Goodbye UK

The day has finally come, the last of my holiday in Europe for 2014. I sincerely hope it doesn’t take another 4 years to get over here! It’s been so much fun, so relaxing, and somehow it’s passed by in the blink of an eye again.

Luckily I’ve taken my fair share of photos to remember the holiday by, and I’d like to share the last few in this entry as I set off home. It’s a long trip home, I left Chesterfield this morning and wont get back to the Gold Coast until 2 days later in the afternoon. Of course, when you take time zones into account it’s only really 23 hours of flying (and 12 hours spent in airports waiting for flights).

Lower Your Expectations

The catchphrase for Chesterfield is simply, “lower your expectations”, as I’m clearly expecting too much.

Today that was proven with the SIM card we’d ordered yesterday ultimately not arriving, thus it’ll be useless buying it tomorrow. I had to pay for it to be ordered… and they wouldn’t refund the money because they had no product to exchange (yes, even though it’s being delivered to them, not me). So now I have to wait for the SIM to arrive, and receive it just to hand it back to them to get my £20 back. Ridiculous I know.

We had a brief look through the shops in town, unfortunately M&S didn’t have the shorts I liked in a colour and size I liked, but I did get a new jumper from H&M that looks good.

We did have a good time though, despite the let down. You wouldn’t think it considering it was such a dull, rainy day, but there’s a lot you can do around here when it’s wet… like caving! So off we went to Peak Cavern (tripadvisor) AKA the Devil’s Arse. Our guide was very entertaining, making loads of jokes and certainly leaving a lasting impression. I’d totally recommend it.

After we got ‘home’ we had a lovely cream tea, with a slightly different take on the jam, using damson plum in a nod to Del. Dinner tonight was fish and chips with mushy peas, and there was so much of it! We had a group chat with Mike in Chicago and then Penny got up to some shenanigans as we watched some highlights of Glastonbury on TV.

Welcome to Chesterfield

First up, The Chesterfield Hotel… as my mum would say, “going from the sublime to the ridiculous”, it’s definitely a change from Enigma in Santorini. Everything creaks, the doors don’t auto lock, there’s an ironing board and iron hanging on the road, as if a feature. As far as hotels go, it seems a joke, but it’s what we can afford after Greece.

This morning mum firstly needed to get some cash out, before she dropped us at Jonathan and Julie’s and she headed to see an old friend across the country. Sze Sze and I lounged around a bit, happy to finally connect to some decent wifi, before heading out to Curbar Edge to have a walk around and remember years past. Almost as if nothing has changed. On the way back we had a beer at The Gate Inn (tripadvisor).

We also ordered a SIM card to be delivered tomorrow, to combat the dreadful wifi at the hotel and lack of internet connectivity around town.

Back at ‘home’ we watched the World Cup and ultimately went out for dinner at The Fox and Goose (tripadvisor), which was only chosen by chance, as no one had been there before. Ultimately it turned out to be a good choice, the food was very good with lovely views to match, and due to it being a Thursday night, was quiet.

More football when we got back, before heading to our hotel shortly after the match had finished. Wifi worked for about 15 minutes before crapping out.

UK Bound (day eight)

Our last half day in Santorini was a little bit rushed, but overall not too bad. As expected, the airport was shithouse, poorly run, no lounge (OMG I know) and just a bad way to leave (or enter) the very wonderful Santorini.

I felt it was appropriate today to show off the jacuzzi suite a little more. Excuse our bags spread everywhere, but it really is a spacious room, kept cool as it’s built into the rock. Loved our time spent here.

Our last meal in Fira was at a Chinese restaurant, and the food was nice. We also checked out the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, where we learnt a little more about the excavations we saw on day six. Somehow we even had a stray puppy follow us around as we looked at the exhibits.

Our flight was as expected, pretty much the same food on the way back as over. Though we were late landing due to a 130KM/h headwind! Picked up a nice BMW from Avis and got to Chesterfield, after a brief food stop, at 23:30. Shitty wifi at The Chesterfield Hotel though!

Relax (day seven)

Another relaxing day today where nothing much was accomplished. With the wonderful breeze the views out to sea were amazing once again, you could see far and wide, it was stunning. Even cooler if you happened to spend some part of the afternoon in the spa looking out to sea.

For lunch today we headed back to the local restaurant Ouzeri’s, and after some great service and incredibly tasty meals, decided we’d come back for dinner too, for our last night in Fira. The waiters all seemed to remember us too; though I’m sure Sze Sze’s hair helped, they also referred to us as being from downunder. We’ve given multiple points of origin at different shops and restaurants when asked, so perhaps on our first night we said Australia!

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Walking off lunch, I got a few more photos around town.

