Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Last call: Greekfest 2015

It was our last day in Santorini, and Greece in general. We were determined to make the most of it. So, naturally we prepared a jam packed itinerary including beach, winery, Oia sunset, and a traditional Greek taverna dinner experience to complete Greekfest 2015.

It was hot. Not just summer hot, but scorching “I-put-my-hotpocket-in-the-microwave-too-long-and-didn’t-wait-to-eat-it” hot. 

I wondered how the teenie boppers were faring slumbering in their tents in this heat. As we walked out to club camp that last morning I had my answer. I saw no less than seven boppers sleeping outside of their tents, strewn about, in various ways. One was sleeping in a hammock, another half in/half out of their tent, and my personal favorite, the kid snoozing on a pool float adjacent to his pop up abode. He actually looked quite comfortable.

Our mission of the day was of oversized proportions and our sweating expectations were projected to match. But first we had to figure out the riddle of getting to the beach I wanted to visit. This elusive beach went by the name of Vlyxada, and I couldn’t pronounce it either. 

We inquired with our favorite camp counselor. According to him, there were only two buses that went there and we had missed the first one. The next one wasn’t for four more hours and we were on a tight schedule. Greekfest 2015 didn’t leave much room for waiting around.  It simply wouldn’t work.

Camp counselor announced an alternative involving a different bus and what he deemed as a “10-15” minute walk. But, as KJ and I knew, any estimate we’d been given thus far should easily be doubled, if not tripled. I’m not sure how fast the Greeks think we walk, or if we use jetpacks on the regular, but it always took thrice as long as they said. It was some sort of evil game; we believed them every time. And, consulting the map confirmed my suspicions.

“How much would a taxi cost?” I asked stupidly.

“But why? Why you take taxi when THERE IS A SOLUTION? I give you solution. No taxi.” Camp counselor verbally slapped.

Lazy Americans.

Well, that was that. So, we were going to employ "the solution."

Once again we scaled the three hills of hell and approached the busy bus station. After a quick game of Einey meenie miney mo we hopped inside a bus to snag some seats (small victory!).

“I’ll go make sure this is the right bus.”

I clutched my map that camp counselor had gifted me as reference.

“Is this the bus we can take to Vlyxada Beach?” I asked while second hand smoking a cigarette.

The driver looked perplexed.

“We get off here, and then we walk?” I pointed to the map, asking hopefully.

“Walk or swim!” He cracked up at his own joke. Insert 30 seconds of maniacal laughter.

“HAHAHHAHHa” I laughed nervously with a forced smile. Good one.

“But really, can we walk?”

“Or swim!”

More cackling.

“But seriously.”

“Maybe, 1 hour.”

Good talk.

I boarded the sweaty bus to deliver the bad news to KJ.

“We can walk but it will be SLIGHTLY longer than the 15 minutes…and also I think I just inhaled an entire cigarette.”

And that’s how we ended up at a completely different beach. Our morning at Perivolos wasn’t my original venture, but it was nice enough.

Greek Island beach? Check.

Next up for Greekfest 2015 was a Santorini Winery. We chose Sigalas winery because of it’s proximity to Oia, where we still wanted to explore, and catch the sunset.  We rolled up to the winery parched. Both good and bad. 

The waitress suggested what I dubbed as the “all in” tasting where KJ and I signed up to share a tasting of every single last wine they offered. Done. They brought out an impressive display, each heftly poured wine glass placed on a map of sorts, with a specific order of how to consume. Massive wine consumption with instructions. No complaints here.

“How are you supposed to do this again?” KJ asked.

“I don’t know, the 3 S’s? Swirl it, sniff it, sip it?” Sounded legit to me.

And so we begun the “all in” tasting. We sipped wine with the sweet, sweet sounds of donkeys braying in the background.

“I’m so afraid to knock these over, it’s like fucking dominoes.” I declared. The hefty tasting was going straight to my head. I chewed some chunks of bread.

We plowed through the rest of the wines, which got progressively darker as we neared the end of our wine map. Ironic.

Santorini winery? Check. Nice and tipsy? Double check.

Up next, Greekfest called for getting lost in the streets of Oia and catching the sunset.

We had seen the sunset from Fira, but an Oia sunset was a quintessential Santorini experience that needed to be had. NEEDED.

But first, the meandering streets bit. We scooched out of the way for donkeys’ countless times and I couldn’t have been happier. I'd scooch for a donkey any day.

I also knew I wanted to find the Atlantis bookstore, one of the coolest bookstores alive. And did we ever find it. We actually stumbled across it by accident and I was exploding with excitement.

“You may never get me to leave.” I warned KJ.

We climbed down the steep stairs to the tiny bookshop and entered another world.  There was so much to look at, quotes to read, books to touch.  

The ceiling swirled with the signed names of all the bookshop employees over the years. I struck up a conversation with the bookstore’s current keeper. He was British and had worked at the shop a few different times, meaning he actually slept there during the month he was working in Santorini. He literally lived and breathed books.  How does one get a gig like that? I marveled at the thought. Sign me up.

I inquired to my new British idol about suggestions for #10 on my list. ‘Read a classic novel and visit where it takes place.' Who better to ask? He passionately described a book that sounded intense, and wrote it down.  I’d definitely be keeping that idea in my pocket. Literally.

