The tiny Greek wedding

So, the big day had finally arrived. The children still hadn’t met most of the people at the wedding and the Groom invited us up to his villa. So I thought, perfect… as the Groom’s family is quite large, so having already met all of the bridesmaids, this trip would mean the kids would know around half of the guests; As we were readying ourselves to go up, we got a message from the Bride freaking out about bus times and pickups… After a short “ok, if you need us to be picked up from ours, we’ll get the taxi back here, be ready and waiting at least 10 minutes ahead of time” she was ok and it was all good.

Imerovigli

So, we headed up and had a somewhat chilled morning at their villa around the pool, overlooking the sea. It was beautiful. But, what the bride doesn’t know is that (well she will now ‘cause she reads this, and will find out – sorry) our taxi came in the wrong end of the road; there was a road closure to resurface part of the road – it wasn’t possible to get through. So they had to drive right up to the top of the cliff road and back down the other side. Our taxi was 30 minutes late. By the time he got us back I had 30 minutes to shower 2 children and myself, get ready and leave.

VIEW

I got the kids completely sorted, but just as I was about to put my necklace and bracelet on, and do my hair, the groom was calling – they were early and at the top of the road waiting! The children were already ready, so it just called for me getting my shoes on – but they wouldn’t stay on, so I ran up the road, in mid-afternoon Santorini heat, with no shoes on. I would just like to comment here, my feet are quite hardy, from lots of barefoot adventures, but even I struggled with the sun heated black tar roads… so I really wouldn’t advise it.

towards Santo

Anyhow, the wedding was Santorini Gem and is next to Santo Wines. It was beautiful, they didn’t have to do much to achieve that, and they didn’t. I mean, of course they cleaned the place and kept it in good order, but to add too much to the venue would have detracted from the surrounding beauty; the views of the Caldera and volcano and up towards the north of the island. The chairs were setup with a few parasols at the front and the cabana was setup in a simple and elegant manner.

Parasols

I would say “the ceremony was beautiful”, but to be honest, I was stressed out trying to keep a 8 and 5 year old happy in the direct sunshine, and slightly entertained by the toddler that had broken free and was running around. Once the ceremony was over, and photos taken, we headed out to the bus to take us to Pyrgos restaurant. We were out on the balcony for ages waiting for the bride and groom to arrive from their photo shoot, but the children were being plied with sugared strawberries and the adults with bubbly, and there was some shady seating… so no one really minded to be honest.

towards Santo

Once the bride and groom had arrived, cut the cake and had their first dance, we could finally head in for food. Which was excellent cause frankly, we were all getting a bit hot and hangry. And it was worth the wait indeed. The food was so scrumptious. I can’t really put any pictures up of the evening as it was all faces and people and I can’t really do that. But I can say, it was great. The staff even got involved in trying to teach 30 drunk brits how to Greek-dance – interesting and very funny.

The plan was that we would book a taxi when we could see the kids weren’t coping anymore… but thanks to meeting people beforehand, thanks to all the hard work and prep we had put into it and thanks to the amazing bunch of people who were there and paid them so much positive attention, we ended up having to call it a night around 11:30pm – the latest we have managed to keep them out by far.
Amazing day. Amazing couple. Amazing celebration. Amazing memories. And new friendships.

A trip with a purpose

To begin this story, I really must rewind to about January/February 2016, when I took a trip up to see my friend and his then girlfriend, so we could all go to soft play together. Though they didn’t have children, my friend is Logan’s Life Mentor; this is the title we gave to 2 of our friends for each of the children, like a Godparent, but in a non-religious capacity, who the children can look to for support and advice and know they are safe to talk to. Anyhow, Logan’s male life mentor has been friends with me since, well we can’t really put a date on it… but since some point in early primary school. He’s always just “been there”.

However, during this trip he had something exciting to show me: a ring! Yes! An engagement ring. I mean, it wasn’t really a surprise, it had been on the cards a while; they had a mortgage and a dog, so this is naturally the next step. He hadn’t gotten everything in place yet, but he knew he intended to propose whilst they were on holiday – and he did… just a couple of months later. I won’t share the details as that’s their special story, but Bruce could certainly take some lessons in romance from this guy for sure!

