Thursday, August 25, 2011

You Take the High Road...


...and I'll take the low road, stopping at sweet little beaches along the way. Because the high road is a little scary on a vehicle you're not sure you can control yet (don't worry, folks - I took the high road on the way home, although this isn't it. The above photo is on top of Profitas Ilias, the highest point on the island. The beach below is Paradise Beach...yes, I know, I said Katharos was paradise, but actually, it's better than paradise).

This is the story of a crazy redheaded girl, who took her friends' advice and rented a four-wheeler for the day (which she nicknamed the Blue Bandit for some reason), in spite of the fact that she's much more comfortable on a motorcycle (because for some reason, there is a special license required for motorcycles, which ATV's don't need, which is just stupid because a motorcycle is SO much easier to handle than an ATV, in my humble opinion). Why? I don't normally rent vehicles on vacation, but then, I didn't realize how big Santorini is. Look at the above photo from Profitas Ilias, then look at the cluster of little white dots on the upper left part of the island - those dots are Oia. Totally not what I expected in some ways.

So yeah, I caved to Bronte and Joe's advice and took out the ATV. It was a bitch to get moving at first. Four-wheelers are way heavier than motorcycles, and they don't turn as quick, so I took the coastal road at first, then started directing myself at whim - taking turns to see places I'd heard Bronte, Vasilis, and Joe mention.

Pyrgos Kallistis was one of those. It was less touristed than Oia, yet still really charming, and gave me a chance to stretch my legs. Then I headed up Profitas Ilias, and after coming back down to the south, saw the sign for Red Beach, which Joe had told me about, so I stopped and changed for a little swim and some tzatziki by the seaside. I wanted to wander further - once I got used to the ATV it was a lot of fun - but I was sunburned and exhausted and it was going to be a long night, as that was the night the Tamuz Jazz Trio played at Katharos, so I headed back to the other end, stopping in Fira along the way to grab a gyro and salute the sun as it started its descent to the horizon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oia: Day, Dusk, and Night

Santorini is that island you always see in calendars or postcards, with beautiful blue-domed churches against white walls and blue water. It's kind of like a dream. A dream with lots of tourists, but when in Greece you can't even get that bent out of shape over tourists. It's Greece, for crying out loud! Anyways, I thought I'd share some shots that I took of the caldera in Oia (most of what I did in Oia can be described with three verbs: photographing, shopping, eating.) As I mentioned in the last post, Santorini was a volcano once upon a very long time ago, and the caldera is the inside edge of the crater. Villages are sprinkled along this rim, with Oia being the last one on the largest island.

The whites are brilliant in the sun, and as much as I love monochromatic color schemes, I like the way a little bit of contrast makes everything pop.

I've always been a fan of the way the sun paints everything golden as it starts to hunker down on the horizon.

The big church in Oia rings its bells as sunset nears - it was really cool to watch them ring them.

And I've gotta say, night might just be the best time of day here. The winds died down, it cooled off, the lights along the caldera came up...I find myself wondering why I'm not there still....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Paradise

Imagine you're on vacation in the Greek islands, let's say, Santorini. Specifically that most beautiful, most chillaxed of all villages along the caldera - Oia. Well, it's an island, right, and you feel like going to the beach, and decide to follow the signs downhill to Katharos beach. Don't let the wind-y road fool you...you're going the right way, and at the end - voila!

A black pebble beach. Santorini after all was once an active volcano; hence the black. It's a good beach - it doesn't have the chairs and umbrellas but it's close to Oia and isn't too busy. After a nice swim and soaking up some sun, you are hot and hungry. Fortunately as you walked down from the parking lot you noticed a little cafe perched just above. Really cool music comes floating out of there, and you decide to head up and get a drink, and maybe some food.

This is Katharos Lounge. My friend Bronte and her Greek husband met here 5 years ago, and last year purchased it from the previous owner. Since last season they've completely overhauled the place - not just the physical building but the menu and I'm guessing (since I didn't manage to visit until this month) even the ambiance.

Oia's famous for its sunsets, and Katharos - with its amazing food and drinks - is a great place to have dinner and watch the sunset and (to my mind, even better) the afterglow of sunset. This sunset in particular had "Teardrop," by Massive Attack on the soundtrack, which was special to me, as it's one of my belly dance choreographies. Bronte's always been an amazing cook, she taught me how to cook Korean and Greek foods both, and her cooking has only gotten better since the last time I visited. All the food is made from scratch, including the dolmades (which take quite a bit of work...I know, as she taught me how to make them).

If you stay past sunset, the sky gets dark, the moon comes out, the candles get lit, the breezes blow - it's magic.

The Saturday that I was there, Bronte and Vasilis had the Tamuz Jazz Trio performing. The fourth musician, that stud on drums, is none other than GDA-survivor Joe, who pulled out the bongos and added some rhythm at the end. It was an ideal venue for their sound, and I was grateful I got to visit for it.

Around the World in Forty Days

So it's 5 in the morning and I've been awake for an hour and a half. Welcome back to jetlag. I thought by making my way back to Shanghai in a more roundabout manner I might manage to bypass it, but apparently no such luck.

As you might infer from the title, I have actually been around the world in the last forty days (which is half the time it took in the book, take that, you fin de siecle sci-fi pioneering nerd!) This has kind of brought to a close a year full of GDA reunions as I hung out with Joe, Bronte, and Vasilis in Santorini. I've actually seen 12 of my former colleagues in the last year (Ben, Kate, Crissy, Roisin, Nam-Hee, Veca, Mark, Emily, and my Dark Lord and Master), and I expect to see Doug and Curly Sue in the near future, as they will both be back in Korea by the end of the year. It just says something to me about the kind of place that GDA was, and the kind of people I worked with, that I actually put forth effort to see them now that the party's over.

Okay, well, actually, Bronte and Vasilis just have a sweet location. I mean, hello? Santorini. Who wouldn't want to visit there? And I'll write more about that next time, I swear I will, but for right now, let me attempt to catch more zees with this parting shot: I spent the night in Athens rather than taking an early flight back specifically to visit the poet sandalmaker of Athens ...and it may have been a fly-by morning, but damned if I didn't get my sandals!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Birthday on the Lawn

I've been 32 a week now. I suppose this post is overdue, but I've been kind of busy since then. Busy vacationing, that is. But my 32nd birthday was a pretty good one, and I thought I'd tell you about it.

Evil One and company had talked about going to see Casablanca out at Wolf Trap. They do this thing there where they have the National Symphony Orchestra play the orchestration for movies, and this was one of them. I thought it sounded pretty cool, so I gave them the green light. There's not much else to say about that part of it. Music = good. Movie (which I had never seen) = good. As Evil pointed out, it isn't, when you really think about it, all that romantic, but then, which of the great classic romances are?

The thing about these movie nights at Wolf Trap is, in order to see the screen you have to get there early to claim your corner of the lawn. So we got there an hour and a half early.

What are six wild and crazy girls to do with an hour and a half? Stuff our faces, that's what. However, in picnics past, in my crazy family, we've brought things like sandwich meat and bread. Silly, I know. These girls broght normal things: crackers, cheese, and fruit.

Come to think of it, I guess those aren't half bad ideas. It was what they DID with said food items that I found so appalling! FRUIT on top of your cheese and crackers??? Have you ever heard anything so absurd?

However, it was my birthday and I'm a big girl now, so I thought I'd try something new. Turns out fruit on cheese and crackers is not so bad. Pepperjack and green apple is downright tasty. But if the truth be told, next time I'll take Korean barbecue for my birthday feast...