I did some macro photography too, with the amount of light available here it’s hard not to get the lens out of the bag, and there’s all that lavender to work with too, and bees pollinating it! Love taking photos of lavender.

Dinner was as sumptuous as lunch, with Sze Sze even ordering the same dish (mussels) as she liked it so much. Ultimately it seems local and less fancy is best. I’d like to also highlight the table mat that shows a map of the islands, pretty cool!

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After dinner, we were invited for a cocktail at the cafe/bar as it was our last night. We hadn’t really spent any time up at the cafe at night, so it was nice to unwind close to the suite. Taking photos at night can be quite challenging though, so please don’t judge some of these too harshly. It really is wonderful in the evening here.

Before heading back to our suite we said our goodbyes to Lisa, who works at night and had some photos. You’ll probably see more from Penny, but he insisted on a photo shoot. Have I mentioned how amazing everyone has been? The service is amazing.

Akritiri & Oia (day six)

Today was a double header, both for the ruins of Akritiri at one end of the Island, and the shops and dining of Oia at the other end. We also went back to Naoussa for a late lunch in Fira.

Rewinding to the beginning, we had our breakfast and managed to get to the bus stop before midday, a remarkable feat considering other days where we’ve still be in the hotel by that time. The bus to Akritiri was much quicker than to Perissa, less stops along the way, though some other tourists had an issue on the way back.

The ruins were set sort of like how I’d expect the Terracotta Warriors in Xian to be displayed, in a building to protect them more so than give shelter to tourists. I particularly liked walking through the settlement to see things very close up.

On our way back we had a look in an art gallery located just outside of Fira, where the husband is a painter, the wife a sculptor and the son an architect (who designed the gallery and is now painting too). Some good pieces of art in there! We then had a late lunch at Naoussa (tripadvisor), heading back there to try the tomato fritters and so Sze Sze could have the wonderful moussaka I had when we had dinner there at the start of our trip.

Following a brief lie down, we headed off on the bus to Oia for shopping and dinner, and found it to be a very nice town, with much more windy streets. Heaps of people there too. I got some nice photos down empty laneways, and of course lots of photos with the sun heading towards the sea. What I didn’t get was any actual sunset photos but more on that next.

Dinner was a place called 1800 (tripadvisor), recommended by our hotel as a fancy restaurant we’d have to dress up for, though we weren’t seated far from someone in thongs, boardies, regular tee and backwards-facing baseball cap. After dressing up in trousers (considering the temperature when we arrived) it was a bit of a let down to see we didn’t need to. The food was good, tasted great, can’t fault that one bit, unfortunately everything else was lacking. The service was slow, we waited half an hour for our starters, I was waiting a while for my glass to be topped up (it is fine dining after all) and the ambience was awful, with everyone flocking to a corner of the restaurant to take photos of the sunset, interrupting those dining there. I’m sure it happens every night, and the sunset is magical here, but if you’re not sat on the best table you shouldn’t ruin the experience for those that are. Overall, I’d rate the restaurant down because of that. Also, bring something warm as it gets windy on the rooftop terrace.

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Slow Day (day five)

Following yesterdays awesome adventure on the boat, Sze Sze and I decided we’d hit the town and see what the nightlife was like. It turned out to be a fun night out, especially at the Scottish Highlander bar… but this morning I was worse for wear with a hangover and associated deafness. I had breakfast at the usual time, but then had to have another sleep before I felt like I could actually get up. It was a slow day!

As such, there’s limited photographic proof this day even existed, but I did manage to get some photos of the sunset from Argo, and some night shots of the jacuzzi, having a play with my cameras settings in doing so.

Thalassa Cruise (day four)

Today a number of things happened. First up was notification that our bags had arrived on the island (thanks for phoning ahead BA, not) and would be delivered soon. Next was that we would be changing rooms earlier than expected (hello jacuzzi). Finally, we took a sunset cruise onboard the Thalassa.

So, first things first. Our bags arrive. BA was meant to call before delivery, but of course they didn’t. Also no word back from customer care after I complained about their lack of support during this process, especially considering they’re full service and they were chosen over others due to OneWorld loyalty (perhaps misplaced) and other similar factors. I guess I’m taking on a slight DYKWIA attitude, but too right I should be considering my status, not with them, but one of their major partners. If this is their attitude, I can book on others in the future and retell my issues to all who will listen.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing (pardon the pun), as the code on my bag was now not being recognised, and after going through all 1000 combinations one at a time, found that a pen into the reset switch unlocked my suitcase. So my suitcase lock is not just faulty, it’s downright terrible as a lock. If anyone wants to know what brand to avoid buying, it’s American Tourister… that kind of quality is unbelievable. Luckily, nothing was missing.