A couple of months after they broke the news of their wedding, and dropped the bombshell on everyone that they wanted to get married in Santorini, we invited them over to have dinner and to talk about wedding plans and the accommodation we’d booked etc. They asked us to be a part of the wedding: Ariella – Best Man (yes that’s correct, not my first gig either would you believe?), Logan – Page Boy and Caitlin Flower girl… Bruce as he always likes to be, a person on the side-lines spectating, getting free food, but not having to do a lot. Hehe.

Now, fast forward to 2017 and all the way to the day before departure. We head to Heathrow and stay in the Sheraton Skyline Hotel, we got a “secret deal” on Holiday Extras to include our parking. As we were flying out of Heathrow Terminal 5 with BA.

When we got the other side, we had a shared transfer waiting for us. And this went really well. They took us to our accommodation swiftly and the owner was outside waiting to welcome us to Lefteris Houses, which was to be our home for the next week.

During our stay we tried local cuisine, took many walks around the island, hunted down Falafeland (I have a bit of a thing for falafel, no one else quite has the same level of passion as me for it but… still I had to find it – I had heard good things). And we went on a boat trip to the Palea Kameni hot spings and across to Nea Kameni to walk up the volcano. As well as booking a semi private tour (which ended up being completely private) of the island.

Then Sunday night, realising how completely exhausted we were, and that the wedding was Tuesday, we decided we needed a change of pace so booked into an All-Inclusive hotel (Makarios Beach Hotel) at the south of the island, so we could chill in a pool and not have to concern ourselves with sorting meals etc.

Up until this point it had been our family holiday and that is the way we ended that chapter of our trip. With total relaxation. We had enjoyed our holiday wholly and truly. Which was good, because literally the day before we left was having a breakdown and didn’t want to go!

Fira

Fira_2

Review: Makarios Beach Hotel

After several packed days of adventure and walking, we felt it was time to have a good rest. Also, we didn’t have a pool and were frying slightly so we found an all-inclusive hotel on the island where we could chill out around (or even in) a pool and not have to worry about working out what we were going to eat etc.

The hotel was Makarios Beach Hotel, Kamari. It was just south of the airport and about 20 minutes from our apartment. We booked a quadruple room via Expedia, but when we got there, we were informed that they didn’t have any quadruples remaining so they gave us a double and a triple. We ended up just using the triple as Caitlin is quite happy being literally glued to me in bed so we shared a single.

Poolside

The hotel was clean and tidy, the corridors felt a little sterile (in a kind of school/hospital like manner) but it wasn’t unwelcoming, and definitely couldn’t be called unclean. And the pool area was definitely stocked well enough to ensure a table or sun lounger for all. And it was the perfect temperature to contend with the heat. What the children found really cool was the fact that, being so close to the airport, they got to watch several planes lowering to land, whilst they were chilling in the pool. That was apparently the most amazing thing ever, being able to see planes from a swimming pool.

We had arrived just in time to unpack, have a wander and then grab lunch. The buffet was fairly basic, but had all the main bases covered. It wasn’t a gourmet meal by any means, but that’s not how buffets work, so if that’s what you go in expecting you’re gonna be disappointed. With that in mind, I was quite satisfied by the food. And later in the afternoon we had access to self-serve scooped ice cream and at the bar they served cheese and ham toasties. The evening meal was also buffet, with similar structure to the lunch setup only with a few additional “mains” added. All the while beer, wine, soft drinks, water and hot drinks were available, and there was a fridge in the room, and a jug for getting water for your room.

pool

The staff were all friendly enough, and the stay was pleasant, but we were also using this break to gauge whether the all-inclusive concept works for us… If I speak with complete honesty: Did I enjoy not having to cook? Yes, without a doubt. Did I like that we could just get ice cream and drinks and stuff easily, without having to worry about having cash etc. Yes, of course I was, I don’t think anyone in their right minds would hate that idea. Was I sold. Hell no. The problem is, the concept is so attractive that families who have regard only for how close to the bar they can sit, becoming more and more vulgar with every glass of beer they intake and caring less each second about the children they dragged along to pretend it was a family holiday instead of a glorified drinking session. Call me anti-social, call me a grump, call me what you will, I just don’t see the appeal of spending my leisure time with them and would much rather a secluded villa, near a beach with our own private pool.

Review: A semi private bus tour of Santorini

We booked an island tour (semi private – which means that potentially up to 10 other people could book to come with us 4) to cover most of the major sights of the island. We paid and gave our information over. And were told they would meet us at the hotel at midday. As it turns out, for us, no one else did book so it was completely private.

