Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We found this interesting article written by Barbara Taylor

When in Greece ...

If stunning views of communities clinging to cliffs and serene sunsets aren't enough to entice you to the Greek Isles, perhaps my companion's change of heart will.

He voiced it while feasting on stuffed olives and Greek bruschetta at a patio cafe carved into the Santorini cliffs. As the sun slowly set, we watched the Aegean Sea gently rock tiny cruise ships far below.

Pierre-Luc Cloutier confessed he'd never believed in Greek mythology -- until now. If not a lasting convert, the Canadian mused how natural it was for the powerful myths to take root thousands of years ago in such mystical surroundings.

Such is the other-worldly wonder of Santorini. One of 1,400 Greek islands, it's the most renowned for its beautiful blue-domed churches perched 300 metres above sea level and picture-perfect views of the cliffs, sea and surrounding volcanic islands.

Ancient times: Indeed Delos -- a 30-minute ferry ride from Mykonos -- is one of Greece's most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites. You can walk among the ruins depicting ancient civilization and be assured none are reconstructions. Ancient stone huts suggest Delos was first inhabited in the third millennium BC. It is considered a sacred sanctuary, the birthplace of twin gods Apollo and Artemis. Today no births or deaths are allowed on the island. (Delos excursion, 48 euros.)

Made in Greece: It was hard to resist all things made in Greece. Charming crafts, unique jewelry, carefree clothing, original artwork, fine linen and leather goods, greeted passers-by in tempting open-air displays -- day and night. And guilt-free, too, because any purchase is a boost to the suffering local economy.

Likewise the food and wine. From the mainstay Greek yogurt at the buffet breakfasts to the fresh lunches of Greek salad with shrimp, cherry tomatoes and cider vinegar sauce with capers and mustard, to the appetizers of zucchini and tomato balls served with oregano and feta cheese dip to delicious dinner options of seafood and traditional moussaka baked in individual clay pots.

I resisted the omnipresent Ouzo -- served to dinner guests in a bottle with a bucket of ice -- until the last night on Santorini. Lulled by a wonderful week of fine dining, it seemed fitting to give the Greek aperitif a second chance. Alas, it was just as vile as I remembered from my Greek back-packing excursion decades ago. But, perhaps the only temptation I wouldn't recommend while in Greece.

Mad dogs and tourists: So rife is Santorini's village of Fira, with outdoor eateries, colourful, creative shops set in cobblestone alleyways and gleaming white-washed structures that the afternoon heat is no deterrent. I shunned the gleaming hotel swimming pool to stroll and photograph for hours. Fellow shutterbugs were also out in droves.

Here comes the sunset: The legendary Oia sunset off the north tip of Santorini is a huge draw attracting tourists to the best perches and patio seats in the ancient village hours before the big orange ball drops into the sea. It was inspiring to embrace the nightly natural wonder among so many kindred spirits. And the golden set was gorgeous, too.

Let's get married: I met the first bride's godmother, not far from Agios Ioannis beach on Mykonos where the movie Shirley Valentine was filmed. The British woman and a girlfriend treated themselves to an islands holiday following a spectacular wedding on Syros at the summer residence of the groom's dad. The save-the-date invitation was accepted by 150 guests from as far away as Singapore and Australia. Popular couple -- and destination. Mama Mia!

Parents of the second bride described a beautiful Santorini wedding a few days before attended by 20 Americans and 20 Canadians. Nancy and John Bilheimer of Baltimore said their daughter Jennifer and groom Paul Marando, a native of Fonthill, near St. Catharines, enjoyed an early honeymoon in Turkey so they could spend time with their guests after the wedding.

I spotted another honeymoon couple, atop the volcanic island of Nea Kameni. Americans Yelene Reinstein and William Scott Owen, with five guests, made history when they were married June 1 at the Temple of Apollo, in the Turkish province of Antalya. It's where Antony met Cleopatra, so the couple donned robes of the ancient greats as well as the white dress and tux. (This fun wedding is posted on Facebook. Google: Yelene Reinstein.)

Hot stuff: Sunscreen, a swimsuit and comfortable closed-toed shoes are required to enjoy a fun boat cruise to the volcanic islands off Santorini (55 euros). I can still hear the crunch of footsteps as we trudged to the top of Nea Kameni. An avid rock collector, I gripped a lava rock for the journey but superstition, or respect, got the better of me and I tossed it back ashore before we pushed off.

A quick swim from the boat to the thermal waters of Palaia Kameni was a refreshing treat. (I don't recommend giving yourself a foot massage with the gritty brown mud though. I needed a pedicure back at the hotel, and a good Canadian-water wash to restore my pink swimsuit.) A visit to the tempting eateries of Thirassia was the final stop of the voyage with time for a 5-euro donkey ride to the cliff top for the adventurous.

Twitter @SUNtravelgal barbara.taylor@sunmedia.ca

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