Oia in the morning is a beautiful place. Today the sky was blue, the sunshine bright, the bougainvillea brilliant, and there were just enough people exploring all the cobbled walkways to make it feel the place to be, rather than somewhere to avoid, as it was yesterday. Sunglasses are a necessity, mind – all that white paint is literally dazzling. And alertness is, too: it’s so easy, wandering along looking at all that self-conscious glamour, to be distracted and then caught out by an unsuspected step. I had three lucky escapes today, and was fortunate not to come a cropper.
The shops are enticing, full of casually stylish clothes, silver and paua jewellery, ceramics, art glass and paintings; and the cafés are inviting, too, with their sea views and fresh sardines. But nothing can beat the tumble of interlinked houses down the cliff, all white and blue, arches and squares, flat and domed, draped with flowers in purple and red and wound through by narrow paths just asking to be explored, promising the reward of yet another gorgeous view at the end.
If that wasn’t pleasure enough for one day, the afternoon brought further delight. On the recommendation of our friendly Aroma Suites hotelier we signed up for a Spiridakos boat tour, leaving from a marina full of dinky toy fishing boats (seriously, not much bigger than some hotel baths I’ve seen) heaped with bright yellow nets, on a comfortable new catamaran. Our fellow guests were English, Malaysian, Dutch, Chinese, Greek and Brazilian, and included the cutest and best-behaved baby it’s been my pleasure to share space with. (Er, since my own, naturally.)
We cruised out for about five hours on that gloriously clear, blue sea, around the southern end of Santorini, visiting the Red Beach, swimming at the White Beach and at the Hot Springs which aren’t really, but are definitely warm – they’re in the centre of the caldera, where mineral springs bubble up from where the volcano erupted in 1600BC, beside an island where a contented hermit has lived with his goats and chickens on the barren rock for the last 35 years.
After a really tasty dinner onboard, heavy on the fresh fish, the next event was the sunset which, after two fizzers, was an excellent one of the sepia varitey and photogenically assisted by a fishing boat trailing a cloud of gulls. Warm, calm, beautiful, civilised, relaxing – you couldn’t better this cruise experience, really. Full marks.
* Oia: pronounced Ee-ah not Oy-ah