“And then the cliffs… where has one ever seen such colours, seen rock twisted up like barley sugar, convoluted and coloured so fancifully? They remind me of the oil marbling on the endpapers of Victorian ledgers. Mauve, green, putty, grey, yellow, scarlet, cobalt… every shade of the heat from that of pure molten rock to the tones of metamorphic limestone cooling back into white ash…. Sunset and sunrise here put poets out of work.” – Lawrence Durrell
I had a great nights sleep and woke early as usual. I carried out the early morning weather check and satisfied that the sun was shining already I made everyone a cup of tea and I then went to the village to buy some fruit for breakfast.
There was a mini-market with a good selection of curiously shaped fruits. Although ugly they looked interesting and I bought plums, peaches, grapes and oranges none of which would have made it through fruit police quality control at Tesco. Having selected my breakfast purchases I encountered a problem. It is difficult to buy €5 euros worth of groceries with a €50 note so early in the morning. The till was already almost empty and after scratching around for my change it looking as though Dick Turpin had paid a visit and left his calling card!
The euro is useful because it has simplified travel to Europe but I miss the old pre-euro currencies. To have a wallet full of romantic and exciting sounding notes made you feel like a true international traveller. I liked the French franc and the Spanish peseta and the Greek drachma of course but my absolute favourite was the Italian lira simply because you just got so many. When going on holiday to Italy you were, for just a short time anyway, a real millionaire.
Then on impulse I decided to hire the car. This was another interesting challenge as the woman at the hire desk insisted on trying to deal with three people all at once including a Greek Orthodox Priest who, presumably, because it wasn’t Sunday, had a completely free day on his hands, no apparent sense of urgency and a query on a ferry ticket to Athens next January that needed sorting out immediately.
There was a loud and animated exchange and I could feel my impatience kicking in again so went for a walk to calm down while they sorted things out. When I returned the Priest’s problem had been resolved and he was shuffling off down the street in search of filling his next empty fifteen minutes or so. She hadn’t processed my transaction at all and it took a while but I eventually got the car and went back for breakfast that we ate on the balcony.
Later we drove straight to Oia and strolled through the town stopping infuriatingly frequently to look in the many shops that lined the narrow route into the town. The place was full of wealthy American tourists off of the cruise ships that were slumbering in the caldera and the shops were stocked to tempt them with expensive souvenirs. The sort of souvenirs that the minute you get home you wonder why on earth you bought them? Sally and Charlotte stopped at most of these shops along the way and I tried to remain interested but the truth is I don’t like shopping so I found myself walking almost continuously one hundred metres ahead of them.
I should have remembered my son Jonathan’s trick for getting me quickly through a museum by always claiming that there was something much more interesting in the room ahead. Once, we did a museum in York in about twenty minutes that way! We bought some bronze statues of Greek Gods and moved on.
I might not care too greatly for shops but on the other hand I do like bars and tavernas and I found a nice friendly place with a good view of the town where we had some drinks and something to eat, I had tomato fritters, a Santorini speciality, which I heartily recommended to all of my fellow diners; I hope they enjoyed them as much as I did.
It was very, very hot in Oia and the wind had dropped completely. We walked right to the end of the town and saw some headland windmills and then we walked all the way back again and the girls took the opportunity to take a second look in every single shop once more as we passed by.
We drove to Thira and in the town we walked aimlessly through the narrow meandering streets and up and down the endlessly winding flights of steps. We had some considerable time to kill because I had it in mind to see another sunset. But this was a good place to kill time. Every viewing location looked out over the wide caldera and an indigo blue sea withholding lavish secrets in the depths below.
Everywhere there were impossibly bright whitewashed buildings, giddy steps raking down to the sea and blue domed churches that you see on every other Greek postcard and calendar. Looking over Thira reminded me of the joy of opening a brand new box of watercolour paints with all the attractive pastel shades that reveal themselves when the lid is opened for the very first time.
We had dinner on a roof top terrace with a good view of the caldera, the town and the mule trains transporting tourists back and forth down a precariously dangerous hairpin track consisting of five hundred and eighty numbered steps to the harbour below. Actually it was the same place that we ate in two years ago and we all recognised the two extravagantly extrovert waiters who served us on that previous occasion and they were flattered by that. We were lucky to get front row seats, which gave the best views, and we watched another fine electric red sunset and left.
The journey back to the apartment was interesting. Once we had got the car going the drive was truly terrifying! Truly terrifying! It was a dark night and the car headlamps had all the power of a failing thirty watt bulb and there was no improvement on full beam, in fact that was worse because the headlight alignment was so out that they shone directly down only about five metres ahead of the car.
I could have worn a blindfold to make it easier! With no white lines to guide me I could hardly see a thing (actually I couldn’t see a thing) and we were flashing past dangerously adjacent stonewalls and oncoming traffic. It was like being on the black-hole roller-coaster ride at Disneyland, the only difference being that on this occasion I was supposed to be in control of the vehicle! And wasn’t!
Boy was I glad to get back home. And I think the girls were too! I settled my shattered nerves with a Mythos. It had been a good day.