Hotel Review: Astra Suites Santorini

High above the volcano that created Santorini as we know it today, gazing across the island’s magnificent caldera, is a little piece of heaven. Or, quite possibly, actual heaven. I’m not sure. All I know is it’s very white and so, so beautiful, it’s easy to wonder what saintly deeds you did on earth to wind up here …

Read the rest of the review (and see photos) over at The Travel Editor, HERE.

 

 

 

So Long Summer …

The water today is so, so blue. And take-your-breath away cold. It’s the best send-off possible, next to a table full of taramosalata, tzatziki and saganaki. Which is why an evening swim and a big, gluttonous dinner, will bring my Santorini summer to a close.

I will be back next year, but only for a visit. I am, contentedly, finished with working here and plan on next year’s visit to constitute nothing but this …

See you all in Germany.

A Few of my Favourite Things…

I WAS having a chat with a young man the other day and the conversation invariably strayed towards what to see on the island. I ran him through some general tips, urging him to go beyond the village (Perissa) he was inhabiting because, really, a beach is a beach and you don’t come to a place like Santorini and expect a beach to be the be all and end all. He told me he had taken out a quad and scooted around a little, venturing as far as two villages farther and, then after a sip of his beer, said to me, ‘so Santorini just has some beautiful areas and the rest is squalor’ and sort of honked smugly, as if he’d pithily summed up one of the most artistically provocative places in the world, as no one before ever him ever has.

I looked at him blankly.

Heh?

Read more of my latest column with The Australian Times, HERE

 

 

My Mt. Olympus

Every so often (and, probably more often than I am due) I am fortunate enough to experience some very beautiful things. This hotel, perched high above Santorini’s volcano and massive, blue caldera, etched deep into the staggering cliff faces, was one of them.

A full review of the exquisite Astra Suites will be up soon for The Travel Editor.

‘I’m Not Into Eating Shit.’

I happened upon a group of people last night, distingishable largely by their somewhat alarming hair and the distinct impression bathing had fallen by the wayside somewhere along the line. In one young man’s case, the two seemed to have a causal relationship. We got to talking – or, I got to pouring them beer and became an unwitting conversational participant. As they chatted and I poured beer and occasionally fell into their discussion, I learnt they were on a tour through Europe. They had started in Spain, given each other hair-cuts, and driven, in a convoy of vans, to Athens, where they’d parked their vans and taken a ferry to Ios. From Ios, they’d come to Santorini of which they had seen approximately nothing, the interior of their hotel notwithstanding. It stands to reason they have seen a similar amount of each European country they have thus far found themselves in.

From Greece, they will begin to make their way to Oktoberfest, where the tour will end. It will end with each van nominating a member to participate in the Centurion – 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes without vomiting or wetting one’s pants – interspersed with funnels of whatever liquid a superior authority (read: someone who participated in the centurion the previous year) deems appropriate. Liquids recently ruled out are blood, faeces and semen. Urine remains an option.

Following the Centurion, they will assault Oktoberfest.

Before long, and just a little bit after they told me, excitedly, about the grand finale of the van tour, they were joined by some pals. One pal, a small girl with an extraordinarily loud  voice, hastened to tell me that this year’s van tour were ‘timid’ compared to years gone by (apparently this is a grand Australian/Kiwi tradition, dating back 25 years) and it wasn’t fair that their tour was judged based on the behaviour of others’. She was genuinely hurt that campsites were refusing them entry, upon sighting the convoy of vans. Shaneo (serial killer moustache, peroxided thatch) backed her up; ‘like, last year, they were eating shit. I heard that and I was like na, na, I’m not into eating shit.’ Small Girl nodded solemnly. ‘A bartender in Lagos said other years have caused like 10,000 euros of damage in one night. We don’t do anything like that.’

Their mothers must be so proud.

She continued, ‘this year, there hasn’t been anything too bad. I mean a couple of pelicans, but that’s about it.’

Naturally curious and at a general loss as what to say beyond, ‘I would do more than refuse you entry if I was a campsite owner and saw your line of white vans pull up to my gate’, I enquired as to what a pelican is. A pelican, it transpires, is when someone lies down and opens their mouth, and another person stands over them and vomits. The dual aim being to projectile into the prone person’s open mouth and for said open mouth to provide a pelican-like vessel for the vomit.

The most obvious question, is why. Beyond that, why Europe? Why not just get in a van, drive into the middle of Australia and barbecue your own shit there? Why bother spending thousands of dollars to motor through Europe, smearing faeces, vomit and your nation’s reputation at each stop? You’re not seeing anything beyond your own accommodation because, presumably, hours in the van are spent sleeping, drinking or coming up with stupid rules like ‘you can only point with your elbow’. You’re not learning anything beyond your own capacity for alcohol and mortification. When you return home, or to London, where you’re doing your obligatory two-years-visa-stint, you won’t have seen anything beyond each other’s arses. All you are doing is acting like a dickhead and making the rest of us who choose not to do piss beer bongs in the middle of a campsite, global jokes.

So, I am begging you. Go home and eat shit somewhere the rest of the world can’t see you.

The People You Meet

The American woman who came to scatter her brother’s ashes.

The Canadian couple on their honeymoon, their wedding album at the ready.

The young Danish girl on holidays with her family, who fell in love with the Albanian bartender and left him a love note.

The South African widowers in their 70s, who have thrown caution to the wind and come on the trip of their lives.

The fifty-something Norwegian writer for a men’s magazine. ‘2, 3 pages of girls. Tits, but nothing more than tits.’

The amorous blue eyed Greek who is happiest playing his bazouki and talking about Karl Marx.

The South African masseuse who reads feet, talks of ‘realities’ and lives with nine rescued cats and one dog.

Cooler Now …

It has been cooler the past few nights. The third full moon has passed, since we arrived. For the first time in a long time there have been clouds in the sky. The Meltemis have been blowing up a gale outside, whipping signs from restaurants and sunbeds from the sand. The season, it feels, and I can’t put my finger on why, has hit a point; and now, it is slowly beginning its descent. In about five days time, peak season will roll to a close and the island will start to empty out. Restaurant and bar owners, many of whom haven’t had a day off since March, will allow themselves to contemplate relaxation.

This island has been my book-ends. Last year’s summer marked the beginning of my travels and this year’s summer marks, whilst not the end, a conclusion that forces the contemplation of what’s next (a scary contemplation indeed). I left home 13 months ago, planning on teaching English in Germany for a year and travelling when I could. I’ve done that. So, what now?

Thinking, thinking.

What I do know, is that in a month, I’ll be back in Germany, far from the ocean and the sand. I’ll be in boots, my thongs kicked under the bed and the only fresh tzatziki I’ll be eating will be my own (which is, frankly, heavy on the garlic). So I’m going to enjoy every swim, every night spent kicking the sheet off when it gets too hot. Every moment spent bare-foot. Every mouthful of island wine.

I’m still here, I promise. I’m just thinking.

And I wonder why I put on weight …

This strange little dry, dusty, volcanic island, said to be the site of the lost city of Atlantis, produces some of the most delicious, sun-filled flavours to ever grace one’s taste buds. It is crammed with tiny tavernas and sprawling, cliff-perched restaurants. Family kitchens rustle up big, fresh, traditional dishes using produce from the front and back garden; the former being the ocean.

Read more of my latest column with The Australian Times, HERE