Getting lost in Oia? Check.

As we waited for the impending sunset, the cloud cover grew exponentially, threatening our trek to “the tip” of Oia to watch the show.  Just the tip. It was the place to be.  It had rained a bit off and on. It wasn't looking promising. When the rain slowed we approached just the tip. It was riddled with tourists crammed in every inch.

“I can’t.” 

KJ felt the same. It was ridiculously cloudy anyways. It probably wouldn’t be very good visibility we agreed. So onward to dinner we were.

As we waited for the bus the clouds started to dissipate and we started to regret our choice. The sunset was, in fact, going to be amazing. Crap!

The bus didn’t come. We made a speedy executive decision to walk to dinner. And that’s how we ended up viewing a fantastic Greek sunset in Oia away from the crowds. Perfection in the sky.

Oia sunset? Check.

It would only be appropriate that Greekfest 2015 end with dinner and drinks at a traditional Greek Taverna and our picture on their website.

We arrived to Santorini Mou (“smile”), hungry. KJ and I, as well as the two opposite in size dogs skirting the property (who I’ve named Butch and Pip), approached the outdoor seating section. 

“Scram” the waiter said. Momentarily taken aback, I realized he was talking to Butch and Pip. They were clearly a regular nuisance.

Then to us, “Do you have a reservation?”


“Okay. Sit.”

I liked this place already.

“Where you from? America?”

That obvious, huh. 

Niko the waiter promptly placed a small American flag on our table. Each table had flags of the patrons’ countries on it and I loved this place even more.

I should mention that KJ had been here before. She told our waiter so, and he immediately returned with a large binder full of photographs from the year she visited. She leafed through, looking for her beaming face. It was a big binder.

While KJ played her own version of Where’s Waldo, we settled on ordering some wine. But how much was 1 Kilo? The options were either a glass or a Kilo on the menu and surely a glass wouldn’t be enough. A Kilo it was.

Note: A kilo is a lot of wine.

Niko smirked as he delivered our ton of wine. Just then we saw the table next to us accept a baby version of our wine carafe. A half kilo, if you will. We’d been fooled! We may have an early flight the next morning, but that wine would not go to waste!

At the exact moment bread was delivered, Butch and Pip conveniently made a repeat appearance. Pip gave me the “please-please-please-I’ll–love-you-forever-if-you-share-your-bread” eyes. He was good.

The music man who would be playing shortly approached our table to introduce himself. And promptly shut down Butch and Pip’s food escapade.

“Go on” he said to Pip. Then he turned to Butch.

“Get out of here, especially you, YOU SON OF A BITCH.” Well. That escalated quickly.

Apparently Butch was something of a menacing legend around these parts. I half expected to see Butch’s mug gracing ‘WANTED’ signs posted around the restaurant. Music man turned and smiled a soul-warming smile to us. We laughed.

I couldn’t wait for the show to begin, and old smiley to begin playing some traditional Greek music. The tables filled in, and the music began, floating through the terrace.

It was just as I had hoped. It was the perfect finale for Greekfest 2015. It wasn’t over yet though, we still had a kilo of wine to finish.

We ate. We drank. We reveled in the atmosphere.

I restrained myself from eating tzatziki sauce by the spoonful.

We were making excellent progress on the Kilo. Niko gave us props.

Butch and Pip employed a new tactic. Butch stood at the entrance after sending Pip on a solo mission to obtain dinner for two. Pip slowly snuck in nonchalantly and worked the crowd. It was a valiant effort. Pip was cute. Alas, he was shooed away.

Music man played hit after hit. He invited the kids at the table next to him over to participate, seranading the tiny one that looked like a woman who we started appropriately calling “Old girl-Little Woman.”

Niko took our photo for the book. I requested a selfie with my disposable stranger selfie cam. He obliged. Stranger selfie #1 COMPLETE. Only 26 more to go.

Traditional Greek Taverna dining? Check.

It was getting late. We had an early flight. Niko didn’t care.

“You come for drink with me after?”

“No, no we have to go to bed. We must travel early tomorrow.”

“So you come for drink after then.”

“No, we can’t.”

“Ok.” Long pause. “You come for drink?”

“Just the check please.”

“And then we drink.”

“We’re going to have to pass.”

“We get drink, I drive you home.”

Tempting, but no.

“Thank you but we’re taking the bus.”

That is if the bus even ran this late. Thanks to the Kilo we hadn’t exactly planned ahead. We made our exit after Niko’s 75th attempt of getting a drink with us, and stood on the side of the road at the dark, dark bus stop.

“It’s ok, I’ve got my whistle.” I assured KJ.

We waited.

The Kilo had a brilliant idea involving hitch hiking. Hell, I’d done it in Italy, why not here?

I stuck my thumb out whilst informing KJ of my plan. A series of events occurred.

KJ slapped my thumb. Her flip flop flew off. A car barreled past us. We were in the dark again.

Just as we were about to give up and relent to Niko's offer of a ride home, the bus lights illuminated us and we waved our arms wildly.

Thus ended Greekfest 2015.

Thanks to the Kilo, we’d be heading to our next location with a headache. I hoped Croatia had the hangover cure of the century.

We made the binder!

**Atlantis books:
**Go to Santorini Mou. Just go. Your cheeks will hurt from smiling:

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