We were picked up at the hotel, and promptly taken to the Prophet Elias Monastery, the highest point of the island. This had some quite panoramic views including a view over the runway which excited the children as they watched a plane moving down to the runway and eventually taking off. Unfortunately, as it was a Sunday, the Monastery itself was closed, but we could still take in the views from where we were.

Prophet Elias Monestary

After making our way back to our private carriage taken to Perissa beach (filled with black volcanic sands). It’s quite a long beach at the area we were on was filled with cabanas in sections, with each section being maintained by an individual establishment. I did not catch the name of the café looking after the section we chose, but we managed to get a front row cabana for 13euros, for as long as we stayed. We purchased some beer and some water, and when Logan and Caitlin were cold from the sea, they had – wait for it – chocolate ice cream.

Beach Feet

Perissa beach

The water was really clear, and the cool (not cold) temperature was very welcome in the early afternoon heat. It does go from very shallow to fairly deep quite quickly though. So, in the case of children, or at least younger ones, you need to be a bit “aware”. But it was a nice clean beach and if going to the island and you enjoy a good swim in the sea, I’d definitely recommend it.

Chapel at Red Beach

Chapel at Red Beach 2

Red Beach

We were then driven across to the Red Beach, but it was a sun trap with no shade, and it was quite a trek down, so we stayed there for pictures only. We didn’t really fancy too much walking in the heat, with Caitlin’s legs. So instead we asked to go to the pre-historic excavations of Akrotiri, which are situated just out of the car park for the Red Beach. They tried to sell us a tour guide for 99euros, by telling us there was no information inside – lies, there are boards with information everywhere. It was a mix of interesting, eerie and awe-inspiring. To think how forward in civilisation, they were all those centuries ago, in comparison to how civilisation was for us not all that long ago.

Akrotiri_excavations

Akrotiri_excavations_2

Afterwards we headed up to Santo wines. We had a wine tasting there and took in the view for a while. We, stupidly (or ambitiously, I haven’t decided yet) decided to go for a 12-wine-flight, knowing we’d have less than an hour… but it was definitely worth doing. Just to have some shade and chill time for a while. It was fun. And eye opening. I REALLY cannot drink dessert wine. And though I don’t really enjoy red wine, I apparently can truly sink it back if it has port-like undertones and I’m in a hot place.

Santo_wines

Santo_wines_2

However, it also showed us, that Logan is still having some issues around alcohol; alcohol features in his past, and so we knew he’d had some issues with it. He has seen me drink in the past – I just don’t drink very often so it must’ve been long ago enough to be out of his head. But he sees Bruce have a bottle of ale, or a glass of whisky regularly enough to know it’s ok when he drinks – nothing bad happens. However, he flipped out at the sight of the wine in front of me (it was quite an overwhelming sight in all honesty), but the freak out was only directed at me. So, we explained “Mumma has paid to try these wines. I will not drink all of them all up, but I will just have a taste of each one”. That didn’t entirely pacify him, but did go somewhat into the compromise where he could handle the situation.

Afterwards, as we were heading up to Oia, for the sunset, we decided to find somewhere to eat (word of warning – book somewhere in advance, it’s difficult). We found a nice little restaurant called Oia Gefsis. The food was really good, the server was awesome and they have a sunset terrace you can eat on (we ate down on the patio as we hadn’t booked) but Bruce was allowed to pop up to the bar to take a photo of the sunset. It was a friendly and welcoming place to go, with an almost Italian feel to the menu.

Oia

Afterwards, we made our way through the crush of people towards the car park and met our driver to take us back to our accommodation. It was a good experience, but, as others have said, you can enjoy the sunset from anywhere that has a view over the Caldera, Oia is a nice place to go, but I’d be more inclined to visit during the day and get the hell outta there before nightfall – but that’s just cause I don’t like having to deal with the kids being so squashed and panicky.

Review: Hot Springs and Volcano

We met up with the 3 bridesmaids on the one day for a boat trip, it departed from the old port in Fira, so we met up in Fira and took the many steps down to the port. It was an experience. Not one I would like to repeat ever… but an experience none the less. The steps were cobbled which made for a very uneven, downhill walking experience, which is always fun when you are trying to dodge donkey poop. But worst of all were the donkeys. No shade. No water. No respite. No space. And despite all standing there looking dehydrated and exhausted, people were actually riding them back up! I was horrified.

