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.


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!

Greece-ing the Wheels

The theme for second anniversaries of marriage is linen, so it seemed only fitting that my husband Perry and I head to Greece—where linen shops abound—a week after our marriage turned two. We decided on a Tripmasters package to Athens and Santorini and spent four nights in each. While we were concerned about the possibility of burdensome crowds in August, we were pleased that peak season travel was significantly less crowded than we’d anticipated (and cooler, temperature-wise, too). When you gotta go, you gotta go—and we couldn’t let the fact of August scare us away. We’re starting this blog because we couldn’t find answers to many of our questions before leaving and thought others might like a comprehensive overview that includes things like where to pay for the bus from Athens to Sounion (spoiler alert: a person comes around after you’re seated on the bus to collect money). Also, I love making itineraries, so wanted to share ours with those less inclined to make their own. We hope our observations and suggestions help you with your own trip-planning.

The Luggage

Summer birthdays may be a little sad when you’re in K-5 and don’t get a classroom party, but they’re pretty great when you’re planning on a summer vacation and loved ones decide to give you vacation-themed gifts. I’d been traveling for years with an oversized backpack I got—having done too little research, asking too few questions, and prioritizing a cheaper price tag over quality and practicality—my first year in college for my first trip to Europe. This backpack’s last trip was to China and Korea, where its heft and unwieldiness left me face-planting into a hotel wall and messing up my back pretty badly. While a herniated disc makes it easy to justify a new roller bag purchase, it took my husband’s initiative and research to make it actually happen. And so, for my 37th birthday, bag of bags, the Osprey Meridian 60L Convertible Backpack entered my life.

kristi luggage

My favorite feature (aside from the rollers) is the storage pocket at the top of the pack, perfect for toiletries and easy to access for removing said toiletries for airport security screenings. There are four interior pockets, too, so it’s easy to separate clean socks from dirty socks, etc. The detachable daypack has a frame designed for breathability, helping me avoid a sweat-soaked back on our 4-hour hike from Thira (Fira) to Oia in Santorini.

Along with the Osprey Meridian, we also took a small North Face duffel and a Dakine fanny pack. Both carry-ons fit in the overhead storage of our planes—even on the small one from Louisville to Newark.

img_1279A Note on Packing

We stayed in Meltemi Village in Perissa during our time in Santorini. I probably should have looked up the hotel’s namesake before leaving. As it turns out, the legendary Meltemi winds blow from mid-May to mid-September. My first experience with them involved scrunching up the sides of an A-line cotton dress for the entirety of our walk up the hill to the Temple of Poseidon and back down. It seems my dress was attempting to become an offering to the gods, so adamant was it to take leave of my body. Thankfully, I packed some shorts, jeans, and more structured dresses and thus was able to keep my hands free for better things—like a can of Mythos or Alfa beer—for the rest of the trip.

Things it turns out we didn’t need to pack: heeled shoes and bug-spray wipes. The latter because, surprisingly, we didn’t get bitten by any bugs. The former because the marble throughout Athens is slippery and the cobblestone uneven, so flats became my go-to—plus, in Santorini, many of the beaches and even the swimming hole at Amoudi Bay require you to climb up and over some rocks, so water shoes, hiking boots, or tennis shoes work best. We saw more than one person turn around when the trail seemed unmanageable because of the wrong shoes.

Things I was glad we packed: earplugs, a hydrating sheet mask for after the lights went out on the 9 ½ hour flight, and an e-book of Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey (“Tell me about a complicated man”). Let’s talk about that long flight and my husband’s packing strategy. If you put clothes and all the new linen blankets you end up purchasing into the duffel, it can double as a pretty comfy lap-mound upon which to sleep on that long flight.

Arriving to Athens

We purchased private airport transfers through Tripmasters before we left the States ($35 each). If you prefer, you can catch the blue line on the metro from the airport for a special €10 metro pass. Our hotel off the Sygrou-Fix subway stop was about 30 minutes from the airport (via private transfer). We landed around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning and made our way quickly through the airport—we were in the car by 11:35 a.m. (We didn’t have any checked bags.) Our driver, holding a sign with our names, met us in the Arrivals Hall, so it was easy to locate him. He gave us a beer for the drive (our first Alfa!) and helped us with some basic Greek phrases on our way to the hotel. Kalimera: good morning/good day. Kalispera: good evening. Kalinichta: goodnight. Efharisto: thank you. Efharisto poli: thank you very much.

Day 1

We were determined not to nap, knowing it would be easier to get our bodies acclimated to the new time zone if we stuck it out until bedtime (albeit an early one). After checking in at Ilissos Hotel, we headed up to the 7th floor rooftop to get a lay of the land and immediately located the Acropolis, which we later gawked over with nightcaps after it had been lit up for the night.


And here, dear readers, is where we under-slept travelers made our first under-informed misstep: deciding, after learning from Google Maps that Brettos (pronounced Vrettos) ouzerie was only a little over a mile from our hotel, to walk by the Acropolis to Plaka, where Brettos, the oldest distillery in Athens, is located, which really meant walking up hill for a mile and half—no big deal if you’re working off a good night’s sleep, near epic tragedy if you aren’t. Okay, I’m being hyperbolic, but we did realize the next day that a metro ride would have eased our travel. The intersecting red, green, and blue lines can land you pretty much anywhere, and a five-day pass costs €9—well worth it. The pass even includes rides on the coastal tram.


The ouzo was like a new pack of batteries inserted into the struggling machines of us. Served over ice and tasting of licorice, we tasted the Ouzo Green (triple-distilled) and the Ouzo Black (quintuple-distilled).

brettos 2

With a nice buzz, we wound through the streets lined with souvenir shops and chose a family restaurant—Scholarchio Ouzeri Kouklis—for a late lunch consisting of the obligatory Greek salad, spanakopita (spinach pie), and tzatziki spread. Slightly too much food, but it turned in to our dinner as well, so oh well.

first lunch in greece

Walking “home,” we purchased the first of many vacuum-sealed packs of olives, stopped into a café for wine, a W.C., and free internet to map our way back to the hotel (at which point, sweet husband got an international plan from his carrier for the rest of the trip), spotted at least a dozen H&M bags, then stopped off at a convenient store we’d spotted near the hotel for some beers to enjoy on the hotel rooftop, where we met several fellow travelers, one Greek woman who’d been living in the States for decades and a family from Oklahoma. Beers from convenient stores and kiosks are under €1 (versus €3-7 in taverns, restaurants, and bars). Dear readers, we were in bed, exhausted, by 10 p.m. and slept gloriously, waking up well rested for day 2. Stay tuned for day 2’s itinerary, which includes a funicular ride and a chariot.