Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Santorini Island

The plane zipped down descending upon an endless blue sea dotted with ceremonious cruise ships approaching a series of black beaches and island life. Yes, Santorini awaited us. No agenda’s to be had, no sights to see and really nothing to do except for break out the bathing suits, the flip flops, and a few Euros to buy some beer. It seems fitting that we left the island life for our last few days of the trip. Oddly as it sounds, vacation can get tiring in an excessive way. You know, figuring out where to eat, figuring out how to get to the next amazing sight and figuring out how much money we have left. We stuck to a strict budget and have had to keep a close eye on it the last few days. Santorini would not fail us. We found greatness in humble offerings and excellent value in our time spent lying on the beach watching the waves crash and letting the scorching volcanic sand tango with our toes.

We would stay at the Santorini Palace Hotel which sounds a lot fancier than it actually it is. The best part about our room was the great balcony looking over the Caldera Sea and the paintings decorating the space as well. I had a great plan that would be legendary of sorts, but was unfortunately quelled by my better half. I was planning to heist one of the canvases, but I lacked the proper tools to do so. I thought it would be a great story to tell of this particular painting of the traditional Grecian seascape. On the other hand, the room had its negative aspects. For instance, the unforgiving bed that wound my back like a spring coil and its equally uncomfortable pillows that felt like a sack of soggy cardboard, or how I thought the sun rose in the east when it actually rose inside our room evidenced by the godly illumination inside our room at 5:30 in the morning, or the questionable capacity of our toilet. I am not accustomed to this part at all and don’t ever look forward to having to do this again. If you are not sure what I’m talking about, I mean after going “bad” bathroom you have to put the dirty toilet paper in the little waste basket next to the toilet for housekeeping to judge and for my wife to smell. This was new for me and made me thankful for efficient plumbing. All in all, these little hiccups would not hold us back from enjoying the greatness this island has to offer.

We have used planes, trains, cars, buses, bikes, boats, and our legs on this trip. We had one more mode of transportation to conquer – the scooter. We got a sweet 80cc fluorescent yellow Peugeot big enough for two and a silver and red helmet that were too big for both our heads. We head our quickly to the west side of the island in order to see one of the best sunsets in the world. We buzzed up and down the peaks and valleys and unknowingly arrived at our destination. We found a spot along a white fence standing along a rocky cliff as we made our space amongst a crowd of about 20 watching nature at its best. Embraced, we watched the burnt orange sun plummet beneath the rocks changing the sky color to glorious reds and purples. A few pictures and one more hug and we were off to dinner to a remote seaport village down some rocks weaving around tiny waves. We were greeted by the joyous Greek contingent serving fresh seafood by the kilo moving us to order our favorite catch of the day. Normally this would be a great experience for me, but I couldn’t get over the fact that we had very little gas left in the scooter, nightfall was a ½ hour ago, the temperature was dropping and that we were in the middle of nowhere. Nicole tried to make me feel better, but she couldn’t. The beer didn’t help, neither the grilled octopus, nor the whole fish that was perfectly grilled and served to me head on and bone in. It was sweet, it was extraordinarily fresh and it was full of flavor.

The gas thing was weighing in on me pretty hard as I bounced possible solutions off of Nicole. We agreed to get a taxi to bring us back, but I suspected that we had just enough gas to get to the nearest gas station and if this gamble did not pay off we would be screwed. After prying the wait staff for information about the local gas station they decided to get involved. A few giggles and hand signals later, one of the kitchen staff appears out of the back room with an empty water bottle and what looked like a siphon. Here is that hospitality thing kicking in again. They were laughing because this guy was going to siphon gas out of his buddy’s car in order to give us just enough to make it home that night. Nicole and I were so happy and so excited that this stress escaped us. We thanked God and we thanked these guys endlessly. I could finally enjoy this great restaurant, the baklava, and the ouzo. We left there with a great photo of that memorable and helpful crew.

There were many great things about Santorini - the locals, the beaches, and the food. I don’t think we had one bad meal there and helping in that feat would be our good friend Edy at Mythos Café. We visited him 4 times in our short stay there trying various items of his menu while taking pleasure in his outlook on American life, Greek life, drinking, kids and food. At Mythos we enjoyed ham and cheese crepes and omelet’s, strawberry cream and nutella banana crepes, Greek salads, pork, chicken and lamb gyros, frappes, fresh juices, spanokopita, tiropita, and plenty of gin and tonics and martini-sprites.

The beach offered some great eats as well. We had briny lamb and rice dolmades, crispy breaded and perfectly seasoned keftedes, and a rich and creamy eggplant salad dip laden with fruity olive oil while taking in the topless sun bathers, the shameless Speedo wearers and the sea swaying just a few feet away.

Even our last night, which is always so crucial for us to pick a great place, was outstanding. We went to a small taverna where the host practically begged us to come in helping us take our helmets off and park our scooter. The setting was laid back, but the food was serious. Someone’s yaiya (grandma) really taught these guys to cook because the food had some real soul. The saganaki (fried cheese) was thinly battered and deep fried arriving to us light and crispy with a molten filling. A light squeeze of lemon juice and I was reaching an orgasmic state. Nicole’s mousaka was served in a rustic clay pot filled with creamed potatoes, rich béchamel sauce, ground beef and roasted eggplant. There was just enough nutmeg to give this dish enough dynamics to make it memorable. My dish was simple, but it was something I was searching for my entire time in Greece. After eating out almost every day and night for the last month or so, we desire certain things like Mexican food and Sushi…no, seriously, a home cooked meal…something Mom or Grandma would cook and that is exactly what I got. My lovingly braised lamb, meat melting off the shoulder bone, dripping into the tomato orzo providing the perfect foil for the rich and gamey flavor of this humble cut of meat. It takes time and effort to braise properly and this chef not only infused aromatics and seasonings, but also his heart…and I was reaping all the benefits of his passion.

Well, one more day left. Nicole and I head back to Athens for a night’s stay just to pack, have one more walk in the Plaka, and have one more Greek salad and one more gyro. We will talk about our favorite moments, our trying moments and our funniest moments. We will be sad to end this life that we adapted to so easily, but at the same time we look forward to our upcoming challenges and of course visiting our very much missed family and friends. I think we’ve changed a little, not only in girth, but in our outlook.

I thank all those that read the blog and came along with us on our trip. I hope it was enjoyable for you all to read and I can’t wait to see you all. The donkey (Nicole’s nickname for me as she sympathized for me carrying around the entire luggage for the last month) is retiring until at least next year. We’ll see most of you in less than a day.

I will most likely do an exit blog so look out for that one.

See you all soon!!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's been a culinary delight and a vacation of a lifetime for all who have read your blog this past month.
Be safe, with God's speed.

Uncle George

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your blog so much i look forward to it everyday as i read it while at work. Your a great writer coo thanks for the mind vacation...

have a safe trip home .

love and kisses
jackie

Anonymous said...

I think I may go into withdrawl not being able to read about your culinary adventures on a daily basis.

It has been a pleasure! Trish-

Anonymous said...

Dude, this is Peter, I subscribe to an online magazine, called International Living, or something like that, and its basically about expatriot living, and every once in a while they solicit writers, travelers, and adventurers to act as correspondents for them....and I have already decided that I am sending in this blog to them, without your consent. You did an amazing job, I am so proud of you that you took the time to reflect on what you did, learned and experienced, instead of just doing the trip.

You are awesome, and I hope this trip was all of the inspiration that you were looking for.

CresceNet said...

Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . Um abraço.

Notebooks said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Notebook, I hope you enjoy. The address is http://notebooks-brasil.blogspot.com. A hug.