24 hours in Santorini, Greece

Already exhausted and feeling my bones about to give way, I just about made it to Athens International Airport for my connecting flight.

A much needed helping hand..

As I walked in, a Caucasian lady alone in a wheelchair crossed me, manoeuvring her way silently through the airport. My conscious mind wouldn’t normally register it. This was a lady, on her way somewhere and you, my darling, have someplace to be. so focus. Yet… her face troubled me.

I looked back and asked if she knew where she was going. Mainly for the sake of it. Worst thing in the world is being lost, and not asking for help. Perhaps its shyness, perhaps its pride. Either way, if I could do something, I’d do it. She turned. Smiled. She was heading to the same side of the airport, her battered fingers tired from manually turning her wheels. Kind of hurt me to see her like that, but with 30 minutes to get to my gate, I offered to push. I don’t even remember her name. I hope someday I bump into her again, her deep-set smile grateful for a little help.

Sometimes, in life, if you can lessen the burden of another, you might be able to change their world.  Nobody knows what anyone’s going through, emotionally, mentally or physically. We don’t know what wound a simple kind gesture can heal. I left her at her gate, and sped-walked to mine.

Last leg…

Aegean Airlines Airbus A320 arrived and the next hour and 25 minutes was filled with power naps and constantly questioning my choices in how I decide to spend my weekends. I mean, realistically, who does this? In the past 24 hours, this little hijabi had coffee in Vienna and lunch in Athens, dragging an entire suitcase, alone and insanely tired. I’m borderline regretting this already. It’s pretty dark outside; no lights, just sea. The only sound is from the deafening propeller engines constantly humming and dipping to their own tune. Soothing.

We landed in Thira on Saturday afternoon at exactly 19:13. First stop, hotel.  I picked the Rocabella Hotel Resort & Spa because of its room view, its location and its services. I completely underestimated the hospitality here. Every part of my body crying, I walked in. Maria met me, and sent someone to take my luggage to my room right away. How awfully sweet, and lord was it needed! A glass of still cold fresh juice was waiting for me in my room, I felt a little pampered before I’d even settled in. The next 4 hours were spent sleeping in my double bed, wearing off the exhaustion that had settled from the past few hours.

Unlike my  very calculated plan in Athens, it was an absolute fail for Santorini. I knew it the second I woke up. Its midnight, and my deluxe caldera view room was the most magnificent thing in the world. My private balcony overlooked the sea,  and at 12pm at night, it was glorious and captivating in its beauty. If you read my Barcelona story, you’ll know how crazy in love I am when it comes to the sea. This time, I had the luxury of seeing it so close but from the comfort of my room.  I switch off the light behind me, and take a seat.

Peace…

Lets a take a minute here, because you really need to see what I saw. Let me show you my view. Everything’s dark. Real dark. The sky is pitch-black, albeit specks of light dancing somewhere behind the haze of thin black clouds. Some stars are dull, merely flickering into existence now and then, but if you stare, some stars shimmer, glow and light up the night. The moon is oh so clear, directly ahead from where you’re sitting, its neon light bleaching the world into grey-scale silence.

The sky and sea meet somewhere in the distance, and infront of me, water sways and glistens, freckled with the reflection of glittering lights. The wind keeps brushing against the water’s surface, the ripples ruffling the stillness and disturbing the peace.

I sit with a thick blanket over me, on a hard wooden deck chair, donning two layers of hoodies. It’s cold. Goosebumps keep erupting through my skin. It’s not enough to make me get up, and in silence I observe something I’ll probably not get to do in again in a while.

Music plays in the distance, and in a remote space up ahead, neon lights reflect off the marina with echoes of laughter and drunk conversation. In the quiet stillness of my room, I feel relaxed and at peace. The night is beautiful.

Morning comes.

9am. Breakfast.

Fresh fruit, some softened nuts, beans on toast and a croissant serve as my breakfast. Gwitta, the breakfast chef, was attentive to every detail. I asked if there were any halal meat options to go with the beans on toast, and she profusely apologised. She later sent a platter of chocolates to my room, which, can’t lie, surprised me. It was awfully kind of her. The dining space was under renovation so I headed out onto a terrace with seats. Definitely a good way to start the day.

Rocabella Breakfast view

After breakfast, I opted for the complimentary spa treatment until noon. Spa tub, massage and full body treatment. Lovely stuff.

I’d spent nearly 12 hours in Santorini, and I hadn’t even explored it yet. I just wanted to stay indoors, sleep some more. Perhaps jet lag was catching up to me?

Imerovigli

A roughly 20 minute walk from the hotel, was the village of Imerovigli. My first stop in my little expedition. The little village is another level of picturesque- when you think Santorini, this village is what you picture. Houses and houses crammed onto the decline of a cliff, all painted white,  built amphitheatrically around the caldera and crossed by extremely narrow paved paths.

It was crammed for a Sunday afternoon, I kept having to slow down, stop or squeeze through narrow pathways as people came in both directions constantly.