Following breakfast we moved into our new room, a jacuzzi suite a few steps further down the hill. We have a large cavernous living area, flanked by two elevated bedrooms, kitchen, beautifully tiled bathroom and a private patio with jacuzzi, overlooking the Aegean Sea. Photos do not do it justice, it’s amazing.

We bought ourselves some tomatoes, feta, olive oil and bread to make some lunch in the room, before we headed out to the Old Port to begin our journey at 15:00 (remember, it gets dark very late here), sailing on a replica Brigantine sailing boat popular in the 1800’s.

Our first stop was Nea Kameni, where a guide escorted us up to the rim of the crater of what once was the volcano that made up the islands of Santorini. I chose to skip the guide and powered ahead with Sze Sze to check out the various points of interest ahead of the group. I then walked halfway back down, up again and all the way down before the group, to get myself some additional exercise. Unfortunately, it was only 3KM.

From Nea Kameni we headed to Palea Kameni, the island just behind that was supposed to have a hot springs… unfortunately they didn’t tell you that it was really just a lukewarm experience, and of course you needed to jump off the boat and swim to shore, through cooler water (21º) and the reverse to get back onboard. An added side effect, the gas bubbling out of the ground that warms the sea produces a rusty colour on the rocks, which stains your clothes. I got no photos of this as I wasn’t taking my camera into the water with me!

Heading on, we stopped at Thirassia Island, where there was another swimming spot, even cooler (I didn’t bother getting in) before dinner was served. A real mixture of greek foods. Also, local wine from a cask was served… seemed a lot like Australia!

Heading slowly back towards Santorini, we watched the sunset from the boat, before some traditional dancing onboard shortly before getting back to port. After the long day, we didn’t walk back up the stairs, but instead took the much quicker cable car.

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Perissa (day three)

The sea breeze had picked up last night quite a lot, and this morning was no different, with quite a cool breeze blowing through the windows (when opened). Once we got into the sunlight though, there was some counteraction. We had breakfast in our room today, and they rang before bringing it through, all on one tray again.

There did appear to be some good news this morning. On checking the status of our missing bags they now say: “DELIVERY PROCESS INITIATED”. That’s all well and good, but they haven’t contacted mum (official phone contact) or our accommodation providers… so I’m not sure what’s happened to the note at the bottom of “call before delivery”. BA: hopeless.

Had the wind calmed, we were to do a boat trip, but that has now been pushed to tomorrow in the hope of calmer seas and breezes. Instead, we headed to Perissa (the black beach) to take photos and relax. Certainly got a lot of sun there too. I’m not sure I’ll go back to Australia with an olive complexion, but I certainly wont be white!

At Perissa we got a sunbed and food at one of the many establishments along the beach. We happened to just pick the first one we came to, but a walk proved they all served up essentially the same food, very Western, and most of those there were Western. Still, a beach is a beach.

I had thought I would need a siesta once I got back to the room, but it turns out, shade and water was all that was needed, and I was off again. Bought some gifts, another postcard (shout out now if you want one) and browsed.

For dinner tonight we went to Nikolas Taverna (tripadvisor), recommended not only be where we are staying, but by a friend on AFF. The food was excellent, as was the service, although it took a while for our bill to arrive. I had Imam (stuffed eggplant), mum had stuffed squid and Sze Sze got in on the moussaka tonight.

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On the way back to our accommodation we were greeted by a glorious sunset, so took a few pics to remember the moment. A spectacular view.

 

Fira (day two)

I’m not sure if my game plan for Santorini is a daily blog, or a collection, but right now it’s hard not to just keep publishing photos to make everyone jealous, instead of saving them over time for a bigger entry at the end. The views are amazing.

We woke this morning with the sun streaming through the windows, but didn’t rise until closer to 0900. I was first up, as I didn’t think anyone was going to make the first move, and I needed a shower.

Breakfast is included with the rate and served daily either in the room or at the cafe at the top. As this was our first day, we chose to head upstairs for perhaps some better views, as we don’t have a particularly big balcony (you can stand on it – that’s all). However, in the next few days we’ll move to a bigger apartment, where we will be able to eat on a private patio. All we do is leave our request at the front desk each night and depending on where we choose to eat, it’ll either turn up, or we can go get it. So easy.

Over the course of this week, you’ll likely see many very similar photos of the view, streets, daily life. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what it’s like here. After breakfast, we did some exploring, some shopping, and eventually Sze Sze and I ended up at a cafe high above Fira (the town) called To Kafeneio, affording some nice views. We also had a look at the cable car, brining the many tourists from the cruise ships to the town every day.

Following an afternoon siesta, I headed out for some shirts, as I only have 2 right now, one of which I wore for 2 days following Florence. We then booked dinner at the Naoussa restaurant (tripadvisor), where the food was very good, but we found the service a little lacking. I’m sure it’s always busy, so it can’t have been that. Nice views for sunset though.