Emerging from our cave this morning (Aroma Suites are traditionally built into the cliff face, which is much nicer than it sounds) we were met by a brilliant blue sky, sun sparkling on the sea where three ships were already moored, and the dome of the chapel next door completing the cliché Santorini scene. I explored the alleyways of Fira – red and purple bougainvillea, blue domes, shiny marble, white paint, souvenir shops, cafés, restaurants boasting caldera views, cats, dogs, buskers – and admired some really beautiful art and crafts before our private tour of the island began (arranged by the hotel, and so much better than a coach tour).
Kris did well, pointing out and explaining all sorts of things, like the nondescript shrubs growing everywhere, which turned out to be vines, trained to grow in circles on the ground because it's normally (not today) too windy on the island to string along wires in the usual way. He took us to Santo winery, a professional outfit which makes excellent wine including the very appealing dessert wine Vinsanto - and wasn’t your usual guide-gets-a-cut arrangement.
We went up to the highest point for a view over the island’s brown, barren scenery, to Perisa’s black, gritty volcanic sand beach all set about with palm-leaf umbrellas, to pretty Pyrgos, still pre-makeover and all the better for that, past the Minoan ruins at Akrotiri to the lighthouse at south-west tip, and all the way to Oia at the northern end.
We saw plenty of blue domes in other villages, but this is where some of the most-photographed are found – and that’s exactly what was happening. The place was heaving with cruise ship passengers and other tourists bristling with cameras and all converging on Oia for the sunset (as, indeed, were we). It wasn’t a good way to see the place, through a forest of selfie sticks, jostled and elbowed and surrounded by loud chatter in a dozen different languages. And then the sun dropped sulkily down into a thick bank of cloud on the horizon anyway, so it wasn’t worth one bit of the effort.
Dinner was nice, though, at the fish restaurant Katina down by the Old Port, where we chose our own lobster from the display and were nagged by a trio of marauding cats beneath the tables as the lights sparkled on the water and yet another Silversea ship glided past, out of the harbour and into the dark.