I headed to Skaros Rock, which was cobbled with stones and a little distant from the village. I’d planned to go all the way down the beaten path, up to the rock head and take pictures… but things turn out a little different when you see it in real life.

Reality Check..

The rock was insanely huge- I don’t know if the rock was stable, I don’t know what I was thinking, heck I don’t even know if it was safe to climb it. This was something you did with someone. You slip, they have your back. I was not, I repeat, was not looking to fall off this cliff and have an unclaimed body in another country. Not siree’. Not today, Murphy. Not ‘appnin. Nope.

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I’ll conquer that rock someday, not today.

There’s a first time for everything…

Instead, I took the seaside path towards Kandakhor and stopped off at La Maison. I only wanted a quick bite but again, Santorini found a way to keep me occupied and in awe. La Maison is like a little haven of fine dining on the edge of a cliff- a literal glass box with 360° windows showing off Greece’s caldera, the sea, volcano, sunset and even nearby islands.

Thing is, it’s also a very romantic spot and for a late afternoon meal, the vibe and music made me totally out of place. At least I know where to come back to when I return with company.  There isn’t much choice, infact none at all, for the halal eaters… but seafood was an option. First time ordering mussels in my life, I looked at the waiter as if to say with my eyes… “I’m ordering this but I don’t want it” but he didn’t get it. It’s ok. I got distracted by the sea and the changing hues in the sky.

Yeah, Mussels. Never again.

By now it’s about 5pm. The sun sets in around 2 hours. I move quickly and down towards the Nomikou M right by the descending cable cars, connecting the town of Fira to the port. Here, for €5 each way, you get to go down to the town, Santorini’s capital, in literally 5 minutes tops. Another town of  whitewashed buildings, Fira is built on the edge of a 400 metre high caldera on the western edge of the island.

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The plan was to take a boat trip from here but given time limitations, it’ll have to go on my list for next time. You get a glimpse of what I saw in a short video on my instagram, but words or video could not accurately depict that moment.

Proud Gatecrasher

I got back to Rocabella Hotel with a full wedding procession in full swing. The groom was so well dressed, arms bulging in his tailored suit. I presume the man holding onto his shoulder was his dad, speaking softly to him, looking down. Maybe he was tearing up, maybe he saw something on his shoe, and maybe he was in the middle of a lie and couldn’t make eye contact. I don’t know.

The lift opened, and the doors closed on the chaos behind me.

Quick shower, change of clothes. I came back down to the same commotion, and without hesitation, I ordered some sparkling juice and strolled right over to the bride to congratulate her. She beamed, not really knowing what to say or how to react.  I guess you don’t fly out to Greece with the whole world for your wedding, it’s more a private function so you’d know everyone attending.

I found two fairly young Asian ladies watching intently at the scene unfolding before them, from a corner. They looked hesitant, but smiled warmly.  Sealed their fate with that smile. I now found people to spend the evening with and kawaliss the wedding. The party went upstairs onto a large purpose built terrace and we followed.

Don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Fairy lights everywhere, a make shift bonfire in the centre and speakers that were on full volume. Some sort of party began to commence.

I say this alot, but when I tell you that some moments are literally a blur and flash of excitement, adrenaline and insane laughter that you can’t recall in one single memory, only then do you know you’ve enjoyed yourself. I  have flashbacks of a cliff side party, the moon in the distance, the sky back to its jet-black canvas. People laughing, sweat glistening on everyone’s forehead and Marc Anthony’s voice hurting my eardrums. Perched on the ledge of a short wall, overlooking the sea, looking back at this madness, I laughed to myself. This was insane.

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Endings + Regrets

I left this madness at around 11pm and went to my room. Don’t be fooled though, nobody leaves a party empty handed- I had probably taken every single bit of chocolate ganache, 4 plastic bowls filled with big chunks of vanilla wedding cake, small vanilla things, and biscuits to last a lifetime. Nobody would miss it, and I was hungry. I sat in my bed, opened my balcony to let the salty sea breeze in and started answering emails on my iPad. Whatta night.

Morning came and I checked out. My flight back home to London wasn’t until 2pm so once breakfast was over, I grabbed some sun glasses and headed to try some golf nearby with my new Asian friends. Not sure if they would give me that title, but they sure as hell were my friends from now on.

I found out on the day that I’m leaving, Rocabella hosts a whole range of water activities including snorkelling, sailing, scuba diving and water skiing. I could’ve rented out a bicycle and jumped on one of the trails nearby. Parasailing was an option. Helicopter and airplane tours were available on site, even scooter and moped rentals. That’s alot of things on my bucket list that could’ve been ticked off.

But again, ain’t nobody claiming my body if I die in any of those situations. I’m definitely coming back here sometime in 2017.

Santorini, our time was fun. Rocabella, see you soon.

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I headed home with a 2 hour stop over at Athens, and a 5 hour stop in Frankfurt. It felt good, I’d be back home to mumma’s cooking real soon.

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