer to as “our future home.” More on that soon.