Fira Port

Needless to say, we took the cable car back up the cliff on the way back up, as someone who’s exceedlingly fearful of these things, I can honetsly say, it wasn’t that bad. It was over very quickly, and it wasn’t too unpleasant. Well not until Bruce stood up to take a photo and I completely flipped out. heheh

Cable Car

kids on the boat

Anyhow, we got down to the port, the boat turned up, we got on and sat inside… some relief from the sunshine. We got taken straight to Palea Kameni so we could use the hot springs. I didn’t go in, I had done my research – you aren’t there for long, the water is about 28 degrees Celsius, which is cooler than the ideal temperature for a baby’s bath, it smells of sulphur and it stains. Bruce, however, went in and enjoyed himself. But it really was a short trip.

Hot Springs

Hot Springs 2

Then we sailed to Nea Kameni, which is the active volcano, visible from the caldera side of the island. We went up, there is a fee of 2 euros per person to go up the volcano. You must take water with you, it gets very hot as it’s an active volcano, plus there’s no shade and you are walking on black volcanic stone and sand.

moored boat

We didn’t make it all the way to the top, but we’d gone far enough that we could see the kids were struggling (but even they wanted to continue up). We headed down and stopped under a cabana almost at the bottom to rehydrate, re-motivate ourselves and take 5. Here we saw a few lizards and got some tranquillity.

looking back towards Fira

walking down the volcano

Once back on the boat, we had decided it was a given that we weren’t walking back up the steps, and we sure as hell weren’t paying to ride a dying, dehydrated donkey. So it was settled. I had to face a fear and ride in a cable car. And I have to admit, fear aside. It was a reasonably priced, fast and suitable alternative to getting back to the top (the only other option really was to charter a boat to take us to a more accessible are of the island away from Fira – but that felt a little extreme).

view_from_boat

view from boat

Though we enjoyed getting to see the sights and say we walked up a volcano, I am not sure we’d pay to do that excursion again, when we could do a sunset cruise or a day long cruise with snorkelling and swimming. But it was definitely one of those things you have to say you did, at least once.

Review: Lefteris Houses

We had looked into loads of different options, but realistically needed a 2-bedroom accommodation, with the facility to wash clothes. We came across Lefteris Houses, the price seemed too good to be true. It was distinctly lacking in a pool, but it had everything else, was in a quiet location and was really cheap. So I spent ages trawling the internet for “the catch”. But I couldn’t find it. Everywhere I looked. Good reviews. A trustworthy, family run business.

And honestly, I couldn’t agree more. We booked a 2-bedroom apartment, and once the flights were released, realised we would be out Wednesday to Wednesday as opposed to the Saturday to Saturday we had previously envisaged. This was no trouble, they were more than accommodating. They arranged our transfer as well, who was waiting for us at the airport with our name on paper.

Living Area

bathroom

When we arrived to our accommodation, Lefteris himself was waiting to greet us. He personally helped take our bags in and gave us a tour of the apartment. He also explained that they had provided us with some food and refreshments to see us through, and check everything was to our liking. And explaining they would be around a lot, but providing us with information of how to get in contact with them and how to connect to the Wifi.

Master

Twin

It really was. The apartment was spacious and had more than ample facilities: fully equipped kitchen, more storage than we could possibly need, washing up supplies, toiletries in the bathroom, towels, even decorative stuff like candle displays etc. But the best touch we weren’t expecting was the snacks they had provided: water in the fridge chilling, portions of butter, tea, coffee, UHT milk, cereal bars, melba toast and jam.

food

After refuelling on some water and a cereal bar, we sought out the nearest mini market (literally 2 minutes away) and stocked up on some basics and stuff for our breakfast.

It really was located in a convenient place. Karterados is a quiet village only 10 minutes south of Fira, so most of the buses to the centre/south of the island run through the village to the bus stop only a 3-minute walk away. Within 5-minutes of walking radius there were several different types of eatery, shop and establishment.

As an additional bonus, the apartment was refreshed (including the linens) every day. The family would come in each day and sweep, clean and replace the linens. It may sound obvious to some that I would say that, but I would like to reiterate, we were staying in an apartment. Not a hotel. Not an aparthotel. Just a bog standard, we own this building of apartments, and we are leasing them to tourists. It was a level of hospitality I wasn’t expecting.

The family were so lovely, they really could not have done more for us. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again if we ended up back in Santorini at any point.